“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.”