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brilliant lights will cease to burn (by my hand i'll reignite them)

Chapter Text

It happens like this:

Midoriya Izuku is born quirkless. This is a fact that he hates, detests, abhors for the majority of his adolescence. Kacchan certainly doesn’t help, and neither do the rest of his classmates. Luckily, Izuku accepts his quirklessness rather elegantly. He doesn’t give up his goal of becoming a hero, mind you, but he does throw himself into his hero research with a newfound vigor.

In another universe, Izuku begins his collection of hero notebooks, running to whatever villain fight he can. In another universe, Izuku stands on the sidelines and lives his life, quietly nursing his ambition. In another universe, Izuku unknowingly sets himself on the path that crosses with All Might’s.

In this universe, that’s not exactly how it goes.

When Izuku turns ten, he makes a resolution: to memorize every detail, every shop, every person, every hero in his neighbourhood. It’s a step down from becoming a hero, but it’s a great feat nonetheless. The area around his apartment is one of the busiest areas in the entire city.

Instead of simply watching on the sidelines, Izuku trails quietly after heroes and gets accustomed to his neighbourhood. While other children his age are hanging out together at the mall or the park, Izuku explores every nook and cranny of the area around his home. He reinforces some knowledge - the shopping street, the library, the local park, the train station - and learns some new - the soup kitchen, a small hole-in-the wall gem of a bakery, a group of stray cats that prowl around the alleys, searching for food.

During this time, Izuku talks to many people. He’s a nervous and awkward person by heart, but heroes are a common topic that everybody’s capable of keeping a conversation about. When he asks about Puppet Master in a quiet cafe called Ms. Luna, the barista’s more than happy to tell Izuku all about how Puppet Master is a very kind and quiet man who always takes his coffee with three milks and two sugars.

By the end of the month, he’s more or less figured out all the patrol patterns within a seven-block radius around his apartment and memorized Ms. Luna’s menu. It is, admittedly, kind of creepy and maybe a bit obsessive, but it’s more fun than anything else Izuku’s ever done. It’s also hard, hard work, keeping track of so much about so many people.

In fact, when Kacchan tries to take the notes he’s worked so hard on, Izuku decides that Kacchan probably isn’t the best friend he’s ever had. He thinks this as he snatches his notebook back, punches Kacchan in the jaw, and makes a wild sprint for home.

Surprisingly enough, Kacchan doesn’t chase him or tell the teacher, but the look he gives Izuku the next day surpasses acerbic on so many levels. Still, he doesn’t harass Izuku as much anymore, which is a welcome blessing. The rest of the class seems to have taken his jaw-punching to heart, because they start to lay off as well.

Scuffles still happen, but when they do, Izuku doesn’t hesitate to fight back. He isn’t a fighter, but after years of being bullied, Izuku knows how to fall, how to crumple against blows, how to improvise weapons with what little he has. Most importantly, he knows everyone’s quirk and he knows exactly how to fight against each and every one of them.

He proves this when a group of bullies with minor ice quirks corners him. By the time five minutes is up, Izuku’s bruised and battered, but the bullies are bawling over their scorched fingers and burnt skin.

Izuku gets in trouble for throwing hot water on the bullies the next day. He doesn’t really understand why the teachers are being so serious about it; after all, it’s not like the water was boiling or anything.

Midoriya Inko scolds her son for his reckless behaviour, but is quietly thankful that her son is no longer the target of the horrible bullying he had experienced in the past. She approves of his newfound sense of adventure and buys him a used phone so she can always make sure he’s safe.

One Wednesday night, while Izuku’s just finished wrapping up his scrawl session at Ms. Luna, a villain walks into the shop and asks where the nearest police station is. The situation itself is terrifying, but it’s heightened by the villain’s warped features and multitudinous limbs jutting out in every direction. He’s dripping blood from a few of the many arms he has.

The barista is paralyzed with fear. Her eyes gleam bright blue, which Izuku’s noted to happen when she’s scared, and her voice shakes as she tries to deliver a coherent sentence.

“Sir,” Izuku says, his voice coming out barely louder than a whisper. “Sir,” he repeats, louder this time, holding his shaking hands behind him.

The villain turns to face him, and Izuku feels a shiver down the entire length of his spine.

“I know where the nearest station is,” Izuku states, trying to keep his voice calm. A slight hitch catches onto the end of the sentence, but he powers on anyway. “If you leave the shop and go right, you’ll be at an intersection. Take a right, continue straight for two blocks, and then turn left. Keep going down the street, and you can’t miss it.”

The villain gives him an awful smile, all sharp fangs and bloody gums. “You’re useful, kid,” is all he says before turning around and trudging out the door.

Izuku feels nauseous, but the barista doesn’t look much better than he does, so he tries to keep his anxiety under the wraps. After a minute’s passed, the barista spins to meet Izuku’s eyes.

“Why’d you tell him where the station is?” She sounds somewhat angry but mostly hysterical. “Who knows what’ll happen if a villain walks into a police station and starts tearing it apart? That’s - you can’t just -”

“It’s okay, miss,” Izuku replies. It really is okay, because Izuku’s thought one step ahead. “I didn’t give him directions to the station.”

The look the barista gives him is beyond hysterical.

Izuku moves quickly to an explanation before the barista throttles him or starts crying - he really can’t tell. “Puppet Master patrols the neighbourhood on Wednesdays between 4 and 7. He usually walks the entire length of Willow Drive, which is why I told the villain to keep walking down the street.” Nervously, Izuku fiddles with his mechanical pencil. “I’m sure a pro hero would be able to take down a villain like him.”

The barista seems to look at him with a new sense of clarity, but demands that Izuku stays with her until she can call the police and tell them about the situation. With nothing else to do, Izuku sits quietly with a hot chocolate and a slice of banana bread. Across from him, the barista taps the counter nervously, though the near-fluorescent blue of her eyes has dimmed down to a paler hue.

The officers arrive soon after, questioning both Izuku and the barista individually. Izuku answers their questions to the best of their ability, ripping apart the banana bread anxiously. Surprisingly, the interrogation doesn’t take very long. The officers commend him for his bravery and tell him that he’d make a wonderful police officer. Izuku blushes all the way to his toes.

“You know, kid, you’re really something else,” the barista mumbles after the officers leave. There’s nothing he can say to that, so Izuku just nods quietly as he packs his notebooks away. It’s clear that he’s not welcome here any longer. That makes him sad, because Ms. Luna is the best cafe in the city to write in.

Before Izuku steps out the door, he apologizes for the trouble he’s caused and thanks the barista for the hot chocolate. The woman offers a small grin and a nod.

“Drop in sometime if you feel like it,” is the last thing the barista says before she turns around to close up shop. Her tone is less dismissive and more tired, which Izuku counts as a major win. Maybe he’ll even return one day, right after he changes his identity and never comes back as himself.

After the villain incident, Izuku realizes that although he’s quirkless, he’s far from useless. For a period of time, he seriously considers becoming a police officer, or maybe a detective. It’s appealing, but Izuku’s never worked well with such enormous limitations officers have to work under (like the law). It’s easier to do what he loves doing quietly.

The notebooks begin to pile up on his table at home, so Izuku dedicates a shelf exclusively to his notes. The majority of them are in-depth analyses of pro heroes, but some of them are about civilians with notable quirks. Kacchan’s is one of the most thorough profiles he has.

It’s only when Izuku walks into the same small stationary shop on Sunset Boulevard he’s been frequenting for the past three months for the third time in a week that he realizes something: he’s spent more money on pencils and notebooks than he has on anything else in the past year. As Izuku approaches the register, the cashier gives him a friendly smile and pushes a paper cup with tea toward him.

“You’re a very loyal customer,” the cashier comments, quirking an eyebrow.

Izuku freezes and tries to shrug nonchalantly. “I write a lot,” is his strained reply. He accepts the tea and waits for whatever conversational cue the cashier’s planning to give.

After he finishes bagging the mechanical pencils and notebooks Izuku has decided to purchase, the cashier says, “I’ve been seeing you around the neighbourhood a lot lately.”

Oh, boy. “I really like, um, mapping out places by hand. Also, um, I want to get more involved with my community.” It’s not the whole truth, but it’s certainly not a lie. Either way, anything’s better than admitting that he’s been stalking heroes for the past month and a half.

The cashier’s face brightens. “That’s great! In that case, I have an offer for you.”

Izuku hesitates. The cashier seems to catch this, because he continues on quickly.

“A few of my colleagues and I want to start up a weekly game night at the hospital,” he explains. “But a lot of the expected participants are going to be children, so we were hoping that someone could teach them how to play, have a good time in general.”

The idea sounds really, really fun. Despite that, Izuku fidgets. “But why ask me, of all people? I’m sure there are others who are a lot better than I am.”

At that, the cashier laughs and points to the corkboard across the room. Izuku blushes.

Scraps of paper cover the entirety of the board. Most of them are pinned up haphazardly with thumbtacks and have little decoration, while others are colourful, with hand-drawn pictures and neat writing. Underneath the corkboard is a jar with a slit cut into the plastic lid. A sign next to the jar is labelled, Write your answer and your name for a chance to win a free item of your choice!! (1000 yen or less)

Izuku has won many items from the shop. He feels kind of bad.

“I’ve seen you crush every logic problem I’ve put up there for the past month,” the cashier says with a wide grin. He takes the empty paper cup from Izuku and throws it in a small garbage can. “Plus, I walked past you in the park a few days back. I gotta say, you’re really good at chess.”

Izuku’s face is probably very red. He didn’t expect anyone to be interested in the games the elderly folk at the park play, and he certainly didn’t expect a situation like this. Nonetheless, he nods. “I’ll have to talk to my mom,” he replies.

The answer seems to satisfy the cashier, who gives him a business card so they can keep in touch. Apparently Izuku has been recruited into some sort of hospital game night, which actually sounds pretty entertaining. At least the children at the hospital won’t try to beat him up.

Midoriya Inko is elated that her son has been given the opportunity to help out at the hospital and eagerly agrees to let Izuku stay out later than usual every Tuesday night. When Tuesday rolls around, Izuku jumps on a bus with Saboteurs and Exploding Kittens. They’re fun and an excellent way to ruin friendships. In other words, they’re perfect games.

When he arrives at the hospital, the cashier - Yuto, as Izuku’s learned over the last week - ushers him into what appears to be the recreational area and sits him down in a large bean bag chair. Due to his small figure, Izuku’s figure sinks into the chair and disappears. Yuto takes a moment to stifle his laughter before dropping off a box of games.

“The kids should be coming in a few minutes,” Yuto informs, dropping off another box. “We’ve got water, juice, and snacks in the kitchen, so feel free to take whatever you want.”

Izuku nods, though he’s still being smothered by the bean bag. Wisely, he extracts himself and finds a much more solid chair to sit on. Yuto helps him set up a few games around the room, preparing boards, pieces, and papers. Following his lead, Izuku prepares some snacks and waits anxiously for the children to arrive.

Yuto leaves before the children can arrive. “I have to go talk with the activity supervisor,” he explains. “If anything happens, just treat the kids like you’d treat any of your friends. They’ll all be around your age, anyway.”

It doesn’t take long for people to start streaming in. Before ten minutes have passed, Izuku’s already introduced himself to four different people, all around his age. Aki excitedly walks around the room, reading the instructions of every game she can. Following behind her is Riku, who gives a confused look every so often as he listens to Aki ramble. Miu and Takumi join sooner after, both eager to play. Soon enough, the room is busy with children starting to play their games.

Izuku ends up in a group with the first four who came. They’ve all decided on Saboteurs, so Izuku pulls out the instructions and begins to explain the game.

The game starts innocently enough but soon spirals downward into chaos. By the time twenty minutes have passed, almost everybody knows each other’s roles and is out for blood. Izuku and Miu are the Good Gnomes while Aki and Takumi are very obviously the Bad Gnomes. Riku has been very quiet the entire game, so nobody trusts him fully.

Aki’s playing style is unapologetically vicious and headstrong. She slaps down blocking cards and landslides like nobody’s business, which would normally be a huge waste of reserves, but the damage she’s causing the Good Gnomes makes up for it. Takumi acts as Aki’s minion of sorts, keeping a safe hand of dead-ends and blocking cards just in case.

Miu is scarily intelligent, thinking ahead as far as possible. Cautious and calculating, she frowns whenever something gets in her way, but quickly manages to maneuver herself out of problematic situations. Izuku supports her as best as he possibly can, trying to follow whatever she’s planning.

The game reaches its climax when the path is one card away from the gold nugget. Tensions are high and nobody has any mercy to spare. All the landslides have been used and the only unblocked player is Riku, whose face is surprisingly blank.

Riku puts down a dead end in the empty space. Aki and Takumi shriek happily, excitedly nudging their friend. Though upset, Miu valiantly declares the game to have been a good one and good-naturedly pats Izuku’s back. She then goes on to mumble up a storm under her breath about the events of the game and what she could have done differently.

Izuku likes Miu. People who talk to themselves must band together in their solidarity.

To be completely honest, Izuku’s just surprised that nobody accidentally used their quirk, which happened very often when he used to play with Kacchan’s group of friends.

He likes the new atmosphere. Having children his age voluntarily approaching him and playing games together is something that Izuku would’ve never imagined happening. It’s really, really cool.

Eventually, some of the children start getting hungry. A small crowd separates from the games to venture off to the fridge, after which they return with juice boxes, fruit, and crackers. One of the kids manages to dig up three boxes of Pocky, thereby starting a war over who gets some and who doesn’t.

Because Izuku is a smart, logical boy, he does what every smart, logical person would do. He proposes that they all play one enormous game of Mafia to determine the Pocky Lords, as they’ve started calling it. Wisely, he places himself in the role of the storyteller and implied referee.

If there's one thing that Izuku’s learned from his time with Kacchan, it’s that children are vicious. This fact is apparently universally true, because the mafia is going on an unrelenting killing spree while the townspeople and detectives carefully pick out members of the mafia every round. The doctor, who coincidentally happens to be Miu, is so skilled in predicting the next townsperson to be killed that it terrifies Izuku.

Ultimately, the combined forces of the detectives and the doctor overpower the mafia, who reluctantly agree to bestow the title of Pocky Lord upon the winners. All is well until another argument breaks out within the winners, who are shockingly greedy.

Izuku isn’t fond of confrontation, so he kindly suggests that the Pocky Lords play a game of Spoons to decide who the one true Pocky Lord is. Most of the winners agree happily, though some decide not to participate. The losing team seem very interested and act as the hovering audience around the circle of players that has formed, peeking at the cards that have been dealt. Among them are Miu and Aki, both of whom Izuku is rightly scared of.

The players agree on a simple set of elimination rounds, with the last round being a match between the three remaining players and one spoon. Just like the other games, the beginning is very tame, with the losers dropping out with a laugh or a huff of frustration. Miu and Aki are not among these people.

As the rounds pass, Izuku watches as everything descends into chaos. The spectators begin cheering for their respective favourites and spoons are snatched so violently off the table that Izuku worries that they’ll break or get thrown in someone’s eye. The noise brings Yuto back into the room, whose eyebrows shoot upward when he sees the impromptu gambling ring they’ve created.

“I can explain,” Izuku says.

Yuto smiles and crosses his arms, looking surprisingly amused for how terrible the situation is. “No need. It looks like everyone’s having fun.”

That’s one way to put it. “Pocky is a very good motivator. It brings out the best and the worst in people.” Izuku cringes as he watches Aki laugh maniacally. “...It’s usually the worst, though.”

Yuto’s eyebrows shoot up again. “Couldn’t they just have shared?”

“Yes, but they’re so scary,” Izuku replies firmly.

There’s nothing Yuto can say to that, so he watches as Miu takes the crown of ultimate Pocky Lord. Her first order is to split the Pocky evenly amongst all her subjects, which makes Izuku want to rip out all his hair.

Eventually, Yuto claps his hands and tells everyone to clean up their games. The children scatter around the room, chattering excitedly about Mafia and Spoons and how fun it was. Izuku feels very happy all of a sudden.

As the children filter out of the room, Izuku packs his belongings and prepares to catch the bus home. Aki catches his arm as he’s approaching the door.

“You’ll come back, right?” The question is phrased in a way that implies an expected answer.

Izuku nods. “Every Tuesday.”

Aki’s face splits into a wide grin. Riku and Takumi approach Izuku and tell him to bring Saboteurs again; it’s a great game and there are so many unresolved conflicts to end. Miu doesn’t say much, but she does fist-bump him and repeat Aki’s invitation.

Izuku leaves feeling lighter than he’s ever felt.

As the weeks pass, Izuku becomes more and more confident in his ability to navigate his neighbourhood. He knows every shortcut, every hidden alleyway shop, every stationary shop. Due to his constant excursions, the chefs and waiters in just about every restaurant down Sunset Boulevard recognize him. Some even know him by name.

“Hey, Midoriya,” Rin greets, pausing to wipe her hands on a towel before approaching Izuku. “What’re you looking for today?”

Izuku freezes. Oh, no. He should have figured out what he wanted before he came in. Luckily, the sign behind Rin boldly declares that the house special has a discount deal, which he accepts readily. Rin nods and moves to prepare the ramen.

Rin and Izuku make small talk in the meantime. Izuku recounts his experience with the children at the hospital while Rin complains about the unseasonably warm weather and her pet dog.

“Not only that, but we’ve been crazy busy lately,” the chef huffs, arranging the toppings on the noodles. “I haven’t had any time to look after Hiro, and I’m worried that he’ll get heatstroke.”

“I can look after him for you,” Izuku says immediately without having first processed the words that just left his mouth.

Instantly, Rin brightens. “Really? That’d be great. I don’t mind paying you to make sure Hiro gets fresh air and a cool bed.”

“Okay,” Izuku replies, then freezes. Wait, what? He has no idea how to take care of animals. He’s never even had a pet. Choosing not to share this detail, Izuku accepts the bowl of ramen and eats in silence. There’s no way he can go back on his word, especially not after Rin looks happier than she’s been all week.

After Izuku finishes his meal, Rin gives him her number and promises to call whenever she needs some help with her dog. Izuku nods, then runs home and reads up on taking care of dogs on the Internet for two hours. True to her word, Rin calls two days later, telling him that she’s hosting some sort of party at her restaurant. The heat wave that’s been passing by the city is miserable, and Hiro hasn’t been enjoying it.

Izuku meets Rin in front of her restaurant an hour before the usual opening time. A small Shiba sits next to Rin, a bright red collar around its neck. Upon seeing Izuku, Hiro perks up immediately.

“This is my baby, Hiro,” Rin declares, smiling widely. “Treat him nicely, okay?”

Five minutes later, Izuku leaves with Hiro’s leash in his hands and a bag of Hiro’s food and toys . He walks a block before stopping and questioning why he does the things that he choses to do.

The day goes surprisingly well. Hiro is friendly and active, which makes him a bit overwhelming at first, but he eventually tires himself out and curls up in a shady, cold corner of Izuku’s room. By the afternoon, the pavement is burning hot, so Izuku has to wait until the sun goes down before he can walk Hiro. He decides to take care of two birds with one stone, so he walks Hiro down Sunset Boulevard.

When he returns home, six people working in different shops have given him their contact information to look after their dogs. Izuku has not yet learned how to deny people. Maybe he should learn before he accidentally starts an impromptu dog-sitting service.

Apparently he doesn’t learn quickly enough, because the next time he’s out walking the bookstore owner’s dog, several people approach him and ask if he’s willing to take care of their dogs for a price. Izuku says yes without even thinking. After that, he quickly retreats home so nobody can approach him again.

Izuku’s not sure how, but he’s become the go-to person when someone on Sunset Boulevard needs a dog-sitter. It’s actually kind of nice. Not only is he getting paid, but he also gets to play with dogs and get fresh air at the same time.

This is how the summer of Izuku’s tenth birthday passes by.

Tuesdays are game nights that get progressively more and more intense, peaking when Miu slams down Dungeons and Dragons with a straight face and says, “Let’s begin.” Izuku’s attempts to find new games brings him to a store called Tall Tower, where he can reliably purchase as many weird-sounding games as he wants. The owner, a middle-aged woman named Sasha, always gives good recommendations and suggests some games from overseas.

Dog-sitting is sporadic, with most calls coming in the day of the job, but Izuku takes advantage of it, walking around the lesser-known parts of his neighbourhood while walking the dogs. Other dog-walkers at the park are becoming familiar with his face, giving him waves and greetings as he passes by them. Some of the store owners give him discounts in exchange for taking care of their dogs, while others treat him to dinner.

By the end of the summer, Izuku’s done a pretty good job with his goal. Sunset Boulevard becomes a second home of sorts; he knows everyone there and everyone there knows him.

School starts again without much excitement. Izuku is forced to change is dog-sitting services to exclusively the weekend and after school, which his clients can live with. The heat wave’s passed and summer vacation’s over; the hot and busy season has passed.

Izuku’s classmates still tease him for his quirklessness, but Izuku realizes with a shocking revelation that he doesn’t really care. Kacchan glares whenever he passes by, snarling insults and stomping off angrily after every interaction. He doesn’t make any attempt to harm him. And so he goes on with his school days, walking around town when he has the chance.

One day, while Izuku’s walking in the park, he passes a boy practicing with a baton. He is instantly awestruck, head bobbing up and down with the baton’s motions. The boy notices after a moment, pausing to stare.

“...Can I help you?” He asks, an awkward lilt to his voice.

“I just, um,” Izuku stutters. “I thought what you were doing was super cool, and you’re really good at it.” He bows quickly before retreating backward. “Sorry for staring. I’ll leave.”

“Wait up,” the boy calls, walking toward Izuku. He seems curious, scanning Izuku up and down. “...You wanna learn how to use a baton?”

“Yes,” Izuku replies. Oh, no. Why’d he say that? He does want to learn, but he doesn’t even know the guy, so now it just seems weird.

Surprisingly enough, the boy cracks a smile and hands Izuku a baton. “I’ve got nothing better to do. So, here’s how you start...”

They two spend a good hour messing around with the batons before they depart for home. Izuku now has a new contact in his phone - Satoshi - and a new interest in batons. They just look so cool.

The rest of the school year passes without anything out of the ordinary occurring.

As always, Izuku expands his contacts and writes down everything he possibly can about the city in his notebooks. The D&D game has officially gone to hell, though one could argue that it started there. Apparently a bard, a warrior, a rogue, and a magician are the worst party. Izuku thinks it’s more likely that the party’s personality is the root of the issue.

On the other hand, dog-sitting business goes well, with many loyal customers frequenting his services. Izuku’s pretty sure he knows every single dog on Sunset Boulevard. In fact, his business is going so well that he decides to buy a new cell phone with the money he’s saved up.

Satoshi’s been teaching Izuku progressively more difficult tricks, but what really makes Izuku cry is when Satoshi gifts him his own personal baton. Both parties are shocked for different reasons and hurry home where they can’t embarrass each other any longer.

For Izuku’s eleventh birthday, his mother gives him a fancy new set of headphones. They must have been so expensive. Resolutely, Izuku keeps his tears in, although his expression makes him look like he’s in constant pain. He is. His mother makes katsudon for breakfast, which is just as much absurd as it is wonderful.

Luckily enough, his birthday lands on a Saturday, so Izuku decides to go to Sunset Boulevard and spend some of the money he’s saved up over the past year.

His first stop, naturally, is the stationary shop. Yuto waits until Izuku’s brought his items over to the counter before casually saying that they’re free for the day. Izuku then proceeds to have his second almost-crying session of the day as Yuto watches, confused and worried. They both calm down over some tea, after which Yuto gives Izuku a small bag of handmade cookies.

“I can’t vouch for the taste, but I had my sister help me decorate them, so they look great,” he comments.

Sasha all but hoards Izuku when he walks into Tall Tower, wishing him a happy birthday. Izuku is very confused as to how so many people know when his birthday is. Did he really tell so many people?

Regardless, Sasha excitedly presents him with the heaviest board game he’s seen to date. When she sees Izuku’s confused expression, she explains that it’s a custom-made game centering around the pro hero industry that one of her friends just finished crowdfunding for. After a brief pause, Izuku’s face scrunches up as he valiantly makes an attempt not to cry. Sasha laughs good-naturedly and pats his back, then gives him a special discount code for some sort of subscription loot crate.

The rest of the day proceeds in more or less the same manner. Rin calls Izuku over when he pokes his head in the door to give him a free bowl of ramen and a small cake from a bakery a few shops down. Izuku thanks her profusely before kindly accepting the meal and making a quick trip back home to drop off his new luggage.

Said bakery happens to be home to one of the kindest people Izuku’s ever met in his life. The owner gives him a full-sized cake and two loaves of bread his mother loves. Another bakery across the street gives him a large fruit tart, spurring him to make another trip home.

His party all but forces him to go visit them at the hospital, which he does after grabbing one of several cakes he now has. As usual, Aki greets him wide a slap on the back, though today’s seems much firmer than usual. Miu gives him a fist bump, Takumi ruffles his hair, and Riku quietly wishes him happy birthday. The five of them share a cake while talking about the games they’ve played recently. Afterward, the four party members present him with a handmade scrapbook of all their best moments in their campaign. Izuku almost cries when he flips to the page with Aki killing the Big Baddie with a diss track.

After his visit to the hospital, Izuku visits the mall and looks around for anything that catches his interest. Ultimately, the only things he ends up purchasing are the newest edition of Heroes Monthly, a lint roller (for dog hair) and this really soft blanket he’s been eyeing for months.

On the way home, Izuku receives a text message from Satoshi, who happens to be in Spain for vacation. The message simply reads happy birthday!!! i bought a ton of souvenirs for u bc ur such a good person!! Izuku almost combusts then and there, but powers on and manages to keep his blush under control.

By the end of the day, Izuku has a small collection of books, a pile of stationary, a fridge full of takeout and baked goods, and more coupons and discount codes he knows what to do with.

He cries when his mother brings out the cake she made for him. Midoriya Inko, bless her soul, smiles and tells Izuku to make a wish.

Every year, Izuku wishes to become a hero. This year, he wishes for something else: to be able to help everyone he possibly can, whether it be in small gestures, like walking dogs, or big ones, like secretly directing villains toward their capture. He isn’t sure if his new wish is a step down or a step up, but he’s determined to make it come true regardless.

Another summer comes as goes as usual, with all its shenanigans and unexpected occurrences. The biggest change, however, happens on an otherwise normal day.

Satoshi and Izuku train in the park every other day, trying out new tricks with different objects. Over the past year, Izuku has become rather proficient with a baton. He’s also managed to pick up juggling, hacky sack, and simple card tricks as well. Sometimes he thinks Satoshi’s secretly training him to become a magician.

The two of them are sitting underneath a tree on a sunny Friday afternoon when Satoshi asks, “Hey, have you ever thought of trying gymnastics?”

Izuku spits out a mouthful of water. Satoshi smacks him on the back, hard.

“I’m serious,” Satoshi says when he sees Izuku’s disbelieving expression. “You’re crazy agile and you have great reflexes. I’m not saying you should compete or anything, but you should definitely give it a try. My aunt actually runs a gym in town. How about it?”

As always, Izuku says yes. This is how he meets Satoshi’s aunt, who he calls Zing.

Zing looks Izuku up and down, much like how Satoshi did a year back. With a scrutinizing gaze, she says, “I can work with this.”

Satoshi smiles. Izuku shakes in his shoes.

Unexpectedly, Midoriya Inko agrees to Izuku’s new venture easily, completely willing to pay for the gym membership.

The rest of the summer is normal for the most part, but now Izuku visits the gym three times a week to torture himself for three hours. Zing is an excellent but relentless teacher, bending Izuku into shape, sometimes literally. It’s exhausting, but it’s a challenge like nothing he’s seen before, and Izuku never backs down from a challenge.

When fall rolls around, the first thing Izuku does is sign up for a special ancient literature program the library has started. The program doesn’t take up much time, only hosting meetings once every two weeks, and is based around examining writings from the time of the Romans and even before them. Kacchan calls him a fucking nerd when he catches news of it but doesn’t do anything else.

“You’re the first person I’ve met who’s been able to figure out Latin this quickly,” Professor Miki comments as she spreads out the day’s translation onto the table. The program is difficult, but Izuku appreciates a good challenge every now and then. Besides, Latin is a very structured language with easily decipherable patterns.

The program has no definite end, allowing participants to sign up and come and go as they wish. Izuku is one of the participants that chooses to come every meeting, which has made him quite familiar with Professor Miki, the program coordinator.

One day, Professor Miki waves him over to one of the library’s storage rooms. Izuku follows behind curiously.

The first thing Izuku does when he enters the room is sneeze. He can feel the dust lingering in the air. Professor Miki smiles, amused, and flicks on the lights.

“Welcome to the library’s restricted section!” The triumphant tone in Professor Miki’s voice is the complete opposite of the overwhelming shock that passes over Izuku. Since when did the library even have a restricted section?

Shelves line every wall of the room, which is much larger than Izuku first expected. One large, round table is placed in the centre of the room. Crates, boxes, and display cases take up all the space on the shelves. All in all, the room looks like it’s really important and highly confidential. Izuku tries not to faint.

Professor Miki explains that she believes Izuku is near prodigious in his ability to translate ancient scripts. After some deliberation, the head of research at the university that the library’s a part of has given special access to Izuku. Essentially, the head of research has allowed him to work with ancient scripts in hopes of being able to decipher them. He has also offered to pay Izuku what a co-op student would normally receive under one condition: that Izuku lends his brains to an active project twice a week.

“Oh my god,” is Izuku’s response.

“You’ll be great,” Professor Miki says confidently.

Izuku chooses to accept the offer mainly out of shock and an inability to say no.

Another birthday comes and goes, with just as many, if not more presents as last year. The big 12 that Aki draws on his arm with permanent marker washes off after a few days.

When summer rolls around, Izuku switches back to his dog-sitting schedule, though he does cut it in half to make time to do research at the library. He’s starting to think he might actually be sort of gifted in ancient texts, because a group of university students stared as he pieced together a rather complex hypothesis a week back over a Babylonian script. Izuku has never seen university students cry out of happiness. It’s sort of scary.

And so Izuku’s last year of elementary school passes without much fanfare. His hospital visits are still chaotic as always, dog-sitting is a fun and reliable way to get some pocket change, and ancient scripts wrack at his brain every week. He visits the gym twice a week rather than three times because he doesn’t hate himself.

Speaking of scary, Izuku’s started to realize that his body is starting to look fit. Instead of being a stick with limp noodles for arms and legs, Izuku’s starting to fill out, more lithe than muscular. It makes sense, given his constant dog-walking, exploring, and training. It’s a welcome yet terrifying change.

A new school year means a new school. Junior high is different from elementary in terms of academic importance and homework load, but the people are pretty much the same. Kacchan ends up in the same class as him, which is sort of annoying, but not unbearable. Izuku’s quirklessness is a well-known fact, so the bullying that Izuku experiences is fully within his expectations.

When a group of Kacchan’s lackeys (not including Kacchan himself, odd) corners him at the back of the school, Izuku doesn’t hold back. If he wants people to stop targeting him, then he’s got to prove that he’s not someone who can easily be made into a target.

The lackeys’ quirks are much stronger than the quirks Izuku faced back in elementary school, but the people are all the same. They fall, bleed, and break the same.

Izuku sends the three lackeys home bruised and bleeding without having suffered many injuries himself. Apparently the baton Satoshi gave to him for his eleventh birthday is indestructible or something, because it isn’t even remotely scratched up even after being smashed over the bullies’ heads.

The bullies stay away from him after that. Word starts to spread around the school that he’s some sort of delinquent who beats people up with a baton. Normally, such a label would be insulting. Instead, Izuku finds himself taking advantage of the distance his classmates are giving him. He’s never been one to make conversation with his bullies anyway.

All in all, Izuku’s first year of junior high consists of a lot of extracurricular activities, a larger workload than he’d like, and the typical bullshit that life likes to throw at him. His friendship with Kacchan is more strained than ever, with both of them avoiding each other as much as possible.

After several years, Izuku’s gotten used to his increasingly busy schedule. He flip-flops between his school schedule, which he uses for most of the year, and his vacation schedule, which is a monster of a schedule. August, December, and March are by far the busiest months of the year, though August is particularly bad.

Izuku’s second year of junior high kicks off without anybody bothering or teasing him. In fact, people go out of their way to avoid him. It’s sort of nice. There’s always a nice, private corner of the library to take advantage of.

When summer vacation rolls around, something feels different.

It’s difficult to put a finger on it, so Izuku lives his life normally. There’s something about the air that hangs a bit differently than before, but the feeling is indescribable. Eventually, Izuku decides he’s probably overthinking it. Everything’s going well. His campaign is proceeding nicely, dog-sitting business is booming, translating scripts has been proceeding smoothly, and training is getting easier and easier. In fact, Izuku decides to put his knowledge of the city to use, volunteering everywhere he can. He gets a lot more smiles as he makes his way through the city from that point onward.

It happens like this:

One particularly heavy-feeling September night, Izuku makes his way to the university library to help the co-op students translate a passage found on a Roman tablet. The night begins normally; Izuku greets the students and Professor Miki, setting his belongings down on a chair. All he does is hover around and answer questions while doing his homework.

An hour into the session, the students tell him they’ll be going on break. Izuku nods, returning to his English homework. It’s hilariously easy compared to Latin.

A glint out of the corner of his eye catches his attention. Izuku pauses, looking up. What was that? A moment passes before Izuku returns to his papers. Then, just as he looks down, the glint returns. This pattern repeats for a good five minutes before Izuku decides to investigate whatever piece of equipment has started malfunctioning.

Strangely enough, everything seems to be working just fine. As he walks past a crate of books, something bright flashes. That’s weird. Did someone put a camera in the crate?

Izuku digs through the crate to find the source of the flashing. When he reaches the bottom of the crate, all he sees is a thick pink book with gold bindings. The quality is really, really good. A gold star with wings is emblazoned onto pink leather alongside a large sun sigil. The clasp is shaped like a wing. It looks really expensive and new, which begs the question: what’s it doing in the restricted section?

After a moment of indecision, Izuku decides to take the book to the front desk. Actually, there’s a name on the book - Sakura. Maybe he can ask Professor Miki if anyone named Sakura forgot their very nice and expensive book.

Curiously, Izuku opens the clasp and flips the front over back. To his surprise, the book doesn’t actually have any pages - instead, it has a hollow compartment where a deck of cards lie in. The cards are longer than normal playing cards and seem to be decorated intricately with pictures and patterns.

Izuku picks up the top card, reading the name underneath the picture.

“Windy?”

An enormous gust of wind starts inexplicably and rips past Izuku. With a yelp of surprise, he drops the books and backs away, covering his face. The gale blows violently past him, almost bringing him to his knees. What the hell?

When he opens his eyes, the book lies on the floor in front of him, the compartment empty. The only card that remains is one in his hand - Windy.

Oh, no.

“Man, what a rude awakening!” A high-pitched voice laced with irritation breaks through Izuku’s shock-induced silence. The scene is reminiscent of a horror movie. Izuku turns around very slowly. In front of him, a strange yellow bear creature with wings floats in front of him. It takes a moment for either of them to say anything.

“Oh my god,” Izuku says.

The creature doesn’t seem to understand the severity of the situation, quirking up an eyebrow in response. Izuku has just lost a probably very expensive deck of cards that belonged to someone else. Oh, god. He can never return. He’ll have to fake his death and live out the rest of his life in a remote village in Nepal.

“Oh my god,” Izuku repeats, his face in his hands.

The plush creature seems to ignore him, giving him a little salute. “Hey, newbie! Good morning to you, too.”

Ah. So the thing can talk. That’s... great. Izuku has to take a few deep breaths before speaking. “What’s going on? Who are you? Why does this always happen to me?” Despite his best efforts to keep his hysteria under control, his voice lilts up an octave. Typical.

The creature huffs, dropping down onto the table. It crosses its arms, a slight frown on its hilariously toy-like features. “No need to get so riled up, newbie!” The creature then bounces up to Izuku. What’s your name?”

He’s talking to a toy. He’s gone insane. “I’m Midoriya Izuku,” he says, because why not.

The toy brightens after Izuku introduces himself. Pounding a tiny fist on its tiny chest, the toy puffs up with a triumphant expression. “Nice to meet you, Izuku. I’m Kerberos, the Beast of the Seal!”

The Beast of the Seal. Normally, Izuku would break into hysterical laughter (and by god, he’s this close), but the pieces then fall together in his head. So maybe the ‘beast’ part is a little dramatic, but the ‘seal’ part...

The cards definitely aren’t normal cards - maybe the result of a quirk? Nonetheless, they’re a madman’s creation, because apparently they can summon giant gusts of wind with a single verbal command. Oh. There had been a clamp on the book, right? But... it popped open so easily...

Izuku sucks in such a deep breath that it causes Kerberos to give him a strange look. “The Beast of the Seal. You were sealing away those cards.”

The plush thinks it over for a second before replying with a shrug. “Not really, but that’s not too far from it, so yeah!”

Oh, no.

“Uh,” Izuku wrings his hands together as best as he can with a card between his fingers. “Then you should probably know that they’re kind of all gone now.”

There’s an almost comical moment of silence that passes by as the two stare each other down. For a moment, the only noise in the room is the soft whirring of computers.

Then, bluntly: “What.”

That’s it. Izuku is dead. His soul has ascended to whatever otherworldly realm souls go to after death. He’s definitely not overreacting, because the blank look Kerberos is giving him somehow conveys so much surprise and so much disappointment at the same time.

Izuku opens his mouth to reply, but nothing comes out. He clears his throat violently before trying again. “I opened the book and a really strong breeze blew them all away,” he manages to stutter out, running his fingers over the edge of the card.

Now that Izuku gets a better look at the card, he realizes that the details are much more intricate than a normal collectible. A golden star, moon, and sun are lined up on the equator on top of some sort of spell circle. The entire card is a light shade of pink, which is a pretty nice colour. Yes, what a nice colour.

With a long-suffering sigh, Kerberos puts a palm to his face. “You called out Windy, didn’t you?”

“Um, yeah.” Izuku raises the card in his hands for emphasis.

Kerberos smacks himself on the forehead before angrily walking in small circles. He kicks a pencil out of his way as he paces. “Note to self: stop putting Windy on top of all the other cards.

The panic, which had been held in place by a slowly collapsing dam, decides it’s a good time to attack Izuku all at once. Spreading his hands helplessly, Izuku looks imploringly at Kerberos. “Look, I’m really sorry! I didn’t mean to lose them.” Without thinking, Izuku says, “I... I’ll get them back!”

Hang on, what?

Clearly three years haven’t taught Izuku anything about denying people. Then again, he did sort of lose every single one of somebody’s expensive-looking cards but one, so he has a good reason this time. Probably.

Kerberos laughs. “Oh, I know you will. You’re the new cardcaptor, and you’re starting off just like the old one.”

Intelligently, Izuku says, “Huh?”

Somehow, in the span of ten minutes, Izuku’s life has managed to flip itself on its head and march off in a completely different direction. A toy named Kerberos is calling him a cardcaptor and it sounds like he’s just unknowingly sold his soul away.

Later on, Izuku will look back on this encounter and laugh. Humble beginnings result in the greatest endings.

Kerberos sighs, shaking his head. He motions to the book the Izuku dropped and floats back into the air, tail swaying behind his small body. “Grab that book and that card, kid. We have a lot to talk about.”