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One May Smile, and Smile, and Be A Villain

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PROLOGUE

 


 

 It’s not fair. It’s not our fault. We have no say in our own lives. We’re living a fairy tale someone else wrote.

― Melissa de la Cruz, The Isle of the Lost

 


 

 We’re sorry…


Midoriya crumples up the letter, his fists clenching.


How many times did he hear those words? Everyone’s oh so sorry around him. They’re so sorry he failed Yuuei’s practical exam. They’re so sorry he’s Quirkless. They’re sorry he can never become a Hero.


“Izuku…” His mum’s voice is filtered through the door, as well as her distress.


He throws the letter away. It’s over. He eyes the shelf on which his twelve completed notebooks on Hero data were aligned, the thirteenth one lying on his desk. He wants to burn them.


“Izuku, open the door please.”


She’s crying, now. She’s always been quick to cry and he, as her son, has inherited this trait from her. He should be crying but he isn’t.


“Izuku, I’m so—”


He opens the door, startling her. Midoriya Inko is kneeling on the ground, her hands wiping the rivers leaking from her eyes. He puts a hand on her shoulder, crouching.


“It’s alright.” I should’ve expected it. “Guess there was never a chance for me in the first place.” But I refuse to believe this.


She sniffles, “But you wanted to be a Pro Hero so bad…”


“I know.” You’re wrong. I still want to be a Pro Hero.


She chokes up and embraces him. He returns the hug and rubs her back, but his eyes are hard and dry. When she speaks, her voice is muffled by his shirt on which she was clinging to.


“What are you going to do, Izuku?”


For once, he voices his thoughts aloud. “I don’t know.”


Attending Yuuei is over. He can try the entrance General Department exams and be put on a waiting list, but he knows he would never truly attend Yuuei. The academy’s famous for its Heroic Department and it’s the only place where he could picture himself. Being in any other department would mean betraying himself. On the other hand, he doesn’t know what he wants to do as a normal job because he doesn’t want to have a normal job.


As foolish as it’s been, he never entertained the option he would be rejected and thus, never prepared a Plan B.


“I’m going for a walk.”


Midoriya disentangles himself from her arms, refusing to meet her eyes as he heads towards the door. As soon as his feet cross the threshold, he dashes in the streets, his destination clear in his mind. The Dagobah Municipal Beach Park is as empty as ever, except for the columns of trash piling up the entire shoreline. He cleared a spot where he had trained for a year in preparation for Yuuei’s entrance exams. It had been futile, in the end.


My dream’s futile in the end.


He punches himself. Hard. The shock sends him reeling, falling on the rubbish heap. He refuses to think such things. His dream isn’t futile. It can’t be. Saving people, protecting them, helping them can’t be futile, but why are people sorry when he’s telling them he wants do so? Midoriya may not have a Quirk but he possesses determination and zeal. Can’t he save people just with this, just by being himself?


Just by smiling, like All Might.


He refuses to shed the tears gathering in his eyes. He stands on his feet and begins climbing the trash mountain. He loses count of the times he slips and falls but he always gets back. When he reaches the top, he doesn’t know what he expected. Unimaginable rage or a breakdown, perhaps. All he feels is hollowness as he watches the sun sinking in the ocean’s depths.


“Why am I not enough?”


The wind whistling in his ear drowns his voice.

 


 

4 years later


Midoriya Izuku shoves his badge under the man’s nose, his expression blank.


“I’m part of the Police Force.”


He doesn’t wait for the man’s answer and bypasses him, ducking under the yellow tape. There are a few police officers lingering around the bound villain lying on his side, a muzzle-like device clamped around his mouth. Midoriya strides towards him, unsure of what he would do once he’ll reach him.


He never finds out because someone grabs his shoulder, halting him.


“Midoriya-kun, you shouldn’t be here. You don’t have the authorisation.”


Midoriya glances over his shoulder to see Tsukauchi Naomasa. The detective’s features are kind although his eyes are stern. His grip is like steel but Midoriya refuses to crumble.


“I finished my duties, sir.”


Tsukauchi sighs, “It’s nice to hear you finished the reports but your presence isn’t requested. Besides, you don’t have the skills to handle the current situation.”


“If I may, sir, I expressed many times my desire to learn those skills and I reiterate—”


“Don’t use formality to get your way, Midoriya-kun. I already told you that starting in the office is the first step to everyone working in the Police Force.”


Midoriya flinches, fighting against the urge to take a step back. Tsukauchi was already looking away, moving on to another police officer who surely had the necessary authorisation and skills to be on the field. Midoriya watches them discuss near the villain, occasionally eyeing the villain. He grits his teeth and swallows back any protest on the tip of his tongue. He’s aware, more than anyone else in the Police Force, about his situation as useless — or Quirkless, they’d rather say. They accepted him in their ranks but he never truly belonged.


Upon learning that most members of the Police Force didn’t have Quirks, Midoriya steered his career towards becoming a detective to take down villains and help Pro Heroes. What he didn’t know, however, was that those members did menial tasks and were forever glued to their desks since the Police Force didn’t want them to endanger their lives. Because of his Quirkless, Midoriya can’t be a Pro Hero and can’t be a true detective. Is there anything he can do or is he doomed to futility?


“Tsukauchi, look out!”


Midoriya snaps out of his thoughts just in time to see Tsukauchi bolting towards him, dragging the bound villain along with him. Next thing he knows, a laser strikes the ground where Tsukauchi had been standing, leaving an impressive dent on the cement. Midoriya observes the crater, numb, and merely blinks when the detective jostles against him.


“Get cover, Midoriya-kun!”


This time, the laser beam slices the air just in front of Midoriya and Tsukauchi. Midoriya shakes his head, staring next to him only to find the spot devoid of the detective. Tsukauchi was handing the villain to another officer, barking orders at the cordon of police officers that broke the formation. Midoriya sprints to take cover as instructed, nearly getting hit as countless red beam shoot in his direction.


It’s chaos. People were screaming, arms raised above their head in a desperate manner to shield themselves, and rushing away from the scene. The laser keeps on decimating the asphalt, targeting police officers and even civilians. Every Police Force member’s looking heavenwards, seeking the attacker. Their eyes are sweeping the buildings too fast, Midoriya notices, and not observing enough. They need to think. Where would a sniper hide?


A girl cried out for her mother, making Midoriya whirl around. She can’t be older than five and can’t reach higher than his waist. She’s clutching a bunny plush, her tiny legs shaking. She’s crying out but nobody hears. Nobody but Midoriya.


He doesn’t think. He moves.


“Midoriya, what are you doing?” Tsukauchi shouts.


Midoriya doesn’t listen. He moves.


He takes the girl in his arms, clutching her as tight as she does with her bunny, and dashes. He avoids every beam aimed at him, zigzagging in the street like a drunkard. It was going well until one of them hits him square in the back.


Midoriya gasps as his skin is set afire. He stumbles, muscles twitching as if electricity’s overriding him. The girl in his arm whimpers, her hands fisting his shirt. She’s afraid he’ll drop her. He understands her fear but it’s irrational. A Hero doesn’t drop someone he rescues until they’re safe.


Drawing a shaky breath, Midoriya wills himself to stumble under a stone archway, scrambling to hide. Leaning leaned against the cool wall, he watches tears trailing down the girl’s cheek.


“Hey, hey, you’re safe now.”


“I want my mummy. Where’s my mummy?”


Midoriya rubs her back, whispering, “We’ll find your mummy once the Police Force secures the area. I’ll help you look for your mummy, how does that sound?”


She perks up, a shadow of smile appearing on her lips. “Pinky promise?”


Midoriya shows his fifth finger to seal their promise, grinning at her encouragingly. Neither have time to curl their finger around the other when the earth rumbles beneath them. The girl squeaks, burying her face in his shirt. Midoriya hushes her and can’t help but peeking out. His jaw drops.


All Might was standing a few meters away from them. In one hand he was grasping the unconscious attacker by the collar.


Tsukauchi was talking to the Pro Hero while the police officers were spreading around, helping the ones who had been hit. Some people were coming back to the scene, still a little startled. Midoriya rises and heads towards them, guiding the girl with one hand.


“Do you see your mummy anywhere?”


She shakes her head, sniffling. Midoriya kneels and musters his brightest smile.


Just like All Might.


“It’s alright, we’ll find her.”


“Midoriya-kun, are you alright?”


Tsukauchi was jogging up to him, All Might following suit. Midoriya almost chokes in his own saliva as he gazes towards the Pro Hero.


“I-I’m fine,” he stammers, averting his eyes from All Might.


But All Might was still looking at him. “Who’s that little girl beside you, Midoriya-shonen?”


Midoriya doesn’t have to answer because the girl disentangles herself from Midoriya’s arms and hurries towards a lady. The three men watch the mother embrace her daughter tightly and giving her kisses on the forehead.


Midoriya smiles. He isn’t futile.


“Midoriya-kun,” the detective’s voice calls, “you do know you were reckless back then?”


“Maybe I was but I don’t regret it. This little girl was crying—”


“You should’ve let us handle this. You don’t have the skills—”


“I don’t have the skills but I’m the only one who did something,” Midoriya replies, aware that he’s bordering insolence by interrupting his superior. “I couldn’t let her there, could I?”


“There’s a reason to why rookies are kept in the office.” Tsukauchi’s voice has turned colder, his eyes narrowing. “They don’t have the skills.”


All Might doesn’t lose his smile but its shine does falter. “Naomasa, aren’t you—?”


But the detective hammers, “Go back to the office, Midoriya-kun.”


Where you belong.


Midoriya bites his lower lip and bows his head. He doesn’t look back at the little girl, at Tsukauchi or at All Might.


When he was young, Midoriya pictured his encounter with the Symbol of Peace as a glorious moment where the Pro Hero would see him commit an admirable deed and tell him he could become a Hero as well. Instead he’s been admonished by his superior as if he’s nothing but a child. It’s been far from glorious.


He doesn’t understand why Tsukauchi is irritated by the fact that he saved someone. Isn’t that what society expects of them, to reach out for others and help them?


My dream’s not futile.


Of course it’s not. Saving people is what Pro Heroes do. Saving people like he did, only a few minutes ago, by sheltering this little girl and taking the blow for her.


I’m enough.


Is he? Luck’s been on his side. It was one girl and not an entire population to save. Midoriya’s far from enough. He’s Quirkless. He’s alone. He’s stuck in an office.


Why am I not enough?


The bitterness making his blood boil drowns his inner voice.


I’ll be enough.


I’ll make sure of it.