Chapter 1: Welcome to Rishi (Part 1)
“Now arriving in Rishi Station. Please stand clear of the doors.”
The train shuddered as it slowed to a stop, jarring Izuku out of his light doze. Half asleep, he listed to the side and collided gently with someone’s shoulder. “Sorry,” he said automatically.
“It’s fine. I didn’t realize you’d fallen asleep.” The sound of Todoroki’s voice brought him further into wakefulness, and he startled in his seat and sat up, mortified. Had he been sleeping on Todoroki’s shoulder?
“It’s good you’re awake, though,” Tsuyu added from a few seats down. “We’re here.”
“Nine forty-five,” Iida remarked, checking his phone. “Right on time.”
Uraraka jostled him playfully by the shoulder. “Up and at ‘em, sleepyhead!”
Clutching the duffel bag in his lap, Izuku reached for one of the suspended handles and pulled himself to his feet, just as the doors opened.
“Be sure to check the seats before you leave the train!” Iida’s voice carried; Izuku wouldn’t be surprised if everyone in their carriage could hear his advice. “Don’t wander off—we shouldn’t get separated when we’ve only just arrived.”
There was little chance of that; for all that it was the start of summer, the five of them had avoided getting caught up in crowds. Clutching his bag, Izuku made it onto the platform with the others, where they all took a moment to regroup and work the kinks out of their legs.
“This trip was the best idea!” Uraraka crowed.
“Have you ever been to Rishi before, Ochako-chan?” Tsuyu scanned their surroundings with wide eyes. The train station didn’t offer much of a view, but Izuku could already smell the warm, salty wind off the ocean. He didn’t bother suppressing a shiver of excitement.
“Nope! Iida has, though!”
“It was a long time ago,” Iida admitted. “But I have a few fond memories—and less pleasant ones. Sand in my engines—but no matter! This past term has been fruitful, but a few days at the beach should do us good. So, first order of business—”
“Swimming!” Uraraka piped up.
Tsuyu tapped her chin thoughtfully. “We could check out the shops at the beachfront—ribbit. I promised to bring my siblings some souvenirs.”
“I’m hungry,” Todoroki said.
“Uh, well…” Izuku stifled a laugh at the pained look on Iida’s face. “Maybe we should check in at the inn first?” He hefted his bag. “So we have our hands free for all the other stuff?”
Uraraka left off bouncing on the balls of her feet, with a sheepish glance at her own suitcase. “Oh. Right. Good idea, Deku.”
Iida coughed awkwardly. “I… was actually going to suggest that we pay a visit to the visitor’s center,” he admitted. “As I said, I haven’t been here in years, so it might be best to find some visitor information. Maybe a town map.”
“It’s a small town, though, and we plenty of time to explore on our own,” Tsuyu pointed out.
Uraraka snapped her fingers. “How about this? A couple of us can see what the visitor’s center has, and the rest take all our stuff—me included, I’m always good at carrying stuff—and check in, and maybe ask the people there what there is to do around here? Inn staff always know that kind of stuff.”
“Then we can meet up afterward, compare notes, and figure out what we want to do first,” Izuku added. “Iida, if you want to go to the visitor’s center, I don’t mind coming with you.”
“Why, thank you, Midoriya!”
“I’ll come with you, Ochako-chan.” Tsuyu offered.
“That means we get Todoroki, too!” Uraraka said quickly. “We’ll need more hands to haul all our junk.”
“Fine by me.” Todoroki shrugged. “Long as we get going soon. If we stay on the platform any longer, we’ll block the way—”
He was cut off by a low, two-toned chime over the speakers. It wasn’t quite an alarm, but it was definitely an indicator of something. Startled, Izuku glanced around in search of any possible reason, but their surroundings yielded no clue aside from a small group of station employees hurrying one way in a loose cluster.
He cast about further, but most of the others in the area looked just as mildly confused as he did. The only one who didn’t was a girl standing nearby, engrossed in her phone screen. She was roughly their own age, if a little younger, either a first-year in high school or a third-year in junior high. “Um, excuse me, do you know what that alarm just now meant?”
She jumped at the sound of his voice, glancing up as if only just noticing he was there. “O-oh. I think it’s some kind of… maintenance thing. The last time I heard something like that, it was because something was wrong with the tracks, and they had to stop letting trains through.”
Uraraka gave a low whistle. “And we just got here. Lucky us!”
“Missed it by a hair.” The girl offered a nervous smile. “Ah, sorry, it’s probably none of my business, but I couldn’t help overhearing just now… you said you were headed to the visitor’s center?”
“That was our intention, yes,” Iida replied. “Are you a local?”
“Yeah, actually, here!” The girl turned and dug into the tote bag at her side, producing a folded brochure. “If you want to save yourselves the walk, this has pretty much everything they’d be able to tell you at the visitor’s center. It’s a map, too.” She held it out. “If you can’t decide where to start, I recommend the beachfront. It’s a nice day for a walk.”
“Thanks so much!” Uraraka took the map. “This definitely beats having to split up.”
Iida dipped into a bow that was a touch more polite than was altogether necessary. “Thank you very much!”
The girl looked flustered at this, not that Izuku could blame her; Iida could get pretty intense. “U-um, it’s no trouble! Have fun!” With that, she ran off.
“So. Inn, then beachfront?” Tsuyu suggested. “I’m sure there are plenty of places to find food, Todoroki-chan.”
Todoroki sighed with visible relief.
“I told you to bring snacks,” Uraraka muttered, starting off toward the nearest exit sign. “C’mon, guys! Time’s a-wasting!” The rest of them were quick to follow her, dodging station employees as they found their way outside. By the time they made it out onto the street, Izuku was grinning from ear to ear.
It was a quaint little seaside town, the kind that owed most of its prosperity to tourism. This particular street was lined with little shops and buildings, with hints and promises of a main street nearby with more to offer. The train station was well within view of the ocean, the surrounding buildings spread wide enough that he could see the beach and the sea beyond them.
“That’s where we’re headed,” Iida said, nodding in that direction. “According to the directions, if we follow this street toward the beach, then we’ll have a fairly straight path to the inn. And the visitor’s center, but thanks to our benefactor, we’ll be able to skip that.”
“We can always go there another day, just to double check,” Tsuyu said. “But I think we can spend today at the beach. Maybe walk around town, check out the restaurants.”
“Yep!” Uraraka slung her bag over her shoulder. “Speaking of which, c’mon. We still need to feed Todoroki.”
“I could eat, too,” Izuku said, a bit sheepishly.
Uraraka was about to say something, but was cut off by her own stomach. Tsuyu snickered, and it was Uraraka’s turn to look sheepish.
“It’s still morning,” Iida chided, as the group started off down the sidewalk. “Uraraka, did you skip breakfast again? That really isn’t healthy—”
Stepping out toward Rishi’s shoreline, Izuku couldn’t help but be reminded of Dagoba, closer to home and much newer as a tourist destination. The water was supposed to be warmer along this stretch of coastline, owing to climate and tides and a variety of other factors. That, plus the quaint and well-kept inn, the famed little eateries throughout the town, and relaxing, scenic spots that graced postcards and refrigerator magnets, made for a popular site for weekend getaways. Izuku could see couples and families alike scattered about on the sand, and it wasn’t even peak season yet.
He was pulled from his daydreams when they found their way to the inn. In spite of its old-fashioned facade, Izuku felt a blast of air conditioning the moment they stepped inside. The kimono-clad proprietress was all smiles as she and a few other employees took their bags. “It’s such a pleasure, having UA students all the way out here! I saw this year’s Sports Festival, and it was absolutely fantastic! Please enjoy your stay, and if there’s anything you need, don’t hesitate to ask.”
“Thank you very much,” Iida replied as they followed her to their rooms. “For now we’d like to get our things to our rooms.”
“So what is there to see in Rishi?” Uraraka asked. “We hear the beachfront is nice.”
The young woman brightened. “Of course! We’re well-known for it. The water’s like a bath, and the tide pools are lovely this time of year. You could easily spend two or more days just enjoying the sea.” She thought for a moment. “Of course, we have some lovely restaurants in town, and the hero agency is open to the public, as well.”
Izuku stood up a bit taller. “Hero agency?”
Tsuyu giggled. “Three guesses where Midoriya wants to go first—ribbit.”
“W-well, not necessarily first.” Izuku felt his face warm with embarrassment.
“I’m surprised a small town like this needs a hero agency,” Todoroki remarked. “The surrounding area’s mostly blank countryside. I can’t imagine you get much villain activity here.”
“Oh, I know this one,” Tsuyu spoke up. “This used to be smuggler territory in the past, correct? Ms. Sirius told about this when I was shadowing Selkie’s agency last year.”
“Oh, yes,” the young proprietress replied. “In fact, it’s because Rishi is so isolated that there came a need for a local hero agency. But once Mr. Longtooth and his colleagues and sidekicks were established, he wasted no time in clearing away all that unpleasantness. That kickstarted our tourism industry, to the point where that sort of unsavory business simply isn’t feasible here anymore. These days, they help keep the peace, discourage rowdy out-of-towners, that sort of thing.” She winked. “Their open-door policy makes them quite the tourist draw, as well, so they’re well-established here.”
Within ten minutes they were settled in their rooms and ready to head back out to the beach. Iida left the innkeepers with profuse thanks, and the five of them stepped back out into the sun.
“But seriously, though!” Izuku burst out, as soon as they were away from the inn and headed down to the beach. “It’s all right if you guys aren’t interested, but I definitely want to make time for that.”
“It’s a good idea,” Todoroki assured him. “We have three full days here, so we might as well find other things to fill our time. It’s not like we can spend every second of them on the beach.”
Uraraka snorted. “Watch me.”
“It’s all right, Midoriya-chan,” Tsuyu said. “None of us are surprised.”
“Still, you heard what she said,” Uraraka pointed out. “Nowadays it’s mostly tied into tourism. I didn’t think that kind of thing was really your speed, Deku.”
“M-maybe not! But, it still seems useful, purely from a business standpoint.” Izuku picked at his lip thoughtfully. “I know there’s a separate department for that, but it’s still useful to have that sort of knowledge. Running a hero agency is a logistical challenge in the best of circumstances, but keeping one functional and sufficiently financed in an area of low crime takes creativity, business savvy, and good PR from everyone involved. Most people start out as sidekicks and work their way up from there, but I think it’s good to gather this kind of knowledge just in case striking out on one’s own becomes a possibility. It’s a risk either way, and it never hurts to learn these skills when you can. Hmm, she mentioned a Longtooth—rings a bell, but I’ll have to look into my notes…”
“Here he goes again.” Uraraka heaved a fond but long-suffering sigh.
“That’s quite forward-thinking of you, Midoriya,” Iida said with a nod of approval. “We can definitely fit it into the schedule. If that’s all right with the rest of you?”
“It should at least be interesting,” Tsuyu said.
“Yeah, I bet this Longtooth guy has some good war stories.” Uraraka stretched her arms above her head. “But for now, beach! I’ve been looking forward to this for weeks!”
“Race you!” Tsuyu’s throat swelled a little as she gave a joyful croak and took off toward the shore. With a whoop, Uraraka dashed after her, flinging sand up with each step.
“Watch out for litter!” Iida called after them, then gave chase himself. “Be careful where you step, you never know what people drop—!”
That left Izuku and Todoroki blinking after them, and exchanging bemused glances. “Should… we go after them?” Todoroki asked.
“We could do that.” Izuku nodded. “Or we could go check out that takoyaki stand over there, because don’t tell Iida, but I skipped breakfast too.”
A faint smile played about Todoroki’s lips. “Can’t have that. Come on, we might as well bring some for the others.”
They joined the others on the beach shortly afterward, bearing three small trays of takoyaki. By then, the others had picked out a spot on the sand. Uraraka and Tsuyu were spreading out beach towels while Iida was picking up a few empty bottles someone had left behind.
“We’ve got food!” Izuku announced. “What time is it?”
“It’s… almost a quarter after ten,” Tsuyu answered. “We’ve only been here about a half hour—ribbit.”
“Fine by me!” Uraraka snagged one of the takoyaki from a tray in Deku’s hands. “Don’t want time to fly by too fast.”
“True.” Izuku passed his tray to Iida, leaving his hands free.
He checked his phone more out of habit than anything else. Rationally he knew that an isolated tourist town was unlikely to have any interesting hero activity, especially compared to everything he had been through himself. But still, the press and swipe of his thumb on his phone screen was second nature, the sequence ingrained into his muscle memory. Without anything else to occupy his mind or hands, he started to check local news for anything remotely diverting.
“Ohhh no you don't!” A hearty five-fingered swat on the shoulder did away with the gravity keeping him on the ground, and Uraraka took advantage of his lack of weight and leverage to swing him up out of the sand. “C’mon, Deku, let's bodysurf!”
“Uraraka my phone—!” The moment the word was out of his mouth, Tsuyu’s tongue smacked into his hand and snatched it from his grip.
“I'll put it in the bag, Midoriya-chan, don't worry--”
That was all he caught before Uraraka took off running, hauling his weightless body toward the surf. He couldn't keep back a shriek of startled laughter as she charged right into an oncoming wave, released her quirk, and dumped him into the water. He came up snorting saltwater and laughing as he dragged her in after him.
After a minute or so of roughhousing, the two of them staggered back out, soaking wet and giggling. Izuku ran his tongue over his lips, tasting salt, and flopped onto the warm sand the moment they were out of the water’s reach.
“Deku you’re gonna get sand everywhere.”
“Agh, you’re right.” Izuku scrambled to his feet as quickly as he could. Sure enough, he now had a fine coating of sand on every part of him that had touched the ground, from his soaked shirt to his hair and neck. His shirt clung wetly to his chest, which did not make dusting himself off easy. “Nooo, it’s gonna take forever to get it all off.”
Uraraka gave him a gentle push. “You might as well dry off, then. Hey, why don’t you go sit with Todoroki and watch the food and stuff? Look at him, sitting there all by his lonesome. Get on that, Deku, no time like the present!”
He tossed a long-suffering look over his shoulder. “Uraraka, really? I was hoping to de-stress on this trip—”
“And you can do that while sitting in the sun and making small talk with Todoroki.” Her grin turned a little wicked. “C’mon, Deku, I know I got you in a wet T-shirt, but I can’t do everything for you.”
“I’m gonna go help Tsuyu look for cool stuff bye Deku have fun good luck!”
Defeated, Izuku picked his way over the sand and found his way to the towels and beach bags they’d gathered at their spot. Todoroki was there, valiantly keeping sand and seabirds out of the food. Stepping carefully so as not to ruin his hard work, Izuku sat down next to him and tried to purge the phrase wet t-shirt from his brain.
It wasn’t hard. As much as he might complain for the sake of getting a laugh out of Uraraka, there was something strangely calming about sitting around with Todoroki. Especially since…
“Where’d Iida go?” Izuku glanced around, scanning the beach for their friend. Iida’s figure was hard to miss, but Izuku couldn’t see him anywhere.
“Went back to the inn,” Todoroki replied. “Said he forgot his engine covers in the room.”
“Well, knowing him, he won’t be long.” Izuku leaned back on his hands and let the sun beat down on him. It felt good, letting his racing mind empty for once. Surrounding conversations from the other beach-goers washed over him, letting him catch snatches of words here and there.
“—and maybe we’ll check out the lighthouse later, I bet it’s—”
“—ice cream is to die for, I hear they hand-make it!”
“—seems like a great place for a test of courage, I bet you guys can’t get two steps in without chickening out—,”
“—have you heard? It just happened.”
“Oh no, I hope no one’s hurt. How did that even happen—”
“Hey, what’s going on over there?” Todoroki’s voice brought him back around, and Izuku glanced at him before following his gaze. He frowned. Not too far off, a vendor was struggling with his small food cart—shave ice, from the looks of it. The whole thing had tipped over, leaving the man straining to right it again in the shifting sand.
Izuku shared a look with Todoroki, and the two of them went over to help. It was easy enough to set it back on its wheels again; Izuku didn’t need his quirk to do it, and barely needed Todoroki’s help, though that certainly didn’t hurt. Izuku stooped to retrieve the multicolored umbrella that had fallen to the ground, and returned it to the vendor.
“Thank you.” The man looked harried and disgruntled, but not enough to forget his manners. “I swear, the nerve of some people—”
“Did someone knock over your cart?” Todoroki asked.
“Yeah, some girl just shoved it over!” The vendor was clearly fighting back his temper. “Not a single word, not even a look—just ran up and ran off again!” He sighed. “Thank you, again.”
“No problem,” Izuku assured him. “Was it another tourist? You could probably report that kind of thing to the police.”
“Oh, I intend to,” the vendor snorted. “Well… I’d offer you two something on the house, but I’d better check to make sure I didn’t get sand in the goods.” His frown softened. “Come by in an hour or so. You two have pretty distinctive faces.” The moment the words were out, he immediately seemed to regret them. “Er.” He very carefully didn’t look at Todoroki. “N-no offense meant.”
“None taken,” Todoroki replied. “And you don’t need to trouble yourself.”
“Happy to help,” Izuku added with a smile.
Iida still wasn’t back when they returned to their spot, though Tsuyu had left a nice pile of shells and sea glass on one of the towels. Thanks to the summer sun, Izuku’s clothes had gone from saturated to merely damp, and it was easier to brush most of the sand away.
Good enough, he thought, and flopped back onto the warm sand again. Distantly he heard Todoroki chuckle as he sat down beside him.
“They’re right, you know,” Izuku said, shutting his eyes against the sun’s glare. “The water’s bath-warm.”
“I’ll have to try it myself.”
“Why wait? You don’t have to hang around, you know.” Izuku swallowed a yawn. “I’m just being lazy. Because, y’know. It’s warm and I’m on the beach, and usually that means I’m jogging or something.”
“I’m fine for now,” Todoroki replied. “I’ll wait until Iida gets back.”
“I'll get you next time.” A lightly winded Uraraka moved to flop down beside Izuku in the sand. “Whew. Anything cool happen to you guys?”
“Nothing of note,” Todoroki replied. “Hungry? Have some cooled takoyaki with minimal sand.”
“Don't mind if I do.” Tsuyu snagged one with her tongue and drew it into her mouth. “I'd like to take a walk further down the shore—ribbit. That lighthouse looks interesting, and I bet there's cool stuff to see on the other side.”
“We should wait til Iida gets back, or he'll fuss,” Izuku said, sitting up. “Actually… how long does it take to grab his engine covers?”
“Did he leave?” Uraraka asked.
Todoroki frowned and took his phone from his pocket. “He went back to the inn, but that was almost fifteen minutes ago.”
As one, the four of them turned toward the building in question, well within view. But there was no sign of their friend coming back. Izuku dusted himself off and stood up.
“He isn't answering texts,” Todoroki announced. “...Come to think of it, it doesn't look like he's seeing them, either.”
“Well that's not like him at all.” Uraraka popped back to her feet. “Give me five minutes,” she said, and took off running toward the inn.
Within those five minutes, she was back, frowning deeply and still alone.
“Any luck?” Izuku asked, though he could read the answer in her face.
“Not only did I not find him, but his engine covers were lying on top of his suitcase.” She took a moment to catch her breath. “Guys, I'm a little worried.”
“W-well, don't panic yet,” Izuku said. “We can still try locating his phone.”
“Come again?” Tsuyu blinked.
“Yeah, Todoroki, Iida, and I shared info through this tracker app,” Izuku explained, reaching for one of the bags. “Ever since what happened with Stain last year—Tsuyu, it was this bag, right?”
“Yup, it's in the main compartment.”
“Thanks.” Izuku dug through it. “Anyway, ever since that thing with Stain last year, we figured it’d be useful to have a way to find each other without having to send location info.”
“I’ve got it,” Todoroki said. Uraraka leaned over his shoulder to look at the screen. “He went further inland for some reason.”
“Back to the station?” Tsuyu asked. “Maybe he left something there.”
“No, he’s beyond that,” Uraraka replied. “Besides, it’s not like him to go wandering off without texting one of us. He’s the fussiest person I know when it comes to things like that. We’d better go look for him.”
“Um.” Izuku’s mouth had gone dry. “Tsuyu? Are you sure this was the bag you put it in?”
“What—yeah, of course I am.” Tsuyu scooted closer, while Izuku turned to one of the other bags and searched it. “Midoriya, what’s wrong?”
His heart sank as the other bag yielded the same results. “My phone’s gone. I can’t find it.” Out of desperation he sifted through the sand and pushed the towels aside, in the hopes that it had fallen out and gotten buried.
“That’s—” Tsuyu paled, and double-checked the bags. “Midoriya-chan, I swear that’s where I put it, I’d never—I was careful! I put things on top of it and everything!”
“I-it’s okay, I believe you.” It was hard to sound reassuring with his heart in his throat. “It—it must’ve—maybe…” He looked to Todoroki. Judging by the dawning dismay in his friend’s eyes, Todoroki was probably reaching the same conclusion.
“We only left for a moment,” Todoroki murmured. “Midoriya, I’m sorry, I was supposed to be watching the bags.”
“I-it’s fine. It’s my fault too, I should’ve been more…” His voice trailed off. “Okay. Somebody stole my phone, so we’ll just have to report it. But we really need to find Iida.”
“I have his location,” Todoroki said. “I can get to him fast, Rishi Park isn’t too far from here—report it to the police and meet us there when you’re done.”
“Got it.” Izuku helped Tsuyu start rolling up the towels and shoving them back in the bags. “Thanks, Todoroki!” There was no reply; Todoroki was already hurrying toward the edge of the beach, in the same direction as the path to the inn.
“The police station is pretty close to the beach—ribbit,” Tsuyu said, shouldering one bag. “It’s further down the shoreline from the inn, though, so we’ll probably have to double back to get to the park.”
“It’s fine, we’re fast.” Uraraka had caught her breath from her race to and from the inn, and led the way as the three of them set off. “We’d better hurry, though. I don’t like being separated too long.”
“It’s not that bad,” Tsuyu assured her, then winced. “I mean… aside from your phone, Midoriya-chan.”
Izuku wasn’t going to lie; the loss stung, especially since replacing it would eat into his mother’s wallet. “Let’s just hope the police can do something about it.”
Following the directions on Uraraka’s phone, they found their way to the police station. It was small, just like the rest of Rishi, and situated a few blocks from where pavement gave way to sand. Izuku instinctively picked up his pace as they drew near, only to crash into Uraraka’s back when she stopped short. He stumbled back, hastily regaining his balance.
“Uraraka? What’s the matter?”
She was fumbling around in her pocket. “I thought I had a text—oh.” She frowned at the screen. “I just got an emergency alert.”
“Ah—me, too.” Tsuyu pulled her own device out of her bag, leaving Izuku the only one without one. They moved to the sidewalk, careful not to block the main footpath, and Izuku leaned over Tsuyu’s shoulder to see the message.
Emergency alerts: Public disturbance warning: All civilians within Rishi are advised to return to their homes and lodgings. Avoid residential streets until conflict is resolved.
“Public disturbance?” Tsuyu pursed her lips. “That can mean a lot of things.”
“Uraraka?” Izuku swallowed the lump in his throat. “Where’s the park?”
She pulled out the map, unfolded it, and consulted it for a moment. “It’s further inland, toward the center of town,” she replied. “It’s right on… the edge of the residential neighborhood.”
“One sec—ribbit.” Tsuyu dialed quickly. “I’m calling—Todoroki-chan? Is that you? We just got an emergency alert—” She paused, throat bobbing as she listened. “Yeah, we’re by the—say that again? …Todoroki-chan, I don’t— What fire? What’s happening over there? …There’s a lot of—Todoroki? Hello?” She waited a heartbeat more, then, shoved her phone back in her bag and started off down a connecting street, away from the police station. “C’mon, we need to go.”
Izuku ran to catch up to her. “What’d he say? Tsuyu? What happened?”
“I’m not sure—ribbit.” Her face was tense with worry. “He said he was at the park, and the streets weren’t safe—I think he said it looked like gang violence.”
“What about Iida?” Uraraka pressed, keeping pace with her. “Did he find Iida?”
“I don’t know. Maybe.” Tsuyu’s steps quickened. Already the streets around them were quieter than before. Izuku heard a latch turn in a nearby door—the people of Rishi must have gotten the same alert that they did. “He found something, and he was about to tell me what it was when the call got cut off.”
The three of them navigated the shopping district at a run. Izuku’s fingers itched to reach for a phone that wasn’t there. Before they even set foot past the commercial streets, he could hear it—shouting, screaming, the sounds of breaking glass and destruction and—
“Do you smell that?” Uraraka asked.
They rounded a corner, and the stench hit Izuku full in the face—stale, acrid, and burning.
An entire building had gone up in flames. Flames leapt from the windows, even as the fire brigade battled it back with high-pressure hoses. Other fighter fighters emerged from the main entrance, carrying or guiding victims. Dust and ash were thick in the air, turning the scene a dull, washed-out gray. Across the street from the burned-out building lay what Izuku assumed to be Rishi Park. By now, it seemed to have been taken over as a makeshift field hospital; injured people had taken refuge there, a safe distance from where the fire had been, and paramedics swarmed the victims, either to tend to them or load them into ambulances.
“Todoroki-chan mentioned a fire…” Tsuyu’s voice trailed off as she stared, wide-eyed, at the scene before them. “Do you see him anywhere?”
Izuku scanned the park. Todoroki was never hard to spot; his hair was beacon-bright even in the most varied crowd. But as they ventured closer, he saw no sign of either of his friends. “Iida was supposed to be near here too, wasn’t he?” His chest ached at the absence of his phone. If he could just reach that app and locate Todoroki or Iida, they could at least regroup.
“How did this even happen?” Uraraka asked. “That alert said something about a disturbance, right? Is this the disturbance? But this looks like it started a while ago, and…” Her voice trailed off briefly. “I don’t see any heroes.”
By now, they had drawn within earshot of some of the gawkers hanging close to the park—either Rishi residents or daredevil tourists, too comfortable in their own town or curious to run and hide. There weren’t very many of them. “They’re probably busy in the residential streets,” a horned young man said, glancing at them.
“What’s happening in the residential streets?” Izuku asked.
“Not sure, the alert message was pretty vague. Heard something about gang violence. I thought it was just rowdy tourists making trouble, but it’s gotten pretty bad. It’s why everyone’s hanging around over here—besides the fire, I mean. The streets inland aren’t a nice place to be right now.”
“Now Todoroki-chan isn’t answering his texts,” Tsuyu said softly. Izuku could feel his pulse in his throat, choking off words. It wasn’t like there was anything useful he could say anyway. "Let's go. We need to find them."
Izuku started. "W-wait, but what about the fire? Shouldn't we...?" His voice trailed off.
"We still don't know if Iida's okay or not," Uraraka pointed out, though she looked pained to say it. "And now Todoroki's missing, too."
"And the fire department's on it, ribbit," Tsuyu added, gripping his arm. "I know you want to help. I do, too. but it feels like a bad idea to split up even further when we're not even sure where everyone is. Let's regroup, and then we'll help once our heads are clear. Okay?"
With one last look at the burning building, Izuku nodded.
They were cautious as they left the park. The three of them stuck together instinctively, especially when the sounds of conflict reached them. Even after they had left the building behind, the smell burned down Izuku’s throat.
What they found beyond it wasn’t much better.
The streets beyond the commercial part of town were in utter chaos. Glass and smashed brickwork littered the ground, civilians fled and took shelter wherever they could, and all manner of quirks and weapons were brought to bear in disorganized violence. Watching it, Izuku couldn’t even be sure who was on what side, or if there were any sides at all; there was nothing to distinguish one perpetrator from another, aside from who happened to be throwing a punch at any given moment.
Had Todoroki and Iida gotten caught up in this?
A cry of distress drew his attention. One young woman no older than twenty had ended up in the middle of things, surrounded on all sides with nowhere to run without risking her neck. One step one way and she’d be within swinging range of a man with fists made of lead. One step in another and she’d end up in the middle of a knife fight.
Tsuyu lunged, tongue whipping out of her mouth to wrap around the trapped woman’s waist. With practiced ease she plucked the civilian out of harm’s way and set her down at the edge of the fighting. The moment she was free, the woman took off running.
But she was only one of many.
The three of them looked at each other. Izuku saw desperation in their faces, and knew that they were no more likely to look away from all this than he was. They were training to be heroes, weren’t they?
“We need to be careful,” he said. “Try to get somewhere up high. Find Todoroki and Iida. If we lose track of each other, meet back at the park—no, better yet, at the inn.”
Then the cry of a child snatched his focus away, and he parted ways with his friends.
The violence was spread out over several streets. As Izuku herded, guided, and carried frightened civilians out of the thick of it, he gained no more insight as to what had caused it or who was fighting whom. At the very least, the rioters seemed uninterested in attacking civilians, or stopping him from getting them to safety. The danger lay in getting in someone’s way by accident, and he lost count of how many times he was nearly dragged into a brawl himself.
This was a mistake, he realized belatedly. He’d lost track of where Uraraka and Tsuyu were. And without his phone, he had no way of contacting them, no way of finding Todoroki or Iida, no way of telling how long he had been caught up in this.
His nose was bleeding. When did that happen? He had no memory of being struck, only a throb in his face dulled by adrenaline.
Following his own advice from earlier, he found a fire escape and hastened up the steps, hesitant to use his quirk in case one of the nearby brawlers took it as a challenge. His ears rang as he climbed, and he wondered dizzily if he’d been kicked in the head at some point. A concussion was really not something he needed—
Something long and flexible whipped around his waist. Not Tsuyu, he realized, feeling thorns and barbs dig through his shirt and into his flesh. A split second later he was dragged off the fire escape and slammed into the pavement.
“Where the hell do you think you’re going?”
A rail-thin man, green-haired and sunken-eyed, pounced. Izuku slammed his foot into his knee, stomach turning when he heard it snap. The man fell with a scream, but he hadn’t been alone. As Izuku bloodied his hands tearing the bristling vine away, two more rioters charged him while he was down.
For a split second, Izuku felt the temperature drop. A translucent blue-white sheen spread across the ground from behind his attackers, and Izuku’s heart lifted as ice swept from the pavement to their feet, locking them in place before he could reach them.
Todoroki raced in, barely slowing for a moment as he reached Izuku, grabbed him, and hauled him to his feet.
“Have you seen Iida?” he asked.
“N-no! I thought—” Izuku pulled him to the scant shelter provided by a sidewalk bench and newspaper box. It wasn’t much, but they could hide from the worst of it by crouching. “I thought you were finding him by phone.”
Todoroki met his gaze, and the wide-eyed desperation on his face made Izuku’s heart plummet. “I found his phone,” he said, and pulled it out of his pocket. “Midoriya—”
Bile rose in Izuku’s throat. Iida’s phone sat in Todoroki’s hand, screen cracked in several places. It was smeared with dried blood.
“It was like this when I found it,” Todoroki said, his voice tight. “And I—look here.” Iida’s screen lit up at a swipe from Todoroki’s finger. His last text was still visible.
Something seems to be happening near the park. Can you and the others meet me there?
He’d sent the message to Izuku.
“Midoriya.” Todoroki’s voice jarred him from his horror before he could do something worse than useless, like be sick. “Where are the others?”
“W-we were looking for you,” Izuku replied. “We got separated—”
Todoroki nodded, and gripped his arm. “Let’s go.”
They had been only a block away from the edge of the fighting, but the violence had spread since they first arrived. Todoroki used ice and fire sparingly, to keep from attracting every rioter in the area to them, while Izuku scanned the streets for Tsuyu, Uraraka, or Iida.
He couldn’t see any of them.
They were nearly in the clear, only two blocks away from the park. “Can you call them?” Izuku asked. “Tsuyu said you weren’t answering.”
Todoroki paused for breath and shook his head. “I was cut off when she called me. Someone knocked my phone out of my hand, and it got trampled. I might be able to salvage it, but I won’t—”
There was no warning from him. Not even a hitch in his breath or a crack in his voice. One moment he was talking and the next he was lunging straight into Izuku, shoving him to the side with one arm outstretched in front of him.
A knife blade buried itself into his upper arm. Izuku looked up to see the man who had thrown it, and only caught a flash of pale, nearly translucent blue hair. Cold eyes met his for a split second before the man let the growing riot drag him back in again.
“Are you all right?” He turned back to Todoroki, steadying him with an arm across his shoulders. The close call left him jittery; if Todoroki hadn’t blocked that knife, it might have ended up in Izuku’s chest. A knife to the bicep was nothing; just last year he’d seen Todoroki take two to the arm and keep fighting. “Come on—we’d better get out to the paramedics and—Todoroki?”
Todoroki staggered and nearly fell before Izuku caught him. His lips parted from his clenched teeth, and he clutched his bleeding arm and hissed sharply. “Something’s wrong.”
Izuku wasted no time dragging him the rest of the way to relative safety, where the fighting was thinner. At some point Todoroki switched to gripping Izuku’s arm instead, smearing blood on his sleeve. By the time the sounds of the fighting were safely in the background, Todoroki was leaning heavily on him for support.
“What is it? Todoroki, what’s wrong?”
“Hurts.” Todoroki was wide-eyed, face gray, mouth tight with pain. “It—Midoriya—”
“Let me see.” As gently as he could, Izuku moved Todoroki’s injured arm closer for a look. A strangled cry wrenched itself from Todoroki’s throat, and Izuku’s gut twisted with horror.
Around the stab wound, the skin had turned a blotchy dark red, and it was steadily expanding in uneven patches. Izuku could see the sickly color spreading over skin, through veins, disappearing under Todoroki’s shirt sleeve. Tears gathered in his friend’s eyes and trickled over, but he didn’t shake or sob—he wasn’t crying. The tears were only a reflex.
Izuku didn’t think. He gathered Todoroki in his arms, swung him up, and ran with all the speed that desperation and One For All could give him.
He reached the park in what felt like a blink of an eye, mouth open to call for help. At the edge of the street he stopped short, and the cry died in the back of his throat.
When he’d left this place, there had been paramedics tending to a few dozen injured, plus the curious onlookers gathered at the edges. When he’d left, the park had been green.
Now, it looked as if a small bomb had gone off. A patch of grass was blackened and dead. A single ambulance had been turned on its side, tires slashed. Many of the injured victims now lay still in the grass, a few paramedics along with them. The rest were spread far too thin, even now that the fire had died down.
In his arms, Todoroki’s breathing grew harsh.
Izuku hurried forward, skirting bodies until he had reached one of the paramedics. Todoroki had gone rigid with pain, and Izuku set him down as gently as he could. “Please. There’s something wrong with my friend—I think he’s been poisoned, he needs help.”
The dull-eyed woman looked over from the leg she was bandaging, and her face froze. “I—that’s severe poisoning. He needs to get to a hospital right away, and the ambulance…” She looked to the overturned vehicle, then back again. “I can slow the poisoning with a pressure bandage, but—”
“That’s fine.” Izuku fought to keep his voice steady. “Do it, just tell me where the hospital is and I can get him there, please.”
Todoroki’s breath hitched. “M-Midoriya—”
“You’ll be fine.” Don’t cry. Don’t cry now. “You’ll be okay, just hang on—”
“Midoriya, I’m—” Todoroki shuddered violently. For a moment he seemed to fight for breath, then fell still. He didn’t move again after that.
The paramedic had moved in, a bandage in hand. She pressed two fingers to the side of his throat, but there was little need. Todoroki had gone still, staring up at Izuku’s face with blank, unseeing eyes.
She shook her head, and moved off to tend to the ones she could still help.
“N-no.” Izuku’s fingers curled into fists, gripping his friend’s bloodied shirt. “No, no no no, Todoroki, please, no—”
For just a few moments, he broke. Kneeling in the grass, surrounded by dead and wounded bodies, staring down at his friend’s still face, Izuku folded like wet paper. He didn’t—couldn’t—think about Iida’s bloody phone, or the riot going on just a block away, or whether or not the rest of his friends were safe. All he could do was crouch over Todoroki’s body and sob like a child.
He might have been kneeling there a few seconds or a few minutes, but a hand on his shoulder dragged his mind back out of the quicksand. Half-blind with tears, he turned his head and found himself looking up at a girl’s face.
“You’re that boy from the train station, right?” It was the girl from before—the one who’d lent them a town map. Her eyes were bleak as she looked at him. “Y-your friends. They’re looking for you. They asked me if I’d seen you.”
Izuku surged to his feet. “Where?” he rasped. “Where are—”
“This way,” she said, then turned and ran. Izuku took a step to follow her, then stopped.
He looked back at Todoroki, and one last strangled sob forced its way into his throat. Wiping his eyes, he forced himself to turn away. There was nothing more he could do for him.
With a leaden heart, he took off after the girl.
His head swam as he followed her, weaving through the quieter streets. Every now and then she paused to see if he was with her, but there was little need. If she knew where the rest of his friends were, then he had no choice but to go after her. She hadn’t specified—did that include Iida? Was he all right? Izuku stumbled when he realized that Todoroki still had Iida’s phone.
He shook himself furiously. Focus. Find the others. Make sure they’re all right, then worry about that.
They were all right—they had to be. The girl had said friends, plural, and that could mean—
Ahead of him, the girl stumbled as she stepped up onto the curb, and her phone slipped out of her pocket. Momentum carried her a few steps forward, and she whipped around again as Izuku stooped to retrieve it for her.
Her eyes widened. “No, wait, don’t—!”
“Don’t worry, I’m just—” Izuku picked it up, and froze where he was.
He knew this phone. The cover, the case, the size and weight of it in his hand, the charm with All-Might’s colors hanging off of it
“This… this is my phone.” The heavy weight in his chest had turned to ice. “This—you stole my phone.” He looked up and found the girl slowly backing away, watching him with wide eyes. “He texted me—Iida. He called for help, and I didn’t get it because you took my phone!”
The girl turned and ran.
It should have been easy to catch her, but the girl was slippery and fast, dodging him and turning corners, finding escape routes that Izuku couldn’t catch. They were heading toward the beach, though not in the direction of the inn. Izuku cursed himself for not seeing it sooner; the girl had led him all the way beyond the lighthouse, toward another stretch of beach entirely.
She was heading toward one house, at the very corner of the town—a small, battered, old-fashioned looking place. Izuku put on an extra burst of speed, but the girl vanished on him again, ducking around to the back. When he caught up, he saw her diving upon a slanted hatch at the side of the house, yanking the doors up and hurtling down a small flight of wooden steps—down into a basement.
He might have hesitated, if he’d been thinking more clearly. But he wasn’t, and he didn’t.
Beneath the house, it was dark. In what littledaylight that trickled in through the door, he could see a dusty, cluttered room with gray walls and a cement floor, a table and chairs, a couch made up into a bed,and stacks of boxes as if for storage.
Behind him, the door shut and locked. A dim electric light flicked on.
Izuku whipped around, ready for trouble, but there was no one else in the room but him and the girl, who now stood with her back against the door, trembling as she stared at him.
“I’m sorry.” Her voice shook, pitching high with a note of desperate fear.
“Where are they?” Izuku demanded. “My friends—where are they?”
“I don’t know,” she answered. “I swear I don’t know, I’m sorry. I’m sorry I lied. I’m sorry for everything. I didn’t know what else to do.”
“What are you talking about?” His voice cracked. “Why did you—?” He went still. “Let me out.”
Slowly, she shook her head. “I can’t.”
“Let me out! My friends are still out there! They could—” die, just like Todoroki. “I need to find them. I need to make sure they’re all right.”
“You will. I promise. I—” She was cut off as the watch on her wrist beeped, and she shut her eyes. “There’s no time. Thirty seconds isn’t enough time.”
“What does that even mean?” Izuku closed the distance, and she flinched back against the door. “Thirty seconds to what?”
“You’ll see, through the window,” she told him. She lifted her chin to look him in the eye. “Ten-forty. Bring your friends to this house by ten-forty. All of them. I’ll tell you everything I know, I promise.”
“I’ll get them if you just let me out!”
“I’m sorry about your friend.” Her voice broke. “I’m sorry you have to remember that. But I…” She trembled, and her watch beeped again. “I just need you to remember this time.”
A rumbling reached his ears, growing to a distant roar, then a roar overhead as the house above them shook. Izuku lunged toward the door, staring through the little square window in it. He could barely see anything through the grimy glass: the steps, the hatch above, and a tiny bit of sky—
The sky had turned orange.
“What is that?” His voice shook. “What’s happening out there?”
“It’ll be over soon,” the girl whispered. “Please. Please help me.”
It was fire, Izuku realized. He couldn’t see the sky through the fire.
“Now arriving in Rishi Station. Please stand clear of the doors.”
The train shuddered as it slowed to a stop. Izuku jolted in his seat, spine rigid, and drew in a harsh, rasping breath. He listed forward dangerously, and would have ended up on the floor if not for the cool hand that landed on his shoulder, steadying him. He twitched at the touch, then turned his head and followed the hand to its owner’s face.
“You all right?” Todoroki asked. “I didn’t realize you’d fallen asleep.”
“It’s good you’re awake, though,” Tsuyu added from a few seats down. “We’re here.”
“Nine forty-five,” said Iida. “Right on time.”
Chapter 2: Welcome to Rishi (Part 2)
Made a slight change to one part of the previous chapter.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Shouto couldn’t focus on the conversation going on around them, because from the looks of it, neither could Midoriya.
He’d assumed at first that Midoriya was just dazed and groggy from waking up to catch the train, or queasy from motion sickness, or disoriented from falling asleep in an unfamiliar place and waking up somewhere new. For a handful of uncomfortable seconds, he’d feared that Midoriya was embarrassed and uncomfortable about nodding off on Shouto’s shoulder. But even now, standing on the platform to discuss their first move, Midoriya just looked lost.
None of the others seemed to notice, too busy arguing over what to do first. Distantly, Shouto remembered that he was hungry, but he couldn’t focus on that because Midoriya was distracting him. Granted, Midoriya distracting him wasn’t anything new, but that was no one’s problem but Shouto’s. Midoriya could sneeze and ask for a tissue, and Shouto would fixate on that for at least twenty minutes.
But as Shouto struggled to follow the rest of the conversation, he couldn’t help but watch Midoriya out of the corner of his eye.
His friend was looking around the platform, head turning this way and that as if he was searching for something. When he wasn’t scanning their surroundings, he was staring at Shouto.
Shouto met his eyes, confused, and expected him to look away quickly and mutter an apology for staring. But instead, Midoriya kept watching him with that lost look in his eyes, as if there was a riddle written on Shouto’s head that he was trying to solve.
A two-tone chime rang out over the station’s intercom system, and Midoriya jumped. Movement drew his attention elsewhere, and he spotted a cluster of employees hurrying by.
“That was weird,” Uraraka remarked. “I wonder what that was about.”
“Probably something maintenance-related,” Iida said. “Debris on the tracks, I’ll bet.”
“Or something broke down,” Asui suggested. “Nothing to do with us, I don’t think.”
Todoroki glanced to Midoriya. His friend was looking around again, searching for something and clearly not finding it. After a moment he stopped, rubbed his eyes with the heels of his hands, and sighed quietly.
“Is something wrong?” Shouto asked. “If you’re feeling sick, then—”
“No,” Midoriya cut him off. “No, it’s… I…” He took one last look around, ground his teeth, and finally drew in a deep breath and then let it out again. “I think… nothing’s wrong. It’s just… you know that feeling, where you wake up from a dream, and more than anything you’re just relieved that it wasn’t real?”
“Yes,” Shouto answered.
Midoriya blinked at him, and the corners of his eyes tightened in such a way that Shouto could have sworn he was about to cry. But he didn’t, and a moment later he flashed a smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes. “Sorry if I’m being weird. I’m just… kind of out of it.”
“Do you…” The words were already out when the awkwardness of what he was about to ask struck him. “Do you want to talk about it, or…?”
Another blink, and Midoriya’s smile softened into something more genuine and… sympathetic, almost. “Nah, it’s okay. Thanks, Todoroki. I think I’m just gonna…”
His voice trailed off, and he never finished the sentence.
“So, anyway,” Uraraka said, presumably continuing from where the conversation had left off—Shouto hadn’t been paying attention. “What should we do first—inn or visitor’s center?”
“Visitor’s center,” Izuku spoke up, and Shouto couldn’t help glancing at him in surprise. “W-we might as well get the lay of the land before we do anything else, right? They’ll probably know some good places to eat there, too.” Shouto nodded. He was inclined to agree on that virtue alone, with hunger gnawing at his stomach—the train ride had taken a bit longer than he’d expected.
“Ooh, good idea,” Uraraka said, tugging her suitcase closer. “Okay, Iida, let’s go with your plan.”
It wasn’t a bad one; the visitor’s center was an easy walk from the train station, and fairly close to the inn where they were staying. Before long, Iida was frowning over a town map on the wall as if he was determined to memorize it, while Asui and Uraraka made a beeline for the front desk. Shouto found a rack of brochures to idly browse, and Midoriya followed close behind. Not that he was complaining, of course; but it might be more enjoyable and less off-putting if Midoriya didn’t look so out of it. Maybe he was hungry, too?
“Do you have any recommendations?” Uraraka asked. “We’ll be here for the next three days.”
“Well, there’s always the beaches, of course,” the woman replied. “They’re the most popular spot in Rishi. The beachfront has a lot of shops and stalls, if shopping is what you’re interested in. Oh, and most people like to visit the lighthouse, at least for pictures. It closes from time to time for maintenance, but with a little luck, they’ll open it to the public during your stay. And if you want to head inland, we have a lovely commercial district, with all the shopping and dining you could want.”
“What’s your favorite place?” Asui asked.
“Oh! Well…” The woman smiled. “Rishi Park is just at the edge of the shopping district. It’s got a lovely garden in it, and right across the street is one of the best restaurants in town. Red building with a white roof—you can’t miss it. It’s got good food and fast service, so if you’re hungry from your trip, that’s the place to go.” Shouto’s stomach growled, and he glanced at Midoriya to see if he’d noticed. His friend offered a brief smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes.
“Well, I know where we’re going first,” Uraraka said. “Thanks for the tip, ma’am.”
“It’s no trouble at all! Enjoy your stay in Rishi!”
By the time they got around to getting settled at the inn, the disconnect was clear. Unburdened of suitcases and non-essentials, Uraraka and Asui seemed buoyed up by excitement, and Iida equally energized as if he was prepared to restrain them from running off on their own. Midoriya had only withdrawn further.
Shouto made sure he was the last one out of the inn. With Midoriya trailing behind the others, it was easy to reach out and halt him. “Are you sure you aren’t feeling sick?” he asked.
“You’re not.” Shouto frowned at him, vaguely frustrated. “If you aren’t feeling well, you don’t have push yourself to go out. If you want to take a break, I’ll stay back with you—”
“No,” Midoriya said quickly. He shook his head, still looking downward and away. “No. I’m not feeling sick, and I don’t need to stay back. I-I’d rather not, actually.” His throat bobbed as he swallowed. “I don’t think we should split up.”
“What’s going on, Midoriya?” Shouto asked.
“I don’t know. Maybe nothing. I—I honestly don’t know, Todoroki.” Midoriya squared his shoulders, and finally looked him in the eye. “It might just be stress. Or deja vu. I don’t know. As soon as I do, I’ll tell you, okay?”
It wasn’t okay, as far as Shouto was concerned. He’d never seen Midoriya look so rattled and lost at the same time, and it irked him that his friend was keeping things from him.
Midoriya moved off before he could press the issue, hurrying to catch up with the others. Frustrated, Shouto sped up to follow them.
True to the woman’s word, the park was lovely for its size, and the restaurant she had described was easy to find. The five of them squashed into one booth, girls on one side and boys on the other; Midoriya seemed to be in better spirits when he claimed the seat nearest the window. The prospect and then presence of food seemed to lift his mood, and it didn’t seem to take long for Midoriya to relax and soak up the cheerier atmosphere. Before long, he was ignoring Iida’s scolding to shoot a straw wrapper across the table at Asui, and laughing when Uraraka cracked a joke—a far cry from the dazed silences and stilted answers from before. By the time their food arrived, Shouto had let himself relax and enjoy himself as well. Must have been stress after all; hero training kept them on their toes, and sometimes that manifested as poor sleep and a certain level of paranoia. If that was the case, then this vacation really couldn’t have come too soon.
“I can’t wait to go to the beach.” Uraraka pulled her bowl closer. “I feel like I could just… run down and jump right in, you know?”
“It would be better if we take a walk first,” Iida advised. He was the slowest eater out of all of them, which was sort of ironic considering his quirk. “Remember, it’s important to wait thirty to forty-five minutes to go swimming after you eat.”
Shouto stared at him. “…What? Why?”
“It’s not good for you,” Iida replied. “It causes cramps, which isn’t good when you’re swimming.”
“That’s an old wives’ tale, actually,” Asui informed him, pausing to either croak or burp. “My mom used to tell me that, too, but it’s actually not true.”
“I wouldn’t mind a walk, though,” Midoriya said thoughtfully, staring out the window. Uraraka leaned over from the other side of the table to look as well..
“Ooh, you’re right, Deku, that park looks really pretty!”
Midoriya did a double take. “Hm? Oh yeah, I guess so. Nice garden.”
“Is there something else to look at out there?” Shouto asked. He shifted closer carefully, trying to follow Midoriya’s gaze. Besides Rishi Park, there wasn’t much.
“Not really,” Midoriya said with a shrug. “I’m just—”
Shouto glanced over. Uraraka was leaning forward, as far off her seat as the table would allow. She stared out the window intently, barely moving a muscle. “What is it?” he asked.
“Is that—” Uraraka broke off with a sharp gasp.” That tall building, across the street from the park—look at the windows!”
Confused, Shouto looked to the building that had caught Uraraka’s attention, and sat bolt upright when he saw flames dart out of the windows—many of them, on several stories. “The building’s on fire.”
Iida was already on his feet, flagging down the nearest waitress. “Excuse me,” he said urgently. “Do you know where the nearest hero agency is?”
The woman looked alarmed. “Yes—the Rishi Agency, under the hero Longtooth. It’s small, but—”
“Please call them, or have someone call them,” Iida told her. “Call emergency services as well. There’s a building on fire across the street.”
“O-of course!” The woman hurried to comply.
“Did you hear that?” Uraraka said tersely. “It’s small. Come on—let’s see if we can help.”
“W-wait, guys—” If Shouto’s mind hadn’t been on the immediate emergency right in front of them, he might have noted how odd it was, that Midoriya of all people was the last one to get up from his seat.
“No time, Deku!” Uraraka cut him off. “We’ll pay our bill after we take care of this!”
Iida was already out the door, with Asui and Uraraka close behind. Shouto paused once to make sure Midoriya was still with them, and left the restaurant at a run.
Up close, they could hear the fire as well as see it—bright orange tongues of flame leapt from the windows, and the air around them crackled and roared. Standing in the street in front of the building, Shouto felt waves of hot air buffet them with an almost physical force.
“Todoroki!” Uraraka shouted over the noise. Onlookers had gathered, adding their shouts to the din. “Can you do anything about this?”
Frost pricked his skin along his right arm, but he gritted his teeth. “Too risky!” he called back. “I don’t know the building’s layout and I can’t see what I’m dealing with—I’d risk trapping people inside.”
Asui caught one of the onlookers by the arm. “Has anyone called for heroes yet? Emergency services?”
“Th-they should be here any second,” the man stammered. “Their office isn’t far.”
“The people inside may not have that much time,” Uraraka gritted out.
Shouto stared up at the fire and set his jaw. “I can’t put the fire out,” he said. “But I can clear a path to start looking for people inside.”
“I can go with you,” Uraraka offered. “Tsuyu, it’ll probably be better if you stay out here—fire’s not your strong suit.”
Asui nodded reluctantly. “I can wait for help to arrive—ribbit.”
“You and Midoriya both,” Iida told her. “Once the heroes arrive, let them know what the situation is.”
“Got it, Iida-chan. Be safe!”
Shouto wasted no more time. The main entrance was wide open, and he froze a path through the flames and plunged in.
The ground floor was mostly emptied; here, it seemed, people had been given enough time to escape the flames. The stairwells were free of fire, at least, and the floors above were where help was most needed.
Shouto lost track of time as they guided people down to the lower floor. Once he deemed it safe, he iced most of it in the hopes of maintaining a safe path outside. Uraraka’s quirk proved invaluable, lifting rubble and clearing the way even as it burned her hands.
Eventually, more and more extra hands joined them; emergency services had arrived, including paramedics and the fire brigade. Still none of them let up, and in the back of his mind Shouto had to wonder—how long were the heroes going to take to arrive?
After what felt like hours, he stumbled outside with a girl in her late teens clinging to him and a younger boy under his arm, released them to the medics, and paused a moment to breathe clean air again.
“Todoroki-chan?” Asui’s voice brought him back to the present. “Where did Ochako go?”
Shouto looked back, heart sinking. Uraraka was nowhere to be found. A moment later Iida emerged, and his heart lifted for a moment, but Uraraka did not appear with him. Dread settled in his stomach like a mass of lead. “Where’s Midoriya?”
“The Rishi heroes were taking too long,” she replied. “One of the paramedics sent him to the agency to see what was holding them up. Todoroki, if she’s hurt—”
“I’ll find her,” he said.
“I’ll come too.”
“I can get her out faster than you can without threatening the building’s structure,” She glared at him, challenging him to argue.
…She was just going to go in regardless of what he said, wasn’t she. “Stay close,” he told her. “I’ll cool it down as much as I can. Iida, if Midoriya comes back, tell him what happened.” With that, he ran back into the fire.
Asui wasn’t stupid; she kept close to him, close to his right side especially, and her past year and a half of training had toughened her just the same as anyone else. She kept up with him as they raced upward, searching each floor for their missing friend.
“There!” On the third floor, Asui’s hand found his arm. She pointed, coughing in the hot, choking air, and he sent her another waft of cold.
Firelight kept him half-blind, but he could make out a vaguely familiar shape ahead—Uraraka was there, hunched and stumbling with a child-sized figure huddled at her side. With a cry of relief, Asui hurried forward to help her.
Shouto knew fire. He knew what fueled it, what dampened it, which colors burned hottest. He knew how it behaved, how it moved, how to predict when it would lash out or spread. Even before he had accepted it as part of himself, Shouto knew fire.
So it was second nature for him to reach out and shove Asui behind him, and to thrust his right foot forward and send a blast of cold toward Uraraka, right as the remains of a wall blew outward and a rolling tongue of flame roared out at her. Shouto threw himself into a shield of ice, but it evaporated under the blistering heat.
When the flames parted again, Uraraka was on the floor, curled up around the child to shield them.
Asui choked out a cry and shoved herself forward, tongue lashing out of her mouth. She caught hold of both of them, lifted them off the burning floor, and carried them straight into Shouto’s waiting hands. The child, a soot-stained girl with tangled hair, choked on her sobs and clung to Shouto’s right side.
Uraraka wasn’t moving.
Without another word, Asui lifted Uraraka’s limp form and returned to his right side, tight-lipped and silent. Shouto chilled the way for them, and together they staggered back down to the ground floor, and out into cooler, cleaner air.
By the time they made it out to the street, Shouto had the little girl tucked under one arm while he kept Asui upright with the other. She refused to let go of Uraraka, even as she struggled to breathe with scorched lungs. He bit back the curses on his tongue, mentally kicking himself for letting Asui follow him straight into a place where she would be at her weakest.
Too late now; at least she was alive.
Shouto passed the girl into a paramedic’s waiting hands, and hovered near Asui and Uraraka until someone was seeing to them, as well. Iida hurried over to meet them, and that left Midoriya…
Where was Midoriya?
Where were this town’s heroes?
Iida seemed to see the questions on his face, and grimaced as he answered. “Emergency services are all we have,” he said. “I checked my phone messages, and they’ve sent out an emergency warning—there’s violence in the residential streets. It’s probably what’s keeping the heroes from coming here.” He paused. “And Midoriya isn’t back yet. I’ve tried to call him, but he isn’t answering… his…” Iida’s eyes fell upon something behind Shouto, and his voice trailed off.
Asui was kneeling over Uraraka, heedless of the medic hovering over her. Her face was blank—not relaxed, but frozen with a fragile emptiness that made Shouto’s heart sink.
He hadn’t seen it before, with his eyes streaming in the glare of the flames—the stillness in Uraraka’s face, the way her eyelids didn’t flutter even though they were only half closed.
He’d been right before; it really had been too late.
“We’ll wait for Midoriya to come back,” he said, not sure if Iida or Asui were still listening to him. Realization hit him like a knife through the ribs—Midoriya didn’t know. Midoriya was going to come back to find Uraraka dead.
Finally, paramedics managed to urge Asui away, guiding her gently to a stretcher to carry her to the nearest ambulance. And that was a good thing, for all that the thought of separating further made him sick. Asui was hurt and she needed a hospital. She needed to leave this place before anything else—
It happened quickly. Too quickly for Shouto to follow.
His eyes were quick enough to catch sight of the man racing toward the park. For a split second he thought nothing of it—he must be some panicky civilian, fleeing the fire or the street violence that Iida mentioned. But no, that wasn’t panic he was seeing. There was intent and purpose in how he moved. Something glinted in his hand, and he flung it, swerved, and ran the other way.
A dark metal cylinder hit the grass and rolled, coming to rest not far from where Shouto stood. Close enough that he saw the fuse.
He flung his hand out on instinct, but his ice sputtered weakly from overuse. The fire had sapped his control of the cold. Iida reached it first, while paramedics and victims drew back. He met Shouto’s eyes once, briefly, before his engines blazed, and his Recipro Burst took him across the street and beyond before Shouto could blink.
By the time Shouto did blink, the pipe bomb detonated out of reach of anyone but the one carrying it.
He felt the explosion in his teeth, in the very marrow of his bones, and his eyes fell upon the figure of the bomber, fleeing back to the streets beyond. Shouto didn’t think. He didn’t have a reason to. No one was left to tell him that he should.
Iida had been right. Beyond the park and the burning building, the streets echoed with the sound of fighting. Civilians hid or ran for cover, and it was impossible to tell what had started it or what was fueling it.
He kept his eyes on the bomber and wove his way through, keeping back any potential attackers with ice and fire. By now the man knew he was being chased, and Shouto was hard-pressed to keep him in sight as the man tried to shake him off.
Luck struck, but not in Shouto’s favor. Someone’s quirk tore a hole in the pavement right across his path, forcing him to skid to a halt and avoid the fight. By the time he was back on track, the bomber had given him the slip and left him in the riot-torn streets.
Shouto bit back a curse and turned to go back. He dodged brawlers, ducked thrown bricks, skirted around quirk-fueled fistfights, cursing himself all the while. It had been a stupid, pointless venture from the start. Instincts and sense pulled him in several ways at once—he should try to find his quarry, he should stay and help, he should get civilians to safety, he should find Midoriya, he should go back and find where they’d taken Asui—
A heavy weight collided with him, and Shouto nearly brought fire into play before he recognized dark green hair and a freckled face, pale and drawn.
“Midoriya.” It was hard to say his name when it felt like his throat was closing. “Where have you been? I’ve been looking everywhere for you!”
His friend clutched at his shirt, eyes wide and shining wetly. “We have to get back to the others,” he said. “Todoroki, where are they? We have to—I need to tell everyone—we don’t have much time—”
Shouto wanted to scream. He wanted to scream and cry and break things, because Midoriya was asking for the others and looking to Shouto as if he held all the answers, when the only answers Shouto had for him were Uraraka’s dead and Iida’s dead and I don’t know where they took Asui.
“Oh.” Midoriya’s voice trembled, and his eyes widened as if he understood—and how could he? “Oh no. Todoroki, it’s okay. It’s going to be all right, I promise—”
“It’s not,” Shouto replied tightly. The fighting raged around them, and they were still so far from safety. “It’s really not. Midoriya—”
“I’ll tell you everything,” Midoriya interrupted. “It’ll be okay, just—”
“You can’t fix this, Midoriya.” The memory of Uraraka’s face returned unbidden, and he stumbled as he stepped off the curb.
He had barely regained his footing when Midoriya slammed into him from the side. Shouto stumbled, thinking that Midoriya had been struck or thrown into him, but his friend was on his feet. The collision was too precise, too purposeful to be random chance.
“Midoriya, what—?” His voice trailed off. Midoriya staggered against him, with a noise that sounded like a bitten-off cry of pain.
A flash of pale blue drew his eye—there was a man standing at the end of the sidewalk, and Shouto might not have noticed him if not for his shock of blue-white hair. He looked strangely wet in a few places, enough that Shouto could see droplets rolling down the length of his arm—was that a quirk? Shouto couldn’t tell from this distance.
The moment he spotted him, the man darted back and vanished around the corner. Shouto readied himself to give chase, but a hand at his arm stopped him. He turned back, cursing himself—Midoriya was injured, and they needed to get out.
There was a knife in his friend’s shoulder. Shouto managed not to wince at the sight of it, but even the knowledge that Midoriya had suffered far worse before did little to stop his stomach from turning. Anger battled with the revulsion in his gut. “Come on.” It sounded more like a snap than he meant it to. “I’ll clear a path—do you need help?”
His friend’s mouth was a thin, tight line as he shook his head. “Todoroki, I need to tell you something—”
“Let’s get out of here first.” A ripple of ice kept the path ahead clear, and Shouto dragged his friend out of the fighting. Midoriya clung to him, his grip painful, but Shouto gritted his teeth and kept moving.
“Just shut up for a second, we’re almost there.” Half a block, and they were clear, but that did nothing for the sickness roiling in Shouto’s stomach. He gritted his teeth. “That was stupid.” He had to force the words out, past the anger swelling like a lump in his throat. Shouto couldn’t tell whether he was angrier at Midoriya or himself. “That was stupid and you didn’t have to do that.”
“Todoroki, I did—”
“Come on, let’s get back to the paramedics before you bleed to death, you idiot.”
“Todoroki, listen to me.” The grip on his arm tightened until Shouto had to bite back a cry of pain. He looked back, ready to snap again, but he found Midoriya’s eyes boring into him, and words failed him. “Just—just listen.”
“We don’t have time for this—”
“I know,” Midoriya interrupted. “I know. Just—I’m sorry. I-I’m so sorry, Todoroki, but I couldn’t let it happen again.”
What? “Let what happen again? Midoriya—”
“I should have said something,” and his grip was tight, tight, tighter, and Shouto was sure it would leave a bruise in the shape of Midoriya’s hand. “But—I wasn’t sure, before. But I’m sure now, and—it all happened already. Everything, the—the chime, at the start. And the fire, and the bomb, and the riot—all of this already happened.”
“Midoriya, what are you talking about?” His heart clenched. “How—how do you know about the bomb? What is going on?”
“I don’t know!” There were tears pouring down his face now. “I don’t know. I-I messed up, this time. I was supposed to tell you—tell all of you, but I messed up, and it all went wrong, and—” He broke off, and his face almost didn’t change except to tighten.
Shouto looked to the knife in his shoulder, and because of that, he saw it. Creeping out from beneath the neckline of his shirt—dark, sickly, blood-puddle red crawled over Midoriya like an infection. It spread along his skin, through the blood in his veins, up the side of his neck and down his arm past his sleeve.
“You were right.” Midoriya’s voice trembled. “Th-this really hurts.”
Shouto caught him as he fell and no, no, not again, not you, no more of this. He thought of Asui suffering burns and heat exhaustion, frozen over Uraraka’s body—of Iida, grabbing a bomb without a second thought. He had to get help, he needed to—
Midoriya struggled when Shouto tried to pick him up, and Shouto chased him to the ground. Midoriya was heavy in his lap, head resting against Shouto’s chest, reaching up to clutch a handful of his shirt and drag at him, forcing Shouto to look at nothing else but him.
“There’s a house,” Midoriya choked out. “S-small, old-looking. Close to the beach, past the lighthouse. Ten-forty. She said ten-forty.”
“There’s a girl. I d-don’t know her—her name. Find her. The—the basement. Get to the basement.” The red patches crept up the side of his face, and Midoriya sobbed with pain. “It’ll be okay. I’ll be okay. It’ll start over, I promise, just get to the basement.”
Shouto felt him die.
Midoriya’s hand was still hooked in the neckline of his shirt, slack as Shouto lifted him up from the cold pavement. He staggered out of the residential streets, back out to the park, back to where Iida’s body was and Uraraka’s body was. Asui was gone, loaded up in an ambulance so she could receive proper treatment. In all of an hour, they were the only two left.
It wasn’t a good thing that she was injured, but Shouto was happy that she was no longer in the park. It meant he didn’t have to see her face when he lowered Midoriya’s body to the grass.
His friend’s hand was cool and stiff as he gently worked it free of his shirt. As he rose, he stepped past him to where Uraraka lay under a sheet, and looked beyond that to where Iida was. They were close enough to each other, for now. He hoped that was the right thing to do.
Shouto started walking again.
A small house, past the lighthouse and close to the beach. Ten-forty. Shouto checked his phone; it was after ten-fifty already. He kept walking.
Midoriya had told him nothing, and Asui needed medical attention and was in no condition to follow him blindly into an encounter. He’d have to check first. Find the house. Find the girl. Find (he hoped) answers. Go back for Asui once he was sure it was safe, and once her injuries had been seen to.
It’ll be okay. I’ll be okay.
All of this already happened.
It’ll start over.
Nothing made sense. The world had been making less and less sense from the moment he and Asui carried Uraraka out of the burning building to the flesh wound that had killed Midoriya in less than a minute.
He was passing the lighthouse when he found himself no longer alone. Here, farther away from the residential streets but still some distance from the beach, Rishi seemed virtually deserted. And so, when a girl came running from the opposite direction, from the side of Rishi past the lighthouse, Shouto noticed her. He couldn’t have missed her; besides himself, she was the only one there.
She caught sight of him a block away, and stumbled to a halt. Shouto kept walking, and didn’t stop until he was standing in front of her.
She was young—maybe a year or two younger than he was. Mousy brown hair and dark eyes, plain clothes. Under different circumstances, he would hardly have given her a second thought. But now she was looking at him, and past him. Her eyes settled on his clothes, and he looked down and found them smeared with blood.
“I thought more of you would come,” she said softly.
“There’s just me,” he answered.
She shut her eyes. “Okay. That’ll be enough. It’ll have to be.” She opened them again. “I need you to come with me. It’s safer to talk at the center.”
“The center of what?”
“The bubble. Look, just—just follow me. Please? There’s still time, but I don’t wanna take chances.”
Shouto searched her face, wary for any sign of deceit, malice, nervousness, anything that might tip him off to some kind of trick. But there was nothing but pleading in her eyes, and the desperate hope on her face was unmistakable. This was the face of someone who was crying out for help.
What kind of hero would he be, if he didn’t answer?
He matched her pace as she led him the rest of the way. Neither of them spoke; Shouto was too busy watching her for any sign of… anything, really. But nothing caught his eye, except the few times she checked her phone for the time. Minutes passed, the neighborhood around them thinned out, and finally Shouto spotted it: a house, small and old-fashioned, set apart from the others in a scrubby, unkempt yard. The girl sped up as they neared it, and she led him not to the door but to the basement hatch at the side. Shouto hesitated at the top of the steps, checked his phone for anything from Asui, and finally followed her. It was a little after eleven by now.
He stepped down into the basement as the girl clicked on the light. It was dusty, cramped, and cluttered, but it had been done up into a simple sleeping space: a couch converted to a bed, a few tables and chairs, and an open suitcase lay scattered about the room. Storage boxes had been left lying around as well. A blackboard stood on top of one of them, leaning against the wall to keep from tipping. Pinned beside it was what looked like a map of Rishi, covered in red X’s. The board itself was mostly empty, except for a neat line of tally marks. Nine of them, to be exact.
The girl closed the door and sagged against it. When Shouto looked at her, she was fighting back tears. “M-my name’s Jun,” she said. “M-Marutoki Jun.”
She nodded. “I know. I recognized you—all of you, from the Sports Festival. And I—” Her breath hitched. “I’m in so much trouble. I-I did something, that—” She broke off, scrubbing at her eyes with the back of her hand.
“Midoriya told me that this happened before,” Shouto said. “Do you know what he meant by that?”
Marutoki nodded vigorously. “The loops. I-it’s because of my quirk. If something happens that—that I don’t like, I can… sort of turn back time, and try again, and keep trying until I get the ending I want.”
“That’s…” Shouto’s voice trailed off. A power like that was frankly terrifying, if you thought about it. There was no telling what someone could do with the power to turn back time at will.
…They could trap entire towns in endless loops, for one.
“It has limits,” she went on. “I can only do it in one area. That’s what I meant when I said the bubble.” She lowered her eyes. “The loops are only happening in Rishi. Time’s still passing normally outside, and everyone outside can only see a, a dome around the town. You can’t get in or out. And—” Her voice trembled as she tried not to cry. “And you aren’t supposed to forget. I-I’ve never had anybody die before, when I use my quirk. I didn’t know they’d forget the loops that kill them.”
“But why?” Shouto demanded. “If this is caused by your quirk, then why not just stop this?”
She looked him in the eye again. “Is this the ending you want?”
Shouto’s heart twisted, pain as cold as a shard of ice. “N-no,” he admitted.
“I don’t know why this is happening, or who’s killing everyone,” she went on. “And if I stop the loops—even if I stop with the next loop, they’ll all forget again, and they’ll all die anyway, unless somebody finds out why this is happening, and stops it. That’s why—that’s why I need your help. I can’t do it by myself. I don’t know how.” She blinked hard, three times, as if to stop the tears from coming out. “L-last time was the first time I got one of you down here. You all keep dying.”
The ice in his heart sharpened as it turned to hope. “So—everything that’s happened will be erased, and it’ll start over again? Where does it start?”
“9:45,” she said. “And this time you’ll remember. I-in the last loop, I…” She wrung her hands at her sides. “The other boy was supposed to tell you everything, and bring you all here. But I took too long. There wasn’t enough time, so I couldn’t tell him anything. All I could do was make sure he remembered.”
“Why us?” Shouto asked. “Of all people—if something’s wrong, then why haven’t you gone to the heroes?”
“I tried.” Her voice shook. “B-but I couldn’t find them anywhere. I’ve been looking everywhere—that’s why I wasn’t there to meet you this time. I was checking some of the places I didn’t look before, but… I don’t know what happened—s-someone must’ve gotten rid of them, or gotten them away so they could destroy the town.” She shrank in on herself. “I-I think it’s my fault. I think they were outside when I put up the bubble, and now they can’t get back in because of me.”
“Wait,” Shouto said sharply. “Wait. What do you mean, destroy the town?”
“Something terrible’s happening,” she said. “You saw it. The fire. The riot, everything. A-and at the end…” She checked the time again. “Well. You’ll see what happens at the end.”
Shouto surged forward. “Marutoki,” he said quietly, and she shrank back. “Tell me what happens at the end.”
She stared at him, wide-eyed as a startled rabbit. “I-I don’t know for sure. It’s some kind of explosion, like a bomb. All I know is that it’s gonna destroy Rishi and kill everyone in it. That’s why I looped back, the first time. I was going to find Longtooth or Vermilion and tell them, but—”
“Let me out.” Shouto tried to step past her and get to the doorknob, but she moved to block his way. “Marutoki—”
“Y-you can’t.” Marutoki shook her head vigorously. “There’s no point, it goes off at eleven-fifteen you can’t save everyone unless you—”
“I have to go get my friend,” Shouto cut her off. “They took her to the hospital, just let me by and I’ll bring her here.”
Marutoki’s eyes widened in horror. “Y-you said it was just you, I didn’t know—”
“Now you know,” he snapped. “Now let me through.”
She hesitated, staring him in the eye. She checked the time on her phone. Her eyes slid shut, and she knocked the back of her head against the door. “I can’t.”
Frost crept up his right arm. Judging by the way she shuddered, Marutoki was close enough to feel it. “This isn’t a game, Marutoki. Let me out. Now.”
“We have seven minutes,” she told him. “Do you think you can find her and get back in seven minutes? Do you even know where the clinic is?”
“I can try.”
“There’s no trying!” She startled him by yelling. “This room is the only safe place I know of in the whole town, and that’s only because it’s the epicenter of the time loops. You’ll die if you go out there.”
“I’ll come back, won’t I?” he pointed out. “By your own claim. Time loops.”
“And you’ll forget everything you just learned.” She stared him down again, desperate and pleading. “Your friend will too. H-he died, didn’t he?”
Shouto didn’t bother answering.
“He’s gonna forget this loop,” Marutoki told him. Her voice was hushed, gentler than before. “And it’ll happen the exact same way as before. But if you live, and you remember, then you can help him right away. You can let him know it’s real.”
Shouto punched the door, leaving a bristling patch of ice on the wood. Marutoki flinched. “You should’ve been there to help him,” he gritted out. “You should’ve been there to tell him it was real.”
Her eyes welled up with tears, and she trembled under his glare. “I-I-I’m s-sorry. I’m sorry, I n-n-never meant for a-any of this to happen and I d-don’t know what to do. I need help. I don’t know what to do. I d-don’t know what to do.” She shrank back, sliding a few inches down the door. “S-so please. Please stay here, just a little longer. Please remember.” She sobbed quietly. “P-please help me. I don’t know what to do.”
Shouto looked to the door again. He looked to his phone.
He thought about it, for a moment. Calculated, in his head, how quickly he could reach the medical clinic and Asui. He’d be faster, if he used his quirk and ignored roads.
Except he had no idea where it was. Even with directions, he was in an unfamiliar town, flying blind, still drained from the fire.
He’d be lucky if he found her in six minutes, much less got her back.
Slowly, he stepped back. Hating himself, repulsed with his own decision, he stepped away from the door. His hands shook, the ice spread along his skin, and his left hand rose in temperature until he was barely keeping his flames from igniting.
“Let me make one thing clear.” He almost didn’t recognize his own voice. It was cold and quiet, like everyone said he sounded, but this time he meant it. “I’m placing a lot of trust in you, by doing what you say. I’m taking it on faith that you are telling me the truth. And the only reason I’m doing that is because Midoriya told me to listen to you. Do you understand?”
“Then you should also understand,” he went on, and he couldn’t quite keep the tremor out of his voice, “that if you’re lying to me—if Asui doesn’t come back, and Iida and Uraraka and Midoriya don’t come back—then that will make us enemies.” He looked her in the eye. “And you don’t want me as your enemy.”
She met his gaze for a few moments, but couldn’t hold it for long. “They’ll come back. I promise. In—in less than five minutes, you’ll all be back where you started. Midoriya—Midoriya won’t remember this loop.”
“Come and meet us,” Shouto told her. It wasn’t a request. “Outside the train station. No more hiding and running around. You come straight to us, and you tell us everything you know.”
Marutoki nodded so vigorously that Shouto thought she was going to crack her head against the door.
“You’re going to be in trouble for this, probably,” Shouto pointed out. “Using your quirk on this scale—it’s not something they’ll be able to ignore.”
“I-I have a license,” she said. She pawed through her bag for a moment, then pulled it out and showed him. Sure enough, it was the same kind he carried himself, with her name and photograph stamped on it. “I’m just a first-year in high school, but I took the test, and I have a provisional license. S-so, I’ll—I’ll still be in trouble for doing this without Longtooth’s permission, but it’s not as bad as it could be.”
He blinked. “You’re an intern?”
“Just for the summer,” she answered. “This is Ms. Kasumi’s house—she’s hosting me while I’m here. I don’t know where she is, either. I can’t find anyone.”
At that moment, Shouto’s phone rang.
He answered it.
“Todoroki-chan!” Her voice even raspier than usual. “Y-you’re okay! You’re okay, right?”
He swallowed, but the lump in his throat would not go away. “I’m fine. You?”
“I-I’ll…” Silence fell on her end, broken only by a deep, harsh breath. “My injuries are fine. They let me have my phone back, a-and… Todoroki, Midoriya-chan isn’t answering his phone. I tried calling him first, but—do you know where he is?”
It was carefully neutral, the way she asked that question. Revulsion rose, thick and sulfurous in his throat.
It wouldn’t matter what he told her, if what Marutoki told him was true. It wouldn’t matter, because she would forget. Because she would—
“He’s fine,” he replied. “He lost his phone earlier.”
“…Oh.” Her relief was palpable, even over the phone, and Shouto hated himself for lying, for staying in this dusty basement instead of finding her. “Oh. That’s good. Th-that’s good. I thought… I-I thought…” He heard her sniffle. “Could you give him the phone? A-actually, just—once you guys are done, could you meet me here? I-I just…”
“Yeah,” he said. “We’ll meet up in a few minutes.” That was the truth, he reminded himself. To the best of his knowledge, it was the truth. It didn’t help.
“Thanks, Todoroki. And—stay close to Midoriya, okay? You know how he gets.”
“Of course.” He was cut off by a quiet, high-pitched beeping. An alarm was going off on Marutoki’s phone. He looked to her, fighting back nausea, and read thirty seconds on her lips. His eyes stung, and he clenched his teeth and squeezed the phone against his ear. “H-hey, Asui?”
“I—” He stopped talking then, because if he hadn’t stopped, then she would have heard his voice break. “I’m sorry about Uraraka.”
Another sniffle. “It’s—I know, Todoroki. And I—i-it’s nobody’s fault. There’s no way we could’ve known, and… let’s just go home, okay? As soon as we can.” There was a pause. “Todoroki, did you feel that?”
“Feel what?” How was he talking? How was he still forming words when he couldn’t even remember how to breathe?
“There’s—there it is again. I hear something. Hang on, I think it’s outside—let me get to a window.”
“No, Asui, stay away from the windows—” There was no point, no point at all, because Marutoki said that everyone would die, and even though he couldn’t possibly know for sure that she was telling the truth… this, he knew. He could hear it over the phone, a rumble that built with each second. It was ending now.
“Oh, god,” he heard Asui whisper into the phone. “T-Todoroki, run!” The call went dead, but he could still hear the roar, growing in strength with each second. The house above began to shake.
Marutoki faced away from him, watching through the little square window set into the door. Shouto stepped forward, and she moved aside to let him see the world above them bathed in fire.
He blinked, and opened his eyes as the train shuddered to a halt. Beside him, Midoriya startled awake with a harsh gasp. Shouto turned his head and stared straight into his friend’s wide, shocked eyes.
“It was real,” he said, and watched as the shock morphed to match his own dazed horror.
I gotta be honest, this first couple of chapters is turning out way more horrifying than I thought they would. Sorry, guys, we'll get to the time-loop gumshoeing soon, I promise.