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Juxtapose

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Chapter 1: Juxtapose

This is how it all starts.

“A-All Might!”

Izuku manages, just in time, to grab the attention of the number one hero before the man leaps off into the distance. Part of him wonders what would’ve happened if he was just a moment too late. It takes seconds for him to  realize exactly what would’ve happened and is unbelievably grateful that he wasn’t too late.

He likes his stomach where it currently is after all.

He got just what he wanted: All Might’s attention. The man is giving him an odd look, and Izuku pulls back in embarrassment before bowing his head low.

“What is it, my boy?” All Might asks in obvious curiosity, and Izuku starts to remember all too well just who it was that he had interrupted. “I’m in a bit of a hurry, but I suppose I could let you ask one question.”

“C-Can...”

“Hm?” All Might leans closer to Izuku, “I can’t hear you. You have to speak louder-”

Can someone with a weak Quirk become a Hero like you!?

The next moment, as All Might is leaning back in shock, Izuku clamps his hands over his mouth as the gravity of his decision sunk in. He had just yelled at his favorite hero. Like, at the top of his lungs. Red climbs up his cheeks to the tips of his ears, and Izuku takes a step back, his hands splayed open in front of him. “A-Ah, s-sorry about that, didn’t mean to-!”

He hears something from his front.

“Hahahahaha!” All Might is laughing. He’s laughing! “Don’t be so apologetic! I’ve heard louder voices than that, after all I occasionally work together with Present Mic! And I’m not innocent of speaking too loudly either, so you have not offended me!”

Izuku sighs in relief. “A-Alright, t-that’s good to know.”

“So?”

Izuku lifts his head, “Excuse me?”

All Might is looking at him curiously again. “What is your Quirk, young man? It’s rare for people to answer me that kind of question for someone else. Most of those people are either talk-show hosts mining for inspirational quotes or parents asking for their children. You are obviously neither, so you must be asking for your own Quirk. Tell me about it then.”

Izuku gulps. All Might sure cut to the chase. Depending on your perspective, that was also something inspiring about him. Right now, it only makes Izuku feel foolish.

“M-My Quirk is Minor Banishment.” He pulls pencil out of his pocket to show it at work. One moment, the pencil is whole, and the next it is as though someone took a bite out of it. Just a small chunk of wood, with the top of the pencil gone in what was a perfectly round cut. “I can make up to 10 grams of anything I touch disappear permanently at one time.”

All Might’s face is unreadable. “Only up to 10 grams?”

Izuku nods, unable to look at his lifelong idol as he throws the pencil away. Quite honestly, it felt really shameful, showing him even this much. Such a useless power... “And I can only activate it via touch.”

A large hand places itself on Izuku’s shoulder. He raises his head, only to see a pained expression on All Might’s face .

“Young man, I hate to say this but...”

#-#-#-#

Half an hour later, Toshinori walks out of an alleyway not far from the police station he had just dropped the Slime Villain off to careful watch. For a moment, he gives himself a pat in the back for a job well done without any complications. Sure, it had been a bit touch-and-go there, as well as impolite, with him nearly running out of time in front of the police chief, leading him to hand the bottle containing the villain before running off without as much as a by-your-leave from the officers, but he had managed.

And true, he could’ve dodged to whole having-to-hurry affair, but then it was worth it, spending those few minutes with that green-haired teenager.

Toshinori stops walking for a moment, shaking his head. He had forgotten to ask the boy’s name.

He puts that issue aside for the moment – after all, what were the chances of him meeting the boy again – and thinks about how the entire situation had been.

“Young man, I hate to say this, but I think you should rethink trying to become a Hero.”

Part of Toshinori hates the entire concept of heroes and villains.

After all, he came from a generation that – while already witnessing the advent of Heroes – had seen humanity from back before the problem of heroes versus villains wasn’t as bad as it was these days. While Toshinori admired heroes himself as a kid, he hadn’t seen a fight involving Quirks down the streets every other day as a child. Heroes used to work once a week at most.

These days, it was rare for a Hero to go on patrol without being called in to foil a bank robbery, stop a purse snatcher, or deal with whatever mayhem the local Villains could cook up. That in itself was worrisome, no matter how used to it the general population got. Would things only get worse, more dangerous as the days would pass?

Sometimes, Toshinori wakes up in his aching, deteriorating body, just to despair that the battle between heroes versus villains would never end no matter what he does as the Number One Hero, the Symbol of Peace.

Even without the debilitating injury he has to endure every day, Toshinori worries for the coming generation. One For All was hardly the only torch to be passed down to the next generation – so was the entire Villain problem. All the current generation could do was train the next one as best as they could and hope for the better – which brings Toshinori back to the subject of the boy.

It had not been the first time Toshinori crushed a child’s dreams. Again, part of Toshinori curses the concept of heroes and villains, planting in children’s minds the need to become heroes at this day and age. No matter how necessary it was, it always left a bad taste in Toshinori’s mouth to watch the next generation of Yuuei graduate, knowing that in less than a decade part of the batch will have paid the ultimate price for their work.

To be a Hero was to be a warrior after all. And a warrior always lives each day knowing it might be their last.

In a way, by dashing the hopes of a child who cannot become that warrior, he saves yet another life – but that isn’t what it feels like to Toshinori. In the end, what makes him any different from the villains he clobbers every day if he makes children cry?

Toshinori knows that many had poured their heart and souls into achieving their dreams. It was more than just a career, it was their life. If he stomped all over those dreams, wasn’t it like committing spiritual murder?

Still deep in thought, he leaves a Family Mart with a small bag of yogurt and popsicles in hand. He eyes the cold treats in the plastic bag with a little odd smile – at least, the damage to his stomach couldn’t stop him from treating himself like this every once in a while. All Might would’ve collapsed much earlier if he couldn’t enjoy a simple popsicle.

He rustles through his bag to take one for himself when he picks up the distressingly familiar sound of crying. As a Hero, Toshinori was very familiar with all different kinds of tears. He’d been exposed to it all too often, and this seemed to be the loud, sobbing kind of crying.

Not one that seemed to be in physical distress, so Toshinori could have probably ignored it... if his own feet weren’t already bringing him to the direction of the sobbing. Part of Toshinori sighs with a bit of a smile at this. No matter how cynical he got about being a Hero, in the end he was a Hero after all.

And when he arrives- oh.

He sees a familiar fluffy mop of green hair. The teenager in question is sitting on a bench next to a small puddle of his own tears. It’s in the middle of a park, and there is no one in sight around as the sun is already starting to set. Instantly, Toshinori’s hand tightens around the plastic bag he is carrying. Not even a second later, he is stepping forward.

It looks like he is finding out the boy’s name after all.

#-#-#-#

Izuku’s heart is in pieces.

After all, he just came from a meeting with his favorite hero, the one-and-only All Might himself. Normally, Izuku would be over the moon about the entire thing, had he not asked that question and got the answer that he expected but never wanted to hear.

All Might said I could ever become a Hero.

That... had been soul-rending to realize. For so long, Izuku had spent every waking moment hoping to become a Hero out of his respect and admiration for All Might. For the man in question to shoot him down just like that? Izuku couldn’t help but break into tears again as his hero’s words continued to echo in his ears.

A rustle comes from a bush, and Izuku stops sobbing for a moment to turn towards the source of the noise. He then has to jump up and hide behind the bench when a terrifyingly gaunt and skeletal man comes out of the shrubbery, carrying... a plastic bag in his hands?

“Um.”

Izuku’s puffy eyes blink. “Huh?”

The soft noise seems to have come from the gaunt man in front of Izuku. The man waves his thin spindly arms in front of himself in what must have been an attempt to look unthreatening. “I’m not a creeper. I’m just someone who heard a person crying, and my feet just took me here.”

The only reason why Izuku doesn’t blush in complete embarrassment is just how tired he feels. So instead, he sits back down on the bench, not meeting the gaunt man in the eyes. “S-Sorry if I interrupted your afternoon...”

To his surprise, the man sits himself to beside Izuku. The next thing he knows, he sees a blue, yellow and red object held just above his nose. “Want one?”

“T-This is...?”

“An ice cream bar. I eat them when I feel down. They’re the kind of popsicles that split-in-two, so I can take half if you’re worried that it’s poisoned or something.”

Izuku doesn’t know what to say to that, so he just takes hold of one of the popsicle sticks. The man holding the other one easily snaps the ice cream in two between himself and Izuku. The man doesn’t hesitate to dig into his half. His brilliantly white teeth easily bit into the ice-cold treat and Izuku soon finds himself following suit.

For a few minutes, they just go on like that, eating their ice cream in silence. For some reason, Izuku starts to feel better. If this was why the man beside him ate ice -cream when he felt down, Izuku could see the logic in it. But he couldn’t imagine why this stranger felt like sharing this with some random crying teenager in a park he just met.

“Feeling better?” the man asks. One of his hands is already offering Izuku yet another popsicle. This time the packet was still unopened.

“No, I couldn’t…” Izuku waves his hands in polite refusal. For some reason, he doesn’t stutter in front of this man.

“Are you sure?” the man asks again, still offering the popsicle. “I still have three more in the bag. They might just melt if I don’t eat them fast enough, which would be a terrible waste.”

“...I would like to have another then. Thank you very much.”

They continue like that, just for a while longer, and the man beside Izuku remains silent the entire time outside his offering another ice cream bar whenever they finished one. He never asks why Izuku was crying. He just sits there eating, not saying anything but lending him an ear without saying a single word.

So Izuku starts to talk on his own.

“I met All Might today,” he began, opening the ice cream pack. Chocolate. “He saved me from a villain with a slime Quirk.”

Contrary to what Izuku expects, the man react with anything more than a nod at the name of the one and only Symbol of Peace. If it was something like shock or excitement, Izuku would understand as a few hours ago – was it really just a few hours ago? If someone did the same to him his mind would be racing a mile a minute. But to evoke no reaction whatsoever? Who was this man?

...Then again, this man has been anything but ordinary the entire time, so it might be just a thing with him.

Still, Izuku takes the nod as a sign to continue. So he carries on, “I have always admired him, you know? Still do, honestly, because I want to become a Hero. I need to become a Hero like him, like All Might.”

“Why?”

“I beg your pardon?”

“Why do you want, no, need to be a Hero like All Might?”

Izuku blinks at the sudden question posed to him by the man sitting beside him. It was the only thing the man has said outside of sharing more ice cream. A familiar flame ignites itself at Izuku’s chest, and he soon stands up, popsicle still in-hand as he yells:

“Why? To help people, of course! People ask me about this so many times, if I have any other reason besides that like fame or money, but do I really need a reason to become a Hero besides wanting to help people? To risk life for the sake of someone else?”

Every word gushes his out of him without a second thought. Izuku isn’t lying about being asked about it a lot – after all, people had to ask why he was so determined to become one at some point.

This time, it comes out a bit wearily than usual, but it somehow leaves the man dumbstruck for a moment. The moment passes quickly, as he soon recovers and coughs with what seems to be a smile.

“Your ice cream is falling apart.”

Izuku follows the man’s gaze, and sure enough, his ice cream is about to fall off its popsicle stick. He rushes to stuff the rest of it into his mouth, and as he glances to the side he is proven right.

The man in front of him is smiling.

The expression looked a little ghastly on the man’s angular, sunken face. But in the end, the man was smiling at Izuku as though he respected his ideals.

That... after this trying day, was a little comforting.

It might not be All Might, but knowing there was at least one person who thought so outside of his mother was comforting.

“Then why were you crying?” the man asks. The bluntness of the question reminds Izuku a bit of All Might. “Did he say anything to you?”

Izuku returns to his seat at that, not facing the man and instead glancing up at the skies dyed orange by the setting sun.

“Nothing I didn’t ask for,” Izuku whispers softly, as though a confession. “I asked him: ‘Can someone with a weak Quirk like me become a Hero like him?’ Part of me already knew the answer.”

He feels a hand on his shoulder again, this time much smaller than the one he’d felt earlier that day.

“From what you’re saying, it sure sounds like All Might could’ve been more tactful with what he said.” the man beside him comments. His voice had a note of... regret? Bitterness? Izuku couldn’t identify pin down the emotion in his tone. “He should’ve just not said anything, if all he had to say was just-”

“No!”

The gaunt man blinks in confusion at Izuku’s vehement denial.

Izuku relaxes the fists his instantaneous reply had made, feeling even more tired but he has to say this. The man before him has to know.

“I understand why All Might said that.” Izuku murmurs, after a moment of silence, “After a while, I’ve thought about it myself, you know? What it’s like being the Symbol of Peace – no, what is it to be like someone who has to watch over Heroes.”

Like his mother. Like Midoriya Inko, who Izuku knows to worry a lot about him and his dream, who he knows that would keep on supporting him, no matter how much she would prefer him safe. But being safe was different from being happy for Izuku Izuku, and she knew that. He knew that she knew that, which was why she kept on cheering him on.

“To be a Hero means to keep people safe, even from themselves,” he continues to murmur beneath his breath, remembering a bad memory, “and if that means dissuading someone from an apparent suicidal course of action, then All Might did the right thing by telling me what he thought.”

Izuku has to close his eyes to prevent an incoming onslaught of tears.

“You don’t hate him, for saying it?”

The man beside him speaks again and Izuku makes a weak smile.

“I don’t. You weren’t there, you know. You didn’t see the look on his face. It was killing him to reply that to me, and his expression was of someone who was prepared to be hated for what he would say. He didn’t want to do it, yet he did it anyway.”

A tear fell over his cheeks, unbidden. “How can I not respect him even more for that, for trying to protect me from myself even though I might hate him for it?”

The man holds him close by the shoulder, allowing him to cry freely. For what feels like an hour, they stay like that, the entire situation quiet but no less emotional in its intensity as a stranger continues to comfort him without being asked, until Izuku finally pulls away.

By then, he has shed all of his tears and could finally start moving on.

#-#-#-#

“...there are ways to help people outside of being a hero, you know.”

Izuku wipes the corner of his eye as the man beside him says that. “Huh?”

“Doctors. Teachers. Repairmen. Cooks. Even politicians. All of these can be people that try to help others in their own way, with their own skill-sets. For you who’ve lived most of your life dreaming of becoming a Hero it might seem impossible, but you are still young. You can still choose another path.”

Izuku blinks, the idea of becoming something other than a Hero feeling almost alien after this long of wanting to be one.

“Plus... depending on you, you can still become a hero.”

This time, his eyes go wide, and he stands in shock at what the man before him just said.

The man doesn’t look at him though, continuing to speak as he focused his eyes onwards without meeting Izuku’s eyes. “If you are to be a student of Yuuei, there is an event that you must already know by now. It occurs once a year and is open to all of its students. The victor of the competition is granted the chance to become part of the Hero Class, if they aren’t already.”

“The Yuuei Sports Festival,” Izuku answers without having to be asked. “But for that... I’ll have to first be part of Yuuei, and why would such a renowned school take someone like me? It’s impossible unless-”

“-unless you find someone to sponsor you in the General Education program, and even then, you would still have to win the entire competition against all the future Heroes and the rest of the students in Yuuei,” the man continues, as though he was never interrupted.

“At least you’ve got the first one already. You just have to take the next step, if you are really sure about still becoming a Hero. And even if you don’t manage that, well then let’s talk about it at that point.”

Izuku blinks. Did the man in front of him just say... “Huh?”

“Congrats, kid.” The man in front of him smiles that same ghastly and comforting smile. “You’ve just caught the attention of an incoming teacher in Yuuei. Now, we’ve just got to get you signed up for the school properly, and from there you’ll be in.”

“EEEEEEHHHHHH!”

Izuku yells in shock, before a familiar blush lights up his cheeks in embarrassment for doing the same thing twice in one day. “Er, I’m so sorry-!”

“Don’t mind, don’t mind,” The man before waves it off with an odd little expression on his face, “I’m going to be working in the school where the loudest two people in the world would be by the start of next semester. I’ll have to be used to loud voices at this point.”

Izuku has to ask, “...I just told you about my Quirk. And what All Might had to say about it. So I probably won’t-”

“Forget what All Might, feh, Old Might just told you earlier.” The man interrupts, his voice sure, “He sure didn’t know everything about you when he said it, and Quirks aren’t everything. You have the heart of a real Hero, and don’t let what anybody tells you stop you from thinking that.”

“Kid, just trust in yourself, alright?”

At those words, Izuku can’t help himself. He jumps forward to hold the gaunt man in front of him with a tight hug, and the man easily catches him. And though he takes a few seconds to stop flailing at the sudden hug, the man soon also returns it with what feels like a solemn promise of protection.

Too bad it gets interrupted by a sudden surge of coughing from the older man.

Izuku feels something warm, sticky, and metallic over his shoulder. He breaks off the hug to reach a hand over it, only to see his hand bloody. He snaps back in shock as he realizes the terrifying amount of blood coming from the other person’s mouth.

“M-Mister, did I just do something b-bad!? AAAAAAHHHH, you’re dying, you’re dying, I’m going to call the hospital-!”

He is stopped by a hand gripping his wrist. The man before him, despite the blood coming from his mouth in large gushes, is calm. “Don’t. This happens a lot to me, don’t worry. Honestly, it was a miracle that it took this long since I’ve met you.”

Izuku stares at his bloody face, then back at his phone, then at his face, and his phone.

“D-Delusions? Is this the lack of blood!? Mister, stay with me, you’re bleeding from the mouth, you are not alright, I have to call the ambulance-!”

#-#-#-#

Needless to say, it takes Toshinori several more tries to calm the teenager down, and by then the sky is entirely dark and the teenager before him is left more than a little embarrassed again.

Honestly, to Toshinori it would almost be endearing how the teenager looked in that moment, were not for the fact that the boy was still covered with his own blood. Hence, it felt more morbid than it had any rights to be.

Toshinori takes out a tissue from his plastic bag, from under the light of the streetlamp. At this point, they have stayed in this park for more than an hour, but Toshinori doesn’t feel like in much of a hurry.

Instead, he just wants to know more about this boy before him, whose name he still doesn’t know.

He had forgotten, how it was to just want to help people. Such a pure reason, despite all of the things that should’ve made the teenager before him bitter... Honestly, the child before him was inspiring, and that was even without his passionate and sympathetic defense of Toshinori’s famous alter-ego.

In that moment, Toshinori decided: this boy would be his successor.

He would’ve already offered One For All, were it not for the fact that the boy seemed to want to be able to prove himself to the world. Maybe in the future, maybe after a year of being a student in Yuuei, or if he won the Sports Festival before then, he would offer it, but for now... Toshinori could still wait.

He could still be All Might for a little longer, with this teenager by his side.

“Here. Wipe yourself with this. I’ve taken to carrying disposable tissues everywhere I go at this point, just for this situation.”

The teenager just waves a hand at the offered tissues, seemingly embarrassed. “N-No, I’m fine.”

“You’re still covered with my blood, you know. I know it’s messy, so don’t feel embarrassed when I’m the one who should be-”

A look of realization flutters across the teenager’s face. Toshinori starts to get the idea that he is about to see something that would surprise him. “No, I m-mean, I don’t need a tissue. See?”

He points a finger at his own shoulder, and before Toshinori’s own eyes, the shoulder, clothes and all, cleans itself bit by bit without any obvious effort whatsoever from the boy. The change is first unnoticeable, but then slowly the red and browns disappear from the boy’s shoulder until it is finally left pristine.

Wasn’t the boy’s Quirk just Minor Banishment?

“My Quirk lets me clean myself without much effort. By removing anything that might stain my clothes, I could clean it since I am always touching my clothes. I-It’s a meaningless use of my powers, removing stains from clothing, but at least it makes it easier for my Mom-”

Toshinori can’t help but smile. “Creative.”

If it was Toshinori who had such a Quirk, he would’ve not noticed such a possible use. For this boy to think of something like that, he definitely had a mind that could easily beat out Toshinori’s, that is for certain.

He would definitely put One For All to great use in the future.

The teenager before him blushes a bit more at the praise, rubbing the back of his head again, and Toshinori stands to his feet.

He offers his hand. It is rare that he manages to say these words as himself, so he makes sure to do it just right.

“My name is Yagi Toshinori, future teacher of Yuuei. May I ask your name?”

The teenager’s head snaps up, eyes bright and a smile on his face as he takes Toshinori’s hand.

“My name is Midoriya Izuku, future General Education student of Yuuei. Please take care of me!”

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 2: Affix

This is it.

This is Izuku’s first day in Yuuei. Toshinori-san just dropped him off earlier on the front gates with a supporting pat on the shoulder, and though he has to bow his head and hide when he sees a familiar blond mop of hair, he feels like he has achieved something just by being here.

But he hasn’t. Not yet. After all, this is just where it all begins.

“General Department students, students for General Department. Follow me please.” A large costumed man announces, and the sight of a familiar space suit easily sets Izuku’s heart aflame. Within seconds, a notebook is in his hands.

“Space Hero Thirteen. Specialization: Search and Rescue. Age: 28, Birthday is February 3. Quirk is Black Hole, which allows them to create a vortex from their fingers that turns anything to dust. I can’t believe I’m seeing them in person...!”

A hand taps him in the back, snapping him out of his muttering. Izuku jumps a bit in shock before turning to look at the person that had managed to sneak up on him.

“Whoa there, for a slightly muscular guy, you’re kind of jumpy aren’t ya?” A grey-haired teenager meets his gaze with a toothy smile, and idly Izuku notices a pair of square panels in the center of his palms. Was that related to the Quirk of this person...? “Name’s Kensei, Katsura Kensei, incoming freshman. What’s yours?”

The teenager – Kensei – offers his hand, and with a moment’s thought, Izuku shakes it.

“M-Midoriya Izuku, also freshman.” He introduces himself, before blinking. “Wait, how do you know about my musculature? I only just started physical training recently, and Toshinori-san told me that it’ll be a while longer before it would start to get obvious...”

A flash of red appears on Kensei’s face, but it goes too quickly for Izuku’s eyes to catch it properly. “Aah, that’ll be my Quirk in action, Scan. It lets me measure things that I can touch with these things in my hands, and as it’s a little uncontrollable, I get flashes of unintentional information like that that slip into my conversations sometimes.”

The teenager’s face goes a bit red. “Honestly, it’s a little embarrassing that it came out this quickly, it’s nothing special-”

Izuku can’t help it. Stars are in his eyes. “Really!? That’s your Quirk!? That is amazing, don’t you know all of the potential uses that kind of power can do in the right hands – pardon the pun – depending on the limits of that kind of power-”

Kensei’s eyes go wide, and Izuku realizes that he is babbling again. Instantly, his mouth shuts and he mimes zipping it up and throwing away the key in shame.

The other teenager seems to not mind though, “Man, I guess I was right for thinking you would be interesting! Mind you, I would want to know the rest of what you have to say later, but for now Midori-san, I think we have to follow Thirteen...?”

Izuku blinks in shock as he remembers- “Ah, you’re right!”

He is about to rush off towards a direction when Kensei stops him by the shoulder and points him towards another one. “Where do you think you’re going? That’s not the direction of General Education – that’s where the Hero Class go, Midori-san.”

“Oh.” Izuku feels embarrassed for a moment before finally realizing, “‘Midori-san’?”

“Like the nickname? It’s a shortened version of your surname, but it also fits your hair. Now, come on, let’s follow Thirteen. We’ll be late for our first school assembly!”

Kensei runs off ahead, and Izuku soon has to follow him. For someone who is only just a bit taller than Izuku, Kensei’s legs are quite fast. In a few seconds, both of them are full-on sprinting.

Izuku has to smile though. Already, he is making a friend. Toshinori-san would be so proud.

#-#-#-#

Yagi Toshinori is a little worried.

He had just dropped of young Midoriya earlier before having to leave to attend to his affairs as All Might. Namely, joining the judge’s panel for this year’s Hero Entrance Exam and watching it all happen through cameras before coming to a decision over the incoming students.

No matter the fact that he is currently All Might and thus respected by much of the faculty already, the truth is that Toshinori doesn’t feel like he deserves being given such a responsibility so early. It is different, doing this in the field and in this place. As the Symbol of Peace, Toshinori has already taken the lead many times before, but not like this.

After all, while the other teachers seem to have credible and insightful observations on the incoming students, Toshinori doesn’t have anything to add beyond what he feels to be the obvious. And so far, the panel had gone on nicely without him saying anything – was his presence even necessary here, when he could be watching over young Midoriya-

“You seem to be distracted, All Might.”

“Hahaha oh, am I?” Toshinori easily falls into his All Might routine, a bright smile forming on his muscular face. “Ah, I don’t usually do this, I’m afraid I got lost in my mind in this strange new land called Japa-”

“Finish those words and I’ll smack you.” Eraserhead, or Shouta as Toshinori knew him, threatens him dryly before continuing to mutter, “What are you thinking about, All Might? You aren’t usually so quiet unless you are thinking about something.”

Toshinori takes a moment, but as Eraserhead is one of the few people Toshinori trusts completely, he soon whispers, “Am I even needed here? All the other teachers here seem to already have it all at hand, and I can’t seem to be able to find anything to add no matter what I try.”

He can’t see it, but he knows that Eraserhead has a small smile on his face in that moment, just from his voice.

“All Might, as someone who is so used to succeeding, you might not know this but that is how it is like for anyone for the first time. I myself had been the same, and so has everyone else in this room. Why else do you think the other teachers aren’t asking you for anything?”

Toshinori blinks in realization, “Then this is-”

“-just a way for you to be introduced to being a teacher, to observe how the others do their work and to learn from there for yourself.” Eraserhead nods, and Toshinori has to force himself to not look at the man face-to-face instead of keeping his eyes on the monitors. “Even teachers have at some point need to be taught how to teach, and this is your first lesson, All Might-sensei.”

Toshinori accepts those wise words before, finally, seeing something noteworthy on one of the screens. Raising his voice a bit, he asks loudly, “Hey, does anyone know who that boy is from #13?”

There is some shuffling of papers, and soon Ectoplasm speaks, or rather one of his clones do as it holds a small document in its hands.

“Shinsou Hitoshi, Quirk: Brainwashing. He needs the target to reply to him verbally for his Quirk to take effect, plus control can be shaken off by sheer force of will. Otherwise, if activated, his Quirk allows him to order around people without them remembering what happened.”

Someone whistles loudly in the room. “Sure sounds like a pretty villainous Quirk, doesn’t it?”

“The matter remains that he is here in Yuuei to be a Hero.” Eraserhead shoots that down quickly, though not without commenting, “His failure to achieve anything yet in this test doesn’t say much for him though.”

“That’s exactly it, isn’t it?” Toshinori thinks loudly as he says his opinion, “The poor boy doesn’t have much of a chance with how the exam is set this year. His power probably only works on human targets, correct? Faced with only robots for enemies, he can’t do anything, when his Quirk would’ve been perfect in settling real engagements against villains with minimal danger.”

Vlad comments calmly, “That would indeed be a pity to lose as a potential Hero. In fact, in pure Quirk ability, he might be equal to Endeavour’s son in the right circumstances, perhaps even better. Has he attempted to take control of the other candidates?”

At the mention of Enji’s son, Toshinori can’t help but glance at the relevant screen showing a familiar split-haired boy. Todoroki Shouto seems to be fending for himself well enough, so Toshinori turns back to the conversation at hand.

Again, one of Ectoplasm’s clones seem to have pulled up the relevant video data, and the entire room watches as Shinsou Hitoshi takes control of Ingenium’s younger brother Iida for a few moments to take down a robot. They then watched as the point was given towards the boy Iida, leaving Shinsou with nothing from the encounter other than the knowledge that trying that again would be meaningless.

“Ah, so it seems he has. Pity that it doesn’t help him one bit.”

“Man, the poor kid...” Midnight murmurs, hugging her own curves, “I want to cheer him up personally after watching that.”

“He could’ve at least tried to take down one robot by himself.” Eraserhead says coldly, pointing out, “If he had trained himself enough, he would’ve at least been capable of taking down one of the weaker robots with ease.”

“Not everyone is as physically fit as us. You know that just as well as I do, Eraserhead.” Toshinori has to add, before tacking on at the end, “Though, I do admit the boy could be in much better physical shape than this. With some exercise, he would’ve managed that particular leap.”

Vlad offers his two cents, “Too used on relying on his Quirk, perhaps? We’ve all been like that in that age, where we forget to take care of our bodies in the light of our Quirks, and with this boy I can see how he doesn’t see sense in physical training.”

“Fools relying merely on their Quirks will die off quickly. If he had at least kept himself trained properly, there would be some sense in giving him some leeway, but as he hasn’t I suggest pushing him into General Education until he shapes up.”

Eraserhead concludes with that, and the other teachers nod. Except for Toshinori, who merely blinks.

“That could happen? A student being placed in General Education only to be prepared for the Hero Course later on? I thought that was only possible through winning the Sports Festival...”

Present Mic is the one who explains it to Toshinori. “Ah, All Might-san, All Might-san, with all of your insightful commentary so far we seem to have forgotten that you are new here!” At the corner of his vision, Toshinori sees Eraserhead nod with a knowing smile. “It isn’t very well known, nor do we want it to be, but there are protocols for exactly this situation! If a student has the talent but doesn’t apply it properly, we can make them spend their first few years in General Education to shape them up! We put them on file to be put under watch, so if they get better we can take immediate action!”

“The shame of failing something that they could’ve done better at causes them to be inspired to do better,” Eraserhead says, and Toshinori has to nod as he sees the logic, “And when we deem them finally ready do we let them enter the Hero Course quietly for the rest of their time here in Yuuei. This is a different matter compared to transfers due to the Sports Festival – in this, ultimately the Festival is merely just a logical ruse to get them more motivated to get better faster, as it rarely happens that a student outside of the Heroic Department wins the Festival anyway.”

Toshinori asks, “And they only find out about this ruse when they are considered ready?”

Eraserhead nods. “If they don’t ever get to be that, then they don’t deserve this chance anyway. We’re teachers of the next generation, not miracle workers. We can’t focus on problem children too much if we don’t want to risk the futures of the rest of the batch.”

“How about those who start directly from General Education?” Toshinori asks, thinking of Izuku. He knows he told the boy about the Sports Festival, but if there is a different way... “Do they get this kind of chance?”

“If they catch our attention, yes. But that happens so rarely that we might as well consider it inconsequential. After all, what potential hero will directly sign up for General Education as opposed to the Heroic Department?”

And with that done, the rest of the room return to what they were doing before, and this time Toshinori doesn’t feel as worried. After all, he had just proven his own right to be here, and he has just found out something he knows his protege will be glad to know about.

#-#-#-#

As for Izuku, he and his new friend are finally led with the rest of the General Education students, as well as those from the Department of Support and the Department of Management, into a large hall capable of fitting more than half of the school.

Separated into their departments, Izuku and all of his fellow students are introduced to... an odd-looking principal?

Whispers begin within the lines of conglomerated students. Was this someone with a particularly overt Mutation Quirk? If so, what kind of Quirk was it then, and how could it have made this person their Principal?

At the top of the discussion is no one other than Izuku himself, who starts muttering to himself almost as a chant regarding the odd-looking Principal, much to Kensei’s bemused looks at him at how fast the pace of Izuku’s mind apparently goes regarding Quirks.

The principal stands on a podium before tapping the mic with animal paws. With a clearing of the throat that is actually more of a squeak than a hum, he introduces himself, “Yes, yes, yes, it is I, your Principal. I know it must be very strange – what am I, a human who is part animal, or an animal who is part human? Indeed, what kind of animal am I or am I part of? Mouse, dog, weasel? I can’t seem to be able to pick between any of them!”

As one, the entire collection of student minds goes to a halt.

‘...’

Despite the sudden oppressive silence, the Principal seems overjoyed. “Yes, yes, that reaction is wonderful! Shock, bemusement, astonishment, you can call it many things, but this Nedzu finds them all interesting especially in regards with himself!”

Thirteen, the Space Hero, takes a step forwards from beside the odd-to-say-the-least Principal to tap the mouse/dog/weasel/unidentified creature on the shoulder. Izuku could hear the fully-covered teacher murmur, “Principal Nedzu, you are confusing our new students. Please be more focused.”

“Oh yes, yes, of course. I can be rather scatterbrained...”

Somebody in the hall sighs loudly in relief at that. Pointedly, nobody wants to know who made the noise.

Nedzu squeaks his throat again. “Yes, let me try that again. My name is Principal Nedzu, and as the smarter ones between all of you should have realized by now, this is Yuuei. Considered no less than the Hero Academy in the world, you should all feel very honored to study in this school, as much as I do to be the one helping all of you take your steps towards your future.”

Izuku nods at this seriously, much to a smile from Kensei.

“At this moment, the Heroic Department is having their entrance exams – yes, yes, they are later than all of you, who have already taken your exams, after all paper exams are easier to deal with for organizations than building robots and creating model cities,” Several student eyes go wide at the implied test that was currently happening in that very moment, “but the rest of the incoming freshmen are inside this hall.”

“The Department of General Education. The Department of Support. The Department of Management. All of you have chosen to apply for one of these departments, and have succeeded in doing so. Feel suitably proud for your achievement – after all, this is your first step in becoming Heroes and helping people in your own way.”

Izuku’s eyes widen in recognition at the familiar words that came from Toshinori-san. Was this Principal where Toshinori had heard them from? Or did the Principal hear it from Toshinori-san? Or was this something than people learn on their own?

Several other students start whispering. Heroes? Weren’t their Departments precisely because they couldn’t be Heroes and thus not part of the Heroic Department?

“Yes, I know, I know, that sounds particularly odd.” Principal Nedzu smiles in front of it all, not at all offended by the whispering. “I know that there have been some very derogatory ideas passed around regarding the other Departments compared to the Heroic Department, but what do they know? This school is the best Hero Academy in the world, so as far as your principal is concerned, all of his students are Heroes, not just the ones in the Heroic Department.”

The whispering goes quiet.

“In the awe and splendor inspired by the warriors in this modern society that we all call Heroes, most seem to have forgotten that these heroes aren’t the ones holding this society together.” He goes on, a little more softly, a little more wistful, and the entire congregate of students lean in closer to listen. “From office workers, to store owners, fishermen, repairmen, to lawyers and even the ones whom you have to pay your electricity bill – these are the invisible ‘Heroes’ in human society, don’t you think?”

“And what of teachers, like those in front of you, as well as doctors, psychiatrists, scientists, philosophers? Don’t they all deserve acclaim for what they do, for while a good Hero can one day save your life, for the rest of it a teacher could teach you how to live your life? Imagine how it would be like without all of these wonderful men and women in today’s world! If we were to lose them, humankind will be no more than rabid animals repeatedly going at each others’ throats, and well as an animal myself, I would like state my opinion on how good it feels to not do so.”

Izuku blinks, snapping out of the trance he had been just in. Did the Principal just call himself an animal?

The other students seem to have also noticed this bit of wordplay, as Nedzu nods to himself on his podium. “Yes, yes, this Principal Nedzu is indeed an animal. More precisely, that of a rat, only one that is blessed with beyond-human intellect by the rare formation of a Quirk. So I believe I have the authority of being allowed to say this about society, on how foolish it is that we have this obsession to become warriors when precisely what makes people human is their capability to resist going into violence. As much as it has become a necessity, there is no need to glorify it more than it has to be.”

That... was a little hard to swallow. If Izuku is getting this right, Nedzu wasn’t just complimenting the Departments outside that of the Heroic Department – he was actively deriding the Heroic Department, considering it only “necessary” as opposed to being something worth of being proud of. While it was inspiring to hear what he thought of the other Departments, about the Heroic Department...

Was that all these is to being a Hero? Just... violence?

Izuku shakes his head, not even listening anymore to what the Principal has to say. No. There was more to being a Hero than violence, there is honor in Izuku’s dream, in his life goal that Toshinori-san has given him a second chance in.

He would disprove Principal Nedzu wrong. He would become as great as All Might, become the Hero, the Symbol of Peace.

“You seem more than a little fired up.” Kensei notes beside him, and Izuku jumps a bit, realizing that he has forgotten that the other teenager was standing beside him. “Man, you’re still pretty skittish, huh? At least you’re excited.”

The slightly wistful tone the other teenager says that makes Izuku feel a bit curious. “You aren’t excited to become a student here in Yuuei?”

The grey-haired teenager shakes his head, a strangely somber look on his face. “No. To me, becoming part of Yuuei was always just a given.”

Kensei doesn’t say more than that. Izuku blinks as the moment just disappears, as the next instant Kensei is smiling wildly again. Soon a hand places itself over the top of Izuku’s head, shaking his hair.

“Now, come on, Midori-san! The Principal has finally finished talking – I’m excited to see the dormitories of the General Education Department! Tomorrow, we finally start classes, so I feel like getting a nap!”

Izuku realizes, he’s right, the rest of the students are breaking apart into Departments again, heading off in different directions as separate groups.

About what Kensei just said though, “Don’t we have to see the actual faculties of the General Education Department first though? Like the location of the building, where do we go for things, places like that?”

“Eeeehhh, that sounds like a lot of work we can just find out tomorrow... Can we just skip it and head to the dormitories ourselves?”

“Katsura-san, we can’t do that! And we can’t even get into the dormitories until we get our keys by the end of Orientation!”

“Oh, I’m sure we can subvert that particular bit of security...”

The two of them end up joining the General Education Orientation anyway. While Kensei – much to Izuku’s horror – has some very interesting suggestions regarding the use of his Scan Quirk in the Art of Lockpicking, Izuku manages to convince the other teenager to not spend their first day in Yuuei breaking the law.

In retrospect, Izuku should have noticed that the other teenager was pretty odd earlier.

#-#-#-#

In another part of the campus, a certain blond teenager is cracking his knuckles. Miniature explosions occur as he does so, characteristic of the teenager’s Quirk, and soon Bakugou Katsuki is looking up in the orange skies.

In that moment, he recalls another time just like this with orange skies, of a crying teenager and a gaunt man’s heart-to-heart conversation that he had somehow managed to accidentally eavesdrop on, and his fists clench.

The next moment, there is an explosion.

“‘I have a weak Quirk’ my ass, for someone very observant the nerd is blind to himself...” Bakugou curses his own previous failure to see, as well as All Might’s apparent blindness to a certain green-haired teenager’s potential, “I can’t have him wasting his time in the General Department. Deku has no place in this world other than where I can see him!”

Part of himself stings with the faint taste of guilt, but he ignores it with practice.

“Look out, Deku. I’m going to find you, and when I do, I’m going to make sure you will get your proper place above all these secondary characters. You may be avoiding me now, but I’ll catch up with you soon enough.”

It is an oath.

“I’m not just aiming to become better than All Might. I need someone who I can fight me for it, and that’s Deku. Nobody else deserves to get the chance to be my rival.”

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 3: Weld

In the past, whenever Izuku thought – no, fantasized – of being part of Yuuei, he had always imagined it to be a school life fraught with dangers and exciting situations straight out of a story. So far though, what Izuku is experiencing as a General Education student even after a week of classes... isn’t.

Intellectually, he already knows that it is only logical that things didn’t go like that of a story, complete with conflict and drama. After all, forget how Yuuei is the safest school there is with all of the security measures in place to keep out Villains, Izuku is not even part of the Heroic Department. It only makes sense that it would all be not like what he had imagined.

Instead, the General Education department is just like middle-school, only... bigger and without the mistreatment he had faced back then. With a more varied cast of teachers, some just flamboyant and others actual heroes, actual-Heroes-oh-gods-his-homeroom-and-Quirk-Theory-teacher-is-the-Space-Hero-Thirteen-howcanhebesolucky-!

Ahem.

Other than the teachers, the faculties and materials given to the students are pretty amazing too. The General Education Department has the largest archive of first-hand information about Heroes, Villains, and Quirks that Izuku knows, and Kensei already had to pull him out of the place by force several times. If the other teenager hadn’t, Izuku couldn’t say that he wouldn’t have moved out of the dormitory by now and camped inside the building.

As for the classmates... Honestly, with all the things Izuku could do inside the large campus, he hasn’t interacted much with his classmates yet, outside of Katsura-san. Yes, he has exchanged some banal conversations with several people, as well as made a few acquaintances, but friends? Not so much.

It takes nearly all of his time these days just to meet up with Toshinori-san – what the man was a teacher of, and of what Department, Izuku still doesn’t know and he doesn’t quite ask – and combined with doing what was required of him, Izuku just doesn’t have the free time.

Speaking of his classmates though, back then during the start of the second day of classes, a new member of the General Education Department had transferred into Izuku’s class.

That is how Izuku gets his first impression of Shinsou Hitoshi.

“Everyone, this is Shinsou Hitoshi, and he will be part of our class starting today.” Thirteen-sensei speaks, and the class turn their heads as one to the newcomer. “Shinsou-kun, could you introduce yourself to the rest of your class?”

“My name is Shinsou Hitoshi.” The teenager bites out, looking for the world like he wanted to be anywhere else other than their classroom. “I would say it is nice to meet you all, but that would be lying.”

Their teacher takes on a scolding air. It is a very odd sight, considering the space-suit they were still wearing in homeroom. “Shinsou-kun, that is very rude. Introduce yourself properly next time, please. You will need to interact with your classmates in the future.”

“Somehow, I highly doubt that, sensei.”

Needless to say, Shinsou doesn’t make a good impression with his classmates, and Izuku can only watch as the other teen is isolated from the rest of the class. Part of him wants to approach the teenager – Izuku believes that no one really deserves solitude, even if they literally asked for it like Shinsou did – but as it is, Izuku really just doesn’t have the time.

So when Izuku’s favorite subject, Quirk Theory Class, hands them all a group project to do, Izuku takes the chance to attempt recruiting their reclusive classmate, along with support from Kensei.

#-#-#-#

Izuku walks up to the other teenager’s desk, before tapping his fingers over the wooden surface. The action shakes its owner awake, having been napping in the middle of class hours. Shinsou-san raises his head, eyes droopy and filled with exhaustion, only to meet the faces of a nervous Izuku and a grinning Kensei.

“S-Shinsou-san?” Izuku speaks first. “Would you mind joining us for this group project Thirteen-sensei just gave us?”

Shinsou-san, in return, only gives them an empty stare. “...what project?”

Izuku blinks, for some reason having not expected that sort of response, though in retrospect he should’ve considering the other teenager had been asleep while Thirteen-sensei gave the announcement. Contrasting him, Katsura-san breaks out to loud guffaws.

“Hahahaha!” Katsura-san actually breaks a bit into tears. “I thought you were just pretending to be asleep so nobody would try to talk to you, but you were actually sleeping?! Man, I like you, you’ve got guts!”

Izuku turns to dissuade Katsura-san from making any further noise, having noticed Shinsou-san’s pained wincing at the other teenager’s loud voice, but then Shinsou-san manages to preempt him with a question. “You’re Katsura Kensei, am I right?”

Katsura-san’s eyes narrow in a smile as he speaks, “Yeah, that’s my name, don’t wear it ou-”

Izuku’s eyes widen as in the middle of responding Shinsou-san’s question, Katsura-san’s expression suddenly falls flat before the grey-haired teenager goes silent.

“K-Katsura-san, what just happene-!”

Shinsou-san’s voice interrupts Izuku yet again, tone sharp and acerbic as he orders, “Katsura Kensei, briefly explain to me the circumstances of this project Midoriya-san was just talking about earlier, as well as why you two approached me, in calm tones and a moderate level of voice.”

Izuku has never heard Katsura-san speak as robotically as he does in that moment. “Thirteen-sensei gave us all a week to prepare a group report regarding the Quirk of one Hero of our choosing. The group can be as small as just two people, with a maximum of four people depending on the effort involved. However, as Midori-san here had aspired for us to prepare a report detailing not just one, but three Heroes, he had suggested to me that we find two other people to join our group, which is why we approached you.”

Having said all of that in one go, Katsura-san then stops to take a deep breath before continuing, “He had also expressed worry that you could be feeling isolated in class, so having wanted to talk to you long before this he took this chance to try for the two of us to get to know you.”

Katsura-san blinks, and then suddenly the other teenager is back to normal, if looking a little confused at what just occurred. Shinsou-san, on the other hand, gives Izuku an unreadable look.

Izuku can feel himself blushing to the tips of his ears.

“What just happened?” Katsura-san asks, not noticing Izuku’s expression. “It’s like, the past few seconds just went by without me there.”

“That was my Quirk.” Shinsou-san answers, and Izuku snaps out of his mortification to give the other teenager a very attentive look. Katsura-san also waits for the purple-haired teenager to say more, but Shinsou-san remains quiet.

“Ooookay, I want to know more about what happened, but if you don’t want to say more, then-”

Kensei closes his mouth just in time for Izuku to start muttering things beneath his breath again. Having entirely expected it coming, he leans in for a bit to snatch several whispers of “manipulation”, “voice-enabled”, and “lack of memory”.

That done, he turns back to an astonished Shinsou. “So, you have a manipulation-kind of Quirk then, with vocally responding to you as the trigger? Mind, that was very rude of you to just use it on me out of the blue and then not explain things properly, but Midori-chan here is really good at analyzing Quirks and I was kind of rude myself earlier so I’ll just let that pass.”

He pauses, an uncharacteristically solemn expression on his face. “Just... don’t use it on me again, alright? I’ve got some bad memories regarding being the victim of some Quirks.”

Point to Shinsou, a contrite expression does form on his face. “I’m... sorry about that. You were speaking really loudly and I just woke up, so-”

Kensei waves it off, a smile on his lips again. “It’s alright, it’s alright, didn’t I just tell you that?”

Izuku finally returns to the present. The conversation so far reels quickly in his head, and with a moment’s thought, he blinks at Katsura-san, “Midori-chan?”

“You were being really cute, so I thought it fit you more.”

Visibly not wanting to consider that statement, Izuku turns his attention back to Shinsou-san, whose face is back to neutral. “S-Shinsou-san, so, about joining our group...?”

Shinsou-san’s eyes flicker over Izuku and Katsura-san, openly studying them. “Midoriya-san, are you really serious about trying to befriend me? Because let me tell you, as I’ve told the rest of this class before, I’m not interested in making friends here.”

Izuku opens his mouth, but Katsura-san stretches an arm protectively over him. “Him too, Shinsou-san.”

“I’m not planning on using my Quirk on him, do not worry.” Shinsou-san places his hand over his face, an air of irritation surrounding him for just a moment so quick that Izuku almost thinks that he just imagined it. “I’m just asking here, because I’m honestly surprised that anybody would bother.”

“Nobody deserves to be alone, Shinsou -san!” Izuku suddenly shouts, causing the other two to snap towards him. At the sudden attention he receives, Izuku curls in a bit, but forges on, “I know you want to be alone, and yes, I understand that some people are really like that sometimes, but isn’t it better that you have the choice of friends to talk to than never having that choice at all?”

It is, after all, why for all this time Izuku keeps his friendship with Bakugou, affectionately named “Kacchan”. For all of the negative facets of their relationship, Izuku knows that if he wants to talk to someone, Bakugou is there for him to talk to. Even if only to deride what he says the next moment.

Part of Izuku then remembers the current state of said relationship though and winces inwardly. Shaking his head, he returns to attention to see that Katsura-san is giving him a fond look while Shinsou-san is looking at him as though his body just turned green like his hair.

Shinsou-san seems to have to force himself to speak. “...even then, I cannot promise to accept the offer of friendship. I simply do not have the time for it.”

Izuku wilts, and Katsura-san opens his mouth to say something, but Shinsou-san pushes on.

“However, as for the matter of joining your team, I am willing to accept. Despite what some people in this class might think, I’m intent on achieving high grades for all of my classes, and for that your plan of going above and beyond what is asked for us by the teacher is appealing.” Having said all of this, Shinsou-san nods before turning to Izuku with a curious look on his face. “Your quick breakdown of my own Quirk earlier also tells a lot about your analytical skill. Honestly, do you even really need me?”

The green-haired boy pumps his fists in success. “Of course! While I do pride myself in analyzing Quirks – not that I think I’m the best or anything, just a little good at it-” At this, for some reason unknown to him, Katsura-san shakes his head with a smile, “-that’s only part of the presentation! Katsura-san here knows a lot about mechanics, so we were planning something that is a bit more interactive than a paper report, but for that we need materials and more hands-”

“-and more people means more work can be done faster.” Shinsou-san nods in understanding. “I see. You already have an idea of what we are to do, Katsura-san?”

“Who do you think I am? Of course I do!” Katsura-san swipes his thumb at the tip of his nose, chest out proudly. But then he curls forward, hand beside his mouth as he speaks sotto-voce at Shinsou-san. Izuku smiles at the other teenager’s antics. “But please, don’t refer me like that too. Katsura-san makes me sound old. It’s hard enough trying to convince Midori-chan here to call me by my first name!”

“But Katsura-san!”  Izuku wails, his cheeks red at being called –chan again. He hides his face in his hands in his mortification. “That will be very rude of me to refer you so familiarly!”

“Kensei-san then.” Shinsou-san ignores Izuku’s outburst, “Alright, I’m in, if you two are so already well under-way with the plans. Any ideas for our fourth member though?”

Izuku raises his head, another person coming in mind for this. Like Shinsou-san, Izuku has wanted to talk to this person for a while now, and again like Shinsou-san, this group project is the perfect chance to do so.

“Actually, I do! Should I go invite her now?” he then blinks, remembering shyly that the other two might be interested in getting to know this fourth person too, “Aah, Katsura-san, Shinsou-san, if you two would want to come along-”

Izuku can only watch Shinsou-san’s eyes go wide as Katsura-san is suddenly there with his arm hanging over their newest groupmate’s shoulder. He winces in sympathy for the other teenager in that moment – he knows Katsura-san can be rather touchy-feely sometimes.

“Actually, Midori-chan, I think you can do it well enough on your own.”

“But-!”

“Don’t worry, don’t worry!” Katsura-san is smiling at Izuku, even as Shinsou-san keeps attempting to escape the other teenager’s grip. “I’ll take this chance to explain to Shinsou-san here what I plan to do for the project. I trust you can do this, so go. We’ll be alright!”

Izuku doesn’t feel as confident in himself as Katsura-san apparently does in that moment, but he nods anyway. “A-Alright. I’ll be back soon.”

And just like that, he leaves, not wanting to disappoint the open trust Katsura-san had just shown for him.

 #-#-#-#

“You know, you’re not subtle as you probably think in wanting to get me to talk to you without Midoriya-san around,” Shinsou states, as soon as Midoriya leaves the room. At this point of time, the rest of the class is out on lunch-break, so only Shinsou and Kensei is left in the classroom by the time the green-haired boy leaves.

“I wasn’t trying to be.” Kensei smiles, the expression almost predatory now that it’s just the two of them. Not that Shinsou is surprised; at this point, he is very well versed in identifying facades when he sees them. “Midori-san doesn’t need to hear this, which is why I convinced him to leave, but other than that, I don’t care what you might think.”

“I’ve noticed.” Shinsou says dryly. The other teenager, for all of his cheery words earlier, is actually still seething a bit inside at Shinsou’s use of Brainwashing on him. Some guilt remains at the back of his mind, nevertheless. “You’re very protective of him, aren’t you?”

“Yeah, he kind of inspires that in people.” Kensei actually looks both fond and surprised as he says this to Shinsou, as if he himself can’t quite believe it. Seeing the other teenager though, Shinsou could, though he is still pretty sure he would be unaffected by it in their incoming project with Midoriya. “It’s been only a while since I’ve met him, but nowadays I keep finding myself acting as his keeper without even realizing it until I’m halfway into pulling him out of the archives or something.”

Shinsou can’t help himself. He snorts at that image, though he realizes it must be rather tiring. Taking care of Midoriya must be a full-time job. “So, what is it that you want to talk to me about?”

Kensei meets Shinsou in the eyes and starts, “Look, I know what you’ve just said about not wanting friends-”

Shinsou thinks he sees where this is going.

“I’m not going to pretend to be buddy-buddy with Midoriya just because you asked me to.”

Shinsou isn’t the kind of person to do things because people asked him to do it. Call it irony, considering his Quirk, but Shinsou hates being ordered around, as though somebody else could tell him to do or who he could become.

He has enough of that, with all of his experiences of being treated like a future villain by so many people.

The fact that Shinsou hates lying is also another reason as to why he rejects this idea so outright. From what Shinsou can see, Midoriya is really the kind of earnest person with the honesty that he doesn’t even need consciously do just to achieve. Midoriya doesn’t deserve Shinsou pretending to be his friend, when Shinsou knows he won’t even put the proper amount of effort into it.

“It’s not that.” Kensei actually shakes his head at Shinsou knowingly, as though there is something Shinsou isn’t aware of here, but then he grins at Shinsou. “And actually, you’re kind of rude, you know? Interrupting me like that. Then again, I’m not exactly innocent of the same crime; actually I’m even worse than you at that-”

Shinsou rolls his eyes. He is already starting to get the gist of the other teenager’s personality. At this point, Kensei is probably being long-winded just to irritate him. “Get to the point, Kensei-san.”

“-oh, still going to call me by that? Nice.” Kensei sends him a thumbs up before going back to Serious Mode again. “Anyway, back to the point. I’ll be honest: I’m not exactly pleased myself about him trying to be friends with you. No offense, but you’ll be a lot of trouble-”

Shinsou snorts, “Some offense taken anyway.”

“-but who am I to try and stop Midori-san from making friends?”

Shinsou deadpans, at this point a little irritated with the presumption of him making friends with Midoriya, “A reasonable one that would try and speak some sense to him about trying to befriend people that are uninterested in making friends?”

Kensei smirks at him. “Do I even look like the ‘reasonable’ sort to you?”

“I’ll take that question to be rhetorical.” Shinsou continues with the same exact tone. With that said, he shakes his head. “Anyways, is this all, because I am not really that interested in your opinion of Midoriya-san befriending me. After all, as I have repeatedly stated, I am not going to be Midoriya’s friend, and I do need to get my lunch.”

He moves to stand up, picking his bag, when Kensei speaks again.

“That’s precisely it, Shinsou-san. This is me warning you.”

Shinsou freezes mid-motion before leaning back into his seat again.

“Is this a threat? Something along the lines of ‘if you hurt him...’?” While Shinsou doesn’t know a lot about friendships, he has seen movies, and to be honest with how Kensei treats Midoriya, he won’t surprised if this is something similar to the so-called ‘shovel talk’.

Which is ridiculous, because Midoriya isn’t some kind of girl, and Shinsou isn’t said girl’s prospective boyfriend, and that only leaves the idea that Kensei is treating him as a possible threat to Midoriya’s well-being.

And being treated like a possible threat only means one thing to Shinsou: he is being treated like a future villain again because of his Quirk. “Because let me tell you, I don’t take it very well when people expect me to do things as though I’m some kind of villain.”

Part of Shinsou winces after he says that. In retrospect, that sounded exactly like the kind of thing a villain-in-hiding would say.

Contrary to his expectations though, Kensei only smiles. “Nope! My warning is that, your wish of not befriending Midori-san, that this will all be just a one-time thing?” He opens his arms to the side, palms up and shaking his head. “The moment you agreed to join our group, you’ve kind of already sealed your fate in that, man.”

Shinsou relaxes at that, before he realizes what Kensei is implying. “What you mean is, no matter what I do at this point, I’ll end up befriending Midoriya anyway...?”

Kensei smirks. “Exactly!”

“Pardon me if I don’t believe you.”

“You’ll believe me soon enough.” Kensei crosses his arms, chin up as though utterly convinced in his own beliefs. Shinsou can only shake his head at the stupidity before the other teenager starts to speak again. “Anyway, about that part of you hating to be treated like a villain...”

Yeah, how about no.

“I don’t want to talk about it. And this time, yes, I am willing to use Brainwashing to forcefully end this conversation if I have to.”

The only reason why Shinsou hasn’t used his Quirk just yet for this entire conversation is his guilt for the look he put on Kensei’s face earlier. And though that guilt is enough for Shinsou to resolve to not use his Quirk on both Kensei and Midoriya unless absolutely necessary, being pressured to speak about things that he doesn’t want to talk about is one of those scenarios that he considers worth using his Quirk for.

“That’s your Quirk’s name then? Cool.” When will this teenager before him react in the way Shinsou expects? Normally people would be acting negatively at Shinsou threatening to use his Quirk on them. “And don’t worry – I can read between the lines well enough without you having to explain things to me. Like I’ve said before, I’ve had some experiences myself. And anyway, speaking of Quirks, here you go.”

“...what’s this?”

“Pain reliever. Your entire body is sore, correct?” Shinsou blinks in shock; when did Kensei notice that? He thought that he had been hiding the results of his nightly training sessions well, even if it left him feeling wrung out and falling asleep in class. “You might want to drink that – I normally carry them for Midori-san these days, he likes to train just like you do and sometimes returns to the dormitory needing them.”

That certainly answers why Kensei was carrying a pain-reliever, but-

“You’ll probably want to ask him if he can get his trainer to write a plan for you too; you’ll do better with someone who knows what they are doing telling you what to do.”

Shinsou shakes his head. That is all well and good; in fact, Shinsou makes a mental note to ask Midoriya exactly that in the future, but as for how Kensei knew...“How did you know- no, wait, let me guess, your Quirk.”

In retrospect, it had been obvious from the beginning. How else could Shinsou explain Kensei knowing what he couldn’t know?

“Yep.”

Thought so. “And you’re not going to tell me more than that?”

“Right. You know, for someone I don’t want Midori-san to befriend, we think along the same lines a lot. I wonder what that says about me?”

Shinsou, for once, doesn’t open his mouth to say anything. He doesn’t want to touch that issue with a ten-foot pole if he doesn’t have to.

#-#-#-#

In retrospect, Izuku should’ve realized the issue of him going alone to invite the fourth member of their team into joining them for the project. That he should’ve insisted on making the other two accompany him, as opposed to walking into the Lunch Rush cafeteria only to stop in his tracks at once he found the person he was looking for.

After all, the person he is looking at right now is a girl.

“AAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH-! I can’t believe I forgot that she was a girl! Wait no, I did remember that she was a girl, only that it didn’t hit me earlier that I don’t know the first thing about talking to girls! AAAAAAAAAAAAHHHH, WHAT AM I GOING TO DO NOW, KATSURA-SAN TRUSTED ME WITH THIS-!”

So deep in his panicked thoughts, Izuku is so distracted that he doesn’t notice people around him giving him odd looks, as well as the fact that the object of his attention is approaching him. The next thing he knows, someone is poking him from behind at the shoulder and-

“Um-!”

Izuku snaps around to see the girl that he was planning to invite shaking her head, with her hands pressed over her ears. “E-Err, Yamato Megumi-san, you’re here!?”

Yamato-san only nods, her eyes squeezed tight. “Y-Yes... You w-were looking at me, so I thought I should...”

Recognizing the situation immediately, Izuku takes a step back and bows deeply in apology. “Ah, I’m sorry if I did it again! I keep doing this to you, I’m really, really sorry!”

Yamato-san only shakes her head, a small smile blooming on her face. “It’s a’right...”

Izuku just feels a lot guiltier at that. At this point, he really should be better at this...

Yamato Megumi is one of Izuku’s classmates. Sometime ago, he had accidentally bumped with the girl, only for her to suddenly collapse on the street while Izuku was panicking over what to do. When Izuku was about to call the teachers, or the ambulance, or something, the girl then stretched out her hands to catch Izuku’s wrists and-

I’m alright.

That was how Izuku got introduced to Yamato-san’s Quirk.

Back to the present, ten minutes after Yamato-san catches him staring at her in the cafeteria, the two of them settle down into an out-of-sight table. Izuku takes the chance to buy his own lunch, and soon enough, the two of them are quietly eating together.

Indeed, it is so quiet that it is awkward.

Izuku chews half-heartedly on a piece of tonkatsu when he tries to kickstart the conversation. Right, in cases like this, talking about food was the first thing to do, right?! “Aaaah, Yamato-san? Does your food taste...”

He blinks. Actually... “Actually, I don’t recognize it, what is that that you’re eating?”

Yamato-san freezes in between chewing, and beneath her glasses, Izuku could see her blush momentarily. “I-It’s... sautéed cow tongue, Midoriya-san.”

The awkwardness only intensifies as Izuku doesn’t know what to say to that.

They spend some more time just like that, turning their attentions back to their own food with Izuku scolding himself at his faux pas, until Yamato-san finally stretches her hand over the table. She tilts her face in a silent offer, and though part of Izuku panics at the idea of holding a girl’s hand, he stamps that panic down and takes several deep breaths.

Once he feels sufficiently calm, Izuku smiles back at Yamato-san and takes her hand.

The connection forms as soon as their hands touch.

Is this better, Midoriya-san? Yamato speaks to him in his mind, and Izuku can’t help but feel admiration for the girl in front of him again. Oh no, you’re praising me too much. To be honest, most people don’t like having someone else in their heads.

Izuku blushes at being caught thinking about Yamato-san’s Quirk, but manages to forge on. Still, your Quirk is really rare, isn’t it? Quirk: Touch-Based Telepathy – even if you can only skim other people’s thoughts, there are a lot of potential uses for it!

True. Yamato-san admits, But that’s only if I can prevent myself from getting overwhelmed by other people’s thoughts and emotions all the time. Other than that, it’s useless.

Izuku comforts, It’s alright, Yamato-san. Part of it is my fault anyway, so don’t blame yourself for it.

Nevertheless. Yamato-san shakes her head, with her long black hair waving behind her in its braid. Midoriya-san, I believe you were here to ask me something? Is this about the group project Thirteen-sensei gave us to do?

Izuku nods excitedly. Yeah, I was thinking of inviting you to our group! Katsura-san and I managed to recruit Shinsou-san earlier, if you’re curious as to who is in the rest of our team, and as for what we’re planning to do, well I believe it’s better if I just show you.

It took Izuku a lot of practice with Yamato-san in the past to get the concept down, but this time it only takes Izuku a bit of effort to send his and Katsura-san’s plans for the project not as words, but as ideas and images.

Yamato-san closes her eyes for a moment. I see. So you want me to join your group so you can do all of what you have planned within the time given.

If it’s not a bit presumptuous, Izuku adds a bit worriedly, If you have a team you’re in already, of course that’s fine, and I’m not pressuring you to join us or anything...

No, no, it’s not that at all. I’m actually glad to be invited, I was wondering what to do about it considering I couldn’t find anyone willing to be my partner. Yamato-san responds just as fast, taking care of Izuku’s worries. The only problem I have is that, the rest of the team are all guys, right? I would be the only girl?

Izuku scrunches up his face at that. Yeah? What about it, Yamato-san?

Yamato-san actually smiles at his reaction to her question. Midoriya-san, truly you are one of a kind.

Izuku goes red, Uh, thank you?

If you’ll be there, and you trust these people... Yamato treads on, her mental voice deep in consideration, Alright. I trust you, Midoriya-san, and it’ll be only alright to extend that trust properly. If you don’t mind having me, I’ll join your group.

Izuku’s eyes go wide in happiness. You won’t regret this, Yamato-san!

And just like that, Yamato-san pulls her hand away and the connection breaks. And this time, when they quietly turn back to eating their lunches, the atmosphere isn’t as awkward.

In fact, it feels a little warm to Izuku, for some reason.

#-#-#-#

Skip forward for three days, and Izuku’s newly formed study-group is well underway with their chosen group project. The choice of heroes to focus on had been quick – Izuku, of course, wanted to give All Might a commemoration, while Katsura-san and Yamato-san thought that Thirteen-sensei only deserved some appreciation for teaching them as well as doing rescue work. There was some discussion on who would be the third, but Shinsou-san then sealed the deal by arguing that the rest of the team had a personal choice, which meant that he had the right to choose who was their third Hero.

Izuku only knows a little bit about Eraserhead, but if Shinsou-san thought that he deserved some credit, then who are the rest of the team to argue?

And though there are some issues between several of the members of the group, namely between Katsura-san and Yamato-san, Izuku feels very optimistic that they would manage to do it all just in time.

(Who would have expected it though, that Katsura-san was terribly shy around girls? Honestly, with how he would turn red and clam up around Yamato-san, Izuku feels like he should ask the other teenager about it at some point.

Shinsou-san, on the other hand, seems to be only finding Katsura-san’s interaction with Yamato-san amusing. Surprised, Izuku was not.)

“So, Kensei-san, where does this go?” Shinsou-san asks their mechanical expert, and Izuku has to hide a smile on his face at how casual it all seems to be between the two. “You’re the one who designed this whole thing.”

“Here, Shinsou-san.” Katsura-san responds, hands greasy as he holds a monkey wrench towards a part of what they were building, “When we attach this thing to that, when we trip this switch during the report, it would activate our special surprise for everyone to see. Here, let me show you how to put it in.”

With Yamato-san quietly working on the software part of their report with Izuku – finding out that the only girl of their team had a bit of experience with programming was a boon – the team is like a well-oiled machine.

So of course, that is just the moment that it all changes.

”FOUND YOU!”

Izuku jumps, recognizing that voice. The rest of the team freeze up at the loud noise, and they all turn as one to see a blond stomping towards their direction.

Izuku’s heart starts pounding. He isn’t ready for this moment. How can he face Bakugou now, after all this time? “Kaccha-”

“Deku, you little shit, you’ve been hiding from me!” Katsuki Bakugou roars, with his every footstep making a miniature explosion until he finally stops in front of Izuku, Bakugou’s glare set just over Izuku’s cowering face. “How dare you avoid me for all this time, didn’t I tell you to meet me the moment we both arrived in Yuuei!?”

The next thing Izuku knows, an explosion happens just beside Bakugou’s face.

‘But Kacchan doesn’t do that, not unless...’

Izuku thinks, before turning to his and Bakugou’s right, where a partially-melted monkey wrench lay. The blond in front of Izuku is seething, with his attention turned to one member of Izuku’s team.

No, not one member. All three of them.

“Excuse me, I don’t know you, but can you unhand our team leader this instant?” Katsura-san asks, flanked by both Shinsou-san and Yamato-san. “You’re being rude here; normally people would introduce themselves properly...”

“Who are you shitheads?” Bakugou glares, “How dare you interrupt my talk with Deku?”

Despite the question being aimed at them, it is Izuku who answers, a tired look on his face even as Bakugou holds him by his collar.

“They’re my friends, Kacchan. My friends,” he says weakly, “Now, can you let me go? I’m going to need to breathe properly at some point.”

With that, Bakugou drops Izuku without much preamble, leaving him to fall on his backside on the ground. With a gasp from Yamato-san, Izuku’s groupmates rush by his side, with Katsura-san pressing one of his palms on Izuku’s side as Shinsou-san glares at the blond in front of them.

This was certainly turning out to be a horrible first impression Kacchan was making with his new friends, Izuku thinks.

Chapter Text

Chapter 4: Dissociate

“So, who are you?” Shinsou-san speaks first, still glaring at the blond before him, “You’ve barged into our group, attacked Midoriya-san before the rest of us, and even now you haven’t even bothered to apologize or introduce yourself. So who are you?”

Izuku inwardly begs that the other boy isn’t planning to use his Quirk on Bakugou. That would only make things worse, he knew.

God bless all that is holy, when Bakugou responds Izuku’s worst fears don’t come to be. “Why should I even bother introducing myself to General Trash like you three shits? My business here is only with Deku – now go and fucking scram!”

Kacchan, no. It’s almost as though he wanted Shinsou-san to use his Quirk on him!

Before Shinsou-san actually attempts to force Bakugou into something embarrassing, Izuku speaks in an effort to pacify the situation. “K-Kacchan, don’t be rude!”

And then forcibly ignoring how Bakugou’s nostrils flare at being scolded like a child, Izuku makes use Katsura-san’s hand as leverage to stand back up to his feet to face to his group, coincidentally turning his back to his childhood friend.

“And everyone, this is Bakugou Katsuki, my friend from way back when we were children. He’s a little... prickly,” Izuku wants to use explosive, volatile, and very likely to explode on you but knows better than to dare with those particular puns, “but I hope you guys don’t mind him too much. Kacchan’s just not very sociable. I would introduce you guys to Kacchan, but I think he won’t even bother remembering your names.”

Thankfully, Katsura-san only snorts at that and Shinsou-san rolls his eyes. And true, Izuku can feel Bakugou’s rage simmering just behind him – don’t look, don’t look, don’t look – and Yamato-san still has that frightened look in her eyes, but at least Quirks weren’t being thrown around, right?

It says a lot about Izuku’s experiences with Bakugou that that was considered one of the best scenarios when the blond was involved.

“If that’s what you call prickly, I’m terrified to know what you’ll consider worse,” Shinsou-san mutters to the side, heard by all, but thankfully that seems to be all the other teenager has to say.

With that done, Izuku doesn’t have an excuse any longer. He turns back to Bakugou, who surprisingly is... actually pretty calm? Could it be that Kacchan was finally getting anger management skills? Maybe this particular confrontation could even turn out well!

“Deku.” Bakugou starts, still focusing only on Izuku and utterly ignoring his friends behind him. “We need to fucking talk. In private.”

“I-Is that so?” Izuku replies, using every bit of willpower he has to force himself to not fidget. Honestly, he is terrified of being left alone with Kacchan, considering what prompted Izuku to start avoiding the other teenager in the first place, but if that meant no explosions being thrown around his friends, then... “A-Alright, just let me say something to my group...”

A hand places itself on his shoulder. “Hold it right there, Midori-san.”

Izuku could see a vein pop on Bakugou’s forehead, but Katsura-san continues speaking, hand still on Izuku’s shoulder.

“I know you’ve just said that this... Kacchan,” Izuku’s throat goes to his mouth as the vein visibly pulses, “is an old friend of yours, but honestly I don’t see any friendliness going on around here. I can’t, in good conscience, leave you alone with him-”

“YOU LITTLE SHIT, I WAS TRYING TO BE FUCKING CIVIL FOR ONCE HERE AND YOU-!”

“Kacchan, no!” Izuku intersperses himself between Bakugou and his friends, his arms raised protectively over them. At this action, Bakugou freezes mid-attempt of trying to lob a fireball at Katsura-san, not wanting to hurt Izuku. “They’re just trying to help!”

“M-Midoriya-san...” Yamato-san mumbles, hiding behind Izuku’s shoulder. With the girl clinging to his waist, he could feel her fear and wish to be anywhere but there, but Izuku manages to send an attempt to comfort her without looking away from his childhood friend.

“Tch! Deku, did you really have to surround yourself with these trash?” Bakugou, for once, actually listens and pulls his arm back, and though the blond is obviously very irritated at how everything is not going the way he wanted, Izuku is amazed by the previously unexhibited levels of restraint Bakugou is showing. Was this the miracle of Yuuei at work here? “Look at how they cling to you. They just aren’t worth your time!”

Offended by Bakugou for the last time, Shinsou-san glares at the blond, and this time Izuku knows that if Bakugou responds to what the other teenager has to say, Bakugou will be eating dirt or worse. “Why don’t you just leave yourself if that’s what you-”

Izuku has had enough.

Everyone, would you all please stop trying to fight and just listen to me!?”

This causes everyone to stare at Izuku in complete and utter shock. Izuku knows why – before this, he had always sounded nervous, scared, hesitant or terrified. This time though?

This time, Izuku shocks himself for actually managing to sound angry.

And that doesn’t seem to be the end of it, either.

“Katsura-san, I know you’re trying to protect me right now, but please remove your hand from my shoulder as your grip is starting to hurt.” Katsura-san does as he is told so fast that Izuku almost stumbles, were it not for the fact that he is so frustrated right now that he can’t be bothered. “Understand that I’m trying to really prevent a fight here, and you being overprotective won’t help me in that. Thank you for the effort, but right now it is unnecessary. Next!

Izuku turns to Bakugou and Shinsou-san, both of them with guilt streaking on their faces for a second. Good. “Kacchan, Shinsou-san, please stop trying to provoke each other. It’s very clear that you two dislike each other on sight, with Shinsou-san hating rude people and Kacchan being... Kacchan, but if that’s the case, could you two just ignore each other instead of trying to start a fight!?”

And lastly, Izuku turns to Yamato-san, who seems to be staring at him in utter astonishment. “Sorry about this, Yamato-san. I know you dislike being put into situations like this, but I ended up bringing this particular situation to our group’s doorstep. Will you please forgive me?”

Yamato-san closes her mouth. “Uh... yes?”

“That’s good to hear. Now then,” With far too much ease, Izuku slips out of the hold she has on him and soon, Izuku has his hand gripping tightly around Bakugou’s right wrist. “We’ll be on our way to have that talk Kacchan wanted us to have. I apologize for cutting this group session short, and I’ll see you guys later, but for now bye!”

Izuku never thought that there would be a day where he would be the one dragging around Bakugou. But apparently, today was that day, as Bakugou can only stare at him while they leave his friends behind, leaving it to Izuku to do all of the job of getting the two of them to a nearby alley.

Izuku knows that he’ll be having a mental breakdown at some point later that day. But damn, does it feel good to tell other people exactly what he felt for once.

#-#-#-#

“Did...” Kensei starts as all of them stare at the direction Midoriya left with his childhood friend, “Did that just really happen?”

Shinsou can’t say he doesn’t feel a bit surprised himself. He never thought Midoriya could ever be that forward; one moment, Shinsou was about to use his Quirk on Bakugou, and the next he was feeling like he just got reprimanded while Midoriya was already pulling away the blond out of their sight.

“I can’t believe it myself, Kensei-san, but I think it just did.”

Still looking a little shocked, Yamato stares at her own hand, which she had been using to hold Midoriya. “Midoriya-san...”

If there was anything Shinsou could easily expect the girl of their group to be, it was quiet. The fact that she is openly reacting like this even with Midoriya gone really says a lot as to how much what just happened earlier has affected Yamato.

Kensei snorts, “...snrk!”

Shinsou automatically finds himself glaring at the boy. Now this, this was a familiar pattern. “What is it now, Kensei?”

“I just thought... Just now, Midori-chan just reminded me of you.” Shinsou blinks at that statement, before realizing what it meant: blunt, straightforward, and with a tendency to rudely order people around. “Only less, well, Shinsou and more Angry Rabbit Face.”

Blunt, straightforward, and cute then. Very Midoriya, but not Shinsou indeed.

...did he really just think of the word “cute” just now? Especially in regards with Midoriya?

“...not funny.”

Shinsou glares at Kensei. The other teenager is a terrible influence on him. Before he joined this group, he would’ve never thought along those lines, and now he was starting to think Midoriya was cute. And yes, objectively, he could see why people would call him that, but Shinsou never would’ve...

Wait, did Shinsou just do it again? Damn it, Kensei.

“Oh, but it totally is!” Kensei completely ignores his glare with a smirk, before turning to the last member of their team outside of Midoriya. “Y-Yamato-san, don’t you t-think that Shinsou could be, you know... a bad influence on Midori-san?”

As he says those words to Yamato, Kensei starts going red, stuttering as he curls to himself before finally just whispering the rest of it. Shinsou, having seen this many times already, takes this opportunity to sneer at the flustered teenager.

“Now you remember just how close you are to her?” Shinsou smirks, shaking his head and raising his hands to face the sky as though telling the world how difficult it was to handle this guy, can you believe it? “And I thought you were pretty unobservant already, Kensei...”

“H-Hey, shut up!” Still flustered, Kensei uncharacteristically raises his voice, vehement and with clenched fists as he replies to Shinsou. “There’s a reason why I’m like this around g-girls, you know!”

“Of which I am still unaware of.” Shinsou points out dryly, loving every moment of this victory he has over Kensei. “Care to tell us the story?”

Kensei opens his mouth, closes it, before turning away and crossing his arms with a hmph. Shinsou savors the resulting silence, knowing that the other teenager wouldn’t be forgetting this anytime soon.

“Should we follow them?”

Shinsou’s eyes go wide once he realizes that the one who just spoke is Yamato, and strangely enough, the girl isn’t fidgeting or looking at her feet as she says it. With how the girl normally spoke in single words and refused to even touch them, Shinsou thought the girl to be shy.

Now, with her head raised, Shinsou could see a hint of backbone that he had never seen in her before.

He asks, “What is it, Yamato-san?”

“Follow them, I m-mean.” There it was, the stutter. Midoriya and Yamato had a lot of similarities regarding their stuttering, but the girl then takes a moment to regain her own bearings before speaking again, this time without any stuttering, though her voice does sound a bit rough, as though unused to speaking in more than a few words at a time. “Midoriya-san and Bakugou-san. Midoriya-san could be in danger...”

“Yamato-san, I believe we should just trust Midori-san in this.” Kensei is pointedly not looking at Yamato as he says this, his own lack of flustering to show how serious he is about this, “He said it before he left – we were being a bit too overprotective. But Midori-san probably knows how to handle this by himself already; after all, before he met us, he already knew Kacchan since they were kids.

Yamato stares at Kensei’s back, eyes unreadable, before she nods.

“You mean you were being overprotective.” Shinsou feels like he has to add to this. “And don’t call him that; it’s bad enough to find out that Midoriya-san still uses that kind of childish nickname with that person without you copying him.”

And just like that, the serious atmosphere around Kensei is gone as he grins at Shinsou again. “And like you weren’t actively trying to provoke him yourself earlier? Midori-chan sure told you off!”

Shinsou twitches. He doesn’t like how Kensei puts it.

“He didn’t. He just pointed out my own... childishness, and I listened to his advice.” Yeah, that was right. That was just it. “This day onwards, whenever I meet that fellow I would endeavor to ignore him to the best of my ability as long as he respects me the same effort.”

“See? Told you off, got reproached, scolded. Look it up in the dictionary.”

This time, it is Shinsou who remains quiet. He really doesn’t have anything to say to that.

“And wait, did you call me just Kensei earlier, without the honorifics?” Shinsou blinks as Kensei says that. Shinsou didn’t, did he...? “Does this mean that you’re finally opening your heart to us?! Hey, maybe I can even beat out Midori-chan in befriending you faster!”

No, no, no, nope.

“We are not friends. This is just a co-beneficial relationship for a class project and once the week is over that will be the end of it. The day I admit to be friends with you or Midoriya is the day I take my last breath.”

Shinsou says this with as much vehemence he can put in the words, which... surprisingly, is hard to do.

“Hey, you didn’t have to go that far!”

Kensei laughs. In his efforts to keep his own face straight, Shinsou doesn’t notice Yamato leave until she is already well on her way.

#-#-#-#

Izuku doesn’t know how to handle this.

The moment he manages to get Bakugou the privacy he wants, Izuku just... slows down and realizes just what he had just done. How he had just dragged the blond, how he had repeatedly told him off – and oh gods, how he had also just told off Shinsou-san and Katsura-san for trying to defend him!

Forget having a mental breakdown later that day. As it turns out, he might be just having it this moment.

“Deku. Fucking focus on me, you nerd. You’re hyperventilating.”

Izuku blinks as he realizes, yes Kacchan was right, he was hyperventilating, and not only that, hyperventilating in front of Kacchan just as they are supposed to have that private talk, oh god the blond was glaring at him now-

“Fucking calm the heck down, Deku!” Izuku feels himself get lifted again by his shirt. “How can we talk if you look like you’re about to fucking collapse!?”

Right, right, Kacchan really could do better at comforting Izuku, but at least the blond was trying, right? That meant he wasn’t about to explode his head off... actually...

Izuku’s breathing calms down with a comprehension that pushes away his fears and worries, if only just for a moment. “Kacchan, since when did you start trying to comfort people?”

“I guess you’re fucking alright if you can say stupid things like that.” And just like that, Bakugou drops Izuku without much fanfare nor any sign of wanting to answer his question. “Now, we can finally talk. Goddamnit, you nerd, why did you fucking keep avoiding me for all this time? Now that you’re in General Education, you start thinking that you’re too big for me now huh?”

Izuku places his hands on his chest, straightening out his clothes as he tries to stands up. But his thoughts are on a different path entirely, after all that almost sounds like... “Kacchan, were you worried about me?”

“Shut up, Deku.”

Was Izuku imagining it, or was Bakugou looking a little red, not in an angry “I’m going to kill you!” sort-of-way, but instead as though he was embarrass- no, Izuku must be imagining things. There was no way that could happen, not with the Kacchan that he knew ever since they were kids.

“Anyway, enough about that!” Bakugou roars, but this time, it’s a very familiar kind of roar that Izuku feels like he can handle, not the kind that he is supposed to cower in front of. “About the talk you’ve promised me about in front of your shitty additions.”

Izuku wants to correct Bakugou for insulting his friends, but knows better than to test the other teenager’s patience. Kacchan couldn’t have gotten that better this quickly, right?

“Yeah, what about it, Kacchan?”

“Throw them away, Deku. You don’t need any secondary characters like them.” Bakugou’s reply is uncompromising in tone. “Come and fucking follow me, it’ll take a shitton of time getting you nerd out of the General Education Department and into the Heroic Department, but I’m gonna get you fucking out of there as soon as the next Sports Festival comes along...”

Izuku can’t help it. His jaw falls to the ground, and it is only with the force of will that he manages, “K-Kacchan, don’t you t-think that’s a bit too much? I mean, I k-know that, for some reason, you’ve decided to think that I deserve being your r-rival since some time ago, but that’s-”

 “This department is just a waste of your time, Deku!”

“It’s my way of preparing to be a Hero, Kacchan.” Izuku knows that convincing Bakugou of anything he doesn’t believe in is always a herculean task, but he has to try. He has to make the other teenager see the situation in his shoes, not in the strange version of reality that Bakugou seems to be currently in. “I need to train, and even if I’m trying to hurry, I would still need friends and allies so I can have help-”

“That’s what I’m saying!” Bakugou swings his fists, and it is truly a miracle that it hasn’t come into blows or explosions yet. Before, for just trying to open his mouth, Izuku would’ve gotten beat up. But still, Bakugou doesn’t seem to be convinced, building up frustration inside Izuku again. “You don’t need to fucking train nor any help! Your Quirk-”

“-is largely weak and useless, but Quirks aren’t everything, Kacchan. They aren’t everything.” As Izuku interrupts Bakugou, he tries to remain calm and level-headed, but that in itself is a difficult task. After all, if there was anything that constituted as a trigger for Izuku, it will always be his Quirk. “Even if my Quirk is useless, with enough time spent on physical training I just might-”

Bakugou stares at him in the eyes. “Your Quirk’s not useless.

Years before, Izuku would’ve wept and yelled for the entire world to hear if the teenager in front of him said those words. Years before, he would have been overcome by joy, by relief, by happiness that somebody thought that his Quirk could mean something, but not today.

Not after All Might. Because even when Toshinori-san reignited his passion to become a Hero, even as he praised Izuku’s sharp mind, even he had never ever said those words. It had always been about physical training, about his mind, about making friends, and never about his Quirk.

Izuku sees red.

“So you say that, but it is what it is, Kacchan!” Izuku yells, fists clenched in a way that makes him want to start a fight for once. “Everyone keeps saying it’s useless, I think it’s useless, even somebody who knows what they are doing called it useless! I have a weak Quirk, Kacchan!”

Bakugou roars back, “I was there, alright?!”

Izuku halts, rage interrupted by confusion. “Huh...!?”

“I was there, when you were telling your fucking sob story to that freaky-ass rake of a man. I was there.” Bakugou isn’t facing him right now, which is good, because Izuku doesn’t think he can meet Kacchan in the eyes himself. If Izuku was right in what Bakugou is referring to, then... “I wasn’t intending to, but that park was on my path back home from school, heck both our houses are, which was why you were probably crying there of all places-”

“Wha-!” Izuku should’ve realized, he should’ve realized that particular risk!

“I wasn’t intending to, but then I caught what you two were talking about and I had to stay, alright!?” Bakugou, for the first time in this conversation, explodes. His hands, clenched over the wall in tight fists, make a fireball that lights up the alleyway. But Izuku doesn’t even feel the flames, as even the heat feels subdued in this moment. “Goddamnit, shitty Deku... The proof was before your own face, before that rake guy’s bloody face, and you both didn’t even see it. Until then, I didn’t see it.”

“K-Kacchan, don’t tell me, that’s why ever since then you were-”

“Yeah, that’s fucking right. I was fucking guilty as fuck, alright!? I was part the fucking issue that made you start thinking like this...” Bakugou sounds so torn up, so ashamed as he says those words to Izuku, but then he shakes his head. He faces Izuku, and Izuku can’t find himself able to move in front of those intense red eyes. “But that’s another subject, we’re talking about Quirks here. About your Quirk.”

It’s a testament to how shaking the revelation of the past few seconds is to Izuku that he has honestly forgotten why he got angry in the first place. And now, looking at Bakugou and his expression, Izuku can’t muster a single shred of rage, even as the teenager speaks about his Quirk.

“Deku, get it in your head to start giving your Quirk a second look. That’s the thing you’re good at, right? Studying Quirks?”

Bakugou taps a finger on his temple, that guilty look on his face even as the blond makes a smirk, though this time far from taunting or demeaning as it had used to be. If anything, Izuku thinks of a word: pained. Pained is the only word that only fits his Kacchan in that moment.

“Use that little nerd brain of yours to look at it in another angle, because I won’t be pointing it out for you. You need to be the one to do this. Otherwise, there will be no fucking point.”

 “And once you do figure it out, use that and don’t you dare fucking stop from there. It will be terrifying, fucking damnit I know just how much it would be once you realize just what kind of devastation a Quirk can do in the wrong hands, but don’t let that shit stop you, alright!? You’re going to be the one going against me for the title of Number One – I can’t have you be scared of what you can do.”

Izuku shakes his head, with his hands holding his temples and mind awhorl with just what their conversation has gotten to. It’s too much, too quickly. “I don’t understand what you are trying to say, Kacchan...”

Bakugou Katsuki is stern and unrelenting as he says his last words.

“You will, fucking Deku. And when you do, then you can finally stop wasting your time in General Education and start becoming a Hero like me.

And just like that, the other teenager absconds, leaving behind Izuku alone in the dark alley.

#-#-#-#

When Toshinori finds Izuku crying in the middle of the streets, Izuku is treated with the sight of the scarecrow of a man flailing in panic as he gets tackle-hugged by a teenager out of nowhere.

It takes Izuku way too long to calm down and finally talk, but when he does, babbling about Kacchan and Quirks and his entire sordid childhood, Toshinori takes the two of them out for ice-cream instead of immediately asking what brought the entire thing about.

And when Izuku does finally get to explaining the whole confrontation with Bakugou, Toshinori-san gets this look in his eye – Determination? Recognition? Did Toshinori-san know about Kacchan? Was Toshinori-san part of the Heroic Department Staff? – and soon the man apologizes to Izuku for not making things clear enough for him when he had been training for the past few months.

“Midoriya-kun,” it has taken so much effort from Izuku just to get Toshinori-san calling him that, instead of “Young Midoriya” or “Midoriya-boy” that uncomfortably reminds Izuku so much of All Might, “I’ll be taking steps to settle this with Young Bakugou. You’ll be finding no more abrupt interruptions in your life from the boy, not unless he fixes up his ways. And as for your Quirk, I apologize for unknowingly planting it in your mind that it wouldn’t amount to anything.”

Izuku blinks away tears. “But it wouldn’t... right? I mean, even All Might said-”

“And as I said, you shouldn’t care for what All Might had told you in that afternoon.” Toshinori-san calmly interrupts Izuku. “I know the man; he’s like any other human, he makes mistakes. If he’s here right now, I know that he’ll be taking those words back if you’ll let him.”

Izuku nods at that, trying to digest the idea of All Might of all people doing something like that for Izuku.

“And as for your Quirk, I must admit that while I don’t possess the mental acuity needed to judge that myself, I’ve seen other people use Quirks that people would normally think as ‘useless’ in ways that I would never even conceive,” Toshinori places his hand over Izuku’s hair here, their respective heights all the more pronounced this way, “And I’ve seen you at work. I know you’ll soon understand what Bakugou was trying to imply in that alley, and you’ll go even beyond that. Plus Ultra, as the school’s motto goes.”

“P-Plus Ultra?” Izuku repeats, finding the words unfamiliar. “I didn’t know that this school had that as a motto...”

Toshinori-san actually looks surprised. “Really? I thought the Principal gave a speech for the beginning of the school year, and he likes taking his time explaining Plus Ultra at any chance he gets.”

Izuku flushes at this. “I may have blanked out and missed the last part of his speech...?”

“That would explain it. And don’t be ashamed, my boy. Men greater than you have filtered out much our Principal’s speeches more than you know.” Toshinori-san takes his hand away, and already Izuku misses it, “Plus Ultra, the belief of going above and beyond the call of duty, in putting everything you have in all that you do. That belief fits you, don’t you think?”

Izuku shakes his head at that, “No, no, I couldn’t be, not for such a-”

“It fits you, Midoriya-kun.” Toshinori-san says with such belief in him that Izuku can’t find it in himself to speak. “More than you think. And back to the subject of your Quirk: other people may say Minor Banishment is a useless Quirk, even All Might may have said it, but in the end, it’s all about applying what you have with all you’ve got, and you’ve got a lot of intellect and determination in spades.”

“Don’t yourself bring you down, Midoriya-kun. You’ll achieve great things. Just remember your training, apply yourself, and you'll be amazing.”

Izuku’s eyes go wide at that line. Toshinori-san was not only comforting Izuku – he was telling him to combine Plus Ultra with what Kacchan had told him, since years before. People called his Quirk weak, useless, Deku... but that didn’t matter, didn’t it?

Deku, Plus Ultra...

Was this what I missed from the Principal’s speech? About a hero, being more than just violence, about applying themselves with all they have?

Determination lights itself Izuku’s features that moment, and he doesn’t notice Toshinori-san smiling in recognition at what passes through his eyes.

I’ll become that Hero. I’ll figure out my Quirk’s place in this world, I’ll be Deku, only Plus Ultra.

For Toshinori-san. For myself.

Izuku nods, and just like that the moment passes. Detecting the same thing, Toshinori-san then taps at his sundae glass with a sharp grin.

“Now then, Midoriya-kun, it’s time for us to finally enjoy our desserts before they melt- gggrk!

“T-Toshinori-san!”

“D-Don’t worry, my boy, as I said this is normal... Aaaah, my blood’s mixing in with the sundae now... It’s starting to look like some kind of salty-sweet crime scene at this point.”

“I’ll order another one for you! No, two! Just wait here, Toshinori-saaaan!”

“Midoriya-kun, you don’t have to...!”

Izuku doesn’t know how he deserved knowing Toshinori-san. But maybe if he applies himself enough, Plus Ultra, maybe then he would be deserving of knowing the man.

Chapter Text

Chapter 5: Elaborate

When Izuku starts off their following group assembly with the idea of analyzing their own Quirks, the rest of his team are understandably surprised. And while Katsura-san and Yamato-san don’t look particularly against the idea, it is Shinsou who raises a hand and questions the necessity of it.

“After all, what we are to do is to study the Quirk of a hero of our choosing, and we have already gone beyond that by choosing three.” Shinsou-san contends, and Izuku keeps quiet at his words. “Unless you have a viable reason for us to do so, I’m afraid I have to go against this, Midoriya-san.”

Izuku’s face drops, and immediately Kensei intervenes, with his arms raised. “Now, now, Shinsou-san. The fact is, we’re already well underway into finishing our project, with three days left on the clock. In fact, if we put in just another day’s work, I’m pretty sure we’ll be finished, so why not just do a little intellectual exercise to pass the time, don’t you think?”

From how Izuku hears the other boy grunt, Shinsou-san certainly doesn’t think so. In fact, the next moment, he stares at Izuku in the eyes, and caught in that gaze Izuku can’t help but remember yesterday’s events.

Your Quirk is not useless.

“-dori-chan? Midori-chan!”

Izuku snaps out of his reverie, only to realize that Katsura-san had just called his name. “A-Ah, what is it, Katsura-san?”

As soon as Izuku says those words, he realizes that not only Shinsou-san is staring at him now – indeed, even Katsura-san and Yamato-san are now scrutinizing him with barely-hidden concern. And Shinsou-san is still staring at him, this time only more focused.

“Midoriya-san, do you know how you mutter a lot when you are thinking?”

At that blunt observation of his bad habit, Izuku can only chuckle self-consciously. “Yeah? W-What about it, Shinsou-san?”

“The thing is, I’ve been watching you a lot since I’ve met you personally, Midoriya-san.” Shinsou-san states, and Izuku flushes a bit at that. Though he had noticed the odd looks the other teenager had been sending him, he hadn’t thought that Shinsou-san would be straightforward enough to admit it without any issue. “I’ve noticed a lot of your habits, and I believe I have a very fair grasp of your personality at this point, which is why I know that though you do mutter a lot most of the times you think, the times that you remain completely quiet are the times that you are truly deep in thought.”

Izuku gulps. “R-Really...?”

“Yes, that seems to be the case.” Shinsou-san nods, looking satisfied for a moment before his look is sharp and scrutinizing again. “So, if that is indeed the case, where were you for the past few seconds, Midoriya-san? What were you thinking about just now? After all, you aren’t someone to start asking something like this for no reason, even with all of your interest in Quirks.”

Izuku holds his gaze for what feels like an eternity, until in the end his shoulder sags in defeat. “I was... thinking about yesterday, Shinsou-san.”

He then notices Katsura-san stilling in his position, his mouth open presumably to butt in on Shinsou-san’s interrogation of Izuku, and soon Katsura-san’s mouth closes as he turns back to Izuku. His eyes read: Don’t worry. Just say what you feel like you can say. I’ll fight off Shinsou with my teeth if he tries to ask more than that.

Izuku nods back with a small smile, relieved he has such good friends. Taking a deep breath, he then looks Shinsou-san in the eye. “Kacchan, well... he told me something about my Quirk, about it not being as useless as I had thought it to be, and then I thought earlier, why not ask my teammates for some outside perspective, if I was apparently blind to it like Kacchan said, you know? N-Not that I’m not really interested in finding out more and hopefully help you a-all out in figuring out more of your own Quirks, just-”

Izuku is just starting to babble when Yamato-san holds him at the wrist and gives him a reassuring squeeze and a message of It’s alright. Shinsou-san raises his brows at this, but he doesn’t say anything other than unknowingly affirming what Yamato-san has just told Izuku.

He has his hand on his face as he says this. “If that’s the case... then, alright, I’m fine with it now.”

Shinsou-san then mutters this to himself, probably not for anyone else to hear but Izuku hears him anyway.

“It’s not that this also isn’t beneficial to me. Midoriya has a good eye for Quirks, and an outside perspective on Brainwashing might help. Just as long as Kensei doesn’t start using this as fodder for his friendship speeches...”

And from how Katsura-san yells, it’s not just Izuku either. “Hey, I heard that!”

Just like that, the weight on Izuku’s shoulders lighten, and ease seeps through his being as a smile slips its way on his face at the by-now familiar brand of banter between Shinsou-san and Katsura-san. Noticing the change in the mood, the latter teenager of the particular duo waves his arms.

Katsura-san has a grin on his face as he approaches Izuku. As he does, Izuku notices that Yamato-san has let him go before taking a step back, presumably knowing her own effect on the teenager.

“Midori-san! I can’t believe I forgot to ask this before, but what is your Quirk?”

For a second, Izuku wrings his hands. “My Quirk i-is Minor Banishment. It lets me banish only up to ten grams of things that I touch, and I get headaches by the time I have removed around three kilogram’s worth of mass. It’s pretty useless-”

Shinsou-san interrupts Izuku before he can finish. “Don’t call it useless just yet, Midoriya-san. We still haven’t studied any of its particulars, and who knows? Maybe we can find an odd use for it.”

Izuku nods quietly at that, remembering his own use of it as a stain cleanser. Creative, yes, as Toshinori-san had put it, but it was far from something a hero could use. But nobody in this group, not even Katsura-san, knew of Izuku’s goal of becoming a hero just yet. While they all knew Izuku was pretty obsessed with heroes, Izuku knew they thought that it was all just being a fan.

“I guess it’s my turn now, huh?” Katsura-san starts, and the rest of the team turn to him in curiosity. “Midori-chan already knows this, but my Quirk’s name is Scan – it let me knows the structure of things that I touch with these things in my hands.”

The teenager runs his fingers over the square panels on his palms. “It’s a bit uncontrollable for me, so whenever I touch something with my hands I get barraged with a lot of information. That information, as you have figured it out by now, is what has led me to knowing about building things, as my head has more blueprints than a workshop.”

“Is that why you knew about muscle strain when I first met you?” Shinsou-san asks, and Katsura-san nods. The purple-haired teenager nods at Izuku’s direction. “I figured that with Midoriya-san here, you would be very familiar with the physical structure of muscle strain. Speaking of, Midoriya-”

Izuku nods back wildly. “Yeah! Katsura-san always knows when I have trained a bit too much! Even Toshinori-san – my trainer – tells me that I’m lucky to know him, as it’s really difficult to really judge that unless you know what you’re doing, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg for Katsura-san’s Scan! Besides mechanical, industrial, engineering and medical uses, the thing we have figured out about his...”

At the babbling, Shinsou-san stares at Izuku with wide eyes, and Katsura-san laughs before coming close to Izuku and ruffling his hair again. Izuku, with his babbling interrupted by the action, feels like a wet kitten.

“Midori-chan, let me do my own bragging!” Katsura-san teases, causing Izuku to blush. Surely, he hadn’t been that excited, right? “Anyways, about that last part. This-” Katsura-san wraps his arm around Izuku’s shoulder, “-cuddly miracle over here soon figured out after we met that maybe I could use my Quirk to do more than act as a glorified x-ray scanner of things, you know? He asked me if I could use my Quirk to, effectively, look at an object’s recent history, and as it turns out I can!”

“Psychometry,” Yamato-san whispers.

“I can see how that can be very useful. In both mechanics and medicine, knowing the history of the subject would be crucial to making correct diagnoses, but that’s not it all.” Shinsou-san nods at Izuku, “You were about to speak of its uses in detective work, weren’t you?”

An odd look flashes itself at Katsura-san’s face at that question, too fast for Izuku to identify what it was, but Izuku nods back, taking the moment to get himself free. “Yeah. If Katsura-san were to become a detective, just by touching a crime-scene he could get a firsthand idea of what happened there, and it’ll also help him find crucial evidence.”

“Too bad it’s a little inaccurate, at this point.” Katsura-san speaks again, though this time sounding somber. “As it’s still something new to me, I still don’t have much control over what I can find out, not that I had much control over my Quirk’s activation in the first place.”

Shinsou-san gives the other teenager an odd look, before clearly coming to a decision to just ask him later. He then turns to the rest of the team, “Evidently, it appears to be that Midoriya-san has already figured out something new about it, and Kensei is still working on what he has. Kensei, do you think we need to focus on your Quirk today?”

All he gets is a grin and a shake. “Nah, I’m fine with focusing on you guys. It’s more about practice than discovery for me at this point.”

Shinsou-san closes his eyes for a moment, before he exchanges looks with the only girl of their team. “Yamato-san, do you want to go first, or...?”

The reticent girl in question shakes for a bit, and Izuku nearly moves to her side, but then a decisive gleam blooms in her eyes and Yamato-san nods. “Y-Yes.”

She turns to Izuku, and he knows what she wants immediately. “Midoriya-san? C-Can you?”

Izuku isn’t blind. He knows that Yamato-san doesn’t talk very much whenever the rest of the team is around, and though the girl could be very eloquent in their occasional mental chats, even to Izuku it is evident that that same eloquence leaves her whenever she has to actually talk.

Izuku was similar to her that way, which was probably why they got along so well.

And with the only other way of making herself understood having to do with opening her mind to others, of course Yamato-san couldn’t really converse with anyone but Izuku. Not everyone was welcome to telepathy, and Yamato-san told so herself that she didn’t like using it very much either outside of trusted individuals.

So Izuku has to be the one to speak for her. It’s his duty as her friend, to help her be understood and open up to others.

Izuku nods, and soon she sighs in relief. Turning to the rest of the team, he starts, “Yamato-san’s Quirk is Touch-Based Telepathy. It lets her connect superficially to the minds of other people via touch, and like Katsura-san, she can’t really control it.”

The other two males think about that, and immediately, Shinsou-san winces. “I can see now why you have difficulties talking to strangers, especially males, Yamato-san. I apologize if I had offended you in the past in any way.”

Katsura-san, on the other hand, is very quiet and Izuku supposes it is related as to why the other teenager doesn’t talk to girls very much either.

“How did Midoriya-san meet you, if that was the case?”

Shinsou-san asks Yamato-san, and she actually responds, a small smile to be found on her lips. “I... bumped into him.”

Katsura-san snorts, and though the other teenager is still not looking at the rest of them, Izuku can see that the solemnity has passed now. Shinsou-san is also smiling, and as blinding as the rare expression is to Izuku, he can’t understand why they are suddenly so cheerful. “I can see how that could’ve led to you getting to know each other.”

Izuku also feels happy though, to see the rest of his team interacting a lot more, as well as the evident new sort of understanding between Shinsou-san and Yamato-san. But then, the moment passes, and recognizing it, he turns to Yamato-san.

“Yamato-san, do you think you can practice with the rest of our team with your Quirk? I know it can be useful sometimes, being capable of delivering things that can’t be put into words. I-I know you’re bad at trying your Quirk with anyone else other than me, but you can trust Shinsou-san and Katsura-san, r-right?”

Yamato-san, in response, looks at Shinsou-san, and as though her Quirk has suddenly lost its limiter, it is Shinsou-san who replies. “Yes, we’ll be practicing it soon when we have time. Kensei-san, how about you? Do you think you can work with Yamato-san with this?”

Katsura-san’s face is red, and Izuku can see that he has to force his own words out, but soon the other teenager manages, “Of course, w-who do you think you’re talking to? Let’s work t-together later, Yamato-san.”

She nods, whispering, “Thank you.

Her eyes take on a watery sheen, and soon Izuku himself has to wipe away a tear.

#-#-#-#

Shinsou Hitoshi is no fool.

Kensei had warned him, after all, that this would happen. The day before, after that odd moment of trying to reach into the vehemence he normally had in spades and finding himself lacking, he had realized that the other teenager turned out to be right.

He is starting to care for this odd bunch of misfits that he calls his team.

After all, what else could he call a group of people that he could just talk to and expect no jeers nor taunts coming along his way? Midoriya is one thing, but Kensei is another and now Yamato is included to that list.

Respect for Midoriya comes along easily. After all, despite Shinsou’s initial efforts to be as unapproachable and stony as possible, believing the rest of his General Education class to be just a bunch of dunderheads that would only remind him of how much he wants to be in the Hero Department, the green-haired boy had decided to try and attempt to befriend him. And why?

“Nobody deserves to be alone, Shinsou-san!”

Such a pure and well-intentioned ideal, normally that of platitudes and well-wishes that actually don’t go anywhere. But Midoriya actually does try to approach Shinsou, and Shinsou actually does see just how earnest the other teenager is, so that, in the end made Shinsou give the other teenager a chance, even as he said that they wouldn’t become friends.

Then that respect only swells at Midoriya’s obvious intellect and sheer will to reach his goals, whatever those goals may be. Knowing Midoriya though, it would be something blindly altruistic again that would make Kensei work hard to protect the boy in turn.

Which brings Shinsou to Kensei. Kensei was... a breath of fresh air, to be honest. Despite that rocky initial start, Shinsou does find himself agreeing with Kensei’s conclusion that they were very similar people, but unlike Shinsou, Kensei was someone willing to start easy conversation and Shinsou always found himself talking back, if only to snark at the other teenager.

Kensei’s technical skills and outright declaration of protection also appeal to Shinsou, but like Midoriya, that only comes secondary to the fact that like Midoriya, Shinsou knows that Kensei wouldn’t talk badly of him like most people would once they knew of his Quirk. It was just not their personality to be like that.

Yamato, Shinsou doesn’t know much about her just yet, but he knows that this moment is crucial. This moment, is when he can finally start trusting other people, despite the deep-seated bitterness he knows exists inside him that prevents him from trying to make friends.

Would he talk to them about his Quirk, or not?

The answer is easy.

“My Quirk is called Brainwashing. Midoriya and Kensei would know its effects by now, Kensei as well as the name, and it lets me temporarily take control of others that verbally respond to me. The control is tenuous, easily overcome by a slight nudge to those affected as well as possible to be fought off by the sheer force of will, but other than that its effects are absolute.”

The other teens look at him, everyone but Kensei wiping away moisture from their eyes, the result of the previous talk about Yamato’s Quirk.

“I have received many comments about it being a very evil Quirk, and to be honest,” Shinsou has to look them in the eyes now, determination filling up his chest, “I am resolute to prove to the rest to the world wrong. I will become a Hero, no matter what.”

Midoriya has an understanding smile on his face. His eyes are now clear of any moisture, and he has his hands in tight fists. “Right, Shinsou-san! My goal is the same thing, to become part of the Heroic Department so I can become a hero like All Might!”

That...! But for that to happen- no, not now. “We have to talk about this later, Midoriya.”

Midoriya nods, still smiling at him, and despite the sudden coil of emotions in his gut Shinsou can’t help but return the expression. It wasn’t the other teenager’s fault that his dream and Midoriya’s would clash. Not when there could only be one victor in the School Festival tournament.

Shinsou would have to settle it at some point with the other teenager, but not now. Not while the rest of the team is still looking at Shinsou with acceptance.

Though Shinsou could do with much less of Kensei’s sudden inputs. “Hey, hey, Hitoshi! Haven’t you been dropping your honorifics for some time now? First it was me, next it was with Izuku-chan!”

Midoriya yelps, turning at Kensei. Shinsou can only say that the other teenager was feeling much the same thing as Shinsou was at that moment. “I-Izuku-chan!?”

Hitoshi!?

“Come on, guys!” Kensei grins at them, actually swooping in to put his arms around Shinsou and Midoriya’s shoulders. At Midoriya’s awkwardness and Shinsou’s indignation at the manhandling, Yamato actually giggles, the traitor. “We’ve just had our first group heart-to-heart. We should be dropping honorifics and starting with the first names by now! I know Shinsou here has already.”

“Shut up,” Shinsou starts, before sighing as the other teenager grins at him, as if daring him to disprove him. “...Kensei.”

“See!” The other teenager is overly gleeful at being called so familiarly, and soon Kensei is pouncing on Midoriya’s head with requests. “Come on, Izuku-chan, or even Izuku if you just want me to, just call me Kensei, alright? Y-You too, Yamato.”

The girl nods at that request, a smile on her face. “Kensei-san. Hitoshi-san?”

The question is posed to him, so Shinsou- no, Hitoshi nods, though not before elbowing Kensei in the ribs and pulling away when the teenager yelps. “Yes, that would do. And as for you, Kensei, I know I’m not going to be able to stop you from calling me by my first name, but at least add on a honorific. You too, Midoriya.”

“I c-can’t!” Midoriya yelps, face going red. “That will be rude of me!”

“Yeah, it wouldn’t be fair if Hitoshi kept on calling Izuku by his last name and he still got to be referred by his first name!”

“No, that’s not the point!” Midoriya actually yells at Kensei, and Hitoshi has to chuckle at the scolded look that manages its way on the other teenager’s face. “Just, I... I don’t think I can deserve to call you guys so informally, it’ll be rude...”

“Just think of it this way, Midoriya.” Hitoshi gives his two cents. “I don’t mind if you still kept on calling me be my last name, and I don’t know about Yamato, but you’ve known Kensei longer than the two of us and you still refuse to call him by his first name despite his wishes. Wouldn’t that be ruder than actually calling him by his first name?”

Midoriya stops and visibly thinks about that, and soon he murmurs to Kensei, “A-Alright, Kensei-san. But only because you asked me to.”

Kensei, the idiot, actually whoops at that, going from scolded puppy to exuberant teenager in so little time that Hitoshi almost thinks he had just imagined the scolded Kensei. “Finally! Finally! Finally!”

With a bright red face, Midoriya turns back to Hitoshi and Yamato. “D-Do you want me to...?”

“If you don’t feel like it just yet, I don’t mind.” Hitoshi raises his hand, and judging by Yamato’s nod, the girl feels the same. “Just as long as you let me call you Midoriya and drop the honorific in return.”

Midoriya takes a deep breath, and then, “...Shinsou. Y-Yamato.”

With that done, Hitoshi nods, and he turns to redirecting the conversation back to where it had been earlier before Kensei derailed it with his name-related tangents. “Midoriya, do you have anything for me and my Quirk? Any idea as to how I might become better?”

It was obvious from earlier that the teenager had something in mind for him, and just like that, the change is instant in Midoriya. All evidence of flushing leaves the other teenager’s face, and soon a look of confidence seeps into his expression.

“Shinsou-sa- I mean, Shinsou.” Midoriya stumbles a bit with his words for a moment over the name change, but the green-headed teenager pushes on. At this point, Hitoshi could really see why Kensei was so passionate in defending the person before him. “You said earlier that your Quirk could be activated as long as you had a verbal response. Did you test if that was not the entire case?”

Hitoshi feels confused. “How else could someone else respond-?”

Instead of putting it in words, Midoriya puts it into action. He stretches out his arm in front of Hitoshi, his hand open as if offering a handshake, and suddenly it clicks in Hitoshi’s head.

“Nice, Izuku!” Kensei cheers on, also seeing where Midoriya was going. “People don’t only respond to people just by speaking; we also have this thing called body language and gesturing! If Hitoshi can activate his Quirk using something like a handshake, then it’ll be much easier for him to use!”

And will make it all the more villainous, considering it means taking advantage of people’s good manners. Hitoshi adds in his head, but then he shakes the thought away.

Midoriya has put his arm down now, but Hitoshi knows what the other teenager is asking him to do without even speaking. Hitoshi reaches out his hand for a handshake, and the next moment, Midoriya takes his hand and gives it a shake.

Normally, to Hitoshi, activating his Quirk is like reaching out towards the night sky and throwing a huge, if weak, net to reel in the brightest of stars. As though he is a fisherman reeling in fish to set free later, only instead of the deep blue ocean his fishing grounds were the infinitely dark skies.

In that vision, the moment Midoriya takes his hand, the star before him shines just a bit more, just a little brighter. It makes Hitoshi want it.

But part of Hitoshi doesn’t want to cast his net. This star feels like it was where it belonged, no matter how much Hitoshi wants to get it, free to glow bright in the dark sky, but unlike so many other times, he has been given permission. He throws his net...

...and fails to reel back the twinkling star that is Midoriya.

“It didn’t work?” Hitoshi hears Kensei whisper to no one in particular, and Hitoshi opens his eyes – when did they close – to see an odd smile on Midoriya’s face. “Or did it?”

It didn’t work, yes, it didn’t work, but-

“I felt it.” Midoriya says, and Hitoshi feels relief, feels more hope for the future success of his dream of becoming a certified Hero. “It didn’t overtake me, couldn’t even if I wanted it to, but it was there. It was possible.

“I just need to get better.” Hitoshi whispers to himself, feeling a new path opening before his eyes. “Nobody asked me to try this before, but now that I’m aware of it, I know that I just need to get better.”

Midoriya smiles, “And I know you will, Shinsou.”

And just like that, Hitoshi knows three things: 1) He definitely now has friends, at least with Midoriya, 2) He has a lot of work in the future, and 3) He has to return this favor to Midoriya in future, as well as the rest of this team for letting this very situation come to be.

Because Hitoshi knows that without them, he would have some very bitter and desperate months ahead of him instead of the bright future that it looks to be right now.

#-#-#-#

When Toshinori arrives to his and young Midoriya’s meeting place for their next training session, two days later, he is filled with surprise. After all, while at this point Toshinori has gotten used to his protege arriving really early, even earlier than the already unholy 4 AM Toshinori has scheduled with the teenager just so the teenager could head to his classes afterwards, he doesn’t have one early teenager in the park that they normally use.

He has four inhumanly-early teenagers in the park that they normally use.

“Toshinori-san!” Izuku’s eyes are bright. “These are my friends, Shinsou, Yamato, and Kensei-san! They were hoping to see if you could help them train up just like you did with me!”

Toshinori knows he should’ve told the boy to keep their training secret, he knew this could happen! But he hadn’t, had forgotten to, and it had happened anyway. What would happen now, once Toshinori has to reveal his identity as All Might and he has to pass on One for All once and for all?

But he can’t say no to that face. Not when it’s not only Izuku who is looking at him with hope, but also the three other teenagers who came along with him. Toshinori was never good at refusing others help – it was literally his job as the Symbol of Peace.

Toshinori coughs out blood, and in amidst the shocked looks he gets from everyone but his protege, he mutters, “Alright.”

It is once that Toshinori has managed to calm down the teenagers and has gotten properly introduced that he recognizes the purple-haired teenager that he has doing push-ups with Izuku and young Katsura on the park floor. It is none other than Shinsou Hitoshi.

Without that look of outright desperation and bitterness and instead a soft smile on his face, Toshinori didn’t recognize the teenager.

The other two, Toshinori doesn’t know very well, but outside of the odd look he receives from the Katsura-boy once Toshinori gives him a handshake, it doesn’t appear to him like they will be problems. In fact, they, as well as young Shinsou, seemed to be good influences on his protege, and it didn’t take much to see that they were very tightly knit for what was supposed to be a group merely created for a class project.

And why did that particular class project sound familiar? Toshinori tries to think where he could’ve heard about it, but then he shakes his head. Oh well.

Toshinori will need to handle the matter of One for All later, but this wasn’t bad, he supposes.

After all, his protege would need all the help and support he could get to become the next Symbol of Peace. If, and only if, the other teenagers could prove themselves worthy of being trusted, then would Toshinori decide to also let them in on the secret.

(And it wasn’t like Toshinori himself didn’t have people he trusted like that anyway.)

When the training session finally ends, it is Izuku that leaves last. The other teenagers, this being their first time training with Toshinori and thus not having the stamina yet to go through all the exercises, left earlier and so Toshinori has only Izuku for company once again.

“W-Was this alright?” His protégé asks, “I know this kind of came out of the blue...”

Toshinori sighs, but in the end, he pats the teenager’s hair.

“It was, but it’s alright by now. I’m surprised though, that you would be willing to share this with them. I know that you still haven’t told your mother about your training sessions.”

Izuku blushes in that endearing way of his. “Mom still thinks that I’ve decided to stop trying to be a hero. At first, it was unintentional, with me suddenly getting quieter about it once I’ve met you Toshinori-san and her misunderstanding it to be like that, but after realizing how less worried she gets now, I’ve decided to not tell her that I haven’t given up yet.”

He looks down. “At least, not until I’m part of the Heroic Department.”

Toshinori brushes the teenager’s hair in an attempt to comfort. He then points out, “You know she would be supportive if she knows. From what you’ve told me of Inko-san, she is that kind of mother.”

Not that Toshinori would know of mothers.

“Yeah, I know.” Izuku nods, a smile on his face again, and Toshinori pulls away. “Toshinori-san?”

Toshinori tilts his head. “Yeah, what is it, Midoriya-kun?”

“Part of the reason why I decided to invite them was that it is also Shinsou’s dream to become a Hero in the future. Like me, he needs training.” That would make sense. His student was the kind of boy who would offer his heart if anybody asked. “And the other reason is... the other day, we had a little group exercise about learning each other’s Quirks. They tried to help me with mine and Kensei-san devised several tests for me to do. While I still haven’t figured out what to do what we’ve found outside of a few tricks here and there, I thought it would only be right to do this in return.”

Toshinori’s interest is piqued. What did they find? “Do you have your observations written down- oh who am I kidding, of course you do.”

Izuku is grinning at him, his hero notebook offered already in hand and for Toshinori to read.

Toshinori takes the notebook with an eyeroll, and shaking his head a bit at the admittedly obsessive notes taken regarding his coworkers, Toshinori flips through the notebook until he finds the relevant page.

What is written is as follows:

My Quirk – Minor Banishment

Observations:

While I already know that I can only banish up to ten grams at a time, Shinsou suggested me to test how quickly I could banish more than that. For example, according to Kensei-san, the rock we tested my Quirk with was exactly 55 grams – how awesome is it that he could things like that! – before I took 10 grams out of it. 

That left 45 grams, so presumably by doing it five more times I could banish the entire rock. How fast could I banish things without having to rest? ...according to our tests, the mass I banish is directly proportional with how long it will take for me to activate my Quirk again. Right now, it takes me two seconds to reactivate my Quirk at critical mass 10 grams, but by banishing one gram instead I could banish again in much less time. Could it be that with practice I could reduce those two seconds, or should I focus on banishing less mass more frequently?

I got a headache by the time we banished around three kilograms worth of random rocks though. ...should test it at some point if that number changes with different materials--- Shinsou just clipped me over the head for being reckless and trying to get myself hurt.

From what I’ve told the others of my trick of banishing stains away from clothes, we’ve figured out that I could selectively choose what I could banish, and that I don’t need to directly touch it with my skin either. This means that: a) my Quirk can be conducted across things I touch, allowing me to banish things that are touching what it is that I am already touching, and b) I can choose which parts of things that I can banish. This needs testing...

Aha! With a pot that Kensei-san found for us, I’ve managed to test my theory, and we’ve found out that my Quirk can be conducted through objects like soil! Not only that, with my new initials printed across the bottom of the pot, I’ve proven that I can etch objects by banishing bit by bit until what is left is a little series of dents that make letters!

Where did Kensei-san find this pot though...?

...on second thought, I shouldn’t have asked. On that note, I immediately rubbed out my initials from the bottom of the pot and asked Yamato to help me return it to the window it had originally belonged.

I know that soil is actually made out of a lot of really small particles just clumped up together, so what is it that determines “object that I am touching”, and does solidity and compactness matter in the conduction of my Quirk? Note to self, test this later at home with a glass of water.

We’ve did more tests, and Yamato gave her own suggestion of me testing the range of which I could conduct my Quirk through objects. As it turns out with a stick we’ve found, it’s as far as ten meters, though I can’t conduct through a second object to a third object and so forth. Only what is touching me secondhand. 

No matter how big the initial object seems to be, I can banish anywhere on it though. As long as I am aware where I am banishing at in relation to me, I can, though if I can’t judge something like that – i.e. am dizzy because of Kensei-san spinning me around like a stuffed toy – then I can’t banish even if I know that part exists. Spatial awareness is another limitation of my Quirk, I find.

I put what I’ve found quickly to work though. Shinsou convinced me to. Katsura-san will never know why his shoelaces suddenly broke apart while he was walking.

Reading the page, as well as the odd scribbles made here and there by his student, Toshinori can’t help but smile. From how Izuku has written his notes, there certainly seem to be a lot of stories behind them, and the intellect of all four teenagers is obvious.

The following pages are the specifics, filled with tables and graphs, so Toshinori lifts his head to look at Izuku with the same smile.

The teenager is blushing and looking at his own feet, probably only remembering by now exactly what he had written in the notebook he had given Toshinori.

Toshinori starts, “So-”

An odd wail comes from the teenager in front of him, and Toshinori has to grin.

But enough teasing. Admittedly, there was one curious point from what Toshinori had read, “So, how did you do it?”

Izuku fiddles with his fingers as Toshinori returns him his notebook. “D-Do what?”

“Broke young Katsura’s shoelaces.”

Izuku wails again in embarrassment, and Toshinori laughs. But then, Izuku calms down, and Toshinori waits until he responds, “I... Shinsou suggested it, you know? Told me to take revenge for Kensei-san swinging me around like that. So I touched the ground with my hands, watched Katsura-san and waited for his shoelaces to touch the ground beneath his feet, and...”

Izuku makes a popping sound. “Just like that, I banished just a bit around the middle of one of his shoelaces, causing him to trip as his feet slipped. Honestly, I didn’t think it would work until I actually did it. Shinsou looked pretty impressed with me too.”

From how the teenager looks, he hadn’t realized what he has done, but Toshinori can. Closing his eyes, he gives young Bakugou a little praise with his mind – just a bit, not too much, the boy was still pretty horrible in interacting with others, not just with young Izuku – and then speaks:

“You do realize that was the first step for your path in applying your Quirk in becoming a Hero, right?”

Izuku blinks. “Excuse me?”

Looks like when it came to his own Quirk, though creative he may be at times, his protégé really was blind. “Tell me, imagine this situation: you are watching a civilian being chased by a villain on foot. You are less than ten meters away at the moment, but the heroes are much farther. What do you think would happen if you did the same thing you did with young Katsura then?”

“They would trip.” His student automatically answers, before he actually considers what he has just said. “They would trip. It’s not big, but in the grand scheme of things, something as-”

“Small as a trip in the right time can mean a victory for the heroes.” Toshinori finishes. “Remember, Midoriya-kun. For the want of a nail, a war can be lost. And I’m pretty sure, your ‘tricks’ aren’t limited to just that. Even with what I have just read, I can’t figure out much, but you will figure out more, that I’m sure of.”

Izuku has that contemplative gleam in his eyes again, and Toshinori feels proud of his student when he nods in what Toshinori knows to be a decision to think more on what he has found out.

But all things have to end. “Now, don’t you have classes to go to?”

With a yelp, his protege jumps, and soon Izuku is running off, screaming, “Aaaaah, I’m going to be late, goodbye Toshinori-saaaaaaan...!”

Toshinori laughs as he sees him go, not even caring as blood spurts out of his face as he does so. And when the boy is gone, so is Toshinori – leaving All Might in his place. With a cheery whistle, All Might hums to himself.

Then a memory comes to mind, of a recent meeting with a certain space-themed hero.

“Haha!” He laughs, if only to himself, “I can’t believe I’ve forgotten; didn’t Thirteen tell me earlier that they were planning to let a small group of their students watch our field trip down in USJ in ten days? Something about letting only the best of the best of their class get the opportunity to watch the next generation of heroes?”

In that moment, as he heads to his own class to teach, Toshinori hopes that Izuku and his team manage to get that particular bit of opportunity.

After all, All Might has to finally deliver his apology in person, instead of hiding behind Toshinori.

Chapter Text

Chapter 6: Broken

Izuku can’t believe it. Finally, it was the end of the week, and Thirteen-sensei had them present their group projects. And not only did they manage to impress Thirteen and nab the top spot in the class for what they had made, Thirteen-sensei also revealed that they had a reward for those who managed to make the best presentation – that is, them.

The reward: to get a chance to watch Thirteen-sensei and several other heroes at work down at Unforeseen Simulation Joint while they were teaching Class 1-A a lesson in handling disaster situations.

Izuku just can’t wait.

“Whoa, whoa, Izuku you’re practically vibrating!” Kensei-san laughs beside him, but Izuku is far too excited to be mortified now. “Hey man, it’s still more than a week before we get there! At this rate, by the time Sensei brings us there, you’ll have burnt yourself right out!”

“And that will be terribly unfortunate, because I was hoping that you would all deliver this same report there as you had for me.”

Izuku and the rest of his team turn as one towards the speaker, who was none other than Thirteen themself. The teacher had been just telling them exactly what they were rewarded with when Izuku started getting pumped up, and this time, the mortification does set in. Izuku turns red at the realization that he had just forgotten their teacher was still there.

Yamato giggles behind Izuku, and Izuku goes only more crimson.

Thankfully, Shinsou takes the lead this time. “You want us to show our project to Class 1-A as well, Thirteen-sensei?”

The space-themed hero nods. “You can think of it as something in return for the chance that they’ll be giving you to study their Quirks firsthand. After all, while you four have earned the right to learn the same lessons we will be teaching them, you can’t say the same about seeing their Quirks, right?”

“After all...” Thirteen-sensei trails off, giving unsubtle glances on both Izuku and Shinsou’s way, “I am well aware that there are some of you here that are aiming to win in this coming Sports Festival.”

Izuku freezes, and before he knows it, he has already spoken. “You’re giving us an advantage.”

The atmosphere changes at that. The truth was, the subject of shifting from the General Education Department to the Heroic Department was something that was always discussed in the down-low. Taboo. After all, while it was a commonly accepted idea that ‘Those who fail to get to the Heroic Department will be part of the General Education program,’ cases wherein a student moved up to the Heroic Department was few and far in-between. People rarely heard of such success stories.

And those stories were far outnumbered by the stories of those who had their dreams crushed and never had the chance to take that first step in becoming a Hero before graduating.

So it was commonly accepted that this was to be: If you were part of the General Education Department and wished you weren’t? You keep quiet about it. Part of the reason Shinsou had been so isolated was this very fact, Izuku thinks as he turns to the teenager in question.

Thirteen-sensei nods. “This is not, and will never be, the first time I have taught students that wanted to leave my class. One could even say that to these students, 1-C is a mere stepping stone, as your class had been made with the thought in mind for the ones that have the best talents in the Department.”

Not only Izuku’s eyes go wide at that admission. Some looks are exchanged, and soon, Kensei-san speaks, “But Sensei, wouldn’t that mean that-”

“That this class project was a preliminary test to see who had the best aptitude for moving up to the Heroic Department?” Thirteen-sensei asks rhetorically and Izuku’s teammate closes his mouth. “Think of it. We haven’t even been one month into your time here, and I have already given you all a project like what you had just done. In another school, it’ll take longer before that would happen.”

“To make the report, we needed to have teamwork and analytical skills regarding Quirks.” Izuku mumbles, already thinking about what he had just found out. “But that wouldn’t be enough, wouldn’t it? Most students already have those in varying degrees, and the others have passed their own projects, so that wouldn’t be all. The only difference between us and the rest of them was-”

“-that we came through and exceeded what was asked of us to do.” Yamato whispers, finishing what Izuku was about to say. She turns to their teacher. “Plus Ultra?”

Izuku gets the idea that their sensei is smiling beneath the space-suit, “Indeed, Plus Ultra, as the Principal likes to say.”

Yamato blushes as she turns to hide behind Shinsou.

At that, Thirteen-sensei takes a step back, crossing their arms behind themself. “This is not an opportunity that just anyone can have. After all, USJ is in a way my pride and joy beyond my own students, one of the things I hope will exist even after my time as a teacher. Beyond the information goldmine I am practically handing over to you, it is the place where I teach to the next generation again and again the lessons of using their Quirks for the benefit of all.”

Izuku can feel part of himself fanboying again as their teacher continues their speech.

“So I only give it to the best of the best every year, between all of the classes I teach. If nobody qualifies, nobody gets the chance for that year. But now, you four have, and unlike last time you all will get to see Class 1-A in action as opposed to 1-B. Use it well.”

Izuku nods, a grin forming on his face, and when he turns to Kensei-san and Yamato, they meet him with supportive looks and a thumbs-up.

But when Izuku looks at Shinsou, the other teenager refuses to meet his eyes.

This was a great opportunity, Classes 1-A and 1-B were the main competition against gaining the much-coveted chance to move up departments and everyone knew it. Just by getting to scope out half of that competition was a victory in itself in the information battle, so why is Shinsou refusing to meet Izuku in the eyes now of all times?

#-#-#-#

“Yamato. Kensei. Can you two leave Midoriya and I alone for a while? We have to talk.”

They are walking on the way to the General Education dormitories when Hitoshi speaks up to the rest of the group.

Kensei gives Hitoshi a suspicious look, as though he is planning something bad for Izuku, but at this point Hitoshi only shakes his head exasperatedly at the allegation as opposed to being offended. After all, he knows that Kensei really didn’t think badly of him – just a tad overprotective over Midoriya, that was all.

In comparison, Yamato gives him an empathetic gaze, instantly understanding what Hitoshi is about to do, and in that moment Hitoshi understands that not only was the girl a telepathic – she was also good at reading people without even needing to touch them. It was to be expected, considering how much first-hand experience Yamato must have had dealing with other people’s thoughts.

The girl gives Kensei a tug on his sleeve, and Kensei immediately goes red once he realizes just who has gotten close to him. With a half-babbled line of ‘Goodbye, Izuku, and Shinsou, be nice to Izuku-chan!’ to Shinsou, the grey-haired teenager runs off, leaving them behind with blinking in a trail of dust.

It’s a surprisingly manipulative action by their quietest member to help Hitoshi, and really at some point, Shinsou should get that story out of Kensei as to why he was so horrible around girls.

At first, he had thought Kensei just had a crush on their quiet teammate, but that theory was thrown out the window when Shinsou saw Kensei doing the same thing with a random girl that bumped into them while they were chatting in the middle of the street.

Delicate pair of hands clasp his and Midoriya’s respective right and left hands together, and Hitoshi turns to see Yamato smiling, her face close to their intertwined hands.

Let’s meet again tomorrow, in the usual place we train in, alright?

Before he can say anything in response, she also leaves.

Hitoshi blinks as he watches Yamato go. “That girl is wilier than what I had expected of her since we first met. Don’t you think so, Midoriya?”

He turns to the only person left beside him, only to jump a bit in surprise once he finds the other boy, muttering loudly to himself with a very odd expression on his face about ‘girls’, ‘touching hands’, and a general line of ‘aAaAaAaAaAAah’.

Hitoshi can’t help it. He snorts. “Midoriya, snap out of it.”

“-aaaAAh I know she has to touch people to use her Quirk, but does she really have to take my hand? Buuut no, I mustn’t forget, she also took Shinsou’s, ah it’s really nice that she can trust people other than me now but-” Midoriya mumbles still deep in his thought process, before Hitoshi’s words finally get to him, causing him to jerk up wildly, “Ah, Shinsou! S-Sorry if you had heard that...”

“Don’t worry, I don’t mind. In fact, I found it a little funny.” Hitoshi actually smiles when the other teenager wails in mortification. “Now, now, Midoriya. The others have finally given us the privacy I wanted – we should talk.”

As though a switch has been flipped, Midoriya snaps his head to face him. “Shinsou, is this about how you refused to look at me when Thirteen-sensei told us about our incoming trip down at the USJ?”

So Midoriya had noticed. To be honest, Hitoshi should have expected that of the usually-observant and very insightful teenager.

“Yes, and also about the upcoming Sports Festival.” Hitoshi nods, and for a moment, he stays silent. He has to say this, he has to say this or he knows that it’ll fester in him, and Midoriya doesn’t deserve that of Hitoshi. “...Midoriya, have you ever thought of what it would mean, if we had the same goals?”

Midoriya blinks at his question. Hitoshi honestly doesn’t know if the other teenager is really surprised or is just faking it. “No, not really. I mean, wouldn’t it be nice if we became Heroes together, right? It would be better if Kensei-san and Yamato would also join us, so we could work together in the future, but I’ve talked to Yamato-san and she said she wanted to be a therapist and I have no idea what Kensei-san is planning for the future-”

“-that’s exactly the thing, Midoriya.” Hitoshi cuts in, because he knows the other teenager can go on and on without being interrupted. “We can’t become Heroes together. Remember: there will be only one winner in the Sports Festival, and only that winner can be part of the Heroic Department.”

If I win, you won’t. If you win, I won’t. It’s a natural conflict of interests. Understand this, please.

Hitoshi never thought before, what it would mean if he had a friend like him in General Education, if he knew someone with the same aspirations and goals as him, because he never had friends before. Because he had thought himself beyond those, because General Education had always been just a stepping stone for the Heroic Course, as Thirteen had put it.

But now he has friends, now that he knows someone who will be his enemy in the future, it’s suddenly different.

“Shinsou-”

“I know that you are also in a hurry to get into the Heroic Department.” Midoriya flinches at his accusation, and Hitoshi closes his eyes, taking that as confirmation. “After all, the longer we spend in the General Education the more we would get left behind by our future peers, when we finally become part of them.”

Not if. It would never be if, because if Hitoshi had it his way, even if he had left the General Education and joined the Heroic Department he would be helping Midoriya become a Hero just like he knew the other teenager would for him. So never if, because by hook or by crook, Midoriya would become a Hero just like Hitoshi would.

But this year? No, it will be between the two of them. Not both.

“But you keep on helping me, even then.” Hitoshi continues as Midoriya remains quiet. “You taught me a new way I could use my Quirk with. You’ve even introduced me to your personal teacher! So Midoriya, I ask you this: do you know what it means, for us to have the same goal?”

For a while, everything around them is silent. It’s as though the world itself is waiting for them to resume, quiet in Hitoshi’s ears, and then the moment passes as Midoriya finally speaks again.

“Yeah,” He looks up, meeting Hitoshi in the eyes with the most serious expression he has ever seen on the other teenager. “I do.”

Hitoshi keeps quiet this time, as Midoriya starts speaking. “I know I said earlier that it didn’t occur to me, but it did, you know? In fact, before Kensei-san and I approached you for our group project, it came to me.”

“Toshinori-san was the one who suggested the idea of starting off in the General Department. Because of him, I didn’t even have to take the entrance exams to get into Yuuei.” Hitoshi’s eyes widen just a bit at that particular revelation, because that suggested a lot as to just how influential the skeleton of a man that was now teaching them all how to fight, “It would’ve been different if I wanted to enter the Heroic Department first, but if it was just the General Department, he could waive the test off with his testimony, he said.”

“But when I finally got into our current Department, as I watched the people come in on the second day I realized: it was not just me who wanted to be a Hero.” Midoriya actually turns away from him, looking at the sky. “I knew it intellectually, but seeing it firsthand was different, you know? Before, I only knew Kacchan who wanted to become a Hero like me, and with his Quirk and talents it was all but guaranteed. Seeing others who have tried and could still fail just as much as I do, that was new.”

“Then I thought about you, Shinsou.” The other teenager is looking at him now, and Hitoshi feels almost blinded by the sheer willpower hiding behind those eyes. “How I wanted to approach you, to befriend you, to give you someone who you could talk to.”

“I knew if I had befriended you, our dreams would clash. That there will be conflict.” Hitoshi can’t believe what he is hearing, because if this was true, if he was correct at where Midoriya was getting to- “So in that moment that I had walked up to you with Kensei-san behind me, I had already decided.”

-even then, Midoriya was already this blinding.

“If I had befriended you, I would help you become a Hero, no matter what. If we were to clash in the Sports Festival, it’s only after we have worked together as a team to defeat everyone else in that tournament, and only then would we be there as rivals fighting for who would get the chance to be the first between us in our steps to become Heroes.”

Hitoshi can’t help it. In that moment, staring in those eyes that are so bright and pure, Shinsou Hitoshi places his hands over his face, bends over, and laughs.

Midoriya’s serious expression shatters. “E-Eh? Shinsou, d-did I say something weird, e-eh!?”

Hitoshi keeps on laughing, even as he starts to lose his breath, and soon Midoriya does not sound just confused. He is irritated, “Come on, Shinsou, I was being completely serious here-!”

“Hitoshi.” Hitoshi interrupts, catching his breath and wiping tears out his eyes, “Call me Hitoshi, and don’t you go saying ‘It’ll be rude’ again. Kensei already calls me by my first name, without honorifics at that, and I’ve already explained to you how it’ll be even ruder to deny this kind of request.”

Midoriya blinks wildly, and part of Hitoshi just enjoys how he has left the other teenager in shock. “W-What brought this o-on, Shin- err, Hitoshi?”

Removing the glare from his face at nearly being called just ‘Shinsou’ again, Hitoshi then smiles. He is smiling a lot more often these days. And to think, it’s been only a week. Kensei was right, Hitoshi never really stood a chance in not befriending the boy before him.

“You’ve crushed me, Midoriya Izuku. Before, you’ve just defeated me, but this time you have crushed me.”

Hitoshi can almost see the question mark over the other teenager’s head. “What does t-that mean?”

“Never mind that. If you don’t get it now, you’ll never get it.” Hitoshi shakes his head at that question, much to the puffed up cheeks of the other teenager. “And you know what? I think I’m going to take a pointer from Kensei’s ways and just start calling you Izuku now.”

“Not you too, Shi- Hitoshi!” Midoriya, or rather Izuku, complains very loudly, and Hitoshi feels no regret whatsoever. The other teenager then turns to mumble to himself in the corner. “Honestly, why is it that I never manage to get to choose what others would call me...? Well, at least it’s still my name at this point...”

“What was that?” Hitoshi asks, honestly curious at that last part. “Other than me and Kensei, who else calls you that familiarly?”

Apparently forgetting that he was supposed to be ‘mad’ at Hitoshi, Izuku immediately replies with just a bit of exasperation, “Aaah, it was Kacchan. He calls me Deku.”

Immediately remembering the explosive teenager in question, as well as catching the connection between Izuku’s name and its alternative interpretations, part of Hitoshi immediately rises up in a protective rush of anger.

“That is horrible of him. How could you honestly even call him a friend?”

Who could call the person before Hitoshi in this moment ‘useless’? It was far from it, even. Midoriya Izuku was a godsend, and deserved to be protected- oh god, Hitoshi was turning into Kensei. Forget his Quirk, was this the real power of the teenager before him? To make people want to protect him?

That would honestly be more terrifying that Hitoshi’s own Quirk, and even under its effects, Hitoshi can’t find himself wanting to go against the flow.

“That’s just how Kacchan is like, you shouldn’t mind him.” Izuku has a tired smile as he says that, and Hitoshi wants to punch a certain blond once for it. Maybe even twice. “In fact, ever since eight months ago, especially once we’ve actually entered Yuuei, he’s gotten better! He actually tried to help me in his own way when we had that talk!”

This headache feels familiar. Oh right, this was also when Hitoshi had first met Katsuki Bakugou. “Again, Izuku, if what we saw earlier this week was better, I honestly don’t think I want to know how it had been before.”

Make that punching thing thrice. Hitoshi knows he had said so himself before that he was going to ignore the other teenager if he ever met him again, but he didn’t make a promise, right? Izuku wasn’t even there when Hitoshi said it.

“Really, you shouldn’t mind it.” Izuku says, and Hitoshi wants to respond ‘No, I should’ but then he sees the sad look on Izuku’s face and he keeps quiet this time. “That’s just how our relationship is. If it’s going to change, it’s between just me and him.”

And to that, Hitoshi has nothing to say. If the other teenager does not want to talk about it yet, Hitoshi won’t force him. After all, Midoriya had been kind enough to let Hitoshi be alone with his own thoughts when he needed it.

So instead, he extends his hand, enclosed in a tight fist. Izuku looks at it in confusion.

“Midoriya Izuku, I have heard your words, and starting today, I’ll be repeating them. You have spoken of us being friends even with our conflicting goals, of us working together to become Heroes despite the dilemma that only one of us can do it first. So, let me state this: you’ve said we’ll be rivals, right? So let us be rivals. Rivals that work together, grow together, and fight together.”

For a moment, Izuku just blinks at Hitoshi, and then a confident smile blooms on the other teenager’s face. Making his own fist, Izuku bumps his with Hitoshi’s.

“Yeah, let’s be rivals, Hitoshi-kun!”

And just like that, several days pass by, bringing them closer to the date of the trip to USJ.

#-#-#-#

Ever since Kensei left Hitoshi and Izuku alone to have a talk, he had noticed the two of them being significantly closer. The sudden shift in how they referred each other was an obvious hint – as well as a very frustrating one, it took Kensei a ridiculously long time to get Izuku calling him by his first name, and now Hitoshi got the privilege to be called that with just one talk, it was so unfair! – but there was the more subtle things.

Like how Hitoshi had taken to carrying water bottles for both him and Izuku whenever they exercised together. When Kensei loudly complained of favoritism, Hitoshi shot back some nonsense about how Izuku was closer to Hitoshi’s level of fitness than Kensei and thus deserved the water more, but Kensei knew better.

And how about how Hitoshi and Izuku started comparing each other’s records? Not even Izuku did that with Kensei, nor did they smirk at Kensei like they did with each other whenever they went past one another during laps. Before it had first happened, Kensei didn’t even know Izuku could smirk! Surely, the difference between their physical capabilities wasn’t that important, right?

There is something different between the two these days, Kensei knows it.

But for now, Kensei needs a rest. Or three. Maybe with a soft pillow on top.

“Kensei, get up. You aren’t going to be developing muscles like that, lying on the ground you know.”

Kensei glowers at the smirking Hitoshi over his head, with his position of lying on the ground being that it made the other teenager loom over him. “Excuse me for not being an exercise-maniac like you Hitoshi. Only you and Izuku can keep up with this kind of regime – no offense, Izuku-chan!”

“Some offense taken for the –chan.” The green-haired member of their group shoots back from where he is drinking the bottle of water Hitoshi had given him – again, favoritism! – and part of Kensei feels proud of him for doing so. Izuku then turns to their fourth member. “Yamato? Do you think you need a rest too?”

Yamato Megumi, the only female member of their group and normally the meekest of them four, only shakes her head even as she jogs in place with a decisive look on her face.

“I guess that just leaves you incapable of keeping up with us, Kensei.” Hitoshi continues looming over Kensei, which makes him want to throw the figurative pillow Kensei had at his head. “I guess we’ll be leaving you here for now, shall we?”

The word ‘deadweight’ hangs in the air, remaining unsaid, but everyone knows what Shinsou is implying anyway.

Alright, that is it. “Oh hell no, I’m not going to give up here if you guys are going to be like that. I’m not going to be the one left behind! Rhogaaaaaaaah!”

Just like that, Kensei shoots up and starts running off ahead of the other three. Idly, he could hear Izuku yelling something along the lines of ‘That’s precisely why you keep getting tired before us, Kensei-san!’ but Kensei can only grin even as he pants on ahead with their training.

Because this was fun, and in the end, that was what was important. That Kensei had fun with his friends.

And though they have taken to also training in the afternoon, like what they were doing now with Toshinori-san’s ‘homework’ and always leaving Kensei ridiculously tired by the end of the day only to wake up early next morning, to Kensei it is worth it.

Because before this, it had been different for Kensei. So very, very different. Yuuei was never a choice for him – it had always been a consequence of his past actions.

When their laps finally end and Kensei is left entirely pooped, Shinsou shakes his head at Kensei before he and Izuku soon turn to Izuku’s notes, presumably because they hadn’t exhausted themselves enough that they wanted to study as well, while Yamato quietly sits on a nearby bench, looking at the birds in the trees.

The moment Kensei looks at the girl in question, she turns to meet his eyes and Kensei looks away with a red flush coming over his face.

He thinks he would never be able to get over that particular reaction of his around girls.

“Hey, Kensei-san? Do you think you can help us with this?”

Kensei immediately turns to Izuku, exhaustion forgotten as he feels slightly offended. “As though you even have to ask! I agree!”

“Normally, other people would ask for more details about the request first before agreeing.” Hitoshi shakes his head, even as Kensei approaches the two of them. “What if the request was going to be something embarrassing? Would you still do it?”

Kensei looks at Hitoshi as though the other teenager is dumb. “It’s precisely because it was Izuku who asked that I agreed so easily, Hitoshi-san. I know that he won’t do something like that to me, plus, since when have I been normal?”

“Touché.” Hitoshi actually grins, while the same Izuku they are talking about quietly blushes as Kensei looks over their shoulders to see what they were apparently doing.

What he sees surprises him.

“Is that...” Kensei’s eyes go wide as he looks at the name written below the object drawn on the page. “Is this going to be for you, Hitoshi!?”

Hitoshi actually sounds a bit defensive as he asks, “Yeah, what about it? Because if you’re going to say no, then-”

“Say no, why would I!? This is going to be awesome!” Kensei doesn’t see the shocked smile on Hitoshi’s face as he pulls his face closer to the notes, actually taking it from Izuku’s grip in the process. “If you want me to make something like this, of course I would!”

A thought comes into Kensei’s mind, and he calms down a bit. He turns back to Hitoshi and Izuku. “Though, you do realize that you could ask this of the Support Department instead of me, right? They have the tools, and I may be good at making things because of my Quirk, but they still have more experience. I still have a lot to learn before I can match up with them, you know?”

Hitoshi and Izuku exchange looks, and it is Izuku who answers. “This was actually going to be for the upcoming Sports Festival, and well, in that case there would be a conflict of interests don’t you think?”

Kensei nods at that. “I see. And you guys have read the regulations involved here? Because unless we’re sure Hitoshi can actually carry this into there, I won’t agree. Because this would take a lot of work and money, and I wouldn’t want to waste our time if Hitoshi can’t use this anyway.”

Hitoshi nods. “Yes, we have.”

“Then we have a deal.” Kensei grins, before pulling in the other two in a shoulder-hug. “Come on, you guys, this will be so much fun! Actually, in that case, Izuku if I get the chance can I make something for you too? After all, Hitoshi’s not the only one who will be entering the Festival.”

Before Izuku can actually open his mouth, Hitoshi beats him to it. “Yes, he would be glad to.”

“Great!”

Kensei can see Izuku sending wild looks being sent to him and Hitoshi in turns, but he ignores it. After all, he knows just how frustratingly selfless the other teenager could be, and as it turns out, so could Hitoshi.

He then hears a giggle from behind them, and Kensei turns around to see Yamato looking at them warmly.

Kensei can’t look at that without feeling guilty, so he looks away.

“Alright.” Kensei first starts off softly, his voice weak, until he repeats it again, much louder this time. “Alright! Hitoshi, Izuku, Yamato, stay here. I’m going to talk to some people I know so I can make this and what I have in mind for Izuku-chan, so I’ll have to go.”

Without waiting for the others to reply, Kensei starts running off again, tiredness completely forgotten.

 “I’ll be off outside campus, so head on to the dorms without me, alright!? Izuku-chan, that means you don’t get to seclude yourself inside the Quirk archives again, Hitoshi consider the particular job of preventing that from happening as your payment! Now, bye!”

“Wait, what? Kensei, get back here!”

With a delighted hum, Kensei moves to exit the Yuuei campus, leaving behind the protection of the Yuuei Barrier behind him as the sun lowered itself below the horizon. Normally, Kensei wouldn’t be out of Yuuei this late, but putting his hands to good work like this? Sign him up!

Kensei pumps his fists as he walks through the city streets. “Yeah, this is good. This is going to be great!”

He doesn’t notice the four pairs of red eyes that open to follow him from a nearby alley.

#-#-#-#

The following day, Toshinori arrives to his usual meeting place with his students to see not one, nor four early teenagers waiting to expect him.

Instead they are only three, and Izuku has tears coming out of his eyes. Young Shinsou is glaring at nothing in particular, a look of guilt bitter across his face, and Yamato on the other hand is also seems to be close to following Izuku’s footsteps in crying.

Toshinori already feels bad about this. Where is young Katsura?

“Toshinori-san, Kensei-san is missing! We asked the dormitory managers, but he never returned to our dormitory last night, and the last thing we knew was that he was heading outside campus!”

Toshinori does hate it when his worst instincts, the gut feeling trained by years and years of being the Number One Hero, are proven correct.

Chapter Text

Chapter 6: Locate Part 1

Toshinori immediately has all three of his students follow him into the Heroic Department Main Building. Normally, he would’ve never done this, never have revealed himself to be part of the Heroic Department staff as it might lead to Izuku figuring out he was All Might before he was ready to reveal it, but this was different.

Kidnappings and disappearances were incidents where timely action was absolutely crucial, and if young Katsura had indeed disappeared since the night previous, Toshinori couldn’t waste time making forcing Izuku and the rest into the regular channels just for his own secret. Not when Toshinori knew young Katsura could already have been taken out of Mutsutafe or worse.

So instead, he sends a brief message ahead of himself to his fellow staff members, and tells them just enough to know what happened and what particular bits to keep secret. To be safe, he also contacts Naomasa about a potential disappearance of a male teenager of young Katsura’s description.

“T-Toshinori-san?” Izuku sobs, even as he leads them through streets and doors. “Where are we going?”

“To the person who I know can help you three the most.” Toshinori replies, ignoring the shocked looks he gets from his fellow Heroes as he goes past them with three teenagers on tow. He glances at Izuku, and thinks about what it says about the situation that his protégé was outright ignoring his Heroes. “Come, let me take you to Nedzu.”

This particular statement shocks out young Shinsou out of his simmering rage. “Nedzu? You mean our Principal?”

How is it that you can get us to meet him with so little notice, goes unsaid and Toshinori ignores the implied question. Instead, he nods at the direction of the person that he sees coming near them, and soon none other than Aizawa Shouta is beside Toshinori and studying the teenagers behind him.

“Toshinori.” Eraserhead calls and Toshinori raises a hand in greeting. The other teacher summarily ignores it in favor of looking at Toshinori’s followers. “What is this? We’ve just received a message about you coming in with some secret students of yours, and as far as I knew thirty minutes ago, you didn’t have secret students.”

Shinsou is staring at Eraserhead with wide eyes. It looks out of place of the normally-serious teenager’s face. Toshinori chuckles, despite how grim the situation is, “Hence, it being secret. Is Principal Nedzu already at work?”

“Ever since he got the message.” Eraserhead nods, before he grunts. “Toshinori, you’re already horrible in teaching one class. And now you’re adding three to that?”

Izuku seems to be much calmer now, because he actually speaks up, or rather, mumbles, “T-Toshinori-san has b-been only good to us...”

“I know. That’s precisely his problem.” The other teacher looks at Izuku with an unreadable expression on his face, before shaking his head. “But no time to waste dilly-dallying, let’s get to the Principal’s Office immediately and help you three find your friend. Maybe this will be just a false alarm and this friend of yours is currently doing something stupid on the streets like many of those at your age.”

Eraserhead leaves with those words. Toshinori has to shake his head at it, especially when Shinsou speaks, sounding very offended, “How can he say that! Kensei might be a bit of a rebel and irresponsible, but he is not the kind to-”

Toshinori opens his mouth to correct the misunderstanding, but it is young Yamato who speaks first.

“It was his best-case scenario. He was trying to comfort us.”

All three of the males in their group turn to Yamato, who is staring at Eraserhead as he goes. “If Kensei-san is only doing something like that, then we wouldn’t have to worry so much. He would be scolded, yes, but that is far better than him being k-kidnapped or worse...”

Izuku moves to give the girl a hug, even if he looks just as terrified for their friend, and Toshinori can only feel astonished at the insight young Yamato had shown for someone she had just met. Was this related to her Quirk, or was it pure ability to judge other people with a glance?

Either way, Eraserhead was right. They should get to Nedzu immediately.

“Let’s go, young ones. We have to find your friend.”

#-#-#-#

Toshinori will always be in awe of Nedzu at work, and from the looks of it, so are his students when he brings them to his office. Though, calling it ‘office’ might be a bit inaccurate with the current state of affairs.

After all, with the huge wall of monitors, normally hidden away by a movable barrier of cement, and with Nedzu busy at work with his small hands rapidly fiddling on some kind of holographic control panels as clones and clones of Ectoplasm tried to cope with their Principal’s fast pace, it looked more like some kind of one-animal war council as opposed to an office you would expect out of an education institution.

Toshinori observes the monitors, the constant humming of their cooling units providing a constant background noise, only to once again boggle at how the Principal is managing them concurrently with nothing to show for it other than the occasional deep breath. Not a single one shows the same thing, and every five seconds a monitor would change to show another part of the school, having been connected to the entirety of Yuuei’s security system.

“Ah, Toshinori, nice to see you come in.” Despite his own words, the Principal doesn’t look away from what he is doing, nor does his pace slow down even for a second, paws moving quickly even as he spoke, “I see you’ve brought the three involved here, correct? Midoriya Izuku, Shinsou Hitoshi, and Yamato Megumi. Odd collection of students you have there, not that I could say anything about that with my fur!”

The three students still seem to be at awe with the dozens of monitors Nedzu is taking care of, so Toshinori nods at who he knows to be the original Ectoplasm, who by the looks of it was fighting off a headache while Eraserhead helped him in pulling out piles and piles of paperwork.

Toshinori cuts to the chase, not wanting to distract the Principal more than he had to. “Have you found the last records we have of young Katsura’s whereabouts?”

“Who do you think you are asking? Of course I have!” Nedzu replies, still non-stop in his actions as he pulls up the relevant video feed in the monitor closest to Toshinori’s face. “First thing I did. Nothing new, it only confirms your students’ statements that he left the campus yesterday evening. Right now, I’m merely collecting enough data to collate a useable model for his behavior using my High Specs, and with these last few videos...”

All at once, the monitors start changing channels, flickering with no identifiable pattern Toshinori could identify except for young Katsura appearing here and there for every single one of them, changing and changing so fast that even Toshinori has to look away or risk getting a headache.

He shifts his attention back to Izuku. His friends have looked away as well at this point, but the teenager hasn’t – at least, not yet, and the boy mutters a mile a second. Unbelievably, young Izuku was catching up with what nobody else in this room could even cope with, leaving Toshinori a little in awe.

Just how smart was the boy, when it wasn’t about his own Quirk?

Nedzu suddenly announces, “Collation complete.”

The monitors turn black.

The room gets a lot darker for it, the screens previously providing most of the illumination in the room, but Nedzu easily fixes that with a clap of his paws, which makes the lights turn on from the ceiling again. Shaking their heads from the interruption, Eraserhead and Ectoplasm quietly return to their work of sifting through stacks of paperwork, though Toshinori could see the cloning hero heave a sigh of relief at finally being able to disperse a few of his clones.

Sometimes Toshinori pities Ectoplasm for being repeatedly harnessed by their Principal as a one-man workforce.

“My, my, my, we have a pretty energetic child we have here, don’t we?” Nedzu turns away from his screens, once again catching Toshinori’s attention, as well as those of the students in the room. “But this is certainly strange – Katsura Kensei-kun here doesn’t like to leave the campus that much, unless he is accompanied by his friends. What could’ve changed that yesterday?”

Shinsou looks a little flabbergasted at what just happened. “Principal, did you just manage to understand Kensei’s habits just from... that? It hasn’t even been an hour since you’ve found out that he was missing!”

Oh right, his students weren’t exactly aware of the Principal’s capabilities. Or at least, young Shinsou wouldn’t, considering his failed entrance exam into the Heroic Curriculum was when Nedzu normally would be introduced to the General Education Department.

Strangely enough, it isn’t any of the teachers that explains what the Principal had just done. It is none other than Toshinori’s own protégé, whose muttering fills the entire room now that the cooling fans for the monitors have been turned off.

I remember that Principal Nedzu told us of his above-human intellect back then during his speech, before that I thought he was just had a very major Mutant-type of Quirk but as it turns out the actual Quirk’s name is High Specs? That would imply a very high capability of analysis and absorption of data, and judging from his multitasking earlier, it’s not merely as limited as that. In fact, if that’s the case, what is the limit in Nedzu-sensei’s mental capabilities? Could it be that as long as he is provided with sufficient correct information he can simulate anything? How about his multitasking skills? At most, people can only multitask two or three objects at a time, but all of those monitors were concurrently and independently working with each other. Normally, people can’t do that, even if they have the capability to multitask to that degree, so is that the effect of that holographic interface—errr... why are you looking at me like that, Toshinori-san?”

That is when Toshinori realizes that his jaw is hanging, having been slowly doing so the more his student spoke. It takes him a force of will to regain his bearings, but at least Toshinori was better than most of the room.

The other two students have taken to gawking at Izuku, while Eraserhead and Ectoplasm have actually stopped what they were doing to stare at Toshinori’s protégé. And considering what Toshinori knew of the sheer force of Aizawa’s professionalism?

It is tantamount to ludicrous gibbering in Aizawa-terms.

The Principal breaks the sudden silence that has resulted of Izuku. By applauding. “Amazing, amazing! I would have not thought that someone else, at least not as young as a freshman, could easily understand so much of my own Quirk mere seconds at their first exposure to it! Tell me, Midoriya-kun, what else did you see earlier on my monitors?”

Izuku looks very unsettled at the attention he is suddenly getting from everyone else in the room, so Toshinori approaches the boy and places a hand on his shoulder with a squeeze. The teenager gives him a nervous look, but then he manages to finally answer:

“Well, at first I thought that they were random, but then I realized that over time you were learning how to identify where Kensei-san would be for those particular times?” Izuku starts, at first sounding reedy before slowly becoming more and more confident as he saw nobody was about to interrupt him. “At first, the videos only had a few frames worth of sightings of Kensei-san, but then they started to become more like a continuous movement, where one monitor would show where he had been fifteen minutes ago only for another monitor to show where he went ten minutes later. Honestly, I don’t understand how you were doing it, only that you were and that I knew that changing the monitors so quickly would be impossible with only two limbs so I then thought that was part of what your interface was for and...”

Izuku trails off with that, looking red, and the next moment Nedzu turns to Toshinori.

He has never seen the Principal so envious. “Toshinori-kun, if you hadn’t already claimed Midoriya-kun here I would’ve adopted him as my own protégé just then. Very few have managed to keep up with me as much as he has just done.”

Izuku makes a loud squeaking noise at that bit of praise, while Toshinori has to fight off the urge to wrap his arms around the teenager as if to claim him as his in front of the Principal. After all, Nedzu knew that Toshinori was planning to make Izuku the next Symbol of Peace, right? He wouldn’t do that, right?

Just to be safe, Toshinori makes a mental note to warn Izuku of approaching the Principal in the future. Juuuust to be safe.

“I wouldn’t fit in that anyway.”

Nedzu stops from approaching his seat again to turn around. Toshinori has a similar reaction, returning his attention to Izuku.

Izuku says this with all of his will, “If I were to become Nedzu-sensei’s student, that would be as part of Management, right? So I wouldn’t fit in. Because I would be a Hero.”

Toshinori feels so proud of Izuku in that moment. So does, strangely, Nedzu, who looks as though Izuku had just handed him the world. Once more the other teachers are turning their heads at Izuku, while the teenager’s friends flank the boy with identical proud smiles on their faces.

“You would be, wouldn’t you?” There is an odd gleam in Nedzu’s beady eyes as he says this, before the unidentified mammal shakes his head. “Anyways, enough about that, despite all of the pain I feel in my heart in this moment from that pure-hearted rejection. Oh woe is me, woe is me, but very well, can someone finally answer my question? As to why he had been out of campus alone so late?”

Shinsou answers, this time looking calmer, “Kensei wanted to make something for us, but as he didn’t have access to the resources of those from the Support Department, he wanted to talk to someone he knew in the city. From what I know, he was heading towards a place named the Metal Gengai Workshop.”

Nedzu puts his paw on his... chin at that. “Oh, I know that workshop. It’s an independent and trustworthy place. I trust that you have already tried contacting the owner of the location?”

Young Shinsou nods, once again proving to Toshinori that it wasn’t just Izuku who had plenty of intellect. “As soon as the moon came up and Kensei still hadn’t returned, I decided to look up the place and call the owner. From what they told me however, they never arrived. That is exactly when we talked to the dorm managers about this, but our worries were only waved away, claiming that Kensei was just another irresponsible teenager breaking curfew.”

No wonder young Shinsou looked so angry when Toshinori first saw him. The young man probably understood the importance of time in a possible kidnapping, but even when he reported to the proper authorities, nothing happened until Toshinori came.

From another part of the room, Toshinori notices Eraserhead dig his head deeper into the paperwork he was sorting.

“I’ll be correcting that issue as soon as this case is done.”

The Principal announces that with a terrifying air surrounding him, but Toshinori can’t find it in himself to pity the fools that were apparently the managers of an establishment that housed students. Toshinori served justice as a job – was there any surprise?

“I suppose I could try and convince the Police Department to cooperate with me in this-”

“Found it, Principal Nedzu!”

Nedzu is interrupted from finishing his words as finally, Ectoplasm digs out a stapled piece of paper. From what Toshinori could see of it, it was...

“...is that young Katsura’s Student Record? Why do we still use paper for that?” Before Toshinori knows it, his mouth is already asking for him. The next moment, the other teachers shake their heads at him in synchronicity. “What?”

“Toshinori, despite all of your achievements there are indeed some things even you don’t know.” Eraserhead says this dryly, approaching them with the student record in hand as he brushed bits of paper off himself. Strangely there are some in his hair, which take far more time to remove. “Here you go, Principal Nedzu.”

“Why, thank you Eraserhead!”

Why young Shinsou suddenly starts coughing, Toshinori will never figure out. And as for things he still hasn’t figured out, “So, why? Why do we still use paper?”

“Toshinori-san, digital storage is faulty and prone to electric tampering.” It is Izuku that answers for him, making Toshinori feel like the roles have suddenly reversed, “With the number of potential Quirks related to technology, or even just brilliant hackers in general, I suppose Yuuei would have to keep their most important of information on paper, which means the student records.”

“I won’t be surprised if there is some digital alternative to this though.”

“Correct you are, Midoriya Izuku!” The Principal announces, before muttering to himself as he takes out a pair of spectacles to read with. “It’s just that it’ll take far longer to turn on the particular computer that handles that database, with it being so slow because of all the protections we put in there. We normally only use it when we need to pull up large groups of records as opposed to just one.”

Toshinori nods, understanding that. “So, what is it that is on that piece of paper that you wanted to know?”

“I was rather curious at what I saw behind his actions, and... aha! Here it is!” Nedzu pulls his head up from the paper he had been reading. He has that look on his face; the one Nedzu that always takes on whenever he had confirmed something unsavory. “Katsura Kensei has a laundry list of a criminal history.”

What.

#-#-#-#

What.

Hotoshi can’t believe what he is hearing from the Principal’s mouth. “They’re all minor offenses, like petty thievery and breaking into locked places, but they’re here. As it turns out, he had previously been a homeless orphan taken in as some kind of sidekick by a villain, and when said villain was finally taken in he was adopted three years ago by a police officer.”

What.

“Said police officer then signed him up for Yuuei, hoping that it’ll be good for him. You actually know that police officer personally, Toshinori-kun. His name is Tsukauchi Naomasa.”

The man who managed to bring them all here makes a shocked face at that. Considering Toshinori-san’s appearance, it is honestly a little horrifying to look at. “Tsukauchi-kun, he had a son!?”

As if on cue, his cellphone suddenly starts ringing. Hitoshi bathes in the sound of a horribly cheery ringtone before the man has picked up the call.

“Tsukauchi-kun...?” Toshinori-san starts speaking to the other side of the call, and for a moment, Shinsou is hit by the staggering amount of coincidence that has just happened before he shakes it off. “Yes. Yes. No, I didn’t know... Alright... We’ll help find him for you.”

Once the teacher has finished the call, he turns to their Principal.

“That was actually Tsukauchi-kun on the other side of the phone. He just got to what I sent him earlier, and is now on the lookout for his adopted son on the streets. So far, they have found nothing, not even in their home, but he will be willing to coordinate with us in this case.”

Nedzu-sensei replies, “Ah, that is good to hear. In retrospect, before this I should’ve seen the signs of Tsukaichi-keiji in the boy. We have coordinated with him enough to recognize that kind of hardworking capability Katsura Kensei has shown us.”

“I better take this chance to access Mutsutafu’s security cameras now that I have the permission. Not that I need it, per-se, but otherwise that’ll be rude and I don’t tolerate for rudeness!”

It is as though the world has tilted forty-five degrees around Hitoshi. Kensei is not only just a past criminal – Three years, wouldn’t that mean that Kensei was at most thirteen when he was finally adopted? Just how young had he been when he started doing crimes then? – but also the adopted child of a policeman. One who was apparently also influential enough to mobilize the Police Force at his own request, and to be known by name by the staff of Yuuei at that.

Izuku, the other remaining male member of Hitoshi’s group, has his hand on his chin.

“So that’s why Kensei-san had that look on his face whenever we talked of his Quirk possibly being used in detective work...”

Hitoshi had noticed that too. In retrospect, it was indeed a sign at the other teenager’s background.

“Still...” He then sighs to himself, “At least, with this we know that there will be a higher chance of finding him...”

“That is, if he wants to be found.”

Everyone turns at once to the Principal, who had returned to working on that console of his. Hitoshi watches for a moment how all the monitors turn on again, this time showing a dizzying array of random streets in Mutsutafu, before he has to turn his eyes away or risk getting a headache.

Hitoshi can’t believe that Izuku could keep up with it. Just how did the other teenager do that?

But back to what the Principal was saying, “Principal Nedzu, what do you mean by that?”

It is Toshinori-san that asks the question. But the Principal refuses to look at them, his paws and beady eyes still busy at work but somehow, for some reason, Hitoshi gets the feeling that there is this sense of disquiet coming from the strange mammal.

“The thing is, it comes to me, the possibility of Katsura-kun not wanting to be found.” Nedzu answers, eyes still on the monitors. “In light of his background, my observations, his Quirk, as well as the mounting evidence before me, a theory comes to light that perhaps... we aren’t looking for a kidnapped teenager.”

It doesn’t take Hitoshi even a second to see what the Principal is trying to get to.

He first demands in a whisper, “What?”

The other people in the room turn to stare at him, only to see his mounting rage. Because the Principal is talking about Kensei, stupid and overly protective Kensei, just second in place behind Izuku in managing to break through Hitoshi’s walls, and trying to imply that-

What? Do you even hear yourself right now, Principal!?”

Something suddenly wraps around Hitoshi’s arms, around his body and even his mouth, and Hitoshi doesn’t have to look to recognize whose it is. For it is none other than Hitoshi’s most respected Hero that is binding him now, tamping down on Hitoshi’s Quirk like everyone else that Hitoshi had met before he met Midoriya Izuku.

Eraserhead. Talk about how pedestals fall.

At this sudden turn of events, Izuku is staring at Hitoshi and at the Principal in turns, obviously not understanding, “Hitoshi-kun? W-What is happening here!? What is it in what the Principal said that made Hitoshi-kun so mad? I don’t know what’s happening!”

Classic Izuku. So used to seeing the best in people, he was blinded to the possibility of the opposite happening.

Toshinori-san approaches the other teenager, and behind him, Hitoshi could see Yamato simmering in quiet anger but also knowing better than Hitoshi to actually voice it. He has a pained look on his face as he explains, “Midoriya-kun, the Principal is suggesting that perhaps... Young Katsura isn’t as kidnapped as we thought he was. That he is hiding away from us on purpose. Shinsou-kun didn’t like what the Principal was implying with that, so Eraserhead took precautions so he wouldn’t do something he might regret.”

As if to warn Hitoshi, the scarf wrapping around him tightens for a moment. In exchange, Hitoshi does his best to send Eraserhead a glare.

“But what is it that Principal implying? And why would Kensei-san hide from us – we’re his friends!”

Yamato moves to Izuku’s side, and just like that, Hitoshi knows that the girl has told Izuku exactly what the Principal was trying to say. Because in the next second, his mouth opens no words come out, and when he turns to the Principal everything about him conveys shock and disbelief.

It is a sad moment, that Hitoshi would ever see Izuku look betrayed.

“Katsura Kensei, age 16. Quirk: Scan.” The Principal doesn’t even try to look at them. “Personality: Cheerful and playful. Slightly irreverent. Bit of a rule-breaker. All of these are what I have observed of him for the past hour, but once you add in his criminal history, one can realize what the boy can do.”

Yamato speaks up, her voice also not believing that the Principal was trying to implicate Kensei of all people with this, “Espionage.”

“With his Quirk, with just one touch he can figure out the structural weaknesses and blueprints of everything he touches with his hands, and that includes the locations of cameras. Once he has information, it’ll just take him one trip outside the school to give our enemies all they need to know about Yuuei. Isn’t it strange, that when I looked at last night’s records of Mutsutafu, all I saw of Katsura-kun was him entering an alley and with no further video evidence of him ever coming out?”

Toshinori-san sends the Principal a sharp glance. “Is this true, Principal?”

The Principal nods, still not looking at them. “Yes. I found it a few minutes ago, and I have suitably notified the Police Department as to its location. They are on their way, though I highly doubt that they’ll find him there. He does have a good way of judging how to avoid being caught by cameras after all.”

“But Kensei-san will never do that!” Izuku yells, sending betrayed looks at their teachers. “He wouldn’t throw our friendship away to help Villains! He’s loyal, protective, and kind! He even promised Hitoshi and me that he would be helping us prepare for the coming Sports Festival!”

Hitoshi tugs at the cloth wrapped around himself, and with a warning look, Eraserhead sets him free. With a glance around the room, Hitoshi could see that all the teachers in the room other than Nedzu are giving them a chance to defend their friend first before jumping to conclusions.

The Principal is finally looking at them. Time to defend his friend.

Reigning in his anger more this time, Hitoshi asks, “Have you ever talked to Kensei even once, Principal Nedzu? Because that isn’t what you would expect of a spy. And don’t you trust this Tsukauchi-san, Kensei’s father, to not have sent Kensei here as a student of Yuuei if that could happen?”

Instead of answering Hitoshi, the Principal counters with a question to Izuku, “Midoriya-kun, try to be impartial as you answer this. You’ve managed to catch up with me earlier when I sifted through our video records of Katsura-kun’s daily life here in Yuuei, so tell me, what did you see of Katsura-kun’s daily habits?”

Izuku immediately answers, “Everyday, he would explore more and more of Yuuei, despite some of the places not where students should go... b-but that’s not real proof that he’s a spy! That’s just Kensei being his usual self! Kensei-san will never betray us!”

The Principal doesn’t make any response to that, favoring to turn to Hitoshi instead. “Shinsou-kun, tell me, what would you expect of a spy? To be rude and unhelpful to everyone, or to do the opposite and be well-liked enough that people would trust him enough to leave him alone?”

Hitoshi opens his mouth, only to gnash his teeth the next second. All he can say as he looks away is, “Kensei is not a spy.”

Another person holds his hand, and Hitoshi lifts his head to see Yamato also there with him. She repeats, to the Principal, “He isn’t.”

“As for Tsukauchi-san, he’s not a perfect judge of character.” Nedzu, for his previous words, actually looks sympathetic to them. “None of us are. You three can be right, or you can be wrong, but we have no way to prove it other than to find Katsura-kun.”

“And it isn’t that I’m already saying that he’s a spy.” All three turn as one to look to the Principal. “Like I said earlier, the evidence is mounting in support to it, but it’s just that – a theory. It’s only a theory, but as the person in charge of this establishment of learning, I have to look at all the possibilities and consider them all valid. And if anything, this just gives us more reason to find Katsura-kun again.”

Hitoshi grinds out, “Then why don’t you just go and find him?”

“I was about to.” Despite the rudeness Hitoshi knows he had just done, Nedzu-sensei only smiles at him before turning to one of the quiet teachers in the room. “Ectoplasm.”

Ectoplasm stands straight at the voice filled with command. “Yes, Principal Nedzu?”

“I’d like for you to personally call in all of the available Heroes in the campus. This is now also a matter of informational security, and whether or not Katsura-kun could be a spy I want him found. Once the other teachers are here, I can coordinate you all to do a proper search in Mutsutafu.”

“Roger!”

Hitoshi closes his eyes, about to just give and wait for the professionals to do their work, when Midnight barges into the room as Ectoplasm is about to leave it, with Thirteen-sensei behind her.

“Principal Nedzu! We’ve found something in Katsura Kensei’s dormitory room!”

What now?

“What is it?” Nedzu-sensei asks, far too calm for the argument he just had with Hitoshi. “What did you find, Midnight? Is it something that we can use to pinpoint Katsura Kensei’s location?”

“No, it’s a withdrawal letter from Katsura-kun on how he is leaving Yuuei!”

Again, what.

Chapter Text

Chapter 7: Locate, Part 2

“What do you mean withdrawal letter?” Shinsou-kun loudly asks, and Toshinori can’t say that he hadn’t been about to do the same thing despite the rudeness. “Kensei wouldn’t make something like that!”

The Principal only turns to Midnight in question with his paw extended, “I surmise you have this supposed letter with you? And Thirteen, thank you for accompanying Midnight for this. I know you have classes at the moment.”

The space-themed hero in question shakes their head in response. “I can’t be absent for this. Katsura-kun, as well as the three students here in this room, is one of my best students. For something like this to happen is significant enough for me to be here. The rest of my class will do well enough without me for the meantime while we sort this out.”

As for Midnight, the flashy teacher laughs before she pulls the letter out of her... somewhere. “As though you have forgotten who I am, Principal Nedzu. Of course I do. Here you go, Principal.”

While this is happening, Ectoplasm leaves the room in the corner of Toshinori’s vision, presumably to follow Nedzu’s earlier orders before Midnight interrupted him.

Principal Nedzu does quick work of the envelope binding the letter, and soon Toshinori has to lean behind the Principal to get a glimpse of what is written. When he does manage to get a short read of the letter, Toshinori winces – it indeed looks to be a withdrawal letter, supposedly penned just the day before.

Izuku and the other teenagers are also leaning in for a look, but thankfully Nedzu is short enough for them to easily get it. Had the Principal been taller, Toshinori knew his protégé would find it more difficult considering his height... deficiencies, but as it was they seem to also manage to read the paper.

Shock and recognition is on their faces, and in that moment, Toshinori knew that the letter was certainly in Katsura-kun’s handwriting and not just a fake.

“This certainly looks like it was written by Katsura-kun himself...” Nedzu-sensei starts, “But the question is three-fold: did he write this of his own volition, when was this written, and when did it get to Katsura-kun’s dorm room? Because depending on the answer to those questions, we could try to weasel out Katsura-kun’s location.”

Izuku is muttering to himself “Kensei-san wouldn’t do this, Kensei-san wouldn’t do this...” and Toshinori has to place his hand on the boy’s shoulder to comfort him once again. On the other hand, young Shinsou is quickly regaining balance as soon the teenager speaks up.

“That’s right!” Shinsou remarks, with not just a bit of hope. “Even if Kensei could’ve written this, it could have been under duress! Not only that, as Kensei’s trip outside of the campus was entirely unplanned, it couldn’t have been written prior to yesterday afternoon, as that was the time he decided to leave the campus! That means that the letter was planted after Kensei left, by whoever disappeared him!”

“He could’ve written it beforehand, if he was already planning to leave.” Eraserhead points out, much to the glare of the purple-haired teenager, “When you said that he wanted to do something for the rest of you three, it could have been just a convenient excuse he had taken advantage of. Even if you didn’t ask him, he could have just left and nobody would know any difference. And you do realize what you are implying here is that some villain had infiltrated Yuuei without us knowing it?”

Seeing an argument coming on, Toshinori puts himself in between the two. “Now, now, Shinsou-kun, Aizawa-sensei, the two of you are providing equally valid points, though I believe they might be unnecessary as I’m well aware that Nedzu-sensei has a way to check when the letter was written.”

The Principal only nods when Toshinori turns to him. “Indeed. Now, please keep quiet for a moment while I try to analyze this piece of paper.”

Just like that, Nedzu starts sniffing the paper, making his questionable species all the more evident as everyone in the room was explicitly reminded of just what their Principal was again. The sniffs are loud and many, with the Principal’s button nose pressed to every nook and cranny of the paper, and soon the snuffling ends, with Nedzu-sensei having a victorious look on his face.

“Aha! The ink on this paper is barely dry – indeed, this letter that was supposed to have been written yesterday was in fact written just this morning, at most four to five hours ago. I would check it again for a more accurate time, but I have more important things to do with this information.”

Toshinori’s eyes go wide. “But that means...”

“Indeed. In retrospect, I should have checked this earlier.” Nedzu is already moving back to his control panels for the monitors. “In my rush to see what had happened yesterday, I have forgotten to see whether anybody went to Katsura-kun’s dormitory room today!

“We did, six hours ago to check if Kensei finally came back and nobody was there.” Shinsou-kun volunteers, with nods from both Izuku and Yamato. “If the letter was written after that, then it must have been placed after we went there.”

“When was this?”

“Five A.M.” It is Izuku who answers, also holding Toshinori’s hand over his shoulder with a squeeze. “Normally, we train with Toshinori-san around four A.M., but as today is a Saturday and the classes start later than usual as a result, every Saturday we head for where we would meet Toshinori-san around six. At that point, we were still holding hope that Kensei-san would be there like nothing was wrong.”

“The door was locked.” Yamato adds quietly. “We begged for one of the janitors to open it up for us, but when we finally did, our friend wasn’t there and there wasn’t any sign of forced entry. Hitoshi-san asked for the janitor’s help with Midoriya-kun while I stood guard in front of the room. All of it must have taken us an hour to do so.”

“Thank you.” The Principal nods. “That information would help me choose which cameras and at what times to focus on, which should be...”

Five monitors lit up, showing a hallway in two perspectives, a flight of stairs, the street in front of the boys’ dormitory, and then the street behind the dormitory. From the first two monitors, it becomes evident enough to Toshinori as to where Katsura-kun’s room could be – after all, he recognized that specific group of students standing in front of it.

“It feels odd, watching ourselves through a screen. I’ve caught glimpses before, when Nedzu-sensei was looking for data on Kensei-san earlier, but...” Izuku murmurs before trailing off as the teenager shook his head. “No, I must focus. For Kensei-san.”

Toshinori moved his hand from the teenager’s shoulder to the top of his head, messing Izuku’s hair for a bit with a smile before pulling away.

“And then speed it up a little...”

Nedzeu-sensei does something with his paws and the video feed accelerates to a much faster pace. The story, as was told by his students earlier, unfolds before Toshinori’s eyes and Toshinori shares his attention across all of the screens.

Now, as for anything suspicious... aha! “Stop right there in that last monitor!”

Nedzu-sensei does as he is told. “Good job as always, Toshinori-kun. I knew I could depend on those sharp eyes of yours.”

“Where is it?” Shinsou-kun asks, studying the monitor in question. “I don’t see anything, even with it paused.”

“No surprise. I barely caught it myself and only after he pointed it out.” Eraserhead murmurs, before pointing his finger on the upper-right corner of the screen. “Principal Nedzu, can you rewind this for a few seconds? Much slower this time please.”

It becomes much easier now to see the faint silhouette of movement in the corner of the video feed. However, even then, the image is too vague to give any idea as to who it might be.

“Interesting.” Nedzu notes, voice calculating. “It is really as though this person here knows where the camera is located at, as well as to precisely what kind of lighting is necessary to produce this effect. Too early in the morning, and it’ll be dark enough for the night-vision mode to kick in. Too late, and there’ll be enough illumination to pick them up.”

“This silhouette we’ve captured here is precisely timed and meticulously planned to be as inconspicuous as possible. Had we not been under watch, I would’ve thought it to be a mere aberration in the feed.”

Shinsou-kun is staring at Toshinori now. Uh-oh. “And just how did you manage to catch that so quickly? You didn’t even take multiple tries.”

Well, Toshinori could explain that as All Might, he had to learn how to react at subsonic speeds. He was just that fast, to the point that it became necessary unless he wanted to make imprints of himself in buildings where he went, as simple as that. However, as the teenagers before him didn’t know that he was All Might, Toshinori doesn’t know what to say.

“He just did, in the end that’s all that matters.” Eraserhead shuts the teenager down before he could go any further, and while Toshinori has been rescued, as a result Shinsou-kun is glaring at the other hero again. “Now watch. I believe you’ll see something interesting here. Principal, please proceed with the feed, though still as slow.”

Nedzu plays the video again, and Toshinori watches as the silhouette fiddles Katsura-kun’s window open before jumping through it just as his students leave the room, and from there he could see the shadow landing in a roll in front of the closet beside the window. Once that was done, the silhouette closes the window, though not before the morning sun shows his face.

Katsura Kensei’s face, adorned with a smirk.

 “Well, I suppose that answers where your friend had been a few hours ago, doesn’t it?”

Despite his own shock, part of Toshinori has to fight the urge to facepalm at his coworker’s bluntness.

#-#-#-#

“Midoriya-kun, I apologize that it has come to this.”

Izuku can’t believe it.

The staff of Yuuei, Izuku’s heroes, had concluded that Kensei was a traitor. A spy for the Villains, someone who came into the school just to collect information on every weakness and strength of Yuuei, someone who only pretended to be everyone’s friend just to take advantage of them.

When Toshinori-san of all people turned that expression on Izuku, as though the man was mourning for something that Izuku had lost, Izuku couldn’t believe it. Never would believe it. After all...

Kensei-san is his friend. He would never betray them, Izuku knows it.

Thirteen-sensei, being their homeroom teacher, is the one who accompanies them to the General Department dormitories. When they finally arrive, with Izuku staring at the door that just hours ago hid behind it his friend while they were looking for him, the Space Hero sees them three just stand their frozen outside Katsura Kensei’s door and shakes their head.

“I didn’t know Katsura-kun as much as you three, but as your teacher I feel like I should’ve prevented this from happening. If I had foreseen this, I would-”

“Don’t.”

Thirteen-sensei stops, turning to Izuku who has just interrupted them despite his usual respect for his heroes. “Midoriya-kun?”

“Don’t say that, never say it.” Izuku shakes his head, knowing that to his teacher it looks like explicit denial of current circumstances, because it is, and Izuku will never accept the possibility of Kensei being a traitor. “You’re wrong. Nedzu-sensei is wrong. Kensei-san will never do this!”

The look of pity his teacher sends him is palpable, even through the space helmet.

“Izuku... Just, just give it up, alright?”

Izuku contorts in shock at the speaker, because this isn’t one of their teachers, this is Hitoshi-kun, Kensei-san’s most vehement defender when they were in the Principal’s Office. “A-Accept it. At this point, I have. Kensei’s betrayed us, Izuku. He has.”

“The evidence is undeniable, Izuku. His letter tells us that he is leaving Yuuei, he snuck in behind our backs and didn’t even try to talk to us for one last time even though we were looking for him, hell, apparently for years he had been working for a villain!”

“Izuku, I know you think Kensei as a friend, I t-thought that too, but really we all should face reality and accept it all as it is!”

Izuku is about to yell at the other teenager for giving up when he is tackled in a tearful hug by Yamato, looking herself like she had also given up. But the moment they touch it becomes obvious that she hasn’t, that Hitoshi-kun hasn’t because-

Play. Along.

Immediately, tears come into Izuku’s eyes. There’s no difficulty in doing so. After all, Izuku has always been a bit of a crybaby, and the past hour has all been emotional moments after another, so pulling up tears is easy and looking like he is breaking is even easier.

“N-No...” Izuku attempts to say the words he has to say, because Thirteen is still there, watching them. But he can’t. Not even in pretend. “Don’t say that, Hitoshi-kun. Kensei-san will never betray us, he would never...”

And just like that, Izuku does really break into tears.

In the end, saying them or not saying them doesn’t matter, now that Izuku’s weeping, crying so loudly as though he is breaking down. Yamato just pulls him deeper into her hug, and Hitoshi-kun comes close to also wrap them in his arms. It’s a comforting moment, a tearful moment, and more importantly-

It’s a moment that feels too private for their teacher to watch.

“I’ll be out for a moment.” Thirteen announces, bowing their head away from them. “...we’ll find Katsura-kun, don’t you worry about it.”

As a traitor goes unsaid as the teacher leaves.

As soon as he does leave, the betrayed look on Hitoshi-kun’s face disappears, Yamato squeezes Izuku in her hug for one last second before she pulls away, and Izuku does his best to wipe away his tears.

Less than a minute ago, they were mourning. Now, they are prepared to find their friend.

None of them, after all, had really thought Kensei had actually betrayed them for one second.

“What do we do now?” Hitoshi-kun starts, and Izuku is thankful, so thankful for the other teenager because without him and his quick thinking they would’ve been trapped and unable to do nothing. “At this point, I don’t want our teachers to be the ones to find Kensei. They’ll only think he’s a traitor, even if he denies that claim personally.”

The answer easily comes to Izuku, finally wiping away the last of his tears. “Then we find him ourselves. It’s as simple as that, Hitoshi-kun.”

“We’re really just going to do this then?” Yamato asks, her voice quiet but no less stubborn than they are. “We’re just going to deny all the evidence implicating our friend, sneak out from under our teachers’ eyes, find Kensei-kun, and try to clear his name?”

Izuku glances at Hitoshi-kun. The other teenager meets his eyes, and nods, knowing what Izuku is about to say.

“Of course we are going to do all of that, and more. He’s our friend, correct? Now, let’s go sneak out of this dormitory. Yamato, can you check the windows and see if there’s a path we can climb down on? Please check if Thirteen is nearby while you’re at it.”

Yamato nods, determined to help, and leaves to do her part.

Hitoshi-kun turns back to Izuku. “You’re the one closest to Kensei. You’re the first that met him, and I’m fine with having you in the lead for this. You decide where we go.”

Izuku nods, before closing his eyes and thinking where his friend could be. Kensei would hardly stay in the school, especially if whatever made him do this is enough that the other teenager actually snuck in behind their backs to leave a withdrawal letter behind him.

None of the teenager’s usual haunts would also make sense, because if Kensei didn’t want to be found he wouldn’t go to where people would first check. The other teenager was smart enough to know that, especially if he was indeed the son of a police detective.

So, that only left...

Izuku opens his eyes, finally coming to a decision.

By that time, Yamato has returned. “Hitoshi-san, Midoriya-kun, I think I have found the path Kensei-san used to sneak into his room. I don’t know where all the dormitory’s cameras are, so it is our best hope. Thirteen-sensei is standing guard in front of the dormitory building; this is our chance.”

“Not before Izuku makes his choice.” Hitoshi-kun shakes his head, before glancing back at Izuku. “Have you come to a decision now? Where do you think Kensei would be?”

In retrospect, it’s easy to come to this conclusion. Just hours ago, Kensei revealed that he had no qualms sneaking into places he knows where his friends would be. Where they are about to go also doesn’t have cameras, so it would be a good hiding place from them.

“We’re going to the park where we train with Toshinori-san every morning. He heads there every day with us, and usually by this time we head there for our afternoon training. Kensei-san will be there, I’m sure of it.”

The other teenagers nod. Hitoshi-kun announces, “Then we leave.”

#-#-#-#

Toshinori frets.

Did he do the right thing, asking for the teenagers to be sent back to their dorms? After all, after the reveal of Katsura Kensei smirking – part of Toshinori still can’t believe it, but that was certainly not the look of someone being threatened or coerced to do something – in the camera feed, the teenagers had such a fit that Toshinori had to make them leave so they could do their work, but-

-still, did Toshinori do the right thing, or should he have supported them further in their belief that their friend would never betray them?

“Have we finally assembled?” Principal Nedzu asks unnecessarily, considering the amount of people in the office. Toshinori takes this time to snap out of his thoughts. “For the lack of response, I’m going to take that as a yes. Now, I believe everyone has copies of the handout I passed?”

“I believe we all do.” Power Loader responds, looking a little uncomfortable to Toshinori considering how cramped it is in the room. “Can’t we do this in a more proper location? We do have meeting rooms for this.”

“We simply don’t have the time for that.” Eraserhead shakes his head from he is standing beside the Principal. “From what we have concluded, every moment wasted is possibly more losses than we could count in the future, especially if the villains get their hands on the information we are talking about here.”

Snipe raises his head from the handout he is reading. “From what I am reading here, this is a copy of one of our students’ records. Though the history of minor felonies is interesting, I don’t understand why the Principal has deemed him important enough for nearly all the heroes in Yuuei to be involved in finding him.”

“It’s because we believe him to be a spy.” Principal Nedzu announces, and as one all the heroes turn towards him. “Look at what is written down there as his Quirk.”

“Scan.” Snipe reads the handout again, and the next moment, Toshinori could see the man wince beneath his mask. “Ah, now I see why. I wonder though – how is it that we’ve managed to catch this happening so quickly? From this letter you’ve appended to his file for us, it looks as though his escape had been meticulously prepared.”

“It’s because he erred in his choice of companions while he was here.” Nedzu answers, before turning to Toshinori, who has been leaning quietly in the corner for a while now. “All Might, care to explain your quick involvement in this?”

Enough dilly-dallying and time to get this over with.

“Katsura-kun had approached-“ approached, because saying that the boy befriended Izuku felt like some sort of guilty confession “-one of the students in General Education that I have been interested in for a while now, and the boy introduced him to me as well as two of his other friends. So when Katsura-kun disappeared, they saw it fit to report it to me directly.”

Present Mic chuckles loudly at that. “Ah, of course, who better to report a disappearance to than the Symbol of Peace himself? This spy of ours certainly had some bad luck, picking people to fool.”

“Don’t you remember the message earlier this morning?” Vlad King asks the other teacher rhetorically for one moment before turning back to Toshinori. “These students only know you in this form, don’t they? Which is good, because I don’t think it would be a good idea for a spy to find out your current appearance, All Might.”

The heroes in the room wince as one at that. Yeah, that... would have been a bad thing to happen.

Toshinori could only feel the same. When he met young Katsura, Toshinori had toyed with the thought of trusting him, as well as the other two of Izuku’s friends, with the secret of One for All in the future. And back then the teenager seemed so trustworthy. Now though... it is clear that Toshinori didn’t know Katsura-kun as well as he thought, that nobody did.

It is a sobering thought, and a reminder of how easily secrets could be leaked.

“In any case, due to All Might knowing the student personally when he disappeared, he brought the case directly to me.” Principal Nedzu speaks again, bringing the attention back to him. “Without that, this case would likely have not been brought to our eyes so soon, if at all. With the withdrawal letter found in Katsura Kensei’s room, we would have been easily fooled into not checking into the boy’s background.”

In that light, it was indeed kind of lucky, Toshinori thinks. Without the involvement of Izuku in this affair, leading to him finding out Katsura-kun’s disappearance so early and looking into it so vehemently, Katsura-kun could have disappeared into thin air without anyone noticing.

Maybe, in the future, Toshinori can comfort Izuku with that fact. It would have to be after the boy came into terms of young Katsura’s betrayal though.

“These are my orders.” Nedzu continues, “I would be handing you all sectors of Mutsutafu to patrol in search of Katsura Kensei, as well as within Yuuei as the teenager has certainly proved himself slippery enough to dodge my security. I will not let him think that he could hide in my school because nobody expected him to hide in it. Any questions?”

Cementoss raises his hand. “Yes, Cementoss, what do you have in mind?”

“Who is it that Katsura Kensei served as an underling for in the past?” the blocky teacher asks, causing the other teachers to turn to him in interest. Cementoss, seeing this, explains, “This file only contains the fact that this villain had been apprehended three years ago before Katsura Kensei was taken in and adopted by a police officer. Knowing who he served before could give us an idea as to where he might be or who he could approach for protection in the villains’ side.”

Nedzu nods at that, clearly in thought. “Indeed, this does sound like something we should know. Wait for a moment while I access the police records for this.”

The Principal turns back to his devices, and for a moment, Toshinori contemplates on the idea Cementoss posed.

After all, if there was something they still didn’t have any idea on, it was in the terms of motive. Just what motivated Katsura-kun to leave behind a happy life with friends, good grades, and a family with Tsukauchi-kun to return to the side of the villains?

Part of what convinced Toshinori before of the teenager’s trustworthiness was his tight bond with Izuku, or so it seemed then. Katsura-kun’s relationships with Shinsou-kun and Yamato-kun hadn’t been that bad either. Toshinori knows how hard it is to find friends that you could get along with that well – surely, Katsura-kun valued them too, as much as Izuku and the other two cared for him?

From what Thirteen told him a few days ago, their group had been chosen for the trip to USJ. Not that Toshinori could forget, considering his goal to apologize formally as All Might to Izuku on that day, but that also meant Katsura-kun also had pretty good grades. So it wasn’t a question of being pressured academically either.

And Toshinori knew Tsukauchi-kun personally. They still haven’t told the police of their conclusion that Katsura-kun was a spy – he knows that Tsukauchi-kun wouldn’t react well at that kind of accusation aimed at his son – but other than that, Toshinori also considers Tsukauchi-kun as a close friend and personally thought that he would be a good father before.

All in all, that meant that it wasn’t a matter of school, friends, or family. So why did Katsura-kun betray them for the villains then? Was his motive something abstract, like a philosophy the teenager followed that had lead him to turning to villains, or was it something simple, like wanting to cause chaos or money?

Maybe, now that the Principal is looking into the villain that led to Katsura-kun doing crimes in the first place, Toshinori can find his answer. Maybe once they know who turned Katsura-kun, they can know why.

But then Nedzu does something Toshinori doesn’t expect. The Principal, in the middle of reading something in one of his monitors, squeaks.

“Oh no!”

The Principal’s next few actions are a rush. Suddenly, all the other monitors in the room bloom alight, showing places in Yuuei again. Then, just as Toshinori manages to catch up with exactly what the Principal is doing, the screens suddenly shift locations, this time all over Mutsutafu.

“What is it, Principal Nedzu?” Eraserhead asks, leaning in from beside the Principal, who never before has looked so frantic. “What did you find?”

“I made a mistake, I made a mistake!” The people in the room suddenly straighten at that announcement. Toshinori himself can’t help but lean in, hoping against hope that- “Katsura Kensei isn’t a spy! He’s just a victim of the circumstances that are pushing us to conclude him a traitor!”

Relief seeps in through Toshinori’s entire being.

Izuku’s friend really didn’t betray them then. This was not some traitor or spy they were dealing with – this was just some teenage boy needing their help, needing to be rescued from whatever was making him do all of this.

But in that case, why was the Principal so frantic?

“This is from the information of which villain Katsura Kensei worked under as an underling, correct?” Vlad King asks, sounding a little unnerved at how the Principal was acting. “Who is this then, that you’ve found to be the one so important that you’ve thrown your previous theory out.”

The Principal doesn’t answer them, continuing with his monitors before finally, all of them go out. As the soft background whirr of their cooling fans leaves the room, Nedzu slowly turns to them, no, not them, but Toshinori.

“Toshinori-kun, I hope you know where your students could be now.”

Toshinori doesn’t have a good feeling about this. “What do you mean, Principal?”

#-#-#-#

Izuku can only stare in betrayal at the teenager before him.

Katsura Kensei has never looked so sadistic. With one hand, he is juggling with a monkey wrench, and the other is holding another. An evil smile is on his face, reaching from ear to ear.

And Hitoshi-kun is unconscious, held in the arms of a crying Yamato as she tries to tend to a bruise located near the other teenager’s temple, having taken a blow meant for Izuku before they realized something was wrong.

“Kensei-san... why?”

It’s not him who answers, but Yamato. “No! Midoriya-kun, don’t be fooled! That is not Kensei; he’s under control of somebody else’s Quirk! When I touched him, I heard him screaming for us in his mind to run – I tried to warn you and Hitoshi-san, but by then it was too late!”

“Ahhh, of course the telepath would be the one to ruin the fun.” Kensei-san tsks, and Izuku can only shake with the realization that his friend was under control of somebody else. “Talk about a useless Quirk making things boring!”

Izuku, in that moment, remembers something Kensei-san said before.

“I’ve got some bad memories regarding being the victim of some Quirks.”

Back then, it was about Hitoshi-kun’s Brainwashing... but this, this is certainly more than that. Somebody else, somebody cruel is using his friend, forcing him to do things against his will!

Something rustles in the nearby bushes, and soon, Izuku and Yamato are watching a figure leaving the safety of shadows. Four pairs of red eyes, eight in total, are placed symmetrically beside one another in one head. Just as many arms, covered with thick and curly hairs, are positioned on both sides of a vaguely human body, with sharp claws on their tips.

Their mouth is a pair of fangs. Their body, separated into two sections, the lower being a insect-like abdomen, with carapace covering their legs like smooth dark armor that glowed in the setting sun.

Their enemy does not look human. No Quirk Izuku had ever seen before has managed to make someone look like a monster straight out of a story.

#-#-#-#

“I remember this particular villain’s modus operandi. He likes to toy with his victims by making them fight one another using his Quirk, before killing them once they are weak. Like in Katsura-kun’s record, he had been taken in three years ago, but just last month he got broken out by someone else.”

Toshinori’s mouth is dry, “So what you mean is-”

“Your students could be his next target, and I’ve just checked the security cameras. Your students have snuck out from under Thirteen’s watchful eyes and have already left the protection of Yuuei. They’re vulnerable, especially since this villain likes to attack his victims when it is dark. And the sun just set half an hour ago.”

Toshinori transforms in All Might, steam starting to cover his entire frame. “Who is this villain?”

“His name is Tsuchigumo.”

#-#-#-#

“Come to my web,” Tsuchigumo speaks, voice sounding like a swarm of insects and echoed by Kensei in front of Izuku, “Said the spider to the fly.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 8: Confrontation

“Izuku, are you really sure that Kensei would be here?”

Hitoshi brushes off some dirt from his sleeve as he asks this from his friend. It had gotten there earlier when they had been climbing out as sneakily as they could from the General Department dormitories, and Hitoshi couldn’t have been more thankful that he was more fit these days than he used to be.

He knows that if it weren’t for the uninformed training he started on his own since the Entrance Exam, followed by the more rigorous and more thought-out training by Toshinori-san, he would have failed the climb. Which honestly just made the fact that the only girl in their team also managed to do the same as Hitoshi all the more impressive. So much for General Education students being failures.

Not that Hitoshi thinks of his current department that way these days. Sure, Hitoshi’s goal is still and will always be to become part of the Heroic Department so he could be accepted as a Hero, but with all of his experiences so far as a General Education student, he could hardly call the department meaningless anymore. It was where Hitoshi met his friends, where he gained allies in becoming a Hero after all.

That is, if they don’t expel us for this.

Hitoshi shakes that thought out of his head. He could worry about that later once they got Kensei back and cleared his name.

“It’s the best we have, Hitoshi-kun,” Izuku answers, pulling away a branch from their path and waiting for Hitoshi and Yamato to pass before releasing the branch to snap back to its original position. “If we don’t find him there, I can try to think of another place we could look for him in, but for now let’s try this park first.”

“Midoriya-kun, I was wondering.” Yamato speaks, and Hitoshi has to withhold himself from staring at the girl oddly. “You’ve been making us move in strange paths ever since we escaped from the dormitory. Some are even strangely meandering. Why did you have us do that?”

“Ah, that was just me being careful.” The other boy answers and Hitoshi leans in a bit because he had also been curious about this for a while now. “As Principal Nedzu had shown us just earlier, there are a lot of cameras placed nearly everywhere in Yuuei, and there are also some here in Mutsutafu besides. I didn’t want us to be caught on camera, so I just figured out a path to avoid being seen by them. This way, the only video record of us would be when we went through the Yuuei Barrier earlier. That was inevitable. Sorry if this all seems a little pointless to you.”

Hitoshi has to gape. “And just how did you manage to identify the locations of all of the cameras?”

“I just remembered the angles and placements of the each video feed that was shown to me back in the Principal’s Office. From there, I just had to put it all together in a coherent cognitive map.” Izuku shrugs, as though he isn’t just confessing to something absurd. “Nothing special.”

“Nothing specia-?!” Hitoshi wheezes for a moment, before shaking his head. In the corner of his vision, he can see Yamato looking a little bug-eyed herself. Hitoshi stops walking, causing Izuku to stare at him. “Alright, at this point, I refuse to be surprised anymore about you and your ridiculous analytical skills. And it is ridiculous, before you say anything to deny that.”

Hitoshi watches Izuku close his mouth as Hitoshi preempts the other teenager before he can even start uttering a denial, and with a nod, he continues.

”The Principal had a Quirk to explain his intelligence. It was his entire thing, and while I could say that yes, I can see that Principal is still smarter than you, that is only in comparison to him. Him, the strange animal who had been so smart that people thought he would be a good Principal despite his questionable species.”

Behind Hitoshi, Yamato nods, causing Izuku to look at them bewilderedly.

“You are so much better at thinking through things than you think, Izuku, so stop belittling yourself so much. As your rival, I can’t have you not acknowledging your skills as they really are.”

That causes Izuku to blush and only mutter, “...okay. I guess I am a little good at this thing.”

“Make that very good, Izuku.”

“A-Alright, I’m very good at analyzing things.” Izuku is so red that Hitoshi is reminded of a tomato, but then the other teenager juts his chin at him like so. Hitoshi has to smile. “Are you pleased now, Hitoshi-kun?”

“Peachy.”

Just like that, they resume trekking.

Yamato giggles at their interaction and Hitoshi has to smile. Admittedly, without Kensei playing as the comic to Hitoshi’s deadpan it was a little weird, but they had needed to lighthearted moment for a while now and Hitoshi is only willing to provide it in Kensei’s stead.

Though, speaking of Yamato. “Yamato, I was wondering, you have been talking a lot more frequently for a while now. What happened?”

Yamato blinks at his question, before blushing for a bit. Hitoshi has to wonder sometimes how he has managed to befriend such bashful people. Oh wait, right, he was the one approached by the boy before him, as well as Kensei. No wonder he got such strange friends.

Yamato replies, hand rising to move a bit of her hair behind a flush-red ear, “At first, it was just because I started to get to know you and Kensei-san, Hitoshi-san. But then, after being exposed to all three of you being so confident in telling others exactly what you three thought, I then considered this to myself:

“If I were to hide behind my reclusiveness and not speak for myself in this world, would I deserve having these three wonderful people as my friends? I decided that, no, I didn’t. So I started trying to speak a lot more. Kensei-san’s disappearance only makes it a lot more necessary now.”

Hitoshi can’t help but feel touched at finding out that he was part of what caused the girl to change for the better. Izuku actually gives Yamato a hug, and the girl returns the affectionate gesture with her own arms before Izuku finally pulls away.

“Yamato, can I have permission to call you Megumi-san?”

She smiles like the sun. “Of course, Hitoshi-kun! You too, Izuku-kun!”

This time, Izuku doesn’t bother to try and deny the request. Which was good, because Hitoshi would’ve smacked his rival if he did. The other teenager actually salutes, “Of course, Megumi-san!”

Yamat- Megumi grins, turning to Hitoshi. “E-Enough about me, Hitoshi-kun, you’ve been smiling a lot more recently too you know.”

Hitoshi doesn’t bother denying it. He has accepted it at this point, “Kensei warned me that it would be like this. It’s only until a few days ago that I actually gave in to the Midoriya charm. And we’re here.”

Izuku looks like he really wants to ask Hitoshi what he meant by ‘Midoriya charm’, but upon Hitoshi’s announcement, he turns forward, catching his eyes on a familiar bench. Hitoshi does not know why Izuku is so fond of said bench, but he can guess.

There is most likely a reason why this park out of all places is where they train in every afternoon, when Toshinori-san normally had them training inside the campus.

“Can you guys see Kensei-san?” Izuku asks, and Hitoshi takes the moment to sweep his eyes over the park. No sign of their friend, so he shakes his head. “I see. I hoped that this would be the right place-”

“Izuku-kun, look!”

Megumi points at another direction, and Hitoshi follows his gaze there to find himself looking at a particular huge tree, no less than twenty-five feet tall. And beneath that tree is a human figure, a familiar human figure lying where the grass and the knobby roots met, looking to the world as relaxed as relaxed could be.

“Kensei!”

The next moment, Izuku is running from Hitoshi’s side straight towards Kensei, and Hitoshi has to smile at the sight of relief on the other teenager’s face as Kensei turns to meet him. Megumi-san is also right behind Izuku, joyful tears in her eyes as her arms open wide to receive Kensei in a hug-

-a hug that doesn’t have Kensei pulling away in a blush and-

“Shit!” Hitoshi is running, running to put himself between Kensei and the other teenagers, a taken aback expression forming on Megumi’s face as Hitoshi knows, knows that something is wrong, he has to pull them away from Kensei because-

had some experience myself being target of some Quirks

-because this is not Kensei.

“Izuku, look out!”

Hitoshi tackles his friend, his rival, and sees the imposter wearing his friend’s face swing something straight towards his head before everything goes to black.

#-#-#-#

Tsuchigumo, the villain introduces himself.

Izuku always prided himself for knowing a lot about both Heroes and Villains. After all, in the light of having a useless Quirk like his, as a child Izuku came to a conclusion that if he didn’t have a powerful Quirk he could try to make up for it with knowledge and analytical skill. Hence, him constantly devoting a significant amount of his time with the news, forums, and hero-watching.

Yet, even with all of that effort, Izuku doesn’t know who this villain before him could be. That could only mean either two things: the first being that this villain before them had been comparatively a minor one prior to Izuku meeting him, or the second being that this Tsuchigumo had been smart enough to not catch as much attention as they could.

Given that this villain’s Quirk – mind control, long range – had been why Kensei had snuck back into Yuuei to deliver that fake withdrawal letter, Izuku is starting to get the idea that it is the latter.

“Aaaah, one down already. And it was the mind-controller too! That saves me the effort of having to keep things quiet.”

That implies that Kensei-san told this villain about us, but Kensei-san wouldn’t do that of his own will. While part of Izuku is still panicking at the sudden turn of events, the calmer part of him privately muses this. Mind control isn’t limited to overtaking a person’s motor capabilities.

Prior to meeting Toshinori-san, Izuku never cursed. That was more of Kacchan’s thing other than Izuku’s. Now though, in the privacy of his own mind, he feels that this is only appropriate:

Shit. This villain knows everything we can do.

Instantly coming to a decision, Izuku’s shakily yells to his remaining conscious and free-from-being-controlled friend. “Megumi-san, run away and take Hitoshi-kun with you! We can’t fight him, not while Kensei-san is under his control!”

She nods shakily, lifting up their unconscious friend with effort, but Tsuchigumo suddenly yells, “Oh no, you don’t! No running away now, my little telepath!”

Izuku can only watch as the villain lifts his abdomen at his friend, a line of white silk firing off the spinneret at the tip towards Megumi-san. The girl gasps as the silk hits her and Hitoshi, knocking them both back with sufficient force to trap them into a nearby tree with a web.

“Megumi-san!” Izuku tries to run to her aid, but then Kensei is swinging one of his wrenches towards his way, making Izuku have to jump back just to not get hit. Soon, Izuku’s friend, dull-eyed and with that same sadistic smile on his face, is between Izuku and the rest of his friends and refusing to let him pass. “Kensei-san, please snap out of it!”

He gets no response.

“It’s no use, child.” Tsuchigumo hisses, looking satisfied as they turn away from where they just trapped Megumi and Hitoshi in their web. “You cannot snap my control of him with such paltry efforts. None of you can, especially you, Mr. Useless Quirk.”

A spindly arm, covered in bristly hair and tipped with sharp claws, perches below Tsuchigumo’s face as they study Izuku. “However, if you want to get past him to the rest of your friends that badly, why don’t you just try? Of course, that won’t be so easy...”

The villain seems to see something on Izuku’s face.

“That is, if you can even move from where you stand.”

Right, that.

Izuku is shaking. His legs are rooted to the floor. His heart is pounding like a drum in his chest, in his head, and sweat is pouring all over him like waterfalls. He is absolutely petrified. At the villain’s gaze, it’s as though Izuku has already been trapped in a web, like a fly just waiting to be eaten-

“Izuku-kun, snap out of it!”

Megumi’s voice calls out, just in time for Izuku to realize that Kensei is mid-swing, his wrench coming for his head.

Izuku ducks, and remembering just in time Toshinori-san’s training, takes advantage of the way Kensei’s swing leaves the other teenager wide open to grab him by the outstretched hand, take the chance to disarm him of the wrench, and put his leg just so that-

Izuku heaves, using his entire body to throw Kensei away with the wrench in his own hands.

The next moment, Kensein hits the ground, rolls properly, and lands back on his feet, still with that same dull look in his eyes. Izuku glares back at the villain, who had taken the chance while Izuku was distracted to muzzle Megumi with more silk.

“Mmmmmffpphh!”

Izuku can’t help but yell at the sight of his friend squirming under everything that was wrapping her. And with her, wrapped with the same silk, is Hitoshi-kun, still unconscious. “Megumi-san! Hitoshi-kun!”

“Oh, so you’re not entirely defenseless, are you!” Tsuchigumo actually claps at Izuku, entirely too amused. “Kensei-kun here told me that you were being trained by someone, but with how you seemed to be just earlier I thought he had somehow lied to me despite my control.”

Izuku’s breathing is heavy. His heart is trying to jump straight out of his chest.

Yet, with how this villain before him is easily speaking about manipulating his friend, with how little care Tsuchigumo seems to have with how Kensei just gained a bruise on his face from Izuku’s throw, what can Izuku do other than this?

“Let Kensei-san and the rest of my friends go!” Izuku demands, panting as he raises his stolen weapon at the villain in front of him.

“How about no?” Tsuchigumo hisses back, looking entirely unimpressed at Izuku. “Who are you to demand something like that, child? Just because you’ve actually managed to move doesn’t change anything, you know.”

“Here, let me show you something.”

Kensei walks back to the villain’s side, and Izuku lowers himself to a defensive stance, entirely expecting to be attacked again when Tsuchigumo instead leans over to pat one arm over his friend’s head.

“You want me to let your friends go, do you? You want to be saved, correct?”

Tsuchigumo isn’t talking to him, Izuku realizes. Instead, they are talking to Kensei.

“Show me just how much you are willing to do for me.”

The next moment, Kensei moves. But this time, Izuku’s eyes go wide as Kensei doesn’t move to attack him, doesn’t even move to approach him, as his friend is instead falling to the ground and-

Smack, smack, smack.

“Stop it, stop it!” Izuku yells, running to stop his friend from slamming his head any further to the dirt below them. Red is already starting to bloom on Kensei’s head, blood falling from a bruise that is only getting worse. “Stop making him hurt himself!”

Izuku should have realized this earlier. Kensei already got hurt when Izuku had thrown him, but it still hadn’t broken the villain's control over the other teenager. That meant that Tsuchigumo’s Quirk, whatever it was, had a far stronger hold on its victims than Hitoshi’s Brainwashing - a fact that is quickly making it clear to Izuku that it's not just his own physical well-being he has to worry about.

He also had to take into consideration preventing Tsuchigumo from hurting Kensei.

“Oh, shut up.”

It is too quick, too fast. With Izuku’s attention on his friend, he fails to see the arm coming for his chest, with a force far too powerful for how spindly it earlier seemed to be. Megumi cries through her bonds as Izuku is hit. His breath leaves his lungs as he is flung away by a blow just about his ribs, and it is only with Toshinori-san’s resistance training that he doesn’t get knocked out then and there.

“Gah!” Izuku screams, the pain in his chest indescribable as something breaks from beneath the blow, which is only then worsened by his back meeting the ground.

With much effort though, he manages to push through the pain to set his eyes back towards the direction of his friend. And when he does, he is only glad to see that Tsuchigumo hurting him had apparently satisfied the villain enough to stop hurting Kensei.

“See how much control I have over him?” Tsuchigumo leans over, an arm once again petting Kensei over the head much like one would with a beloved pet. “It’s amazing, isn’t it? He’ll even hurt himself for me. Too bad that things have changed though, in the past I wouldn’t have even needed to take control of him like this just so I could make use of him.”

“H-He...” Izuku slams his hands on the ground, forcing himself up with his elbows as he wrapped one of his arms across his chest. “He’s not someone that you can just ‘use’! People aren’t toys or tools that you can just treat like they are objects!”

“Oh, but he is, you know? Or at least, he used to be.” Tsuchigumo stops petting Kensei, turning back to Izuku as he slowly picks himself up. “Three years ago, he would’ve done anything I’ve asked of him. And he did, he broke into places just for me, stole, hurt, tricked people into following him into where I could ambush them for me- everything I asked of him, he did for me. Back then, I never had to use my Quirk like this, because he had been my most faithful servant.”

“Y-You’re the villain that once took Kensei-san as an underling,” Izuku wheezes out, his voice weak but the words not a question. The following is though, “Weren’t you supposed to be in jail?”

“Oh, you knew about that?” Tsuchigumo sounds irritated. “Kensei never told me about that before. Oh well, it doesn’t matter now – I’ve escaped, been broken out by some allies of mine and am now free to resume in my affairs.”

 “Not if I stop you and free my friends first!”

Izuku rushes towards Tsuchigumo, wrench in hand, but then Kensei appears in front of him again. “Kensei-san, please snap out of it!”

“How many times do I have to tell you...” Tsuchigumo hisses, which is then echoed by Izuku’s friend right before him as he takes his other wrench at Izuku in an overhead swing, “You can’t free me with such weak attempts!”

And just like that, a dodging match ensues for Izuku. Unwilling to hurt his friend, nor willing to just stand still and get hit, Izuku is left in a stalemate as despite his attempts to get closer to Tsuchigumo, Kensei prevents him from moving onward with wild swings and overly-telegraphed movements.

Good thing Toshinori-san taught me how to read attackers, Izuku sweats through a blow aimed at his chin, the forces in the action probably enough to permanently break his jaw, However, I know Kensei-san. He wouldn’t telegraph like this so much normally. Could it be that this is an issue of Tsuchigumo’s Quirk? Or is Kensei-san fighting deep inside?

Izuku shakes his head, jumping to the side and almost getting hit by a sudden kick. No, not now, and I can’t hope Kensei-san would free himself. I’m at a disadvantage.

Izuku eyes the villain controlling his friend in the corner of his eyes, even as he pants through a series of jabs and wild swings. The expression on Tsuchigumo’s face, as eerie as it already looked like considering all the spider influences, is nothing short of terrifying.

After all, it is the look a person might get while they were playing with their toys.

If this continues, over time I’ll get so exhausted that I won’t be do anything to save my friends. I also can’t hope that Kensei would get tired before me, not when Tsuchigumo might force him to fight me anyway.

It’s also already getting dark. Izuku steps back, letting Kensei hit the ground with his wrench at where his feet had been. If this takes any longer, it’ll be so dark that I wouldn’t be able to see anything. If Tsuchigumo is a spider, he probably has some kind of night-vision. I have to end things as quickly as possible!

Now what do I have...

This all happens in a span of ten seconds, and with a wince, Izuku comes up with a plan. It wouldn’t be the best one, nor would it be painless for everyone involved, and there was a large chance of failing, but Izuku doesn’t have a choice.

Indeed, calling it a plan might be erroneous. After all, it is nothing but pure desperation.

It all begins with Kensei swing his wrench at Izuku’s head again, this time aiming at his left cheek. The action is slow, telegraphed, and could be easily countered – but Izuku doesn’t dodge it this time, nor does he make a counter, knowing that he has to do something unexpected for his plan to even have the slightest chance of working.

So instead, he blocks the blow with his left arm.

A loud crack rings through the clearing.

The next moment is filled with pain, but as the world slows down around him in a surge of adrenaline, Izuku pulls through it with nothing but a singular goal.

Tsuchigumo.

Too entranced by the sudden turn of events, the villain is distracted. So in a single moment, ignoring the pain in his arm, Izuku clenches his teeth and grabs Kensei by his shirt to throw him far away. The action causes something to rip, perhaps a muscle, but Izuku cares not for it.

After all, since this all began, finally he had a direct path to Tsuchigumo.

The next few seconds are a rush. Izuku lowers his torso for a moment, dropping right out of his tattered school uniform, before breaking out into a sprint for the distracted villain in front of him. If Kensei couldn’t be talked into freeing himself, if he couldn’t run away nor could he rescue his friends, then there was only one answer: defeat Tsuchigumo.

Agony lances through his arms. Izuku clenches at the wrench in his hands. Kensei lands on the ground behind him.

With a roar, Izuku jumps, making use all of his weight in one desperate, overhead swing-

“It’s that the best you can do?”

-once more, the air forcibly escapes Izuku’s lungs as Tsuchigumo’s entire body moves too fluidly for something of its size, and all Izuku sees is a single continuous flow of spindly arms before he is hit right in the ribs.

And before he can even gasp out in pain, perhaps empty out the contents of his stomach, just before he flies back at the sheer force of the blow he has just endured, a line of white silk suddenly connects just over his chest, pulling him back for another blow.

Everything then becomes just sheer agony. Izuku loses count of the blows, of where he is being hit, and once even his consciousness before he was unceremoniously and painfully brought back into the real world by his face being slammed to the ground.

When it is finally over, Izuku is wrapped up with silk like a cocoon below Tsuchigumo’s feet, the bindings too strong for him to break even if he didn’t already break one of his arms and a few of his ribs.

A leg steps on Izuku’s immovable body, causing him to groan in pain.

“I was being nice enough, to let you play with Kensei instead outright killing you, but then you had to break the rules and actually attack me, didn’t you?” Tsuchigumo stomps Izuku as he taunts this, juggling Izuku’s stolen wrench with one hand. “Now that you’re like this, who’s going to save your friends?

Izuku doesn’t say anything, keeping his head down on the ground.

“Hm? Normally, people in your place would be pleading for me to not kill them.” Izuku groans again as he is pulled up by two arms, Tsuchigumo placing his face uncomfortably close to Izuku’s. “Could it be? Yesss, Kensei really did tell me that, didn’t he? How you were smarter than you looked. You must have some plan, don’t you? Something secret, something subtle.”

Tsuchigumo turns away from Izuku, looking at the uniform Izuku had left behind during his desperate attack. “Like your uniform, perhaps?”

Izuku flinches. No, please, don’t...

“Hahaha! I see, now this is interesting. Kensei, won’t you search his uniform for me?”

Izuku moans in defeat, knowing that at this point the jig was up.

His friend, bruised face and all, moves to follow the order, and soon, Kensei takes out Izuku’s phone from within his school uniform’s pocket, light blinking in a way to show activity. “So I was right, wasn’t I? Smart boy, to try and distract me with something idiotic like this... when your plan was to call people here all along.”

“Kensei, crush the cell phone. And to be safe, do it with the others’ cellphones, once you’ve climbed up to the other two and also taken theirs.”

The crunch of electronics being crushed underneath a wrench fills the park, causing Izuku to feel something similar happen to his spirits as he is once again beneath Tsuchigumo’s foot. Even his backup plan to call in the heroes from U.A. by sharing his phone’s location failed. Him? Injured, bound, and in the hands of a monster. His friends? One of them under control by said monster, another unconscious, and the third also caught in a web with his unconscious friend.

In the end, Izuku only amounted to nothing, didn’t he? Just a little useless Deku, never becoming a Hero, failing to fulfill his promise to Toshinori-san, never figuring out what Kacchan saw in his Quirk, just like his Quirk, he was useless, useless, useless-

“Your Quirk is not useless.”

And then, those words echo in his mind, followed by other bits and pieces of memories. And just like that, time stops for Izuku.

#-#-#-#

Toshinori-san, seeing Izuku use his Quirk to clean his clothes. “Creative.”

“Use that little nerd brain of yours to look at it in another angle, because I won’t be pointing it out for you.” Kacchan, talking to him in that alley, both challenging and believing he could become his rival, a fellow Hero. “You need to be the one to do this. Otherwise, there will be no fucking point.”

Later on that day, Toshinori-san again, “Don’t let yourself bring you down, Midoriya-kun. You’ll achieve great things.”

I can’t...

Acceptance. Declaration of rivalry. “You’ve said we’ll be rivals, right? So let us be rivals. Rivals that work together, grow together, and fight together.”

Not after all of their support...

The Principal, in response to Izuku declaring that he would become a Hero, “You would be, wouldn’t you?”

Hitoshi, “You are so much better at thinking through things than you think, Izuku, so stop belittling yourself so much.”

...I can’t give up now!

#-#-#-#

Time resumes, and soon Izuku raises his head, eyes blazing in determination once more.

Everyone keep on telling me that I am better than what I think myself to be. That my Quirk will mean something in this world. I can’t betray that. I can’t break their trust by giving up now, when I haven’t even figured out what Kacchan was trying to imply with my Quirk.

Think, Izuku, think! Izuku yells this to himself, in his mind as the gears started to spin. Didn’t everyone else tell you that your mind is your best quality!? If Kacchan could change his mind after seeing it once, then how is it that you can’t understand your own Quirk!

I can’t let this be the end!

It is then as though a veil is lifted before the eyes of Izuku’s mind and within a moment he understands.

All this time, he had the information he needed, all of the support and help he had dreamed for before he met Toshinori. All he had to do was to just put it together – and indeed, in this moment, he has done just that. Looking back, how is it that Izuku failed to realize this before? It all seems so obvious now, in retrospect!

The answer to that question, of course, Izuku already knows. All this time, what had been holding him back was his own self-doubt. For the entirety of the ten years he had his Quirk, he had been told that Minor Banishment would amount to nothing, and Izuku had let himself believe those words.

Like a twisted self-fulfilling prophesy, with how Izuku himself thought that there was nothing good that could come from his Quirk nothing did for all of these years.

What if, all he just needed to do was to look at it in another angle?

“Once you do figure it out, use that and don’t you dare fucking stop from there. It will be terrifying, fucking damnit I know just how much it would be once you realize just what kind of devastation a Quirk can do in the wrong hands, but don’t let that shit stop you, alright!?”

Thank you, Kacchan. Thanks to you, I’ve realized what I can do now. I don’t need a different Quirk to be stronger.

After all, all I just need is these measly ten grams.

With that thought in mind, Izuku closes his eyes and activates his Quirk for the first time since meeting Tsuchigumo.

He doesn’t see the flabbergasted look on Tsuchigumo’s face as suddenly, very suddenly, the silk cocoon wrapped around Izuku burst down its side in a previously nonexistent seam, and soon the villain’s feet is falling, leaving Tsuchigumo off-balance as Izuku rolled out free from underneath him.

Thank god that Tsuchigumo’s web is simply strong and not sticky, because otherwise that wouldn’t have worked.

However, even out from beneath Tsuchigumo’s feet, Izuku doesn’t let himself relax just yet. Having learned his lesson about Tsuchigumo’s enhanced reflexes, Izuku sees the blow coming this time for his face and thus dodging Tsuchigumo’s powerful limb aiming for his face by a hair.

And that is when Izuku takes this chance to counterattack, reaching out with his hand on the limb to activate his Quirk.

The way that Tsuchigumo shrieks out in pain is strangely satisfying, as well as the way the villain pulls away from Izuku with two of their four arms grabbing tightly on the leg Izuku left his mark in. The sky is dark and only lit by moonlight, but Izuku can still see the results of his Minor Banishment:

A bleeding cut now lies over the entire length of Tsuchigumo’s leg.

“The pain! The pain! Aaaargh, how did you free yourself from my silk! It’s tougher than steel! How did you injure me like this!? Didn’t Kensei tell me that you had a useless Quirk!?”

It becomes obvious to Izuku that, for their powerful abilities and unfair Quirk, Tsuchigumo is absolutely unused to pain.

I can use this. Especially now that I’ve figured out this possible use for Minor Banishment.

Tsuchigumo roars in anger, and as though that was an order, Kensei moves to strike Izuku down. Powered by his Quirk epiphany, adrenaline, unwillingness to get even more hurt, and perhaps even the mental efforts of his own friend to not harm him, Izuku easily dodges his puppeted friend, running once more for Tsuchigumo’s direction.

Too terrified to let Izuku get close and thus hurt him again, Tsuchigumo fires a line of silk directly at Izuku, presumably to trap him once again in a web. Part of Izuku immediately notes how the panic has dulled Tsuchigumo’s intellect – with how Izuku had escaped from being captured already, the calmer Tsuchigumo should have been too smart to reattempt a failed tactic.

Not that it matters as Izuku then reveals his feint – instead of running towards Tsuchigumo, mid-motion his feet shift him just so to fall into a roll, dodging the incoming silk and landing in front of a tree. Tsuchigumo hisses in shock as his silk attaches itself to ground instead of Izuku, and Izuku is all too aware of the image he is projecting as he turns his back towards his enemy.

I have more important priorities.

A muffled noise comes from above him, where Megumi and the unconscious Hitoshi are trapped in a web, and with a moment’s thought, Izuku places his hand on the tree and then activates his Quirk for a third time.

The next moment, both of his friends fall from their web, with Izuku catching Hitoshi in his good arm and Megumi landing on her own feet. Another moment, with another application of his Quirk, Izuku easily rips away the silk suddenly tattered with cuts from his friend’s faces.

“Izuku-kun!”

That is what Megumi says, but the way she places one of her hands over his arm tells another story.

How did you do that-?

Izuku doesn’t have the time to explain however, as Kensei is for the last time running towards them, both of his wrenches ready to strike them down, Tsuchigumo screeching incoherently at the insult Izuku had made by ignoring him like that earlier. Izuku, with one of his arm broken and the other holding Hitoshi, prepares to dodge, but then Megumi changes mental paths, instead sending him a memory and a thought.

pleaserunawayrunawayfreemebreakthecontrolhereishow

Izuku-kun, free Kensei-san!

Izuku lets go of Hitoshi, causing the other teenager to start falling. Izuku doesn’t know how Megumi is doing it, but somehow Izuku is seeing through her eyes, recognizing something Izuku previously failed to see on their friend. The next moment, Kensei is in their face, swinging his wrench at them and-

snap

-Izuku stretches out his hand to touch his friend on the forehead, causing a previously unnoticed silk thread to break from the top of their friend’s skull. Control broken, Kensei immediately lets go of his weapons, instead swinging his arms and falling on his knees right before Izuku.

And just like that, Kensei catches the unconscious Hitoshi in his arms.

Tears fill Kensei’s eyes as he turns to Izuku in gratitude. “Izu-chan!

Izuku doesn’t even want to complain anymore, at the sudden and even more informal nickname. After all, finally with everything that happened that day, Izuku has his friend, his ridiculously rude and apparently former criminal friend back.

So instead, he says:

“Welcome back, Kensei.”

And then all three of them then turn to face Tsuchigumo as one.

#-#-#-#

Tsuchigumo isn’t smiling anymore.

Izuku immediately takes this as a reason to be more cautious. After all he knows enough to recognize that for all this time, the only reason things haven’t managed to get as worse as they probably could was that Tsuchigumo had been underestimating him from the get go. But now that Izuku had actually managed to injure him, there is no chance of that happening again.

Izuku would prefer to start running at this point, considering he had already freed his friends, but the villain likely wouldn’t be letting them go that easily. The moment they turned their backs on Tsuchigumo, they would be dead.

“Kensei,” Izuku lowers his body into a ready stance, and with how his eyes remain focused on the villain currently wrapping up their wounded leg with silk, he fails to notice how Kensei’s lips somehow manage to twitch up at the lack of honorifics despite the situation. “You know Tsuchigumo. Can you tell us everything you can about him?”

Kensei moves Hitoshi in a more comfortable position in his arms. “You said something earlier about knowing my history. Did the teachers tell you that? I didn’t think they knew, considering Dad’s efforts in helping me put my history behind me...”

“It was a surprise for them too,” Izuku says, though not without a grimace on his face. “Not that it had been helpful in your case, considering it led them to jumping to conclusions about you...”

“No matter. If you guys already know about that part of my past already, then at least I can tell you guys about Tsuchigumo.” That is all Kensei says about the accusations implied to have been thrown at him by the teachers, and Izuku, knowing that they would have to talk about it later, lets it pass for now. “Tsuchigumo’s Quirk is Demon Spider. It lets him have increased physical capabilities, spider characteristics, and the ability to create silk that he could use to control people.”

“By the way,” Kensei turns to the only female in their group, a hint of red climbing up his cheeks, “Thank you, Yamato-san, for passing on to Izuku how to free me.”

Megumi taps the teenager on the shoulder. With how Kensei’s flush deepens and a smile comes to his face, Izuku already knows that they are having a mental conversation of some sort. Megumi then places her other hand on Izuku’s shoulder, and Izuku takes the chance to explain his own realizations about his Quirk to his friends, still keeping an eye on the villain in front of them.

Megumi and Kensei are busy trying to absorb Izuku’s epiphany when Tsuchigumo finally speaks again.

“So Kensei, you’re betraying me again, huh?” Tsuchigumo is calm, too calm as they say these words. Apparently, the time Izuku spent saving his friends was enough for him to regain his composure, leading to Izuku inwardly moan about that fact.

Considering how much difficult it would be to trick a calmer opponent than an angry or panicked one? Yes, it felt deserving of a comment to Izuku.

Izuku doesn’t see though, the way the looks on his friends’ faces change as the emotion unintentionally spills over to them as well.

“You know, I raised you. I picked you up as a child, raised you as my own, and taught you everything you knew about the world. Your betrayal three years ago was bad enough, considering it led me to being caught by the combined efforts of those frustrating vigilantes and the Police Force, but this?” Tsuchigumo rasps, and Izuku readies himself just in case as the villain gestures at them with one of their arms, “You betray me for this, these three children before you? Shame on you, Kensei, shame on you.”

Kensei tightens up beside Izuku. “I... You, they...”

Izuku doesn’t have to know more about his friend to understand that he is having some sort of mental breakdown. The way Megumi has to pull away her arm from Kensei’s shoulder is also a hint, as well as the sudden surge of information in Izuku’s head.

This!? But... right, Kensei must have used his Quirk on Tsuchigumo before. Right, I can use this.

“Kensei, don’t listen to him.” Izuku keeps his eyes on Tsuchigumo, but the same cannot be said for Kensei, and soon Izuku has to force confidence he doesn’t feel on his face for the sake of his friend. “He’s just trying to psych you out, mess with you. He’s not worth it, Kensei. You’ll forever be a better person than him.”

Kensei is quiet for a moment, before he nods. “Right. You guys are worth more than him.”

“Well I guess that could only mean one thing! You all die here!”

They have to split up as a fully-spread out web is fired at them. Izuku almost tries to use his Quirk on it, so he wouldn’t have to dodge, but then Kensei pulls him out of its way before it actually comes close. It’s only as it passes by Izuku that he sees the sticky droplets within the silk, previously invisible in the low visibility.

“Thanks, Kensei!”

“Don’t mention it, Izu-chan!”

Izuku spots the lack of Hitoshi in Kensei’s arms, but then he sees in the corner of his eye Megumi carrying their unconscious friend. Seeing Izuku’s diverted attention, Kensei explains, “With the two of us as the more combat-capable of our group, Megumi volunteered herself earlier to cart Hitoshi around.”

Tsuchigumo is climbing up to one of the trees with his webs. It’s such a change of strategy from the villain that Izuku has to wonder why. And the answer he gets is something he doesn’t like. “That web earlier... It was sticky. That could only mean one thing.”

“He’s figured out the same thing about your Quirk as you did. He’s always been frustratingly smart like that, even back then, and he knows your Quirk’s rules because of me.” Kensei grimaces as he readies himself beside Izuku for more incoming attacks. “He wouldn’t be letting you come close anytime soon, Izu-chan.”

“This means that there is something we can do though.” Izuku easily sees the way they can use this to their advantage, so he soon yells to Megumi’s direction, “Megumi-san, take this chance to run away with Hitoshi-kun! If you get to the path we came from earlier fast enough, you’ll be under enough leaf cover to prevent Tsuchigumo from sniping you!”

Megumi hesitates, “But, you and Kensei-kun! Both of you are already injured!”

“Don’t worry, we can take care of ourselves.” Kensei shoots back, and Izuku forces on a smile as well. That was as much as a lie as it was the truth that with Kensei’s bleeding head and Izuku’s broken arm, Megumi really was the only one capable of carting Hitoshi around. “Hitoshi is the issue here. As the one unconscious, he is the open target that can’t defend himself. None of us can run fast enough to outpace him, especially if one of us has to be carried, so someone would really have to be left behind to distract him while the others run. And it is better that the two of us who currently can defend ourselves the most would the ones to stay, don’t you think?”

“Don’t you think that you three shouldn’t be openly discussing your plans in front of me!?”

Tsuchigumo throws a branch at Megumi’s way using his arms, and just as about Izuku is about to run to try and defend his friends – not that he could have reached them anyway, considering their distance – one of Kensei’s wrenches flies into the air, and while it doesn’t have the force to entirely knock down the branch from the air, it diverts the incoming projectile enough from hitting their friend.

“This is your chance, now go!”

Megumi doesn’t argue any further at Kensei’s desperate order and takes off as fast as she can with one of Hitoshi’s arms over her shoulder for the path Izuku had led them through earlier. Armed with one less weapon, Kensei then turns to Izuku.

“Izu-chan...”

Izuku shakes his head, already knowing what the other teenager would ask. “No, I’m staying here. I didn’t free you for nothing, Kensei.”

“But you already have a broken arm!”

“And your head is still bleeding, honestly it’s a miracle you don’t have a concussion.” Izuku continues just as vehemently, even as they are suddenly rained upon with webs and flying debris. Tsuchigumo certainly is refusing to let them come close. “If I were to leave this place safely, it’ll be with you. I’m not going to leave my friends behind.”

“How heartwarming,” Tsuchigumo sarcastically croons, before throwing a rock at them by picking it up with a line of silk before hurling it at them like a slingshot.

#-#-#-#

Something starts pounding in Hitoshi’s head. And while Hitoshi was no stranger to headaches, with it being the cost of his Quirk’s overuse, there was something more to this particular sensation besides the blinding pain stabbing at the back of his mind. Even with all the darkness surrounding him, the odd dizzying sense of vertigo, it is as though something is calling him... Calling him back to wakefulness...

Hitoshi-kun, wake up!

Hitoshi’s eyes snap wide open.

Immediately he regrets it as the pain in his head intensifies three-fold, combined with a ringing in his ears and a fog in the forefront of his thoughts as though somebody has just stuffed him to the ears with wool. Strangely enough, there is a very little change in illumination even with his eyes open – did somebody turn off the lights? Where was he? Why was it so hard to remember what led him here?

That is when Hitoshi recognizes the panting girl below him and carrying him with one of his arm over her shoulder.

“M-Megumi...?”

At his pained and slightly nauseous reply, his friend shoots up, turning to his face in joy. “Hitoshi-kun, y-you’re awake! Oh god, I didn’t think it would work, but at least you’re awake now!”

“W-what?” Hitoshi wants to tilt his head, but doesn’t quite dare do it with how his stomach is trying to climb up his throat. “Megumi-san, w-what’s happening here? Where are we? Why was I unconscious, and why does my head hurt so much?”

“Oh no, oh no, oh no, you must have a concussion,” Megumi frets, still carrying Hitoshi as she lifts the both of them over a particularly large root. “Hitoshi-kun, can you try to remember what happened?”

Hitoshi is already in the midst of doing just that when she asks the question. It is painful, but soon everything comes back to him in a flash – Kensei’s disappearance, approaching Toshinori-san about it, the entire fiasco in the Principal’s Office, deciding to take action and find Kensei on their own, and finally arriving in the park and finding their friend... or so they thought.

The memory of being hit with a wrench smacks into Hitoshi’s head a second time, just as painful as the first.

“M-Megumi-san, what happened!? Where’s Izuku, where’s Kensei!?” Shit, shit, shit, damn it, Hitoshi’s head is pounding but his heart is even faster as his heartrate shoots up to the ceiling, adrenaline starting to fill his veins at the fear of what could have happened. “What happened with that imposter while I was unconscious!? Please, tell me, please!”

Megumi’s reply surprises him. “Hitoshi-kun, please calm down. Take a deep breath, relax, and stay with me. You aren’t going to be of help to anyone like this, so just calm down and stay with me, alright? You have a concussion, so don’t you fall asleep.”

For a moment, shock wars with anxiety in Hitoshi’s mind, until a stab of pain picks the victor. Recognizing that the pain would only get worse the more agitated he becomes, Hitoshi decides to follow the advice of his friend, taking a few deep breaths in an attempt to calm down.

When his breathing becomes slightly easier, Megumi finally answers the countless questions floating in the ball of pain that is Hitoshi’s mind. “You got hit earlier in the head and fell unconscious because of it. After that, the villain that was the cause of Kensei’s disappearance appeared, and in the end the other two asked me to retreat to carry you out of there. Tsuchigumo would’ve targeted you first if we were still there after all.”

Digesting the information is even more excruciating than just staying, but Hitoshi manages. “Y-You said, ‘the other two’. Does that mean you found Kensei? Did you defeat the imposter? Are Kensei and Izuku still fighting a villain?

“That was no imposter that hit you, Hitoshi-kun. That was Kensei-kun, though it definitely wasn’t of his own free will.”

The connection clicks easily in Hitoshi’s head. And how could he not? His Quirk is Brainwashing after all.

“S-So... Kensei was just being controlled by a villain all this time?” Relief, in great amounts, surges through Hitoshi’s thoughts, soothing the blinding pain just for a bit. That would certainly explain the withdrawal letter. “But you didn’t answer my other question, Megumi-san, are they really still fighting a villain?”

Megumi’s lack of response is a confirmation on its own.

“...then we go back. We go back and help them.”

At those words from Hitoshi, Megumi’s head snaps towards Hitoshi’s face, and it is only the fact that the girl had, for the moment, put him down on the roots of a large tree that Hitoshi doesn’t lose his eardrums.

“ARE YOU HEARING YOURSELF, HITOSHI-KUN!?”

Astonished at the fact that the normally meek girl has actually raised his voice at him, Hitoshi can only stare at Megumi as she starts giving him a dressing-down.

“The other two decided to risk themselves for your sake, for our sake!” The only source of illumination in the forest is the waxing moon, but it is enough for Hitoshi to see the frustrated tears in Megumi’s eyes, the lines on her face showing just how much the past few hours must have been for her while Hitoshi was unconscious. “Izuku-kun broke an arm! Kensei was forced to hurt himself before Izuku-kun managed to free him! They’re fighting some kind of spider monster villain right now, just so we can escape! And you mean to tell me to go back after all that!? Do you mean to spit upon their efforts!?

Hitoshi tries, even as his headache starts to worsen, “B-But Megumi, if they really are fighting, then they definitely need help-”

“Do you even know how you look like right now, Hitoshi-kun!” Megumi shoots back, her braid swing down her sides as she shakes her head in protest, “You can barely stand! Tsuchigumo, the villain they are fighting against, know our Quirks because he forced it out of Kensei-kun! The only way you could help would be if you could fight, but you can’t! I can’t. Both of us can’t! Only the Heroes can!

Megumi falls to her knees, her hands covering her face as tears start falling out of her eyes.

“We’ll be just hindrances if we try to head back there now, Hitoshi-kun!”

In that moment, Hitoshi realizes what Megumi before him must feel. How it must have felt, carting him out of that park alone, with the frustration of knowing that, while Izuku and Kensei were fighting for their lives, she couldn’t and had to leave them behind.

How useless must have she felt? How weak and defenseless?

like he was feeling right now

Hitoshi wants to stand. No, he will stand. He has to, he has to get back up on his feet, and comfort his friend- “M-Megumi-san, you don’t have to=”

No.

Megumi isn’t crying anymore. Instead, she has that determination in her eyes, the tears in them forgotten as the gleam they have are now suddenly so reminiscent of the same emotion that was in Izuku’s when his friend declared to Hitoshi their rivalry.

“Don’t stand, Hitoshi-kun. You have a concussion, and if you try and force yourself, it would only get worse. Your intention to comfort me is appreciated, but I am not so weak to need it more than you need to rest.” Megumi moves to lift Hitoshi again, looking much haler this time as once again she lifts up his arm over her shoulder. “Izuku-kun and Kensei-kun trusted me with the job of getting you to safety, so I will. I can’t help by fighting now, but at least this I would do. I will get us out of this forest, and I will call for help. The faster we get back to Mutsutafu, the faster we can call the Heroes to save our friends. Do you hear me, Hitoshi-kun?

Megumi stands, bring Hitoshi up with her. “Do I have to repeat myself, Hitoshi-kun?”

With her skin touching against his and her Quirk activated again, Hitoshi can literally feel the nerves of steel in her decision.

“...yes Ma’am.”

Good to hear.

They walk for a bit more, Hitoshi gritting his teeth at his own frustration and powerlessness when lights suddenly fill the portion of the forest they are in, brought about by dozens of flashlights suddenly converging on their location.

Despite the pain brought about at the back of his eyes by the bright lights, Hitoshi can’t help but feel relief at the sight of so many policemen. “Policemen! Now we’re all saved!”

Hitoshi doesn’t see how the blood evacuates Megumi’s face at the sight of the officers.

#-#-#-#

Kensei is tiring. His body had been aching badly enough, due to his former mentor’s mistreatment of it earlier, but with the continuous need to keep himself and Izuku still alive and whole from all of the projectiles being thrown at them, what little blood that remained in his head that was starting to disappear, leaving him lightheaded.

Heh. Light-headed. That’s a pun. Heh. Despite everything happening, that was almost funny.

“Kensei, snap out of it! You’re losing focus!”

Izuku clears his mind for him just in time for Kensei to dodge the branch moving to dislodge his head from the rest of his body. “Sorry, Izu-chan! The bloodloss almost got me there!”

Wait, shit, if there was any need to further cement the problem of losing blood affecting his mind, this is definitely it because Kensei definitely shouldn’t have said that, because it’s why Izuku is sending him worried looks now. And Kensei can’t have Izuku looking at him like that right now, not when Izuku is in far worse condition because of him.

“Nah, I’m still alright, Izu-chan. Still good.”

Izuku doesn’t look at all convinced, so Kensei instead focuses on his former mentor, no, Tsuchigumo and where they were camping on the top of the largest tree of the park. The villain is strangely allowing to have let Megumi and Hitoshi escape so easily – Kensei expected to need to do a lot more just so they could escape – but Kensei would rather not look at the gift-horse’s teeth right now.

What do you know, maybe Tsuchigumo’s hate for Kensei is enough to keep them here until he’s crushed like a bug under several rocks. That would be awful, but at least it meant his friends could escape, right?

Right.

Still... “Izuku, at this rate, we’ll tire out soon. It’ll be only ten, twenty minutes before we’ll be so tired that we won’t be able to do anything anymore. Once that happens, Tsuchigumo will be free to chase down our friends – we have to do something.”

Kensei doesn’t quite look at Izuku, but he can still see the other teenager nod in his peripheral vision.

“Right!” They have to dodge as another series of debris are thrown at them – Tsuchigumo must be growing impatient, for them to up the pace. There was only so much for Tsuchigumo to throw around here. “I’m trying to figure out a plan, but he’s still too calm for most of them to have any chance of working! Do you anything in mind, Kensei-kun!?”

Kensei did have a plan, but... it lied with Izuku having to trust him to do something really reckless.

“I do, but you wouldn’t like it.”

Before his friend can even begin to ask what he means, Tsuchigumo roars again in outrage, “What did I say about talking about your plans in front of me!?”

Kensei prepares himself to dodge something being thrown at him again when he finally sees what Tsuchigumo is trying to do.

With all of the sticky lines of web connecting so many of the debris that had been thrown at them, Kensei failed to see it before but now he realizes that he and Izuku are surrounded in a veritable maze of web and debris. There was literally no place for them to run...

...except, Kensei wasn’t exactly easy to capture either. This was entirely his thing, breaking in and breaking out of places. Tsuchigumo should have realized no maze could ever hold him.

“Izu-chan, he must have been planning this for a while now! Follow me!” Kensei grabs his friend by his good arm – for a moment, Kensei has to grimace at the information filtered through his Quirk at Izuku’s current physical state – before slamming his other hand to one of the pieces of debris surrounding them.

The next instant, Kensei already has a mental blueprint of the maze in his mind, with him capable of seeing through it from all directions. From every single rock, to every branch, leaf, and silk fiber, everything Kensei sees, as well as how they got there in the first place.

“I found our escape route! Here!”

Kensei pulls Izuku into the leaves of one of the nearby branches, the gaps between the leaves large enough for the both of them to hide in while a rock is thrown at their previous location. Of course, soon even their new shelter is being pelted by large rocks, so Kensei proceeds to pull his friend through the rest of the maze, being chased by more debris as he finds just the right gaps and weaknesses between the obstacles for them to squeeze through.

“K-Kensei!”

“Izu-chan, please use your Quirk on this particular web!”

The other teenager immediately does so without question, easily splitting the large web in between with his Quirk, and soon Kensei has managed to get them out of the maze and behind the cover of some trees. As Tsuchigumo moves to shift to another tree, clambering to build up on debris to throw at them, Kensei turns to his friend.

“Izu-chan, are you alright?”

The sight of Izuku rubbing at his arm sorely has Kensei feeling guilty for a moment. “Y-Yeah, I’m alright. I was just surprised – you really did seem very confident in getting us out of there.”

“You learn a lot of things, living in the streets.”

And being a criminal, goes unsaid, but thankfully Izuku doesn’t press further on the subject. Not that Kensei has the time to explain it anyway.

“...so you said, you have a plan I might not like?”

Remembering his dumb plan, Kensei nods, though not without a bit of dread. After all, this wouldn’t probably end up well for him either... “Yeah, Izu-chan. Listen to me, alright? This is the only way I know that would take Tsuchigumo by surprise.”

Izuku opens his mouth, presumably to say something, but Kensei speaks over him, refusing to budge on this matter.

“I want you to run away, Izu-chan. I want you to leave Tsuchigumo to me.”

Not even thirty seconds later, Kensei walks out from under the tree they have ducked into – alone, and without Izuku. Tsuchigumo perks interestedly at the sight of this, as Kensei expected his former mentor to do.

“Where is your little friend, Kensei?

Kensei shakes in fright at that look, knowing all too well what it would mean for him. After all, he had been on the other side of that look before, back when he was still fooled and believed that the monster in front of him actually loved him...

How funny, isn’t it, that things would come back to this?

“I told him to run away.” Kensei has to force himself to meet Tsuchigumo’s eyes and to ignore the clicking coming from his former mentor’s jaws. “I told him to leave me behind, and so he did. He did so he could call for help.”

 “You reaaaally think I would believe that?” Tsuchigumo hisses, looking suspicious. “After they put so much effort into rescuing you, they would abandon you just like that...? No, you must have some worth to them.”

A line of silk is shot, landing a few feet away of Kensei.

“Is it your Quirk?”

Three more follow, forming a square with Kensei in the middle.

“Is it your information? Your technical skills? The things I’ve taught you!?”

The lines split, forming a cage around Kensei made entirely out of silk.

“Tell me, Kensei...! What is it that you have done to buy your way into the graces of these goody-two-shoes hero-wannabes!”

Kensei is trembling. His heart is beating faster than ever in his chest, his consciousness is threatening to leave him, and his breathing is just... refusing to calm down. He is terrified. He is afraid. He wants to run, run far away from this place, to escape the control of Tsuchigumo again, to hope for a better chance-

-but he doesn’t. He refuses to run. Not when he knows this is the only way for the plan to work.

He stays his ground.

Tsuchigumo picks up a large rock, nearly size of a car, with a line of silk. With far too much force for something of their size, it flings the rock up, swinging it around in a circular motion, before swinging it down at Kensei who refuses to look away from him.

“Goodbye, Kensei!”

For a moment, Kensei thinks that he’s going to die. That he would be wrong. That it’ll be over. That he won’t be able to apologize to his friends for all of this bullshit he has dumped into their laps.

Thankfully, it is not so, as just before the rock is about to hit Kensei, Tsuchigumo tugs at it just so that it would instead land beside him instead of squashing him like a bug.

“...I thought that would have that boy running out to try and rescue you. That whatever plan you two were planning to do would be ended by that boy’s need to be the hero.” Tsuchigumo has a strange look on their face, which soon changes into what Kensei knows to be amusement. “I suppose that does mean that he’s gone now. This Izu-chan of yours, he really did leave you here!”

Kensei has to force himself to not fall on his butt with how his legs feel like jelly in that moment. “Yeah.”

“He really left you here! Alone with me!

Kensei has to swallow down all of the denials in his throat wanting to make themselves heard. “Yeah.”

Kyahahahahahahaha!

Tsuchigumo, for the lack of a better word, bawls in their insane glee. Kensei, despite having expected it coming, feels deeply unsettled by it anyway, by the thought of somehow proving Tsuchigumo right in something.

“You see! You see!”

Tsuchigumo leaps off his perch, landing in front of Kensei with a loud thud, and it’s not only the tremors coursing through the earth that makes Kensei shake in that moment. Especially once Tsuchigumo puts one of his hairy legs on the top of Kensei’s head.

“Friends are nothing! They’re useless! Can’t be trusted!” Tsuchigumo rasps at Kensei’s face, and in that moment, not for the last time Kensei wonders as to what could have happened to his former mentor to behave so much like this.

No matter. None of it could ever justify the blood in Tsuchigumo’s claws, as well as the several drops that had been indirectly spilled into Kensei’s hands since years before.

“See, I told you! But what did you do!? You ran away, led that damnable cockroach of a vigilante and his gang and those policemen into our home, our web, all because you thought that you could possibly even depend on anyone else other than me! Oooh, Kensei, how you vex me so!”

The leg starts stroking the top of Kensei’s head again, and he shivers at the touch, just like he had the previous night when all of this began.

“Tell me, Kensei.” Four pairs of red eyes focus on Kensei’s own, as two claws settle themselves over his throat. “What do you have to say for yourself. What do you think could ever justify how you betrayed me so.”

Kensei mutters something inaudible.

Hmmmmm? What was thaaaat?”

Kensei repeats his words, just a bit louder. “T...st.”

Louder this time, Kensei!

“Trust!” Kensei yells, pulling himself away from the monster before him. “It’s because I know I can trust them, and that they could trust me! And that, Tsuchigumo, is something I can never have with scum of the earth like you!”

Before Tsuchigumo can even start reacting, Kensei yells to another direction.

“Izu-chan, now!”

#-#-#-#

“I want you to run away, Izu-chan. I want you to leave Tsuchigumo to me.”

“K-Kensei, don’t speak nonsense! I won’t leave you here alone!”

“I know, I know! But trust me, alright. Leave him to me for now, and watch for a chance to use your Quirk on Tsuchigumo. I’ll signal you when it’s time. I’ll leave the choice on what to do for you – just trust me, alright? Tsuchigumo won’t kill me so easily. At the very least, he’ll take his time to make me suffer first.”

“But Kensei...!”

“Please, Izu-chan. Trust me in this. After all, I know you can do it.”

#-#-#-#

Izuku jumps out of the bush he had been hiding in, slamming his hands at the ground in front of him.

His lips bleed, having been bitten through in Izuku’s efforts to force himself to not reveal himself and disrupt Kensei’s plan. His broken arm is pure agony, and despite the adrenaline still surging through him, Izuku can still feel the one of his ribs dig into something deep in his chest.

Still, that doesn’t matter right now. After all, the ground beneath Tsuchigumo is now just ten meters away.

Coursing his Quirk straight into the ground, like the time he used Minor Banishment to trip up Kensei not so long before all of this, Izuku conducts Minor Banishment into the ground, as though some imaginary circuit is being formed from his hands towards Tsuchigumo’s direction.

And normally this wouldn’t be enough.

Normally, Izuku would need more preparation than this. After all, the activation of his Quirk required both touch and spatial awareness of what he is aiming to banish.

But without meaning to, Kensei and Megumi already solved that problem earlier.

I really should have realized this particular use. If Kensei could instantly scan objects and people with a touch, and Megumi-san could pass on thoughts and images in a similar way, of course with both of their Quirks combined they can help people instantly learn everything that Kensei has touched before!

Keeping the mental “blueprint” of Tsuchigumo in mind, Izuku closes his eyes, and activates his Quirk.

The next second, Tsuchigumo screeches out in pain.

“Aaaaaaargh!”

No wonder. It was another thing to be wounded, and another to have something vital to you disappear entirely.

Like, for example, the spinneret on the tip of Tsuchigumo’s abdomen.

(What did Bakugou see in that moment, when he was spying on Izuku and Toshinori’s first meeting, to realize something Izuku never knew before about his own Quirk?

It couldn’t have been Izuku’s story, because as much as it was the beginning of Bakugou Katsuki’s part of repentance for his own actions, the story wasn’t related to Minor Banishment. For the same reason, it couldn’t also have been Toshinori’s kindness, the promise, the newly established goal.

No, instead it could only have been in that moment, when Izuku activated his Quirk and banished the blood stains from his clothes.

Because in that moment, Bakugou Katsuki realized something.

If Izuku could banish blood, something organic, something from inside a person... then what was stopping him from doing the same thing with the rest of what was inside a person’s body? What was stopping him from taking apart a person’s heart, their lungs, their muscles, and their internal organs, all of this with just a touch?

The answer: nothing. Nothing but the fact that it was in the hands of a boy who couldn’t be any more far away from becoming a murderer with such a Quirk.

In that moment, Bakugou Katsuki decided that he would make Midoriya Izuku a Hero. Because even if you took out the factor of his guilt, the thought of Izuku turning into a Villain is enough to make him shudder.

I will not let Deku become a monster. )

It was only eight-point-five grams, as per the blueprint left in his head by the combined Quirks of his friends. The spinneret was only eight-point-five grams, yet enough to cripple Tsuchigumo from creating anymore of his silk.

With Kensei still trapped in the same cage as Tsuchigumo though, Izuku reactivates his Quirk, over and over again, without any mercy or regret in his actions as he continues to selectively banish certain parts of Tsuchigumo’s anatomy, the array of choices in his fingertips increasing as Tsuchigumo starts twitching and rolling over the ground in what Izuku supposes is the agony of someone ripping Tsuchigumo apart from the inside.

(Izuku bites again on his lips, knowing that what he is doing in this moment is something that will follow him forever, something that he’ll have nightmares over.)

Still, he continues to activate his Quirk. Bits of leg muscles. Important tendons. An eye. All of this and more, Izuku takes, all of them less than ten grams on their own, but of crucial importance to Tsuchigumo’s body.

And it feels all too easy. Too much like being having a live human being dissected before his very eyes.

(Izuku has to swallow his bile. So this is what Kacchan warned him about? What his Quirk could do in the right hands?

With his Quirk literally able to banish parts of people’s internal organs with a touch, Izuku doesn’t know if he wants to celebrate or feel horrible for having such a terrifying cruel Quirk.)

When it feels finally enough, when Tsuchigumo is left a wheezing and crippled wreck, Izuku stands, walks up to the cage surrounding Kensei. Another application of his Quirk, and Kensei is soon freed as the portion of the web in front of him falls into tatters.

“Izu-chan...”

Kensei stares at Tsuchigumo with something that could almost be called pity in his eyes. When Kensei finally lifts his face to meet Izuku’s gaze, Izuku has to avert his own eyes to not meet what was probably a horrified or terrified look.

“I-I know I went overboard, but then I saw how he was tormenting you and-”

Izuku freezes up in shock when instead of decrying him, Kensei takes him into a tight hug.

“I know, I know. Of all people, I won’t judge you. After all, I can’t say that Tsuchigumo doesn’t deserve it. You can relax now. We’re finally safe, because of you.”

The relief brought about by those words is what makes Izuku finally snap. Like a puppet suddenly bereft of its strings, Izuku sags, and the tears start welling up in his eyes.

Kensei...!

And just like that, Izuku starts sobbing in Kensei’s arms.

Finally, finally this terrible night was over. Finally, they were safe.

Kensei starts stroking the back of his head, and Izuku continues to cry into his friend’s shoulder. This goes on for several minutes more, until empty chuckling comes from the crippled Tsuchigumo behind them.

Kensei and Izuku pull away in ready stances, but Tsuchigumo only says, “Don’t bother. I may no longer feel pain anymore, but I know enough to recognize the symptoms of shock. You’ve already left me crippled – there is nothing I can do now to hurt any of you.”

“Hey, monster.” Izuku flinches, recognizing that Tsuchigumo is referring to him. “What is your full name? I didn’t bother trying to recall any of your names earlier. As far as I was concerned, you three were going to die and that was it.”

Kensei lifts his arm protectively in front of Izuku. “Izu-chan, you don’t have to answer him. Nothing he says is worth hearng.”

“No.” Izuku uses his good arm to move Kensei aside. “This I can do, at least. Now that I have crippled him.”

“My name is Midoriya Izuku.”

Kyahahahaha... Midoriya Izuku, huh?” Tsuchigumo directs his six remaining eyes at Izuku, the other two only left as empty sockets after Izuku’s repeated use of his Quirk. “Such a dull name for a future mass-murderer.”

Kensei pulls Izuku away from Tsuchigumo just in time for the look of horror to form on Izuku’s face.

“See! I told you nothing he says is worth hearing! Tsuchigumo only warps your words, your thoughts back at you! It’s how he controlled me in the past!”

But Izuku doesn’t hear Kensei’s words anymore.

Murderer? Is that what I will be?

“Why didn’t you kill me?” Tsuchigumo asks, and Izuku finds his attention drawn forcibly back to the villain despite Kensei’s attempts to make him snap out of it. “Is it because you wanted to make me suffer? Is that it? For hurting you, for hurting your dear friend Kensei? Isn’t that selfish, the selfish act of a future murderer?”

“N-No...” Izuku takes a step back, a hand covering his face in horror as once more, he takes in the wreck he has left Tsuchigumo in. How three of the villain’s legs are twitching randomly, how there is a large split down Tsuchigumo’s abdomen from where Izuku repeatedly used his Quirk to cripple Tsuchigumo from creating anymore silk. “I-I don’t...!”

Didn’t I do this? Was I really being just cruel? This is too much, too much isn’t it, I-

Izu-chan, snap out of it!

Izuku blinks, the downward spiral he had been falling into suddenly dissipating into nothingness. The top of his head hurts, and isn’t that Kensei in front of him? Since when did his friend get so close? Why was Kensei rubbing his palm?

Wait. Palm, the pain on top of his head.

“...Kensei, did you just smack me?”

Kensei looks at him as though he has asked a dumb question. “Of course I just did! I warned you to not listen to Tsuchigumo, to ignore what he says, and what do you do? You listen to his nonsense anyway!”

Izuku stutters, “B-But he’s-”

“Wrong, and he’ll always be wrong!” Kensei interrupts, and Izuku has never seen Kensei so serious before. “He doesn’t know anything about what he’s saying, and most importantly, he does not know anything about you! So don’t go to listening to what he says about you becoming a villain – it’s just him pushing the blame to you when all you were doing was just self-defense and protecting me!”

Self-defense. Protecting his friends. Yes, that was it, wasn’t it?

His Quirk would be terrifying in a murderer’s hands, hell it was terrifying in Izuku’s, but still it was still his wasn’t it? Like Hitoshi said – Quirks weren’t evil by themselves, and terrifying Quirks do not make villains. It was only how you used them that mattered.

And Izuku only wanted to protect his friends and be a Hero.

“R-Right.” Izuku clenches his hands into fists. “I just want to be a Hero. That’s all I will be!”

“Not that it matters now...”

Just as Tsuchigumo says that, they are all lit up as though the sun has abruptly risen in their location. Izuku has to partially cover his eyes at the sudden glare, but then he recognizes where the light is coming from – a series of flashlights, all from police officers!

“Dad!?”

Izuku turns in shock towards his friend, whose jaw has fallen at the sight of one of the officers, who presumably was Tsukauchi Naomasa, the one and only person who took on the role of Kensei’s father and Toshinori-san’s detective friend.

But... “Something’s wrong!”

Izuku’s stomach falls as he starts to recognize several things about the line of police officers around them.

All of them have dull looks in their eyes. Their mouths, shut closed. Their bodies are unnaturally still, as limbs in odd angles as though they had been moving robotically, and with all of the lights, how could Izuku miss the telltale strands of silk on the top of their heads.

“They’re being controlled!” Izuku yells, preparing to defend himself. When he turns to Kensei though, his friend only remains frozen. “Kensei?”

“No... Not them, not Dad, please let this be something I am only imagining...!”

That is when Tsuchigumo speaks again, voice sounding spiteful and bitter. “Oh this is real alright. I found them earlier, running through the streets of Mutsutafu like ants in the search of honey. They were so easy to ambush, so easy to take control while they were looking for you... I was planning to make use of them later to cause chaos in the city, but I suppose with me being crippled there is only one thing I can do.”

Izuku turns towards the villain. “Set them free, now!”

“And what will you do if I don’t, cripple me? Because you already have done that, if you haven’t noticed.” Tsuchigumo snarks  back, before turning his head back towards the direction of Tsukauchi. “Not that you have any place to complain here either.”

Two groans come from behind Tsukauchi, and Izuku gasps at the sight of Megumi and Hitoshi trying to break free from the tight grips of the officers holding them. Soon, both of Izuku’s friends are being pressed into the ground, with guns pointed at their heads.

“Megumi-san! Hitoshi-kun!”

Megumi screeches, “Izuku-kun, I’m so sorry! They found us while we were trying to escape!”

“Aaaargh!” Hitoshi groans, and Izuku cannot even be relieved that the other teenager is conscious with how guns are aimed at his friend’s head. “Why can’t I control them! Why am I so useless!”

“Don’t worry, Megumi-san, Hitoshi-kun, I’ll save you-!”

“Don’t bother.” Tsuchigumo stops him in his steps with his words once again. “Before you can even come close to your friends, before you can even try activating your damnable Quirk, I would have them shoot. And even you wouldn’t be able stop guns from firing bullets, can’t you? The moment those triggers are clicked, your friends are dead.”

“And you know what? I’m not going to be satisfied with that. I want you to have the deaths of even more people on your head.”

More guns are brought out, and soon the officers that don’t have their guns directed at Izuku’s friends have their gun pointed at their own heads, one of them being Tsukauchi, leading to Kensei wheezing at the sight of his father with a gun on his head.

“Dad!”

Izuku yells out at Tsuchigumo, outright begging, “Please! Stop this, please!”

“Why don’t you do that yourself?”

Izuku blinks tears at the sudden challenging tone in Tsuchigumo’s voice. “H-Huh?”

“If you can cripple me with a touch, then you could probably kill me just as easily.” Tsuchigumo’s face is unreadable as they say this, with Izuku left as a helpless listener to the villain’s words. “You can banish part of people’s internal organs, right? What’s stopping you from banishing part of my brain and killing me instantly that way? With me crippled like this, I’ll end up heading to jail now no matter what happens here. I’ll rather die than let that happen to me again, so I’m going to give you a chance.”

“Kill me now, and I won’t kill your friends and most of the officers here. Kill me now, I dare you.”

It should be easy. Cold math. It was only the life of one villain, weighed against the lives of two of his friends and almost an entire department’s worth of police officers, one of them Kensei’s own adoptive father. It should be easy, just a little touch, but...

...why. Why!? Why is it that Izuku can’t make this decision!?

“N-No...!” Izuku can’t force himself. Not with his hands. Not with his Quirk. Not even with a Villain. “I c-can’t kill you!”

“Then they shall die.”

Time freezes for the last time that night. Izuku’s heart is at his throat, Kensei has his arm directed at his father, his face in horror as he runs blindly in a futile attempt to stop him, and Megumi and Hitoshi have their eyes shut, the prospect of death making them close their eyes in fear of what is coming.

In this moment of frozen time, Izuku wishes. Wishes to be saved, for someone to rescue them, to save everyone’s lives. He tried his best, twice and even broke his arm trying to save his friends, but was this really how everything was going to end? Even with his newfound insight in his Quirk, even with how he won the battle, was he really going to lose the war?

Was this night going to end with a bloodbath?

Please, Izuku cries loudly in his heart in that moment, Somebody save everyone here!

Thankfully, the world decides to answer his wish.

Do not fear... for I am here!”

Izuku has never been so relieved to see All Might’s smile.

Chapter Text

Chapter 9: Denouement

Izuku doesn’t see how it all ends.

It is not because he is incapable of seeing what happened, because he does. It is not because his attention had been directed the wrong way, because in his desperation and hope for somebody to save his friends and the officers to say that his senses weren’t at their peak would be an absolute lie.

Indeed, Izuku should have been capable of seeing how it happened, yet that is not case. Why?

The answer: because it happens so fast that by the time Izuku realizes that All Might had arrived, All Might had already saved all of them.

And by then, the relief of things finally being over slams over him so hard to he falls into a dead faint.

#-#-#-#

Minutes before:

In the form of All Might, Toshinori rushes through the streets and rooftops of Mutsutafu with only one goal in mind: to find his wayward students.

And as much as Toshinori would like it not to be, all he has in his hands are guesswork on where Midoriya and his friends could be. After all, despite the dozens of cameras in Mutsutafu, even Nedzu couldn’t find any video recordings of his students out on the streets when there really should have been some.

I believe I may have erred, letting your student get a glimpse of camera feeds in Mutsutafu. Given what Midoriya-kun has shown us in terms of his own intellect, it is not beyond what I have observed of the boy to use the feeds I have shown him to accurately locate Mutsutafu’s security cameras and avoid them the same way Tsuchigumo probably has with Katsura-kun’s help.

All I can give you is some help from your fellow Heroes in finding your students, and an idea on what kind of place they might be. Knowing Tsuchigumo’s patterns, you’ll find them somewhere secluded and without much of a security system, like parks or forests.

Parks or forests? This was Mutsutafu, for crying out loud! Of course there were many parks and many forests, especially more of the latter once Kamui Woods got around to reforesting much of the unused land around Tokyo!

So that left Toshinori having to guess. Where could his students be, where could his students be!?

Having read the villain’s file, Toshinori knows very well that every minute with his students possibly left alone with the spider-themed villain the higher the chance of them not getting through the night alive and whole. He simply cannot waste any time making any mistakes!

So where could his students be then?

Think, Toshinori, think! You know your students; there must be a place where they could be. Where Midoriya Izuku could be.

Wait a minute. Wasn’t there one place, one park...?

Around Toshinori, people suddenly felt a tremor come from around them as he turns on his feet in one of the streets and jumps into another part of town with one great leap. In fact, this tremor then gets incorrectly reported as a minor earthquake around town, leading to much embarrassment for Toshinori later on that night, but in the meantime, Toshinori ignores the way parked cars start screeching as the shockwave of his movements knock them into action.

A memory of a certain ‘first’ meeting comes into the forefront of Toshinori’s mind, and All Might’s perpetual smile soon focuses into a look of pure determination.

“My name is Midoriya Izuku! Please take care of me!”

His fists clench, and soon, Toshinori ups his pace.

When he does finally arrive in the park of promises, Toshinori doesn’t like what he sees. First, his favored bench, the one he and a certain teenager exchanged ice-cream bars over for the first time is completely wrecked, with a large rock having crushed it much of the same way with wrecking balls.

Second, it’s not just the bench that is destroyed – so is much of the rest of the park. Debris is thrown all over the place, ranging from random rocks to large branches from trees, and there are also large webs scattered everywhere the eye could see. There is even a large cage construct made out of webs in the area.

The construct leads his eye to the third and most important thing he sees there: his students, all of them begging in one way or another as police officers surrounding them point guns at their own heads and at the heads of their friends. Toshinori’s heart clenches at the sight of Tsukauchi with his gun pressed against his own temple, but it doesn’t take a genius to see that there is something very wrong here and could get rather worse very quickly.

So as soon as he sees the park, Toshinori pumps One for All into his entire body, focusing particularly on his legs. There is less than a second to do this successfully, so Toshinori doesn’t quite dare declare his presence just yet, at least not until he has removed all of the silk threads connected to the top of the officers’ heads.

Toshinori goes ultrasonic, causing entire branches to fly away from nearby trees with some of the debris already littered around the park. His fingers move even faster than his legs as he runs from officer to officer: plucking out the string on top of their heads and even their guns just to be safe. Sonicbooms are made as the tips of his fingers repeatedly break through the sound barrier and the occasional gun, the latter of which only because he can’t control his strength too well at these speeds.

When Toshinori is finally finished, he dumps all of the confiscated guns below his feet and bellows his signature catchphrase:

“Never fear, for I am here!”

Time resumes at its normal pace, and soon, everything finally starts to react appropriately.

First comes the shockwaves of Toshinori’s movements finally slam into everyone, leaving no one on their feet. The policemen, Toshinori’s students, even some of the smaller trees in the area are knocked over by Toshinori’s arrival.

And then, the sighs and tearful proclamations of relief begin as the curtains of that dreadful night finally start to close.

#-#-#-#

Toshinori becomes the reluctant messenger for the Principal the following day, and it is probably the fact that she is also invited that Recovery Girl doesn’t stab him with her giant syringe when he tells her that the Principal wants her newest patients in the Principal’s Office. That, and also the entire issue that if he got hurt, she would have to heal him afterwards. Maybe.

After all, at this point, the healer’s list of complaints about him is so long that Toshinori isn’t sure that she wouldn’t do it anyway. Still, getting Recovery Girl’s permission is just the first step, so even as Toshinori prepares to lead his students to Nedzu from the Nurse’s Room, he makes sure to ask all of them one question.

“Midoriya-kun, Katsura-kun, Yamato-kun, Shinsou-kun, are you all sure you are ready? I would understand if none of you want to go, after all with everything that happened yesterday, I believe the Principal would understand if none of you feel up to it just yet. Some of you are even still injured anyway.”

Toshinori has to force himself to not look at his future successor as he says this, because while young Katsura and young Shinsou’s injuries have been easily healed by Recovery Girl, Izuku’s broken arm and several bruised ribs had been bad enough that despite a full night’s sleep and several activations of Recovery Girl’s Quirk the teenager still had one of his arms in a cast.

It is only the fact that he has been told by Recovery Girl that his student is already en-route to full recovery the following day that Toshinori hasn’t already called Nedzu and told him that there wouldn’t be a meeting.

“Yeah,” In the end, it is the same student that he is most worried about that answers his question, Izuku tightening his good hand into a fist as he does so, “I think we all need to hear what the Principal has to say for us, Toshinori-san. From what I’ve heard from Recovery Girl, had we not broken out of Yuuei to look for Kensei ourselves, none of us would have gotten this injured nor All Might would have had to rescue us last night.”

“We have to hear this, we have to know how this will affect us later on.” Izuku finishes, and Toshinori’s chest thrums in pride at the sight of his normally meek student projecting an air of newfound confidence.

Toshinori might wish that it hadn’t had to happen this way, but if there’s anything good that came out of yesterday’s incident, it’s how Izuku seems to have grown literally overnight. It’s not all there yet, he could see, but there are now hints of a stronger spine in Izuku, the kind that could only be earned through hard-won experience.

The way none of the teenager’s friends voice any kind of denial also tells another story, which Recovery Girl is all too happy to point out, “You and your friends have already talked about this, haven’t you?”

“Yeah.” Shinsou speaks next, and Toshinori turns his eyes just in time to see the teenager’s shoulders sag in shame. “In retrospect, I may have been too emotional yesterday afternoon when the Principal told us about his theory of Kensei betraying us. Had I been any calmer, we wouldn’t have had to be forced out of the office when we found that camera footage of Kensei in his room, nor would we have left Yuuei.”

“You can’t take all the responsibility like that, Hitoshi-kun.” Yamato shakes her head at the other teenager and Toshinori can only stare in wonder as she then argues, “We were all equally vehement about defending Kensei-kun; you were only the most vocal. Even if you try to argue about that anyway, I can’t say that I’m innocent of everything either. After all, I was the one who thought up of the plan to get us out of Thirteen’s watch.”

Toshinori blinks at that. From what he had heard from the Space Hero himself, it had been a masterful ploy of emotional manipulation that got his students free. Toshinori could expect that of the wily young Shinsou and perhaps even Midoriya, but for Yamato to have been the one to prompt that kind of action?

Perhaps Toshinori underestimated her more than he thought.

“And of course, none of all of this would have happened were it not for me and my unpleasant past.” Kensei adds his own two cents, prompting to a chorus of denials from the other teenagers. “No, no, no, hear me out alright? I know you three don’t think I should be blaming myself for this, but in retrospect, it’s entirely my fault for being out of campus past curfew. If I hadn’t been out that night, Tsuchigumo wouldn’t have caught me alone and taken control of me.”

“And what would have stopped Tsuchigumo from doing it anyway on some other day?” Shinsou shoots back, his tone revealing this to be an issue already well-treaded, “Kensei, from that villain’s personality, he wouldn’t have stopped until he had you in his grip again. Maybe he would’ve even done it on broad daylight, and it was only the fact that Tsuchigumo coincidentally found you outside Yuuei the other night that he hadn’t done so.”

“I know Tsuchigumo. He prefers to do that kind of thing when it’s dark. And when the sun is up, I’m with you guys anyway whenever I’m out of campus. He’s also the kind of guy to only ambush his targets when they’re alone, so yeah, that wouldn’t have happened.”

“You know Tsuchigumo from three years ago, before being imprisoned. That’s different!”

“Well if Dad hadn’t had the police out of the streets looking for me the whole fiasco of all of them being put under Tsuchigumo’s control wouldn’t matter then!”

“Again, you can’t blame yourself for being kidnapped, Kensei!”

Toshinori recognizes the beginning of a loud quarrel when he sees one, so he raises his voice again to interrupt young Katsura and young Shinsou from saying anything else. “While it is good to hear that none of you seem averse to taking responsibility for your actions, there is such a thing as being too guilty and trying to take responsibility for everything when nobody is to blame. Please settle down, Katsura-kun, Shinsou-kun.”

Chastised, the two teenagers lie down, both of them having left their infirmary beds early on to their escalating argument. Toshinori hears Recovery Girl mutter something about hypocrites and has to hide an internalized wince when his protégé finally speaks again.

“Toshinori-san, what do you think the Principal would tell us when we meet him?” Izuku asks, and it seems for the moment the teenager’s newfound spine disappears as he looks down at his bed-sheets. “We did break the school’s rules, plus, with how I ended up crippling Tsuchigumo I’m pretty sure I broke some vigilantism laws and some of the ones on public Quirk use.”

At the c-word, Toshinori has to force his face to remain unaffected. After all, after he quickly left his students under Recovery Girl’s care the previous night, he dropped by the police precinct only to find out about the state Tsuchigumo had apparently been left in by his seemingly-harmless student.

With two eyes gone, a long and deep cut in one of his legs, and a multitude of much more devastating injuries left all over Tsuchigumo from his organ systems to his spider characteristics and even the villain’s spinal column, to say that Tsuchigumo would at some point recover fully from what Toshinori’s successor did to him would be a lie, even with Quirks like Recovery Girl.

After all, like Toshinori is all too aware, she couldn’t replace internal organs. And while Tsuchigumo would heal most of the damage to his muscles in time through natural healing, the same couldn’t be said of the tendons as well as his eyes and the damage to Tsuchigumo’s nervous system.

Toshinori knows that he told Izuku before that his Quirk would soon find use in his path to becoming a Hero. He just didn’t expect Minor Banishment to have a use like this. Toshinori originally thought that it would only amount to the occasional cantrips, like the tripping-trick that he already knew before, not this kind of horrific application that would honestly not be that unsuited for the worst of the worst of villains.

Was this what young Bakugou meant when he pulled Izuku into that alley? Because if that’s so, then the boy certainly was more perceptive than Toshinori could ever be when it came to Quirks. On that note, Toshinori reminds himself to talk to the teenager later on in private, if only to check if the boy had any other ideas for Izuku to do. Not as All Might though, considering how their last meeting ended.

“Considering you are a minor and only did it in self-defense of yourself and another person as opposed to seeking out Tsuchigumo yourself, you wouldn’t be under the same laws as vigilantes. After all, you weren’t the one to initiate the entire confrontation as vigilantes do.” Toshinori starts carefully, picking his every word wisely. “Plus, you were under huge emotional distress when it happened. That allows for a lot of leeway in court, not that anyone is planning to bring this to that point.”

Toshinori knows he doesn’t imagine the way the shoulders of Izuku and his friends relax, if only for a bit, at that. His student then asks, “How about how we broke the school’s rules then? You only answered the bit about the public laws.”

“I’ll be the one to explain that!”

The door to the Nurse’s Room slams open, revealing none other than Principal Nedzu, accompanied by Aizawa and Thirteen. Toshinori stands up, “Principal!”

“You were taking so long that I thought to check up on my cameras again. When I saw how you were all talking here, I decided that it would be better to just move the meeting here instead of forcing the students to leave this place.” Nedzu says in that high-pitched voice of his and Toshinori flushes for a bit, realizing just how long he made the Principal wait without any news. He should have remembered to send in a message on how they would be late, at least. “I understand how they should be allowed to recuperate and I do respect the sanctity of this place of healing, but Recovery Girl, I hope you don’t mind us holding this here? We promise to be quick.”

Someone so old and so short shouldn’t be capable of managing to be so terrifying, but Recovery Girl does at that moment, her matronly smile promising lots of needles if anybody dared to try push her any further.

“As long as you take down those cameras you’ve just mentioned. You do remember what I told you about what I felt about keeping the privacy of my patients intact, right Principal Nedzu?”

“Oh, I do remember!” Nedzu replies just as cheerily, walking into the room and leading to Toshinori fearing for the Principal’s life then and there for a moment before remembering that, yeah, if Recovery Girl was to do what Toshinori feared she might do, it would probably be after his students have left. Thus for now, the Principal was safe. “I’ll take them down later of course. It’s only because of who is in here right now that I’ve thought of putting them up in the first place.”

Shinsou speaks up at that, sounding offended, “You mean you thought that we would try to escape, again?

“No, I mean I thought that this might happen, that Toshinori-kun would take so long that we would have to visit you four by ourselves.” Shinsou doesn’t seem to have anything to say about that, and so soon closes his mouth. Toshinori could sympathize; after all, he was doing the same. “Thankfully, the cameras this time have audio, so I already heard everything discussed so far. And my, my, while it’s a little depressing that I can’t deliver my own speech on your issues, it’s also very heartening to hear my students capable of admitting their own mistakes! People so much older than four of you can fail at that, you know, which is why we probably should do this.”

All four of the students in the room can only stare in shock as Nedzu, Thirteen, and Aizawa all stand in front of their beds before bowing their heads low in apology.

“We apologize for our own mistakes.” Principal Nedzu is uncharacteristically somber as he says this, something that Toshinori knows is rare enough that pigs might start growing wings and taking to the sky and he wouldn’t be surprised. “My own was that I failed to consider checking Katsura-kun’s records deeper before coming up with a theory. With how convinced I was with my own theory of Katsura-kun as a traitor early on, I failed to correctly assume for all possibilities despite my own words, and in doing so I’ve erred in the worst of mistakes made by those with intellectual Quirks like mine: instead of shaping my theory to fit the evidence, I had shaped the evidence to fit my theory.”

“While you three, Shinsou-kun, Midoriya-kun, and Yamato-kun were in the wrong to leave Yuuei in such a dangerous time as yesterday afternoon, I can’t blame you for doing it as it was I that led you three to making that kind of decision in the first place.”

Thirteen then stars with their own piece.

“I also can’t say that I’m without my own failures. If I hadn’t been fooled by the three of you, then none of this would have also happened. And before any of you say that it was your fault for fooling me in the first place,” Toshinori watches just as Yamato closes her mouth, in the middle of an attempt of trying to speak up before being prevented by the space-themed Hero, “Even with that, I really should have caught the three of you while you were escaping. I knew that Katsura-kun had broke into the dorm – I really should have expected that you three could break out the same way.”

With the two done, Toshinori then turns to Aizawa who... doesn’t say anything. “Aizawa-kun?”

“What?” For a man supposedly giving an apology, Aizawa doesn’t look very apologetic. “I didn’t do anything wrong. I only did my job to ensure nobody used their Quirk in Principal Nedzu’s office yesterday.”

He is soon beset by glares from the rest of the adults in the room, Nedzu included, and in the end, Aizawa sighs, pressing at the bridge of his nose with his fingers.

“Alright, alright, I suppose I could have provoked the purple-haired brat over there less than I had. Other than that, I’m not apologizing.”

Toshinori turns to his students at that, “Sorry, but that’s probably just how much you’ll get from him.”

Despite being called a “purple-haired brat”, young Shinsou seems satisfied at the apology anyway. “Yeah, at this point we do have an idea of Eraserhead’s charming personality. That’s probably already the equivalent of a dogeza for someone like him.”

Aizawa growls, “Bite me, brat.”

“I’ll rather not, given how much scarf you cover yourself with everyday.” Shinsou ripostes, not noticing the smiles forming on his friends’ faces at the easy banter between him and the teacher, “You must be sweaty all the time with that kind of wear and I don’t want to partake on the combined taste of bacteria and embittered old man.”

“I am not old, thank you very much-!”

Toshinori puts himself between the two to stop them from bickering any further. “I am glad to hear you give your apology, Aizawa-sensei, but I believe if we wait any further, Midoriya-kun is going to explode from suspense.”

At Toshinori’s words, young Shinsou turns to his aforementioned friend, who is singularly focused on the Principal. And that seems to be enough to remind the teenager that, yes, the Principal still hasn’t told them what would happen to them yet.

“Principal Nedzu?”

“Right, I was supposed to talk to you four in terms of punishments!” At that last word, Toshinori’s four students stiffen, which soon dissolves as- “As punishment for breaking out of Yuuei when expressly told to not leave its premises, fighting and defeating a former high-profile villain like Tsuchigumo, and saving Katsura Kensei from his clutches, I declare you four the punishment of... serving a week’s worth of detention with a teacher of your choice!”

“H-Huh?” “What?” “Hahahaha-” “That’s it?”

The last one is from Izuku, and Toshinori can’t say that he doesn’t feel as puzzled as his student when he asks, “But we broke the rules! We went against what we were told! We fought a Villain! Shouldn’t we be punished more for this?”

“But as we three have explained earlier, part of the blame laid on us and thus I decided to take away anything involved with our personal failures out of your punishment.” Principal Nedzu explains, causing Izuku’s eyes to widen. “So that only left with the four of you breaking curfew and for I thought that a week’s worth of detention was appropriate. Plus, there is another reason why I decided to do this.”

The Principal turns his eyes to Kensei, who seems to have found the entire punishment funny. “Katsura-kun, I believe you are aware of how I’ve considered you as a threat to informational security yesterday?”

At the question, the teenager freezes up for a moment. “Y-Yeah?”

“It’s because of that issue that I’m deciding to keep all of this as a secret. And by that, I mean this entire incident, completely declared under wraps.” Everyone goes quiet at that, wishing to hear more. “It is only our luck that this was settled so quickly and without the mass media noticing, because if people outside the school were to find out just how much you know about Yuuei’s weaknesses you could be targeted and I’ll rather not have that. So even on our paperwork here in the school, what happened last night never happened except for the note of you four breaking curfew and similarly everyone else involved has been sworn to silence. Nobody knows outside of Tsuchigumo, you four, and the staff you’ve met yesterday.”

“H-How about Dad? What did the rest of the police have to say?”

“I’ll rather explain that myself, Kensei.”

That is exactly the moment Tsukauchi walks into the room, causing young Katsura to yelp, “Dad!”

“Hey, is that all the welcome I would get? Thanks a lot, kiddo, though I am glad to see that you’re alright.” Tsukauchi teases his son for a moment, coming close to give him a hug before nodding at Toshinori’s way, which Toshinori returns of course. He then gives an envelope to Nedzu before turning to Recovery Girl. “Recovery Girl, I hope you don’t mind me visiting.”

“It’s your son who is one of my patients. That gives you more right than anyone else to be here in this room beside my patients, no matter how Toshinori might treat Midoriya-kun as his own.” Toshinori coughs out blood at that statement from Recovery Girl, and he is treated with the sight of Izuku turning bright red before Toshinori notices the chuckling directed at him from Tsukauchi.

Toshinori then takes his time to wipe his face of blood, because this is supposed to be clean environment and not because he is feeling embarrassed, no, not at all.

“Now then, to answer your question Kensei.” Tsukauchi turns back to his son, and Toshinori would have to be blind to not see the clear signs of paternal affection coming from his good friend, as well as the way Katsura-kun easily looks four times brighter with his father in the room, “Yes, the Police Department and Principal Nedzu have already agreed to keep this matter need-to-know only. As far as people are concerned, by now if anybody asks why we were so active last night it’ll be because we heard that a former escaped criminal was in the area and was looking for him. Given how in the same night we’ve put Tsuchigumo back in jail and on his way to a more secure holding cell, nobody would even check to see if there was even anyone else involved.”

Tsukauchi then turns to Toshinori’s successor. “That also neatly saves the problem of you facing any issues for using your Quirk in self-defense, Midoriya-kun, so you don’t have to worry about that anymore.”

Toshinori can’t say that he doesn’t heave a sigh of relief in that moment.

“That is indeed good news to hear, Tsukauchi-kun,” he says.

“Um.” Izuku soon catches the attention of everyone, posing a question at his friend’s foster father, “May I ask, how do you know Toshinori-san by the way, Tsukauchi-keiji?”

Tsukauchi blinks. “Midoriya-kun, you don’t have to refer to me so formally you know. Especially now that I’m here as Kensei’s father instead of as a police detective.”

“Tsukauchi-san t-then.”

“Well, to answer that question,” Tsukauchi makes a show of lifting his head and thinking when Toshinori explicitly remembers telling his friend the situation between him and his successor the previous night, causing Toshinori to start shaking his head as he tries to catch his friend’s attention- “Well, you can say that our friendship all began when I met him, developed when I saw him bring a cat into our formal meeting, and it got cemented after he pushed all of his paperwork on me?”

Toshinori freezes mid-shake.

While that isn’t exactly untrue, the way you’ve just put it makes me sound like some kind of irresponsible weirdo, Tsukauchi-kun!

Toshinori turns slowly to meet Tsukauchi in the eyes, and apparently young Katsura’s playfulness had to come from somewhere because when their eyes meet all Toshinori sees in Tsukauchi’s normally polite irises is nothing but pure and unadulterated mischievousness.

Consider this as revenge for all the times you’ve pushed the issue of having to handle your numerous cases to me, the look said.

“Y-You must be kidding, right?” It is young Shinsou that asks this, given that Yamato’s jaw only drops at the news and Katsura’s reaction is to look like the cat that ate the canary, “Toshinori-san, Kensei’s father is just kidding, right?”

“T-There were a lot of circumstances i-involved! I can’t explain it right now, but ”

“So it did happen!” Young Katsura hollers for all to hear, bending over in laughter.

Toshinori, knowing enough to recognize a lost cause when he saw them, turns to his future successor in an attempt to convince him otherwise. “Midoriya-kun, you must believe me when I say that is not the entire story.”

For a moment, Toshinori thinks he has convinced his own student, but then that same glint enters Izuku’s eye as he presses one finger on his chin and tilts his head, looking all too innocent:

“But Toshinori-san, didn’t I first met you when you approached me while I was alone in a park, which you then followed by offering me what you distinctly mentioned as unpoisoned ice-cream? And there was also a bit of emotional blackmail back then too, considering how you told me that if I didn’t finish it with you some of it would melt and go to waste.”

Now, this, this is just a betrayal, and something nobody else in the room knew before at that, because suddenly even Aizawa has a smile on his face at Toshinori’s suffering.

“Well, well, Toshinori-kun, I would have never thought you to have such a unique way of making first impressions,” Nedzu notes, and at this point, Toshinori is just hiding his face in his hands. “But enough of teasing Toshinori-kun – do you have anything else you want to mention, Tsukauchi-keiji?”

“Other than what is in that envelope I just gave you earlier, Principal Nedzu?” Tsukauchi asks rhetorically for a moment before continuing, “Only one more thing. Considering the state Tsuchigumo was left in, I really do believe that Midoriya-kun needs to have further Quirk Counseling at the soonest possible about his latest discovery of his Quirk’s abilities.”

“I agree, that was what I thought too,” Nedzu nods.

 “Why Quirk Counseling?” Yamato asks, causing the entire room to turn to her. “I-I mean, aren’t those just for children just as they are starting to get used with their Quirks?”

The Principal gives her a studying look, “Yamato-san, your goal in the future is to become a therapist, am I correct?”

“Y-Yeah,” Yamato nods, though looking very conflicted for some reason.

“Well then, it’s only good that you hear this now instead of later: now, what do you think is the purpose of Quirk Counseling?”

“It is so a child could learn how to accept their Quirk in life, how to use it, and what the possible consequences of using it could be.” Yamato answers automatically, before giving more detail, “Children with more dangerous Quirks are especially given focus, so that they wouldn’t abuse their Quirk or accidentally hurt others or themselves in using them.”

For some reason, Toshinori sees young Shinsou stiffen at that.

“Textbook answer.” Nedzu notes, before continuing, “The truth of the matter is, it’s far more complex than that. Tell me, do you think Midoriya-kun’s case of finding a new use for his Quirk is anything new? That it is something entirely unprecedented?”

Yamato shakes her head, “No, of course. Even I h-had discovered new uses for my own Quirk recently.”

“Indeed, with how Quirks can be, some Quirks can be so simple that it’s a matter of A -then-B, while some can be so creatively applied that A could lead to B which would lead to C and so on and so forth!” Nedzu opens his arms, his paws making a wide gesture, “With these Quirks, finding all the uses for them at a young age is impossible, and as with the case of your friend here, sometimes the new use can be rather dangerous. And as with anything dangerous, abuse and accidents can happen, no matter how old the user may be.”

He then turns back to Yamato. “In that case, do you think that these people don’t deserve to have further counseling over their Quirks just because of their more advanced age?”

“N-No,” Yamato blinks, “O-Of course! Then that means, Quirk Counseling is not just for children!”

“Indeed, so in an ideal world, everyone gets Quirk Counseling as much as necessary as they grow older. But that is not the case, is it? This world is far from ideal.” Nedzu shakes his head, “Given that Quirk Counselors are rare and few in between with how difficult and risky their jobs can get, it costs a lot just to get an appointment with one, and like any kind of counseling or therapy not all of them are of the same stock. As arranging it, paying for it, and ensuring that everyone could get it for free for the rest of their lives is impossible, especially with how the government has to pay for all of it, in the end it was decided that the laws regarding mandatory Quirk Counseling only applied to children and anyone else who seeks counsel for their Quirk when they’re older would have to pay for it on their own.”

“Even those who do get the counseling have varied results and varied times for their counseling. For example, Yamato-kun, Midoriya-kun, Shinsou-kun, Kensei-kun, are you all okay telling me your experience with Quirk Counseling? Yamato-kun, considering you brought this up, may I ask for your experience first?”

Yamato blinks, before looking at her own hands and saying, “I-I had three months worth of counseling, and that was when I was in an all-girls grade-school. And w-with how my Quirk is Touch-Based Telepathy, it d-didn’t prepare me for when I transferred into my coed middle-school.”

Toshinori has to think for a moment how that would be like, and soon, he nods his head somberly, “My apologies, Yamato-kun.”

“Toshinori-san, why are you apologizing?” The girl only smiles at him, even as her lips shake a bit. “It is not your fault, plus, I think I’m starting to get over it these days, especially with how I have befriended these three.”

Yamato points a thumb at the three boys behind her and, this time, she does smile a lot more sincerely.

“I had eight months worth of counseling.” Young Shinsou then blurts out, catching everyone’s attention. “With how my Quirk, Brainwashing, popped up when I was three, the Principal of my preschool decided that I should get more counseling compared to those of my age. But it only led to me growing up with the other kids pointing at me behind my back, calling my Quirk ‘dangerous’ and ‘villainous’.”

Recovery Girl speaks what all the adults in the room has for that first. “Shinsou-kun, what makes a Quirk ‘villainous’ is not what it can do, but who uses it. You don’t have to feel maligned just for having a powerful Quirk like that.”

Young Shinsou nods at that, though not giving Izuku a glance, “Y-Yeah, someone told me that too, even back then when I was a kid from my counselor. But given how everyone treated me like ever since I’ve had my Quirk, I certainly didn’t feel like it up to only recently, and only to a select few people. And while I don’t feel as desperate about it anymore these days, my lifelong goal is still to prove to everyone else that I won’t become evil just because of my Quirk.”

Is that why, young Shinsou? Is that why you want to become a Hero and to prove yourself to the world so much?

Shinsou then turns to Katsura beside him, giving him a nudge, “Your turn, Kensei.”

“I...” Katsura opens his mouth, trying to answer, only to fail and to turn to Tsukauchi, “Actually, Dad? Can you, you know, be the one to answer for me?”

“Sure thing, Kiddo.” Tsukauchi gives his son a supportive squeeze on the shoulder with one hand before turning to the rest of the room, “Kensei here is kind of a special case. Given how, as a kid, the only authority figure he had was Tsuchigumo up to just three years ago, when Kensei decided to turn a new leaf and approached us to help us take Tsuchigumo in he still hadn’t had any counseling. Of course, when I soon adopted him afterwards, I hired one for him from my coworkers, and after a year’s worth of counseling Kensei was declared good to go.”

A year’s worth.” Shinsou sounds utterly baffled as he repeats those words, “Kensei, you actually spent more time in counseling than me?”

“Consider my former criminal background and how at the age of twelve I already knew how to make most conventional weapons, including bombs, on my own as well as several blueprints of banks and government buildings, is there really any question as to why I spent so much time learning how to cope with all of that and how to keep the entire thing secret?” Kensei snaps at his friend, sounding a bit hurt for a moment before realizing, “Oh. Shit. Please, please, please ignore that.”

Everyone in the room just gives the teenager range of stares, varying from wide-eyed to just dull. The latter is from Aizawa, who at this point has already taken out his sleeping bag.

Tsukauchi gives his son a flick on the head. “Kensei, you really should know better by now.”

“But Dad!

“I guess that only leaves you, Midoriya-kun.” Nedzu speaks up again, ignoring the father-and-son dynamic in that part of the room while turning to Toshinori’s student. Toshinori himself feels very curious about Izuku’s answer to this particular question, “How was your experience with Quirk Counseling?”

Izuku mumbles something.

“I’m sorry, can you repeat it for us again? Louder this time, Midoriya-kun.”

This time, Toshinori manages to hear Izuku’s whisper, “I didn’t get a counselor, growing up.”

What.

It looks like the rest of the room has also heard of Izuku’s whisper, because the room, despite the lighthearted bickering earlier, becomes very quiet. Nedzu sounds very grave as he asks, “Is that true?”

Toshinori’s student nods. “With how Minor Banishment was written off as useless, my gradeschool decided to treat me as though as I was Quirkless when it came to getting a counselor.”

“May I ask for the name of your gradeschool?”

Izuku does so.

“Alright, I hope you don’t mind if I report this to the authorities.” Nedzu nods seriously, before coming to a realization, “Or actually, given we do have a police detective here, Tsukauchi-kun?”

“I already memorized the name.”

“Wait, wait, wait, why?” Izuku looks baffled at the sudden seriousness that has settled over the adults in the room, and Toshinori can’t help but find it painful to watch, given that this is how his student grew up. “I mean, Minor Banishment isn’t really that important right-“

“Given that we are holding this discussion about Quirk Counseling because of your Quirk, yes, I do believe that Minor Banishment is very important in its own way.” Nedzu rasps out, sounding very angry, and Toshinori’s student is taken back at the sudden change in the principal. “And you don’t understand the issue here, Midoriya-kun. The fact is, how they skipped over you like that? That’s against the law, and it probably didn’t help very well in your development with how your Quirk was treated like that. No wonder you’ve thought so little of your Quirk before this.”

“Quirk Counseling isn’t something you can just skip over because you thought a Quirk is meaningless, because it has and will always be never about something like that! Sometimes, it is precisely the inferiority complexes born of less-than-useful Quirks that would have to be handled by Quirk Counseling, because ever since the advent of Quirks the question of having a strong Quirk, a weak Quirk, or even no Quirk could make or break a child and it’s only society’s job to prevent our children from failing to grow properly and reaching the amazing people they could become! If they had only treated you right, then maybe you wouldn’t even think that this is something out of the ordinary!”

“So yes, Yamato-san,” Nedzu finishes his speech by turning to Yamato, who squeaks at the Principal’s intensity, “That is how important Quirk Counseling is in our world. Now, I would like to ensure something this would never happen again.”

Izuku shuts his mouth, looking surprised and with not just a bit of awe in his eyes as he is treated, like the rest of the students in the room, with the sight of how the Principal could be when irate. And there were only a few things that could set the rage burning in the Principal’s blood:

Murder, the destruction of his school, mad scientists, and lastly, child neglect.

And this is nothing short of child neglect.

“Tsukauchi-kun, I would like for you to help me with this new pet project of mine.”

Toshinori’s friend, for his benefit, actually looks calm. “Of course, what do you need, Principal Nedzu?”

“I want to have permission to check that school from every nook and cranny. A search warrant. A warrant to seize its student records. Maybe even the permission to check their finances for any kind of corruption. Chances are, Midoriya-kun isn’t the only one who was treated the same way as this, and I also want to check the overall competency of their counselors for having agreed to this kind of thing. I don’t doubt that some of the students that did get their counseling didn’t leave it in a better way with how this is starting to sound to me. I want that school, down and facing the consequences of their actions.

And just like that, Nedzu starts laughing maniacally, causing shivers to run in the spines of nearly everyone in the room.

Aizawa approaches Izuku from the side, muttering loud enough for Toshinori to hear, “Congratulations, kid. You have officially sent the Principal off to the warpath.”

The teenager opens his mouth, reaching for the Principal, “U-Uh, Nedzu-sensei?”

Like a switch has been flipped, Nedzu unnervingly then returns back to the same high-pitched and mild-mannered unidentified creature he usually is, “Yes, Midoriya-kun?”

“H-How would this affect my Quirk Counseling? You know, this knowledge?”

“Well this just means that you’ll have to spend even more time than I probably thought on counseling.” Nedzu smiles, something that seems very unsettling now given his mood just earlier. “But other than that, not much because we wouldn’t have made you pay anyway given that you already have two people volunteering to be your Quirk Counselors.”

Izuku blinks. “W-What, really?”

“Yes, and they’re even in this room!”

“He means us, Midoriya-kun.” Recovery Girl points at herself, and at Thirteen. “We have even already agreed on the division of work between the two of us. Hopefully, with me teaching you all you need to know about carefully using your Quirk without harming people too much and with Thirteen teaching you the philosophies involved with having dangerous Quirks, you’ll be done that much sooner.”

Katsura blurts out a question, “Wait, Thirteen-sensei, you’re a licensed Quirk Counselor?”

“Well, after having had to face a lot of counseling of my own growing older, some from Recovery Girl herself,” Thirteen nods at the other counselor in the room, “I thought it would only be appropriate that I also teach the next generation on how to handle their Quirks responsibly and for the benefit of others. And actually, Shinsou-kun?”

Young Shinsou lifts his head, “Yeah, Thirteen-sensei?”

“If you want me to, you’re also invited. Of course, you wouldn’t be paying for it if you take my offer.”

The teenager thinks about that for a moment, before saying, “Can you put a pin on that for now? I need to think about it more before I come to a decision.”

“That works with me just fine. It is an important decision to make, so I won’t pressure you.”

Thirteen then turns to Izuku again. “How about you, Midoriya-kun? Are you alright with the two of us taking on the roles of your Quirk Counselors for you?”

Toshinori’s student turns to him, and Toshinori does his best to give a reassuring smile at Izuku. Smiling back, Izuku returns his gaze to Thirteen, “Of course, Thirteen-sensei, Recovery Girl.”

“We would still need permission from a parent or a guardian though, so we’ll have to tell your mother everything so she can give us her permission. And by that, we mean everything as she would have to help with her own contribution, so are you still alright with that?”

At the requirement of telling Midoriya Inko, Toshinori sees Izuku hesitate, biting his lips for a bit before finally deciding, “Y-Yeah. I probably should start telling Mom about all of this, i-including the fact that I haven’t given up becoming a Hero yet... She thought I had.”

People in the room give him surprised looks at that, but Toshinori can only put his hand on his face.

I should have remembered that. Now, with this thing dumped on her in the same time as reminding her that if Midoriya-kun would be a hero this could only happen again in the future, I won’t be surprised if she reacts badly to the news.

Still... “Midoriya-kun, you know she’ll support you, no matter what.”

At Toshinori’s words, Izuku’s face clears before a more confident, if fond, smile starts to lift his lips. “Hmhm, yeah, you’re right Toshinori-san!”

Toshinori smiles back to his student for a moment before turning back to Tsukauchi and Nedzu, who have turned to quietly discussing matters of handling his student’s previous school on their own, “Tsukauchi-kun, Nedzu-sensei, is that all, because I think my students need some more time to digest everything now.”

Tsukauchi lifts his head. “Other than reminding everyone to keep all of this quiet? Nothing else.”

There is a collective nod at that.

Recovery Girl takes over the rest of the proceedings from there. “Then I would like to have everyone but my patients and possibly Tsukauchi-san outside my clinic. And yes, Toshinori, that also includes you.”

Toshinori, in the middle of interjecting, gets a sharp glare from the nurse, and soon he stammers an agreement. “O-Of course, of course, Recovery Girl. I’ll leave them to their rest now.”

“Ah, one last thing I would like to say.” Thirteen speaks up, getting attention from their and Toshinori’s students by approaching them by their beds. “As you might recall, tomorrow is the date for our USJ trip. Before anyone forgets, you four are still invited, if Recovery Girl allows.”

The space Hero turns to Recovery Girl, who gives a nod. “Midoriya-kun would have to drink some calcium supplements for his bones while Kensei would have to drink iron supplements for his bloodloss, but other than that, they’re good to go by tomorrow.”

As one, the students blink. Kensei is only the one who actually voices his shock, “Oh right, I can’t believe that we have forgotten something like that after working on our project for so long! Speaking of, sensei, you do still have our project, right?”

Thirteen nods. “It’s still in the faculty room, and yes, it’s only understandable that you have forgotten about it given the circumstances. Now, I’ll leave you four to your rest.”

And just like that, Thirteen walks out of the room. Soon, Aizawa follows, though not without giving young Shinsou a glare, and once Nedzu finishes talking with Tsukauchi the Principal also exits, leaving only Tsukauchi and Toshinori inside the room with the students and Recovery Girl.

“Well?” Recovery Girl asks this of Toshinori very pointedly. “When do you plan to leave?”

Toshinori sends a helpless look at Tsukauchi and his students, but Tsukauchi only chuckles at his plight. “Yagi-san, you don’t have to worry about them anymore, they’re just recovering. Just leave them to Recovery Girl and me, alright?”

“Yeah, yeah!” Young Katsura cheers, waving his arms. “Then we could get started with hearing all the embarrassing secrets Dad knows about Toshinori-san!”

“I would like to share some of my own, as well,” Recovery Girl smiles evilly at that idea.

“I hope you both know that neither of you are good at convincing me to leave, right?” Toshinori asks this dryly of his treacherous friends. “I could really just stay in this room, you know.”

Toshinori.

“Right, right!” Toshinori yelps at the look sent his way by Recovery Girl. If the woman had a laser-vision Quirk, Toshinori would be dead many times over. “I’m going, I’m going!”

Toshinori walks up to the door, only to be interrupted by Tsukauchi one last time. “Yagi-san.”

“Yes, Tsukauchi-kun?”

“We’ve interrogated Tsuchigumo to the best of our abilities, and what we’ve found doesn’t sound good. I’ve passed it all to the Principal earlier, but there is something in the wings, Yagi-san.” Tsukauchi looks grave as he says this, causing people to lean in, “Something that is hiding in the bowels of our society. We have to prepare for all of it in the future.”

His son looks unsettled at that, “D-Dad? What do you mean by that?”

“Oh Kensei, you don’t have to worry about it. Tsuchigumo isn’t getting free anymore, plus,” Tsukauchi turns to Katsura, holding him by the shoulders before giving him a smile. “It’s our duty to solve this problem, not yours. Your job is to be the students, and as adults, let us protect all of you, alright?”

The teenager nods shakily at that.

“Understood, Tsukauchi-kun.” Toshinori gives his own affirmative, before sending his group of students a grin. “Now, you four be careful and rest alright? I wouldn’t like to hear something bad happening to any of you again.”

“Yes, Toshinori-san!”

And just like that, Toshinori leaves the Nurse’s Office, feeling much lighter. Given everything that happened the previous night, things could be better, but also, they could have been worse. At least young Katsura wasn’t a traitor, Izuku would only get better, and his other students didn’t seem particularly damaged as well. In fact, they had grown.

And so, when Toshinori arrives to 1-A to teach his class later that day, young Uraraka yells something at his arrival.

“All Might, you’re humming something! Did something good happen?”

Toshinori grins. “Yes, today something great has happened, and so my spirits are lifted! Now then, as your teacher, I hope you all follow my lead as we go to your next training session, PLUS ULTRA!”

#-#-#-#

Tsuchigumo had failed. It was something so simple, and still he had failed in the most spectacular of ways!

“Shigaraki, calm down. You’re damaging my bar at this rate.”

Kurogiri says that, but Tomura ignores his words in favor of making his displeasure known. “But he failed, Kurogiri! All he had to do was to just pick up Informant from that school, and what did he do? He got caught doing it and was defeated by children. Now what are we going to do now that you don’t have the coordinates you need!?”

Kurogiri calmly starts cleaning through his shot glasses with a towel. “It means that we’re just going to have to bide our time. Even if we were to acquire our information from somewhere else, at this point, it’s really just not wise to attack while the security is up. We’re good, but we’ll get crushed if we attack so foolishly, Shigaraki.”

“Aaaaaargh!”

Kurogiri sighs as he watches Tomura throw his tantrum and disintegrating his bar counter by doing so. Sometimes, it really just didn’t pay to be a villain.

.

.

.

USJ ARC, COMPLETE!

Chapter Text

Interlude I: Series of Questions

How does the trip to USJ go?

Today was an amazing day, Kirishima thinks, as he stretches his arms out towards the sky. This trip to USJ has been nothing but manly from beginning to end, and now that Kirishima finally gets to let the lessons sink in into him, he can almost feel himself become a better hero.

“Roaaaaaaggggh!” He yells for the world to hear, and soon, his classmates turn to him with smiles and shaking heads as they pack their things. “Today had been so manly, don’t you think so, Bakugou!”

The intended target of his words, as always, only ignores him. So manly as always, Bakugou!

“You know, I don’t know how you can stand him so much, Kirishima.” Kaminari walks beside him, with his bag over his shoulder. “With how he keeps ignoring pretty much everyone else in class when he isn’t yelling at us, you’d think that someone like you wouldn’t be around him so much.”

“Huh?” Kirishima tilts his head in confusion at his friend. “What do you mean by that?”

“I mean, Bakugou is that Bakugou, the guy who somehow manages to be even more explosive and unapproachable than his own Quirk,” Kaminari gestures a hand over at the blond beside them before using both hands to gesture at Kirishima, from head to toe. “And you’re... Kirishima. You’re easily the coolest and kindest guy in class and I don’t say that easily.”

Kirishima has stars in his eyes, “Oh man, you really think so!?”

“Yeah, yeah, I do.” Kaminari scratches the back of his head at Kirishima’s reaction. “Still... I guess, it would really take someone like you to actually be this guy’s friend, huh?”

Before Kirishima could say anything to that, anything to defend his bro, one of the girls in their class suddenly runs towards their direction. A bright smile immediately lifts Kirishima’s face as he recognizes the person approaching them.

“Kirishima-kun, good work!”

Kirishima rubs the back of his head at the praise, “Yeah, you were pretty good out there too, Uraraka! You were absolutely manly, especially in the Flood Zone!”

The girl’s Quirk really had been surprisingly suited for underwater use, especially once Thirteen got Uraraka over her admiration and to work with her Quirk. The explanation for it went over Kirishima’s head – something about buoyancy forces and fancy terms like that – but damn, did Kirishima feel awe when he saw the girl salvage an entire ship with just a touch here and there!

“Kirishima, you shouldn’t be saying that to girls-“

“Oh, thanks a lot, Kirishima-kun, that’s finest praise from you!” Kirishima has to laugh as Uraraka easily speaks over Kaminari, causing his electric bro to sulk in the corner, “Still, back to why I came here, have you seen Iida-kun?”

Kirishima nods with a smile. “Yeah, I saw him earlier, he was talking to Aizawa-sensei. Something about our audience from General Education?”

He doesn’t notice the way Bakugou twitches at those words. The blond had been so distracted all day after all.

“Yeah, exactly!” Uraraka grins, and in that moment, Kirishima knows that he has saved this girl on the Entrance Exams day for a reason. “I wanted to try and approach them, you know? But it’ll be awkward if I was the only one, so I was planning to ask Iida to accompany me!”

“Ah, if that’s the case, then bring us two with you, man!” Kirishima volunteers himself and Kaminari, even as Kaminari mutters something about propriety, “We can walk up to them together, if you want! I’ve been meaning to meet these people who must have been awesome enough to be given this chance by Thirteen!”

That is when Bakugou finally speaks, shocking them silly. “Wait up, you shitheads.”

Slowly, all three of them turn to the blond, who at this point has such a strangely calm look on his face that is, if anything, more out of character than Bakugou initiating a conversation with them.

“I’m coming with you.”

Immediately, there are three reactions to that. First, Kirishima’s face glows at the thought of his bro finally opening up to them, and not only that, but also to meet new people. Second, Uraraka’s face squeezes as though she has eaten something sour but finding herself capable of voicing it out.

And lastly, Kaminari. “Whoa, Bakugou, so you finally grace us with your-”

“Shut up, sparkplug.” Bakugou interrupts the electrokinetic by the means of a palm-thrust to the face, and soon Kirishima has to extend his arms just so his bro doesn’t fall straight to the floor with his back. “I’ve been meaning to talk to Deku anyway.”

There is a collective head-tilt at that. Kirishima is the one that asks, “Deku? Bakugou, you know some of them?”

“You’ll know when we get there. The little shit’ll probably be the first one you’ll even notice.”

And when they do approach the group of General Education students, Kirishima does notice someone out of the ordinary.

It’s a fluffy, short teenager with green hair and his arms waving wildly over his head as he talks to another one with silver hair. From the distance, it is already clear that in the group of four General Education students he is the one all the attention is directed to, and with a smile like that Kirishima can really see why.

In fact, why wait when he could see that smile up-close that much faster?

A grin etches itself on Kirishima’s face as he runs ahead of their little group, much to yelps from Kaminari and Uraraka. And when he approaches the four and the green-haired teenager of the four immediately turns to him with a smile, Kirishima knows that this would be the start of a beautiful friendship.

“Hey, dudebros!” Kirishima calls out, one of his arms raised in greeting. “How’s it going!? Did you guys like watching us out there?”

The purple haired one of the four, another guy, snorts at Kirishima, but Kirishima doesn’t mind, doesn’t mind. He knows some people don’t like how upfront he could be, plus wasn’t it manly that these people could stay so cool all the time? So, unoffended by the response he receives, Kirishima offers his hand out in a handshake.

“Hey! My name is Kirishima Eijirou. I was wondering what kind of guys you might be, for Thirteen to let you four here with us.”

The one with silver hair is the first to give him a handshake, “Yo! My name is Katsura Kensei, nice to meet you!”

Kirishima already likes this guy. Good grip, confident like him. “Nice to meet you, Katsura!”

He soon shakes hands with the other three, first the girl, apparently named Yamato Megumi – awesome, sort of shy but still able to meet him in the eye – then the standoff-ish guy from earlier, Shinsou Hitoshi, and lastly, Midoriya Izuku, who gives him a smile like the sun and these eye-catching freckles that are more like constellations.

Wait, Midoriya Izuku? “Didn’t Bakugou tell us that your name was Deku or something like that?”

Immediately, the air gets a little strained, but ‘Deku’ only rubs the back of his head, saying, “Ah, that’s just his nickname for me, ever since we were kids.”

Kirishima really wants to ask as to why a ‘nickname’ would prompt that kind of expression on Shinsou’s face, but then that is the time the rest of his group arrives. Uraraka and Kaminari seem to get along well enough as they introduce themselves to Kirishima’s new friends, even if it’s a little strange to see Katsura take a step back from the bubbly girl Kirishima knew, but when Bakugou finally approaches them all...

“Hey, Kacchan.

It is a little alarming, to see Bakugou freeze and go blank-eyed in the middle of turning to roar at Shinsou for those words, and even more alarming when Shinsou says “Stand still and don’t move so I can punch you” and follows a haymaker with his words.

“I have always wanted to do that.”

It is only Midoriya’s hurried explanations and words to placate Bakugou that makes the following few minutes go not as bad as they could have gone.

The chaos that follows reveals several things to Kirishima: one, Bakugou had met these four before, and had not made a good first impression in doing so. Two, Bakugou and Midoriya apparently knew each other since grade-school, and had a complicated relationship from then, and three, Deku was apparently an insult turned into a nickname, and by copying Bakugou, Kirishima had inadvertently both insulted Midoriya and ticked off Midoriya’s friends.

“I’m sorry, Midoriya!” Kirishima bows, unable to bear the shame of having insulted a new friend. “I shouldn’t have called you that! It was unmanly of me!”

“No, no, really, stop bowing Kirishima-san!” Midoriya only rubs the back of his head with a forgiving smile, and Kirishima feels awed tears in his eyes as he gazes at that face. “I don’t mind it, at all. I mean, you didn’t know, and Kacchan’s really not the kind to explain anything to anyone anyway...”

The General Education student glanced at his aforementioned childhood friend, and Kirishima soon follows his gaze back to Bakugou. Strangely enough, as soon as Midoriya explained Shinsou’s reasoning for the punch, Bakugou had stopped trying to kill the purple-haired teenager. And Kirishima does not understand why.

Bakugou is normally the kind of guy that would need an entire team of people working in tandem to stop, which is one of the reasons Kirishima respects him in the first place. After all, how could he not respect such tenacity?

But for Bakugou to stop, just like that, with his teeth grinding quietly and his eyes on the ground as Midoriya explained everything... why?

What happened between Bakugou and Midoriya to prompt something like that?

By the time Kirishima finishes mulling on that thought, he notices that the conversation has moved on without him. Bakugou is outright ignoring all of them again, sitting in the corner and looking volatile as always, while Midoriya and his friends have moved on to talking with Uraraka and Kaminari.

“...you have to admit though, it kind of gives a ‘You can do it’ kind of vibe!”

A blush lights up on Midoriya’s face at Uraraka’s words. “R-Really? I never thought of thinking of it that way.”

“Well you should, Deku-kun!”

Kirishima has to smile at that. Uraraka always did have a way in making things cheerful like her name.

“Aren’t those the rest of your classmates, Kirishima-san?”

It’s the girl of the group, Yamato, who asks that question, pointing towards the direction Kirishima and his group came from earlier. Kirishima grins as he sees the rest of his friends from Class 1-A approaching.

“Heeeeey guys!”

Soon, it’s practically a stampede of greetings and introductions, some of which Kirishima ends up having to do on the behalf of his more reclusive classmates like Kouda and Tokoyami. There is a very evident lack of Todoroki though, and Mineta has to be slapped upside the head when he starts ogling at Yamato, but other than that everything seems to be going well when Hagakure finally pops the question:

“Sooo, why did Thirteen let you guys join us?”

Katsura is the one that explains it, “Oh, that’s because we got the top scores in a group project, and Thirteen had been so impressed with us that they decided to bring us here.”

The teenager says those words with a shrug, as though the entire thing is something entirely inconsequential, which it would be if Katsura is indeed telling the truth, but then Kirishima notices the other three General Education students stiffen a bit.

Strange. If it was indeed something that simple, then why would they react like that to such a question?

“What’s this group project then?”

It’s Tokoyami who asks the question this time, voice cool and collected with just the slightest hints of suspicion. Suspicion that Kirishima has to tilt his head to. Why was Tokoyami being suspicious? Sure, there is something odd here, but nothing to be suspicious about, right?

But then, Kirishima realizes that it’s not just Tokoyami that is starting to look suspicious. In fact, most of Class 1-A is exhibiting hints of it, save for a few like Mineta who instead betray the same confusion that Kirishima feels in that moment.

Why? Why the sudden change in mood? Kirishima knows that he isn’t the smartest of people, especially in a class filled with smart ones like Yaoyorozu and Todoroki, but couldn’t he isn’t missing something big here, right?

“It’s just a group report about Heroes, you know, simple things like that.” Katsura continues to explain, his smile utterly unaffected even with how the conversations around them slow down to listen to him speak. “We were supposed to make a report about one Hero, but in the end, we went Plus Ultra and ended up reporting about three Heroes, you know? In fact, if I can recall what Thirteen-sensei told us earlier, you guys would see it later.”

“That’s so manly!” Kirishima pumps his fists, partly to vocalize his admiration, and another in an attempt to banish the air that is slowly going tense around all of them. “I can really respect that kind of hard work!”

“I know, right? It was really difficult, you know, doing all of it in just a week-”

With every word that comes out of Katsura’s mouth, the tension keeps on mounting up as the suspicion ramps up in Kirishima’s classmates, and Kirishima is almost afraid that something might start when-

“Kensei. I know you’re really trying to let us keep as much advantage as we can right now, but I really think they deserve to know at least this.”

-Midoriya speaks up, his eyes serious as he turns to the silver-haired teenager, and just like that, it’s as though a mask has been shattered as Katsura’s shoulders sag and the previously unperturbable smile falls off his face.

And just like that, Kirishima feels the air drop a few degrees.

“So there really is something here that you refuse to tell us,” Tokoyami says, cold and judging.

Not only Kirishima is shocked when not Midoriya, but Bakugou is the one to react first at that, the blond snorting as he abruptly inserts himself into the conversation without warning.

“Are you deaf, birdhead?” He sees Tokoyami twitch at the nickname. “Or did you just not hear what Deku said? The little nerd, not even capable of keeping something like this a secret, damn it Deku, at this rate how would you get up to my level!”

This Bakugou punctuates with an accusing finger as he approaches Midoriya, only to make a tch sound as Shinsou steps in front of him before he can come any closer. And it isn’t only Shinsou that is trying to put distance between the two - Kirishima knows that he isn’t imagining it when he sees Kensei twitch in place and Yamato’s wrap her hand protectively around Midoriya’s wrist at Bakugou’s words.

Just how horrible a first impression did Bakugou make on them?

“You know what they’re hiding?”

“Of course I do! After all, without me, how can the little shit even get to-”

“Kacchan, just stop. Please.” Midoriya yells, and Bakugou freezes, a guilty look passing through his face before disappearing like it hadn’t been there at all. “Let me explain this myself, for myself and my friends.”

Kirishima then watches as Midoriya sends regretful looks in turn to his fellow General Education students. “I’m sorry guys, but I really think we should tell them.”

Nobody speaks up, waiting to let the drama unfold when Shinsou finally reacts, putting a hand on his own face, surrounded with so much fond resignation that Kirishima almost breaks into tears. “At this point, I really shouldn’t be surprised, but some reason I still am.”

Like a ray of light breaking through clouds, a hint of a smile blooms on Midoriya’s face, which only goes fullblown when the teenager then turns to his other two friends.

“You wouldn’t be you if you weren’t like this, Izuku-kun.”

“Go ahead, Izu-chan! It’s mostly because for you and Hitoshi that we’re doing this anyway!”

Just like that, determination blazes into Midoriya’s eyes as he turns back to Kirishima and the rest of Class 1-A, opening his mouth to say, “We’re here so we can see your Quirks in action and get information we might need to win the incoming Sports Festival.”

Kirishima feels his jaw hit the floor, and he’s not the only one who doesn’t express shock, because they definitely didn’t expect that to come out of the small and awkward ball of sunshine that Midoriya Izuku had been shaping up to be before this.

Idly, he hears Jirou mutter “Wow, that certainly takes balls” and as though that is the straw that breaks the camel’s back, she is soon followed by a collective-

“WHAAAAAAT?”

‘Takes balls’ indeed. Kirishima would be roaring about how manly it is, were it not for the shock he currently feels.

“I know that this sounds absolutely brazen, c-coming from me, but yeah.” Midoriya gulps beneath all of their bewildered stares, but the teenager pushes through before all of their gazes. “That’s me, saying this. We plan to win this coming Sports Festival, and for that, Thirteen-sensei thought to give us this chance so we can get an upper hand on Class 1-A. I’ve already went through my analysis of everyone’s Quirks here, as well as Todoroki-kun’s, so I suppose I can say that we’ve definitely managed that at this point.”

“But that means that you could know nearly everything we could do!” Mineta cries, not looking at all settled with the possibility of losing. “That’s not fair!”

“Life isn’t fair.” Shinsou murmurs, catching everyone’s attention as he then offers Mineta a challenging smirk, “And are you saying that that would be all we would need to defeat all of you? Because if that’s the case, then maybe you Hero Course students aren’t that good after all.”

Hitoshi-kun!”

At Midoriya’s reprimand, his fellow General Education student actually looks guilty, and Kirishima’s already considerable respect for Midoriya grows at that. So not only was he the center of the group, he was also their leader? No wonder he was though, if he could get this intense.

“Why are you going this far, Deku-kun?”

People turn to Uraraka, who asks that question. And while it was clear to see earlier that Midoriya and Uraraka had hit it off pretty well, there’s no sense of hurt in sight - just honest confusion.

“Even if the Sports Festival is a big thing in Japan, isn’t it all mostly for us in the Heroics Course?”

Both Midoriya and Shinsou twitch at that, and Kirishima can’t help but think, yeah, wasn’t the point of the Sports Festival? Not only to showcase their talents, but for the Heroes to also know who to take on as sidekicks later?

Murmurs start between Kirishima’s class, but then Midoriya speaks, “You’re all in the Heroics Course already, so you might not know this, but how do you think Yuuei chooses who would shift out of the General Education Department to the Heroics Course?”

And just like that, everyone is suddenly very quiet.

Kirishima whispers, “You mean…”

“Both of us, Hitoshi-kun and I, we both want to be Heroes too.” Midoriya looks down at his own hands and nobody dares to speak just in case it might break the teenager’s thoughts. “But for that to happen, we would have to win the entire Tournament at the end of the Festival. And that means being willing to do almost anything to do that.”

Hagakure speaks up, “But wait, wouldn’t mean that between you and Shinsou-kun, only one of you two can become part of the Heroics Course? And that’s even if one of you manages to win!”

“Even then, we have to. Hitoshi-kun and I talked this over already, and we’ve agreed to be friendly rivals as we both work to the same goal.” Midoriya raises his head, his eyes filled with determination, “I-I know that all of you have your own reasons to win the Tournament, and I understand that! Which is why I’m telling you all about this in the first place.”

“You want to make it fair between us,” Iida observes. “By telling us this, we would know to also look for chances to study your own Quirks, if we want to win.”

“Your class would be the likely one to receive which one of us who wins, if we manage to win anyway.” Midoriya smiles shyly at them and Kirishima’s heart just goes out for the other teenager. “Class 1-B has one more student than Class 1-A. Chances are, if any of us win, we’ll be heading to your class so they could even it out. It’s only right that we try to keep things cordial, right?”

“Stupid Deku,” Bakugou growls beneath his breath beside Kirishima, and then the next moment, the blond roars, “Hey, Deku! Don’t you dare sound so weak, saying ‘if’ like that! It’s not a question, but a fact! You'll be part of my class if I have anything to say about it!”

That starts another round of murmurs.

“D-Did Bakugou just…”

“...for the sake of another person…”

“...suggest that he was willing to lose the Tournament!?”

Kirishima, on the other hand, only asks his Bakubro, “Bakugou, you already knew all about this from Midoriya? Why didn’t you tell us earlier!”

“Shut up, shitstains!” is all Bakugou has for a response, and none of them is even surprised at this point, even as the teenager turns to sulk with a strangely red face.

“Kaachan…!”

Midoriya has tears in his eyes, and soon, Kirishima also does at the sheer manliness of the entire moment. He can’t let himself be not a part of this now!

“All right!” Kirishima yells, pumping his fists. “Midoriya, I accept your challenge!”

His classmates turn to him in shock and confusion, “Kirishima!?”

Kirishima turns back, “Dudes, don’t you get it! This is a challenge! Midoriya isn’t just telling us what he and his friends want - he’s telling us that he wants a good fight, fair and square, from all of us! If that isn’t manly as heck, I wouldn’t know what would be!”

There is a moment of silence, and then, Tokoyami nods, “...you do have a point, Kirishima. Midoriya, I will also take on your challenge.”

And soon, there is a chorus of similar announcements.

“Midoriya-san, I also!”

“I won’t lose, Deku-kun!”

“This festival sure is shaping up to be an exciting one, ribbit.”

Competitive, that’s the only word that could fit this moment. After all, what else could you call a group of students genuinely excited to face off each other? And it is infectious - soon, Kirishima spots even Shinsou smiling at Midoriya, the two of them muttering something nice to each other given the looks on their faces, and at that, Kirishima pats himself in the back.

It was always nice, making new friends. Especially ones as manly as Midoriya was turning out to be.

Oh, is that Yamato approaching Yaoyorozu? Kirishima wonders why - the girl pretty much kept to herself so far, the entire time he got acquainted with her, so why is she talking to their class president of all people?

No matter. It’s not Kirishima’s business, plus with Katsura being tugged into the conversation by Yamato, he knows that particular conversation has enough people in it without him barging in.

Kirishima spots someone on their own though, and soon, he approaches him. “Bakugou, aren’t you excited for this? I mean, it’s the Sports Festival! Why do you look so serious, bro!”

Bakugou lifts his eyes from where he is kicking the ground, before grunting at Kirishima. “It’s nothing.”

“Is it about him?”

Bakugou raises his head so quickly that Kirishima is almost worried for his neck. “What do you mean by that, shithead? I’m not thinking about Deku!”

Kirishima lowers his voice, smiling softly, “I never said it was about Midoriya, Bakugou.”

The blond’s eyes go wide, and for a moment, Kirishima almost thinks that Bakugou would explode himself out of the situation or something, but then Bakugou sags and immediately Kirishima starts to really wonder as to what happened between them two.

“‘S not supposed to happen like this, shitty Deku.” Bakugou mutters, and Kirishima only nods, listening to the other teenager. “Not supposed to be like this.”

Kirishima is about to ask Bakugou what he means by that when a familiar voice rings over all of them.

“I AM LATE, BUT I AM ALSO FINALLY HERE!”

As one, people start turning to none other than the Symbol of Peace that has crashed into their small gathering. Uraraka yells happily, “All Might! You actually came!”

Kirishima grins as he studies the look of their Foundational Hero Studies teacher.

For all of Kirishima’s initial fanboyishness for the Number One Hero, as it turned out All Might was more of a man than he had first thought. Sure, it was kind of funny, seeing All Might wiping the top of his head with a handkerchief as he smiled at them with what could only be called as embarrassment, but wasn’t that even better than a perfect All Might, the untouchable Hero?

As it turned out, the best quality of All Might that Kirishima found was that he was approachable. He was undeniably, unbelievably strong - that was a fact - but he was also kind and little bit of humble, something that Kirishima thought was manly for a Hero.

The rest of his classmates are soon crowding around All Might though, so Kirishima then turns to Bakugou, “Hey, man, want to approach All Might with me?”

Bakugou gives the Symbol of Peace an unreadable look, and was it Kirishima’s imagination, or did All Might really just meet his bro in the eyes for a moment before returning it with a nod?

“No way, Hair-for-Brains. I’m outta here.”

Just like that, Bakugou turns to leave, and Kirishima can’t find it in himself to stop the blond. After all, despite his mood earlier, Bakugou actually looks… satisfied? Content? Kirishima doesn’t know, but he isn’t about to interrupt that, especially when he rarely sees Bakugou happy, if only quietly so.

So instead, he turns to All Might, who apparently made an announcement while he was watching Bakugou walk away.

“What!?”

All Might only smiles at the shocked questions pointed at him by Kirishima’s classmates. “Yes, I would like to talk with Young Midoriya now, so could you all please give us two a moment everyone?”

Midoriya? How does All Might know Midoriya?

Kirishima is not the only one who turns to the General Education Student in question, but all he sees on the other teenager’s face is a look of shock. “Me!?”

All Might nods back, and in that moment, Kirishima knows that the hero has blocked them all out in favor of Midoriya. “Young Midoriya, if you don’t mind?”

Midoriya looks flustered at all of the looks he gets for that, especially the curious ones shot at him by even his fellow General Education students, but soon, Midoriya gulps down his fear before Kirishima’s eyes and before he knows it, Midoriya has that same look of determination on his face.

“Y-Yes, All Might, I won’t mind. Shall we?”

And just like that, All Might reaches for Midoriya, grabs him by the shoulder, and with an almighty jump the two of them move to a place too far for Kirishima to hear what they are talking about. And judging by the annoyed look on Jiro’s face, so did she.

Still, once All Might and Midoriya come back to them with Aizawa-sensei, Thirteen, and a smile on Midoriya’s tear-tracked face, Kirishima already knows to not pressure the other teenager on what they talked about, instead focusing on the report Midoriya and his team soon gives them.

After all, one only needs eyes to see the new air of ease in between Midoriya and All Might in that moment.

#-#-#-#

What happens next between Shinsou and Aizawa?

Aizawa could’ve sworn that it was here this morning when he left his apartment for his homeroom class.

He buries his head deeper into the shrubbery. Aizawa’s ears, trained to the point of an almost ungodly level of acuity after more than a decade of being a hero and several years as a teacher, easily picks up the whispered commentaries of passersby about what they thought of a grown man with his legs sticking out of a bush, but he ignores them.

They’re not what he’s looking for. What he’s searching for is something much more usually quiet, of more importance than random strangers on the streets...

“You’re looking for this guy? Sorry, I already fed him.”

Aizawa does not freeze. He is far too professional for that, even considering how he can recognize that particular voice. But he does slowly lift his head out of the bushes with a carefully measured expression on his face.

“Why are you here, brat?”

The damn teenager only smirks at him, with the cat Aizawa had been looking for in his arms, looking well-fed and being given plenty of stroking, “Isn’t that supposed my question, Eraserhead? After all, normally one wouldn’t expect Pro-Heroes to be looking for stray cats in the middle of the streets, while I’m just an ordinary teenager hanging around in random places like ordinary teenagers do.”

“You know what I mean.” Composed and seemingly unruffled, Aizawa hauls himself out of the shrubbery before brushing off the leaves and random twigs sticking to his clothes and scarf. “As much as you might try to pretend that this is a coincidence, there is no way it is. This is an entirely different part of the campus from where you and your group normally go, considering the location of the General Education dorms.”

“You would know that, wouldn’t you?” The brat asks rhetorically before giving him a nod. “But alright: I wanted to find you, and Toshinori-san told me just the right person to ask for where you might be this afternoon. Present Mic had been very supportive, to even go as far as distracting you for a while so I could get here before you.”

Aizawa is going to kill those two, their jobs being Heroes or no. So that was why Hizashi had been particularly annoying after classes. “Thanks for telling me, brat.”

“Hey look, stop calling me that. You know my name is Shinsou, Shinsou Hitoshi.” Shinsou rolls his eyes, and Aizawa has to hold back the urge to facepalm as the teenager leans on a nearby pole, cat still in his arms. “At least call me by my name, Eraserhead. It’s only polite.”

“If only you call me Aizawa in return.” Aizawa shoots back, feeling rather irritated at the teenager’s cheek. “I’m not here as a Pro Hero right now.”

“Yeah, I can see that considering the bushes, Aizawa. And the lack of goggles.” Shinsou puts his hands at his temples, as if miming the act of putting on goggles. The cat has settled over the teenager’s shoulder at this point. “You know, there isn’t that much difference between how you normally look like and Eraserhead, right?”

Alright, that is it. Aizawa’s just about had it with this teenager, “Just get to the damn point, Shinsou. Why are you here?”

What the Shinsou answers with is something Aizawa doesn’t expect to ever come out of that snarky mouth.

“I want you to train me.”

Aizawa stares at the teenager, almost as though activating his Quirk. “...what.”

“Yeah, you’ve heard that right,” Shinsou crosses his arms, smirking at him confidently, “I want you to train me.”

The gall of this brat...!

Aizawa has to ask about this first though. After all, didn’t All Might already tell him that these kids were his students? Why was this brat asking for him then? “Don’t you already have a mentor? You know, tall, gaunt, absurdly optimistic, and looks like a walking, breathing skeleton?”

Shinsou looks away at that, looking a little guilty. Good, so the brat actually had some sense of shame.

“...Toshinori-san is a well-intentioned teacher, but after more than a week of training under him, I recognize now that he isn’t what I want, no, what I need.” Shinsou then turns back towards Aizawa, eyes sharp and filled with clear intelligence. “The way he teaches, it’s been about nothing but pure strength and some physical exercises so far. I need something else. Someone who has experience with fighting with martial-arts in tandem with Quirks, someone who can teach me skill.

Aizawa has to admit, he sees the logic in that. Because while All Might might be the best Hero, he was far from being the greatest of teachers. And it only made sense – All Might had, after all, only started teaching recently and never took on students before that. And what he knew also didn’t include tactics that people like Aizawa had to rely on for not having Quirks for direct combat.

So yes, he sees the logic in Shinsou’s argument in needing someone like him as a teacher as opposed to All Might, or as they knew him, Toshinori.

Still, it doesn’t mean that the boy has a neat argument that Aizawa would just agree. After all, he has no incentive to teach another student, especially another brat with enough cheek to make Aizawa want to tear his hair out. Katsuki Bakugou is enough of a problem student for any teacher.

“And you would think I would agree to train you, just like that? If you think you’re really that smart, brat, then you would remember that I already have one class of children to teach.”

Shinsou looks at him blankly, but Aizawa’s sharp eyes easily catch the teenager fidget with his hands behind his back. “Adding one more wouldn’t make that much difference, then.”

So, this brat is actually feeling nervous huh? Let’s add to the pressure then.

“That isn’t very convincing, Shinsou.”

This time, the nervousness becomes much easier to see, with Shinsou even taking off the napping cat off his shoulder and offering it to Aizawa. Aizawa inwardly growls at the action – if Shinsou is trying to convince him, then the teenager is making a terrible error.

“How about I let you pet this cat then? It’s a very cute cat.”

Aizawa has had enough. He turns around, saying, “I’m leaving-”

“No, no, please don’t!”

Aizawa halts. Finally, the mask was off. Now, time to face the actual teenager behind the cheekiness and the snarky commentary. He turns back, only to see a startlingly emotive expression on the normally unreadable Shinsou’s face, and this particular expression, the curled brows, the wide eyes, the dilating pupils... Aizawa has seen this so many times, that he doesn’t even have to think to know what is running in the teenager’s mind.

Desperation. Nothing but pure, unadulterated desperation.

“Alright, I’ll admit it, alright? I’m not going to try and keep face anymore – I really want you to train me. No matter what it takes, no matter how I must repay you for this later on, please,” The teenager’s legs buckle before Aizawa, and soon Shinsou has his head bowed in a particularly sharp angle, with his hands in fists by his sides. “I’m begging you, please take me on as your student!”

Still, that isn’t enough for Aizawa. Desperation, he has seen plenty out of people, and at this point, Aizawa does not particularly care for it anymore. After all, as a teacher from Yuuei and as a Hero... how could he not?

Even villains would beg for their freedom if sufficiently pressed. Without the right mindset, desperation could just as easily turn as a weapon against allies as much as it could be used against enemies.

“Nice try, Shinsou, but I have had plenty of students I’ve kicked out of my classes, even after they pleaded me to let them stay. Find someone else who might want to train you, brat.”

And just like that, Aizawa starts walking away again. Tch, this was such a waste of time-

“...you know, it wasn’t a lie.”

Aizawa stops in his footsteps once more, and he doesn’t have to turn around this time to see that Shinsou is still in that uncomfortable position, refusing to look up until Aizawa tells him to.

“When Izuku said that you were the Hero I respected the most during the report we gave at USJ, it wasn’t a lie. You still are, you know,” Shinsou actually chuckles here, not with mirth but with embittered resignation. “Even with what Present Mic told me this morning about how you were one of the major reasons why I dropped out of the Entrance Exams and got placed in General Education, it still isn’t a lie.”

That actually throws Aizawa for once, not because of what Shinsou is saying, but because of what it implied of Present Mic’s opinion of this boy. “Hizashi even told you about that?”

“Yeah. ‘To warn you that the man you’re looking to have as your mentor has very high standards,’ he said.” So Hizashi did know that Shinsou was planning to ask him to take him on as a student. “Still, even with that, I came here, hoping that you might take me on.”

Aizawa, at this point, just wants this particular question answered. “Why then? Why do you still persist in trying to convince me when you know just how high my standards are?”

“Because, when I came home after the Entrance Exam, knowing that I would fail, Eraserhead had been what brought me back up despite how everything seemed to be going against me. The night after the Exam, I almost gave up – almost.

Aizawa stands up straight at that, finally returning his gaze at the bowing teenager. Was this teenager talking about-

“But then the news on the television came on and I saw you.”

In that moment, Aizawa curses All Might to hell and back inside his head.

Of course, this had to be that man’s fault. All Might only had to be busy for ‘personal reasons’ that night – which, in retrospect, was probably related to that Midoriya the Symbol of Peace had very obviously taken a shine to – which led to Aizawa needing to be out in the man’s place.

Of course, that night also happened to be the night Eraserhead was actually caught on camera by the media, and of course, that particular day also had to be a slow news day that necessitated bringing out even unpopular heroes like him into the spotlight for the lack of anything better to show.

And now, Aizawa has a hopeful in his hands and he hates it.

“I saw how you fought against Villains mostly without a Quirk, only using yours to even out the playing-field while you brought them down with just your physical abilities and simple tools. I saw how despite the fact that your Quirk didn’t work on mutant-types you had combined your wits and your martial skill to take down Mutant-type villains anyway.”

Shinsou actually looks up at that, awe and respect clear on the teenager’s face, unbridled by the need to maintain a facade.  “It was inspiring. From then, I sought as much information as I could about you, and what did I find? That you were also a member of the General Education Department at some point, that you had failed Yuuei’s Entrance Exams for the Heroic Department like me.”

This is one of the reasons why Aizawa hates attention from the media. How it inevitably keeps bringing up those bad memories, by people thinking he would help them just because they knew a bit more of his history than others. “So is that it? You want me to teach you the tricks of getting into the Heroic Department like I did, so many years ago, is that it?”

Shinsou closes his mouth for a moment at that question, and when the teenager finally speaks, it is much quieter, without the veneration previously there. “No. At least, right now, that not all of it. Not anymore.”

Aizawa goes quiet. Could it be...

“I recognize now, how single-minded I had been back then to become a Hero.” Shinsou studies his hands before Aizawa, opening and closing them over and over again, “To the point that I had been very self-centered,” Hands tighten to fists, “Forgetting that to be a Hero is more than just helping people, more than just putting yourself out there and fighting criminals.”

“To become a Hero is to want to be able to help people, even if it’s only for the ones you care for. Because to even just have that oxymoronic kind of selfish altruism can be good, if you apply it the right way.” Yes, yes, if this does go on... “If a Hero fights just to protect, if he fights just to ensure the continued happiness of his loved ones, would that make that person less of a Hero? I believe the answer to that is no, because now that is my motivation, my creed.”

“After feeling so helpless, after managing to do nothing against Tsuchigumo while my rival fought and begged for our lives, I realize that now. While I won’t deny that my previous goal of proving myself to the world remains, that has become secondary now that I have people that would care for me despite my Quirk. What I really need now is to become stronger, to become a Hero so I won’t fail Izuku and the rest of my friends.”

A little bit more, show me more, prove yourself to be worthy of becoming a Hero.

“And for that, I would do anything for you to train me.” Aizawa’s eyes go wide as the teenager prostrates before him, his legs bent and his face pressed on the ground with his arms. “So please, I’m begging you please, take me on as your student! I won’t complain, no matter how hard it might get! I’ll do whatever you ask me to! I’ll even sign a contract, make a vow, if that’s what is necessary-”

Aizawa has enough, he has seen enough, and with that he raises a hand at Shinsou’s direction. “Just... stop. Stop right there. Raise your head.”

The teenager does so with much caution, slowly lifting his head again with just a glimmer of hope in his eyes.

Aizawa presses the bridge of his nose at the sight. At this point, there really was no going back. “If you’re really going to be that persistent, alright, I’ll give you a chance. Even if it’s only to prevent you from bothering me about this any further. Remember that week of detention the Principal told you about?”

He knows he doesn’t imagine the hopeful tone from Shinsou’s reply, “...yes?

“I’ll take that, and use that week as a preliminary test to decide if you are indeed worth taking on as a student.” Aizawa is already making plans in his mind for training sessions, to convince both Hizashi and All Might to take over some of his classes in return for what they have dumped in his lap, “Be warned though; I won’t be as kind as any of your teachers. If you aren’t prepared to at least throw your guts out at least once on my training, you better give up now.”

“I won’t disappoint you, Aizawa-sensei!”

It is exceedingly odd, to see such a bright and earnest smile on the normally sarcastic and moody Shinsou’s face, and despite himself, part of Aizawa hopes that he would somehow be able to see it again after he is finished with the teenager.

Only a small part though, a very small part.

Still, just what has Aizawa gotten himself into now?

#-#-#-#

How does Inko take the entire news about Izuku’s recent experiences in Yuuei?

Inko has always been a worrier.

She can’t help it; it’s as much a part of her as her son loved Heroes, and oh, how her son loved and admired Heroes. Izuku had been an excitable and kind child, brought to emotional displays by the smallest of things like Inko, but when it came to Heroes and everything about them, her Izuku would always default to childish excitement and joy when they were brought up.

And then, her son inherited a version of Inko’s own Quirk, where instead of attracting small objects to himself he banished them away with a touch. That had been the beginning of the change inside her son.

Izuku always wanted to be a Hero. Like All Might, the number one Hero and the Symbol of Peace. Yet, with the Quirk Izuku had inherited from her, Inko knew that it would be difficult for her son to become the Hero he wanted, and Izuku knew it as well.

Inko doesn’t think that Izuku... blames her for inheriting her Quirk, as opposed to her husband’s Quirk of breathing fire, but Inko blames herself anyway for failing to give her son the powerful Quirk he wanted to attain his dreams.

She blames herself on how Izuku starts hiding things from her as a child, she blames herself on how the subject of Heroes at home sometimes brings about envy and sadness as opposed to joy in her son.

Inko just wants to protect her son’s dreams, to make him happy, yet... if her Izuku had a different, stronger mother, then wouldn’t Izuku be happier for it? If only Inko was stronger, if only she was better...

In the end, when her Izuku asked her if he could attend Yuuei, Inko allowed her son to attend the dormitories. Because she thought Izuku would be happier without seeing her every day, without having Inko as a reminder as to who exactly gave him the weak Quirk that wouldn’t help him achieve his dreams.

But Inko never thought that it would come to this.

Izuku turns to her as she bursts into the room. “Mom...”

“Oh, Izuku, how I’m so glad to see you!” Inko immediately runs forward to hold her son in her arms, as to assuage her own fears brought about by the past hour. “What is this I’ve heard about you getting attacked by a villain? About you nearly getting killed!? Oh, Izuku, when All Might himself came into our house to tell me what happened, I nearly had a heart attack! I thought I would be brought here only to see you crippled, or worse!”

“A-Ah, Mom, don’t worry so much!” Her Izuku struggles a bit in her hug, before returning it with one arm waving over her head. “I’m just fine, can’t you see? I’m not hurt, not anymore at least after Recovery Girl healed me...”

Inko though, hears differently. “So you did get hurt!”

Her son pulls away, his hands holding tight on Inko’s shoulders. “Look, Mom, I’m okay now.”

Izuku then gestures at himself before Inko, who wraps her gaze up and down her son in search of any injuries.

”See? Completely unhurt. You don’t have to be so afraid for my sake anymore.”

Seeing that comforting smile on Izuku’s face, Inko relaxes.

“...alright, Izuku, if you say so.” She says, before placing a hand on her right cheek with a sigh. “Just, I worry about you so much, you know? It’s my job as your mother to do so.”

“Hence why we brought you here.”

Inko turns to the speaker, someone that she only noticed just now to be in the room. In her shock, she gasps before bowing her head several times at the astronaut(?)-themed third person in the room.

“Ah, I am so, so sorry that I’ve ignored you all this time!” Inko only stops bowing her head in apology once the Hero raises their hand to stop her, and then, only does she lift her head to meet them face to face. “You must be a Pro Hero, right? The Principal that brought me here told me so. I... I would like to say that I can recognize you, but I can’t. I’m sorry, unlike my son, I’ve never been that informed about Heroes other than the ones in the top five.”

Shame fills Inko at that, but the space-themed Hero before her only shakes their head.

“You don’t have to worry, Midoriya-san, you have caused no offense.” Inko can’t see the face of the person before her with that helmet in place, but even without that, she can immediately tell the Hero is compassionate from the soothing tones of their voice alone. “It is only understandable that you would focus on your son’s well-being first before me, and there is no harm in not knowing my name. After all, I’m not as famous a hero as some of the others here in this school.”

Izuku chimes beside Inko, her son’s respect easily recognizable in the way he gazes at the Hero before them. “They’re Thirteen, Mom. Didn’t I tell you before? They're the Space Hero Thirteen, specializing in search and rescue. They're also my homeroom teacher!”

“O-Oh, is that so? I must have forgotten.” Indeed, Inko can’t remember at all a time when her son spoke about any space-themed Heroes to her. How shameful. “Still, Thirteen... sensei, is that how I should call you?”

The Hero, apparently named Thirteen, nods. “Yes. Please, take a seat right here beside your son.”

Inko does so, making sure to sit close to her Izuku.

“Thirteen-sensei, is there anything you wanted to talk to me about my son, to call me here? Because if it’s only to tell me about what happened, All Might had already done that, and the Principal wouldn’t personally come to see me if it was just for that.”

Inko didn’t think it possible, but Thirteen tilts their head in what feels like approval. “I see where Midoriya-kun gets his perceptiveness then.”

Inko blushes.

Thirteen coughs, which sounds weird from underneath a helmet. “Well, I guess the best way to start this off would with this then. Midoriya-san, if you could?”

The Space Hero hands over a document to Inko, who takes it with not just a little bit of confusion. But when she does read it, the medical report detailing the physical health of a villain named ‘Tsuchigumo’ with a police document saying that it was her son that did everything, Inko immediately pales.

“T-This!” She lifts her head from the document, first looking in shock at her son before turning back to Thirteen. “Is everything on this report true? Did my Izuku really do this to the Villain that attacked him and his friends!? With his Minor Banishment!?”

Inko never thought the Quirk her son inherited from her could ever be used this way. She hadn’t even considered it possible, yet... the proof is here, before her eyes.

Thirteen, in face of Inko’s disbelief, only nods calmly. “We would have to request for you to keep everything about this secret, for both your son’s sake and that of Yuuei’s, but yes, the entirety of that document is nothing but the truth.”

Inko turns to her Izuku, in horror or hope, she doesn’t know, but her son only refuses to meet her gaze. For a moment, Inko is worried – was Izuku blaming her for this, was all of this her fault again – but then those irrational thoughts of hers are replaced with what she knows of her son.

Her Izuku would never blame her, because it was always just Inko that blamed herself.

And her son took after her.

In that moment once realization sets in, Inko immediately hugs her son again.

“M-Mom!?”

It is all a stream of words, just whispers leaving Inko’s mouth, but she knows this is what her son needs to hear, she knows that this is what her Izuku wants her to say.

“Izuku, don’t be afraid. I won’t judge you, I won’t be disappointed, I won’t condemn you for whatever you do. Because you must have only done it because you had to, isn’t that right, Izuku?” She lifts one hand, to caress her son’s right cheek before lifting it so Inko could see her son’s eyes, glimmering with tears. “There’s nothing that would make me love you any less Izuku, so don’t avert your eyes from me now.”

Slowly, Izuku returns the hug, before finally burying his face into Inko’s shoulder. And while Inko can’t see Thirteen’s face from within the spacesuit, especially with how she is ignoring them again in favor of Izuku, for some reason she gets the feeling that Thirteen is smiling at them in that moment.

They stay just like that for what feels like a minute before Inko lifts her gaze over at Thirteen.

“Is this what you called me for, Thirteen-sensei? Because you wanted to talk to me about my son’s wellbeing?”

“Again, you outstand me, Midoriya-san. Your son really does seem to take after you, if not for your insight, for your wide heart.” Inko smiles bravely at the praise, even as her Izuku finally pulls away from her save for the way she keeps on holding her son’s hand. “But before I get too much into telling you what I respect in the both of you, I would like to ask: Midoriya-san, what do you know of Quirk Counseling?”

“I just know that it’s like any other kind of counseling, only for Quirks.”

Thirteen raises a finger before slowly putting it down. “That... is actually a fairly accurate, if succinct, explanation of what it is Midoriya-san. Even if you just reused the name, it is rare that people actually consider the therapy portion of Quirk Counseling first as opposed to the actual Quirks involved.”

Inko stares at the teacher. “Surely, it’s not that rare, right?”

Again, the feeling of being smiled at from beneath that helmet. “You’ll be surprised how much people forget its true importance, Midoriya-san.”

Inko turns to Izuku, who is now looking at the favorite pair of shoes that Inko had given him in silence. She squeezes his hand for a moment, “Is that what this is, Thirteen-sensei? Is Izuku going to have to go through Quirk Counseling again, for what happened with his Quirk? I remember Izuku telling me about receiving his when he was still in grade-school.”

Thirteen coughs once more. “Actually, about that... Midoriya-kun, don’t you think you have something to tell your mother?”

“Mom,” Izuku lifts his head to meet Inko in the eyes. “I never received counseling before, for my Quirk. My school skipped over me back in grade-school. Sorry I lied to you before, I just...”

Her son shakes his head, turning away from Inko again. “I just didn’t want to admit to you that they considered what I had to be equal to being Quirkless.”

Thirteen says something about having that particular question finally answered, but Inko doesn’t quite hear the Hero, because Inko is only shocked, stupefied that this could have happened-

“Is... Is this true, Izuku? Did they really just neglect you like that? Your school?”

-without her doing everything she could to prevent it from happening?

Thirteen speaks, “Midoriya-san.”

Inko gasps, feeling something flow over her cheeks, “H-huh?”

“Would you like some tissues? You seem to be in the need of them.”

Inko sniffles as she gratefully starts taking several tissues from the box handed to her by the teacher.

Her son turns over her in surprise, “M-Mom!? Why are you crying!?”

Oh, her dear Izuku. How Inko didn’t deserve this boy.

“But Izuku... I failed you. I failed you as your mother.” She whimpers as she tries to clear her face up with the given tissues, only to fail as every time she manages to wipe away her tears, fresh ones keep bubbling up to replace then. “I should have noticed this before, should have personally checked up on you back when you were in grade-school. Is this why you started closing yourself from me back then, Izuku? Is this why?”

Of course. That had to be the only reason. After all, it was all Inko’s fault, all her fault for failing her son like this over and over and over-

“W-What, no! Mom, don’t blame yourself!” Inko chokes as Izuku is the one this time to hold on to her, wrapping newly powerful arms around her waist. When did her Izuku get so strong? When did he grow without her looking? “I just didn’t want to worry you any further with my small problems, you were already working hard to support the both of us back then! If anything, I’m the one to blame! I’m the one who refused to admit to what they thought of me!”

Inko continues to cry at that, and soon, even her son starts to cry as well.

Truly, they were alike in many ways. Down to how they blame themselves as opposed to anyone else.

Thirteen speaks up at this.

“Midoriya-san, Midoriya-kun, please calm down, the both of you. Neither of you are to blame – instead, it lies on the collective heads of the grade-school that did this to Midoriya-kun. So don’t blame yourselves.” The teacher places two hands over their shoulders, one on Izuku’s and the other on Inko’s, squeezing just a bit to comfort them. “And in the first place, it’s not a matter on who the blame falls on, but on what all of us can do now from here. So please, both of you, try to calm down.”

What can Inko do from here?

Could it be, that... that was Inko had missed, all this time? So drowned in her guilt, in her worries, instead of actually helping her son, she failed to do anything? That in her reverie in pinning down the blame to herself, she had missed the point entirely?

If that was the case... Then yes, Inko could calm down. No, she would calm down, catch her breath, and be strong.

For Izuku.

“A-Alright. If you say so, Thirteen.” One, two, three. Deep breaths, in, out. Once Inko starts feeling better, like her voice can come out stronger, she turns to her son who is still holding on to her. “Izuku?”

Izuku has his face buried into her shoulder again. “Um-hm.”

“There, there, my boy...”

Inko starts whispering comfortingly in her son’s ears before turning back to Thirteen.

“Are the both of you fine now?” The teacher asks. “Do you think we can proceed from here?”

Izuku pulls away from Inko, still hand-in-hand, and soon the both of them nod.

“Right, so there is one last thing to do before we move on to finalizing this arrangement.” Thirteen steps back, crossing their arms behind themself. “Midoriya-kun, if you can, please tell your mother the last thing she needs to hear from you. Take as much time as you both need.”

Inko looks up to see her son looking at her determinedly. “Mom...”

“What is it, sweetie?”

At this point, Inko is waiting to hear another piece of bad news. Like her son telling her that he is in danger of being targeted by villains. Maybe, that Izuku had been involved in something criminal or vigilante of origin. Or even something like being chosen for something that would have Inko worrying for the rest of her life over.

No matter what, I will help. No matter what, I’ll be supportive.

“I still want to become a Hero.”

Inko, in that moment, freezes. Of all things to come out of her son’s mouth, of all things that has her Izuku looking like that, terrified and worried in one as though Inko is going to react disapprovingly at him... Inko can’t help it.

She laughs.

And Inko knows that Izuku is staring at her, not looking hurt at her supposedly laughing at her childhood dream but confused, but she keeps on laughing anyway, laughing until beads of moisture have to be wiped away from her eyes again.

And when she does calm down, she says with a smile to her son:

“I know, Izuku.”

Her son looks flabbergasted at her this time. Inko sighs, knowing that the reaction is only understandable considering what her Izuku thought of Inko’s opinions on his dreams of becoming a Hero, but really, Izuku should know better by now than to expect Inko would be less than supportive of him.

“Did you really think that I wouldn’t notice? Did you really think that I wouldn’t know you enough to see that you haven’t given up on your dream, never would?”

Izuku blurts, “B-But, with how you seemed less worried and everything-!”

“That is because of how you became more confident all of sudden ten months ago, Izuku,” Inko places her hands on Izuku’s face, running the tip of one of her fingers over his chin and admiring how her son looks more and more handsome every day, “My son, most of my worries were about how desperate and obsessive you had been before, but back then? You thought that it was because I thought you had given up, but it was only because you had been positive, more sure of yourself!”

“That was all that I had wanted to see from you, sweetie.”

Inko still doesn’t understand what brought about that particular change in Izuku in the first place, even now. She doesn’t know what convinced her son to apply to Yuuei through General Education as opposed to the Hero Course, she doesn’t know what led to her Izuku finally calming down those many months ago, but in the end, that wasn’t what mattered, right?

In the end, it couldn’t have been anything but good for her Izuku. Thus, Inko doesn’t ask any questions, not when Izuku isn’t inviting her to ask them. She’ll wait for him to tell her himself of his own volition.

“Then, when you let me enter Yuuei-!”

“It was with the thought of letting you get the chance you wanted of becoming a Hero, Izuku. Nothing more, nothing less.” Inko shakes her head, before she catches sight of the report given to her earlier by Thirteen in her seat, a heavy reminder of the danger her son has faced without even becoming a Hero yet. “Even with how dangerous it seems to me now, I w-won’t stop you. Not yet at least. I guess I’m just going to have to trust you in this, Izuku.”

After all, her Izuku had an all-new powerful use for the Quirk she passed on to him, right?

While it was pretty terrifying, it would make him safer, and less worrying for Inko now that her son had a way to fend for himself. Anyway, it would be incredibly unlikely for her son to be put in danger by Yuuei again, right?

Inko doesn’t quite believe herself as she thinks those, but seeing the relieved smile break over her son’s face again assuages the fears bubbling up in her heart. She would like to have her son be safe, but... she wanted him to be happy even more.

And if what made her Izuku happy would be this, then Inko will let her son chase after his dreams. She would never let herself and her own fears hinder her Izuku again.

Not without a good reason to.

“If both of you are ready, then we can proceed to finalizing Midoriya-kun’s Quirk Counseling sessions between myself and Recovery Girl.” Thirteen nods at the two of them before walking back over to their table and tapping at what looked to be a contract. “If you agree to sign here Midoriya-san, we can consider this as Midoriya-kun’s first session, and in the future, we would call you in if we find it necessary for the future of your son’s continued mental health.”

All I want is for you to be happy. All I want is for you to be safe. But if this is what you want, then I’m just going to have to offer you everything I have. For you, my son, I’m going to be better. For you, I’ll take out a page out of your book and become stronger.

I’m going to be nothing less than a woman worthy of being the mother of a Hero.

Inko signs the paper, making a new oath to herself deep in her heart as she does so.

#-#-#-#

And lastly... what comes next?

Nedzu looks out of the window of his office as he sips on some of his tea.

He is contemplating.

Just so recently, this office had been a hubbub of activity. He had been approached by Toshinori, attempted to aid three of his school’s students in their goal of finding their friend, and in doing so had managed to do such a severe error that he had pushed those students to put themselves under danger.

And though those students were safe now, Nedzu still doesn’t forget his part. He never would, he supposes.

It definitely shouldn’t have even happened. Nedzu is no beginner, no rookie whose mistakes could be easily waived off as inexperience. Because Nedzu is experienced, just as or even more experienced than the rest of his staff, but to make a mistake like that? And indirectly putting his students in danger as a result? No.

Maybe it was the relative peace these days that made him soft. After all, when was the last time Nedzu actually brought his skills to their utmost? With All Might keeping the peace by scaring most of the really dangerous villains into inactivity, even with the average number of villain attacks rising, Nedzu had not been needed.

And just like that, Nedzu grew to rust, slowly getting more careless as he rested upon his golden laurels.

Not anymore.

Nedzu will simply have to get better. He’ll simply have to never make this same mistake ever again.

And for that, he had the perfect project in mind to practice his skills over: a certain gradeschool as helpfully pointed out for him by Toshinori’s apprentice Midoriya Izuku. It has been a while since Nedzu took an establishment with his paws and broke it over with his manipulation. Too long, even.

It’s been such a long time…

Nedzu is only starting to chuckle evilly when someone knocks on his door. Just about time the man he was waiting for finally arrived.

“Toshinori-kun, come in!”

His old friend, the one and only Symbol of Piece, walks into the room with his hand on back of his head and his absurd height underscored by the man bending forwards. Once more, Nedzu is reminded exactly of how despite being All Might, Toshinori could be so unassuming in his real form.

“Principal, you called for me?”

Immediately, Nedzu gestures for the man to sit opposite him, before pretending to not see that amusing look on Toshinori’s face once he hands the man his tea. Why risk Toshinori making that look again, after all?

“Yes, yes, yes, I wanted to talk to you about your students, you see.”

Toshinori takes a quiet sip of his tea. “Is this about Midoriya-kun and his friends’ incident a few days ago? I remember Tsukauchi-kun telling me about something he found out from Tsuchigumo.”

“Yes, there’s that, but first I wanted to tell you some of the things I’ve figured out over the past few days, especially in regards to what would have happened without the input of your students.” Nedzu begins, refilling his own cup of tea. “As you understand, the course of events is highly dependent on the players, and in this case we’ve managed to garner quite a positive outcome out of this confrontation. But it remains to be thought as to what might have happened, no?”

Toshinori nods at that, already making it obvious to Nedzu that the man has prepared himself for a long chat. “Yeah?”

“Well if you don’t mind, I’ll get to it.” If only people realized that Nedzu keeps on making his long speeches just irk or distract people at this point. “So, it all begins with the disappearance of Katsura-kun. As impossible it may seem to consider right now, we must assume what happens if Katsura-kun hadn’t befriended Midoriya-kun and the rest. And I already have a good idea of how would that have been: without close friends worried for his continued well-being, Katsura-kun is ripe for being disappeared away.”

“You can’t possibly think that, Principal.” Toshinori argues, putting his cup down as he intertwined his hands together. “What you are saying here is kidnapping, of a Yuuei student. Not only that, this is also Tsukauchi-kun’s son we are talking about here. Surely Tsukauchi-kun would have asked for my help if that happened?”

“Did Tsukauchi-keiji tell you of Katsura Kensei before this, Toshinori-kun?” Nedzu asks rhetorically, before taking the silence from Toshinori as the answer it was. “Don’t judge him for the secrecy, as it turns out, Kensei is a pretty important secret to the Police Force. In the case of his disappearance, the likely course of action they would have taken is to keep things down so they could search for him. This much, Tsukauchi-keiji admitted to me before.”

“And as for here in Yuuei, do you think we wouldn’t have been fooled by that resignation letter?” Nedzu can’t help but sound tired at this, after all, this was where he had committed his grave error, “The only reason we knew to check the cameras was because of Midoriya-kun and his friends. Without them...”

“...we would have taken it as it looked to be, removing young Katsura off the student list.” Toshinori continues, before shaking his head. “And that would have also damaged our relationship with the Police Department, wouldn’t it? Because as far as they would be concerned then, we were the ones responsible for failing to prevent the disappearance of Tsukauchi-kun’s son. I wouldn’t be surprised if Tsukauchi-kun started hating me for that too.”

Nedzu shakes his head, “Now, don’t be like that Toshinori-kun. Tsukauchi-keiji knows that you had no clue that he even had a foster son, and you don’t teach in General Education anyway so you would have had no reason to meet Katsura-kun. He’ll keep the issue from you, but he wouldn’t have blamed you.”

“What would Katsura Kensei’s disappearance mean in the long run, Principal?”

Nedzu stands, leaving his seat as he folds his arms behind his back. He walks up to the nearby window, looking outside of it as he answers, “Disastrous. That’s the only thing I can say. Katsura Kensei’s Quirk, as well as the information he has on Yuuei and how it works, would be an absolute disaster in the hands of the villains. Especially the ones we are talking about here.”

Toshinori sucks in a breath at that behind Nedzu. “So... It is true then, Principal? He’s back?”

Nedzu gives Toshinori a sharp glance.

Not quite. I know you are talking about that man, the one that gave you that injury but all we have is just hints, even with Tsuchigumo in our hands.” Toshinori looks a bit more relaxed at that, if still a little wary. “On the other hand, we have some undeniable evidence of the formation of some kind of alliance between villains, a League of Villains if you will.”

“Normal villains are problematic enough, but when they’re organized...” Nedzu shakes his head. “Indeed, in such a situation, it doesn’t bear thinking what might have happened if Katsura-kun got successfully kidnapped. With the number of Quirks and methods that could be used to forcibly get our information out of him, Tsuchigumo’s Quirk just being one of them, even if Tsukauchi-kun got his son back later on our security would forever be critically compromised.”

Toshinori looks down. “We would have faced an attack at some point.”

“Yes, I do believe that’s the case.” Nedzu is also somber at that idea. His beloved school, under attack by villains... He shakes the thought out of his head. “Still, I’m glad to say that wouldn’t happen anytime soon, especially with our new information and my recent overhaul of the campus security. We’ve also received some information on our enemies’ appearance and Quirks, which would only be useful in tracking them down.”

Nedzu takes out a document from his table, labeled Classified Information. “Toshinori-kun, here’s the compilation of everything Tsukauchi-kun gave me. Were it not for the fact that you’ve recovered Katsura-kun, he probably wouldn’t have been allowed to give this to me in person.”

 Toshinori starts flipping through its pages. “This is...!”

“A terrifying set of Quirks, isn’t it, Toshinori-kun?”

Toshinori nods, even as his eyes remain rapidly absorbing every detail, committing them to memory. “Disintegration, signal jamming, and even a teleportation Quirk? In the hands of villains? That’s absolutely horrifying.”

“You must also understand, Toshinori-kun, what a teleporter might be capable of with Katsura-kun’s information.”

Toshinori lifts his head from the document. “They would have been capable of teleporting anywhere on campus.”

“Indeed. We really had a close call there, Toshinori-kun.” Nedzu says soberly, before cheering up. “Still, with this information, we could turn their attack back on them. We now have information on the appearance of their leaders, and Tsukauchi-kun has already assembled a dossier so he can mount a search team for their base. We have also suitably informed the other Heroes of the upcoming League of Villains.”

“But for the meantime,” Toshinori puts down the document, before taking back his cup. “We would have to wait.”

“Indeed, we would have to wait. And it’s only so, after all...”

“It’s time to prepare for the upcoming Sports Festival.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 10: Race

“Are you all ready?”

Hitoshi honestly feels pretty frightened, deep inside. This day is, after all, what he has been preparing for over the course of the past two months. It is what defined his goals ever since entering Yuuei, it is what has allowed him to get as close as he is with his three friends especially Izuku, and it is what made him endure through that hellish week of training and more under Aizawa-sensei.

Today is the only chance for him, or Izuku, to become part of the Hero Course this year.

Of course, he feels scared.

His rival ends up beating him to it though. Not a surprise, considering how much Izuku flips between a confident and self-assured friend to a mousy and timid boy. “I-If I said no, do you think the entire school could reschedule, Toshinori-san?”

Kensei snorts from where he is reading something on his cellphone, the nerve. Just because he wasn’t the ones dreading how this day would end...

“Izu-chan, I think even Toshinori-san’s vaguely defined but somehow highly influential position in the school wouldn’t be able to manage that.”

Hitoshi can’t hold back a smirk of his own at that. Indeed, at this point, there had been some needling on Hitoshi and Kensei’s end as to precisely what position Toshinori-san held within Yuuei, but as it was their shared mentor was proving to be tightlipped.

If it was Izuku who was asking that particular question, Hitoshi is fairly sure that they’ll get the answer they wanted – it was plain to see just how much the adult favored Hitoshi’s rival, and for good reason – but Izuku too proved himself to be rather stubborn, not wanting to join Kensei and Hitoshi in their particular quest.

“If Toshinori-san wants to tell us, then he would tell us on his own.”

And in the face of that, how could Hitoshi press on in his attempt to satisfy his curiosity?

Still, as what was probably habitual for Toshinori-san now, the man flails his arms in denial, “K-Katsura-kun, what are you suggesting! I am nothing more than a mere teacher in this school, nothing more, nothing less.”

Alright, so Hitoshi couldn’t force Toshinori-san to tell anything he didn’t want to say.

That didn’t mean that the man was safe from his teasing.

“Didn’t you forget to mention how you used to be All Might’s public manager, Toshinori-san?”

As with every time Hitoshi mentions that particular fact, which still baffles him despite having heard of it back at USJ from Izuku who had been told by it by All Might himself, Toshinori-san goes bright red in what was clearly embarrassment.

Embarrassment for what, Hitoshi doesn’t know. Surely, the man wasn’t embarrassed of working for All Might of all people, right?

“A-Ah, about that!”

Toshinori-san yells before the man devolves to mumbling as he looks down on his feet. Hitoshi overhears the man mutter the words “wasn’t intending to” and “was planning to say something else” over and over, but as always, he can’t make any sense out of it.

Really, for all habits Toshinori-san could pick up from Izuku it had to be that? At least that meant their mentor could be fun to tease. The same couldn’t be said about Aizawa-sensei.

Hitoshi shudders at that particular bit of memory. So much cloth...

“Kensei-kun, what are you reading on your phone?” Megumi asks the trickster of their group, leaning closer from behind Kensei, “You have been busy with that for a while now...”

“Oh, are you interested, Megumi-chan? Look!”

Just like that, Kensei shows his phone to Megumi, and Hitoshi just wants to snort at the sight of Megumi nearly laying her head over Kensei’s shoulder. For all of Kensei’s initial shyness around the female of their group, these days he could be rather free with physical distance, and in return Megumi seemed to be also a lot bolder these days around Kensei and Kensei alone.

This was just another point to the mental tally Hitoshi had about the two of them eventually ending up together.

“New heroes and vigilantes in Mutsutafu, recent quiet regarding on villain attacks, and new inventions in Muscle Support Company?” Megumi reads the articles out loud, and soon she tilts her head, which makes her braid brush with Kensei’s cheek. Another point for the tally. “Kensei-kun, why are you reading the news? I didn’t figure you to be one to try and keep yourself updated with these kinds of things.”

“I kind of have to, considering my role in this group. I can’t be the Smart Guy if I don’t actively do my research, you know?”

Hitoshi actually does snort at that. He could just hear the capitalization in the other teenager’s tone. “Kensei, if you’re the Smart Guy, then what do you think the rest of us would be then?”

“Well, Izu-chan’s definitely the Heart of the group of course.” Kensei juts a thumb towards the teenager in question, causing him to squeak loudly at that as he is broken out of some worried muttering by the comment, and then Kensei points to Megumi, “And Megumi’s the Badass Chick that’s scarier than she looks.”

Hitoshi raises a brow, “And as for me?”

“You’re the Lancer! You’re the counterpart of Izu-chan here, plus it just fits you, considering the weapon I gave you.”

Hitoshi can’t say anything to that. After all, calling him the lancer of the group really did fit – raising the mechanized spear given to him a week ago by Kensei over his shoulders, as well as eyeing the three short rods tied to Izuku’s right thigh, he sighs, “All right, I’ll concede to that. But really, do you think we’re ready?”

“That’s the question you should be asking of Izu-chan, don’t you think?”

The three of them, including Toshinori-san who had just recovered out of his own muttering fit, turn to Midoriya Izuku who has his gaze directed at somewhere else. Once Hitoshi follows that gaze, he knows what Izuku is thinking.

After all, Izuku is looking towards the dormitory for General Education department.

While the place isn’t particularly filled with good memories – especially with the whole thing about Kensei – the fact was, at this point they have spent more than two months in this place. After that long a time, it was kind of a given that it would be like a home to them.

And depending on what happens today, this may not be true anymore. Depending on who wins and who fails, either Hitoshi or Izuku could leave this building forever, or none of them would.

“Are you ready, my boy?”

Toshinori-san asks this of Izuku again, and this time, Izuku does meet Toshinori-san in the eyes.

Seeing that shared gaze, not for the last time Hitoshi wonders as to what exactly was the relationship between his rival and their mentor. The bond between the two before him was certainly more than a relationship between a teacher and a student, and if Hitoshi didn’t know better, he would have already concluded that they were father and son.

“...Yeah, Toshinori-san. I’m ready.”

Well, that certainly settled the matter now, didn’t it? With Izuku having declared that, there was no way that they were going to wait any longer, and all of them knew that.

Hitoshi slings his arms over his spear. Megumi smiles. Kensei grins wildly.

Toshinori smiles proudly over all of them.

“Then it’s time to go.”

#-#-#-#

“This is where I have to leave you.”

Toshinori can’t say that he isn’t worried. Because he is.

When Toshinori agreed to teach this small group of students because they were Izuku’s friends, he hadn’t thought that they would manage to endear themselves to him to this level. Izuku is another matter – considering all of their similarities and the eight months Toshinori spent meeting with the boy before Yuuei, it would have been strange if he hadn’t gotten close to the teenager.

But these three? Shinsou, with his sharp wit and outspoken cynicism that reminded Toshinori of Aizawa on a good day, Katsura, with his hidden history and sunny disposition despite it all, and Yamato, who despite being the only girl in this group of four managed to be equals with them all?

Toshinori really didn’t expect that they’ll become so important to him so much that he would even plan to arrive late to the preparations of his actual class on such an important day just so he could drop them off personally to their classroom.

“Toshinori-san, don’t be so worried, look, our classmates are staring at you strangely.”

Snapping out of his thoughts, Toshinori notices that young Shinsou’s comment is indeed true – some of the students from 1-C are giving him odd looks, and with not just a bit of franticness, Toshinori waves his arms, “A-Ah, if that’s the case then I’ll go. Midoriya-kun, Shinsou-kun, Megumi-kun, Katsura-kun, good luck, and I’ll be off-”

Just as Toshinori is about to leave, his right wrist accidentally smacks to the chin of another person, prompting a yelp from them. Horror forms in Toshinori’s throat as he recognizes the woman that he has sort-of-uppercutted, and how could he not be horrified, when this was the mother of the boy he has been teaching for so many months now?

“Izuk- UGH!”

Midoriya Inko stumbles back before Toshinori’s eyes, and for a moment, Toshinori thinks the woman is about to fall. But then, her foot slides back in a circular motion and Inko catches her own weight just in time for Toshinori to grab her by the arm.

“Midoriya-san, I’m so sorry, are you alright?”

Inko turns to him, somehow managing a smile despite Toshinori’s major faux pas, “Ah yes, I’m fine-“

That is when Izuku runs up to them, with his friends in tow. Toshinori lets go of the woman’s arm in time for Izuku to grab his mother by the waist, his training evident in that he actually lifts the fully-grown woman with no problem.

“Mom!”

And just like that, a small reunion happens before Toshinori’s own eyes. He smiles at some of the interactions between the mother and son in front of him, especially Izuku’s comments about his mother being lighter than before, and is about to quietly leave them when someone grabs him by the wrist.

It is none other than Katsura. “Toshinori-san, don’t you try escaping now. You need to be properly introduced to Midoriya-obasan, don’t you think?”

Toshinori’s eyes go wide as he becomes the center of attention in their small group again. Izuku, having just introduced his friends to his mother, has his eyes go bright as he holds Inko by the hand and gestures an arm towards him.

“Mom, this is Yagi Toshinori-san, the mentor I was talking about before!”

Thankfully, when Midoriya Inko’s gaze meets his, he sees nothing but amusement in those green eyes. “Yes, I believe we’ve just had quite the... interesting... first impression.”

She offers a hand, looking like the image of confidence, and Toshinori awkwardly takes her handshake, blushing to the tips of his ears in shame.

“A-Again, I must apologize, Midoriya-san, I am not usually like this-“

“No harm was done, Yagi-san.” Midoriya Inko smiles back at him before taking back her hand to clasp them behind her back. “And please, call me Inko. As the person who has helped my son to grow so much, you deserve that at the very least.”

For a moment, Toshinori just takes his time to study the mother of his student. It’s almost... tilting, how different Midoriya Inko is now from when he had last met her under the guise of All Might after the Tsuchigumo incident. Is this how she really looks like, when her son is safe and is not in danger, or perhaps did she herself grow stronger after going through those therapy sessions with her son?

In that moment, Toshinori regrets not knowing the answer to that particular question. If only he had tried to properly meet Midoriya Inko earlier.

Still, that didn’t mean he couldn’t start now, right?

“If you insist, Inko-san, but please do call me by my first name like your son,” Toshinori rubs the back of his head with his hand, “At this point, I’m so used to being referred to it by these four that it honestly would feel weirder if you didn’t call me by that.”

“Toshinori-san then.”

Izuku smiles at them.

“Well, Mom, Toshinori-san, it’s nice to see that you two have finally met, but I really have to go now.”

That is when Toshinori realizes that the hallway is nearly devoid of occupants. Even Katsura, Shinsou, and Yamato have left, leaving Toshinori alone with the Midoriyas.

Toshinori honestly doesn’t know if he should feel betrayed about that.

Inko turns to her son. “Izuku...”

A worried frown makes its way over her face, and Toshinori is explicitly reminded of that time when he had been telling this woman how her son got hurt from under his watch. Despite that though, Izuku only smiles bravely at her.

“Mom, I’ll be alright, I promise. No, more than that, I’ll be amazing. Trust me in that, alright?”

His student wraps his hands around his mother’s, and Toshinori feels a little humbled, being allowed to see such a private moment.

“A-Alright, I’ll trust you. I’ll trust you in this.” Inko’s eyes shimmer, and soon, she is wiping away tears from the corners of her eyes. “Izuku, you have really grown, haven’t you? You have become such a wonderful young man in such a short time.”

“It’s all just thanks to everyone who helped me get this far, especially Toshinori-san.”

Izuku lets go of his mother’s hands, and for a moment, the teenager gives Toshinori a smile before he finally enters the classroom, leaving Toshinori alone with Inko.

When Toshinori turns his gaze back to the mother beside him, Inko has already regained her poise, looking to the world like an unyielding Sakura tree in full bloom. But having seen what just happened mere moments ago, Toshinori understands:

It wasn’t that Inko became any less emotional from the last time he had seen her. From those tears, from those words, it was clear that she felt just as strongly as she did two weeks ago when Toshinori last saw her.

No, it was just that she had grown stronger, the same way Toshinori had watched her son grow.

“Toshinori-san, would you please accompany me to the stands? I’m more acquainted now with the school grounds, after having visited it many times with the previous sessions I’ve had with Izuku during his Quirk Counseling, but I still don’t have much of an idea where the stands could be.”

In that short time, Toshinori thinks back to his students in Class 1-A, where he had been planning to visit as All Might so he could see them off before they too joined the competition. At least that had been the plan: accompany Izuku and his friends here, then run back as All Might to Class 1-A.

He could just as easily tell Inko where to go – one could hardly miss the stadium – but then again, Toshinori was pretty sure this wasn’t just a question of location. Rather, it was an invitation. An invitation from the mother of his student, to try and get to know her the same way Inko wanted to learn how to understand him.

The problem is, this is not just a small decision to make.

Instinctively, Toshinori knows that to say yes to this invitation would be to finally affirm to himself his priorities between being All Might and being Yagi Toshinori.

All Might wouldn’t fail his students. He wouldn’t be late to his duty as a teacher of Class 1-A, and with Izuku having left with his friends, all of his responsibility as the current torchbearer of One For All was finished here. As All Might, the only thing to do would be to tactfully reject this invitation and meet Class 1-A.

But... he wasn’t All Might now, was he?

Instead, he was Yagi Toshinori. And as Yagi Toshinori, he wanted to understand more of the woman before him, try to see more of the Inko that had brought Izuku to this world.

Yagi Toshinori wanted to be her friend.

“Yes, I’ll love to accompany you.”

His students in Class 1-A probably wouldn’t mind if he didn’t send them off today, right?

...to be safe, he decides to send ahead a message to Aizawa to tell the man to not wait for him.

(In the end, they end up talking a lot about Izuku and his training from Toshinori. Inko understandably has a lot of questions on his methods in training her son despite having heard of them at this point from Izuku himself, and Toshinori goes red when Inko mentions how Izuku told her about Toshinori’s ‘job’ as All Might’s manager.

Really, of all things to blurt to the boy instead of his true identity as All Might back then at the USJ, it had to be that?)

#-#-#-#

Izuku takes in a deep breath.

This was it. This was finally it.

They are in the stadium, the seats packed full of excited people and the stage filled with his fellow students. Some are members of the Heroic Department, but most of the students there are just like Izuku and his friends – non-Heroic Department hopefuls trying to make a stand.

To be honest, the entire thing makes Izuku wonder:

So many people, only one ultimate winner. Could he become that winner? Could he rise above so many, even against his rival Hitoshi, all just so he can become a Hero?

Can I do this?

He only needs a moment to know the answer:

Yes, I can.

“Izu-chan, caaaaaalm down, you’re shaking like crazy!”

Izuku snaps out of his thoughts to realize that his friends are staring at him. Kensei, as always, has a bright grin on his face even as he takes his hands off of Izuku’s shoulders, while Megumi gives him a worried look.

Hitoshi, on the other hand, only looks amused. “How were the clouds, Izuku?”

Izuku doesn’t even deign him with a response, though his ears get a little warm.

“Sorry, I spaced out for a bit there,” he pointedly keeps his gaze off of Hitoshi as he says this to Kensei, “Kensei, what did I miss?”

“Nothing yet. They’re still waiting for something, I guess?”

That ‘something’ turns out to be none other than Midnight, looking no less confident than the last time Izuku saw her. The Hero then walks to the center stage in her... unique outfit, and Izuku, now having the presence of mind to take in her costume compared to back then when Kensei was missing, goes a bit red before turning away.

So instead, his gaze falls upon none other than the eyes of Katsuki Bakugou looking down on him irritatedly from the stage.

“Eh, Kacchan?!”

“As the student who ranked in first place during the Yuuei Entrance Exam, here is Bakugou Katsuki as the representative of all the First Years!”

The fact that Bakugou is the person who got first place during the Entrance Exam doesn’t faze Izuku as much as the fact that Bakugou, Katsuki Bakugou, had been the one chosen to make a speech.

A public speech. In front of so many people.

Izuku doesn’t know if he should preemptively duck and cover his head with his arms at the idea.

“Sensei.”

Izuku gulps, unable to keep his eyes away from his childhood friend as he utters his first words...

“I am going to win.”

Izuku nearly faceplants then and there, were it not for the fact that Hitoshi catches him first, his rival’s head shaking at the blond. And it is not only the two of them that reacts negatively to Bakugou’s announcement – suddenly, there is a lot of booing from the other students, and from where Izuku is standing, he could also hear sudden rush of whispering and muttering coming from the stands.

“Who is this kid?”

“I don’t know, but he certainly has guts. Or perhaps, just a lot of ego...?”

“Ego, most likely. See how even his classmates are reacting negatively to his words?”

Izuku turns back to his childhood friend, only to have to slam his hands over his ears as Bakugou suddenly yells over the booing, his voice somehow giving Present Mic a run for his money:

SHUT UP AND LISTEN! I WASN’T FINISHED!

Miraculously, the stadium goes quiet.

“Now, back to what I was saying...” Bakugou stretches his neck with a pop and one hand over his shoulder, “As I said, I am going to win... through the first round, and the second round, for the both of them, I’ll crush the competition flat. But when I’m finally in the third round, there I’m going to win to the final match...”

Izuku freezes as his childhood friend’s red eyes fall on him once more.

“And there, Deku!” To Izuku’s horror, Bakugou then points a finger directly at him, causing everyone’s eyes to fall on him in turn, “When that match comes, Deku, you better be ready to meet me there and prove to me, prove to the world, that you deserve to stand beside us in the Heroic Course! We’ll have a match so overwhelming that even when you lose, you become a Hero!”

The finger turns into a tight fist, and like Moses separating the Red Sea, Izuku suddenly finds himself given a wide berth by everyone close to him, save for his three close friends who stay by his side despite it all.

“You got that, you shitty nerd!?”

That’s it. I’m dead.

The competition hasn’t even started yet and I already have everyone’s attention.

...Kacchan, why?!

The next moment, Midnight is speaking again, over an irate Bakugou and over the large commotion started by said blond, “A-Alright, so that was Bakugou Katsuki, everyone! Now, with that done we can move on towards the beginning of our first event!”

It is of no use, as the situation fails to calm down despite her announcement.

“Now, who is this other kid!?”

“Whoa ho, this looks interesting.”

“A member of General Education? Could this be a black horse in disguise?”

And why would it? Before the masses were already agitated at the thought of one unknown declaring that he would win, and that only calmed down after said unknown forcibly took back the attention. This time however, there were two unknowns, with what probably looked like some kind of grudge match or rivalry between them.

It is something straight out of a story and Izuku knows it.

Doesn’t make it any less terrifying though.

“AAaaaAAAaaaAh, Kacchan, why did you do that, why did you do that, nooooo,” Izuku ends up sobbing as he curls himself while Hitoshi, Kensei, and Megumi congregate together in a circle around him to hide him from sight.

The sound of camera flashes suddenly fills his ears and Izuku looks up to his three friends in tears, “Everyone...”

“Don’t worry, Izu-chan, this changes nothing,” Kensei smiles unsteadily at him, even his normally upbeat friend looking a little shaken at the sudden turn of affairs but obviously refusing to let his smile fall, “This just gives you, no, us some more attention, that’s all.”

“Us...?”

“That’s right, us,” Megumi wraps her hands around Izuku’s, a stream of soothing thoughts flowing into his mind at the action, “We are a team, right? We won’t let you stand alone in this.”

“Plus...” Hitoshi taps at his shoulder with the butt of his new spear, “If there’s one thing Kacchan got wrong here, it’s the fact that he’s not the one who is going to meet you in that final match. I would. You got that memorized, Izuku?”

At the overwhelming support of his friends, Izuku lifts his head again, this time looking towards the stands.

Despite all the hubbub, he still hears the cheers.

IZUKU! IZUKU! IZUKU!”

A brave smile forms itself on his face at the sight of not only his mother loudly cheering him on, but also Toshinori-san joining in, looking no less confident in him as his mentor yells together beside his mother in their seats.

“You fine now, Izu-chan?”

Izuku stands up once more, his full confidence regained. “Yeah, I’m alright now. We’re going to win this.”

Izuku doesn’t notice the satisfied smile on Bakugou’s face as the other teenager studies him from where he is being harangued by the rest of Class 1-A.

#-#-#-#

“Izuku...”

Inko would not be scared for her son. She will not be scared for her son, she will not be scared for her son, she would not be scared for her son!

Oh who is Inko kidding?

She is scared for Izuku. Undoubtedly, undeniably terrified that something would happen to her only son, in front of all of these people and with so many eyes on her Izuku. Combine that with the whole stunt Katsuki pulled earlier, honestly it was only because of her persevering trust in her son that Inko hadn’t jumped in the arena already and pulled him out of the entire thing.

Because yes, Inko trusts her son, as much as she fears for her Izuku.

After seeing firsthand the extent of her son’s willpower, after talking to Toshinori-san and finally getting the man’s personal insight in his own training – some of which were giving Inko ideas of her own to do – how could she not?

Inko knows that she is going to be the mother of a future Hero. She just has to trust her Izuku to get there on his own two feet, with the help of his friends.

Speaking of Toshinori-san though...

A hand places itself on her shoulder. “Inko-san, I believe we should take our seats now. The race is finally starting.”

Right, the race.

Inko immediately takes her seat at that, their front row location letting her get a good view despite her small height. Truly, it was lucky that Toshinori-san managed to get them these seats, otherwise Inko’s own smallness would have prevented her from seeing her son.

Or was it really luck?

Inko eyes the man sitting beside her, who had even bought a box of popcorn for the two of them as the two of them waited for the event to finally start.

She is starting to get an idea as to some of the curiosity about Toshinori’s position in Yuuei, something that Inko is only aware of with how Izuku confessed to her before about wanting to know exactly who Yagi Toshinori was. Of course, like her son, Inko’s respect for the man prevented her from even trying to ask Toshinori on how exactly the man managed to get front-row seats for the two of them.

Even when Inko’s previous ticket was only for somewhere in the middle of the stands and Toshinori was apparently supposed to be sitting with the teachers.

Just who did her son manage to get as his mentor?

That line of thought soon disappears though, as a gasp escapes most of the audience, Inko included, at the sight of the race being declared started only for it to stop at a near halt as ice immediately started to cover the starting gate.

“Young Todoroki is proving to be quite the rookie...”

Inko hears her companion mumble this, and soon she asks, still shocked, “Toshinori-san, you know who could have done this?”

“Yes, he is one of m- err, All Might’s students. He told me about them, so I know about young Todoroki.” Toshinori responds, and Inko is reminded that this man before her is connected to none other than the Symbol of Peace. Perhaps, there was no surprise he managed to get his tickets, if that was the case?

“Anyway, this is most likely Todoroki-kun’s Half-Cold, Half Hot – a Quirk that lets him wield fire and ice as he so wills. All Might told me he seen him use this before to freeze a building, so I am not surprised he is capable of using it this way.”

Such an absurdly powerful Quirk… “Izuku…”

Inko trusts her son, but in the face of her son possibly having to face this as his opponent later on? Even with Minor Banishment, was it even possible for Izuku to win...?

“Inko-san, please don’t be so worried. Please, trust in those children. See?” Toshinori-san comforts her with a hand on her shoulder before pointing one finger at the ice. “They’re doing their best to win, and in the end, that’s all that matters.”

Inko raises her head just in time to see Izuku and his friends fling themselves to the air.

Her breath catches as she sees them fly, confident smiles on their faces, and in Hitoshi-kun and Izuku’s hands... “Are those...?”

“Tools and weapons, made by none other than young Katsura Kensei.” Toshinori answers, even as Inko follows her son with her gaze, Izuku landing easily with some kind of extendable staff even with Kensei-kun in his grip while Hitoshi-kun does the same with Megumi-chan with some kind of spear that somehow shot its tip like a retractable dart. “Honestly, how the teenager isn’t in the Support Department yet baffles me. I can even see Power Loader gibbering in shock from here.”

“D-Did you train them in their use?”

“No, they had another teacher for that.” Toshinori shakes his head, before a smile lifts his face. “In fact, I’m pretty sure you’ll hear him speak in a moment.”

“Whoa! Aren’t those General Education kids using some pretty nifty gadgets there!? And one of those kids is even that ‘Deku’ from before! Anything to say, Eraserhead?!”

“Shut up, my ears hurt from all of your yelling. You do realize that I’m sitting right next to you, right?”

“Cool as always, Eraserhead!”

Now, with Inko having previously decided to involve herself more with her son’s dream, it was kind of given that that meant Inko started personally taking notes as to which heroes were which. Thankfully, that was something made much easier with her previous visits to Yuuei for Izuku’s counseling, as Recovery Girl was only happy to help Inko.

And she knows that Present Mic doesn’t use any equipment whatsoever outside of the man’s speakers.

“Eraserhead?” Inko has only seen the Erasing Hero once and it had been quite the experience. Watching the man easily take down a small group of petty thieves with nothing more than a scarf and some caltrops, before brusquely dumping them in front of the police station without bothering to stay for the paperwork...

It had been clear to Inko then that the Hero was as skilled with his tools as much as he lacked tact.

“My son managed to also get Eraserhead teaching him?”

“More precisely, Shinsou-kun did.” Toshinori-san corrects, and immediately, Inko knows that there is a small story there. “Aizawa-sensei hadn’t been pleased when Izuku tagged along with their new weapons last week, but as the man is a professional, he had soon taught them both how to use them. They’re still rough, but they’re fairly skilled at them by this point.”

Inko absorbs that as she watches her son and his friends positively leap over most of the first part of the race, easily clearing the ice that threatened to make them slip, or at the very least, delay them from catching up with the frontline.

Rough? If this was rough, what wasn’t rough?

“Ah, it looks like it has finally started.”

“Started?” Inko snaps out of her thoughts about teachers in Yuuei having absurdly high expectations, shaking her head, “What has started?”

Toshinori-san points once more to the frontline. “That.”

Inko follows her gaze to what Toshinori-san is pointing towards, and this time, her mouth falls at the sight of these gargantuan robots rampaging wildly at some panicking students. No, not some. Most.

Most of the students that had so easily bypassed the ice in the beginning of the race are panicking. From the looks of the ice covering one set of collapsed robots, the same student that had frozen the gate had already went through, and that was certainly Katsuki-kun flying overhead, but as for the rest...?

The sight of an entire line of teenagers around Izuku’s age staring wide-eyed in fear at the giant robots before them is something that Inko would never forget.

“Whoa, oh! 1-A’s Todoroki and Bakugou have easily gone through the robots, but what’s this? Looks like no one dares to try and follow their lead!”

“I thought Class 1-A or Class 1-B would push through, but I suppose even they wouldn’t be able to easily get past this without the needed experience to get through this without hesitating,” Toshinori-san says grimly.

Inko bows her head at that...

“Wait, wait, what’s this!? Looks like our motley group of General Education students from before is taking up the challenge!”

...only to raise her head in shock, “Izuku!?”

#-#-#-#

It is strange sometimes, how a person’s definition of what was “scary” changed over time.

Because to Izuku, it has. Before, “scary” had been Kacchan, but now that wasn’t so terrifying as much as it was thrilling in a certain way. Bakugou has certainly turned into a puzzle of a person that Izuku can’t quite identify, whether he was friend or foe unsure, but scary?

No, Bakugou isn’t scary anymore.

The thought of being in a fight for his life? Before, that had been scary too. But now, after going through a situation where he fought for his friends’ lives, that wasn’t so scary as much as the idea of his friends dying was scary.

Monsters in the dark? Not scary anymore either, not after the very much real thing that had been Tsuchigumo. And Tsuchigumo himself wasn’t scary anymore, not with how Izuku had reduced the man into a cripple without meaning to, turning the villain into an object of pity as opposed to fear.

Instead, what scared Izuku these days were far less physical things.

Izuku fears failing his promise to Toshinori-san. Toshinori-san brought him here, gave him this chance to prove his worth to be a Hero, so to fail that? Izuku would rather brave more than a dozen Tsuchigumos back-to-back than to break his promise with his mentor.

And while Izuku doesn’t fear Tsuchigumo, that doesn’t stop the occasional nightmare either. Those nights, waking up at the images of his friends with holes in their heads, Kensei crying with the dead body of Tsukauchi-san in his arms and Izuku being to blame, his fault they died, his fault-

(If Izuku had to pick what he loved the most about living in the dormitories, it would have to be the fact that his friends are all literally just a short walk away, even late at night. After all, at this point, each one of them has knocked on the other three’s doors at least once in the dead of the night.)

There is even that rare heart-gripping terror that occasionally fills his heart when he thinks too much about how easily his hands could take lives. Just a touch and... gone. Just like that.

Yes, Izuku has lost a lot of fears over certain things in exchange for new fears. In some ways, this has made his life easier; in some it has made his life worse.

If there is something that Izuku knows he doesn’t fear now though, he knows he doesn’t fear robots.

“Guys, you know what to do! The usual formation!”

After all, if it was only a robot, there is no need for Izuku to hold back.

As practiced, they soon fall into a T-formation while running. Kensei, being the scout of their team, is at the front, while Megumi the coordinator stands back between Izuku and Shinsou, their weapons at hand to use.

A fist from one of the giant robots comes down on them, causing them to split up for a moment before reforming again to dodge it, and Izuku turns to Kensei, “Kensei, did you manage to get a touch?”

“Yeah, I did!” Kensei gives him a two fingered salute and grin, “It’s pretty big, but in the end, as long as I can keep the entirety of it in my sight to me it’s just one object! Now then, it’s time to pass the baton to you guys!”

Kensei falls back, giving Megumi a high-five, “Megumi, your turn! Download!”

Megumi catches the high-five, closing her eyes for a moment before reaching out for both Izuku and Shinsou, activating her Quirk as she does so, “Upload. Connection complete.”

It had been an interesting thing, figuring out this particular use of his friend’s Quirk.

Prior to the whole incident with Tsuchigumo, Izuku knows that Megumi hadn’t particularly tested her Quirk on multiple people. But as with her accidental feat of transferring what Kensei knew of Tsuchigumo to Izuku proved, not only could she create telepathic connections with others to herself while she was touching them, she could also connect multiple people telepathically with herself as a direct conduit.

Her Quirk and Kensei’s Quirk already proved to have amazing synergy with Izuku’s Minor Banishment. Combine that with the fact that it also let them think with what was effectively a hivemind...

We could, yes we could, that, that, we can do that-

Izuku feels a slight headache as Megumi pulls her arm away, but he can’t resist the smile from forming on his face.

“Alright, guys, you guys know the plan.”

Hitoshi-kun smirks as he lifts his spear. “I’ll start.”

He aims the spear towards head of one of the giant robots, and Izuku doesn’t have to look to see that the aim is true when Hitoshi presses a button on the spear to shoot out its tip with a strong line connecting it to the rest of the spear.

The line soon wraps up the head of the robot, and while Hitoshi could possibly pull himself up that way by retracting the line, the same couldn’t be said for the three of them. But that was alright – that isn’t their plan, not when Hitoshi could be easily knocked down by the robots while he was up there.

No, the more important part as that there was another giant robot, this time with it in front of the line.

“Izuku, your time to shine!”

Izuku nods, before walking forwards.

The robot with Shinsou’s spear connected to it turns to him. Not a surprise, given how Izuku precisely moved to where he knew its sensors were pointed at, but then it steps forward, raising one of its arms in an attempt to crush him.

In response Izuku just runs beneath it, clipping one of its limbs with his hand, running the blueprint and strategic weak points Kensei gave him earlier in his head-

(Izuku’s problem with Minor Banishment these days is the opposite of what he ever thought he would have to face, before that night with Tsuchigumo. Growing up, whenever Izuku let himself fantasize about becoming a Hero, even with his so-called “weak Quirk”, the issue had always been that his Quirk was too ineffective, too small.

But then came along the deadly realization of his Quirk’s potential, and suddenly, Izuku’s problems weren’t about his Quirk being too weak offensively anymore.

Instead, the problem was that it was too dangerous.

Recovery Girl and Thirteen’s tutelage had been a great help – Recovery Girl’s anatomy lessons, most of all, taught Izuku all of the best places to hurt a person without permanently crippling or killing them – but in the end, Izuku’s powers were best used to cut, and it was very good at that.

So, in light of all that, was there really any surprise that the moment Izuku saw that all he would have to face in this race are robots, he felt nothing but a surge of relief?

If this is a robot, then all I just need to do to shut this down is to pull the plug.

And while this might be big, as far as my Quirk is concerned, it’s just one. Single. Object.)

“-Scalpel.”

Whispering to himself the name of his special move, Izuku cuts the cord connecting the giant robot’s AI to the rest of its body with a quick application of Minor Banishment, effectively rendering it comatose. With an added whack from Izuku’s staff at one of its legs for good measure, the robot slowly starts to fall down behind him.

He doesn’t need to look back and stop running to know that Hitoshi’s makeshift pulley using the two robots, one as the axle and the other as the weight, has worked just as planned, flinging his three friends into the air in front of him and the rest of the racers stuck behind them.

#-#-#-#

Eraserhead smirks, enjoying the rare moment of Present Mic being silent in shock as he watches most of the stadium suffer the same case of jaw-meet-floor.

“Well, well, well, this is certainly more like it, I’d say. Finally, some peace and quiet.”

Then came the shouting.

“I suppose it was too much to hope for.”

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 11: Hunt

By the end of it all, Hitoshi and his team safely get through the race.

After the initial robot riot, the race had eventually evened out between the players. First, it was Class 1-A sans Todoroki and Bakugou who were ahead of them all. Apparently inspired by the stunt Hitoshi and his friends managed to pull off, the rest of Class 1-A too soon got past the giant robots, followed by Class 1-B who followed the aftermath of their passage.

The rest of the race had been pretty easy pickings from there.

Hitoshi’s spear made easy work of the tightrope walk, allowing him to skip past the rope entirely to haul his friends one-by-one to the other side, and Kensei’s Scan combined with Megumi’s telepathy had been outright cheating in the minefields.

The only reason why they didn’t get into the top 5 was that they decided not to.

After all, to get through the race, all they needed was to be within the qualifiers, and that was easy enough with their tools and teamwork. But to test their might and aim for the top places? That meant getting through Bakugou and Todoroki, and as much as Hitoshi would like to make the blond eat dirt for the entire mess he brought upon Izuku earlier, it was not worth showing all of their cards this early, especially with all the attention on them.

So, as Hitoshi expected his rival to do, Izuku soon told them to slow down their pace during the minefield, to pretend that they were facing issues with it when they could literally go through it blindfolded with the mental maps given by Kensei. As a result, they were passed by much of Class 1-A, and just like that, they had dropped down to the safe rungs of the lower top 15.

What Hitoshi didn’t expect was that those winners from Class 1-A would soon approach them after the race.

“Nice job, you guys!” Kirishima is the first to do so, ranked 4th and still with that perpetual smile on his face. Maybe it is the redhead’s similarity to Kensei, or maybe Kirishima is just that unoffending, but the fact is that all of them relax once they see that it’s the Hardening user. “Man, Midoriya, my bros, that was so manly, what you did earlier! Was that your Quirk, it was so awesome!”

Izuku predictably goes as red as the other teenager’s hair as he is pulled into an armhug. “U-Uhm, Kirishima-san, I’m sorry but I-“

“Yeah, I guess you can’t just explain it to us, huh?” Kirishima’s face is nothing but understanding as he takes in Izuku’s reaction. He then smiles, sharp teeth glinting in the sun, “Well, that’s fine! I mean, it would be a pretty unmanly effort, if we had to personally ask you about it instead of doing the same thing as you and analyzing your Quirk by ourselves!”

Hitoshi just stares at the redhead. Is there an end as to how nice this teenager before him could get? Izuku is really facing some major rivalry here in the likability department, because really, Kirishima is turning out to be as inoffensive and heartwarming as a puppy.

A manliness-obsessed, capable-of-denting-steel-and-punching-through-walls puppy, but a puppy nevertheless.

“If it’s about our weapons though, I suppose I can tell you about that.”

Kensei picks up the conversation from there, and Hitoshi shifts the direction of his disbelief to the other puppy of their little gathering.

“Kensei, you can’t just tell someone about that!”

Strangely enough, it is Hitoshi himself that garners the weird looks from his friends, even Izuku who stares at him oddly for a few moments before it is replaced by an expression of pure realization. “Oh right, Hitoshi-kun, you probably missed it because of your training with Ai- err, your other mentor, but-”

“-the truth of the matter is that those weapons you are using right now are not outside of our scope of information.” Another person from Class 1-A interjects into their conversation, looking harried and tired but with no less of her usual poise as she approaches them.

Hitoshi just stares as none other than Yaoyorozu Momo, the class-president of Class 1-A and heir of the Yaoyorozu family, smiles at their team, especially Kensei in particular. “Good job on the race, Midoriya-san, Shinsou-san, Megumi-chan, Kensei-kun. I saw your work out there, Kensei-kun, and I must say I am rather proud of the combined fruits of our labor.”

Kensei goes a little red, but to Hitoshi’s further shock, just shakes off the praise coming from a girl that wasn’t Megumi with nothing but a sheepish chuckle and a hand scratching the back of his head.

“Awww, it was all thanks to Megumi-chan here, really! Right, Megumi-chan?” Kensei places his hand on Megumi’s shoulder, and the telepath smiles at both him and Yaoyorozu. “All I did was to just apply what I knew, and you guys did the rest of it.”

Kirishima screams, “That’s so manly!”

“Wait, wait, wait, wait,” Hitoshi raises his hands, not understanding a single thing happening here. “Can somebody please explain this to me first? Like you, Kensei,” Hitoshi points a finger at his friend-slash-worst-enemy, “how is it that you can stand in front of another girl that isn’t Megumi? And what is this about our weapons being a combined effort of you, Yaoyorozu, and Megumi?”

Izuku places a hand on his shoulder, and Hitoshi turns his gaze at his rival to see him smile comfortingly.

“Because it is a combined effort between the three of them. You see-” Izuku gestures at the trio, “-back then at the USJ, Megumi-san and Kensei approached Yaoyorozu-san as per one of my suggestions, and from there I guess you just missed the formation of their partnership.”

“Partnership?”

Hitoshi aims the question at Yaoyorozu. She smiles back despite Hitoshi’s open suspicion, nodding, “Yes, and what a truly beneficial partnership it has been. I have much respect for your teammates here Shinsou-san, as they have really helped me with my Quirk.”

Yaoyorozu’s hands glow bright, and soon, the girl is pulling something out of her hand.

“Why, it is only due to them that I can do things like this now.”

Hitoshi’s eyes go wide once he sees a familiar spear in the girl’s hands, and it takes him a moment to check that his weapon is still hanging in its hook behind his back to realize that no, Yaoyorozu hadn’t taken his spear away from him when he wasn’t looking.

It was that she created another powered spear, just like his.

“I first thought about it when I saw her Quirk in action in USJ.” Izuku starts to explain lowly beside Kensei, “As someone who really benefited from Megumi-san and Kensei’s synergistic Quirks, I thought, maybe she would benefit from their Quirks too, and as much as Yaoyorozu-san is our rival at the moment, I really thought that she deserved this chance too like I did.”

“And that, I am really thankful for, Midoriya-san,” Yaoyorozu bows respectfully at Hitoshi’s rival for a moment, before turning back to Hitoshi himself. “As you can see, my Quirk lets me create objects, with two requirements that I must fulfill first: one, I must understand what I am making to an atomic level, and second, my Quirk burns fat from me to do so.”

“The second is easy enough to fulfill by my daily consumption of nutrients, but-” Yaoyorozu shakes her head for a moment, “the first? Not so much. It already took much of my intellect just to understand several objects and some simple gadgets, so I thought I would never get to the point that I could create really complex ones while I’m here in Yuuei.”

“And that’s where we come in!” Kensei enters the conversation again, speaking for both himself and Megumi by the looks of how the girl had her hand placed over Kensei’s hand from where it still was on her shoulder. “With how my Quirk lets me easily grasp the structure of things with a touch and Megumi’s telepathy, we can help anyone understand the structure of any object instantly as long as I have access to it! That allows Yaoyorozu here to use her Quirk more freely!”

“In exchange for that help, I let Kensei-kun and Megumi-san have access to all the resources they could ever need, and if he asks, he can also pass on to me blueprints of what he wants me to make, like your spear and Midoriya-san’s staff.” Yaoyorozu finishes, and soon the girl turns towards Izuku. “Speaking of, Midoriya-san, how do you like the staff I gave you? I based it on mine, as you can see I had Kensei take of the collapsible design I use in the things I make-”

Hitoshi just watches as the girl easily pulls the others into a technical conversation, which then catches the eye of even more students from Class 1-A like that girl with jacks for ears, then that pink-haired girl, and then that blond guy with a lightning streak in his hair, and soon, before Hitoshi knows it, he and his friends are surrounded by cheerful students from Class 1-A giving their own congratulations and-

It’s strange. Really, really, strange.

When Hitoshi first entered the General Education Department, he had thought he would be forever alone. At that point, the world had already turned him cynical – after all the bullshit he faced before, the thought of having allies seemed so far away, and as for friends? Outright impossible.

But despite that, here he is now, surrounded by his friends and supposed enemies, members of Class 1-A, and for all of the high-charged competition between them just moments earlier, there is little of that now. Not when all of them are treating the others as friendly rivals or even just friends.

To think that this all began with a simple project. With a single offer of friendship.

Hitoshi probably just spaces out there for a moment before someone discreetly takes his hand, and as a familiar presence makes herself known to his mind, Hitoshi turns to look down by his side to see Megumi smiling up shyly at him.

Are you happy, Hitoshi-kun?

A discreet smile forms on his lips at the sight of Izuku being showered by praise by several from Class 1-A, his rival looking like he was about to explode under all of the praise being thrown at him. With one arm wrapped below his head and another holding the top, Izuku is positively adorable and it’s clear that everyone can see it.

Yeah... I think I am, Megumi.

The smile forms more fully as Megumi pulls him along to join the rest of their friends.

 I think I can enjoy this more than if I never met you all.

#-#-#-#

“Bakugou, why are you just standing around here and staring at them? If you want to join them, why don’t you just go?”

“Shut up and mind your business, Half-and-Half! Just because you got lucky and won first place doesn’t mean you can just boss me around, you know! And no, I don’t want to go and join their silly little jamboree! I could care less if they got along, as long as I get my match with Deku later on!”

“...”

“What’s with that look?”

“...Bakugou, if you don’t mind, can we talk in private? I have something to tell you.”

#-#-#-#

“Izuku and his friends got through the first stage!”

Toshinori can’t help but chuckle at the almost childish glee the woman beside him is exhibiting. With how Inko was just teary-eyed earlier, Toshinori could easily see where Izuku got his own tendency to change emotions and moods at the drop of a hat. It was a very endearing trait to witness in both mother and son.

“Didn’t I tell you to trust them? Midoriya-kun and his friends would never let something as simple as an obstacle race stop them, and they haven’t even shown everything they could do besides. They are more than capable of reaching the last stage with no issue, Inko-san.”

Inko turns to Toshinori, her glee forgotten in favor of looking guilty for a moment before smiling sadly at him, “I know that, Toshinori-san. I do trust my son and his friends. Only... because I trust them to be able to take care of themselves doesn’t mean that I would ever stop worrying for them. That’s the job of a mother, you know?”

Well, in face of that, Toshinori could hardly deny doing the same thing. After all, the whole reason Toshinori met Inko today in the first place was because he couldn’t stop hovering over Izuku and his friends before the events proper.

So instead, Toshinori changes the subject by pointing at a certain familiar group of students, them having caught his eye earlier, much to his own contentment.

“Looks like Midoriya-kun and his friends are having fun.”

Inko turns to gaze upon Izuku and his friends interacting affably with Class 1-A, and soon, a warm smile brightens up her face, making her joy at her son making new friends utterly obvious for all to see. “That is Class 1-A, right? Izuku told me about them; he respects them a lot, you know? As much as Izuku wants to defeat them to become part of the Heroic Department, he still admires them and wants them to accept him as one of their own.”

From what Toshinori could see, Izuku didn’t need to win the Tournament to do that, because Class 1-A had already unofficially adopted Izuku and his friends as theirs. Really, good kids. “Yeah, I know.”

“Students who have passed the first stage, please proceed to follow Cementoss to the next stage. I repeat: students who have passed the first stage, please proceed to follow Cementoss to next stage.”

As they watch Izuku and his team break off from the rest of Class 1-A, Inko asks Toshinori, “Do you know where they are heading?”

Toshinori shakes his head. While he had been aware of what was going to happen for the first event, he had been absent for the planning stages for the second event due to his obligations as a teacher and a mentor. When he had asked Nedzu about it, the animal principal only said:

“It’s a surprise, Toshinori-kun.”

Soon, the giant screen in front of them lights up, and Toshinori has to resist showing any kind of reaction when a commercial starring his own face appears on it.

“Might Water! The only drink that satisfy Number One Heroes like me!”

It is much easier to ignore the rest of the commercials that soon follow. Mountain Lotion, Fertilizer Woods, Present Headphones, Pussycat Dolls and much, much more start flashing through the screen, one by one showing the faces of Toshinori’s coworkers. The rest of the audience, which had been murmuring to themselves after the students left, are soon distracted by everything on the screen, and by the looks of it, so is Inko.

Or maybe not.

“...How is it like, being a normal person working with Heroes?”

Toshinori blinks at the sudden question from Inko, even as she keeps her eyes on the colorful commercials on the screen. “Excuse me?”

Inko tears her eyes away from the screen to meet his gaze. “You know what I mean. As my son tells me, not only are you a teacher of the Heroic Department and thus nearly always surrounded by Heroes, both now and future, you were also All Might’s public manager before he turned to also teaching here in Yuuei. You, of all people, would know how it’s like to work with them, right?”

Toshinori has to hide how he is sweating at that question, because right, that’s all Inko knows about him right now. It is only his fault that things have led this way, but how could Toshinori ever answer how it is to be a civilian working with Heroes when in fact he is a Hero-in-hiding!?

But then, the thought comes to Toshinori’s head:

Maybe, I do know how it’s like. After all, save for those few hours every day that I work as All Might...

The words start leaving his mouth before he even knows it. “It’s strange, how even Heroes can be so human.”

Inko’s eyes go wide at that answer, but Toshinori isn’t looking at her now, instead, he is looking down at his clasped hands, spindly arms, and weak body. The memories are all coming back; of how he had lived as Yagi Toshinori for all these years.

After all, no matter how he tries to deny it, for all of All Might’s bluster and fame... In the end, he was Yagi Toshinori longer everyday than he was All Might, wasn’t he? Just five hours a day as All Might, a number that was already shrinking over time...

Perhaps, it is difficult to admit it that these days he is more civilian than he is a Hero.

“When you don’t know these Heroes personally, it’s easy to think that those heroic alter-egos are all they are. Always powerful, always combat ready.” Toshinori looks up again, staring at the commercials being shown, at how his coworkers’ images are so tied to smiles and confident personas. “The truth is, they’re all just like the rest of us. They have their good days, they have their bad ones. Some of them, I know, would want nothing more from the world than to have a day off just to themselves. But then villains attack and society calls, and soon they find their own bodies moving to help, no matter how much they want to rest.”

A single night without having to respond to a villain attack. A warm meal to eat at home, instead of having to subsist on fast food. A hug, a call, an invitation to just go out and socialize. Any of this would have made a difference, but in the end...

They’re Heroes. It was literally their job to put others before themselves.

Inko whispers, “Even All Might?”

Toshinori nods grimly. This, he can’t deny, not even to himself. As much as Toshinori believed in the idea of the Symbol of Peace, he could never pretend that it doesn’t take its toll on him, not when every day he only needs to look at a mirror for a reminder. “Even All Might.”

Inko goes quiet for a moment.

“In light of that, it makes it difficult to view them on the pedestals that society insists we place them on.” Toshinori continues. “In your eyes, they become less of an all-powerful Hero... and more like people just doing their best to do what they believe is right.”

Inko speaks up again, more surely this time, “...That only means it’s my job to help them back.”

Toshinori’s brows go up in surprise at the determination behind those words. “Inko-san?”

“You said it so yourself, right, Toshinori-san?” Inko smiles at him, looking like someone who had found an answer they had been looking for a question that was in their mind for all this time. “Even Heroes need help; even they need the chance to rest. If I am to be a mother of a Hero, wouldn’t it be only right if I provide that chance to let Izuku and his friends have that moment they need from time to time? You too, Toshinori-san, I’m sure you’ve thought about it that way before. I may only be a mother, but that doesn’t mean I can’t put in my own effort to help.”

To say Toshinori is impressed is a sore understatement. “Inko-san...”

“ALRIIIIIGHT! Did everyone enjoy the SHOW put on by our SPONSORS!? Yes? Well then, THAT’S GOOD TO HEAR, because the next stage is about to START! Everyone, please direct your eyes at the screen again, because you’ll surely not want to miss this!”

Any further words that Toshinori could say is forgotten, at the sight of what is happening before all of them.

#-#-#-#

Money makes the world go round. That’s just how it works.

For the Sports Festival, the events have always been chosen beforehand by the teachers and staff, as preparing for them has never been easy. The obstacle course, for example, not only needed combined efforts by Power Loader and other Support Department staff just to make the pits and supply the mines, it also needed Nedzu to find the necessary funding for the construction of more combat robots.

And money doesn’t come out of thin air.

As much as Yuuei presented an unshakeable front to the rest of the world, it is just that: a front, a facade to deter the Villains from thinking of attacking the school, when the truth is that like any other school with public funding, Yuuei yearly faced its own financial issues. As much as the world has accepted its need for Heroes, politics would never change and so is the fact that Yuuei’s budget is always susceptible to changes in policies and public opinion.

It is only Principal Nedzu’s creative application of his staff’s skill-sets that has allowed the school to proceed as it goes on today.

For example, in the case of the model cities, with Cementoss’s unique capability to shape concrete as he wills, combined with his specialized training of knowing how to single-handedly rebuild a city, the entire process only becomes a matter of acquiring that raw cement and hiring the necessary city engineers to turn Cementoss’s empty concrete jungles into what actually looked like a city.

Cleaning up debris and other messes caused by the students becomes similarly easier with Thirteen’s presence in the staff, the hero Metallo from the Support Department supplied most of the steel there with their metal-creating Quirk, Ectoplasm made for a quick and temporary workforce all for himself if need to be, and of course, how could anybody deny the expenditures the school would have had to face if not for Recovery Girl single-handedly reducing the need for most basic medical supplies?

So perhaps, in another time, in another world, the damage to one of the most central training zones Yuuei has, the USJ, would have cost the school more money than it could afford. That, due to it, they would have to cut funding for one of the events for the School Festival. After all, while Cementoss could easily repair construction, the same could be said about the very unique technology that allowed USJ to simulate multiple disastrous environments, could he?

In that world, they couldn’t make the tournament at the end any lesser of course, as that was what the visitors were waiting for in the first place, nor could they make initial obstacle race any less grand, as that was also part of the powerful facade that Yuuei was keen on protecting. The robots weren’t only there to be obstacles for the students after all – they were also subtle deterrents to the common thief or mugger that would see them on television, because if Yuuei could easily throw powerful toys like these around, that meant that they had more in store, right?

But as for the second stage? That’s alright; basic psychology suggests that people only remember the beginning and end of events anyway. In that world, for the second stage they could afford to be lackluster, they could afford only supplying the students a stage and one headband each and just let them entertain the audience on their own with no further help from the school.

But in this world, there is no need for that. In this world, without an organized attack from villains right in the heart of the school, costing it both in money and public opinion, Yuuei could afford to splurge. Yuuei could afford to call in help normally not available to them.

Yuuei could afford to be showy.

#-#-#-#

Izuku doesn’t know what to expect when Cementoss led them to an empty field, and judging by the looks on every other student’s faces, so did they.

After all, all of them have watched the Sports Festival on the news before, and none of the usual events ever took place on an empty field. Save for the tournament at the end, the stages of Yuuei’s Sports Festival had always been based on what was the usual for other schools had for their own sports festivals, only turned up a notch and far less mundane.

So, compared to the usual obstacle race for other schools, Yuuei had mines, big pits, and even bigger robots. The usual game of otedama would be elevated from throwing balls to poles with nets tied on top, to outright actually throwing enemy players in team nets, with the ones with the most hostages being the winner. Ball-rolling would turn gruesome as Quirks become free-to-use, human pyramids would reach absurd heights and shapes – things like that were the norm, when they became part of the central events instead of the leisure, more mundane games in between.

So, what kind of event necessitated them to all stand in an empty field, Izuku has no idea.

“Looks like you’re all curious to know what this is all for!”

Principal Nedzu steps forward before all of them, and Izuku barely keeps in the automatic response of “Nedzu-sensei!” and thus betraying any sort of familiarity with the Principal. Because that was the case – at this point, Izuku is fairly acquainted with the Principal, with Aizawa-sensei, with Thirteen and Recovery Girl, but as he and his friends only know them personally because of the incident with Kensei, they can’t show any hint of knowing Nedzu without making people wonder why,

So instead, Izuku keeps quiet and prevents any kind of reaction from appearing on his face, and judging from the similarly blank faces of his friends, they also thought of the same thing, remaining quiet despite the curiosity just brimming within them.

Thankfully, somebody else steps forward to solve that particular problem.

“Principal Nedzu!” Iida raises his hand in a ramrod straight sort of way, and Izuku has to hold back a smile at the other teenager’s straightforwardness. “Why are we here, instead of the arena? Usually, that’s where the second stage is held, isn’t it!?”

“That would be usually the case, yes. But this year, today’s Sports Festival is a little different.”

Different? Why?

“Due to some internal factors currently in place within our society, I and the rest of the staff in Yuuei have decided to change the second stage of the Sports Festival to truly test the skills and find the best of the best of all of our students. Take this as a compliment, and a gift of us to you all. After all, for the most of you, this will probably the first taste you’ll ever have of a real battle.”

Internal factors? Was this related to what Tsukauchi-san talked about, back when Izuku and his friends were all recovering in the Nurse’s Office?

“Something that is hiding in the bowels of our society. We have to prepare for all of it in the future.”

If this was indeed that preparation, then... why the rush? Why now, during the Sports Festival, when all of them are still first-years? Tsukauchi-san told them to not worry, to be students, but for the Principal to do something like this...

That implied those ‘internal factors’ were bad, in fact, severe enough that the Principal thought it necessary to go this far.

Is it really that bad, what Tsukauchi-san refused to tell us about?

“But for now,” the Principal continues with a carefully innocent smile, “I’ll have to introduce you all to the three people who would be the ones giving all of you your challenge.”

“Introducing, Kamui Woods, Pixiebob, and Cementoss!”

Izuku’s eyes go wide once he sees several more Heroes approach their group. And while Izuku has seen Kamui Woods in person before, seeing the cool and composed air around the Nature Hero up-close immediately has Izuku in awe. Combine that with the rare, rare, rare presence of Pixiebob beside him and Cementoss, Izuku is officially in Fanboy Mode.

Oh god, oh god, that’s Kamui Woods and Pixiebob! Why is Pixiebob here, so far away from the mountains!?” Izuku immediately starts muttering to himself. “Are they going to be part of this stage? Does that mean that the rest of the Pussy-Cats are around too!? Maybe I can get an autograph-”

Kensei immediately snaps him out of it with a tap on the shoulder, chuckling, “Cool down there, Izu-chan! You’re going to miss the rest of what the Principal is going to say at this rate.”

That has Izuku shutting up just as immediately. There is no way he is going to miss this.

“Good job, Kensei.” Hitoshi comments beside Megumi, the girl of their team hiding chuckles behind her hand while Izuku’s rival shakes his head in admonishment. “At this rate, by the time you become a professional Hero, you’ll still be a big fanboy deep inside, Izuku.”

Izuku is pretty proud that he manages to glare at Hitoshi for that, no matter how his rival looks unimpressed and perhaps even a little amused at his attempt to be scary.

“-while this field might look rather lackluster and unimpressive, it’s actually something Yuuei has been working on for a while now.” Principal Nedzu speaks again, and Izuku returns his attention to the Principal. “The ground underneath all of you might look like any other kind of ground you step on, but in truth it’s actually layer of specially treated earth placed over a massive foundation of steel-reinforced concrete.”

...Is Izuku just imagining things, or is the ground shaking?

“As you all might already know, Kamui Woods here is a local Hero here in Mutsutafu capable manipulating wood that he touches. What you don’t know is that, after years of support research, the Support Department has recently created several species of plant with Kamui Woods’s DNA implanted into them, allowing him to control them as he wills without needing to touch them, and it’s the seeds of those plants that fills the soil beneath your feet at the moment.”

No, the ground really was shaking!

It happens so quickly that Izuku has to be pulled away by Megumi from being hit in the face by a sudden tree, and with how Kensei also grabs Hitoshi by the arm to not be blown off by the same tree that shot up underneath his friend, their group suddenly finds itself split in two by the forest suddenly growing under their feet.

And they’re not alone in that, because even the rest of the other students get separated by trees suddenly shooting up beneath their feet, followed by miles and miles worth of vines and such thick foliage that Izuku has only several moments to see the rest of his fellow competitors get unceremoniously thrown into random arrangements before he loses sight of them to the leaves.

Waking Forest,” Kamui Woods whispers just loudly enough for Izuku to hear it, and were it not for the fact that Izuku is being separated from his friends as a result, he would be fanboying so much.

But he is being separated, with Hitoshi’s shocked expression and Kensei yelling “Izu-chan!” being the last thing he sees from his two friends before they too are shut away from him by the suddenly growing brush and foliage and the world was still shaking, the earth is groaning beneath his feet and-

It is only during that moment that Izuku realizes that it is not only the trees that have become their problem.

Because Izuku is definitely not imagining how the earth beneath his feet has risen by more than a dozen meters, not imagining the way the ground beneath their feet is slowly expanding and has separated away from the rest of the world like an island, and with a shock, Izuku realizes what the Principal had meant when he said that the ground beneath their feet was supported by a massive foundation of concrete.

Cementoss. Concrete. And wasn’t Pixiebob’s Quirk about controlling the environment too, more specifically, the ground?

Idly, despite the shock and panic of the world changing beneath his feet, part of Izuku thinks that they could probably see this from the stands.

#-#-#-#

Toshinori has seen many things in his time as a Hero.

But never before has he seen a rapidly expanding island of earth and rock covered with trees rising up and up to the point it was even higher than the top of the arena, with a growing and twisting tower of concrete and steel lifting it up from underneath it like an artist’s depiction of Atlas carrying the World.

So when Inko drops the popcorn he had bought for the two of them in her shock, Toshinori only understands.

“Are Izuku and his friends on that thing!?”

Closing his own jaw, which had dropped earlier in his own shock, Toshinori only answers weakly, “...Yes, I suppose they are.”

At this point, Toshinori doesn’t even what to know what the Principal had planned for the Second Years and the Third Years, because if this was for the First Years, what kind of madness are the upperclassmen facing now?

At any rate, I’ve never been more glad that I have already graduated.

#-#-#-#

Welcome to your second stage, the Sky Garden!”

Dozens and dozens of drones, outfitted with speakers and cameras, fly up the Sky Garden in spirals, and from them the voice of Present Mic resounds throughout the entire fantastic manmade structure. It is strange, to hear the Hero’s voice in such a thick forest, but Izuku knows that he’ll have to get used to it at some point.

“The rules are simple! First, you all must find yourselves some teammates! Teams of three or four would do!”

Izuku picks himself off the ground. Beside him, Megumi also recovers, and with a moment’s thought, Izuku offers her a hand so she could pick herself up.

“Izuku-kun...”

Megumi doesn’t have to use her Quirk for Izuku to know what she is about to say. “I know, Megumi-san. We’ll find our friends and win this together, no matter what.”

Hitoshi-kun, Kensei, where are you?

To be separated like this at the beginning of the second stage, if Izuku didn’t know better the Principal or Kamui Woods planned for this to happen. But that couldn’t be, right? Forget how Kamui Woods probably didn’t even know they existed, it was hardly possible that they knew where Izuku and his friends would coincidentally be standing at when the forest started to grow.

And while Izuku trusts that Hitoshi and Kensei would be able to care of themselves, as long as they stuck together, how long would it take before Izuku and Megumi could find them or vice-versa? After all, while Kensei could probably map out the entire forest with a single activation of his Quirk, that didn’t mean much when Kensei only had a general direction of where they were, and Izuku wasn’t putting it beyond Pixiebob have moved the earth beneath them and thus messing their sense of direction further.

At least, Kacchan probably wouldn’t have any issue other than finding himself some teammates than can agree with him...

#-#-#-#

“Once you all have formed your teams, your next goal is to get yourselves off this garden specially made for you by our guests Heroes! You’re all free to use your Quirks as you want, as long as you don’t critically injure someone, but as little to none of you can probably fly or survive falling off the Sky Garden, there’s a special rule on how you all should escape!”

“Tch. I guess that means I can’t just jump off this bullshit place then.”

Katsuki Bakugou is not very amused. With the forest around him, his original plan to find Deku was out, because if he tried to blindly look for Deku at this rate, it was more likely that he would get lost instead of finding his rival.

“While it’s fascinating to think that you believe you could survive falling more than a hundred feet, considering how I’m one of your teammates you should perhaps learn to think about your allies first before making any sort of decision.”

And no, no matter what a certain Half-and-Half said, that rival isn’t white, red, and a Todoroki.

“Shut up, Icy Shit! I’m only considering you my teammate because I don’t have any choice about it!”

Katsuki has enough problems regarding Izuku without another bastard barging in and trying to force his daddy issues on him. In another time, perhaps Katsuki would deign Todoroki’s challenge with something akin to interest, perhaps even pity, but right now Katsuki has priorities and that priority is getting a certain nerd into the Heroic Department.

“Bakugou-san, calm down. You’ll make us miss the rest of what Present Mic is about to say.”

Katsuki can’t deny that his third teammate, Yao... Ponytail, has a point, so he keeps quiet for the moment.

And true enough, Present Mic speaks again.

“Hidden in the forest are parachutes! You’ll have to find these within two hours, and use them to escape! And before anybody is thinking about making their own parachutes or escaping by some other way, think again! Part of the requirement to move to the next stage is to turn in these parachutes, and if you don’t have them by the time you escape, you’ll be immediately disqualified!”

“Tch. That also takes out blowing or burning this forest down then. That would probably destroy the parachutes.”

Ponytail stares at him, her hands pulling away from her chest where she had been about to make a parachute before Present Mic stopped her with his words.

“...you were actually thinking of burning down this forest? Even though you know it’s filled with people.”

It is not a question. Honestly, sometimes Katsuki wondered about the general intellect of his classmates, and he originally thought Ponytail was one of the smart ones. “Yeah, what about it?”

Anybody who got into the second stage, after that obstacle race, would be good enough to get through a forest fire, right?

“...you terrify me sometimes, Bakugou-san.”

Katsuki is about to yell at Ponytail for that particular comment when Todoroki shushes them. “Shh. I think I’ve heard something from the forest other than Present Mic. And they don’t sound like anything human to me.”

#-#-#-#

“Of course, splitting us apart and forcing us into some kind of treasure hunt in a forest wasn’t enough. We also have to fight monsters.

It’s been a long time since Hitoshi met Kensei for the first time, and never before has now Hitoshi ever wanted to repeat his once-feat of shutting Kensei up with his Quirk. Because really, sarcastic commentary weren’t helping them here, and normally Hitoshi was the King of sarcastic commentary.

“Shut up Kensei and help me take this down. My Quirk only works on humans, and a spear will hardly take this down.”

Really, it was amazing how much Izuku’s presence or lack thereof affected the normally cheery one in their team. Or maybe it is just the monster before them? With large teeth, horns, and a vaguely ogre-like earthy body, was there really any surprise that Kensei would be so sarcastic? After all, Hitoshi knows that Kensei resorted to sarcasm when he wasn’t using forced cheerfulness in moments of stress.

Of course, that is also the moment Present Mic’s voice speaks through the forest.

“Also, everyone? Beware the animals. Good luck!”

As if to accentuate that, the earth beast before them roars.

And just like that, Hitoshi knows that the Second Stage, the Sky Garden Treasure Hunt, has officially begun.

Chapter Text

Chapter 12: Copy Part 1

As far as Monoma Neito is concerned, whoever thought up this stage was absolutely insane and should be kept far, far away from teaching students. However as it is all too likely that it was none other than the Principal who had made this particular “Sky Garden” possible, Neito didn’t have much hope in applying for a complaint by the time he got off this damn island.

Who the hell thought it was a good idea to throw students in a monster infested forest? One precariously placed at an absurd height at that. Neito had managed to get a glimpse of what it looked like earlier, past the edge of the trees, and while Neito didn’t have acrophobia it was a close thing.

“Are you alright, Monoma? You’re distracted again.”

Neito turns to study his only ally in this game so far. Before this, Neito had never really interacted with Itsuka Kendou that much, but even with as little time Neito spent with her personally – and everyone else really, Neito hardly talked to anyone unless he wanted something from them or had something to say – it had been clear to him that Kendou was the decent sort of girl. For a given value of “decent” anyway.

Why Kendou stuck so close to him during the beginning of the stage, even saving him from being caught in one of Kamui Woods’ trees when it had burst out from right beneath him, Neito wouldn’t know, but as it is Neito couldn’t have hoped for a better ally in this.

Kendou’s Quirk, after all, had been very useful against those earth monsters, and her being agreeable to following Neito’s orders is nothing but a godsend.

“It’s nothing, Kendou,” Neito says, and as there really is no harm in speaking out about what he thought of the stage, he adds, “I’m just having some very unfavorable thoughts about where we are in right now.”

Kendou only gives Neito this look, that already had Neito expecting some kind of lecture from her, “Monoma, you must realize, this is a test of our skill-”

“I know, I know,” Neito cuts in, brushing off her words. It is hardly as though she was saying anything he didn’t already know anyway. Kendou frowns at him a bit for it, but in the end, she just shakes it off as Neito expected her to do. “I’m just saying my opinion, that’s all. Plus, I’ve been thinking about how we should go about this while I was at it anyway.”

“You mean you have some sort of plan?”

“Yeah.” Sitting down, Neito picks up a stick and draws a circle on the ground. “Kendou, you already climbed one of the trees earlier to get a view of how this place looked from high up, right? What’s your guess as to how large it is?”

Kendou furrows her brows, clearly thinking, “Something like two, three kilometers in diameter, I guess? It was kind of difficult to estimate it, even from my vantage point.”

“That’s still pretty small for all 42 students that passed the first stage, so I imagine that within the forest there’ll be some pretty big fights over the parachutes going on.” Neito follows his words by drawing a smaller circle inside the existing one, and this time he labels it as the forest. At the outer edge of this circle, he places a cross mark. “As we just saw the edge earlier, we’re probably at the outer part of the forest; the deeper we go into it the more likely we would get pulled into fights. It’s all too likely that there would be more of these ‘beasts’ too.”

As if to punctuate his point, there is a loud bang from deeper in the forest, and Neito and Itsuka tense for a moment at it before relaxing once several moments pass and nothing happens.

Itsuka looks down at Neito’s diagram, and soon she says, “So, are you suggesting here that we head out for the edge again? Because if the chance is higher that we would exhaust ourselves more the deeper we go into the forest, then logically going for the edge and waiting to ambush people who already have parachutes is for the best, right?”

Neito shakes his head. “No. For one, even if we make a conservative estimate as to how large this island is, that still means that we have at least 5 kilometers to cover.” Simple mathematics, with the diameter, get the circumference. He also writes ‘2 hours’ at the corner of the diagram. “While we could probably keep watch over 500 meters of the edge at a time, that still leaves 90% of the edge that people could just pass by instead. With less than two hours to waste, that would be leaving things up to luck too much - and that’s assuming we can pull off an ambush with how we’re lacking people.”

Kendou nods at his point. “Yeah, we probably should look for another classmate of ours first, right?”

Not really, Neito wants to say, but knows better than to voice it out. The thing was, while it was part of the rules to create a team of three or four, there was no actual rule that the entire team had to go through to the next stage.

So if there was somebody who wanted to be their teammate, even if neither Neito nor Kendou knew them, it would be acceptable because Neito and Kendou could just betray them by the end anyway.

And it was always so much easier betraying people you didn’t actually know.

“And as we’re more likely to stumble over people in the forest, that means staying inside it for the moment until we find a new teammate.” Monoma taps at the cross mark, before forming a new circle with the distance it had from the center of the island as the radius. “Going in too deep into the forest is too risky, but so is exiting it. The best choice here is really to stay the same distance away from both the center of the forest and out of it, as that balances out the risk of confrontations with the chances of getting the chance to steal someone’s parachute.”

Kendou frowns again, “You don’t plan on searching for one ourselves, Monoma?”

“Of course if we stumble over one, we get it, but other than that it’s also too risky if we look for parachutes.” Neito taps at the note of two hours. “We could easily waste too much time that we could spend walking around and finding other people. So, no; we must first prioritize in finding a new teammate, preferably two, so we can start preparing for ambushes. Do you know how to make traps, Kendou?”

“Only simple ones, like for catching wild animals in the wilderness.” Kendou says, before asking, “How about you? Do you know how to make traps yourself?”

Neito doesn’t even know how to make ‘simple’ traps, so he only keeps quiet. Seeing this, Kendou only gives him a condescending smile, or at least condescending in how Neito sees it. The hold he has on the stick tightens at the expression, and then Neito is standing up and destroying the diagram he has made.

The sooner he got this done, the sooner he would be out of range of that smile.

“Alright, time for us to go look for a teammate.”

A single memory flashes by in front of Monoma’s eyes; of a glimpse of the confident, unrelenting back of a certain green-haired teenager as he took down a robot without a sweat. A bitter emotion churns in his chest.

If I had that power...

#-#-#-#

Sekijuro Kan, or more commonly known as Vlad King, dislikes it when people underestimate his students.

It’s hardly their fault that the more absurd ones ended up in Class 1-A this year, and with even the General Department somehow managing to compete for the attention of the audience, Class 1-B is being forgotten and left in the wayside, much to Kan’s ire.

Couldn’t they see the potential within his students too? Couldn’t they see the honest and solid determination of Tetsutetsu, the quiet but powerful presence of Shiozaki? His students are all talented and amazing, but as it was, from how it looked like to Kan Class 1-A were all troublemakers and the audience cared about drama more than talent.

God, the gall of that Katsuki Bakugou... Just what was Aizawa doing with his students, if not fixing what was obviously a pride issue? And to pull General Education students into it at that!

“Vlad-san, you’re looking rather displeased. Is there anything the matter?”

For his ire to have actually shown on his face... Taking a deep breath, Kan deliberately calms himself down. It wouldn’t do to be angry on such a busy day, and not only were the subjects of his frustration to be just teenagers, he was also in public. Getting mad now would do nothing more than make him a terrible role model and that would never do.

“It’s nothing,” he finally answers, before shooting back his own question, “How about you, Thirteen? Anything you have in mind for what’s happening so far?”

Despite the helmet, Kan gets the impression that Thirteen is raising a brow beneath it and that his attempt at deflection hasn’t been missed. Still, the other Hero graciously lets go of the subject, and so with Kan sighing in relief, Thirteen soon points at one of the screens in front of them and the rest of the audience.

“Just my students there from 1-C. It’s really a pity that they were separated from the beginning, otherwise they would have cleared this stage already.”

Kan doesn’t need to look at the screen to know who Thirteen is talking about. How could he not, when they’ve been all the rage for a while now? “Thirteen, you must be exaggerating. True, these four students of yours have been easily steamrolling through the challenges for a while now, but to say that when it’s only been less than twenty minutes is-”

“A treasure hunt? Surely, Vlad-san, you must realize how easy that would be for Katsura-kun if he had help from the rest of his team, not just Shinsou-kun.”

“-Alright, I do see your point.” Kan takes the moment this time to study the screen showing Katsura Kensei and Shinsou Hitoshi fighting one of what was probably Pixiebob’s monsters. Having been part of the meeting when Katsura was thought to be a traitor, like most of the school’s Hero staff, Kan knows just what Katsura is, and in this case, isn’t capable of doing.

While Katsura Kensei could probably single-handedly become a terror in terms of espionage and, judging from the tools, technical skills like gadget-making and even sabotage, Katsura is ultimately not a warrior like his friends are turning out to be.

“If there were more of them, they could probably fight off Pixiebob’s beasts at the same time as finding those parachutes, but as much as Katsura can find them he can’t really fight his way to get to them like that Shinsou could, huh?”

And indeed, that is turning out to be quite the issue for Katsura’s half of the team from General Education. While Midoriya and Yamato seem to be handling themselves quite fine with the forest and its monsters, Shinsou seems to be the only one really capable of fending off the earth beasts, and as a result, they weren’t making much headway through the forest, and with it, the parachutes.

Still, with the high quality video and sound feed, one could even see the sweat dripping down Katsura’s face, as well as the frustrated look on Shinsou’s. Kan can only take in how they seem to not notice the camera at all for a moment before he has to repress a shudder as to what that all implied.

Just what kind of surveillance devices did the Principal get his paws on this time to get this kind of live footage...?

“With how the Principal can be, I wouldn’t be surprised if he precisely planned for it to be like this for them.” Thirteen states rather matter-of-factly, and Kan blinks when he detects just a hint of... frustration? Talk about uncharacteristic, plus also rather telling as to how surprisingly attached the other teacher is to these students. While Thirteen was famous among the staff for their empathy, it was never to the degree that they got frustrated on someone else's account. “He probably didn’t want them to just blaze through it easily, when he knew they could do just that as long as they’re together.”

Kan raises a brow, “You do realize that with how Kamui Woods created that forest they’re in right now, how they ended up getting separated is essentially random, right?”

Thirteen would probably have shrugged if they were anyone else. “It’s the Principal.

And in the end, that is just as good an explanation as any other. Kan just stays quiet for a moment, absorbing that and just how much that implied for how much Principal Nedzu must have planned for this day if that was indeed the case.

“At least your students seem to be handling it just fine,” Thirteen observes and Kan nods a little in agreement.

Early on in the game, Shiozaki, Tetsutetsu, and Honezuki had all managed to find each other and form a team. With how the forest was highly advantageous to Shiozaki’s Vines, the two males had delegated themselves into guarding their third teammate while she searched for the parachutes. And with how the three of them easily dealt with another team that had tried taking one of the parachutes they found?

Kan is pretty sure that those three would easily move on to the third stage.

Now, if only the same could be said about a certain student of his...

“That’s Monoma Neito, isn’t it? I remember you asking for advice on how to deal with him.” Thirteen identifies the problem child Kan has had his eye on since day one, and Kan nods in confirmation. “From what I can see though, he’s certainly smart and charismatic enough, for him to have managed to lead a team like his.”

Indeed, Monoma had started off his team with Kendou, and when the two of them bumped into Tsuburaba and Kuroiro, the Copy user had easily managed to recruit them into his team, but...

“It’s not a problem of smarts and charisma, when it comes with him. Monoma... He’s certainly talented, it’s easy to see that, but it’s also just as easy to see that he’s... damaged.” Kan explains lowly, just in case any of the other teachers might hear. It was different if it was Thirteen who heard this from him – Thirteen was a certified counselor and Kan had repeatedly taken their advice over the years – and another if it was a teacher for another class, like god forbid Class 1-A. His students didn’t deserve Kan telling their dirty secrets to just anyone behind their backs. “He changes moods at the drop of a hat, he develops fixations within moments, and I’ve been witness to many a rant from him about popular and famous Heroes. It’s simply not healthy.”

Thirteen whispers, “And do you have any idea as to what might be the cause?”

Kan nods again. “I do, and it’s my belief that it’s something to do with his Quirk, like what is happening with so many children these days.”

A person’s Quirk is often accepted as their mark of individuality. What they are, who they are going to be – in this world, as horrible it might be to think of in retrospect, their society is all about making Quirks the central point of people’s personalities, and while in some people that has led to them flourishing into truly unique and wonderful people...

For Monoma, just what kind of development did the teenager face growing up, when his Quirk, his individuality, was all about copying others?

Kan is snapped out of his thoughts when Present Mic starts yelling.

“What’s this!?” One of the video feeds get highlighted, and for a moment Kan twitches when it gets enlarged, causing it to take over the entire screen and making Kan lose sight of his students. What is it now this time... “Don’t leave your seats folks, because it looks like there’s going to be another battle between Class 1-A students again! Team Tokoyami, comprising of Tokoyami, Shouji, Ashido, and Jirou from Class 1-A, against – do I even need to say the members, you know them by now! – Team Bakugou of Class 1-A!”

Kan facepalms. Class 1-A, Class 1-A, what was it with Aizawa’s class?

And especially that Bakugou Katsuki.

“Eraserhead, why do you think Team Bakugou is confronting so many of their own classmates!? With how they just fought Team Kirishima earlier, one would think that they would withdraw for the moment and recover, but they’re still rolling and rolling over everyone else in this game and just won’t stop, not even for their friends!”

“The hell I know.”

As though Aizawa didn’t know! It was clear to see from the beginning that it was that crazy Bakugou kid who was leading his team into a wild chase around the forest, actively hunting down his fellow classmates, and in the face of such obviously aberrant behavior, what did the other teacher do?

He let them be.

In that moment, Kan thanks the gods that Thirteen existed, because otherwise Kan would have already despaired at the general lack of sanity of his coworkers.

(Little did Kan know at the time, that his own problem student was in the middle of doing something in that moment; invisible to the audience in favor of watching a great battle of ice, explosions, acid, shadows and much, much more from Class 1-A.)

#-#-#-#

Thirty minutes into this event and Hitoshi is already cursing forests to hell and back inside his mind. He and Kensei still haven’t found Izuku, this place is uncomfortably reminding him of that night with Tsuchigumo, Hitoshi had to already fight off no less than four earth beasts – what were they even, just where did Yuuei find these monsters – and to cap off an already shitty half-hour?

They were surrounded by enemies, Hitoshi and Kensei standing back to back. One in every cardinal direction, all of them Class 1-B students; people that Hitoshi and his team had tagged as the biggest threat to their goal of winning the Festival, if only because they barely knew anything about them.

After a moment’s thought, Hitoshi added the Principal and, just to be safe, Aizawa-sensei to the short list of people he blamed for all of this. They had to know how wary they were of Class 1-B, and really, Hitoshi wouldn’t be surprised if those two were the reason why they were in this situation in the first place.

And Kensei, oh Kensei...

When the leader of the opposing team, apparently named Monoma, had started off this particular argument with a question of “Where is your friend Deku?” combined with a couple of insults, Hitoshi already had to wince at what he knew was going to happen. Because Kensei is and will always be overprotective of Midoriya Izuku to some degree, and what better to trigger that than a random stranger coming up and asking them about Hitoshi’s rival?

So yeah, Hitoshi knew better than to not expect Kensei to get angry, but this... This, Hitoshi certainly didn’t expect of his normally easy-going best friend, the happy-go-lucky puppy Kensei.

Because right now? Kensei is no puppy; instead he is a guard dog with teeth.

“Oh, are you feeling intimidated by our little Izu-chan?”

Intimidated, I am not intimidated, I just want to know-”

“So much for members for our vaunted members of the Heroic Department.”

Those words drip with honeyed sarcasm, and for a moment Hitoshi just stares at Kensei and the clear hostility that the other teenager is displaying. It honestly makes Hitoshi remember how curt Kensei had been with him back when they first met, before the whole incident with Tsuchigumo happened and Kensei had shaken off the invisible walls separating himself from the rest of their team.

The words seem to strike true, and as Monoma twitches angrily, Hitoshi has to sigh at what looks like an impending confrontation-

“Monoma, calm down!” The girl of the other team, Kendou, warns her team leader, and for a moment Monoma seems like he isn’t going to listen when, “He’s just trying to provoke you! You’ll just be losing if you let what he says get to you!”

That apparently does the trick, the idea of losing to Kensei being so much of an anathema to the obviously contrary Monoma that it causes him to go so mad that he cycled back to calm. For a moment, Hitoshi is impressed at the girl’s quick thinking, but then he catches a glimpse of his friend’s face.

Kensei grins, baring his teeth, and maybe, for a moment, Hitoshi can see how his friend had previously been raised by a villain.

He meets Hitoshi’s eyes, and with a nod, Hitoshi knows what the other teenager is about to do. Eyeing the backpack hanging behind, Hitoshi remembers their conversation when they had found it earlier:

(“Finally, finally! We managed to get one that hasn’t been preemptively destroyed by one of those monsters!”

“At least we know that this means there are plenty of these parachutes hiding around this place, right, Kensei? After all, the teachers would be so free to destroy these parachutes unless there are more hiding. They do need to have participants for the third stage.”

“...Hitoshi, how much would you mind losing this?”

“What- Are you crazy, Kensei, do you even know how much effort it took to pin down those earth beasts so you can get to-”

“But what if another team gets to us while we still haven’t found Izu-chan and Megumi-chan? Is one parachute really worth it, in the end, especially when you still have to keep your Quirk secret for as long as possible?”

“...What are you thinking, Kensei?”

“They’ll be targeting us for our parachute first, as long as they’re not aware of our Quirks. Because with our Quirks, we can easily find others, and they don’t know that. So if it ever comes to be that we get ambushed, we’re going to use this one as-“)

Bait.

They are going to use the only parachute they’ve found, the parachute Hitoshi worked so hard for, as bait, because they needed to escape and finally regroup with their friends more than to keep a single parachute.

...Honestly, sometimes Hitoshi worries about how his friend’s mind worked, to have seen this coming and prepared a plan ahead for it just in case.

“Monoma, they’re doing something with their parachute!”

The third member of Monoma’s team yells that, a boy with dull fish eyes, but by then it’s too late. Kensei has taken off the bag from his back to raise it with one hand, and with a powerful swing, Kensei throws it up, high above their heads.

Immediately, the enemy team tries to react, Monoma yelling, “Tsuburaba, knock it down!”

The same member, apparently Tsuburaba, takes in a deep breath, and when it all comes out the air rises in a strangely visible way, obviously a part of the other teenager’s Quirk. What it does, Hitoshi doesn’t have to wonder for too long, because suddenly the bag that Kensei has thrown stops and starts falling from midair as though it has hit an invisible wall. With how the girl Kendou from earlier is enlarging her hands to catch the bag that much faster, it seems clear that they’ll get the bag easily.

But here, Hitoshi has to smirk.

As if that was all they were doing to do.

“I’m getting it, Monoma- ah!?”

Kendou turns to glare at Hitoshi, who only snarks back, “What, you didn’t think that I would just watch you get it, do you?”

Adjusting his grip on the spear - which he had just used to latch onto the bag and snatch it out of their reach - in his hands, Hitoshi twists its line just so to whip the bag around over their heads, before spinning it above there like a yoyo. At this point, their plan to use the parachute as a distraction seems to be working well – with how everyone has their eyes on the parachute, Hitoshi sees Kensei attempt to take this moment to run, but then Monoma’s eyes go narrow, and immediately Hitoshi knows that the jig is up.

“They’re just trying to escape! Everyone, take them down! If we eliminate them here, the rest of their team won’t be able to get to the next stage!”

Thankfully, despite Monoma seeing through their plan, his teammates hesitate, “But Monoma, the parachute-”

“The parachute’s not important, just ignore it already!”

Not wanting to let them make up their mind, Hitoshi finally swings his spear forward with all of his might, pulling back the tip in the same time and thus launching the bag  away from all of them.

For a moment, Team Monoma freezes, before finally, Monoma yells at his teammates, “Fine, fine! If you want the parachute so bad, Tsuburaba, Kendou, you guys get it! Kuroiro, stay with me.”

Tsuburaba and Kendou don’t hesitate in what they do next. Permission finally given, Kendou expands her cupped hands into a strangely warped volleyball pose, the purpose of which soon becoming clear once Tsuburaba jumps on to it so Kendou could launch him at the bag.

This takes time though, time that Hitoshi and Kensei make full use of to leave the two behind.

Which still leaves them with two on their heels as they start running deeper into the forest.

“Come on, Hitoshi, let’s go!” Kensei grabs him by the arm, and Hitoshi doesn’t even hesitate to let his friend lead him through the jungle maze. With how Kensei’s skillset worked, escaping was his forte and all four of their team knew it.

“No you don’t!” Monoma’s voice comes from behind them, and Hitoshi has to groan even as he is being tugged away by Kensei. When would this guy leave them be? “Kuroiro, your Quirk!”

Black smoke starts billowing from behind them, and with Hitoshi trusting Kensei to look ahead of them and not get them slamming into a tree, all Hitoshi can do is to watch behind them as the smoke catches up with them and engulfs them both.

As soon as the smoke covers Hitoshi’s face, he is immediately hit by the sense of pitch-black darkness and the feeling of full-body vertigo despite still feeling the ground beneath his feet. If hindering their vision was the purpose of this Quirk, then it certainly did just that – never before had Hitoshi felt so helpless and blind.

Thankfully, being blind or not doesn’t matter to Kensei one bit, with how his Quirk had probably mapped the forest around them already, so his friend continues to guide him through the forest with nothing but his head to know the way.

“Monoma, they’re still escaping,” a quiet voice, most likely Kuroiro, murmurs, and with a rush of horror, Hitoshi realizes that while they can’t see, it could be different for the other team.

“Hitoshi, jump!”

Deciding to put his trust into Kensei, Hitoshi jumps – just clear of what felt like something from the darkness, something heavy and huge, clipping his back and failing to capture him by an inch. Behind him, Monoma curses as he trips on the large root they’ve just leapt over, and just like that both Hitoshi and Kensei have escaped the smoke and back into the light of day.

And they don’t stop for a moment, not even looking back to see the enraged and bruised face of Monoma Neito.

#-#-#-#

“Did you hear that, Izuku-kun?”

Izuku turns away from the earth beast he and Megumi just took down to look at his female teammate, who has her attentions elsewhere. Early on to their time here in this forest, Izuku had quickly realized that the beasts were, in fact, not actual animals at all but instead earth golems made by none other than Pixiebob.

How the Pro Heroine had the control to create such beasts to the point that they could be almost thought as alive, Izuku doesn’t know, but he can guess as to how the Heroine set the beasts on them in the first place: earth tremors.

Izuku doesn’t know exactly as to how Earth Flow works, but if his guess is correct – and they often were, as far as his team is concerned, Izuku’s analyses were often so accurate that it was almost uncanny – then by detecting the minor tremors made by their feet on the ground, even from far away, Pixiebob could know where they were and thus send her beasts there.

It also neatly explained as to why the earth beasts practically bulldozed into everything they did, not even bothering to dodge and only countering when hit. Because while Pixiebob could theoretically be aware of what their lower bodies were doing at all times as long as they were on the ground, the same couldn’t be said for their fists and tools. The only time she could feel the blows come was probably when it was already connecting with her beasts - it wasn’t that they weren’t dodging; they didn’t know that they needed to.

Of course, as soon as he realized that, he had Megumi climbing up the trees with him and doing much of their search from there, only coming down when absolutely necessary and to shift between trees. After all, if their enemy was the ground, the simple answer was to get off of it.

It also made for a better vantage point for finding the other half of their team and an easier way to ambush Pixiebob’s earth beasts, so in the end Izuku and Megumi were having a pretty easy time with the stage so far. All they needed was to find their friends.

 

“Izuku-kun?”

“No, sorry, I was just thinking,” Izuku chuckles sheepishly, and his teammate smiles at him. “Hey, Megumi-san, stop that, you’re giving me that look again!”

Megumi’s smile only gets bigger and more fake-innocent, “What look, Izuku-kun?”

“That yare-yare look, like you somehow find my awkwardness amusing! You three, especially Hitoshi, love to make that expression, and don’t you dare think I haven’t noticed it!”

“Don’t worry, we weren’t exactly trying to be subtle.” Megumi teases him openly this time, and Izuku has to groan a smile into a free hand. Really, his friends... “But back to my question earlier. Izuku-kun, I think I just heard Kensei-kun’s voice a moment ago.”

Izuku’s eyes go wide in excitement. “Really!?”

“Yeah, but,” Megumi bites her lip, “I’m not sure? I mean, I might be just imagining it, plus to go by the sound of his voice, when somebody else in the forest might have some kind of voice-related Quirk...”

Izuku considers that for a moment, before coming to a decision.

“We don’t exactly have much a choice, do we, Megumi-san? Without anything to guide us, any kind of hint would do. If it indeed turns out to be a trap, we’ll know it when we get there.”

With a nod, the two of them resume travelling through the forest from the treetops. Offering one hand to Megumi, Izuku smiles at his teammate before he settles his extendable staff between his legs. As soon as Megumi wraps his arm around herself more securely, Izuku presses a hidden button on the staff, causing it to grow right beneath them and slinging them to another tree.

For Izuku, whooping joyfully at the entire stunt is a very close thing, only prevented by their need to remain as silent as possible. After all, as far as Izuku is concerned, he’ll probably never get bored of getting around places like this – it’s simply too much fun. And with the way Megumi laughs softly, Izuku knows he isn't alone in that.

Indeed, it’s so much fun, for both Izuku and Megumi, that they fail to notice Hitoshi and Kensei walking tiredly beneath them before the gap in the foliage had closed, hiding their friends from their vision again.

#-#-#-#

“We were so close, we were so close!”

Tsuburaba doesn’t understand why Monoma is throwing such a big hissy fit. Didn’t they achieve what they wanted? They had the parachute they wanted, and even if the other team - not even a team, just two students from General Education - managed to get away, ultimately that was what mattered, right?

In the end, he gets tired of the whining, so Tsuburaba finally opens his mouth and says, “C’mon, Monoma, enough with that already. Just shut up so we can find-”

“Oh, don’t get me started with you, Tsuburaba!” Monoma turns to yell at him. “If you had only done your job properly then they wouldn’t have managed to get away in the first place!”

Monoma yelling at absolutely nothing worthwhile? That, Tsuburaba can ignore. But to actually blame him, when at least Tsuburaba did something and got them a parachute, unlike Monoma who was just yelling orders?

His lip tightens, just a bit. Tsuburaba has a feeling on what this is going to be about, and he doesn’t like it, not one bit. “What was that, Monoma?

“Yeah, it’s your fault. If you only followed my suggestions on how you should use your Quirk and used your Solid Air to capture the parachute in a sphere instead of just stopping it with a wall, then you and Kendou wouldn’t have had to chase it all the way outside the forest! Why, if I was the one doing it-”

There it was. Monoma talking about his Solid Air again, like it was his. At that, Tsuburaba finally snaps, tightening his fists at the familiar insult, “Monoma, as I’ve told you so many times already, it is not your place to tell me what to do with my Quirk!”

Not my place- it is absolutely my place to point out what you’re doing wrong for you! You know how Copy works, so you should know just how grateful you should be that I’m even giving you these hints-’’

A loud clap, made by gigantic hands and enough to snap them out of their argument.

“Enough!” Kendou butts in between him and Monoma, separating them two with her hands. Kuroiro, the silent one as always, only watches them with no comment. “Monoma, Tsuburaba, this isn’t the time and place for you two to argue. Didn’t we all agree as a class to work together as a team until the Third Stage? Look at yourselves. Arguing so loudly - what if we attract another team with the noise you two are making?’’

Tsuburaba really, really wants to yell that Monoma was the one that started this in the first place, but looking at Kendou’s eyes in that moment…

There is a reason why Kendou Itsuka is one of the more respected members of their class, and it definitely isn’t just how she could break them all in two with her bare hands if she wanted. No, Kendou is respected in their class not for her Quirk, but for being one of the more charismatic of them all, with her positive opinion highly valued within Class 1-B.

And really, was Monoma worth losing that, and possibly even this competition? No, he wasn’t.

Taking in a deep breath and counting slowly to ten, Tsuburaba calms himself down. “...Right, you’re right, Kendou. We should be focusing on what we have now. Monoma?”

The leader of their team huffs at him. “Yeah, I did get their Quirks when I managed to brush them with my hand using Kendou’s. With how it works with a mutative element, I can’t copy the mouthy one’s Quirk, but well...”

Monoma grins, and Tsuburaba is happy to not be the focus of it for once. He still doesn’t understand why Monoma is so intent on this particular team, but if Kendou isn’t saying anything about it, Tsuburaba has no reason to go against it. For now, at least.

“Brainwashing, eh? Let’s see him try to surprise us with that now that I know all the tricks up his Quirk’s sleeves…”

Chapter Text

Chapter 13: Copy Part 2

Neito developed his Quirk at the late age of six.

Being the son of a Rescue Hero and a nurse, before he gained his Quirk, it had been a cause of much worry for his parents. Neito didn’t have the extra toe joint, so why wasn’t he getting his Quirk? With how much they loved their son, and knowing how much Neito wanted to be like them, they didn’t want Neito to grow up wishing to be a Hero only to be barred from it because he was Quirkless.

It was these thoughts that led them to be overjoyed with Neito came home one day and managed to catch a mug that slipped from his mother’s hands without even looking. It was clear, in their eyes, that Neito had inherited his father’s Quirk – Enhanced Reflexes.

It wasn’t anything big, it wasn’t anything special, but it had served his father well in his Rescue Work. And as much as Neito’s mother wished that her son had inherited her Quirk Amp – a Quirk that boosted another person’s Quirk for five minutes every three hours, which led to her becoming something of a much-wanted assistant for Quirk Healers – that was fine, right?

Neito could become a hero like his father now, right?

That changed when Neito came home the next day in tears and with a massive welt on his forehead.

Apparently, one of Neito’s classmates – upon finding out that the so-far only Quirkless member of their class now had a Quirk – had thrown a pencil-case at their son’s head, the cruelly-insensitive curiosity of children pushing them to impulsively test their teacher’s words instead of taking them at their face value.

It would’ve been fine – if rude and worthy of getting punished for, something that Neito’s parents were glad to find out the teacher did once they called the school – if not for the fact that Neito failed to dodge what should have been easy for him to see coming. Which shouldn’t be possible, because when Neito had first exhibited his father’s Quirk, his parents had exhaustively tested their son to be sure.

Nothing big, not so much as actually throwing something at their son that could hurt Neito, but... as far as their tests showed, Neito did have his father’s Quirk.

So what went wrong?

This led them to approaching a Quirk Doctor with their son.

What they found out shocked them. Apparently, while they were correct in that Neito didn’t inherit his mother’s Quirk, Neito didn’t inherit his father’s either. Instead, Neito’s Quirk turned out to be a strange melding of the two.

The “reactive” factor of his father’s Quirk, combined with the “Quirk-related” factor of his mother’s Quirk, led to a strange power that was neither, yet both greater and lesser than the sum of its parts.

“Your son’s Quirk is one of the strangest Quirks that I have come across, Monoma-san,” the doctor admitted to Neito’s mother, as his father led Neito outside to play with a swing set positioned outside the doctor’s clinic. “His Quirk Factor is like an empty perforated container, always waiting to be filled only to be emptied again. For such a Quirk to be born between the two of you... I don’t know whether to pity or envy the boy.”

Neito’s mother watched as the doctor fiddled with his glasses, clearing them of moisture with his lens-cleaning Quirk. It had been that same Quirk that had the doctor concluding on what their son’s real Quirk could be.

After all while it was easily explainable that Neito could have his father’s Quirk, the same could not be said of him somehow also using the Quirk of a doctor he had just met.

Copy.

Their son’s Quirk was Copy, the Quirk to imitate all other Quirks, one at a time. At this point, they were still unsure as to the limits of their son’s Quirk other than what was looking to be a touch-restriction, but they could easily find that with more testing and counseling.

That was essentially what the doctor’s job was.

“What do you mean by that, Kohaku-sensei?”

“Monoma-san, I’ve seen dozens and dozens of Quirks come and go in this clinic, so I believe I have grounds to say that I’m fairly good at seeing how the children with those Quirks could turn out.” The doctor responded, and Neito’s mother felt a heavy weight forming in her gut. “Neito-kun... I suggest you keep good watch on your son, as he grows up. Provide him with the counseling he needs, raise him with love and care, and the most of all, make him understand what it means to empathize with himself.”

“Your son will need that and more. I hope you and your husband can manage this, Monoma-san.”

In that moment, Neito’s mother made an oath to herself. Whatever terrible fate the doctor feared her son would face in the future, both she and her husband would work to prevent. Their Neito would grow up to be a happy and stable young man.

And for a time, this seemed to be how things would turn out. With great help from the doctor, Neito’s counselors, and of course the combined efforts of his parents, Neito looked like he was going to grow into a fine young man.

But then during one of his rescue expeditions, a ceiling fell down on Neito’s father while he was rescuing civilians, leaving the man paralyzed from waist-down and forever unable to work anymore as a Hero, and things began to spiral down from there.

#-#-#-#

In this moment, part of Toshinori just wants to hide forever in a box in shame.

Katsuki Bakugou... When All Might had been approached by the blond boy the day after the USJ, he didn’t think that the teenager would interpret the words he uttered that day in this kind of way. Yet it’s clear – the only reason why young Bakugou is persisting in this course of action is due to him, and him alone. All Might had been the one to push the rock down the hill; now, the responsibility of those being flattened by its path laid with him.

All Might, you know Deku, right!? In what way can I fucking prove to that goddamn nerd that I’m the only one who deserves to be called a rival by him!?

B-Bakugou-shounen, what brought this on? And why are you asking me? You know that I only know of Midoriya-shounen from yesterday and that incident almost a year ago, right?

Yeah, I fucking know that! But I can’t find that thin-ass skeleton mentor of his, and with the only alternative being to turn to his goddamn hangers-on, you’re the only one I’ve got left! So, spill! What do you think I should do!?

In a way, it had been refreshing, to have a person of Bakugou’s age treating him like any other person, even as All Might. Sure, Bakugou’s manners were atrocious, to just barge into his office like he did that day, but Toshinori was already used to getting that from Aizawa. It was pretty clear than the teenager respected him as much as the other teacher did, something Toshinori couldn’t find fault in considering how Bakugou knew how he had treated Izuku when they had first met.

And perhaps it was the way that he was getting spoiled with so much social interaction recently, even as Toshinori, that had All Might responding in a not-so-very Symbol of Peace sort of way.

“Bakugou-kun, if you want Izuku to know your resolve?” Toshinori responded, not even noticing how he had dropped the usual All Might propensities in favor of a less informal way speaking, “Show it through action. Prove to him that you’re rightly his rival.”

Sure enough, Bakugou is doing as he told him to do. After all, what else could be considered as more action than actively seeking out the other rivals Izuku had? Fully aware of the rivalry that Izuku had established with his classmates, Bakugou had decided to lead his team through the island, cutting down on the rest of Class 1-A like a merciless scythe.

And even those who weren’t of Class 1-A weren’t safe. Class 1-A, Class 1-B, even the few General Education students who managed to get to the Second Stage who weren’t Izuku and his friends – all of them, the overpowered Team Bakugou barged through like a runaway steamroller, with their fellow members of Class 1-A getting the dubious honor of being attacked by both Bakugou and Todoroki in the same time.

By the time Team Bakugou all got their respective parachutes, not even an hour into the game, nobody in the audience was even surprised that the team had elected to still remain on the island to hunt down more of the other competitors instead of proceeding to the next stage.

“That boy is just crazy. Is he really even a Hero-in-training, or is he just a villain hiding in plain sight here in this competition?” One of the people sitting behind Toshinori murmurs, and Toshinori has to hide his face in his hands. He knows he won’t be recognized as the cause to this, especially not now as Toshinori instead of All Might, but that still doesn’t stop the instinctive sting of shame from hitting him anyway.

“Toshinori-san?” His companion snaps him out of it, causing Toshinori to raise his head to meet those familiar emerald-green eyes, only set on a different face, “Are you alright? I’ve heard of your condition from Izuku, should I help you to a bathroom or something-”

“Ah, no, no, no! I’m alright, really, I’m alright!” Toshinori raises his hands in negative, stopping Inko from the way she is about to leave her seat. Honestly, Toshinori does feel like there is a large blob of blood coming up from his throat, but he could easily handle that – had to, because if he didn’t learn how to clean up after himself he would literally be leaving enough blood for a crime scene every he went – and that wasn’t even the actual issue in the first place. Inko-san didn’t need to bother herself for him.

The way the woman in front of him gives him an unyielding stare though, like if Toshinori didn’t explain to her the actual reason as to why he was so being reticent at the moment, she would be making him need to go to the bathroom, soon has him saying his thoughts out loud for Inko to hear, if a little censored.

“I suppose... it’s just me feeling some secondhand embarrassment in All Might’s place?” Toshinori carefully doesn’t look as he says this to Inko, in case she sees through the white lie he has just told, “After all, Bakugou-kun and his team are his students, and he has told me about them too. That’s a good enough reason to feel ashamed, right?”

Inko responds by him this look, this expression of long-suffering that honestly has Toshinori wondering for a moment before Inko murmurs, “No wonder you get along so well with my Izuku, Toshinori-san. Peas in a pod, the two of you.”

“What do you mean by that?” Toshinori asks with a pout, not entirely sure whether to be offended or pleased at that particular statement. When Inko then starts laughing softly at his face, Toshinori decides – yep, definitely offended. “Inko-san!”

“A-Alright, so-sorry about laughing at you,” Inko ceases her laughter to wipe away a small tear that has formed, and for a moment, Toshinori loses his breath as a fond look then shines over the eyes of his pupil’s mother. “But really, now, I’m really glad that you and my Izuku met. If anything, at least my son finally has a kindred soul in the world, from the awkwardness to how you both seem to care about everything and everyone.”

Toshinori doesn’t know what to say to that, so he only stays silent as Inko turns away from him to focus once more on the screen before them.

“And if anything, if there’s anyone here who should feel a little ashamed of how Katsuki-kun has grown, it should be me.”

With Inko’s gaze focused on the fighting image of the explosive blond teenager that Toshinori has gotten to know over the past few months, Toshinori realizes that yes, it wasn’t just Izuku who had history with the young Bakugou. In the first place, wasn’t Inko-san’s friendship to Bakugou’s mother the reason why Izuku and Bakugou even met?

That kind of past implied a lot of things. For one, while Inko might have only one biological son, was it really a stretch that she might consider Bakugou Katsuki hers too, with her big heart? And with her participation in Izuku’s counseling sessions, she also had to know her son’s past with bullying too, from young Bakugou of all people.

If only I had watched over him too. If only I had put in more effort with Katsuki-kun and Izuku’s relationship. If only I had made sure that their friendship didn’t become what it was today...

Toshinori doesn’t need to have telepathy like Megumi to know that those are the thoughts running in Inko’s head at that moment. Not when the guilt is so clear to see in her face, in the way she has bitten her lips and her grip tightens at her purse.

“Inko-san?”

Toshinori’s hesitant question snaps the mother in front of him out of her funk. “A-Ah, yes, Toshinori-san, what is it?”

He stares at the weak smile aimed at him by Inko, at the emotions obviously simmering behind that mask, and while for a moment Toshinori wants to force the issue, but instead of listening to that small impetuous voice at the back of his head, Toshinori just takes a deep breath.

A Hero’s duty is to meddle incessantly at the affairs of others, however-

“It’s nothing. Want some more popcorn? This isn’t the one you dropped earlier, by the way. I just bought another for the two of us.”

Inko visibly relaxes at that, though blushing a bit at the reminder of the food that she had wasted. “Ah, yes, if you would be so gracious.”

Toshinori smiles widely. “When am I not gracious, Inko-san?”

-to judge when it is the right time to meddle is also a Hero’s responsibility.

Toshinori would just have to push the subject of Bakugou to later. It was simply just not the right time nor place to push the matter, especially here in public.

And if anything, it would also conveniently give Toshinori a reason to approach the Midoriya mother in the future.

...Only to get to know her, of course, that was all.

“I’m a little surprised though, Toshinori-san.” Inko comments as she starts chewing through some of the popcorn from the box he had just handed to her. “With your general appearance, and your overall condition, I wouldn’t have thought that you could eat popcorn. You seem like someone who has a special diet or something along those lines.”

Toshinori stiffens for only a second, but that second apparently is already too long. Inko is looking at him suspiciously now, and in that moment, Toshinori knows his jig is up.

The only reason why he’s gotten away with eating these things around Izuku and his friends were because he never told them as to precisely what his condition was, but apparently, even without that, Inko and her motherly ways had caught him red-handed.

He reaches for the box, but Inko merely pulls it away.

“...You aren’t really supposed to be eating this, aren’t you.”

It isn’t a question. Toshinori tries to reach for the box again, “I-Inko-san, today’s a special occasion, so I thought that it wouldn’t hurt if I-”

“Oh, no you don’t, Toshinori-san!” Inko stretches to continue keeping the box away from him, and while for a moment it seems that even with that Toshinori would still be able to reach for it, Inko then closes the box before suddenly throwing it in front of them, towards the arena.

Toshinori stares at the box and at the strange way it starts to orbit in a small circle away from Inko’s hands, out of his reach but somehow staying aloft just outside of the stands.

“Inko-san, how are you-“

Inko smiles at him, just a little proudly as her arm continues to make a strange circular movement at the box, making it bob up and down in a little ellipse. “My Izuku’s not the only one picking up new tricks with his Quirk, Toshinori-san. Now you don’t get to eat something that’s obviously unhealthy for you. I promise to reimburse you for this box of popcorn later, but right now you should know better than to not take care of yourself more.”

As if to spite him, the box comes back for a moment so Inko could get more popcorn, before drifting away again, just as he tries to reach for it.

Toshinori stares at the popcorn box. At Inko. At the complete betrayal that is happening before his very eyes.

His gaze then falls to the previous popcorn box beneath their feet that Inko had dropped earlier.

“How about I-“

Inko’s voice is as though she is speaking to a particularly unruly child instead of a man older than her.

No, Toshinori-san, don’t eat food that used to be on the ground.”

In that moment, Toshinori decides that it was a good thing that Izuku didn’t know he was All Might yet. Because with how close the mother and son were these days, if Izuku knew it would also inevitably reach Inko’s ears, and Recovery Girl was bad enough.

Toshinori didn’t need another person to scold him for overexerting himself as All Might. He would just die, if it ever came to that.

(And when Inko drops the popcorn again, her Quirk failing in her shock at the sight of Izuku and Megumi being surrounded by students of Class 1-B, Toshinori knows better than to buy them popcorn again this time, the traitor.

So much for graciousness.)

#-#-#-#

To Tsuburaba, this moment is just like deja vu.

The four of them, surrounding two students from General Education. Monoma at the North, Kendou at the South, Kuroiro at the East, and Tsuburaba himself at the West. Their enemy is outgunned, outmanned, out-powered and out-planned – indeed, it feels almost cheating.

For students like them from the Heroic Department to do something like this, twice now, it’s outright villainous. Where was their sense of fairness? Their enemy didn’t have a full team! Why the need to go so far for these Gen Ed students?

(Later on that day, Tsuburaba would realize how he had made this particular error of underestimating the students before him, as well as the duo from earlier, when his teammates took them as seriously as they did.

After all, Tsuburaba had lagged behind during the initial part of the Obstacle Race, and as a result he never saw Team Izuku take down that robot with minimal effort on their part. But as for the rest of the team, especially to Monoma who had a close-up view of Midoriya Izuku’s back in that moment? Strength begets respect. Respect begets wariness. And wariness?

Wariness begets envy.)

Monoma doesn’t even start up a conversation this time before he is throwing around orders. “Tsuburaba, separate them!”

Tsuburaba doesn’t really want to do this, especially considering what Monoma has planned for him to do, but then Kendou gives him a quick look and Tsuburaba resigns himself to following Monoma for the meantime.

Taking a practiced deep breath of hair that has him filling up his lungs to its entirety, Tsuburaba holds the air in for a moment before he releases it out all at once, molding it as he blew in the direction of the twosome.

The green-haired teenager, apparently Midoriya, tries to warn his female teammate Yamato, to stay close, but by then, it’s too late. Tsuburaba has created an invisible wall between the two, spreading the air just enough for it to still remain thick and thus not so fragile a single punch would break through it, as Tsuburaba had seen many people already do by this point.

Tsuburaba would want nothing more than to have his Quirk to not be so limited by his lung capacity, especially when the sturdiness of his constructs was directly proportional to how much air he could compact into an amount of surface area combined with his mental focus, but what could he do? That was how Solid Air worked.

(No matter what Monoma would say.)

“Izuku-kun!” Yamato calls at her friend, slamming her hands over and over at the invisible wall Tsuburaba had made with his Quirk, and Tsuburaba winces at that even as he approaches her from the back with Kuroiro. Really, really feeling like the villain now, especially once Yamato turns around warily at them. “Stay back, I’m warning you!”

Personally, Tsuburaba would want to be able to do just that. If he is to be honest, to team up against a pretty girl like Yamato like this is really just unfair, with the glare being leveled at him and Kuroiro by Yamato feeling nothing less than what they deserve. If it was just another guy, like Midoriya, Tsuburaba would be fine with it, but a girl?

No choice about it though. Their goal was to prevent this team from ever forming, and with how the rules of the stage worked, they couldn’t just incapacitate Midoriya – they had to incapacitate them both. And with how the previous two already escaped their grasps before, they really couldn’t take the chance of them managing to escape again.

And from what they had just seen, these General Education students tackled their problems by working together with amazing teamwork.

So Monoma’s plan? Divide and conquer. Four versus two, turned into two separate two-versus-one confrontations. Kendou and Monoma versus Midoriya, who was keeping them away at the moment with what looked like an extendable staff; Tsuburaba and Kuroiro versus Yamato, who didn’t even have a weapon like her teammate to defend herself with.

“I promise to knock you out as quick and painless as possible...” Tsuburaba inadvertently murmurs at the girl as he approaches Yamato, whose expression somehow gets angrier, “So just hold still and let me-”

Yamato takes a step forward- it is way too fast-

#-#-#-#

“Don’t worry, Inko-san. Your son and Megumi-kun would definitely get out of this.”

Inko turns to the very calm teacher sitting beside her in shock, “Why can you say that, Toshinori-san, when they’re so outgunned-”

“They’re underestimating her, Inko-san, and that’ll be their downfall.”

A proud smile, all too similar to a certain Symbol of Peace. Inko’s eyes go wide.

 “With Kensei-kun not really that interested in learning how to fight, Shinsou-kun working with Aizawa, and Izuku-kun sharing his time between his therapy, my training, and his weapons training with Aizawa again, Megumi-kun had been the one to receive most of my tuition for the past month, and well...”

“It took a few tricks on her part, as well as what was previously untapped talent, but now Megumi-kun is the best hand-to-hand combatant on her team bar none.

#-#-#-#

The next thing Tsuburaba knows, the delicate-looking girl before him has grabbed and pulled him towards herself by the arm, his weight leaving the earth to meet the sky before he is carried over Yamato’s shoulder in a stunningly quick and perfectly-performed overhead throw.

And while Tsuburaba had prepared his wall to be able to withstand punches, he hadn’t prepared it to be able to withstand him being thrown directly at it, so that combined with how his focus dissipated the moment his back hit his own wall?

With a loud crack, Tsuburaba breaks through his Solid Air construct with the force of his weight slamming back to him. Seconds later as he tries to recover from the pain and the pounding on his head, somehow he is not even surprised to see from his position on the ground Kuroiro having the same shocked expression on his face as he is thrown at Monoma’s direction by a hundred-pound girl.

“What the-”

Monoma’s reaction is cut off by Kendou catching Kuroiro from mid-air with her Large Fists, spinning once on her feet to get rid of their quiet teammate’s momentum first before finally putting him down, but by then Midoriya tries to take that moment as a chance to escape with his extendable staff.

“No you don’t!”

Tsuburaba could only watch as Monoma uses Solid Air, his Quirk, before his very eyes, the bastard mirroring Tsuburaba’s deep breathing technique to a T as he tries to capture Midoriya with a spherical construct of air. It is partly to his smugness and his resignation to the issues of his own Quirk when Monoma’s attempt fails, the air being so compacted in so much surface area that Midoriya easily escapes Monoma’s construct like it is made out of paper.

Served Monoma right for thinking he knew Tsuburaba’s Quirk more than Tsuburaba did just because he could Copy it.

And just like that, Midoriya reaches out a hand towards the freakishly strong girl that is his teammate, and before soon, the two of them have shot off towards the forest.

Monoma immediately gives chase, yelling behind him, “Come on, we can’t just let them escape, not after last time! And won’t somebody pick up Tsuburaba!”

“Wait, Monoma, don’t go ahead-”

“There’s no time to waste, Kendou!”

For a moment, Kendou looks conflicted, but then she gives Tsuburaba an apologetic look and a nod at a slightly-dizzy looking Kuroiro before following Monoma at his heels.

A minute passes, and Kuroiro offers Tsuburaba a hand. “Tsuburaba, are you alright now?”

The world has just stopped spinning. “If I said I wasn’t, would you leave me here?”

“...Yes.”

Tsuburaba groans.

#-#-#-#

“They’re not letting us go,” Megumi notes breathily, as both of them continue to run into the forest.

Izuku groans. It hadn’t been fun, being knocked down from mid-air only to fall into an ambush – alright, that’s one point against the parkour, can’t exactly dodge while in midair – and it had only been due to Megumi saving him that they got away.

There was something about the attention given to him by that Monoma that bothered Izuku deeply, that obsessive look on his face, and it had been why Izuku had been keen to not let himself get touched by the other teenager before Megumi forced them to disengage.

That moment before Izuku had managed to escape, though... Initially, Izuku had thought that it was the other boy – the first one Megumi had thrown, Tsuburaba was it? – who had the Quirk to make those invisible walls, but for Monoma to have attempted to box him in with that same Quirk too?

That either meant that Izuku had initially assumed wrong with Tsuburaba, or...

He is snapped out of his thoughts when he realizes that Megumi has been quiet for all this time. “Megumi-san?”

“...It was a trap.”

Realizing what her friend was thinking, Izuku turns to her, not surprised to see her look away a bit in her guilt. “No, Megumi-san, it wasn’t. Didn’t you hear them earlier? Monoma said, ‘Not after the last time.’ That means that they must have encountered Kensei and Hitoshi-kun before too, and even without that, weren’t you the one that also got us out there in the first place?”

Izuku laughs a little sheepishly to himself at this, “All I did was almost get boxed in by those giant hands earlier.”

Megumi doesn’t say anything, but she does raise her head and smile. Izuku thinks he could be satisfied with that.

“Kuroiro, now!”

They caught up with us while we were talking!

It happens too fast. One moment, they are surrounded by a forest and the afternoon sun, and the next they are engulfed in a deep darkness that has Izuku instinctively holding out to grab Megumi by the arm. It’s both to keep his friend close and to comfort himself – the thing is, this shadow, this void the world had turned into?

It is the kind of pure black that awakened that animalistic fear of the dark and the unknown. It was the shadow underneath your bed when he was a kid, it was the streets of Mutsutafu when it was night, and it was the same evening as when Izuku had confronted Tsuchigumo with his friends.

It is only Megumi’s presence and his analytical side that tells him ‘this is the effect of a Quirk, this is the effect of a Quirk, this is the effect of a Quirk’ over and over again that keeps him calm.

“Really, we should have done this earlier,” It’s Monoma’s voice again. “Let’s see how you two try escaping now.”

This darkness has the side-effect of messing with a person’s sense of direction, that same analytical part of Izuku notes, as the rest of him warily tries to identify where that voice originated from. Was it in front of them? Was it from their left? Or was it from behind them?

An unsettling chill starts to reside in his spine when Izuku realizes, I don’t know.

“We can knock you out on our own leisure now, but first, I must ask something.”

Izuku tenses at that, “What do you want to know?”

Izuku might not see Monoma nor know where he is in all of this darkness, but he’ll have to be deaf to not hear that frustrated and bewildered tone of voice.

“How is that you four are part of the General Education Department?”

Izuku blinks. He... didn’t expect that to be the question Monoma had for them. “Excuse me, come again?”

“Oh, you know what I mean!” Yes, the frustration is much more evident now, and Izuku knows that if he could see Monoma in that moment, the other teenager would be gesturing angrily. “This teamwork! Your individual skills! Your Quirks, in taking down that robot from the race earlier so easily!”

“I can accept it if you four were from Class 1-A or part of us in Class 1-B, but you’re not! You’re all General Education students, you’re supposed to be the failures who couldn’t or didn’t bother trying to get through the Entrance Exams, not this... well-oiled machine that your team is!”

“Just, how the hell are you four doing this!?”

In an instant, Izuku realizes the reason, or at least, part of the reason why Monoma had unsettled him so much earlier.

Monoma was someone who was trying to fit Izuku and his friends in his view of the world, only to repeatedly fail. Much like how a child would rage and throw a tantrum at that one piece of Lego that wouldn’t fit in correctly, Monoma couldn’t accept their existence as a group of individuals outside of his accepted world.

It was seeing that frustration, seeing that anger, that envy, that had unsettled Izuku so much.

After all, it had reminded him all too well of how Kacchan had been before that fateful day.

But...

#-#-#-#

Monoma finally said it. Hahahaha, he finally said it!

For a moment, Monoma feels the other three of his team move uneasily behind him. He couldn’t see them, not in this darkness that even Kuroiro couldn’t pierce through, but that mattered little really. Not when part of Kuroiro’s, and now Monoma’s, Quirk was to detect all human presences within this darkness at all times.

Kuroiro’s Quirk: Black. Truly a most useful tool; Monoma would be keeping this piece of hair with him for a long, long time.

“I’m sorry, but it isn’t my job to explain that for you.”

Monoma snapped his head towards his front, not even caring about the fact that he wouldn’t see anything anyway. “What was that?”

Midoriya’s voice too calm, much too calm for someone in the middle of their hands like this.

“It isn’t my job to justify to you what we can do, nor is it my job to ease your ego. And in the end, even if I might try to explain how I and my friends got here, tried to deliver to you all of our hard work... You wouldn’t even comprehend it, would you? Because if you really could, you wouldn’t be asking this of us now.”

For a moment, that just causes Monoma to stop.

Then those words actually hit him, making the rare emotion of rage bubble deep inside of him and-

“You’ve got that right, Izu-chan!”

Schlup!

Something lands in front of them, where Midoriya and that freakishly strong teammate of his are standing, and to Monoma’s horror, he realizes that it is that frustrating spear of their Brainwashing-user again because both Midoriya and Yamato are being pulled away- they can’t see anything-

“Kuroiro, pull your smoke back in, pull it all back in now, we need to see them!”

Kuroiro’s smoke, which had been surrounding them all this time and causing all of this darkness, begins to recede back in his skin and into that same black hue that it was most of the time, but by then, it is too late.

As soon as Kuroiro’s Black finally pulls back, letting them all see, it is to the sight of Midoriya’s team finally complete and standing on the branches of a tree.

And that is not all.

“Hello everyone, my name is Katsura Kensei and I’d like to introduce you to my new friend.”

The only thought that goes through in Monoma’s head in that moment is:

Where did he find that boulder, and when did he have the time to make that kind of ramp?

But then, Katsura snaps through a vine with a survival knife, and any questions of how the hell the other teenager had managed to do this are thrown aside by the fact that an Indiana Jones-esque boulder is now rolling at them.

“Everyone, dodge!” Kendou yells, and for now, Monoma is just happy to follow her lead.

Team Monoma splits apart as they jump towards different directions to dodge the incoming boulder of death, and after it passes terrifyingly close to where his face had been, the boulder then proceeds to continue past all of them and through some shrubbery.

Light hits all of their faces, and with a wince at the sudden brightness after coming out of Kuroiro’s Quirk, what they all see is a shock to all of them.

“Is that-?”

Monoma hadn’t even realized how deep they had gotten into the forest, nor the fact that with all of the thick foliage surrounding them none of them had actually seen what it was like in the center of it all.

But that changed now.

Because in the middle of the Sky Garden is a snarl of smaller trees combined together to make one big World Tree towering over eighty feet, and just at the top of that tree are four small dots that even from this distance is recognizable.

Parachutes.

“Monoma, they have escaped,” Kuroiro murmurs at his reverie, but Monoma doesn’t care.

“Kendou, just how much time left do we have before the Second Stage ends?”

With a realization, Kendou realizes, “Thirty minutes...!”

Monoma nods, his rage and frustration from earlier abating now that he knows that they’ll meet with Midoriya Izuku’s team again, for the last time. “And they’ll know that too. We spent too much time fighting them, they spent too much time trying to regroup – now we’re all running out of time, and even with Katsura’s Quirk both of our teams have only one last chance.”

Tsuburaba mutters in wonder, “On top of that tree, where it’s high enough to launch yourself and your parachute out of this entire forest.”

Monoma smirks. “Well, we better get there before they do, don’t we?”

#-#-#-#

Neito’s parents had dealt with the career-ending injury admirably. Neither blamed the other over it, nor had let the stress get between them and Neito.

It was, after all, something they both knew might happen to Neito’s father. He was a Hero, and it had always been a risk. Neither of them wanted it to happen, but now that it did, why should they point fingers?

No, they decided. They weren’t going to let this stop them.

Neito’s parents hashed out another way of living. Neito’s father would step down as an active Hero, and learn how to be part of his Hero Office’s management staff instead. His mother, not willing to risk her own health either now that her husband had suffered an injury, decided to work on a case-to-case basis now as an assistant for Recovery Girl instead of being available full-time in the hospital.

And both of them would delegate parts of their week to spend together with their Neito.

However, even then, it had been too late.

The damage was done. Upon seeing the Hero father he had respected for so much become paralyzed, a deep sense of uneasiness and fear settled in young Neito’s heart.

Part of the fault lied with the fact of how Neito had been treated by his classmates as a kid. That moment, when he had that pencil case thrown at his head, it had been a waking moment to the fact of how powerless Neito could be.

His Quirk, Copy, was incredibly versatile and led to great potential for teamwork, his parents told him over and over again, but what if Neito was alone? What if people refused to let him stay around them for fear of him Copying their Quirks, refused to work with him because they hated him? Neito had never been popular with other people after all.

His Father’s Quirk had always been active, Enhanced Reflexes was always there and still his father got paralyzed.

Neito wouldn’t even have that.

One thought process led to another, and in the end, Neito came to a realization.

His Quirk worked with hair. That was great news. That meant that, as long as he collected the hair of those with powerful Quirks, even if he had to steal them, he would be able to Copy their Quirks as much as he wanted.

But then, it was not so, as he soon realized as he tried to Copy his Quirk all the way from home to dodge a water bucket prank in school.

Apparently, even with the hair, there was a minimum distance he had to be from a person before he could Copy their Quirk. This distance, as he soon found out, was something around fifty meters – good for combat with a group of people, not so much for when he had nobody near him.

He thought and he mulled that over and over, and in the end, Neito came to a decision.

He would collect the hair of those with powerful Quirks, but not just that – he would collect the hair of those who looked like they had a future in becoming great Heroes. Because if Neito was to become a Hero, chances were that he would be surrounded by at least one Hero most of the time.

As long as he had their Quirks, he wouldn’t be powerless. As long as he wouldn’t be powerless, he wouldn’t turn out like his father and be a great Hero in his place.

And then, Neito found himself in the grips of a real Villain and what was bad only got worse.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 14: Copy END

In the advent of Quirks, it became the norm for the abuse of those Quirks to sometimes happen in the streets. This was what initially led to people taking up the mantle and role of a ‘Hero’ against these ‘Villains’ who took what they wanted from the rest of society, protecting the people who only wanted to live their lives peacefully, day in and day out.

However, ultimately, this only led into more chaos.

Without any kind of order or training, even these proto-Heroes suffered in that they were disorganized, undermanned, and without any guidance on what to do in several situations. Judgments on morality and on what constituted as ‘Justice” varied depending from person to person, and indeed, the lines between ‘Hero’ and ‘Villain’ were blurred, as often Heroes could just as easily cause more problems than what they fixed.

Seeking to fix that problem and the chaos that threatened society from its roots, that was when the governments across the world came together, creating the legislation that led to the centralized Hero Organizations that then formed across the world, both to put a sense of order within the chaotic system and to finally define what a Hero truly was.

And with order came predictability. With predictability, for Heroes, came the idea of organized patrols.

True, villains popped up and mostly did as they pleased whenever they attacked. Some of these villains established their own organizations, both small and big, but the fact remained that the average villain was just someone who caused a public disturbance on their own time and agenda.

For the initial proto-Heroes, which officially became the ‘Vigilantes’ once the centralized Hero System came to be, this had been a major problem. Try as they might, the fact remained that their opponents were unpredictable, and even if they were to try patrolling, this meant spending time and money on what was essentially a thankless duty that might not even bear fruit, with how villains could attack just as likely as when they weren’t patrolling as when they did. The risk was just too high.

For the new certified Heroes though? With governmental backing and a more organized system behind their back, this meant that not only were they being paid to do something for everyone’s benefit, patrols could be fixed in such a way that multiple Heroes could plan out when and where to patrol.

Like a web with its holes being mended and woven over, soon it became much more difficult for Villains to do whatever they wanted. The constant presence of Heroes in the streets also helped, in terms of public morale. For a while, it seemed that everything was perfect.

But then came along the concept that was a Hero Watcher.

A Hero Watcher is, as the name suggests, a person who watched over Heroes – more specifically, the civilians that made it their hobby, duty, or even job to record and observe Hero-Villain confrontations. People took on this particular role for a variety of reasons, some good, others selfish, and some even villainous, but the fact remained – they were now here, and here to stay.

And when they first popped up, it had been a massive danger to everyone because there were no rules set in place. Observers would approach too close to a confrontation, to the point that they got hurt or worse, and there had been many times that a Hero Watcher would be happily sitting on one side in a moment and the next they were turned into hostages.

Back when Heroes weren’t as organized and it was that much harder to follow them around, there were so few Hero Watchers that those who became victims were minimal, but with enforced patrol times crowds of Hero Watchers would form that much easier, and that increased the risk of people getting hurt.

And so, as a result, the Hero Society created the “Watch Our Watchers” System, or WOW for short, where the supplemental staff of Heroes would work as people that kept Hero Watchers far enough from the danger, as well as forcibly evacuating them if it becomes necessary.

Now, why is this relevant?

Because at a young age of nine, like a certain green-haired kid from Mutsutafu, Neito had been one of these Watchers. And his reason to do so hadn’t been something as pure-hearted as Izuku’s decision to follow Heroes around to learn from them and their Quirks.

#-#-#-#

Fresh from his father’s accident, Neito had decided that if he was to start off his hair collection, it would be best if he started with those from Heroes with already powerful Quirks on display. That way, he’ll be able to win against anything he might face, he was sure.

Acquiring hair samples from Heroes was harder than he thought though.

He could hardly ask them to give him hairs directly. Not only was it apparently creepy for a fan to ask for a lock of hair from their Hero, apparently there had been incidents where DNA samples had been abused by some people with peculiar Quirks. Who would’ve thought that there had once been a Villain that could create temporary evil clones of people from nail clip-offs?

(As a child, Neito never really understood that his goals were as much as abuse of his Quirk as the aptly-named Annailihilator did with his.)

That meant trying to collect hairs from indirect means, but Heroes hardly left behind random combs or brushes everywhere they went, and Neito drew the line at breaking and entering. Simply too hard, as he couldn’t really climb up windows with his small height.

So that meant trying to watch Hero-Villain confrontations in person just in case he might see someone getting their hair cut or something similar. But that in itself ran a lot of issues, because it meant that he needed a good vantage point to be able to see opportunities, and even then there were a lot of WOW people working to prevent anyone from getting too close.

Still Neito tried and tried. Not even his parents can stop him in this. His mother was busy trying to take care of his father, and while he appreciated that both of them tried to remember him too, as far as Neito was concerned the less time he spent at home the more time his parents had with each other.

So that meant sneaking out one afternoon after getting a notification about a certain Hero pair taking down an infamous villain within his neighborhood.

This pair, Neito had to admit he was actually a big fan of, not just interested in them because of their Quirks. They were both rapidly climbing the ranks, and their shared cool and collected attitude was just something that Neito admired and tried to emulate:

Best Jeanist, with his cool and fashionable appearance, and Edgeshot, with his dry wit and just amazing demeanor.

(These two Heroes would soon split up, not due to any kind of ideological differences, but for a shared agreement between them that they’ll do much more good for society as a whole separate than together. Combine that with the fact that both of them were already rising to the top 10, with all of their respective sidekicks and their better control over their Quirks the necessity of having to work together no longer was there.)

Watching Best Jeanist and Edgeshot team up to take down the musclehead of a villain they were facing... To Neito, they were nothing but inspiring. With Jeanist working on hindering the movement of their enemy, and Edgeshot making quick attacks through the small openings provided to him by Jeanist, their enemy Brawley didn’t stand a chance.

In no time, it seemed, Brawley was down on the ground, wrapped with Jeanist’s fibers and looking out for the count.

Neito, watching it all happen, didn’t miss the several strands of Jeanist’s hair in Brawley’s right hand, having gotten there near the end of the fight when Brawley almost got through Jeanist’s special move Cat’s Cradle Trap, managing to hit Jeanist in the head once before Best Jeanist and Edgeshot finished him off.

Best Jeanist, who had just finished realigning his hair again to its famous hairstyle, turned to Edgeshot, “Edge, go call the police and tell them what they need to take this guy in. I’ll stay here to keep him down in the meantime.”

Edgeshot nodded back, murmuring softly, “Understood. Take care of yourself, Jeanist. Don’t think I didn’t notice you looking woozy earlier.”

“Don’t worry, I’ll be fine.”

Neito had stars in his eyes, watching his Heroes. For him, it was clear to see the bond between them – was that how it would be like, once he grew up and became a Hero? Neito could imagine it now; Neito, the Phantom Thief, working with these people and delivering justice everywhere they went. That would really be just perfect.

With that image in mind, Neito eyed the strands of hair in Brawley’s hand.

If he had Best Jeanist’s Quirk, he could get through his Hero Course that much faster. Sure, it would be only available with Jeanist around, but still, the Quirk of one of his personal Heroes!

Neito timed his approach well. Having observed the patterns of the WOW members, he had noticed that there was always this short timespan between Hero-Villain confrontations and their aftermaths that the WOW members would be too busy congratulating their Hero superiors to stop him.

Too early and he’ll be caught by the sharp eyes of the WOW members and soon detained like so many times before. Too late and the aftermath clean up would be in rapid progress, the hair sample he sought after destroyed beneath the deluge of random fire and water Quirks aimed to cleanse the place of blood and other DNA samples.

With wide eyes, Neito watched as Edgeshot left, presumably to contact the Police. The next moment, Best Jeanist turned to his subordinates, including the WOW members and-

Now!

There had been some yelling behind Neito, as his fellow Watchers try to stop him from getting too close, but by then Neito would hardly let any civilian stop him by making use of his small size. Keeping fast pace even with his short legs, Neito ran up to the denim cocoon that had once been Brawley, and with a victorious tug, pulled out the hairs in the villain’s tight fist.

Best Jeanist’s Quirk: Fiber Master, Get!

So caught up in his victory though, that Neito didn’t notice what is happening to the person he had just collected his hairs from. The other Watchers soon yelled:

“Kid, look out-!”

Neito could only gasp in shock as the cocoon breaks open beneath him, releasing a Brawley that looked better, stronger, and angrier than ever, and the next moment Neito foundhimself clamped down by a ridiculously muscular arm to an equally muscular chest, trapping him by the ribs so hard that it suddenly became impossible to breathe.

“Guh!”

Ignoring Neito’s pained cries, Brawley the musclehead Neito had brushed off before laughed to nobody in particular.

“Here I was wondering how the hell I could possibly escape this – to think a hostage would literally run into my grasp! I wonder why that had happened though.” Brawley started to study Neito in his grip, ignoring the yelling police and Best Jeanist in favor of looking at what Neito had in his hands. “Hm, is that the hair I managed to pull out of the jeans bastard’s pretty head?”

Inwardly panicking, Neito immediately made use of the Quirk he had just managed to acquire. Immediately, the fibers of what used to be the cocoon that bound Brawley down started to move towards him, but to Neito’s despair, it is not as fast as Best Jeanist, too weak.

What is wrong with Jeanist’s Quirk, Neito yelled to himself, not knowing that the true strength of Hakamata Tsunagu, or famously known as Best Jeanist, lied with his prodigious control over it instead of any innate strength the Quirk had.

“This is certainly the bastard’s Quirk, but this...” Eyeing the strands moving towards him at a snail’s pace, then back at Neito who was looking at them with a desperate look in his eyes, Brawley mumbled this to himself before he gets this wide look of interest in his eyes.

In that moment, Neito knew that Brawley figured out his Quirk.

“That man would certainly find more use with a Quirk like yours; it’s obvious that you don’t even know shit on how to begin using it, so might as well take it from you, no?”

Neito doesn’t understand, cannot understand what this man is saying, but with that crazed look in his eyes like Neito is a particularly tasty piece of food on sale, Neito could only turn to Best Jeanist with tears in his eyes.

“Help...” Neito called out weakly, his lungs losing too much air to say any more.

For a moment, Best Jeanist hesitated, but soon he yells at Brawley whose attention is still on Neito, “Brawley! Put down that boy, or I’ll be forced to take action!”

At those words from Best Jeanist, Brawley only scoffed, “Yeah, and how are you going to do that? You’ve just seen how you can’t put me down without your ninja friend from earlier, and now that I have a hostage? You simply don’t have any hope to stop me. None of you do.”

True to Brawley’s words, as Brawley started his attempts to escape, all Jeanist could do was to try and slow him down. With Neito in his grip, if Jeanist was to try and wrap Brawley in his Butterfly Cocoon again, it ran the risk of also crushing Neito and that Jeanist didn’t want to do. So all he could do was to reactivate his Cat’s Cradle Trap and watch as Brawley tore down his walls of thread one by one. The fact that he had a pounding headache while doing all of this was not helping.

As for Neito, watching all this from the tight grip of a Villain, all he could do was to just yell in his head.

Help me, save me, Jeanist you’re my Hero, why aren’t you stopping him, please somebody save me-

“Shut up, kid, your crying is starting to give me a headache.”

Brawley punched him in the gut, and in a moment, young nine-year old Neito’s world went red.

#-#-#-#

“Hitoshi, Kensei, I really must thank you guys for rescuing us earlier.”

Izuku says this to his friends as they make their climb up on the World Tree together. Though to call it a climb might be a bit of a misnomer – with how the single “Tree” was, in fact, a lot of smaller trees wrapped around each other, climbing it was more like going up a very irregular flight of stairs as compared to actually climbing a tree with your hands.

It was just that easy to find your footing, especially with the occasional bit of thick foliage that conveniently served as platforms to jump on. One might even wonder if Kamui Woods did this on purpose, inspiring his tree straight out of a platformer so people could climb up that much easier.

With how they only had thirty minutes to make this climb, Izuku is definitely not complaining about that part though.

“Don’t mention it, Izu-chan!” His friend shouts back from way below them, and with a smile on his face, Izuku extends his staff downwards towards Kensei so his friend could pull himself up. With a bit of effort, mostly on Izuku’s part, Kensei is soon standing beside him and panting for air.

“You need more exercise, Kensei!” Hitoshi teases from above all of them, making quick use of his spear to skip several platforms entirely by swinging over them. Beside him, Megumi giggles softly as Hitoshi bows down at her like a butler, “After you, my very much badass lady.”

“Why, thank you, Hitoshi-kun.”

With Izuku refusing to leave Kensei behind and Hitoshi having the advantage of a more versatile weapon, Hitoshi and Megumi had gone on ahead, Hitoshi also sometimes helping Megumi just to annoy Kensei with how Hitoshi wasn’t helping him.

Kensei takes on a fake-betrayed tone as he yells at the duo ahead of them, “You traitor, Megumi-chan! To abandon us for someone like Hitoshi!”

 Izuku only laughs sheepishly as he stands beside his first friend in Yuuei. Patting Kensei’s shoulder, he comforts, “Come on, Kensei, I’ll help you climb that next ledge. I’m pretty sure you can do it yourself, but at this rate you’re going, we’re going to be late to the top.”

Kensei turns at what Izuku is referring to, and for a moment the other teenager gulps before nodding back resignedly. “Yeah, you’re right, Izu-chan...”

Izuku starts off by cupping his hands so Kensei would have something to step on, and soon, his friend has his arms over the dry bark of the trunk making up the next ledge of the tree. And really now that Izuku isn’t distracted by the need to find his friends, he noticed that about these trees. Without the passage of time provoking natural growth, despite the amazing heights of Kamui’s trees they don’t have any moss growing on them.

It made climbing easier, but also rougher on the hands without the moss to smoothen out the bumps on the bark.

By the time Izuku and Kensei have caught up with the rest of their friends, there are twigs and bits of bark in their hair, the hurried pace of their climbing having paved the path for a lot of little slips and accidents.

And Hitoshi and Megumi are there, resting in a cranny made out of two trunks, talking to each other in hushed tones.

“Hitoshi, Megumi-san?” Izuku asks, as Kensei collapses beside him to try and recover his breath. “Why have you two stopped here?”

Hitoshi’s response is to put a finger on his lips, before gesturing them both to get closer. “Keep it down, and look there.”

Warily, Izuku does so. He follows the direction of Hitoshi’s finger and-

“Team Monoma,” He whispers as he sees the four members of Class 1-B climb from below them. With both Monoma and Kendou enlarging their hands and the other two riding on their backs, they’re making much faster pace compared to what they could do.

“At this rate we’re going, we thought,” Hitoshi turns to Megumi, and they both nod, “They’ll just get there ahead of us. That’s simply the power of their Quirks. So instead of trying to outspeed them, Megumi and I are-“

Izuku finishes, “Exchanging information so we can meet and stop them before they get there.”

“But we can’t do only just that.” Megumi adds her two cents, “We’ll also have to get those parachutes in the same time. And that means delegating a part of our group to distract them while the rest go and climb the rest of this tree to get those parachutes.”

Kensei sits down beside him and Hitoshi, and his friend looks at Izuku seriously as he says this, “Izu-chan, you’re the man here. You make a choice on what we should do.”

Izuku turns to his friends one by one. All of them give him the same expression of trust, the unspoken words of ‘We will follow you’.

Izuku gulps down the fear and the anxiety building up in his chest. Sure, it’s terrifying to have those looks aimed at him, but it was only because they trusted him.

He couldn’t fail that, no matter what.

“Alright, but let’s put together all that we know about them first. Then I make a plan.”

 #-#-#-#

In the end, Izuku chooses himself and Hitoshi to distract Team Monoma while Kensei and Megumi go on ahead to recover the parachutes.

They end up blocking Team Monoma’s path two-thirds of the way to the top, a convenient platform of branches as leaves working as their battle ground. Behind the two of them, Izuku knows, it is clear to see Kensei and Megumi climbing up to the top.

But Izuku and Hitoshi wouldn’t let Team Monoma pass.

Izuku steps forward challengingly, “I’m sorry, but despite all of your efforts, we won’t let any of you pass us here.”

Hitoshi stands beside him, spear hanging on his shoulders, “Yeah, you heard that right. None of you would be getting past us.”

Tsuburaba opens his mouth, presumably to say something, but then Monoma stops him from speaking with one arm raised. For a moment, there is just silence, and in that moment Izuku knows that his theory about Monoma’s Quirk was right:

(“Hitoshi-kun, I think Monoma-kun’s has a Copy Quirk, possibly touch-activated.”

Hitoshi’s response is to only close his eyes resignedly for a moment, what Izuku is implying by directing this particular statement to him clear in an instant. “You mean to say, as a result of managing to clip me during our confrontation earlier, his team are now all aware of my Quirk and its weaknesses.”

Izuku nods, biting his lip. It wasn’t that he didn’t trust Hitoshi, per se, but...

“Don’t worry about me, Izuku. My bag of tricks is far from empty just yet, and really, them knowing about it just means that I don’t have to hold back anymore.”)

There are tactical advantages and disadvantages to their enemies knowing Hitoshi’s Quirk, Izuku realizes.

On one hand, it meant that Team Monoma was forewarned of Brainwashing, making it difficult to near-impossible for Hitoshi to make them respond to him verbally and thus depriving their team of an easy win.

And on the other hand, it meant that with Hitoshi beside him, Team Monoma could hardly talk with one another without giving Hitoshi an opening to interrupt them and inadvertently reply to him that way.

Team Monoma rushes silently towards the both of them, and Izuku only has one target in mind as he sees them approach.

“Hitoshi, you know who to target!”

(“Kuroiro?” Kensei asks, surprised. “I mean, I can see why – that smoke of his is rather unfair, especially with how his teammates seem to be able to somehow see through it – but shouldn’t we target Monoma first, if he does have a Copy Quirk? That’s a lot of versatility there to deny them of, plus he’s their leader.”

“I think his Quirk isn’t as unfair as you might think, Kensei,” is what Izuku responds with, before continuing at Kensei’s curious look, “Remember how Monoma tripped while he was chasing you and Hitoshi? That probably means that his Quirk probably doesn’t as much as allow his teammates or even him to see through it – instead, he probably could just be aware of where we are instead, as long as we’re in his smoke.”

“Plus, if what I grasp of Monoma-kun’s personality is right...”)

They worked this out earlier. If Monoma is to try and attack Izuku...

“Whoops, hey there, sorry but I’m going to be your dance partner for now.”

Monoma snarls quietly as Hitoshi slips between him and Izuku, spear deflecting Monoma’s enlarged hands back and away from himself, and Izuku, having made full use of the verbal feint of telling Hitoshi what he supposedly should do, slips behind his friend’s back to extend his staff towards Kuroiro’s path.

It is no use though, as it soon bounces off to an invisible wall that certainly wasn’t there moments ago.

Izuku can only helplessly watch as Tsuburaba stands between him and his other two teammates, Team Monoma apparently having taken a page out of their book by sending Kendou and Kuroiro ahead while Tsuburaba faced off Izuku.

Tsuburaba eyes Hitoshi warily for a moment, before muttering when it seemed apparent that Izuku’s rival isn’t looking his way, “Let me tell you this: at this point, none of us are going to underestimate you four anymore. It looks like you four have made plans, but did you think that we didn’t do our own strategizing earlier?”

Talk about best laid plans... No matter.

Izuku already knows what the capabilities of the teenager before him are.  What his Quirk is, how capable he is in terms of direct combat, and even a little about his general personality. It is clear to see that Tsuburaba has decided to be the one to face him now, but-

Izuku holds his staff in the first Bojutsu stance Aizawa-sensei taught him to do.

“I’m sorry, Tsuburaba-kun, but you’re going to lose here.”

Air, if it’s all just made out of air, then...

#-#-#-#

Hitoshi really shouldn’t be enjoying taunting someone this much.

It is one thing, if what he is doing is just playful taunting, and if who he is taunting is a friend, like in the case of Kensei and Izuku, but his words at the moment are hardly in good humor and the person he is facing right now is hardly a friend. Really, the previous Hitoshi would probably not think much of what he is doing right now, but Hitoshi likes to think that he had outgrown his unintentional villainous tendencies.

But really, Monoma is just making it too easy to taunt him and in the same time enjoy every word that leaves his lips. Hitoshi really just had it with this guy and his team’s obsession with blocking Team Izuku at every turn in this Stage.

“Whoa, whoa, careful there, I almost hit you.” Hitoshi says lackadaisically as Monoma tries to defend himself from Hitoshi’s spear. But with how Monoma is only doing it with bare hands and what is by now obviously Kendou’s Quirk, with a weapon in his hands Hitoshi has an advantage and he feels no qualms in making that fact known. “Now, Monoma-kun, that must hurt, huh? Your palms must be really sore now, huh?”

It is obvious, judging by the lines of angry red all over Monoma’s giant hands, that despite Kendou’s Quirk apparently coming with increased durability it doesn’t fully protect him from getting them damaged. And while it might be different, if Hitoshi actually faced Kendou, but right now, the way that Monoma is using Kendou’s Quirk?

Simply put, Monoma is just too slow at fighting with massive hands that obviously weren’t his, compared with Hitoshi who had to go through Aizawa-sensei’s excessive training.

“You must really want to use my own Quirk now, don’t you?” Hitoshi continues to taunt, making easy work of Monoma’s charge by tripping up with his spear’s extendable line, giving the other teenager a whack in the back as he falls forward. “Go ahead, try it. Try using my Quirk. Listen to me; I’m giving you permission to. All you just have to do is try it.”

Hitoshi knows that Monoma would never take him up on his offer.

For one, a Copy Quirk? All too likely, it is possible that it was limited in some way, and right now Hitoshi is willing to bank on that. For example, judging from how Monoma never used more than one Quirk at once, though he had obviously shown he could use both Tsuburaba and Kendou’s Quirks?

Monoma could only use one Quirk at a time, and that meant to use his Brainwashing, he’ll have to stop using Kendou’s, and both of them knew the moment Monoma can’t keep Hitoshi away by sheer virtue of how large his hands were or Tsuburaba’s invisible walls, it would be over.

And if it ever happened that Monoma actually went and tried to use his Quirk anyway?

Well then, bad luck for him, because Monoma would first have to say something if he wanted to use Hitoshi’s Quirk. Even for Hitoshi himself, the physical feedback strategy of his Quirk still needs a lot of set up and time to work, so the chances of Monoma to meaningfully using that now is negligible. So that meant Monoma would have to speak first to use Brainwashing, but with how Hitoshi keeps taunting him, anything he would say can be qualified as a response and just like that, also a game over.

“I would never let you fight Izuku,” Hitoshi murmurs next to Monoma, mainly just because he could, and slightly because he knows that it’ll enrage the other teenager. “Unless you manage to defeat me, you’ll never come close to him, and look at you now. Losing to me.”

“There is really no chance for you to get through me.”

Monoma roars without sound, charging at him again with Kendou’s Large Fists.

It’s just a little more, Hitoshi knows, before Monoma would be so infuriated that he’ll be saying something anyway despite himself.

How about a little more, “Come at me then, if you really enjoy getting a beating!”

#-#-#-#

While her two other teammates were fighting below them, Megumi is facing troubles of her own.

The parachutes are in sight now – just a dozen feet more – but with Kendou suddenly climbing up with her Large Fists and Kuroiro hanging on her back, Megumi made the executive decision of leaving the job of climbing the rest of the way while she prevented Kendou from getting any higher.

And that meant fighting someone with giant hands. High up on a tree with precious little to stand on. And with only her martial arts training to help her win.

Megumi knows that Toshinori-san told her that her newfound ability to fight is prodigious, especially considering how short a time it took her to get this way, but she won’t deny the existence of that little voice in her head that wants this fight to be on literally more even grounds.

No use regretting it now. Spending a moment to just thank the gods for all the arm and grip exercises Toshinori-san had her go through, before she can stop and think about the recklessness of what she is doing, she makes a horizontal jump that would make any wall-climber proud across the trunk she is holding onto, and as soon as she starts falling back down, she catches her weight on a branch before swinging her weight like a monkey into a kick.

Despite the surprise attack and all the effort it took out of Megumi, Kendou blocks it easily with her left hand while her right maintains its grip on the trunk above her.

“Kuroiro, go on ahead, I can stop her here!”

Oh no you don’t, Megumi yells to herself as she climbs up the branch keeping her up, jumping off of it just in time for Kendou to snap it off with an hand chop. Where Megumi lands though is what really shocks the two members of Class 1-B.

She catches herself by also jumping on Kendou’s shoulders.

“What the-” For a terrifying moment, it seems that carrying the two of them is too much, even for Kendou, but then the other girl slams her left hand up beside her right, now digging in her fingers as much as possible to the World Tree so they wouldn’t slip any lower.

It’s obvious that the task is taking a lot out of her though, as she then yells, “K-Kuroiro, get her off me! I can’t keep holding on much longer!”

This isn’t quite the even ground that Megumi wants, even if her enemy is just as inconvenienced as her, but then again today has been a lot of firsts for Megumi, and “fighting a black-toned boy while hanging on to the shoulders of another girl on top of a really tall tree in the middle of a garden in the sky” is just one of those firsts.

“I-I’m trying!” Kuroiro is panicking as Megumi throws punches at him. Sure, the lack of form in her blows is killing Megumi inside, just a little, but at this point Megumi is just barely hanging on with the last of her strength. Her arms are getting sore, fast.

 It’s really more of a pity that this member of Class 1-B is still being beaten by her despite that. Sure, she was cheating a little bit right now, with her Quirk, but even then...

“Well, try harder!” Kendou finally snaps out in anger, the stress of the day so far finally breaking her limit, “My arms are about to give!”

“Alright, I’ll try...”

Kuroiro starts to use his Quirk, the black tone of his skin flaking off in smoke to show surprisingly tanned skin underneath, but by then Megumi is jumping off of Kendou’s shoulder to land on a lower branch, heaving a little to herself in relief when she lands.

It had been a close thing, but finally Megumi managed to force Kuroiro’s Quirk out as planned. She is pretty sure that Izuku didn’t exactly think it would happen this way, but hopefully Hitoshi had been keeping an eye on her and her fight the whole time, because at this point Megumi just wants to rest and let her sore everything finally start healing.

Your turn, Hitoshi-kun.

#-#-#-#

As a matter of fact, Hitoshi had been keeping an eye on Megumi and the black haze that is Kuroiro’s Quirk. In fact, with Monoma being an easier opponent than what he thought he would be, Hitoshi had managed to keep an eye on everyone’s battles.

Like for example, Izuku’s battle with that Tsuburaba.

To be honest, to call it a battle would be to lie. As it turns out, like how Megumi easily defeating him and Kuroiro earlier that day proved, Tsuburaba had barely anything but his Quirk going for him, and normally that would be bad enough with how defensively/utilistically-oriented Tsuburaba’s Quirk seemed to be, but then came along the way Izuku was slashing through Tsuburaba’s shields like they weren’t even there.

This is the first time Hitoshi has seen Izuku start using his staff like a sword, and somehow despite the lack of any edge on the staff Kensei made for him, the staff is acting like a sword, leaving small thin cuts wherever it passed.

“Can’t you,” Tsuburaba gasps, as Izuku cuts through another defense of his, “let me,” another one, this time Izuku coming close to hitting Tsuburaba in the shoulder, though not without leaving a tear there in his staff’s passage, “catch my breath!?”

“That depends, Tsuburaba-kun,” Izuku continues, not letting up his pace and his own breathing much calmer compared to his opponent, “Are you surrendering?”

If Hitoshi is to be honest, in that moment his rival looks just as intimidating as Aizawa-sensei could be at his worst, with that look of single-minded determination and unwillingness to back down on his face.  No wonder that his opponent is handling their match this badly. Even Hitoshi would be shaken up a bit, in his place.

Compared to that, he turns back to Monoma, who by now had cycled back between using Tsuburaba and Kendou’s Quirks to using Kendou’s. There is an enraged expression on his face, silently yelling How dare you look away from me, but Hitoshi easily counters Monoma’s attempt to sweep his legs.

This time Hitoshi takes a line out of Aizawa’s mouth, “You’ll have to try harder than that if you want to beat me,” before ducking below the swipe at his head.

That is when Hitoshi finally sees the cue he had been hoping for. He sees Megumi finish her fight, jumping off of Kendou’s shoulders – to be honest, when he saw what his female teammate did just to get that close to Kendou and Kuroiro, Hitoshi was torn between wanting yell at his friend for her recklessness and respecting her for her guts – just in time for Kuroiro to use his Quirk.

In a moment, Hitoshi stands up to give Monoma a taunting smirk before raising his spear’s shaft up close to his lips.

“You’ll see, how being aware of Brainwashing is just not going to be enough to avoid it.”

With a flick of his wrist, Hitoshi reveal the hidden mic in the shaft, seated beside the series of small dials that Hitoshi had preemptively tuned to the right pitch before this battle even began.

Realization hits Monoma in that moment, as the moment slows and he opens his mouth, presumably to say something, but Hitoshi doesn’t care – right now, his target isn’t Monoma, it’s someone else, but to give credit where it was due, Hitoshi wouldn’t be able to do this if Monoma hadn’t been so kind as to give him a voice.

“Kendou!” Hitoshi yells, but the voice that comes out after it goes through his spear is Monoma’s, “Are you alright!?”

From the black smoke created by Kuroiro, both Kendou and Kuroiro don’t see the horrified looks of their teammates from below them. “Yeah, Monoma, we’re barel...”

Hitoshi grins almost evilly at the star now under his control at the back of his mind, “Knock out Kuroiro, and once you do, grab ahold of him and wait patiently until we get up there!”

A voice that is undeniably Kuroiro’s then speaks up, what is happening to him at the moment hidden by his Quirk, “Monoma, what are you- wait, Kendou don’t-!”

There is a wince-worthy sound, of a giant hand smacking a neck, and the next moment all the battles seem to stop as the smoke of Kuroiro’s Quirk slowly fades away, showing Kuroiro unconscious and hanging in one of Kendou’s hands while Kendou herself is blank-eyed and staying still up where no one could snap her out of it like Hitoshi told her to do.

Hitoshi turns back to Monoma, whose silence at this point has finally been broken underneath all the taunts, the anger, and now Hitoshi’s overt manipulation using his own voice.

You.

Hitoshi can’t quite resist the smug grin from forming on his face, raising a brow, “Me?”

As expected, Monoma doesn’t even bother filtering himself this time, “Yes, you purple little-“

Hitoshi activates his Brainwashing, and just like that Monoma’s enraged expression gives way to a blank look. Looks like only Tsuburaba is left now, time for Hitoshi to-

“Smack-The-Stupidity-Out-Of-Monoma Punch!”

-wait, what?

Hitoshi’s eyes go wide as Tsuburaba, speak of the devil, disengages from fighting his rival in favor of running up to Monoma and punching him in the nose. Monoma, having been in the unresponsive state Hitoshi’s Quirk left its targets as before Hitoshi gave them orders, doesn’t even attempt to dodge the blow, instead taking the hit in the face with a sickening crack.

What.

#-#-#-#

Tsuburaba can’t quite believe it. The nerve of Monoma, to fall into a trap that he had warned them all of earlier!

“Stand up, Monoma, you hypocrite!” he yells, cracking his knuckles before wincing at the sore spots left all over his body by his earlier fight with Midoriya.

How the other teenager’s Quirk worked, to make it so that every place hit earlier by his staff still hurt quite some time later while also breaking through his constructs like they weren’t even there, Tsuburaba didn’t know but hell was it something that definitely didn’t deserve being put in General Education of all places.

“We can’t just let things end here, not when we still have a chance!”

Monoma, finally recovering from the blow he just received – Tsuburaba didn’t punch him that hard, did he? – rubs at his nose for a moment before turning a glare at him.

“Tsuburaba, did you really have to hit me so hard!”

Monoma stands up, yelling in Tsuburaba’s ears. For a moment, Tsuburaba wonders as to why the hell he had just saved this guy, when this is how he is treated.

“Yes, I had to, you big idiot, you warned us about his Quirk, but then you had to go fall for it! Not only was it bad enough that Kendou had been tricked into replying with the sound of your voice, you also had to let his taunts get to you too! Are you stupid, Monoma!?”

At the rant, Monoma stares at him, like he is only just seeing him now. And in that moment, somehow Tsuburaba suddenly feels like he is being scrutinized, but then the moment disappears when Monoma opens his mouth and-

“How about you? Did you actually manage to do anything against Midoriya Izuku?”

Tsuburaba feels stung at the barb, but he manages, “At least I wasn’t about to lose.”

That has Monoma quiet for a few seconds. Taking this chance to speak, Tsuburaba then makes an offer to his only remaining teammate in this battle, “Come on. We’ve tried one-on-one, if we work together we can probably-”

“Izu-chan, everyone, I’ve finally managed to get them! The parachutes!”

Tsuburaba shoots his head up, how could he have forgotten-

Katsura Kensei stands on top of the World Tree, three bags lying beside his legs and with one triumphantly displayed over his head. In Tsuburaba’s combat-induced reverie, he had forgotten that the goal of this entire confrontation had been for those parachutes, which were now in the hands of their enemy.

“Good job, Kensei-kun,” another voice speaks up from behind Tsuburaba, and with horror, he then realizes it’s the same monster of a girl that had thrown him and Kuroiro earlier.

Tsuburaba turns around warily at Yamato Megumi, looking a little tired and sore but nevertheless still capable of fighting. More steps the follow around Tsuburaba, reminding him the presence of Shinsou Hitoshi and the same Midoriya Izuku that had been knocking him here and there earlier.

Four versus two. Once more one side is outgunned, only this time it’s them who are outnumbered, with one unconscious member and another under effects of mind control.

And time is running out.

“I knew we shouldn’t have targeted these people,” Tsuburaba murmurs with wide, cautious glances being sent at turn to all three members of Team Izuku surrouding him, “Now, the tables have turned... This must be karma.”

Monoma whispers back harshly, “Shut up, Tsuburaba. If you’re not going to say anything productive, don’t speak.”

Tsuburaba is about to point out the hypocrisy Monoma is showing with those words when Midoriya clears his throat loudly, catching both of their attention.

“Monoma-kun, Tsuburaba-kun...” Midoriya smiles hesitantly at them, which honestly would make Tsuburaba think that he just imagined that unstoppable juggernaut that had batted him around earlier if he didn’t know better, “I believe the both of you should realize by now that at this point, it’s impossible for any of you to win this. Not by a long-shot.”

“I do understand that it’s difficult to admit defeat, but... I really do suggest that you both just give up now so we can end this stage without anybody else getting hurt.”

Tsuburaba opens his mouth to say something, whether to agree or disagree even he is not sure, but then Shinsou Hitoshi speaks over him, glaring at them as he says this, “And before any of you think that we would hesitate knocking you two out if you try to force our hand, don’t try us. We’ve already wasted enough time with all of you as it is; don’t make us waste anymore.”

For a moment, Tsuburaba contemplates about what they are asking of him.

On one hand, to give up would just be embarrassing. And with how the rest of his teammates fought to their last, and all Tsuburaba had managed to do was to get smacked and thrown all over the place... to give up now, after all that, would not only be embarrassing, but also a little shameful. If he wanted to prove that he was worthy of being part of Class 1-B, maybe the right thing to do would be to fight.

On the other hand though? The simple fact was, what they were saying was true. Tsuburaba and Monoma did not have any chance of winning this, not with so little time left and no space to regroup. Vlad-sensei would understand; the rest of his classmates would understand. There might be a little shame in admitting defeat, but it only make them look like fools if they pressed on, especially when this wasn’t even a real life-and-death scenario.

Ultimately, it’s remembering that fact, that by the end of the day this entire situation is just a school event, just a game, that has Tsuburaba dropping out of his wary stance and raising his hands.

“...alright, I’m out. I give up, you’ve defeated me.”

At his announcement, it is clear to see that Midoriya relax, his smile turning brighter, “Tsuburaba-kun!”

“What can I say, you guys have impressed me,” Midoriya’s smile is too contagious; weak and tinged with just a hint self-deprecation it may be, Tsuburaba ends up also smiling back at the other teenager. “For a bunch of General Education students, you’re all too amazing. What the hell are they feeding you all?”

Shinsou replies back dryly, “Candies and sticks.”

Snrkkk, that sounds like a terrible diet,” Tsuburaba can’t help it. Now that they aren’t enemies anymore, can Tsuburaba now admit that he liked this guy’s sense of humor? It was certainly more fun compared to having to go against that infuriating spear. “Now will you let Kendou and Kuroiro get down from there? They deserve some rest, and Kuroiro in particular would need some of Recovery Girl’s help.”

“How about you, Monoma-kun?”

At Midoriya’s question, Tsuburaba turns back to his remaining teammate, but by then, it’s too late and Monoma is already tackling Midoriya.

#-#-#-#

Useless, useless, useless.

Why is it that I always get the people I can never depend on? Why is it that I have to always do everything on my own? I try and try to rely on others, and what do I get? Failures.

Tsuburaba... For a moment there, I thought I could rely on you, but now I see there really is no hope. No hope in asking for worthwhile teammates, no hope in wishing for friends. Not for the last time, I have once more been abandoned.

I’m going to lose.

I’mgoingtoloseI’mgoingtoloseI’mgoingtoloseI’mgoingtoloseI’mgoingtoloseI’mgoingtolose

I don’t want to lose. Not after everything. Not before I’ve managed to get what I want from Midoriya Izuku.

But if I’m going to lose anyway...

It would be after I’ve gotten what I’ve wanted for all this time.

#-#-#-#

Monoma is yelling, wrestling with Midoriya’s arms as they tumble over the platform of wood and foliage. Over and over, Midoriya tries to escape Monoma’s grip, but Monoma is having none of that, no. He won’t back down, now that this is his last chance.

“Goddamnit, Midoriya, give me your Quirk!”

He knows at this point that he sounds unhinged. Mad. Insane.

“Monoma-kun, stop, please get off me!”

Monoma doesn’t care. All he cares now is about getting some of the other teenager’s hair, knowing that his Copy of Midoriya’s Quirk would only temporary unless he managed to get a lock, a strand, or even just a follicle – all he needs is a bit of Midoriya to always keep with him, and once he has that, once he has that-

He’ll have the Quirk that could singlehandedly take down enemies with a touch.

Monoma wants that power. Needs it. With a Quirk as unreliable and erratic as Copy, there could never too much power for Monoma, not unless he wants to end up like his father. Like how he ended up all those years ago, with blood in his hands and a life on his conscience-

He can hear Midoriya’s teammates running up to them. He can hear even Tsuburaba yelling at him, telling him to stop, but at this point Monoma doesn’t care for that.

He’s running out of time. No more hesitation.

Monoma lashes with his arms, aimed towards Midoriya’s head, “Like I said Midoriya, give me your Quirk!”

It breaks through Midoriya’s attempts to shield his head, and triumphantly, Monoma grabs a handful of that forest of green-haired curls before pulling back harshly.

Midoriya screams, kicking Monoma off of him, but at that point Monoma is done.

He finally has Midoriya’s hair in his hands. He finally has Midoriya’s Quirk, for him to replenish any time he wants, as long as Midoriya is nearby. As he recovers his footing, away from the other students who are helping up Midoriya, Monoma studies his trophy and-

He freezes the moment he gets a good look at Midoriya’s Quirk.

Minor Banishment.

That name rings in his head, over and over. Minor Banishment, Minor Banishment, Minor Banishment...

...this was what he had been fighting for?

This was what had him going through the ordeal of fighting Midoriya’s team over and over, relentlessly talking his team into chasing them everywhere, dealing with defeat after defeat and even climbing a giant tree for?

This weak, useless, little Quirk?

(Neito doesn’t notice how he falls to his knees, a crazed grin on his face while tears slip down his cheeks. He doesn’t notice how Midoriya, his victim, despite everything is looking at him worriedly now instead of warily like the rest of his friends.

He doesn’t even notice that Kendou has gotten down from where she had been in a trance, looking at him like he is a wounded animal in need of help while Tsuburaba valiantly tries to keep her back away from him.

He’s snapped, Kendou, Tsuburaba yells, but Neito doesn’t notice.

Too bad. Neito would later think that Tsuburaba and he would finally have something to agree upon if he did.)

“Hahahaha...”

Somebody’s laughing.

It’s only after a few moments that Monoma realizes who is laughing. He is.

“Hahahahahahahaha...”

Something warm continues to drip down his cheeks, but Monoma can’t stop laughing. In fact, he’s laughing so hard, so heavily that he has to place his hands on his stomach, his head lowering closer to the ground, his lungs emptying of so much air and it hurts.

His chest hurts so much that he’s crying.

“Monoma-kun...”

Monoma stops laughing for a moment, to see Midoriya stepping closer to him, with that look of pity in his eyes and-

Monoma can’t handle it. He can’t stand having that kind of expression turned to him now.

“No, get away...”

Midoriya’s voice is insistent, “Monoma-kun, you must calm down, you’re really close to-“

Monoma takes a step back, yelling loudly at Midoriya this time, “I said, get away from me!”

“Monoma-kun, behind you there’s-!“

Behind him, his foot lands on nothing.

Oh.

He was on a platform, made out of branches and leaves, high up on a tree more than eighty feet high.

Earlier, they had been fighting near the center of it, but now- well, now, Monoma had tackled Midoriya and himself away from that center. Honestly, it was a miracle that Monoma hadn’t instantly knocked the both of them out of the platform earlier, his mental state too unhinged to think about unimportant things like gravity and elevation, but...

Now he pushed his luck too far, didn’t he?

Monoma slips, and he hears everyone screaming his name as he falls.

#-#-#-#

Neito was in a hospital bed.

Outside the door of his room, his parents spoke in hushed tones with his long-time counselor Kohaku-sensei. Normally, they would have been having their conversation in a more private place where Neito couldn’t hear them, but as it was-

-for a week now, nobody could manage to get a reaction out of Neito. Not his doctor, not his counselor, not even his parents.

It was as though Neito had just... shut down.

“Aiko-san, I think we understand now what happened with your Neito,” Kohaku-sensei whispered, and were Neito paying attention, he would have seen the counselor looking at him through the window. “I have talked with the police, when they recovered your son from the scene of the... incident, and the papers they had on this Brawley that attempted to kidnap your son had been very enlightening on the matter.”

“What do you mean by that, Kohaku-sensei?” Neito’s father frowned, his arms shaking his self-blame and regret in not being able to save his son. If only he wasn’t stuck in a wheelchair... “For our Neito to do that... It’s just not possible. Not my son.”

“That would normally be the case, Daisuke-san,” Kohaku-sensei nodded back in sympathy, before biting his lip, “But in this case, there had been some very dire circumstances. Not only was Neito in a very dangerous and stressful situation, the way Brawley punched your son in the gut combined with his Quirk... it proved to be his own undoing.”

“What was this Brawley’s Quirk, Kohaku-sensei?” Aiko asked, sounding like she’d really rather not know but asking anyway for the sake of her Neito.

“It’s name is Anger Point, Aiko-san.”

“Anger... Point?” Daisuke repeated the unfamiliar name, before a look of realization settled on his face, “You mean-!”

“Your son’s Quirk Rampage was, in fact, induced by his accidental Copying of his would-be kidnapper’s Quirk when he couldn’t control it.”

If anyone was looking at Neito then, they would have noticed him reacting minutely. A slightly bowed head, a small frown that wasn’t there before – had anyone been looking, they would have been both overjoyed and a little concerned for Neito ,as now that he was actually responding to outside stimulus, that meant that they could actually start approaching him about the incident.

But as it was, his parents were busy talking to his counselor, as Kohaku-sensei continued explaining in low whispers.

“Quirk: Anger Point. It’s a Quirk that lets the user gain increased strength and constitution after feeling pain, in exchange for a sudden burst of rage while it’s in effect. From what I’ve seen of Brawley’s history, his list of criminal activities initially started off by accident – after his first involuntary manslaughter, preceded by a long tally of damages to public property, Brawley had turned his back on society as a whole and became a full time Villain by the time Best Jeanist and Edgeshot fought him.”

Kohaku-sensei actually sounded sad at that, as Brawley’s story and many those like him throughout the history of Quirks had been one of the reasons he sought to become a Quirk Counselor.

Some people really just didn’t have the luck with the Quirks they had, and that was if they even had Quirks in the first place.

“The thing was, apparently Anger Point worked with pain on a perceived level, instead of any actual damage. When Brawley hurt your son, he had been careful for what must have been a really high anger level at the time as all your son got from it was some bruises. But to your Neito, who had never really been physically hurt before beyond what is normal for children of his age-”

“-it had been the most painful thing he had experienced, bar none.” Daisuke finished for the counselor, looking grim.

Kohaku-sensei nodded back somberly. “Brawley had spent the most of his life learning how to control his Quirk, and he never really learned to fully control it before the end. Your son, who got hit by it full-force, never stood a chance.”

There was a moment of silence.

In the end, it’s Aiko who broke it. “So... what now, Kohaku-sensei? What’s going to happen to our son?”

Kohaku-sensei took a deep breath, “For one, obviously you don’t have to worry for your son on the legal front. It was obviously a case of extenuating circumstances, and though there is that matter of your son running into a Hero-Villain confrontation, even if everything seemed to be over at that point, as a minor he cannot be held responsible for being reckless.”

“Some have spoken about taking him from your custody, being parents who have let your son fall in such a dangerous situation-“ At that, Neito’s parents stiffened, Daisuke’s arm wrapping across his wife’s shoulders, and inside the room and unbeknownst to anyone, Neito shook a little, “-but as his counselor I’ve spoken as your character witness and have pointed out your own mitigating circumstances. You have nothing to fear about your custody as parents.”

There was a shared sigh of relief. Aiko had tears in her eyes as she took the doctor’s hands in thanks, “Thank you so much for that, Kohaku-sensei. If we also lost our Neito too, I, I-”

Daisuke gave his wife a little comforting squeeze. This, at least he could do. “It’s going to be alright, Aiko. It’s going to be alright.”

Once Aiko seemed to have finally calmed down, Kohaku-sensei then smiled back self-deprecatingly, “I’m only doing my job, Aiko-san. If Neito was ever moved in a group home, he would certainly not get any better, and really don’t thank me just yet. I might have helped you in those legal matters, but with your son’s current mental state...”

Kohaku-sensei then continued to explain Neito’s current mental state. How, as a result of his recent experience, Neito had all but shut down from the rest of the world in a rather severe case of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. How Neito had likely dissociated himself from everything as a way to protect his sense of self, the strain of taking another person’s life taking such a large toll on him that his mind burrowed itself deep to hide from reality.

Part of Neito, the little bit that remained awake to the world even as most of his mind remained inactive, listened as Kohaku-sensei told his parents to find ways to get him interacting with the world again, and soon that little part of Neito wondered to itself.

What went wrong? How did I get to this point?

That little part of Neito thought, and thought, and with a much effort started to recall his motivations.

His parents. His Quirk. His decision to become stronger – why he ran into Brawley’s grip in the first place, and how even the Quirk of his Hero failed him. How everyone back then had failed him, forcing him to fight back and draw blood and-

It would only be after a month that Neito would respond to his parents’ attempts to call him back to the world, and by then, little Neito had turned into Monoma.

Monoma, not Neito. Neito had been that child, that small boy before he became a killer. And as a killer, he couldn’t dirty the precious name his parents gave him, not when he knew he could never become that normal child for them anymore.

Brawley was right. I didn’t know shit on how to use my Quirk. That’s why- that’s why-

Neito wanted to be a Hero for his parents. But Monoma, all Monoma wanted was-

-I need to be stronger. Stronger than anyone, better than anyone.

So I can never hurt, or be hurt again.

#-#-#-#

But in the end, even that had been for nothing, hadn’t it?

Here Monoma was now, part of the best school for Heroes, part of Yuuei and of its much vaunted Heroic Department, and look at him. Defeated by members of the General Department, people who were supposed to be lower than him, weaker than him.

In the end, he had remained alone. In the end, he had still been abandoned by everyone else, and now that his life was flashing before his eyes, he could understand why.

He had been wrong.

Everything... Everything was his own fault, wasn’t it? It was his fault for being weak, his fault for being so unsociable and antisocial to everyone around him – of course, what did he expect, everyone would love him for being aloof and sometimes outright manipulative?

As Monoma plunges to what feels like his coming death, only one thought rings in his mind, in the same voice of young Neito so many years ago, before the guilt crushed his will and replaced it with a sharper ego.

I deserve this.

And just like that, Neito falls.

.

.

.

But then–

Monoma-kun, grab my hand!

-someone held out a helping hand, and to Neito everything changed.

#-#-#-#

A few seconds ago:

Monoma-kun!

Hitoshi can’t quite believe his eyes. Everything had just happened way too fast. One moment, Monoma was jumping Izuku and attacking his friend; the next, Monoma was already falling off the World Tree.

“Damnit, he’s out of my range!” Tsuburaba yells beside him, before slamming his hands on the edge, “Monoma, damn you, you’ve been so free with using my Quirk earlier – why aren’t you using it to save yourself now!?”

Megumi turns to Hitoshi, but before she can even ask what Hitoshi knows as a plea for him to use his spear to catch Monoma – something that Hitoshi isn’t even sure he can do, he’s pretty accurate with his spear, but catching someone falling from eighty meters up is another thing entirely – both she and Hitoshi notice that his spear’s tip had already been shot out. The hidden button below his palm was depressed, activated without his knowing.

And the retrieval line? It was unraveling into a sudden wind that hadn’t been there moments before.

“Wait, where’s Izu-chan?!”

It only takes Hitoshi a second to process Kensei’s panicked question, and when that second passes, his heart drops and his hands grip tighter on his spear as he considers the only thing that could have happened.

And that’s a good thing, because otherwise he would’ve lost his spear and his rival entirely when the weight of Izuku jumping off the platform hits him.

#-#-#-#

“Izuku!”

“Inko-san, please calm down, I’m sure they’ll be safe-!”

“YOU’RE SPURTING OUT BLOOD TOSHINORI-SAN YOU AREN’T HELPING-!”

#-#-#-#

Neito’s eyes go wide as he sees the person he had hurt the most earlier, Midoriya Izuku, fall towards him at rate faster than even gravity could explain, wind blowing from behind that reddened face as Midoriya extends a hand towards him.

“Monoma-kun, grab my hand!”

Neito’s eyes go wide as another memory flashes into his vision.

(One day, Best Jeanist visited him as his parents tended to his unresponsive self in that hospital bed.)

Upon seeing that face, that brave smile despite the fact that the other teenager was now also falling with him, without really knowing it, Neito reaches out and-

“Got you!”

-Midoriya catches him by the hand, before pulling him close.

(Despite his parents’ hopes, Neito doesn’t react much to his presence, besides giving him a small glance when he came. But then, Best Jeanist leaves a bouquet of roses beside his hospital bed, talks to his parents and-)

As Neito is introduced to the surprisingly built frame of Midoriya wrapping around him, warm and welcoming arms now holding on to his body like he mattered, like he was wanted, that is when he notices the thin line bound around Midoriya’s chest- and there’s a tug-

“Ggrrrk!”

(“Best Jeanist, please tell us that you can help our son!”)

Neito feels something creak in Midoriya’s frame, but even as Neito expresses horror at the pain his savior is obviously in, Midoriya only continues to smile bravely at him before whispering:

“Hang on tight, Monoma-kun.”

Midoriya takes out his staff, and with an impossibly smooth motion, he then swings it behind Monoma’s back with one hand before embedding it deep into the trunk of the World Tree.

(Best Jeanist shook his head, in negative, “I’m sorry, Monoma-san, but I can’t be that for your son.”

His parents look down at that, but then Jeanist continued, “But your son wanted to be a Hero, right? That is why he tried to Copy my Quirk?”

Aiko nodded weakly, “Yeah, it’s been always his dream to follow in our footsteps.”

If Best Jeanist was anybody else, he would have smiled. “If that’s the case, then I think you shouldn’t worry. Why? Because while a good Hero is someone that everyone could rely on, could depend on, and could look up to-”)

Bark and leaves fly everywhere as they bleed off their momentum through the staff, Monoma feeling warm red liquid fly up from behind his head and up his cheeks from where Midoriya is holding his staff as they fall, and for a moment it seems like even that wouldn’t be enough, even Midoriya yelling as he valiantly tried to save them both wouldn’t be enough-

-but then something snaps and they actually manage slow down to a stop, just halfway down the World Tree.

At that point, Neito doesn’t notice the tears leaving his eyes, only those falling from Midoriya’s as his hero smiles at him in relief, in joy like it had been Neito who had saved him instead of the opposite happening.

In that moment Neito wonders how he could have hated this person, this pure-hearted hero that had just dived off an absurdly high tree to save him, because-

(“-a great Hero is someone who knows he has others he can rely on. If your son is to be a Hero, I’m sure one day he’ll find that person who could be his friend, could be by his shoulder and teach him not just how to be good, but also how to be great.”)

How could I have forgotten those words, Best Jeanist?

“Are you okay, Monoma-kun?” Midoriya asks him, without a single speck of judgment in those emerald eyes. Neito could only nod back weakly, unable to say anything through his sudden epiphany. “Great! I didn’t really think everything I did just now would work, but it’s a good thing it all did. I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to pay for it later on though... my friends especially...”

Shinsou Hitoshi’s voice roars from above them, the fact that they could hear it from around forty feet rather telling on how angry the other teenager is, “Izuku, you’re in so much trouble once we manage to pull you two up!”

“Speak of the devil...”

In the end, they have to be pulled up slowly by both of their teams working in tandem.  Shinsou Hitoshi’s spear is strong enough to carry a person’s weight, but not two, so with the combined efforts of students from both Class 1-B and 1-C, they are soon carried to the top.

By the time they reach it, the Second Stage is nearly over, a few minutes before everyone left in the Sky Garden is disqualified, but even as Midoriya is fussed over by Katsura Kensei over cracked ribs, inflamed skin, broken capillaries and micro-tears in your lungs, Izu-chan, what the hell did you just do in a few seconds to get this hurt, Neito soon finds himself approached by Midoriya and surrounded by his teammates.

“So Monoma-kun, I know I already asked you this earlier but are you really sure you’re alright?”

Looking at Midoriya and the inoffensive and worried look on his face even after two hours of Neito making it difficult for him and his friends, what else could Neito other than to laugh with a defeated smile as he lets his body collapse into the leaves as his gaze is filled with the great blue sky?

“Never better. I’m just... going to give up now, if that’s fine with you, Midoriya Izuku.”

And just like that, the Second Stage is finally over.

Chapter Text

Chapter 15: Tournament Part 1

Neito is quiet as he watches the four stand near the edge. Beside him, his two conscious teammates lean back on the bark of the World Tree’s trunk, staying just as quiet as him as they also observed the victorious team.

“Hitoshi-kun, you somehow seem very comfortable with all of this. Have you ever used a parachute before?”

A shake of the head, accompanied by a little smile. The expression is weird on the teenager’s face, and Neito is pretty sure that Shinsou Hitoshi isn’t even aware of the fact that he was smiling. “No, not really, Megumi. Just... at this point, we’ve been through a lot, so by now a parachute isn’t really anything.”

“S-Speak for yourself, H-Hitoshi-kun,” the person that has been the only thing in Neito’s mind for the past few minutes to stutters out, Midoriya shaking a little as Katsura strapped him, and the rest of their teammates, to their respective parachutes with the ease of someone who did have experience in using parachutes before. “Oh god, before I’ve been too busy to really think about it, but now that we’re here do we really need to do this? Why do we have to jump off somewhere this high with only a piece of cloth to save us?”

“Izuku, of all people you don’t have the right to say that,” Katsura’s voice is long-suffering as finishes strapping up Midoriya before doing a quick check on everyone’s parachutes. He then heaves a satisfied sigh before commenting at Midoriya, one eye closed, “Really, compared to how you have already jumped off this very edge before without a parachute and with only Hitoshi’s spear to tether your and Monoma’s combined weights, in comparison this is supposed to be easy. Do you know just how close that line was to snapping earlier? I designed that spear well, but it has its limits!”

“Well, earlier, I was going way too fast to really stop and think about what I was doing! And please don’t tell me just how close I was to falling to my death when it might still happen this time!” Midoriya cries out, knees looking above to give once Katsura moves to stand beside him and the inevitable approached. “K-Kensei... Don’t you dare...”

“You know, Izuku, the chances of a parachute failing is one in a-”

More panic, “Don’t tell me the statistics, Hitoshi-kun! We exactly have the kind of luck for things to go wrong anyway, all you’re telling me now is that there’s a chance we’ll fall to our deaths and that’s all we need!”

“Never mind that, Izu-chan, time is running out! Come now, let’s go!”

Katsura moves his hand to the other teenager’s shoulder, and knowing just what is coming, Midoriya flusters, “K-Kensei, not yet, my heart’s not ready-!”

“Don’t worry, I trust you can do this, I taught you how to use it, right? Now, juuuuuump!”

Contrary to his own words, due to Katsura nudging him straight off the edge, Midoriya’s ‘jump’ is more a panicked flailing mess of a fall, and with a cheeky smile and a soldier’s salute at his other friends, Katsura then follows, jumping off the World Tree with much more ease.

Shinsou and Yamato exchange looks, and the next moment, Neito watches them chuckle softly.

“Well then, Megumi, let’s go now. Can’t have my rival get down from here earlier than me.”

Despite Shinsou’s words though, the girl looks reluctant, and when Neito catches her glance at them, he realizes just why the girl is so reluctant to leave when she had shown no issues with high places earlier when she was beating up on them.

Neito opens his mouth, about to tell her that she need not to worry about them-

“Don’t worry about us, Yamato-san!” Tsuburaba yells from beside Neito, and when they shoot surprised glances at him, Tsuburaba only makes a self-deprecating smile, “Hey, come on now, this girl just knocked us all flat and now she’s worrying for us? I know I may be a bit of a dolt, but I do have tact, you know.”

At those words, Kendou, who had been looking a little dispirited for a while now, manages a smile before she puts her hand on top of Tsuburaba’s head so she could mess his hair. As Tsuburaba is yelling, complaining at the overly affectionate gesture, she then turns to the other girl in their little group:

“Yeah, you should go ahead, Megumi-san. We’ll be fine, you’ll see.”

At their sudden comradery, Neito feels his heart lighten, and his resolve to do what comes next get stronger. Kendou is right – they’ll be fine, they’ll get better. He wishes Kuroiro would be awake that much sooner, but well, first Neito should make it clear that their opponents have nothing to fear for them.

“Go ahead, Yamato-san, Shinsou-san.”

Neito whispers, and everyone shoots him shocked looks at his sudden usage of honorifics. For a moment, Neito thinks he’s done something wrong, but then Shinsou studies him for a moment and an understanding smile lifts his face.

“Come on, Megumi,” Shinsou turns back to his previously-reluctant teammate, “You heard them; let’s go already.”

Yamato nods, and the next moment, both of them are gone.

Neito is pretty sure he didn’t imagine the huge sigh shared between the conscious members his team when they leave.

“So... What now?”

It is Tsuburaba who asks that question, and Kendou doesn’t seem to know what to say, so Monoma just calls upon his earlier resolve to reconcile, to apologize, and-

“We choose which of us goes on ahead, of course.”

The other two shoots him looks of confusion. It is Kendou who then speaks, “Monoma, what do you mean by that? Didn’t the rules say that we needed to form teams so we could collect parachutes? Well now, we’ve lost, and time is quickly running out. I don’t know what you think might let us find what we need in this short a time-“

Neito raises his hand, causing her to stop, and once he is sure that both of them are listening to him, Neito then starts to explain his thoughts earlier about the rules.

About how there was a loophole in that the rules never directly stated that someone couldn’t find a team, then a parachute, before using that parachute even while the rest of their team still didn’t have theirs.

“D-Do you think that could work?” Kendou finally asks, once Neito finishes his explanation. “I mean, nobody indeed said that we couldn’t do what you just said, Monoma, but at most that’s just being pedantic-”

“It’s better than nothing, isn’t it?” It is Tsuburaba that interrupts her, causing her to stumble, and then a serious look overcomes his features as he then follows, “Asking if whether we should do it or not is not what we should do now, if we have nothing to lose, Kendou. Instead, we should be asking: who gets the parachute?”

Tsuburaba sends Neito a suspicious look, “Of course, I’m pretty sure our leader is about to nominate himse-”

“I nominate Kendou-san.”

Now, both Kendou and Tsuburaba are stumbling, and to be honest Neito isn’t surprised that they look so shocked about it. After all, before this, had he been so willing to put others before himself?

No. Monom- no, Neito hadn’t been a very nice person, before all of this happened.

But that didn’t mean Neito isn’t willing to start becoming one, not after the lesson Midoriya has unknowingly taught him.

“A-Are sure, Monoma?” Kendou looks at him with so much disbelief and hope that part of Neito hurts inside to have not seen how this girl had been looking out for him all this time. It hadn’t been Neito who had put this team together and kept it that way – it was Kendou. “I m-mean, after I got tricked by Shinsou-san and knocked out Kuroiro?”

She blamed herself for that? No, no, no, Neito can’t have that-

“Really, you’re blaming yourself, Kendou, when you were the only one who actually managed to do something?” Tsuburaba says sarcastically, and Kendou looks up from where she had been staring at her feet. “Kuroiro’s Quirk was almost entirely useless against them, and more than once it had been turned against us. Monoma, well, you know what happened earlier,” Neito grimaces at that, knowing that there was at least one more person he had to apologize to, “And me?”

“I was useless, from beginning to end, just like Monoma said earlier.” Tsuburaba looks pained at that, before his face turns sympathetic, “So, yeah, I’m going with Monoma here. I nominate you, Kendou. I realize that as I am right now, if I go there on that stage, I’m not going to amount to anything. If that’s the case, why not at least send the person who had been the best of us all in this team?”

Kendou has her hands on her mouth, tears forming in her eyes, but- at this point, she just doesn’t have the time, so Neito just places his hand on her shoulder, “Come on now, you heard what we said. Go. I know you two hid the parachute a little below us earlier. Now go and get it before you lose this last chance.”

Blinking away the moisture beneath her eyelids, Kendou manages to nod once, a look of determination settling across her features before she leaves to get the parachute.

Neito whispers as she leaves, “Thank you,” and judging by the choked noise he hears before she is gone, she heard him.

Good luck, Kendou.

When a few seconds later and both Neito and Tsuburaba see Kendou’s parachute opening up below them, Neito then turns to his last remaining teammate.

“So, we’re the only ones left.”

“Yeah.”

“You know, Monoma, watching them all and seeing just how good they are compared to us? Honestly, right now, all I just want is to become stronger. To become better. And well, from what I’ve seen of Midoriya and Shinsou’s relationship, I just-”

Neito smiles, knowing where the other boy is getting to, “Want to be rivals, Tsuburaba?” I’m sorry, would this be enough?

“...Yeah, let’s be rivals, Neito. And call me Kosei.” Yeah, you’re forgiven.

Now all Neito had to do was to find a chance to talk to Midoriya Izuku again and... maybe, even call his parents before then. Just to give them their own apologies for taking so long to snap out of it, to comfort them now that Neito was finally back and...

And, Neito had an appointment to make with Hotaru-sensei.

#-#-#-#

In all honesty, Izuku really shouldn’t have panicked so much over the idea of using a parachute.

Sure, it was a little terrifying, at the beginning where Izuku was flailing to follow Kensei’s instructions on how to get it to open for him while falling from high up, but once Izuku realized, yeah, this isn’t that scary, not after doing the same thing but worse to save Monoma-kun, he soon managed to get it right, the parachute opening up above him.

And shockingly? It isn’t just Izuku and his team who are only jumping off the Sky Garden now. Below him, from the edges of the island in the sky, are more people jumping off with their own parachutes, one, two, three, four- no, ten other people only finishing the Stage so close to the end.

Had the battle for the parachutes below them, away from both Team Izuku and Team Monoma, been that close, that people were only finishing now and not much earlier?

Guess I’ll find out when we get to the ground.

Before Izuku can finish that thought however, he then yelps in shock when a strong wind blows from his right, catching on to the sails of his parachute and carrying him with it. No, not just him. Everyone was being carried by a sudden wind.

“Don’t worry, everything is going just as planned.” a voice manages to make itself clear in Izuku’s ears despite the buffeting winds, and with much surprise, Izuku realizes that he knows this voice. “Let’s give the audience a good show, shall we?”

Izuku is this close to unleashing his inner fanboy in that moment, because, Air Jet. Air Jet just spoke to him, was this Air Jet’s Quirk, squeeeee-

And just like that, Izuku and the rest of the contestants are carried by an unnatural wind in a slow spiral around the Sky Garden – lengthening their hang-time and giving them all a good view of the place they had just fought in – and soon, one by one all of them start finding their own feet back on the stage in front of the audience, and- and-

-was that people cheering his name?

“Here comes the last victors of the Second Stage!” Present Mic announces, and Izuku has to put his hands on his ears at the resultant yeeling, “Team Bakugou, Team Asui, Team Hatsume, aaaaaand, should I even say it? Teaaaaaaam Midoriya!”

Midoriya! Midoriya! Midoriya!”

As a hunted look makes its way on Izuku’s face and everyone else from Sky Garden get confused at the completely one-sided attention, Midnight then approaches them all, sees their expressions, before smiling, “I see, I suppose none of you would know why this is happening, especially you, Midoriya.”

“Well, guess what!? Present Mic, would you please do me the favor of elucidating the reason why to our guests of honor!”

“You’ve got it, Maestro!”

Izuku’s mouth then falls as he sees a video replay on the giant screen in front of them all.

Himself. Jumping off of the World Tree with only a spear to tether him.

To save Monoma-kun.

“Yeeeeeep, you’ve got that right!” Present Mic seems to have interpreted Izuku’s expression wrongly, because he then continues to talk about all of this like it’s a good thing, “We’ve seen it allllll happen before our very eyes! An act of heroism than anyone could be proud of, and not only that, from one of the member of our General Education folks! Talk about a showstopper!”

Midnight actually gives him a teasing nudge, “I believe you’ve just won yourself some fans, Midoriya-kun. Truly, what you showed us was truly inspiring, and after your earlier show during the Race? You better believe history now has its eyes on you.”

As if on cue, everyone from Class 1-A who had qualified for the Third Stage like him turn away from the giant screen in front of them in favor of giving Izuku a wary, if admiring, look. Even Kacchan seems to be impressed- no wait, there was that pounding vein again.

Once more, this is it. I am so dead.

#-#-#-#

When Midoriya Izuku enters her office with his friends, all the while quietly moaning about how everything was going wrong for him, it is at that moment that Chiyo knows that she’ll be getting a headache by the end of the day.

Let it be clear that Chiyo didn’t dislike Midoriya Izuku. In fact, one might say that she was fond of him. The boy really just inspired that fondness in other people, and Chiyo is no exception to that rule. Just that, like a certain reckless Number One Hero she knew, no matter how fond she looked at the boy, it didn’t change the fact that he had a reckless streak a mile wide.

“Now, now, Izuku-kun, there, there...”

At least this one has friends he knows he could turn to, instead of leaving it to me and Nedzu to figure out if anything was bothering him.

Once Megumi has managed to comfort Izuku – god knows how much Chiyo appreciated her presence in this maladaptive bunch of teenagers – Chiyo then coughs softly to garner everyone’s attention before asking, “So, what brings you all here? Don’t tell me you’ve all been disqualified so early.”

“Of course not, we aren’t,” Hitoshi snorts with all of the confident swagger Chiyo knew the boy took after from Aizawa, and she has to hide a smile at the thought, “We’re just here because Izuku here had to be reckless again and now he needs to get a little healing before we get back out there. We’ll just be here until Midnight calls us back again.”

Chiyo had no doubts that these four managed to progress to the tournament section, but, “You mean Midoriya-kun injured himself again?”

“It was to save someone else!” Izuku defends himself, before clarifying once Chiyo tilts her head in question, “Monoma-kun was about to fall off of that giant tree in the middle of Sky Garden, so I jumped off with Hitoshi-kun’s spear as a tether to save him. It was the right thing to do!”

Sky Garden? Wait, so Nedzu did put that outrageous idea of his in action? Oh, that rat was going to have it once Chiyo had her hands on his tail...

But despite her slightly homicidal thoughts, all Chiyo responds with is, “You do realize that if there was the possibility of people falling to their deaths, Nedzu would have placed proper precautions to prevent that from happening? Like, for example, Pixiebob would have made it so that they’ll land on a cushion of really soft soil, and since you’re talking about a tree here, Kamui would have caught them in a pile of leaves?”

Izuku raises a finger, presumably to say something in rebuttal, but then he lowers it with a blush as he looks down.

“...right, that’s probably why Air Jet was there too, isn’t it? To save anyone who fell from the island itself?”

She nods again. “Yes. Otherwise, he’ll be putting you all in more danger than is necessary, and really, we can’t have an accident happening on campus with all of these visitors around, can we?”

When it finally seems like the boy is accepting her words, Chiyo then turns to his friends, namely the two teenagers she knew could help her do her job.

 “But nevermind that. Katsura-kun, I believe you have done a check-up of your own? Can you and Yamato-kun pass me what you have?”

“Of course, Recovery Girl!”

As she watches Kensei give Megumi a high-five, or as the two seemed to call it, an ‘upload, Chiyo contemplates on how lucky it was that these two had met as a result of the green-haired boy before her.

All too often, she saw kids in this school combine their Quirks in destructive ways. Once, there had been a couple of students from the Heroic Department, one with a Quirk that let her recreate scents and smells with bubbles, and another with a Quirk that wielded fire.

Everything was all good and well, up until Pyro had the bright idea of asking Bubble Girl if she could recreate the smell of methane for an experiment, and just like that, one of the buildings in campus caught fire when Bubble Girl literally slapped him in the face with the smell he had asked for.

It was a good thing that nobody had been injured, but really, compared to that? A pair of Quirks working together in a constructive way really was a breath of fresh air.

When she did finally receive what Kensei scanned off of Izuku though? A frown settles on Recovery Girl’s face as she prompts Izuku to sit on one of her beds.

“Midoriya-kun, would you please tell me more about what happened? From what I could see, you have accumulated quite a number of injuries, thankfully minor, but from what I get of Katsura-kun’s scan you must have gotten them all very quickly in a short period of time.”

Hitoshi blinks, “Wait, Recovery Girl, you could do that? I thought Kensei wasn’t that good with the psychometry part of his Quirk.”

The teenager turns to owner of the Quirk in question, and when Kensei shakes his head at the unspoken question, Chiyo explains, “Well, yes, but unlike Katsura-kun here I do have the required medical training to make that judgment. It’s merely a matter of knowledge and experience. While it is easy to diagnose cracked ribs, for example, I could tell that the reason why Midoriya-kun cracked his third, fourth, and fifth pairs of ribs is something like a rope or line having constricted his chest because I have the experience of recognizing them.”

She then turns back to Izuku, poking at those ribs in question and making the boy wince. “These, I can easily explain. But the dehydration? The inflammation of his skin, the broken capillaries all over his front, the damage to his lungs as though someone just pumped them with too much air? That I can’t think up of an explanation for, at least not without involving Quirks.”

“So explain, young man,” Chiyo pins Izuku down with a glare, not willing to let him leave without an explanation, Sports Festival be damned, “As one of your counselors, I need to know if you have thought up of yet another use for Minor Banishment, so I could judge if you’re ready to use it.”

“I-It’s okay, Recovery Girl! I know when to use it and w-when to not use it, so I don’t-!”

Chiyo only hums loudly, intensifying her glare all the while, and for a moment the teenager squirms.

It doesn’t last long though, as soon Izuku breaks and Chiyo gets the explanation she had wanted. Being in the same room, Kensei, Hitoshi, and Megumi also become witness to the same explanation, and once Izuku is done explaining, all three of them have their mouths falling open.

“Izu-chan...” Kensei looks flabbergasted, like he can’t quite believe his friend, “I’ve always known that you were smart and a little reckless, but this... How long did you take to think up of this!? Last I knew, you couldn’t do something like this yesterday!”

Izuku rubs the back of his head sheepishly, “Um, thirty minutes ago? I mean, after fighting Tsuburaba-kun, I was hit the idea, and well... Voila?”

“Thirty minutes, right...” Hitoshi nods weakly at that, before turning to his other two friends, “Kensei, Megumi, are you thinking what I’m thinking?”

“I could check,” Megumi raises her hand, before putting it back down, “but I think we should all just say it at once, to be sure.”

“Right. In one, two, three...”

All at once, the trio turn to Izuku in chorus, “Izuku/Izu-chan/Izuku-kun, you’re both really smart and really reckless.”

Izuku faceplants, “You guys!”

“Hey, it’s a consensus,” Kensei defends, “Because really? You are kind of smart in a stupidly reckless way, Izu-chan, to have thought of such a use of your Quirk so quickly and actually putting in into action the next moment. Actually, I think anyone can see that at this point.”

“I-I’m not that bad! Or at least, I think I am...”

From where she had been watching them bicker on the side, Chiyo smiles at the byplay between the teenagers. The fact that they had accepted Izuku’s newest bit of reckless brilliance so easily, honestly, given the fact that Hitoshi in particular was Izuku’s rival?

It really said a lot about the strength of their bonds.

However, all things must come to an end, and really Chiyo expected more patients who got disqualified from the Second Stage to come by soon, so she interrupts their talk with a little kiss on Izuku’s forehead, activating her Quirk for a moment before she pulls away.

“Midoriya-kun,” Chiyo speaks as Izuku is just recovering from the shock of getting one of her granny kisses, “Knowing you, I believe I can understand why you thought up of this technique, and why you would probably continue using it even if I tell you to stop. This new technique of yours is absolutely dangerous to you and you alone, but that’s exactly the point, isn’t it?”

“Compared to your Scalpel, even with its self-damaging cost, this is a potential use of your Quirk that could let you fight and help people with hurting them. You’re a kind boy, Midoriya Izuku, but really sometimes I believe you can be too kind if this is how you view yourself.”

Izuku looks down at that, not willing to meet her in the eyes, and Chiyo sighs. It’ll be a long while before she could fix this, even with Thirteen’s help, but for now? Maybe a warning would suffice.

“At this rate, if you would continue using your Quirk like this without the necessary precautions, you would end up like Toshinori.” Izuku looks up at that in shock, obviously wondering what Chiyo means by that, but no, Chiyo wouldn’t explain something that this boy’s mentor held the duty to, “And honestly, I can’t trust you to take care of yourself, so... Katsura-kun, Shinsou-kun, Yamato-kun?”

All three students look at her readily, “Please watch over Midoriya-kun here. There are some things even I cannot heal, and it is my fear that Midoriya-kun would injure himself before he actually grows to become that Hero he dreams to be.”

Hitoshi nods the most seriously, “You don’t even have to ask us, Recovery Girl. We would do it of our own volition.”

“Exactly.”

For a minute, everything is quiet as Chiyo’s Quirk does its work on Izuku, fixing all of the damage quickly and making him a little tired, but as it is? That quiet minute is solemn, hushed, and if Chiyo even dared, hopeful.

Because she knows that a promise has been made here, a promise that these children are willing to keep.

But then-

“Toshinori-san, do you know how much this dress cost me? I only bought it last week, just for this special day, and now I’m going to have to work hard to remove all of these bloodstains without ruining the cloth more than it already has...”

“I said I’m sorry Inko-san! Here, I promise I’ll get you a new one, let’s just be quieter now that we’re here at Recovery Girl’s... Chiyo’s never been fond of me making noise in her office...”

“-I really should have realized that mentioning Toshinori’s name earlier would end up calling him here...” Chiyo rubs a hand at her forehead, causing the teenagers in front of her to laugh.

“That sounds like... Mom!” Izuku turns his head at the door, just in time for his mother to go through it, Inko’s exasperated glare disappearing at the sight of her son.

“Izuku!”

Inko rushes forward to pull her son into a hug, but before she can, Kensei notices something about the Midoriya mother’s state of dress, or rather, the state of her dress.

“Midoriya-obasan, why are you covered in blood?”

At that, Inko stops approaching Izuku, realizing just in time that she had been about to smudge her son in bloodstains, and the waspish glare makes its reappearance as Inko turns back at the door where Toshinori is.

“It’s because someone had to cough it up on me, and let me tell you something, watching something as stressful as Izuku jumping off of that giant tree is bad enough with sitting beside Toshinori-san for the most of it.”

 “I really am sorry about that, Inko-san, really...” Toshinori sighs as he enters the room before nodding at Chiyo, “Afternoon, Recovery Girl. Inko and I just thought to visit Izuku and his team here, as we knew they’ll visit it, and well, now that we’re at it maybe you have something that Inko could change into...”

“I see you two have met.”

Toshinori chuckles sheepishly at that, “Maybe a little disastrously, but yes, we’ve gotten introduced earlier today.”

Chiyo raises a brow at that. With the familiarity between Inko and Toshinori, one would think that they had known each other for much longer, especially with the slightly-timid Inko actually expressing irritation at something Toshinori did. To think that they became this comfortable around each other so quickly...

For moment, Chiyo toyed with a sudden idea, before dismissing it the next moment. She was too old to involve herself in matters like this, might as well just let things go on naturally if that would indeed be the case.

“I do have some hospital gowns around, but I believe that there is a better alternative compared to that. Midoriya-kun?”

“Already on it.” Izuku seems to have fully shaken off the exhaustion brought about by her Quirk, as he stands up easily to catch his mother’s dress by a sleeve. “Right, I’ve already seen how this dress should look like without the blood, so...”

Toshinori blinks at that, before realizing, “Oh right, Midoriya-kun could clean stains! I can’t believe I haven’t considered that!”

“With everything that has happened, I’m not surprised that you have forgotten, Toshinori-san,” Izuku only smiles at that, before finally stepping back from Inko’s suddenly clean dress, “Here you go, Mom, fresh from the Midoriya Dry-Cleaning Service. Now we know that if I ever have to retire in the future as a Hero, I can have that as a job. Who cares if the world needs rescuing when you have a dirty dress?”

Chiyo makes a mental note at how fast the boy has managed that. From what Toshinori had told her, all those months ago it took Izuku quite a while to clean his own clothes when Toshinori had covered him in blood. For Izuku to have managed to clean his mother’s dress in a few seconds, when he only had memory to work off with, that said a lot about the leaps of progress the boy had done in terms of controlling and using his Quirk.

“We could probably use that as an actual tagline Izuku,” Inko teases for a moment before giving her son a hug at last, prompting a squeak from Izuku. “But really, thank you, and how am I glad to see you’re fine. Watching you and your friends do all those crazy stunts... you nearly gave me and Toshinori-san a heart attack there in the stands, mister!”

Izuku mumbles something vaguely resembling a sorry into Inko’s shoulder, and seeing a lull in their moment, Megumi takes the chance to whisper to Toshinori, “So you and Inko-san were sitting together, Toshinori-san? I thought you said you were going to go sit in the teacher’s box...”

Strangely, Toshinori averts his gaze away from the telepath, “Actually about that...”

He devolves into mumbling that nobody else could hear, and with a sigh, Inko explains on his stead, “We got kicked out of the stands for being overly disruptive and littering.”

A moment of silence, and then Hitoshi saying, “What.”

“It’s a long story involving several boxes of popcorn and of course, Toshinori-san making a bloody mess right in front of everyone watching. Thankfully, we can still move to the teacher’s box with Principal Nedzu’s permission, but well...”

Inko places her face in her hands embarrassedly, “I think they caught us on camera. Oh my god, how can I ever show my face in public now?”

A moment of silence, and then-

“Hahahahahahaha!”

The teenagers start laughing, including Izuku, and Inko lifts her head with a little smile, “Alright, laugh it up, you little hyenas. Laugh at my suffering. And Toshinori-san, stop giving me that commiserating look like you aren’t why I’m facing this problem in the first place.”

Toshinori pouts at that.

Chiyo has to muffle her own chuckles behind a hand, but then she notices the time and sighs, “Alright, everyone, it has been fun to have you all here mostly uninjured, but I do have a job to do and you four,” She points at the students in the room, “Don’t you all have somewhere to be?”

Izuku yelps at that, “Right, Midnight told us to reconvene by four!”

From there, it’s all a rush. Izuku and his friends start preparing to leave, Chiyo giving Megumi a little kiss on the forehead of her own when she mumbles something about muscle soreness, and just as the teenagers are about to leave, Inko yells, “Wait, Izuku!”

Izuku looks back from the door, “Yes, Mom?”

Inko looks like she is warring with herself for a moment, and then, “...Do your best out there, Izuku. And to the rest of your friends too.”

“Thanks Mom! Now, we have to go!”

They run off, and once it is clear that they are out of earshot, Inko sighs to herself, “I wanted to tell him to stay safe, but knowing him, he would probably conveniently forget it on that stage. Why do I have a feeling that he’ll be back in this office at least twice by the end of the day?”

“Because at this point you know just how reckless your son is, that’s why,” Chiyo says bluntly.

“Yeah, that’s probably it,” Inko sighs again, placing a hand on her cheek.

“I’m afraid I’m going to add to your worries in moment,” Chiyo would have to warn Inko about Izuku’s newest technique, can’t have her just finding out when Izuku would inevitably use it during one of his battles, “but for now that’ll have to be put on hold, because Toshinori?”

Toshinori, All Might, Number One Hero, freezes as Chiyo catches him just before he was about to sneak out of the room while she was distracted.

“...Yes, Recovery Girl?”

Chiyo smiles. It isn’t a very nice expression, promising pain. “What’s this about the boxes of popcorn Inko-san mentioned earlier? Were you trying to cheat your diet again?”

Toshinori has to gulp at that.

#-#-#-#

“So, now that we’ve all had that short break, it’s time to finally settle the pairings for the upcoming Tournament!” Midnight announces, whipping her riding crop at nothing in particular just for the heck of it. “First, announcing all of who have managed to get through the Sky Garden Stage!”

“First team to finish, but unfortunately had a problem with one of their parachutes causing one of them to be disqualified, Team Ibara!”

(Shiozaki Ibara bows her head over and over at her disqualified teammate, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry-!”

“Don’t worry, like I said it’s fine,” Honezuki Juzo only waves it off. “You and Tetsutetsu were the ones who did most of the work of finding those parachutes and getting us out of there, so I don’t mind being the one to give you the chance you rightly deserve on the Tournament.”

“Bu you were even the one who rescued me when my hair ripped apart my parachute and I fell out of the sky!”

“Hey, I’m going to be Hero like the rest of Class 1-B. Saving people is kind of the thing we’ll have to do, so really, I have no regrets ending my Sports Festival with this.” Honezuki smiles, as much as he could anyway with his lack of lips.

In the side, Tetsutetsu is too busy crying about the awesomeness of his friend to say anything.)

“Second team to finish after rampaging through Sky Garden and hunting down the rest of their classmates, the Class 1-A Hunters, Team Bakugou!”

(Yaoyorozu sighs at that moniker. “I knew that we were going to regret going after our classmates.”

“What do you mean by that, Ponytail?” Bakugou only growls, looking pissed off as always, though perhaps a little more so ever since he say the clip of Izuku rescuing Monoma, “It doesn’t matter what they call us as long as I get to battle Deku during the end of the Tournament!”

Todoroki says bluntly, “You do realize that there is a fifty-fifty chance that you’ll have to fight Midoriya before that, and that’s only if both of you don’t lose to someone else first?”

Like me, goes unsaid, but Bakugou has only one thing to say at Todoroki’s provocation:

“Shut up, you shithead! Like I told you, stop bothering me already, I’m not interested in fighting you!”

Beside the two bickering teens, once more Yaoyorozu sighs. Why was it that she had to team up with these two battle-obsessed boys again?)

“Third team, sneaking past Team Bakugou and earning themselves a quiet victory, Team Asui!”

(Sero grins at his teammates, “Funny how we’re just known for escaping Bakugou’s team, huh?”

“No wonder though, ribbit,” Asui puts a finger on her chin. “After all, that pretty much what we all did, hiding in the trees and not facing them like the rest of our classmates that came across their team.”

“Hueeeeee, we were lucky that we stumbled on those parachutes!” Uraraka wipes some sweat off of her forehead at that. “I was about to panic when we only had thirty minutes left and we still didn’t have a parachute for Sero-kun...”

“Hey, you were counting me last? That’s cold man!”)

“Fourth, for giving us a show straight out of a cartoon with their runaway train strategy all over Sky Garden, Team Hatsume!”

(“It’s funny because it’s true,” Mineta leans his head on a nearby pole as he says this, his soul nearly flying out his mouth.

“No, it’s not funny, Mineta-kun!” Iida chops a hand at his direction, before turning back at the girl trying to put something around his ankles, “And Hatsume-san, please stop putting anymore of your inventions on me!”

Hatsume only grins despite Iida’s complaints, “But Iida-kun, wasn’t it fun, running all over the forest with my babies? With my inventions, you had an amazing time carrying us both on your back for most of the Sky Garden! My auto-balancer had let you run without ever falling, the inertia-manipulator let you accelerate with no problem, my portable shield and armor had protected us as we bulled through the trees-”

“No, stop, stop, I’m trying to repress all of it, don’t mess with my process now!” Mineta puts his hands over his ears as he pukes his guts out to the ground at the mere memory of the horrors he had faced with this big-busted but crazy chick.)

“Fifth, lone but with the blessing of her teammates, Itsuka Kendou from Team Monoma!”

(Kendou stood out, standing alone amongst the other teams, but with the approval of Midnight – “It’s kind of stretching the rules, but I like that! You’re in! – and the support of her teammates behind her, despite everything, she shines with determination.

“I’m not going to fail them entrusting this last chance in me, not if I have anything to say about it.”)

“And certainly, last but not least, Team Midoriya!”

(At the sudden cheer that had erupted from the audience, Izuku gulps, before shaking his head and pulling up his resolution from earlier that day when Kacchan had put the spotlight on him and the same thing happened.

It doesn’t matter what they think, or even if they’re already wary of me.

No matter what, I’ll just do my best to win anyway.

“So, this is it,” He mumbles to himself first, before repeating himself, much louder this time. “This is it!”

Hitoshi puts a hand on his shoulder, “Yeah, Izuku, this is it. Starting from here, we’ll just be rivals now.”

Izuku nods, smiling back at his friend, “Good luck Hitoshi-kun.”

“You do know I could’ve used my Quirk on you at that, right?” Hitoshi teases for a moment before shaking his head, “But yeah, good luck Izuku. Don’t you dare lose before you fight me.”

“And remember, we’ll be right behind you,” Kensei and Megumi approach them with smiles on their faces.)

“Sixteen students, the perfect number to hold a single-elimination tournament! Now everyone start drawing your lots... Everyone has their lots drawn? Alright, time to announce the pairings!”

"I'm going to have to fight Bakugou-san," Yaoyorozu whispers to herself in dread.

"I'm going to fight Deku early!?" The explosive teenager in question, well, explodes at the realization that his final match with Izuku wouldn't be so final after all, now that they were in the same bracket. "I demand a fucking retry, this is bullshit!"

Todoroki only hums in satisfaction beside them. He could do with these matches.

"So I'm going to be fighting Yamato-san?" Tsuyu observes placidly, before smiling at her opponent in question. "Let's have a good match, ribbit."

Megumi smiles back; it certainly looked like she had the luck to pick a good opponent. "Yes, we should, Asui-san."

"Call me Tsuyu."

"Truly, I am lucky to have gotten Midoriya-kun as an opponent this early!" Iida yells, absolutely overjoyed at the idea of matching off against Izuku first. "May this be a fair fight as you wished for us to have, Midoriya-kun!"

Izuku can only nod and laugh weakly at the other teenager's excitement.

"Oh no." Yaoyorozu seems to not be the only one feeling dread, as Kensei's shaky voice soon shows, "I'm going to have to fight a girl."

"You're the one who's lucky!" Mineta complains loudly, "I'm going have to fight a guy, and what's this? Purple versus purple? I demand restitution!"

Watching all of their reactions, Midnight smiles to herself. It certainly looked like this was going to be a very exciting and eventful tournament.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 16: Tournament Part 2

It’s funny, how sometimes you might both anticipate and dread a potentially life-changing event, only to react in a positively tranquil way when it finally does come.

That’s how Hitoshi feels at the moment, stepping into the arena and facing the gazes of so many people sitting in their seats watching him and everything he did. He knows that he should feel a little intimidated by this situation, even a little scared like his rival did a few moments before, but despite the fact that this Tournament is starting with his match and nobody else’s, Hitoshi just feels... serene.

Yes, serene, that’s the right word for it.

Maybe it is because of all the hard work he had done just to get here, bolstering his confidence with the sheer assurance of knowing that he could fight now, and not only that, fight well. Maybe it’s because of all the promises he has made prior to this, the knowing expectation of a match with his rival at the end of the tournament keeping his spirits buoyed above the sea of doubts.

“O-Oh, I didn’t really think that there’ll be this many people watching me, honestly I’m a little scared now- but just think of all the fangirls I might get for getting this far...”

Or maybe it’s because his enemy looks like he’d be defeated by a strong wind. Could Hitoshi even call it auspicious that his first enemy is like this and not, say, Bakugou Katsuki? He knows that this match will practically be a bye, but that means that it won’t really be a test of his skill.

No matter. The simple crux of the matter is that right now Mineta is standing in the way of his upcoming match with Izuku and, potentially, his future in the Hero Department. All he has to do now is to just get past this, and if Aizawa-sensei taught him anything, it would be how to treat his enemies correctly.

You can’t underestimate your enemies, nor should you overestimate them. Just judge them for what they are, and then do what you must to achieve your goals.

Remember this, brat, because it’ll keep you alive if you want to become a Hero.

“Ready...”

Mineta puts his hands on his head, obviously preparing to pepper him with those sticky balls that Hitoshi had observed the other purple-haired teenager throwing around during their observation stint in the USJ. It wouldn’t do, he knew, to get caught by them.

 “GO!”

Hitoshi readies his spear and shoots forward in a dash.

#-#-#-#

Grape Set!

Megumi blinks when she sees Hitoshi’s opponent start off the match by throwing a lot of those purple orbs upwards, as opposed to hurling them directly at Hitoshi. Her bemusement only intensifies when Mineta then avoids being pinned down by her friend’s spear in an equally odd way: by curling in and running in a fetal pose away from her friend, all the while persisting in throwing his balls towards the sky with seemingly no effort in trying to get them to land on Hitoshi at all.

True, throwing those balls up and letting gravity do the work of bringing them back down was far less predictable compared to chucking them directly at her friend, but less predictable didn’t always mean more likely to hit, and Hitoshi seemed to be up to the job of preventing them from falling anywhere on him anyway.

Maybe Izuku or Kensei have a better idea of what was happening?

She voices her confusion softly, “I don’t get what Mineta-san is up to...”

 “I do. Or at least, I think I can get a gist of what Mineta is planning,” Kensei nods once, before pointing at one of the balls their friend on the stage dodged only to get left on the surface of the arena. “You see how those balls are all over the place now? Those would become rather dangerous tripping hazards, especially in a limited space such as this stage, because if Hitoshi gets caught once that’ll be pretty much leave him open to being attacked more directly. The more balls Mineta throws, the less space Hitoshi could move in, like mines in a field.”

“Not only that, Kensei-kun,” her other friend then adds, Izuku furiously scribbling into one of his notebooks all the while. “Remember how we’ve seen Mineta-kun be immune to the sticking effects of his own Quirk? Combine that with the springiness and the elasticity of them and-”

“Oh, what’s this!? We’ve seen nothing but pretty lame moves from Mineta Minoru, but somehow he’s now moving all over the stage with surprising speed!?”

“-As I thought, that might happen,” Izuku nods, looking not at all surprised at the sight of Mineta using his orbs as bouncy stepping stones, sometimes even throwing in an odd little cartwheel here and there that left even more balls littered all over the arena floor.

As for their friend, Hitoshi was looking to be rather annoyed at the sudden need to watch his step, combined with the fact that he now also needed to dodge actual direct attempts by Mineta to lob him in a face with a purple ball.

“Remember folks, those balls are more dangerous than what you’d think! You might underestimate them now, with them only sticking to you when you let yourself get hit by them, but if one of those gets into your face, you could get blinded or even suffocate! What will Shinsou Hitoshi do now!?”

Megumi for a moment just absorbs those words, before shaking her head with a little smile.

“What has you smiling like that, Megumi-chan?” Kensei asks her, confused at her reaction.

Megumi explains with a little laugh, “It’s just a little funny – I really should have learned at this point to not underestimate weak-looking Quirks, with how Izuku-kun uses his, with how I use Touch-Based Telepathy these days, but somehow I still managed to think that Mineta-kun would be far less of a threat than this.”

Kensei blinks at that, before shaking his head with a smile of his own, “With how Mineta’s appearance and general personality is, I don’t blame you. In all honesty, in that aspect he’s got an advantage – he can make people underestimate him, and as my own experience tells me, that helps a lot in fighting people above your own weight class.”

“There’s something I don’t get, though,” Izuku speaks up again, lifting his pencil from his notebook and pointing it at his rival, who batted away an incoming ball with the extended line of his spear, only to find it clogged once the line retracted and the ball kept everything past the point it was stuck on slack and unmoving. “I’ve sparred with Hitoshi-kun many times, and I know he can do better than this. Even with all of Mineta-kun’s ways of manipulating the field to his advantage, I’m pretty sure that if Hitoshi wanted to he could have won several times over at this point. I also know that he wouldn’t underestimate Mineta-kun, so... why?”

Kensei also raises a brow at that, “Yeah, from here, Mineta looks to be openly talking to Hitoshi, so... Why? Why hasn’t he used his Quirk to end this yet?”

This time, it’s Megumi who smiles as she knows it’s her turn to know the answer. After all, while Izuku might be amazing at analyzing Quirks and making strategies, and Kensei’s specialty of trickery and trap-setting helped him quickly understand what Mineta was going after, her specialty was people and how they thought, doubly so if they were her friends and she had a close-up view of how they were affected by everything around them.

“Isn’t it simple?” she asks lightly, catching the attention of her friends and making them turn to her, “You of all people should know this, Izuku-kun: when you challenged everyone from Class 1-A for a fair fight, you were hardly the only one of us that agreed to it.”

Izuku blinks, before clearly realizing, “It would be rather unsporting and also boring to not let someone have the chance to show what they can do in the Sports Festival-”

“-So Hitoshi is just letting Mineta have that chance, so when he does finally win, not only will it have given Mineta an opportunity to showcase his Quirk, but it’ll be that much more impressive!” Kensei finishes loudly. He then turns back to Hitoshi’s direction, “Go, go, go- You’re so awesome, Hitoshi!”

Megumi nods at that, satisfied.

#-#-#-#

This was really getting annoying, fast.

When Hitoshi decided to let Mineta show off a bit, as a mere nod to sportsmanship, he didn’t think that things would get sticky this quickly, literally. In retrospect, maybe he really shouldn’t have given the little pervert a chance, considering how he is acting now:

“Look! Look! Can you move under all this, huh? You don’t think you’re so awesome now, huh!?”

So much for keeping things cordial between their group and Class 1-A.

Hitoshi is fairly sure that anybody with a brain would have figured out his Brainwashing by now, with how his method of controlling Kendou got caught on camera earlier with Izuku’s stunt; so either Mineta still hadn’t caught the memo yet, or had just let the little victories Hitoshi let him have get into his purple head.

Either way, Mineta was an idiot, and not only that, an idiot who was quickly ticking him off.

Well then, I suppose that’s enough showboating for anyone.

Spinning his spear in front of him like a baton, Hitoshi makes use of the line as a shield to deflect any more of the incoming projectiles. Sure, it had been a little irritating to figure out that Mineta’s balls had been sticky enough to stay on even with so little surface area, but at least that meant Hitoshi had something to exploit.

Apparently expecting an attack incoming, Mineta takes a step back, making a stick out of multiple connected balls, but at this point, Hitoshi isn’t of the mind to play anymore. Mineta’s balls might be grating, with how Hitoshi has to keep himself from touching them, but Hitoshi didn’t go through Aizawa’s training for nothing.

Time to end this, Mineta. I won’t even have to use Brainwashing for this.

#-#-#-#

“Eraser,” Hizashi wraps his hand over the mic, knowing that Aizawa wouldn’t want the public to hear this little conversation of theirs, “So those are two of your kids fighting down there, huh? I would know, considering all the classes you forced me to handle while you taught little Shinsou.”

Aizawa only rolls his eyes, “Like it isn’t yours and All Might’s fault that I have to handle one, no, two more brats in the first place. It’s bad enough that I have to handle a class with Bakugou in it without Midoriya and Shinsou adding to my load.”

Hizashi quirks a brow in quiet amusement.  He didn’t deny them being his kids.

“Well, are you sure you’ve been teaching Shinsou-kun well? He had been so desperate to have you as a teacher, and look at him now, having problems with our little Mineta-kun. You must be slipping if that’s the result of more than a week of training.”

“You’ve got that wrong. It wasn’t me who taught him that little foolishness he’s now doing,” Aizawa turns his eyes back to his two students, seeing the obvious influences that All Might and that little protégé of his had on one of them, “And really, do you think that I would waste my time on someone with no potential? I thought you knew me more than this, Present Mic.”

(This is the third time you’ve puked this week. Are you sure you aren’t going to give up now, brat?

Determination. Will. Resolve.

Like I said so many times already... Don’t count me out yet, Aizawa-sensei! I can do this, I won’t give up or let this level of training scare me! If I want to be a Hero, I can’t be scared of something as unimportant as this, when there are far greater things to be terrified about!

Oh? So you do have some things that you are scared of, then?

I do. Losing Izuku, Kensei, or Megumi, failing to get to the Hero Department, breaking any of my promises... Those I’m scared of. I don’t want them to happen. But if there’s anything I know, sensei, it’s that I am not scared of you!)

Very few things have impressed Aizawa. Considering the short list of people who’d managed it didn’t include the most influential Hero of the century, it said a lot when a teenager not even half his age managed to get himself on that least within a month of Aizawa knowing him.

So in light of that? No, Aizawa had no doubts on how this battle is going to end.

“Look, it’s just about time that this farce is over, Hizashi.”

As Aizawa watches Hizashi gibber at the sight of Shinsou quickly taking down his purple counterpart, for a moment Aizawa lets himself quietly hope that Mineta would take something from this particular wake-up call that certainly had been a long time coming.

#-#-#-#

To Mineta, it all happens extremely quickly.

With far more grace than he’d previously shown, Hitoshi easily clears the maze of balls Mineta had trapped him in, and just as Mineta tries to use his new Grape Rod as a makeshift whip, that frustrating spear of his comes back into play again to smack the collection of Mineta’s own sticky balls on its line to his whip.

Mineta’s eyes then go wide as he finds the Grape Rod turned against him, wrapping around his body as Hitoshi clears past him, and it is too fast – far too fast – and the rest of the line is wrapping around him like a snake, keeping his arms stuck to his sides and leaving him unable to do anything.

Because while the balls of his Pluck never stuck to Mineta, that immunity didn’t apply between the balls themselves, leaving Mineta trapped in a problem of his own making, compounded by a sudden kick to his back that has him falling forwards, conveniently also sticking him to the floor.

Wha-wha-what’s this!? In one fell swoop, Shinsou Hitoshi has managed to take down Mineta, and with Mineta’s own Quirk to boot! I hope you’re all watching this folks, because it looks like Shinsou Hitoshi is something to fear!”

Mineta groans, trying to keep his face from eating the concrete even with all of his own balls trying to make him face it. “How!? How is it that you are so fast!?”

“It was a bit interesting, how you managed to apply your Quirk a little creatively,” Hitoshi speaks behind him, Mineta unable to turn and look at his face with everything keeping him bound to the floor, “But, in the end, trickery without any force behind it just won’t be enough to defeat me. If you trained yourself properly, you would’ve easily seen me coming, but now because you didn't, you've lost. ”

Mineta can only keep quiet at that accusation. As much as he didn’t want to admit it, he really hadn’t trained for this tournament. The only reason why he got this far was because he got lucky enough to be carried all the way here.

If it had been his perversion that had been attacked, he wouldn’t be so affected, Mineta knows; he was already so used to justifying himself that he wasn’t even ashamed of showing every bit of it anymore.

But as it was, what Hitoshi Shinsou is rubbing directly into his face right now is far from it – instead, he is pointing out just how weak Mineta really was, and if a student, not even a member of the Heroic Department, managed to defeat Mineta so easily?

In the face of a real Villain, you’ll simply die, went unsaid.

“Take a lesson from this, Mineta Minoru. If you really want to be a Hero, take it seriously.”

Mineta clenches his teeth and fights back tears of humiliation.

#-#-#-#

“Alright, my turn next, Izuku-kun, Kensei-kun. Cheer me on, alright?”

“Like you even have to ask!”

#-#-#-#

It takes Hitoshi a ridiculous amount of time to finally leave the arena. With Mineta himself trapped and unable to move and thus unable to detach his orbs himself, it took them getting help from the organizers just to fix everything and get Hitoshi’s spear back to him intact. At least with Cementoss around it had been much easier to clean the arena itself, though.

Looking up, he sees his friends cheering at him. Izuku has a big proud smile on his face, while Kensei was clapping like his life depended on it. As for Megumi, the girl only sends him a nod before turning around to leave the stands - understandable considering the fact that it was her match next.

Hitoshi just sends them a small smirk and a wave before he loses sight of them as he enters the corridor to exit the arena.

Part of the way though, he hears an odd thump down one of halls. It piqued his curiosity, and when another much louder thump echoes through the walls, that’s when Hitoshi decides that this deserves an investigation.

What Hitoshi sees surprises him, and he quickly hides himself behind a corner.

“Damnit, you fucking asshole! Didn’t I already tell you to leave me alone!”

Bakugou, the origin of the noises judging from how his hand is placed over a soot-covered spot on the wall, has his face pressed close to none other than Todoroki Shouto’s. And from the crazed expression on his face? Izuku’s so-called ‘childhood friend’ isn’t just angry. He is absolutely, hell-raisingly mad.

Despite that though? Todoroki sure was living up to his stoic, ice-cool image, because he wasn’t even reacting at the complete breach in personal space.

“I just thought to remind you about my declaration of war earlier.”

Hitoshi’s eyes go wide as Bakugou slams his fist into the wall again. “Like I said, I don’t fucking care about you and your daddy issues! I have enough on my fucking plate already with Deku, so just forget me ever becoming your ‘rival’ so you can prove to Endeavor whatever it is you want to prove!”

Todoroki? Having problems with Endeavor? What’s going on?

Hitoshi is about to eavesdrop further into their conversation when, suddenly, his phone starts beeping quietly in his pocket. To his horror, Bakugou and Todoroki freeze, showing that they’ve heard him, and before Hitoshi knows it, he is already running away.

Knowing Bakugou, Hitoshi could get hurt or worse just for having overheard them, and he can’t let anything impede his coming final battle with Izuku now.

Whatever it is, it doesn’t involve me. Not now, not ever.

As Hitoshi pointedly ignores that little voice in the back of his head that reminds him, Chances are, Todoroki’s going to your enemy before that, he takes out the phone that had incriminated him to look at whatever message the sender apparently thought was worth alerting two ticking bombs to his presence.

What he does see almost makes him trip.

“Hitoshi, wheeeereee aaaaaare yooooou? You’re missing Megumi-chan and Asui-san’s match! Don’t you want to know who might end up making you eat the dirt?”

Followed by a series of face-slamming emojis.

“Kensei,” Hitoshi hisses to himself as he runs, “You better hope you that Megumi’s back by the time I get there, because Izuku’s going to need her help to prevent me from killing you.”

#-#-#-#

Ten minutes ago:

“Next match is going to be Megumi-chan’s match, right?”

It’s weird to be sitting with so many Heroes, Inko finds. Intellectually she knew that there were a lot of professional Heroes teaching in Yuuei, even more so recently now that she kept herself up to date with their names and histories for Izuku, but it was different knowing it compared to actually experiencing it for herself.

“Megumi, that’s the Yamato girl, isn’t she?” Vlad ‘Call me Kan’ King is the one who responds to her question, nodding appreciatively at the only female member of her son’s close group of friends. “From what I’ve seen, she’s a good kid. Knows her punches.”

He says it in a mostly unaffected tone, though Inko is fairly sure that there was some grudging admiration in there too.

“‘Knows her punches?’“ Snipe repeats with a little scoff, his distinctive accent coloring his words, “That ain’t all of it, from what I can see. That girl has consistently taken down whoever fought against her hand-to-hand, and considering that she’s from General Education like the rest of her team? Makes one wonder how long she’s been trained to fight like that, because she certainly ain’t learning it from here.”

The Cowboy Hero then turns back to Inko, tilting his head and almost prompting a squeak from her, “Don’t you think so, Midoriya-san?”

It was even more different, having the attention of so many famous people focused on her. If it was any worse than this, Inko knew she would end up feeling too self-conscious. Good thing she sat between Thirteen and Toshinori-san, the only people she knew personally in this place.

Toshinori rescues her with a cough, “Actually, it might be difficult to believe, but that’s all the result of Megumi-kun’s hard work ever since she got into Yuuei, not before.”

It’s not only Snipe who turns to look incredulously towards Toshinori at that. Kan is only the most vocal, understandable considering that it was his students that Megumi defeated during the Second Stage. He certainly doesn’t sound as unaffected now as he reacts loudly:

“But she’s a First Year! You mean she got that good in so short a time!?”

Toshinori makes a little proud smile, before idly saying, “If we’re talking about direct combat here, without the use of Quirks or any trickery? Megumi-kun would wipe the floor against the rest of her team, as well as most of the competition here. I say this with absolute certainty.”

Several nods, “If you say so, Toshinori-san… ”

As Inko watches the Heroes around them respond to that particular statement with quiet acceptance, even Kan who is currently taking back his seat after having left it during that outburst, she considers how easily they accept his word without any dispute on their part against Toshinori.

Sure, even Inko knows that Quirks and/or trickery mattered a lot when it came to fighting, especially for Heroes thus making Toshinori’s statement much less polarizing that it might have been, but that still left Toshinori suggesting that Megumi could defeat a lot of people, including some of the very students the Heroes here taught.

For them to accept it so easily, that implied a lot of trust and belief on the Heroes’ part for Toshinori, which to Inko was honestly strange because from everything Toshinori told her so far, he was supposed  to be just a civilian like her.

But how can a civilian be so trusted by so many Heroes? How is it that Toshinori-san manages to get away with so much, to even bring me here in the Teacher’s Box after getting me front-row seats earlier? It can’t be just because he used to be All Might’s secretary, far from it.

Inko remembers the odd, panicked looks Toshinori sent towards his coworkers earlier when she arrived to this box with him, remembers the nods and thumbs-ups sent back by said Hero coworkers, and then she knows:

There’s something going on here.

For a moment, Inko considers asking then and there. She considers pointing out the wool they are trying to put over her eyes, considers interrogating Toshinori for whatever he might be hiding from her and likely her Izuku. But then she thinks-

If he wants to keep it secret, I’ll understand; everyone has their own secrets.

-And in the end, she just smiles at Toshinori. After all, she could hardly fault him for keeping secrets now, could she?

“And that’s all because of you, right, Toshinori-san? How did Megumi-chan get so fast then?”

As Toshinori blushes and rubs at the back of his head, at the back of hers, Inko thinks I’ll just let him tell me about it on his own as she listens to him explain about Megumi and the effects her Quirk had during training.

#-#-#-#

There is only one thought in Megumi’s mind as she steps into the stage.

I can’t lose here.

In the privacy of her mind, Megumi can admit to herself that she has no business being in this tournament. Unlike Izuku or Hitoshi, unlike Class 1-A, Class 1-B, or even that lone girl from Support, she has no reason to fight here – at least, for herself. That, she knew, she shares with Kensei. Ultimately, they were people who were just here for their friends.

And it’s that same reason, in the end, that had them talk about it between themselves earlier.

We’ll help them. We’ll give them both a victory each, so they don’t have to tire themselves more than they have to.

In retrospect, they were lucky that the match-ups ended up like this. Hitoshi and Izuku could have landed on the same bracket; hell, they could have been each other’s first matches. Kensei and Megumi could have also faced the same thing, but luckily? They didn’t have to. Instead, they were both given the chance to win their first matches so they could give their prospective Hero friends a free victory on their second match.

Megumi lowers to her stance, most of her attention on her enemy before her as Midnight makes the countdown. Before her, Tsuyu makes her own fighting stance - an odd one that obviously took the girl’s Frog Quirk into account - and Megumi contemplates on whether it could be considered an insult to the girl before her that she was thinking these things.

Tsuyu-san, you’ve been nothing but courteous and sportsmanly to me before this. You even spoke about making this a good match when you found out that it was me you were going to fight. Would you still think the same, if you find out that if I win against you I won’t even do you the honor of doing my best from here?

Megumi doesn’t think about that any further, because in the next second, Midnight finishes her countdown. Knowing that she has to close the gap between them, as soon as Midnight swings her crop down Megumi sprints forward.

She knows instantly that she’s up for a difficult fight when a powerful tongue whips from her right in response, clearly an attempt to knock her out of the stage.

(“As your son might have mentioned to you already, Megumi-kun’s Quirk is Touch-Based Telepathy.”

Inko nods at that, while Kan makes a sound of surprise. “That’s her Quirk? But that doesn’t sound like much at all, especially in a direct battle such as this. After all even Mandalay can barely use her Quirk offensively, and that’s with a range of several miles!”

“Ah, true, but while Mandalay has range, as she has recently found out, Megumi’s Quirk can do much more.” Toshinori clarifies, before explaining to Inko when she asks who Mandalay was, “She’s a member of the Pussy-Cats, with a Telepathy Quirk of her own. In fact... yes, you can see Mandalay from here right now, with the rest of their team. They must have been invited by the Principal in return for Pixiebob’s help.”

Toshinori points towards a particularly excited member of the audience box, Mandalay’s recognition of Megumi as a telepath obvious even from the Teacher’s Box with how she was jumping in joy. For that matter, the rest of the Pussy Cats were also reacting positively at the sight of Megumi, something Toshinori knows would end interestingly later on.

“So, what are they then? These differences?” Kan presses, causing Thirteen to shake their head at the obvious attempt to squeeze out information from Toshinori.)

It takes her several tries, especially with Tsuyu’s powerful legs bringing her all over the arena, but Megumi finally manages to get close to her enemy, engaging her in a close-range match of punches and kicks. As to be expected from such a well-rounded opponent, Tsuyu manages to give her a run for her money, but soon-

“Kero!?” Tsuyu yelps as Megumi manages to pull off a strong kick, knocking her back and forcing her to land on her four limbs before Megumi closes in on her once more.

Taking full advantage of the drop in her enemy’s guard, Megumi lets loose a series of punches and kicks on the prone Tsuyu. She gets a couple more hits in, before Tsuyu finally disengages from her with an almighty leap.

“You’re better at fighting up-close than I expected, kero...” Tsuyu then murmurs, her words tinged with new admiration, before she tilts her head back, “I suppose that means I should keep my distance more, no?”

Megumi can’t quite keep herself from mumbling a complaint when Tsuyu returns to attacking from far away with her tongue.

(“You asked me how Megumi-kun learned how to fight so quickly, right?”

Kan nods so seriously that Inko has to hide a chuckle behind her hand.

“Well, it all lies with the fact that Megumi had repeatedly shown that she could use her Quirk with much more flexibility compared to Mandalay’s simple telepathic messages. Previously with nobody to practice it with, Megumi never really noticed it, but with repeated use around Izuku and her friends, she told me that she found herself tapping into her Quirk more than she had before.”

Toshinori taps at his temple at that to make a point.

“From simple telepathic voices, to sending images, to accidentally even accessing Kensei-kun’s memories once and simulating a hive mind... Mandalay’s Telepathy is limited with how it only goes one-way, but Megumi-kun? Her Quirk might require touch and she runs the risk of being overpowered mentally, but what she can do with a mental connection is something that I’ve previously unheard of.”

Watching Megumi, he smiles as he easily recognizes the shadow of his own movements behind hers, combined with so many others.

“One of those things she can do is what she calls Upload, Compile and Execute. It’s one big mouthful of a name, but it’s what I consider to be the most powerful of her abilities.”)

Still, Megumi hasn’t learned new tricks for nothing.

She starts tapping into the well of information she had been compiling with her Quirk, and suddenly, with renewed understanding of her enemy’s attack patterns she starts avoiding Tsuyu’s long-ranged attacks much faster, making her next approach towards Tsuyu much easier.

From the stands, people gasp at the sudden change in the flow of the match. Early on, Tsuyu seemed to have the better control over the battle with the combat flexibility and out-of-the-box attacks her tongue and powerful legs afforded her, but now out of nowhere Megumi is dodging those very same attacks with the smooth grace of a dancer.

“What’s this!? Suddenly, Yamato Megumi is avoiding Asui Tsuyu’s attacks like they are nothing! Can you believe it, folks!? It’s almost as though Yamato can see those attacks coming seconds before Asui even makes them!”

Funnily enough, that was exactly the case for Megumi.

Her body is thrumming with new knowledge, new ways to move, and though most of it is incompatible with her more-human physique, she makes up for it by wielding that same knowledge to predict Tsuyu’s actions before she actually makes them.

And when the occasional moments come where her predictions go wrong, the brief physical contact of Megumi having the block Tsuyu’s incoming tongue was enough to let her Upload more information to herself, her mind rapidly compiling and executing new combat maneuvers from the new data.

Cartwheel, front-flip, somersault. Megumi was really lucky that her enemy was Tsuyu – not only because of how much of a good sport the other girl was, but also because how compatible her own skill-set was against hers. Megumi never really had the chance to learn acrobatics before, none of her friends really knew how beyond using their tools, but with this?

Megumi was now rapidly learning from Tsuyu’s own example.

 (“Upload, Compile, and Execute. It’s these three steps that have let Megumi make full use of her Quirk both in combat and out of it,” Toshinori continues to explain for those sitting beside him, even as they become enraptured by the fight in front of them. “Upload is what it sounds like: the mental flexibility of Megumi’s Quirk is such that as long as she touches someone when she fights against them, she could retrieve bits of what you could perhaps call their muscle memory.”

Kan whispers harshly, “She could invade people’s minds and take their memory?”

“No, not quite,” Toshinori shakes his head vehemently at that. “Megumi’s Quirk is such as that while she can get into people’s heads when she touches them, from how she describes it to me, it is more like skimming off the surface of a deep pool. Hence, being able to only access short-term memory and the muscle memory of actions while a person is doing them. It’s not as much as an invasion as it is a little peek to what isn’t immediately obvious.”

“It is only when a person’s mind is turbulent that she could actually start accessing people’s long-term memory, but from what I understand,” Toshinori shrugs here, “That’s not a good experience for either the target of her Quirk or Megumi herself. The connection is two-way – if a person is overcome with emotion on their end, it spills to her side, which might end up overcoming her as well.”

“So what does this mean then, Toshinori-san?” Inko asks, her eyes glued to the movements of the two students before her. With how Inko’s hands were twitching, Toshinori wouldn’t be surprised if she wanted to take out pen and paper like her son did whenever he watched other people use their Quirks. “Obviously, Compile is when she brings together all of that information she gets, while Execute is-”

“-When Megumi-kun takes all of the information she has gathered, and incorporates it into her own fighting style.” Toshinori finishes for Inko, now recognizing the echo of Tsuyu’s movements behind Megumi’s, watching as the girl wielded her enemy’s own moves against her, “This, you might understand, is why Megumi-kun got so good at martial arts so quickly, considering all of the skin contact involved.”

“The more people she fights with her fists, the better she gets at defeating them. Now this, she names her Combat Interception.”)

The pace of the battle was mounting and mounting – having seen the change in Megumi’s movements, Tsuyu intensified her own attacks, making her tongue-whips faster and combining them with powerful flips over Megumi’s head so she could land heavy kicks in between her long-ranged attacks.

“YEAAAAAAAH! Etch this moment into your minds, people, because the party is only getting wilder and wilder! But uh-oh, am I only imagining things, or is Yamato starting to look tired!? I’m not surprised if she is, not after all of the crazy things she and the rest of her team did earlier!”

Now, while Megumi was managing to dodge more and more attacks, the exhaustion of the day so far was slowly creeping on her at last. Recovery Girl’s help earlier had been a blessing and a curse combined in one; while the lack of soreness in Megumi’s muscles allowed her to move much more easily than she should have been capable of doing after swinging around like a monkey during the Second Stage, it also came with the cost of having less stamina.

And it is that lack of stamina that is hitting her now, quite literally as while Tsuyu is ramping up, Megumi is starting to slow down against her will. While she is indeed reading Tsuyu’s movements more and more over time, her body is starting to falter, not giving her the energy she needed to dodge the attacks she could see coming.

Soon, the battle shifts again. While Megumi has managed to land a quite few more hits since the beginning of the match, with the tiredness that’s hitting her Megumi’s movements become more and more cumbersome until she becomes an unmovable figure in one corner of the stage while Tsuyu continues to whip her tongue at her from a distance.

“Could this be finally it, folks!? Are we seeing the end!?”

Megumi grimaces as she shields her head with her arms, Tsuyu’s tongue repeatedly connecting with her upper body and damaging her slowly, Tsuyu having learned over the course of the fight to focus more on quick and light attacks as opposed to heavy ones if she wanted to actually hit Megumi as opposed to her dodging them.

No, not yet, not yet...

“Megumi! Megumi! Megumi!”

Upon hearing her friends, upon seeing the odd spectacle of Izuku yelling with an equally vehemently cheering Kensei caught in a stranglehold by Hitoshi, Megumi finally manages to find that last burst of energy within her.

For their sakes, I won’t lose!

Tsuyu’s eyes go wide as that powerful thought echoes into her mind through her tongue’s contact with Megumi’s arms, and wielding that moment of distraction, Megumi makes an unorthodox move that soon has her off her feet:

Megumi has grabbed her by the tongue, her arms trapping it between the fold of her elbows, and with it being as outstretched as it could be, when Megumi does an overhead throw with her tongue Tsuyu has no choice but to be pulled up, above, before gravity reasserts itself again and-

There is a loud slam, leaving both girls breathless and trying to catch their breaths.

Megumi can only watch in relief at the sight of Tsuyu having landed beyond the white lines bordering the arena.

“Asui Tsuyu is out of bounds!” Midnight announces, and Megumi falls to her knees in her exhaustion. “Yamato Megumi wins and moves on to the next round!”

Tsuyu has a smile on her face as she stands up from outside the arena to approach Megumi with an offered hand. “Good match, Megumi-chan. Can I call you that, kero?”

“Yeah, after all that, I think that sounds about just right,” Megumi laughs a little weakly before she takes uses Tsuyu’s hand to lift herself. “By the way...”

Sorry about grabbing you by the tongue like that. It must’ve hurt a lot.

Tsuyu doesn’t even show an ounce of surprise at the sudden presence of Megumi’s voice in her head. So as I thought, you’re a telepath. That certainly would explain a bit with how you were dodging me more and more earlier, kero. Touch-limited?

Megumi doesn’t detect any hint of anger or hostility from Tsuyu at what normally be perceived as an intrusion, so she soon asks, louder this time, “Yeah. You don’t mind? Normally people are more hesitant about me using my Quirk on them...”

“Why would I?” Tsuyu tilts her head at her with a smile. “It’s a perfectly respectable Quirk, kero.”

Megumi has to return the smile at that, which soon has Present Mic yelling, ”It’s a tear jerking sight, of a friendship forming from bonds born in a battlefield! Everyone, clap your hands at this heartwarming sight of sportsmanship - Asui Tsuyu from Class 1-A and Yamato Megumi from Class 1-C!”

Sure enough, soon both of them get showered in praise and appreciation, but Megumi can only laugh weakly as her hand continues to hold on to Tsuyu’s, Tsuyu-chan, actually there’s something I’m about to do, would you mind if I...?

Megumi sends her an image of what she is planning, followed by reasons as to why, and despite Megumi’s fears, Tsuyu’s smile only widens with sudden mischievousness. “I don’t mind, go on ahead, Megumi-chan.”

Go and help your friends if that’s what you really want, kero.

Megumi grins widely at that, and soon she raises her hand as Midnight approaches them and-

“I’m also withdrawing from the Tournament!”

#-#-#-#

“WHAAAAAAAT!?”

Toshinori is laughing- he can’t help it, having seen this coming, when it finally came he couldn’t help but start laughing so hard that he’s spitting blood. Inko, having been expecting the same thing, also breaks into giggles at the sight of the collective jaw of everyone watching falling to the floor.

“Yamato Megumi just called in her own withdrawal from the tournament, citing exhaustion! With both of the challengers eliminated, nobody from this match is moving on to the next round!”

Kan sighs as he whips some of his own blood out of his hand to clean up the mess Toshinori is making. “Honestly, at this point, I really should have expected this to happen. Your students certainly seem to really want to go against the flow, Al- Toshinori-san.”

Toshinori twitches at the almost-slip from the other hero, but as Inko doesn’t seem to have noticed in her giggling, he sighs in relief.

“Normally in the case of ties, we do a tie-breaker to choose who moves on, but with how there’s a winner but the winner doesn’t want to move on the next match...” Snipe shakes his head, honestly looking both amused and befuddled by the entire thing, “This certainly ain’t normal, that’s what it is.”

Thirteen, having been quiet for all this time, finally speaks up. “Megumi-kun certainly has grown from the quiet and meek girl she had been when the semester started. Honestly, I’m rather proud of her.”

Toshinori looks back at Megumi, now being received into her group by her friends with Tsuyu on tow, and as Izuku and Hitoshi react to her in surprise, Toshinori can’t help the All Might grin from forming on his face in the next moment.

“Yeah, me too. I’m proud of her, as much as I am for all of them.”

And just like that, the first two matches of the tournament end.

Chapter Text

Chapter 17: Tournament Part 3

Sosaki Shino, more commonly known as Mandalay, can’t quite believe what she just watched.

As far as she could remember, growing up for her had been a fairly lonely and solitary experience; ironically enough, it had all been because of her Quirk. Telepath was a Quirk that let her talk to multiple people in the same time, yes, but as a fairly shy and reclusive child she had found out that very few appreciated having her voice in their heads, no matter how much Shino told them that no, she couldn’t actually invade their minds or read their thoughts.

It had been true happiness for her when she finally found her friends in Yuuei, her team, during the Entrance Exam of her time. With her friends by her side, she had taken on the Entrance Exam and the rest of her Yuuei years with courage and determination, and just like that she bloomed from her introverted self into the confident career-woman and Hero she was now.

But even with all of that, part of herself always felt alone because of her Quirk.

Not because she was still vilified for it, no. That particular problem had been solved a long time ago. Instead, it was because of the sheer rarity of telepathy-based Quirks. With how they would only show up once in a population of 50,000, it was already a miracle that she met Tomoko. But even then, while Tomoko’s Search was similar to her Telepath, it was simply just not the same.

Shino always had the ability to talk to other people in her mind, but she never had the experience of someone sending something back.

 People were still sometimes offended by Shino’s ability to project her voice into their heads, but Shino always wanted to have someone talk in her head. She wanted to have someone to talk with, to commiserate with, to empathize with and now-

-Now, the person she was looking for had been just in front of her. Nobody announced it, yes, but Shino automatically knew that this Megumi was a telepath when she saw her. There was this feel to a telepath’s mind, a sense of openness and elasticity that only they had.

Combine that with the sheer combat ability the girl already had before she was even halfway through her first year, Shino almost wanted to just jump onto the stage then and there when she saw the act of sportsmanship between Megumi and her opponent.

It wasn’t even just the Quirk now – Shino wanted to take her on as her protégé.

“This is great, Shino-chan!” Ragdoll, or Tomoko as Shino knew her, squeals at her with her hands up with her fingers folded in imitation of catpaws. Even out of costume, her friend couldn’t hold back from making their distinctive poses, it seemed. “Now all we have to do is invite her as our intern, and we’ll finally meet another person like us!”

“Indeed, I approve of this kitten’s claws,” her third friend, Chatora ‘Tora’ Yawara, gives a satisfied nod at the idea, before a frown sets on his face, “However... Shino-chan, if I remember correctly, Yamato Megumi is from Class 1-C, right? That means she’s not part of the Heroic Department. Can we even invite her in that case?”

Shino bites her lip, having been wondering about that too. “Honestly, I’m not sure. To be honest, I’ve never heard of other Heroes taking on a General Studies student as an intern, because unlike the Heroic Department, they don’t even have a Work Studies week. She’ll be having normal classes on those days.”

“Well, that needs to be changed!” Yawara punches at the air, before sheepishly pulling his arm back down when someone from the back barks a complaint. “From what we’ve seen of Yamato Megumi, and even the rest of her General Education friends, there’ll be quite a lot of interested Heroes wanting to have the chance to foster their talents. If Yuuei can’t consider that to be within the realm of possibility, then there is certainly something wrong!”

“Yawara-kun’s right!” Tomoko chips in, before waving at the crowd all around them, “I was also using my Quirk to check on the audience earlier during Yamato-chan’s fight, and I spotted several Heroes with their guards down! That just shows how into the match they were, and how they were interested in her too!”

“Principal Nedzu is pretty understanding, too...”

“Alright,” Shino nods once in determination before crossing her arms, “Let’s send in an invitation anyway; can’t hurt to at least try. And if even then we don’t get her as an intern,” she turns to her friends hesitantly for this, “Guys, it’ll be alright with you if we stay for a little longer here at Mutsutafu, right? I mean, we already brought Kouta along, even if he has to stay in the hotel because he isn’t interested in this, and our office could probably take our absence for a while longer...”

Tomoko and Yawara exchange looks, “Shino-chan, do you even have to ask? Of course we’ll be fine with it– actually, some time away from the mountains and here in the city would probably even do us some good.”

“Thanks for being so understanding, Yawara-kun,” Shino smiles at her bulky friend before blinking as she is hit by the realization, “Wait, where’s Ryuko? I can’t believe I’ve been so distracted – where’s Pixie-bob, wasn’t she last at that Sky Garden she made with Kamui Woods and Cementoss’ help?”

“Yeah, it was amazing, watching them make that even from all the way here! I’ve never seen Ryuko make something that big!” Tomoko bobs up head up and down several times at that, her excitement making the other two grin. “But, yeah let me check– huh?”

“What is it, Tomoko-chan?”

“It’s just, she’s still sitting beside that guy, Kamui Woods not too far away from this arena!” -at that statement, big smiles start to form on Shino and Yawara’s faces- “and now she just walked behind a corner before she started jumping in joy! Guys, I think Ryuko-chan just got a date!”

Now, the collection of irritated hushes sent their way, Shino thinks, is completely well-deserved on their part. They might have been a little too loud with their collective screaming, and they weren’t even watching the very strange match in front of them.

#-#-#-#

This is turning out to be a very strange match, Uraraka decides, as she activates her Quirk for the Nth time that day.

In terms of who could have turned out to be her opponent, she really couldn’t have had a better pick than Sero-kun. Without exception, everyone else in this tournament would have had an advantage over her, and while that applied to Sero-kun as well with his long-range attacks, her Quirk interacted well against his so things evened out anyway.

On the other hand, getting Todoroki-kun would only be slightly less of a massacre than the time she and Iida-kun got matched up against him and Bakugou in class. Uraraka would never catch up to Tsuyu-chan with those legs of hers, either, and as for Shiozaki-san? She would easily fend Uraraka off with those thorns.

And as much as she also wants to fight Deku-kun, he was a big question mark, and there was that long staff of his besides. The same applied to Shinsou-kun, and from how Uraraka saw all the ways Megumi-chan could easily crush her up close, she wouldn’t be surprised to find that Kensei-kun had a way to counter her as well.

And so the list went on. Tetsutetsu-kun was probably as good as Kirishima-kun up close, and just as likely to endure a long fall, which was Uraraka’s main strategy to take down opponents. The only way that things could be worse than Momo-chan’s Quirk, in terms of tools that could keep her away, would be that girl from Support- and so on and so forth...

Indeed, in retrospect, Uraraka’s skill-set didn’t really lend itself to a tournament like this. Why was it again that she didn’t take the time to try and pick up some close-combat from Tsuyu-chan or Ojiro-kun before all of this? The ability to knock Sero out with her fists would have been very useful here.

Well, at least I didn’t get Bakugou-kun for my first match. That probably wouldn’t have ended well.

“Is your head a bit up in the clouds, Uraraka!?”

Uraraka dodges the incoming tape just in time for it to hit the floor beside her instead. A mad grin is on her face as she shoots back, “Funny you should say that, Sero-kun! Are you starting to feel nauseous yet? I can keep going for much longer, you know!”

It’s a good thing that tape has so little mass.

Keeping an eye on Sero, she works to detach his latest link to the ground from where it had been preventing him from floating away. Sero, of course, tries to counter her with another long bit of tape from his other elbow, but Uraraka manages to rip the other bit just in time to use it as a shield.

For a moment, Sero starts to float even higher before he hurriedly severs off the two useless strips in favor of sending two separate lines of tape to connect him once more on the ground.

All this he did from ten feet up and upside-down, while Uraraka enjoys the company of the ground beneath her feet as she continues in her efforts to make him float even higher up.

“I don’t know about you, folks, but am I the only one getting dizzy from watching all this!? Ever since Sero made the mistake of letting Uraraka touch his tape while it was still connected to him, it’s been nothing but an upside-down battle!”

“I don’t know about being dizzy, but watching Sero fight like this is a pain in the neck. Literally.”

“So cool as always, Eraser!”

A very, very strange match, Uraraka decides.

#-#-#-#

Meanwhile, back in the seats of Hitoshi and his friends, there is only one thing louder than the hurried scribbling of a pen on paper: the frenzied murmuring of Midoriya Izuku as his friends watch him with lurid fascination.

“I see Uraraka-san could conduct her Quirk through objects like I do with mine, but I wonder if she also faces a distance limit like I do? Or what if the limit is something else entirely? But then again, in this case, one could consider that Sero-san’s tape was still a part of him when Uraraka activated her Quirk on it, so maybe this is merely an exception as opposed to being the rule? In any case, the only way to confirm would be to ask Uraraka-san herself, but I wonder if she’ll be open to those kinds of questions anytime soon, maybe after the competition I should...”

Hitoshi snorts when Tsuyu - Megumi’s tag-along from her previous match - blinks at the rapid-fire verbal diarrhea of his rival in utter bemusement. “Is this... normal, around Midoriya-chan?”

As Hitoshi mutters ‘You don’t know the half of it’ beneath his breath, Megumi only laughs weakly before telling her new friend, “Uh, yeah, that’s exactly it Tsuyu-chan. I know it’s a little odd of Izuku-kun, but although it might feel weird at first, after a while you learn to just block it all out until it becomes relevant again.”

“I see...” Tsuyu, for her part, actually looks like she means it, so Hitoshi can’t help but sigh resignedly when she then says, “Anyway, Megumi-chan, I hope you don’t mind me joining you and your friends here. I thought it would be far more interesting here than it was on the other end, and I can say that my expectations have really been met.”

“By the way,” Tsuyu then turns to Kensei, who twitches uneasily the moment he gets her attention, “Are you okay, Kensei-chan? You’ve been looking high-strung for a while now, kero.”

“M-me, high-strung!? No way, I-I’m p-perforate- err, I mean, I’m perfectly fine!”

As Kensei stutters all of that in a reedy voice, Hitoshi is really at the end of his wits with this ridiculous mystery over why Kensei was so awkward around girls, and why he was so inconsistent about it. First, he couldn’t even talk to Megumi, but now he was almost flirting with her. Then he was suddenly alright with talking to Inko-san and even Yaoyorozu, but now he couldn’t talk to Tsuyu?

What the hell was going on!?

As Hitoshi is about to get the truth out of his friend, Megumi wraps an arm around Kensei’s shoulder, and Hitoshi knows that his two other friends were having a mental conversation. Megumi explained, “Uh, don’t worry about him, Tsuyu-chan, it’s just Kensei-kun being Kensei-kun. He’s alright, I promise.”

“If you say so...”

There are some stray chuckles at that, and Hitoshi can’t quite ignore anymore the other members of their peanut gallery.

“While I can accept Tsuyu-san being here... Why is everyone else from Class 1-A here too?”

Now that prompts some outbursts from Class 1-A.

Kaminari waves a box of popcorn at that. “Hey, we’re all friends here, right? I mean, now that Asui’s here, there’s none of that initial awkwardness where we have to wait for someone else to approach you guys first!”

“So that was what they were waiting for,” Hitoshi facepalms at that, “I’ve been wondering why none of Class 1-A were sitting next to us, but apparently it was that.”

“Sorry, Shinsou-chan.”

Despite her own words, Tsuyu doesn’t sound very sorry, and in the end Hitoshi can only chuckle weakly. After all, he really should have expected this from the overly-friendly Class 1-A.

“Uhhh,” Izuku, apparently having finally been snapped out of his trance by their visitors, stutters out a question, “If everyone is here, then where’s Kacchan?”

“He and Todoroki-san didn’t want to join us when we said we would head here, Midoriya-san,” Yaoyorozu clarifies for his rival, looking a little somber for a moment before perking up at a thought. “Kirishima-san decided to stay with them, as well as Tokoyami-kun and Kouda-kun. They would be fine.”

There was that, at least. Hitoshi doesn’t think he can quite look at those two from earlier in the face anytime soon.

#-#-#-#

In the end, the match between Uraraka and Sero ended abruptly in Sero’s favor.

With Uraraka’s attention focused on him, she hadn’t noticed how Sero had been surrounding her with his tape until she found herself barricaded by walls made of tape, their ends pointing straight up due to Uraraka’s own Quirk.

Realizing what Sero was aiming for, Uraraka had tried cancelling her Quirk so she could escape, but at that point it was too late. With both of his arms, he had sent out two lengthy lines of tape to connect all of the surrounding tape together, and as a result, like a massive net, Sero and his assembly came down from the sky and trapped Uraraka beneath him.

From there, the match had been conclusive.

“Good match, Uraraka,” Sero says once Midnight announces his victory and he is halfway through freeing the girl from being made a pancake beneath all of his tape.

Uraraka, face still stuck on the ground, sighs for a moment before managing a smile.

At least she had shown everyone what she had.

“Yeah, good match, Sero-kun.”

#-#-#-#

“Looks like my turn is finally up. Watch me, Bakugou.”

Kirishima watches as Bakugou bristles at that announcement from Todoroki, and as Todoroki stands to leave, Kirishima reaches out a hand to say, “Ah, good luck against that guy, Todoroki! Show him who’s boss!”

But by then the other teenager had already left.

“Damnit, he’s so cool,” Kirishima whispers under his breath before turning to his other friend, “Right, don’t you think so, Bakugou?”

Bakugou only brushes off his question with a growl, “Shut up, shithead. Your loud voice is giving me a headache.”

In all honesty, Kirishima thinks that Bakugou can’t really say anything about being too loud; but then again, pointing that out to the other teenager wasn’t worth the trouble he would get for it, so in the end Kirishima does go quiet.

But then he notices something strange about Bakugou.

“Bakugou, are you okay? You seem distracted.”

The frown he gets for it is legendary. Were the opposite end of that glare any lesser of a person than Kirishima, they would’ve bolted the moment Bakugou started to lower his brows.

“What do you mean by that, Shit-For-Brains? Distracted, where the hell did you get the idea that I’m distracted!?”

“But you just proved it to me, Bakugou.” Kirishima only shakes his head that response, his lips thinning in worry. “The fact that you’ve actually replied to me instead of ignoring me just now means that there’s something bothering you, and the air around you...”

At this point, given that it’s Kirishima and Kirishima alone that actually spoke to Bakugou, the redhead had already learned to translate the many different meanings of Bakugou’s anger.

Because while Bakugou usually expressed only one emotion – rage – there were subtle differences and layers behind that glare. For example, whenever Kaminari did something stupid, the anger Bakugou exhibited was more of a lit firework than anything else: spectacular, but in the end, short-lived and not that damaging. Kirishima doesn’t know where Bakugou manages to find all that energy to get angry, but truly that kind of anger was Bakugou’s typical state of being.

This particular air of anger though? This was different.

This was the ire of a slow-burning fuse, much akin to that of a volcano just before an eruption. Not even Kirishima knew when Bakugou would blow up, or even what kind of eruption it would be, but what Kirishima does know is that, as a friend, he should step in if this turns out to be something disastrous.

Bakugou blinks at Kirishima for a moment, before looking away, presumably because of how he was read so easily.

“Shut up, shithead, this is none of your business.”

Kirishima presses, “But Bakugou-”

“I said, it’s none of your fucking business, Hair-For-Brains!” Bakugou yells, causing Tokoyami and Shouji to inch away from where they were sitting close to them. Kirishima sends them both apologetic looks before turning back to the blond, “It’s just between me and that Icyhot bastard. That guy, I’ve told him several times already to not bother me- with how I’m so busy with Deku...”

Bakugou trails off at that, and Kirishima heaves a sigh of relief.

If it was just Todoroki, then Kirishima had a fair idea of what was going on here. It was no secret within Class 1-A that Todoroki had spontaneously developed a rivalry with Bakugou earlier that day, not when most of them became victims of said rivalry during the second stage, including Kirishima himself.

Kirishima suspects that there’s something more to it – after all, Todoroki wasn’t the kind of man to do something like this and be so vehement about it for no reason – and at this point, Kirishima is also fairly aware that he isn’t even close to understanding the complicated relationship between Midoriya and Bakugou; but as long as he knows this much, he could probably help fix things up when things inevitably exploded.

That was usually the case with Bakugou Katsuki, he knew from experience.

“Heeeeere’s the fourth match! See that steel-hard, rock-solid body! Coming from Class 1-B, Tetsutetsu Tetsutetsu! Veeeeersus! This teenager has been powering through his every enemy since the first round! Son of Endeavor, Todoroki Shouuuuutoooo!”

“Look, the match is starting!”

Bakugou grunts at his words, but it is obvious that the boy is listening by the attentive look on his face as he watches Todoroki fight.

And while for Kirishima it may be weird and a little depressing, to see someone so similar to himself both in personality and Quirk on that stage while Kirishima was just in the bleachers, when Bakugou glances at Tetsutetsu and mutters, “He’s not you, asshole.” Kirishima finds everything that has happened so far today worth it just for that.

Maybe Kirishima could even try to get to know Tetsutetsu after this? Their similarity in Quirks aside, the other teenager sure seemed to be a very manly guy.

#-#-#-#

Back to Hitoshi, his mind is wandering as he watches Todoroki Shouto fight against Tetsutetsu.

In all aspects, the match is turning out to be heavily in Todoroki’s favor. For all of Tetsutetsu’s capability of breaking through Todoroki’s initial ice blasts, it was quickly becoming clear that the effort was taking a lot out of the student of Class 1-B while Todoroki looked like he could keep going all day.

Combine that with how Megumi had given him a bye – which, really, the girl shouldn’t have done for his sake, though he did appreciate Megumi’s intentions – and the even-worse type mismatch against Sero come his next battle...

It is becoming obvious to Hitoshi’s eyes that, for all of his intent to avoid Todoroki for the rest of the day, he would end up fighting the other teenager on that stage.

Which would leave him at a major disadvantage, because while Hitoshi wasn’t scared of the thought of fighting Todoroki, part of what Aizawa-sensei had taught him was to judge which battles were his and which battles were his enemies’.

Quirk-wise, they couldn’t have had a worse mismatch. If Todoroki made one massive attack in the beginning of the match, as he had clearly shown he was capable of during the start of the race, then for all of Hitoshi’s efforts to train himself he’ll have no way of avoiding that kind of attack in such a limited space as the arena. On the other hand, Hitoshi’s Brainwashing had already been exposed, and Hitoshi really doubted that Todoroki would miss the clue like Mineta, plus Todoroki didn’t really talk much anyway.

Hitoshi’s spear? Nearly useless in this situation. There was no way Hitoshi would be breaking through Todoroki’s ice walls and in the arena he had no uneven terrain to take advantage of. And sure, if Todoroki did end up making ice walls and didn’t capture Hitoshi in doing so Hitoshi would be able to take advantage of them, but in that case it would only take Todoroki freezing the tip of his spear in place and he’ll be one weapon less.

Hitoshi had his last-resort, but that would take a lot of time to put in place. Time he wouldn’t have if Todoroki took their match seriously.

That only left one option. The option provided to him by his chance encounter with Bakugou and Todoroki earlier that day.

“Like I said, I don’t fucking care about you and your daddy issues! I have enough on my fucking plate already with Deku, so just forget me ever becoming your ‘rival’ so you can prove to Endeavor whatever it is you want to prove!”

Out of simple respect and unwillingness to get involved in that particular mess, Hitoshi had done his best to keep those words out of his thoughts so far. But Hitoshi is pretty sure that if he thought about it enough, he could figure out what was happening between Todoroki and Endeavor. After all, scars that covered half of a person’s face didn’t come out of nowhere, especially if one considered how strange it was for the son of the Flame Hero to be wielding ice.

It would only take a moment to look up a sound-bite in the internet to set his spear’s voice modulator to Endeavor’s, and Todoroki hadn’t even been there when Izuku declared his challenge with the rest of Class 1-A. If Hitoshi is to be unscrupulous in his match later on, nobody would blame him, especially when it would be so obvious that Hitoshi didn’t really have any other choice.

If Hitoshi really wants to win, he would do that. He would take his spear, take his Quirk, and would slam Todoroki’s buttons so hard that he would respond to him. The Shinsou Hitoshi from a few months ago wouldn’t even hesitate.

So, why is the thought of doing that is so distasteful to him now?

Maybe it’s because now he knows that in doing so, he would be taking a person’s obvious psychoses and wielding it against them, the same way Tsuchigumo had repeatedly done against Izuku and Kensei when they’d fought. Maybe it’s because it’ll be breaking the honor code Hitoshi had learned to respect over the course of the day, to not hit a person below the belt just to win.

Or maybe...

“Kensei, can I ask you something?”

His friend looks away from where he had been watching Izuku mumble to himself. “Yeah, what is it, Hitoshi?”

“Do you know how I can get to the Teacher’s Box from here? I have something to ask Toshinori-san.”

Maybe at this point, Hitoshi needs someone to talk to, someone to help him make a decision. That meant either Toshinori-san or Aizawa-sensei, because Hitoshi could trust only them to remain both quiet and impartial about it. But Hitoshi is already fairly sure of what the latter would say if Hitoshi approached him with this.

No, it had to be Toshinori-san.

“I don’t mind telling you, but I suppose I don’t have to remind you that Izu-chan’s match is next, right? Don’t you want to stay and support him? Can’t you just ask Toshinori-san by text?”

Hitoshi turns towards the direction of his rival, still engrossed in taking notes about Todoroki. If it was Izuku who overheard all of what Hitoshi did, he knew the other teenager wouldn’t even hesitate. And it was precisely that that Hitoshi wanted to avoid – Izuku shouldn’t get distracted by the mess between Bakugou and Todoroki, as well as whatever Todoroki himself was embroiled in with his father.

“Can’t ask him by text. And, honestly? I don’t really need to support Izuku.” Hitoshi smiles, before turning back to Kensei. “After all, I have no doubt that he’ll win- me here to cheer him or no.”

And that was that.

#-#-#-#

This match was awesome- but damn it, if Tetsutetsu is honest with himself, he is starting to get really tired.

The way the cold felt like it had seeped deep within him didn’t help. Tetsutetsu never really had hypothermia before, but if this was what it felt, then hypothermia sucked. His body was starting to slow down, his vision was getting blurry, his eyes were heavy...

Tetsutetsu’s body just screamed at him to sleep, but he wouldn’t let himself be defeated by that. No way he was going to be knocked out by a little chill.

“I suppose with this I’ve spent enough time to show Bakugou and my old man what I’m capable of,” his enemy announces dully in front of him, and as Tetsutetsu’s teeth chatter at the cold, Todoroki says, “Sorry about this, but I’m ending this here and now.”

End this? There’s no way I’m going to let you get away with saying something like that-

Todoroki extends his arm forwards, mist coiling from his form, and Tetsutetsu only has just enough time to widen his eyes when-

Cold.

Cold, cold, coldcoldcoldcoldcold-

“What’s this!? Todoroki has just unleashed a spectacular finishing move, the biggest of his ice creations just yet! Will Tetsutetsu manage to get past this, or are we seeing the end of this match!?”

Tetsutetsu always considered himself hotblooded. Proud of it even.

But this, with his entire body covered in frost and ice, he knows the only reason why he still remains conscious is because his Quirk keeps him awake; his body of steel impervious to being completely frozen but it doesn’t stop him from feeling cold, no.

Instead, it makes the chill to his core all the more pronounced, with how steel conducted temperature so easily. It was only his willpower that kept him pushing through in the first place, kept him fighting despite the flames of his spirit being slowly diminished by the cold.

And this attack? It might have finished off the last wisps of that flame.

“D...”

But even then, there was no way Tetsutetsu would let himself be defeated like this.

“Don’t...!”

Even if the flames die out, there would always be embers left- and for Tetsutetsu that’ll be enough to ignite them anew. He wouldn’t let this stop him. Never. He’s going to win this match, no matter what it takes!

“Don’t think you’ve just defeated me!”

Tetsutetsu makes that declaration as he breaks out of the ice. And immediately, as much as it had been cooled by the ice surrounding it, the air outside of the mini-iceberg starts to warm up Tetsutetsu again, the temperature gap from within the ice and outside it so large that Tetsutetsu could feel it.

Tetsutetsu is about to begin his attacks anew when-

Creeeak

A loud noise echoes from within his body, and as the pain hits him, Tetsutetsu instantly knows what is happening.

“W-What, metal fatigue? But you haven’t really hit me that hard yet-”

“Indeed, I may not have the brute strength to harm you, and all of my attempts to capture you can’t seem to stick,” Todoroki interrupts him, explaining bluntly, “But even steel is not immune to sudden temperature changes. With how I’ve repeatedly cooled you down, your body has expanded and contracted many times over, and that’s not even counting all of times you’ve slammed yourself into my walls.

“Your body is now littered with countless small cracks, Tetsutetsu. Just admit defeat and I won’t need to freeze you again, because that’ll certainly be the last time I’ll have to.”

Temperature changes? That sounded like a lot of science, something that Tetsutetsu could readily admit that he was never good at. No wonder he didn’t see this coming, if that was what Todoroki was planning from the beginning.

But if there was one thing Tetsutetsu was worse at than science?

It would be giving up.

“No way, I’m not going to admit defeat until-”

Todoroki raises his hand again, and suddenly, darkness.

#-#-#-#

“Sorry about that, Vlad King.”

Thirteen whispers this under their breath, low enough to be unheard Toshinori and Inko – who due to their antsiness for the coming match have been reduced to bickering about Toshinori’s health – but still loud enough to be heard by his intended listener.

Kan only shakes his head though, responding just as quietly.

“You don’t have to be, Thirteen. Tetsutetsu did well, and there’s no way anyone would be convincing me that my student didn’t do his best even in face of such overwhelming power. He did well, and I couldn’t be more proud of him.”

Thirteen pats one of Kan’s shoulders with a big hand. “Tetsutetsu-kun would be happy to hear that from you, I’m sure.”

#-#-#-#

“Ingenium-san! It’s your brother’s match now!”

At that announcement from his sidekicks, Tensei turns away from where he had been signing an old lady’s purse. It had been her request, after Tensei got it back from a purse-snatcher, and who was Tensei to say no to that kind of thing?

Waving away his new fan with a smile, Tensei looks back to his team of sidekicks and their van to find that they’d apparently converted the Ingenium Van into some kind of sport hub, complete with multiple television screens and even drinks and popcorn.

“Whoa, guys, aren’t you all going overboard with this?”

At Tensei’s incredulous reaction, one of his sidekicks reply very loudly, “It’s your brother, Ingenium-san! If we have to endure you repeatedly bragging about Tenya, then of course that gives us the right to actually watch him in action!”

Tensei chuckles loudly at that. “Point, but we are Professional Heroes, and it is kind of the principle of the matter to always be ready for anything that might happen. If anybody sees us now, who knows what they might think about our dedication?”

“It’ll be at most, like, fifteen minutes! Only insane people would consider taking a short break like this unheroic!”

Well, if Tensei is to be honest, he‘d like nothing more than to sit down and watch his brother fight. It didn’t even matter if Tenya wins or not – Tensei just wants to see his little brother, something that he rarely got to do with these days with his increasing load as Ingenium.

Surely, nothing bad would happen if he let himself have this, right?

“Alright, fine. But first sign that something’s wrong, and we’ll be cutting this short,” Tensei declares, to his sidekicks’ nods, “Do you guys have any idea as to who his opponent is? Is it one of his classmates? I’ve always wanted to see this Uraraka that Tenya’s been talking about ever since he entered Yuuei.”

It was an older brother’s duty to be aware of the girls in his younger brother’s life, after all.

“Uraraka-san’s match was before this, too bad you’ve missed it. Told you that you should’ve joined us earlier,” one of his sidekicks replies, shaking her head cheekily at him. Tensei almost pouts at the teasing. “And no, actually your brother’s fighting someone from General Education. Honestly, this kid is pretty inspiring, Ingenium-san. I’m sure you would have loved watching his earlier antics.”

Well, there was always the option of watching the recordings later on. “Really? Who’s this kid, then, and what’s his Quirk?”

“No idea about his Quirk – honestly, there’s a big debate going on about it online now, nobody can seem to figure out what this kid is doing and how he’s doing it – but his name? Yeah, I can provide you with that, at least.”

“His name is Midoriya Izuku, and I’m pretty sure that at this point everyone has their eyes on him.”

#-#-#-#

This is it.

Izuku snaps his notebook closed. With all of the waiting he had to do so far, he had gotten antsy and as a result turned to his analyzing habits to distract himself; but the time for that was finally over and now his match is about to begin.

That is when he notices somebody missing from his usual group of friends.

“Uh, Megumi-san, where’s Hitoshi-kun?”

Megumi only shakes her head with a smile. “He had to leave earlier, citing that he had something to talk about with Toshinori-san.”

“He passes on his encouragement though!” Kensei grins, and though there is something odd about it, Izuku lets it pass. He doesn’t have much time left after all. “And of course, have some good luck from me, Izu-chan.”

Izuku smiles at that, walking past his friends only to find himself the center of attention by the students of Class 1-A sitting beside them.

“H-Huh, everyone, what is it?”

Yaoyorozu speaks first, “We just wanted to cheer you on, Midoriya-san. You may be fighting against one of us, but you and your friends have been nothing but cordial with all of us since the beginning. We thought to at least tell you this.”

Izuku notices Mineta grunt a little at that from a corner, but the other teenager only remains as quiet as he had been ever since his match with Izuku’s rival.

His observations of Mineta soon get interrupted though, by Uraraka hopping in front of him, causing Izuku to immediately blush at being so close to a girl that isn’t Megumi. “It’s a pity that I just lost to Sero-”

“I heard that, Uraraka!”

-Uraraka chuckles sheepishly at the interruption from said classmate, “But yeah, I’m cheering you on too, Deku-kun! Iida-kun’s one of my closest friends, but I’m sure he wouldn’t mind me cheering for you both!”

“But my name’s not Deku…” Izuku mutters to himself, completely unheard by the girl in front of him.

 

As for the rest of Class 1-A, they start adding their two cents.

“Go beat our Vice-President into a pulp, Midoriya!”

“Kaminari, shut up. But yeah, good luck Midoriya.”

“Hey, Midoriya, Uraraka’s complaining about her loss to me aside, Kirishima just texted me to pass on to you his words of good luck: Be manly, be awesome, and no matter what, BE MANLY!”

And so on and so forth, comes the flood of encouragement from a group of people who Izuku didn’t even really know that well, but admires for how they can find it in themselves to cheer on a rival.

Tears start forming in his eyes, but then someone places a hand on his shoulder and a familiar presence makes itself known in his mind.

Izuku turns around to see Megumi still smiling at him.

Izuku-kun, don’t cry now. Don’t you have a match to win?

Wiping his tears away, Izuku nods at that, decisively. “Yeah, you’re right.”

He raises his fist towards the sky.

“Everyone, I’m going to win this!”

And so begins Izuku’s match against Iida Tenya.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 18: Tournament Part 4

Izuku takes a slow and deep breath.

“This kid has made himself known to all of us in just a day! Hailing from the General Education Department, he has repeatedly shown us that he has the mettle and skill of a true Hero, Midoriya Izuuuuukuuu!”

Calm down, relax. Just treat this battle like any other. Ignore the audience as much as possible, and no matter what happens, just stay calm and do his best.

“On the opposite side of the arena! A member of Class 1-A, and from a family line of Heroes besides! The stalwart and fast, you won’t even see him coming! Everyone, raise your hands for Iida Tenyaaaaaaa!”

Repeating that same mantra in his head for the last time, Izuku raises his head to meet the eyes of Iida Tenya. The other teenager, having been in the middle of stretching his own legs, notices the attention on him and soon Iida speaks:

“Midoriya-kun.”

Izuku nods, “Yeah, Iida-kun?”

“Ever since I’ve met you, you’ve been nothing but amazing,” Iida declares, waving an arm stiffly towards Izuku’s direction, “Not only have you engaged in sportsmanship between your group and my class, you have also shown your respectable power in body, mind and heart since the start of this Sports Festival. I can say now with complete honesty that I can see why Bakugou-kun sees you as his rival.”

Izuku blinks at that, “Kacchan...?”

Did Izuku really affect Bakugou that much, that even those from Class 1-A could see it?

“Indeed.” Iida reaffixes his glasses at this, before lowering his body into a ready stance. “Midoriya-kun, I know I’ve already said this when we were at USJ, but let me repeat it once more.”

“Fight!”

As soon as Present Mic announces the beginning of the match, Iida rushes at Izuku. And with the same absurd speed that Izuku saw Iida use back then at USJ, all too soon Iida is at his face.

Iida lashes out with a heavy kick, and it is only due to Aizawa’s training that Izuku manages to get his staff out in time to block the attack with both hands.

“I’ll be doing my best to challenge you,” Iida says as his leg fights to push back Izuku’s staff, “So show me all of your might!”

Izuku spins his staff once, forcing Iida to disengage. “R-Right, Iida-kun!”

#-#-#-#

Watching from the teacher’s box, Toshinori frets as he watches two of his students – one as Toshinori, the other as All Might – face off with one another. With how both Izuku and Iida were keeping to merely using attacks without their Quirks, it was obvious that they were merely testing the waters with one another.

But when Quirks finally does come to play, Toshinori knows who would come out second-best.

“Izuku...”

A slight murmur from beside him reminds him of Inko’s presence, and Toshinori looks down to see the Midoriya mother with her hands clasped in worry as she repeatedly whispers her son’s name.

But even then, it was clear how she was still holding back certain reactions – Inko, from what Toshinori had heard about her, was infamous for her tears, but here she was now, teary-eyed but not letting any of the moisture escape from them.

Even with her son not being here, she’s still holding back her tears. Is this how much she wants to show that she supports him? Despite having to see him fight and be in danger?

Before Toshinori knows it, he is already saying Inko’s name. “Inko-san.”

Inko doesn’t avert her gaze away from the fighting within the arena, but her voice does hitch, “Yes, Toshinori-san?”

“I can’t promise that I’ll say what you want to hear, but do you want to know what I know about Iida-kun? So you’ll at least be aware of who your son is facing, and what Izuku’s odds are against him?”

For a moment, Inko remains silent, clearly debating with herself. But then, as if to accentuate Toshinori’s words Iida activates his Quirk behind a kick, forcing Izuku to step back so he wouldn’t be hit by all of the force behind the blow. That seems to convince Inko, “Yes, I would like to know.”

Toshinori takes a deep breath, and closes his eyes to prepare himself for a lecture. When he opens them, he notices then that he has also garnered the attention of everyone else in the box.

Forcing himself to ignore them and to just focus on Inko, he then starts:

“First, to start off, I should explain Iida-kun’s Quirk, Engine...”

#-#-#-#

Iida Tenya’s Quirk: Engine.

From what Izuku had observed during the USJ, Iida’s Quirk had been rather straightforward, a Mutation Quirk that provided him with powerful legs. There were multiple settings, he knew, different stages of gears that in turn gave him differing speeds, but compared to some of the stranger Quirks Izuku had seen at this point?

It really should’ve been simple.

However, for Izuku, as he is being forced back by a series of kicks that he barely dodges, that is not the case. Iida’s Quirk is simple, yes, but nobody said that simplicity couldn’t work, especially combined with the obvious training and effort Iida had put into his Quirk.

And that wasn’t even considering how Iida’s Quirk could be considered a counter to his own. After all, compared to Engine, Minor Banishment was a little complex, and it is that complexity that works against him now as he is forced to just defend while Iida hammers at him with kicks.

“What’s this? Looks like Iida Tenya is easily pushing back Midoriya!”

Minor Banishment - or rather, Izuku’s only offensive use of it, the Scalpel – needed two things for it to work. First was contact, whether direct or indirect with his staff, and in a fight such as this where Iida’s weapons were his own legs, Izuku certainly had no issue in achieving that need.

No, his issue lies in the matter of awareness, where not only is he needs to be aware of where his target was in relation to him, but also the structure of what he would be banishing.

Izuku’s strategy with his Scalpel was simple – to defeat his enemies without crippling them, Izuku would repeatedly do superficial damage to their skeletal muscles, specifically those of their limbs. With their arms and legs useless or weakened, Izuku could disable people from fighting any further.

(“Our first lesson in basic human anatomy is prioritization. That is, which parts of the body that are relevant to your Quirk in that you could damage them without doing permanent harm to your targets. Now, Midoriya-kun, would you tell me the order of prioritization that you know so far?”

Izuku nods, his pencil scratching the back of his head as he read his notes out to Recovery Girl, “From least priority to highest priority: superficial skeletal muscles, deep skeletal muscles, non-major blood vessels, tendons, peripheral nerves, major blood vessels, internal organs, central nerves, and then the spine and the brain?”

Recovery Girl hums at that, “Those last two also are part of the nervous system, but yes, they’re the highest priority. Do not touch them at all costs. I see that you also haven’t considered bones?”

Izuku laughs sheepishly at that, “Bones are kind of dense. I mean, they are light enough that I could banish parts of them, but I doubt it’ll amount to much...”

“You underestimate yourself too much sometimes, Midoriya-kun. But yes, if ever you learn how to target bones with that Scalpel of yours, they’re also low priority unless, of course, we’re talking about bones in the chest, neck, spine, or skull here. Not only do those function as protection for those really important organs in their respective cavities, they also work as a structural support for the body overall.

“Other than that, you’re probably better off just targeting muscles. Most of the time, the damage there can be healed, unless you really overdo it.”)

However, with Iida who fought with his Mutant legs, that plan became unfeasible.

Not only did Kensei and Recovery Girl’s combined lessons on the different parts of the human body not apply to mutant anatomy, Izuku also couldn’t blindly banish parts of Iida’s legs without risking banishing something important or crucial to Tenya’s Engine. Real engines tended to explode if you messed them in the right way, or rather in this case, the wrong one.

Izuku didn’t dare test the chance of whether the same applied to Iida’s legs.

“Come on, Izu-chan, I know you can do better than this!” Izuku hears his friends cheer at him from the stands, Kensei being the loudest, “Show this guy who’s boss!”

But I can’t! Not unless I want to really hurt Iida-kun!

The thought must have shown in his face, because Iida then says, as Izuku frantically blocked another kick with his staff, “Midoriya-kun, what is this? I thought you can do more than this, after what you’ve shown us from that race!”

Izuku pushes Iida back with both arms, sweeping his staff to hit Iida in the side, “But I am!”

The moment Izuku’s staff connects with Iida’s large frame, Izuku sets his Quirk to work at the area of contact. Iida had blocked with his right arm, so that meant the triceps brachii...

Izuku watches Iida wince as Minor Banishment does its work, leaving small rips throughout Iida’s arm muscles, perfectly mimicking minor to moderate muscle fatigue in his Quirk’s localized area of effect. Iida wouldn’t be using that arm to its full capability anytime soon-

-But then again, as Iida counters with his other leg, sending Izuku flying to the side, Iida had never been really using his arms in this fight anyway.

“Guh!”

As Izuku rolls to lose momentum from his landing, Iida places his left hand over his right arm, wrapping over just where Izuku had hit it earlier with his staff. Iida’s eyes are shadowed as he then speaks, “Indeed, your blows, few they may be, hurt more than they have any right to. My left shoulder, the upper left portion of my waist, and now this arm... You’ve struck true, Midoriya-kun.”

As Izuku pushes himself up from the floor, wiping away some spittle from the side of his mouth that had been the result of enduring Iida’s blow, Iida then closes his hands into fists, his arms stuck to his sides and making Izuku’s eyes go wide at what he knew to be a very painful gesture for Iida to do at this point-

“But even then! Midoriya-kun, do you think I haven’t noticed you holding back!? How you have held back from attacking me at my legs!?”

#-#-#-#

“Ingenium-san, look! Your brother is winning so far!”

As one of his subordinates yell that, several of the other people watching from the Ingenium Van made shushing sounds at the offender – not wanting to miss even a single second of the fight. And at first glance, it really did seem to the outside viewer that Tensei’s younger brother was having an easy time of it, for all that Tenya couldn’t seem to actually land a meaningful blow on his opponent.

But of course, what was the job of the older brother other than being more observant when it comes to his little brother?

#-#-#-#

“From everything I’ve known of you, I have a fairly good idea of why you’re holding back! You’re trying to defeat me without actually hurting me! I might not understand how your Quirk works, not yet, but your personality, your morals, they’re all admirable!”

#-#-#-#

“Tenya...” Tensei whispers this to himself, as he sees the small signs of frustration in his brother’s movements. Tenya wasn’t the kind of person to get frustrated over a battle where he couldn’t hit his enemy properly – in fact, Tensei knew his brother relished that kind of challenge, so what was provoking him now?

It certainly didn’t look like it was because this Midoriya Izuku was saying something that was pissing off Tenya, because even from the limited view of the cameras it was clear to see the earnestness of Tenya’s opponent.

What was it then?

#-#-#-#

“But, even so! Midoriya-kun, don’t you think you are being callous, to treat me like I’m made out of china instead of as a rival? Don’t you think that by being kind, you are disrespecting those very same examples of fairness that your friends have set out before you!?”

Those words hit Izuku harder than any blow Iida had landed on him so far.

Am I... really being callous, by doing this kind of thing?

But my Quirk – it’s dangerous, there’s no doubt about that. It’s why I keep having to talk to Recovery Girl about it, why Thirteen-sensei has to talk me through all of the philosophies involved with Quirks like ours.

With a single touch, I could kill most people. That is the truth. That is why I have to hold such firm control over it.

But perhaps, maybe, just maybe, I’m going about it too far. Perhaps, I’m being too cautious, to the point that I’ve forgotten that sometimes, people take risks, risks that include getting hurt more than necessary. I can’t be a Hero if I hesitate so much, and Iida-kun would never grow if I coddle him.

No more. Enough defending. Time to head to pure offense.

The crowd goes quiet when Izuku lifts himself up from his defensive stance, taking apart his staff back into its three constituent parts as he does so. Kensei had designed them well – individually, every ‘mini-staff’ could extend up to five feet long, which combined to a boggling length of fifteen feet when Izuku used them together as one staff.

Originally, it had been designed with only one thought in mind, and that was to extend his reach. After all, while Izuku could rely on the ground to conduct his Quirk with, like how he took down Tsuchigumo, actually getting the chance to touch the ground without leaving himself open to attack was rare.

So that was the role of his staff. To make full use of his Quirk’s ability to conduct itself through solid objects, and as a makeshift-sword-slash-climbing-tool-slash-blunt-instrument if need to be.

But then Aizawa-sensei took one good look at his weapon and said:

Midoriya, there is one other way you could use these.

Individually, each mini-staff by themselves could be considered as weapons of their own. They could certainly get long enough for it, and Aizawa-sensei had once been taught a certain martial art that coincidentally used similar staves.

Pocketing one of the constituent staves, Izuku takes the pair remaining and splits them into his two hands. Izuku never really got himself used to dual-wielding them like this, not the same way he learned to use a pole, but in exchange for the defensive capabilities and range of the staff, eskrima had faster attacks, counters, and maneuvers.

And that, in the end, was what he needed to fight Iida properly.

“So, you’re going to take me more seriously now, Midoriya-kun?” Iida crosses his arms at him, and for all of his opponent’s apparent annoyance, Izuku finds himself smiling at Iida’s well-developed sense of fair play.

To think, that Iida would actually work to convince him to fight properly... Somehow, this almost felt deliciously ironic, and Izuku didn’t even know why it felt that way, “Yeah, Iida-kun, I’m ready now. Show me what you’ve got.”

“As you wish!”

Iida’s legs let out exhaust as he rushes at Izuku once more, but Izuku keeps his open stance, his arms extended towards his sides, ready to react at any moment. Knowing Iida, there was no way the Engine user was going to just run up to him in a straight line-

There!

Iida jinks left only to find one eskrima stick ready to meet his face, and equally just as fast, Iida makes a standing jump that sends him above the blow. Twisting in the air, Iida moves to roundhouse kick Izuku from behind his neck, only to find his kick blocked by the other eskrima stick.

His momentum killed, Iida hangs in midair for a moment before the first eskrima stick comes back and-

Smack

“-what’s this!? Midoriya’s movements have changed! Compared to his defensive fighting style before, this one is almost animalistic! It’s almost like fighting tiger’s teeth!”

And true to that, Iida certainly feels that the battle’s pace has suddenly changed, because not only is Midoriya directly attacking his legs and knees now, the surge of attacks is unending. Right stick, aiming for his neck, left stick, aiming for his left hand. Izuku rotating in place to hit him in the side with both eskrimas, and before Iida knows it, four more attacks are coming his way.

The sound of metal hitting metal fills the arena, a clack-clack-clack-clack that doesn’t seem to stop, with Iida being the one forced to disengage just so to not get hit more than he could handle.

But he’s not the only one who comes out of it bruised and damaged.

Midoriya Izuku is panting and breathing heavily, with him holding his left side with his right arm from where Iida had managed to get him with a heel kick. Said attack had easily been Iida’s most damaging hit in the battle so far, with Izuku unable to flow like water around his attacks due to his sudden change in fighting style.

But then pain blooms all over Iida’s body, and suddenly he realizes that, like all of Izuku’s earlier hits, each and every eskrima strike Izuku had made had been followed by that strange Quirk of his that made his blows hurt far more than they had any right to.

If Iida had wanted Izuku to take him seriously, then his wish had certainly been granted now. Izuku had fought against him with the rampaging teeth of a warrior, and his body suffered for it.

No more waiting then. There was no better time to show Iida’s new technique than now.

Recipro Burst.

#-#-#-#

This was exactly what Toshinori had feared.

“Izuku!” Inko has tears in her eyes, as they watch the pace of the battle get increased again as one of the competitors reveals a new trump card.

Earlier on, Toshinori had a little hope when Izuku revealed his other fighting style and as a result forced Iida into the defensive. After all, the biggest issue Izuku had, as he knew, was his lack of direct offensive ability that didn’t outright cripple his opponents, but as Toshinori really should’ve expected, Aizawa had put a fix into that.

By giving Izuku a fighting style that let him take advantage of his quick reflexes, tactical mind, and his Quirk, Aizawa had given Izuku a way to fight back without hurting people too much. Sure, it was far more offensively-oriented than Toshinori preferred – after all, unlike him who had One for All to reinforce his body, Izuku only fought with his physical training – for something like the Sports Festival, it should have been enough.

Should have been, but Iida-kun himself was nothing to scoff at.

“That’s Recipro Burst, right? That kid also used it too, during the second stage and made a mess of those trees.”

At Kan’s comment, Toshinori raises his head, “Ah, yes. All Might told me about this too. Apparently, he found the boy practicing in one of the racetracks near the Heroic Department building. Had a talk to Iida-kun about it.”

Kan turns to him, amusement clear in his eyes at Toshinori’s efforts to keep the woman beside them unaware of his identity as All Might. “Yes, too bad All Might is not here to explain it himself, but that’s why we have you here, right, Toshinori-san?”

Inko looks at him curiously when Toshinori very visibly holds back the urge to facepalm.

Anyway,” Toshinori forges on, determined to keep the attention away from himself, “From what I can recall, Recipro Burst is Iida-kun’s technique in which he forcibly revs up the torque within his Engine legs, allowing him to accelerate quickly into explosive speeds. However, this accelaration is only short-lived, and the feedback slows him down for a short time afterwards.”

Thirteen hums beneath their helmet, “In that case, the counter for it of course would be to hold your ground while the boost is still in effect, so you could make use of the opening afterwards...”

“...but with how Iida-kun is using hit-and-run tactics, that becomes nearly impossible.” Toshinori finishes, as he turns his gaze back to the match.

And true enough, that is how the match is going so far. For all that Izuku has an impressive reaction speed, it is no use against the blisteringly fast strikes that Iida is using, the other teenager’s attacks slowly forcing Izuku into a corner of the arena.

Iida would charge up Recipro Burst again, before running up to Izuku and forcing him to try and defend against yet another heavy kick. Izuku, who then either would have blocked or tanked the blow, would try to strike back, but by the time his eskrima had moved to where Iida had been, Iida would already be several feet away and allowing his legs to cool down again.

“He’s wearing his opponent down.” Kan nods at Iida’s panting form appreciatively. “Knowing that Midoriya has a still unidentified Quirk that works by touch, he’s keeping his close contact with his opponent to a minimum while slowly pushing him out of the arena. If it weren’t for how he’s still unsure about that Quirk of his, Iida would’ve dragged Midoriya out of the stage already.”

“Izuku’s trying his best though!” Inko defends her son, causing the heroes’ eyes to widen. “I mean, he’s still managing to defend, right!? From what I’ve seen, plenty of the competitors here won’t be able to do that!”

With the other teachers staring at Inko in surprise, quiet awe at her guts for speaking up against Pro Heroes, Toshinori raises his hands to placate, “Ah, none of us are denying Midoriya-kun’s talents, Inko-san. I’m pretty sure that they don’t mean anything bad, right?”

Toshinori adds a bit of challenge at the end of his question to his colleagues, mostly because he could, and Kan only smiles before the Blood Hero shakes his head.

“Of course not. I mean, if you remember how Midoriya saved that troublesome student of mine-“

-both Toshinori and Inko twitch at that, remembering exactly just what Recovery had warned them about before the match began-

“-Midoriya Izuku has his own speed techni- wait, why have you two gone so pale? Are both of you alright, Toshinori-san, Inko-san?”

Toshinori sloooowly turns his head back to the arena, and when he sees the odd air currents in front of Izuku, he has only one thought.

Shit.

#-#-#-#

Air is something which is easy to forget that it even exists.

Like how one could forget the weight of clothes around oneself, everyone often forgets that air has volume and even mass. After all, it’s always there – the only time when it isn’t is when you’re underwater, and compared to water air practically weighs nothing.

But in the end, air has mass – at an approximate of 1.2 grams per liter of air at sea level.

It’s this concept that Izuku really only learned to appreciate when he fought against Tsuburaba.

When Tsuburaba used his Solid Air to try and block Izuku’s attacks with invisible walls and shields? That was when Izuku had thought about trying to use his Quirk as a way to banish air itself, and as it turned out, when it came to banishing air Minor Banishment was a monster.

At a rate of 1.2 grams per liter, the density of air was so low that banishing small amounts of air didn’t even register into Izuku’s finely tuned control over his Quirk. And once he turned up his attempts to the maximum, making use of his full 10 grams to banish air and create a vacuum...

The amount of vacuum he was able to make was easily larger than a person’s head.

“What’s this!? A sudden unnatural wind has picked up in the arena; this is definitely not the work of Iida Tenya’s Quirk, so are we seeing Midoriya’s Quirk!?”

However, that in itself is something Izuku isn’t very much interested in. After all, Izuku has heard of the dangers of playing with vacuum – while he knows that the popular image of a person exploding as soon as they are exposed to the vacuum of space is false, exposure to vacuum had plenty of its own grueling effects.

Respiratory collapse, as all the air in the lungs is forcibly evacuated by the huge pressure differences from inside the body to a vacuum. Bubbles forming in the blood, as the dissolved nitrogen in the bloodstream expands to the sudden drop of air pressure.

Inflammation. Tearing of the skin. Internal bleeding.

These were just some of the horrific things he could do, without even having to directly touch a person like he normally did with Scalpel.

But vacuum, applied in a creative way, could be useful, he knew. It only took a bit of tinkering, a little imagination, and most of all, willingness to put his body through all of the symptoms just stated above and more, but now?

Speed is a necessity for becoming a Hero. The faster you are, the more people you can save.

Air Step.

Izuku activates Minor Banishment in front of him, and the wind does everything else.

#-#-#-#

“W-W-What!? Stay in your seats, folks, because Midoriya Izuku just sped through most of the arena! Where is this speed coming from!?”

When Midoriya had reversed the situation on him, charging at him as Tenya tried to deal with the feedback of his Recipro Burst, all Tenya could do is to try and block the sudden surge of attacks that had an absurd amount of momentum behind them.

With the winds flowing directly in front of Midoriya, he made for a rather terrifying image with how the unnatural breeze played with through his curls, his face lit up in an unnatural shade of red as the other boy remained focused through what was undoubtedly his latest technique.

One hit, two hits, three hits – like a man driven mad, Midoriya pushes deeper and deeper into his guard, until finally, an eskrima stick goes through his defense and into his stomach. As Tenya bowls over the gut blow, Midoriya refuses to stop, still pushing in with more attacks to spare.

A silent roar leaves Midoriya’s lungs as Tenya is repeatedly knocked back by blow after blow, and when it finally ends, to Tenya’s painful form it feels like an hour has passed.

(It had only been three seconds.)

#-#-#-#

Please stay down, Iida-kun. Please, let this be the end.

Izuku’s entire body is in pain. Like someone has set him aflame, every cell of Izuku is screaming at the abuse they have had to go through in such a short period of time.

When Izuku had broken his arm in that fight against Tsuchigumo, he thought that was the most physically painful thing he could ever experience. Even earlier, when he had first used Air Step to save Neito-kun from that fall, it had been for a shorter period of time so it hadn’t hurt so much.

Now though? After mere three seconds of letting loose his trump card?

None of his previous experiences compares to the pain he is going through now. His throat and mouth hurts so much that he doesn’t know if he can even speak, his eyes burn like they had been dripped in acid, and his ears?

Izuku hopes that Recovery Girl can heal eardrums, because right now he can scarcely hear the loud cheering he knows is coming from the crowds.

As he uses his eskrima sticks to reform his staff as a makeshift crutch, Izuku waits for Midnight to declare the end of the match. As it is, he has spent a lot just to win this battle – anymore, and Izuku would be in no state to battle anyone else for the rest of the day.

So when he sees Iida move, Izuku’s mouth falls.

#-#-#-#

Nii-san, I promised I would make you proud, right?

(“Tenya, don’t lose! You can still do this!”

“Ingenium-san, I thought you said you wouldn’t mind if your brother lost-“

“That’s before I saw my brother put his all into this! If I am to accept him losing so easily after everything I’ve seen, I would bring shame to my role as his older brother! Tenya, get up, DON’T LOSE!”)

Everything is a haze of pain. Tenya’s vision is a shadowy world, as his eyes start to fail him. He doesn’t see, doesn’t hear through the pounding in his head, and though his body may be screaming, Tenya tries to find the power to get up.

I would not bring shame to our name. I am Iida Tenya, brother of Ingenium and the youngest son of the Iida family, line of Pro Heroes.

If my Quirk fails me and I can’t run, then I’ll walk. If my legs fail me and I can’t walk, then I’ll use my arms and crawl. If my arms fail me as well, then I’ll use my teeth.

I will not lose.

I will not lose.

I won’t...

#-#-#-#

An unnatural quiet has filled the arena.

Not a single person dared to breathe. No one can keep their eyes off the two people on the stage. After all, how could they not? Not only had this particular battle been filled with twists and turns, despite all odds both contestants remained on their feet.

Or... did they?

“Winner...” Midnight has a sympathetic expression on her face as she approaches Tenya.

Once she places a hand on the boy’s shoulder, the teenager falls, like a puppet with its strings cut.

After all, Tenya had already gone unconscious for all that he remained standing.

“Midoriya Izuku wins this match!”

Izuku doesn’t even feel the pain that lances through his body as he falls down to the ground; such is the relief that he is feeling in this moment. He glances towards the stands, and there he sees his friends cheering at him.

Even those from Class 1-A, for all that they looked shocked how Izuku’s battle with Tenya had gone, are all looking at him with expressions of hard-earned respect.

“Once more, everyone clap your hands for Midoriya Izuuuukuuuuu!”

The applause, coming from all these strangers who Izuku didn’t even know, is so intoxicating that he barely notices it at first when Midnight approaches him. It’s when her shadow covers his face that Izuku finally realizes that Midnight has one hand offered towards his direction, the other arm wrapped around Tenya over her shoulder in a surprising display of strength.

“Come on you, you both have to get to Recovery Girl. Sheesh, I love hotbloodedness and all, but you two really overdid it. Don’t blame me for the lectures I’m sure you’ll get from her for this.”

In spite of the admonition, Izuku can only laugh.

I won. I won this round. Now, it’s just three more.

#-#-#-#

“Okay, what just happened?

Kan asks this of All Might, any pretense of keeping the man’s identity gone now that Midoriya Inko had rushed out of the teachers’ box as soon as the match ended. Considering her son’s state, Kan didn’t blame her for leaving so abruptly – especially when it allowed him to make these questions in her absence.

As for All Might, the man looks not just little tempted himself to leave for Recovery Girl’s office, but clearly expecting this kind of questioning, he answers, “It was the technique you just mentioned earlier, Vlad King. The one that Midoriya-kun used to rescue Monoma-kun from that fall from the second stage.”

“I know that!” Kan shoots back, before shaking a little at what he had just seen, “But, last time, Midoriya didn’t look that bad, so I didn’t think much of it before. But now, it’s plain to see that this technique isn’t something so simple, or to be used so freely. Just what kind of technique was it for it to hurt Midoriya so much?”

“As Midoriya-kun’s Quirk Counselor, I must reiterate Vlad-san’s questions, All Might.” Thirteen gives their two cents from they are sitting. And despite how their face remains as unreadable as ever from beneath their helmet, it is clear to see that the Rescue Hero is displeased. “I’ve taught Midoriya-kun about restraining his Quirk from harming others permanently, but it becomes obvious to me that perhaps I should have taught him self-preservation instincts instead.”

“Don’t I know it,” All Might mutters this to himself, before he shakes his head as he raises an explanatory finger. “Alright, first, all of us here are quite clear on what Midoriya-kun’s Quirk is, right? Its limits and capabilities included?”

Thirteen nods at that, while Kan shakes his head for a bit. “While I do know from Katsura’s incident that his Quirk is called Minor Banishment, I’m still not quite sure on how it works, especially considering all the uses Midoriya seems to squeeze out of it.”

All Might frowns a bit at that. “Alright, so here is basically how Midoriya-kun’s Quirk works: whenever he touches an object, he can banish at most 10 grams worth of matter from it, with something along the limit of three kilograms of combined banished matter per day before he starts to get a headache.”

Snipe’s voice is disbelieving, “That’s it? As in, that’s really all there is to it?”

Kan feels much of the same. All this time, he had thought that the name Minor Banishment had been something misleading – something absolutely powerful given a name that it didn’t truly deserve. But if this was really what Minor Banishment really did, then how?

How did Midoriya defeat his students, stop a giant robot with a touch, and now manipulate the wind with something so simple and weak? And judging from Thirteen’s words from earlier about restraint, there was more!

“I had thought the same thing when I first met Midoriya-kun,” All Might confesses, and it salves Kan’s pride for a bit because if the Number One hadn’t seen this coming before, then Kan’s own disbelief despite the facts sitting in front of his face could be forgiven. “But then came along the incident with Tsuchigumo, and well...”

All Might then begins to detail about Midoriya’s creative applications of his Quirk, with the occasional help from Thirteen, and slowly Kan begins to understand just how worthy of respect Midoriya is, and in another perspective, how terrifying the boy could have been if things had gone differently.

Monoma, is this what you saw on top of the World Tree? Is this why you snapped?

“You still haven’t explained just what this new technique of Midoriya is,” Snipe reminds, and Kan snaps back to the present to see Thirteen’s attention refocus on All Might.

All Might sighs at that. “Midoriya-kun called it his Air Step. According to him, he figured it out when he fought against Tsuburaba-kun and came to the realization that he can banish air.

“So, that’s why he broke against Tsuburaba’s barriers so easily! I thought that had been strange!” Kan exclaims, before immediately lowering his voice when other people started looking at their direction, “Air is less dense than most objects too, so that must be even easier to banish...”

“So, this Air Step is all about vacuum then?” Thirteen says worriedly, “That kind of thing is dangerous, as you must realize, All Might. No wonder Midoriya-kun is so hurt!”

“I know, but can any of us really stop Midoriya-kun when he wants to do something really reckless?” All Might shoots back, and when Thirteen remains quiet, he sighs, “I thought so. But yes, Air Step involves using vacuum to manipulate air pressure. By wrapping his front with a thin and constant layer of vacuum with Minor Banishment, the differences in air pressure from behind him and in front of him causes him to accelerate to truly absurd speeds.”

Kan argues weakly, “Surely, something like that can’t cause something as spectacularly dangerous as what we have just seen...”

“Vlad-san, trust me when I say this, but as a sniper I am all too aware about environmental conditions such as air pressure when I need to do my job.” Snipe says this quietly. “If what All Might is saying is true, then Midoriya-kun must be very lucky that he isn’t hurt as he could’ve been. After all...”

“If I am calculating this right, then the forces that Midoriya-kun has exposed his body to are not that different from a direct impact by a speeding truck. And that’s just from the air pressure – exposure to vacuum is a completely different ballgame. The fact that Midoriya-kun remained standing and is mostly intact... is a miracle on its own.”

Kan can only remain quiet at that, because at this point he has also gotten to like Midoriya. The thought of Midoriya hurting himself irreparably due to his own technique was... barely worth considering. There certainly better ways to fight than something as self-damaging as this Air Step.

Maybe Kan could approach Midoriya himself and talk to him about it? Thirteen certainly seemed to need the help teaching the boy a sense of self-preservation...

Now that he had explained things, All Might is ready to leave, “Alright, I probably should be heading to Recovery Girl’s myself-“

“All Might, somebody’s calling for you! It’s Hitoshi Shinsou, from Class 1-C! He says he needs to talk to you about something...?”

“-or perhaps not.” All Might sighs.

#-#-#-#

“You’re leaving, Ingenium-san?”

Tensei nods at the questions from his sidekicks. “Originally, I hadn’t planned on leaving for Yuuei this early, but after seeing that... My brother fought well, but as much as might deny it when I get there, he definitely needs some comforting after such a close match.”

Hesitantly, he asks back, “You guys would be fine without me, I hope?”

His sidekicks have nothing but understanding looks on their faces. One of them even replies,  “You may be a Pro Hero, Ingenium-san, but this is family. Nobody can blame you for skipping one of your patrols, especially considering this has gone on national TV. Heck, if you didn’t go, we’ll probably be more disappointed in you, Ingenium-san!”

Tensei manages a snort at that, as somber as he feels. “Thanks, you guys. Make the Ingenium name proud while I’m gone, alright?”

His sidekicks shoot back mock-serious salutes, and Tensei can only laugh as he runs towards the direction of Yuuei. Really, he had such amazing coworkers...

As he leaves the city of Hosu, Tensei mentally calculates the distance he has to travel. By car, Hosu was several hours away from Mutsutafu. With that kind of distance, even such a mobile Hero as him would find it difficult to clear in just as much time, especially once he had to take into consideration how his stamina would be barely enough to get there in good condition.

The idea should’ve been daunting, but then he remembers Tenya fighting on that stage...

I can do this. An hour or two tops. Wait for me, Tenya.

Activating Engine, nobody can even see Tensei as he leaves for Mutsutafu.

Chapter Text

Chapter 19: Tournament Part 5

Receiving a message from Inko on his phone, Toshinori lets out a sigh of relief when it told him that Izuku just went through Recovery Girl’s operation and was now healing. That certainly took out any immediate need to go and visit Izuku after his match, but Toshinori knows that he’ll really have to talk Izuku about taking care of himself more at some point.

There is no way Toshinori would let Izuku end up in the same kind of physical state as Toshinori is in after all.

Returning the phone to his pocket, Toshinori raises his head to meet the eyes of another student, both of them having moved on to a private room at his insistence. But for all that Hitoshi had initiated this, now that he is sitting alone with Toshinori the boy is fidgeting under his stare.

What did Shinsou-kun want to talk about that had him so hesitant?

“Shinsou-kun? What did you want to talk about, and why couldn’t we have done this at a better time, you do know that it’s Kensei-kun’s match going on out there right now, right?”

Shinsou-kun places a hand to cover part of his face, conflict in the boy’s visible eye. “It’s because there is no time – I just came across an argument that I didn’t even mean to hear, and with all signs pointing to Todoroki being my last obstacle before I can fight with Izuku...”

An argument? Involving young Todoroki? “Explain.”

Shinsou-kun’s hand climbs up to his hair this time, scratching anxiously. “Well, to start off, I found this out right after my match with Mineta. While I was getting back to the stands, I heard some yelling, and it got me curious. So when I checked it out only to find Bakugou and Todoroki...”

Toshinori’s eyes widen and widen as Shinsou-kun continues to describe an argument that has plenty of implications about one of the quietest members of his class and his father, none other than the Number Two, Endeavor.

“And then, I had to consider this: as it is, I barely have any chance against Todoroki, if at all. If I want to win, I would most likely need to use this against Todoroki, use his father to make him snap.” Toshinori gasps at that very blunt admission from one of his favorite students, “And so, I came here to ask you this Toshinori-san: what should I do?”

“I want to respect Todoroki’s privacy and secret, but to do so would be to break my promise and shared dream with Izuku. And if I don’t do that, should I even consider myself as someone who would be a Hero?”

“Please, Toshinori-san,” Shinsou-kun bows to him at last, the inner struggle between the boy’s dream and morals finally shining through, “Help me decide on what I need to do.”

There is a moment of silence, and then Toshinori asks, mostly to buy himself more time, “Why didn’t you approach Aizawa-kun?”

Shinsou-kun manages to snort at that, at least. “Eraserhead? I don’t even need to approach him to know his answer. Someone like him would tell me to treat my coming match seriously like I’m fighting a real villain instead of a fellow student.”

And that meant being pragmatic, so painfully pragmatic to the point of using dishonest tactics like Shinsou-kun had been implying he could do. Still, “Then let me rephrase my question: why me?”

Of all of his students from Izuku’s group, Toshinori had always felt like Shinsou-kun had been the farthest away from him, at least emotionally. Not enough that Toshinori didn’t feel affection for the boy – he did, painfully so at times especially whenever he considered how that affection shouldn’t outshine how he felt for those of Class 1-A – but Megumi had spent the most time with him the past month, Katsura-kun was so affectionate, and Izuku was in a whole other class of his own.

With how Shinsou-kun spent so much of his time with Aizawa and his fellow peers, Toshinori thought that the boy would at least turn to Katsura-kun for this, who he knew Shinsou-kun trusted the most after Izuku.  If they knew that he was the Number One Hero, it would make sense, but him, Yagi Toshinori?

It simply didn’t compute to Toshinori.

“Toshinori-san, you must be thinking, ‘Why me, I’m not that special,’ aren’t you?” Shinsou-kun correctly plucks the thoughts from his mind, and when Toshinori nods, he is only left further confused when the boy then smiles, “Toshinori-san, you really do underestimate how important you are to us in our group huh?”

“Toshinori-san, while you have never been the best talker,” Toshinori twitches, “Or the best teacher,” Another twitch, “Or even the best adult,” One last twitch, leaving Toshinori’s ego very much wrecked, “When it comes to every adult we know, there’s no one that we respect more than you. We know you, Toshinori-san.”

“We know how straight as an arrow you are, how much wisdom you hide underneath that unassuming form of yours, heck, to us there is no one who has a heart bigger than what you have, not counting Izuku himself of course.”

“Not even All Might is above you in our eyes, so remember that, alright Toshinori-san?”

Toshinori is floored by that admission. To think... that these children, people who didn’t even know about his heroic persona, would consider him so highly? This was, this was just unbelievable!

Yet so, so true, judging from the fond look Shinsou-kun is sending his way now.

“T-Thanks,” Something is lodged at Toshinori’s throat, but he gulps it down, “for that compliment, Shinsou-kun. But very well then, I shall try to help you decide on what you want to do.”

Casting for an answer from the memories of his own mentor, Toshinori doesn’t hesitate even when it comes up blank. To start off... “To begin, Shinsou-kun, I must ask you this first: what do you want to do?”

Shinsou-kun looks down at that, Toshinori managing to get a glimpse of guilt swimming in the boy’s eyes before they focused on his feet.

“I want to win.” The yearning in Shinsou-kun’s voice isn’t something that Toshinori can put into words, “I want to be able to face Izuku on that last match. I want to be able to join Class 1-A and become a student Aizawa-sensei can teach openly, I want to know All Might. But if that means using what I know now to break Todoroki...”

“...you don’t know if that would all be really worth it, in the end.” Toshinori says, suddenly understanding part of his student’s fears, “Shinsou-kun, are you worried that, if you do this, you’ll be hated by your classmates anyway even if you manage to get in Class 1-A? That Izuku and your other friends would be ashamed of you?”

Silence sometimes answers questions better than words. This is one of those times, and this moment really makes Toshinori realize that, for all that Shinsou-kun, like all of his friends from his little group, could be really mature and responsible for his age, Shinsou-kun was still a teenager.

And since when were teenagers not prone to moments of insecurity such as this?

Shinsou jerks when Toshinori begins to pat him on the head.

“Shinsou-kun, you really are a kind child, aren’t you?” It seems that it’s Shinsou-kun’s turn this time to look absolutely astonished at receiving praise, and honestly it makes Toshinori’s heart tear up deep inside. His students really deserved more praise than this. “You seem to have mentally painted it as you being merely selfish, but in truth, I think you care more for how your actions make others feel than you believe. After all, right now, you barely know Class 1-A, yet you already don’t want to hurt Todoroki-kun more than you have to.”

“That takes strength, I believe.”

Shinsou-kun shakes at those words, and Toshinori kindly ignores the way Shinsou-kun’s eyes start to blur.

“S-So, Toshinori-san. What do you think I should do?”

Toshinori’s advice is simple. “Do what you truly feel that you should do. Do what you feel you can be proud of doing, and if that means being callous, then it is truly your choice. Personally, I would prefer if you didn’t have to do that kind of thing...”

“But,” He taps Shinsou-kun on the nose, making the teenager’s eyes cross, “What do I know? After all, in the end, it’s you who really knows yourself and what you can do.”

That seems to do the trick, as Shinsou-kun looks down, nods once, and once he raises his head again, the gleam in his eyes is the same self-assured and confident teenager that Toshinori had cheered on this morning.

(Now then, all that Toshinori needs to do is to take his own steps to check whatever it is that is happening between Endeavor and his son. He didn’t really consider it before, with how busy he was as All Might, but teenagers really shouldn’t have scars that covered half of their face.

There is no way he’ll be letting this go anytime soon.)

“Toshinori-san, should we head back?”

Shinsou-kun’s question brings Toshinori back to reality, and with a chuckle, he replies, “Yeah, we probably should. Maybe if we’ll even manage to see how Kensei-kun would end his match if we’re lucky!”

When they do return to the stands though, both of their mouths fall at what they see.

#-#-#-#

Fifteen minutes ago:

Izuku’s forehead is on fire.

Oh, he has already been healed by Recovery Girl alright. After all, for all that he had been covered in injuries when his match with Iida-kun ended, they were minor injuries. Absurd in their number, yes, but ultimately they had only been superficial and easily healed, as Izuku hadn’t even used his Air Step for that long.

However, that certainly didn’t stop Recovery Girl from chopping him upside the head with a weathered hand as soon as her Quirk finished its job, and of course, who could stop Midoriya Inko from scolding him over and over again for worrying her so much?

Really, sometimes Izuku regrets how stronger his Mom was these days. Before, all Izuku had to fear was the proverbial stab at the heart whenever his mother scolded him as she cried, but now Midoriya Inko had replaced that. No more tears, but instead those finger flicks of hers on his forehead.

And while Izuku liked to think he had a pretty good resistance to pain, anybody who thought finger flicks didn’t hurt deserved to face Midoriya Inko and her Flick of Death. Let them try to say then that it didn’t hurt.

“Izuku-kun, are you alright? That certainly looked like a pretty outrageous match...”

At his only remaining teammate’s question, Izuku manages to smile, “I’m fine, Megumi-san. Recovery Girl healed me up – I just feel a little tired, that’s all.”

When Izuku returned from Recovery Girl’s office to see only Megumi left in her seat, Izuku had been surprised. Kensei’s absence, that was understandable, after all the other boy’s match was up next, but Hitoshi also being absent was something that he didn’t expect.

When asked, Megumi only told him that Hitoshi wanted to talk to Toshinori-san, but as to what that was, even Megumi didn’t know.

Still, that meant that when Izuku arrived, they had a surplus of free seats beside them...

“Still, your match against Iida had been manly, Midoriya! It’s a pity that I never made it to the finals, otherwise I would be challenging you to a match right now!”

...and that meant that several of Class 1-A felt free to fill in that gap.

“So... Kirishima-san, Kaminari-san, not that I mind both of your presences here-” Really, Izuku didn’t. It was just that somebody had to ask, and while Megumi was a lot better with males than she used to, especially with such obviously good-natured people as their current visitors, sometimes Izuku still had to be the one to speak up for the both of them, “-why are you two here instead of...”

Kaminari and Kirishima exchange looks, before they send back identical toothy grins, “Welllll, Bakugou just kicked us out of our seats, because apparently we were a little too loud when we were watching your fight with Iida.”

At that explanation from Kaminari, Izuku has to sigh because he really could see that coming from Kacchan. “Well then, feel free to stay I suppose, at least until Hitoshi-kun and Kensei-kun get back.”

At their reminder of his recent match though, Izuku finds himself glancing at where the rest of Class 1-A are sitting. While he was being healed by Recovery Girl, he had seen Iida-kun being pushed into another room... while the other boy’s absence could be explained by him wanting some privacy after losing the match, it was true that Izuku kind of went overboard with his attacks, what if-

“Midoriya, you’re muttering up a storm! Are things okay up there?”

Izuku snaps out of his reverie just in time to see Kirishima looking at him worriedly. The expression doesn’t really fit the other boy, he finds. Kirishima should always have a smile on his face.

“I’m fine, Kirishima-san. Just... wondering about where Iida-kun is.”

Kaminari snorts at that, “Heh, our Vice President is probably just hiding his face in shame-“

What was that, Kaminari-kun?”

The electrokinetic jumps with, as Kirishima would probably put it, one of the least manliest sounds Izuku had heard come from another guy. “You were here!?”

Iida, who had appeared out of nowhere and looking a lot better from the last Izuku saw him save for some bandages, takes a moment to reaffix his glasses before he says, “I’ve just arrived! Recovery Girl had been just telling me how to not overdo things, and I thought to talk to Midoriya-kun before I return to my seat, but I didn’t imagine finding you talking about me behind my back Kaminari! Have some shame!”

Looking a little put out, Kaminari mumbles, “Expect the Vice Pres to be a killjoy as always...”

“What did I just hear you say, Kaminari-kun!?”

“Uwaaaaah!”

Deciding to break the two up before they go any further, Izuku catches his former opponent’s attention with a wave of an arm, “Iida-kun, you really do feel better? I’m sorry that I went so overboard, I just didn’t want to lose...”

At Izuku’s hurried words, Iida only stares at him for a second, and then the second passes and the other boy is shaking his head. “You have no need to apologize, Midoriya-kun! I did ask for it after all, you’ve done nothing wrong.”

But Izuku certainly couldn’t have imagined that flash of sadness he had just seen, “But Iida-kun-!”

“It was an amazing match, Midoriya-kun. Please, let’s leave it at that.”

Iida holds him by the shoulders, that sad expression hiding behind those eyes, and Izuku realizes that, if Iida-kun was to ever get help, it wouldn’t be from Izuku himself. After all, for all of Izuku’s good intentions, Izuku had won.

If he truly wanted to help, he shouldn’t be rubbing salt in Iida’s wounds by demeaning his own victory.

“A-Alright, Iida-kun.” Izuku says, trying for a smile. “Would you sit with us as well while we watch Kensei-kun’s match?”

Something flashes across Iida’s face, but before Izuku can identify it, the other boy is already looking away, “I’m afraid I must apologize, as I have to return to my seat Midoriya-kun.”

Wind taken out of his sails, Izuku says weakly, “That’s... understandable.”

And just like that, Iida leaves. Watching him leave, Izuku sighs before a familiar hand on his shoulder followed by an equally familiar presence in his head comforts him.

It’s okay, Izuku-kun. He just needs some time.

With a sullen nod at Megumi’s telepathic message, Izuku turns back to Kaminari and Kirishima, who also look suitably awkward at the awkward atmosphere that has befallen their group ever since Iida left.

“S-So, about Katsura!” Kaminari makes a bid to change the subject, “Can you guys tell us about him? I mean, it’s clear that he has some kind of gadgeteering gig going for him, given that he and Yamato-san here apparently helped out Yaoyorozu make your weapons, but other than that, I have no idea what kind of dude he is.”

Izuku takes a moment to consider that question. Certainly, he couldn’t tell Kaminari about Kensei’s past, the nondisclosure forms he had to sign notwithstanding, but surely Izuku could tell them just a bit?

Quietly communicating with Megumi while her hand still remained on his shoulder, Izuku quickly comes to a conclusion.

“Honestly, you remind me of Kensei-kun, Kaminari-san. Except when it comes to girls.”

Both students from Class 1-A blink at that, while Megumi takes her hand back to muffle a giggle. Izuku has to smile himself when Kirishima then asks, “So, Katsura’s never been aggressively shut down by one of your female classmates?”

Everyone else ends up laughing when Kaminari shouts, clearly affronted, “Hey!”

Once their amusement settles down though, Izuku manages, “Y-Yeah, in fact it’s quite the opposite. Kensei’s always been weak to girls he’s not that familiar with.”

Kirishima points towards the stage at that, “Like for example, his opponent right now?”

Izuku has to sweatdrop when he sees Kensei already attempting to edge away from both Midnight and Hatsume, “Exactly.”

“Any reason as to why?”

Honestly, even now, Izuku didn’t know about that himself, so he ends up shaking his head. Kensei had always been weak to girls as long as he knew him, but why? Certainly that had been the mystery of the decade, and there had been many times that Hitoshi had made the attempt to solve it...

“I know why.”

All three of the males in their little conversation immediately turn to the lone girl who finally said something.

“You know something, Megumi-san?”

Megumi has nothing short of a coy smile on her face as she says, “I certainly do.”

“I know why Kensei-kun is so weak to girls. Why as soon as a girl approaches him he draws back, why he turns immediately red the moment they touch him. And really, how could I not know? After all, his thoughts are an open book to me whenever I approach him.”

That... made an absurd amount of sense. How the hell did Izuku even fail to consider this before!?

There is a silence. Kirishima and Kaminari look oddly at Izuku, whose expression is as though Megumi just admitted that she knew the secret of immortality or even the meaning of life itself. With a slow and dramatic gulp, Izuku asks, “What is it then, Megumi-san? What’s the secret?”

Megumi’s smile is pure sweetness.

“It’s because, at heart, Kensei-kun is a just big child deep inside.”

#-#-#-#

Mei honestly doesn’t have much expectations for this match.

True, her opponent – a boy who is currently stepping away from her even though Midnight already announced the beginning of the match – is someone like her who isn't from the Hero Class, but as impressive that was, so was be her opponent directly after this. And compared to her current opponent, Midoriya Izuku was one hell of a multiplicative factor for her schemes.

After all, to use the personal favorite of the crowds in this year’s Sports Festival as her personal advertisement bunny? That was practically the support companies eating out of her hands right there!

Plus, Katsura Kensei isn’t that visually impressive, really. Like she did for everyone else in this tournament when the Sky Garden stage ended, she did a bit of surface hacking on Kensei’s background and Quirk, and while the number of redacted links on his file was interesting, as well as the way his Quirk seemed to be a government secret, it wasn’t useful for her at the moment.

True, if his Quirk was the flashy kind she could make use of it, but she also looked up the records of the previous stage and it certainly looked like whatever Kensei’s Quirk was, it was the subtle kind like her own Scope.

Too bad too, considering how Kensei seemed easily manipulated with how weak he was to her appearance...

“Now then,” Mei announces, causing the boy in front of her to twitch when she pointed one of her babies at him, a specially designed hand-cannon that had modular ammo, “Let’s end this quick so I can meet my proper guinea pig, shall we?”

A net shoots out of her hand-cannon, and Mei has to grin when she sees Kensei dodge it.

Well, it would be boring if it was easy, wasn’t it!?

Resisting the urge to turn on her mic – hold it in Mei, that kind of spectacle works best when you only do it once, and there certainly are bigger fish to fry later – Mei instead pulls out several small marbles from her pack.

Loading the marble into her modular gun, Mei can only laugh at the surprised look on Kensei’s face when foam shoots out of it instead, a capturing formula that Mei designed to harden within a minute of being shot while remaining porous and breathable.

“Once again, we see Hatsume Mei using a boatload of support items! Where is she getting all of these toys, and who designed them!?”

Thank you, Present Mic, but then Kensei also avoids getting captured by the capture foam and Mei has to focus back on the match when the other teenager begins to rush at her with a wrench in hand.

Judging from the way Kensei looks far too red for his appearance to be because of exertion, as well as the way his eyes are clearly keeping on her face as opposed to the rest of her body, Mei is right in her summation of her opponent’s weaknesses.

Well then, let it not be said that Mei isn’t perfectly capable of taking advantage of such an opportunity!

“Oh, so you’re coming at me? How forward! Please be gentle with me, Kensei-kun!”

When Kensei trips on his feet at that, sputtering something that Mei doesn’t particularly care about, Mei replaces her gun with a long metal rod that had been previously collapsed in her pack. With its thin design, far too thin to withstand any kind of force at the tip without collapsing back into its smaller form, the rod isn’t something to be used like a polearm.

Instead, Mei designed it for this, “Let’s see you get out of this then, Kensei-kun!”

Whipping her rod at Kensei’s prone form, Mei has to appreciate the surprise from the people in the stands when the rod snakes all around Kensei’s form of its own volition, soon interlocking with itself to form a metal binding around Kensei’s arms and legs.

With a metallic crash, Kensei falls over to the ground like a puppet with its strings cut, and for a moment Mei waits.

When ten seconds pass and Kensei doesn’t seem to have the kind of Quirk to escape her baby’s clutches, Mei sighs in disappointment as she turns to Midnight, “Referee-san, please end the match-“

“Wow, what an amazing design! I wish I had thought of something similar to this before!”

Mei halts at the praise coming from her opponent’s direction. Turning back, she sees him sitting, his eyes only for her baby which had somehow been unfolded back into its original form. “How did you escape-“

“My Quirk is called Scan. It lets me see the structure of whatever I touch with my hands. Your design is pretty good but it has a flaw in it, correct? Put some force in the right part and it disentangles all by itself.”

Despite his words, Katsura Kensei looks nothing short of impressed as he looks at her personal design from all directions, and Mei, Mei’s excited, because not only is it starting to look like her opponent was a fellow engineer, that Quirk he had was-!

“How about this one then! Look at this baby of mine!”

People start to murmur in disbelief in the stands as Mei just hands over another of her support tools to Kensei, and once her opponent places his hands on her hover shoes, she sees the excitement on her face echoed on his.

“This, this is a working hover-shoes prototype, isn’t it!? And you based it off Air Jet’s backpack! That takes a lot of talent, but I think I have an idea how you could increase its efficiency while allowing the user to control where they are going...”

Kensei seems to have forgotten that she’s a girl in the process of studying her babies, but Mei honestly can’t find it in herself to care about that. This... The potential of getting this boy to help her in her goals... Even Midoriya Izuku and his fame multiplier couldn’t reach the same heights she could see now in those hands!

Mei has come to a decision.

“Kensei-kun, would you help me in a bit? I think you would enjoy this too...”

She turns on her mic.

#-#-#-#

Toshinori has never seen anything quite like this before.

In all the years that he had watched Yuuei’s Sports Festival, the tournament by the end of it had always been a predictable, if exciting affair. Every match students would fight, showing off their Quirks and their talents, somebody would win, and then the next match would happen.

Sometimes, a pair of students would have a match so impressive that it would be the gossip of the year, but in the end that kind of thing only lasted for so long. Another match from a future Sports Festival would end up being just as impressive, and just like that the previous gossip would be forgotten and the cycle began anew.

Today’s Sports Festival had already been weird, with the Sky Garden and most recently the tie between Megumi and Asui that ended up with neither students wanting to progress to the next match, but still nothing, as in nothing had ever been like what Toshinori is watching now with an equally baffled Hitoshi-kun.

“Kensei-kun, what’s this one then!?”

Toshinori has to shake his head at the sight of his student standing beside his supposed opponent, looking like some kind of co-host from a TV show as opposed to somebody who is in the middle of a tournament match.

“Well, Hatsume-chan, if you really want me to tell everyone about it, then how can I say no? These are a pair of gloves capable of allowing their wearer to maintain grip on any kind of solid surface, and they work with a recent technology developed by Axel Corps! By taking advantage of this revolutionary cloth called...”

Hitoshi looks as though he had been just smacked by a wet fish, “Is... Is that Kensei advertising his opponent’s weapons as opposed to actually fighting?”

A bubble of something climbs up Toshinori’s throat at his student’s appearance, “Yes.”

“And he’s acting like some kid in a toy store?”

The bubble swells, reaching up to his mouth and even his nose, “Yes.

“And – correct me if I’m wrong – his opponent is also a girl, and he’s not blushing like some kind of heartstruck maiden at her presence?”

And that last one, with Hitoshi-kun looking more dumbstruck by that particular fact than anything else, Toshinori figures out as to just what is bubbling up inside of him. It is nothing other than pure and unadulterated glee, followed by lots of blood.

“Y-Yes! Pfffthahahahaha-!”

Toshinori ends up shooting blood all over the place with his laughter.

#-#-#-#

Izuku has a pounding headache. Said headache is not helped by the show Kensei-kun is helping Hatsume Mei host, as well as the ‘secret’ that he had just found out.

“It’s because Kensei-kun is such a big child deep inside that I feel safe around him. After all, even though he could literally figure out any girl’s three-sizes with a handshake, only Kensei-kun could be so embarrassed about it for our sakes that he tries to avoid girls entirely.

“Of course, I suppose in this case, he has forgotten about that entirely in favor of Hatsume Mei’s inventions.”

At Megumi’s proud announcement, Kaminari shouts in pure envy, “Wait, his Quirk could do something like that? Talk about unfair!”

The way the electrokinetic takes a step back when Megumi’s eyes narrow at him makes Izuku think that Kaminari-kun hasn’t quite forgotten how Megumi had managed to tie with Asui with nothing but hand-to-hand combat.

But really, for Kensei’s secret to be just something like that... honestly, finding it now felt rather anticlimactic, but in a strangely funny way that makes him smile a bit. That certainly teaches Izuku about assuming something even more tragic in Kensei’s past, as was his running theory before Megumi cleared things up for him.

“I wonder how this match would end though...”

Izuku perks up at that question from Kirishima, considering whoever won this would end up becoming his next opponent, but it is soon answered when Mei and Kensei’s little advertising session is finished with both of the competitors stepping out of the stage.

“...uh, with both Katsura Kensei and Hatsume Mei unwilling to fight, the match has ended with yet another tie!”

Present Mic sounds understandably confused at the turn of events, and Izuku can’t quite say he doesn’t feel the same. Would this mean that he just got a bye for his next match like Hitoshi-kun?

Izuku wouldn’t complain, but... things certainly ended up strange for this match, that’s for sure.

#-#-#-#

Meanwhile, somewhere else in the arena, a single teenage girl had quietly absconded herself while the others from her class were distracted by the odd match happening before them.

She breathes in slowly.

She knows anxiety – at least, prior to this, only in technical ways. After all, never before had she found any reason to doubt herself with her talents, but what she had recently been witness to had shaken that. Now, it is only her technical knowledge of anxiety and how to deal with it that keeps her afloat, over the panic and into a slightly calmer state.

Breathe in, breath out. Count to five, one two three four.

She closes her eyes, trying to clear her mind, but after several failed attempts she despairs. No matter how much she tries, no matter how much she calms herself, she couldn’t think of a way to defeat him. Not with how she was so sure that he’d just break through her defenses before she could achieve anything that she had planned.

After all, if there was one thing she was suitably proud of, it was that she was smart and she knew it. But faced with solid evidence of her opponent’s combat abilities prior to this, it is that intelligence that is her current downfall. No matter how much she might try, she could never deny the existence of her own flaws, the existence of the type mismatch that she was about to face.

How am I going to defeat Bakugou?

“Yaoyorozu?”

She is snapped out of her thoughts by a familiar voice. Raising her head, Momo meets the worried gaze of none other than Kensei, accompanied by his previous opponent Hatsume Mei.

Had she really been so out of it that she had unknowingly gotten to the path to the arena itself? And for these two to be out here too, that meant their match finally ended, which meant that it was Kendo and Shiozaki’s match...

The second-to-the-last match before the first round of matches end. The last round before my match with Bakugou.

She only had so little time, yet Momo still had no idea what to do.

Before she knows it, she is already asking, her pride already forgotten, “Help, Kensei-san, please help me.”

Kensei-san doesn’t even delay, “Please explain.”

And just like that, her thoughts from the past few hours spill from her. “It all began from the Sky Garden...”

Not even ten minutes later, after  Momo has finished explaining the source of her doubts and fears, Kensei-san has brought her to his group of friends, Midoriya-kun, Megumi-san, Shinsou-kun, and even several from her own class like Kirishima and Kaminari.

Upon seeing her face, Megumi becomes serious, directing this to Kensei, “Kensei-kun, anything wrong?”

“Yaoyorozu-san is worried about her chances against Bakugou. I suggest that we help her with that.” Kensei-san announces, to the shock of everyone in hearing range. Ignoring their reactions, he then turns to Midoriya-san, “Izu-chan, Bakugou is your friend, so I’m sorry that we’re doing this. But I won’t hold it against you if you don’t want to help, or even if you want us to stop doing this-“

“W-While it’s true that part of me doesn’t want to go against Kacchan, Yaoyorozu-san is your friend, Kensei-kun, Megumi-san.” Midoriya-san shakes his head at that, before making a sad smile. “Kacchan also has never made a good impression on any of you, so I should be the one saying sorry here.”

“So you’re really not helping them?” Shinsou-kun asks this of Midoriya-kun, and when the other boy quietly shakes his head, he steps forward, “Well, I suppose that leaves me the job of helping them then. Never did like Bakugou anyway.”

“Hitoshi?” Kensei-san sounds surprised at that.

“When it comes to tactics, while I’m not even close to Izuku here, I’m the second best of our group. It might not be much, but since we only have so much time, you’ll need all the help you can get. I have to ask a question though,” Shinsou-kun turns a questioning look at another person in their conversation, “Why is she here?”

Everyone turns to Hatsume Mei, who for the entire time had accompanied Kensei from their previous match.

“I was about to talk to Kensei here about something when this fell on our laps! After hearing Yaoyorozu’s plight, I was moved into action! I want a piece of this, especially when she could use so much of my babies!”

Kaminari, who had entirely looked dumbstruck since this all began, splutters, “Babies?

“It’s what Hatsume calls her inventions. Don’t mind her.” Kensei-san explains quickly before a look of realization passes through his face. “Wait, inventions... Hatsume, do you know all of the blueprints of your support tools?”

“Why yes, of course I’ve memorized my blueprints!” Hatsume looks appalled at the mere idea of her having not done so. “Each and every single design, I have never forgotten them and they are always in my head!”

Kensei isn’t the only one who has realized the possibilities now. Everyone from Midoriya-kun’s group has their eyes wide at the inventor, and Momo herself can’t help but hope as she remembers just what Megumi-san’s Quirk was...!

“We only have so much time.” Megumi-san announces, before glancing at the match happening all this time. “Itsuka-chan and Ibara-san are playing the defensive game right now, so this’ll probably take longer than the previous matches, but even with that we only have thirty minutes, tops.”

“We better get to work then.” Kensei agrees, and before Momo knows it, the boy is looking directly at her, supportive and friendly. “Can’t you believe it, Yaoyorozu-san? Nearly everyone is willing to help you. You’re not alone.”

Momo has to hold back something in her throat at it and the nods coming her way from the others. “Call me Momo. If you’re all going to help, then you all deserve at least that.”

“Momo-chan then.” Kensei agrees, before turning back to Midoriya-kun, “Alright, now then if you don’t mind, we’ll be leaving Izu-chan!”

The last thing Momo hears before three-fourths of the 1-C Team and Mei hauls her out of there is Kirishima murmuring something towards Kaminari’s way.

“Kaminari, do you think that Bakugou stands any chance, if all of them helping Yaomomo?”

She doesn’t hear what Kaminari says.

(It was, “No, he never stood a chance.”)

#-#-#-#

In the arena itself, Kendou glares at the thicket of thorns that surrounded her classmate.

They were in a stalemate. While Kendou’s hands were more resistant to damage while her Quirk was activated, it wasn’t perfect. They were still hands and thus liable to get injured if she forced it. Sadly, one of those things that could get her hands injured was Ibara’s thorns, and as such she couldn’t just grab her classmate when she was so well-rooted into the arena.

But for all that she was so far unable to touch her, her opponent didn’t fare well against her as well. Individual vines couldn’t hope to touch her with the brute strength Kendou could bring to bear, and any big attacks were easy to see and thus avoid.

Clearly, from the thicket that was expanding around her opponent, Ibara was planning on making an attack that was so big that Kendou had absolutely no hope to avoid it in their limited arena, but it wasn’t as though Kendou didn’t have her own tricks.

While she barely managed to actually help during the Sky Garden, she remembered enough from Katsura Kensei’s little ‘friend’ that sometimes even pure power had a place in something like this.

Clasping her hands together, Kendou brings out her Quirk’s full power, enlarging them as much as possible before she slams them into the middle of the arena with a loud crack as she had hoped to do. Dust flies all over the place, forcing Kendou to defend herself from several opportunistic attempts by Ibara to capture her while her vision was so limited, but when the dust settle down Kendou allows herself a grin at the sight of the now-broken arena.

“It seems that Itsuka Kendou has purposefully destroyed the arena! What is she planning now!?”

Answering Present Mic’s question, Kendou grasped for the gaps between the cracks that she had made in the arena floor. Finding grip on them, with a heave, Kendou pulls and pulls until a big slab of the arena has been raised.

With a grin, she makes a giant fist before she punches said slab into pieces.

“This can only be...!”

 Before, she couldn’t touch Ibara, and try as she might, Kendou probably wouldn’t have any way to change that anytime soon.

Not that she needed any of that now though. After all, now she had projectiles.

“Sorry, Ibara,” Kendou reaches for one piece of the rubble, easily thrice as large as her own head, “But I’m not going to lose here!”

And just like that, the match comes closer to its end, despite the hopes of a certain group of teenagers for it to last a little longer...

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 20: Tournament Part 6

Kendou gulps heavy breaths.

Finally, after a fight that felt way longer than it probably should’ve been, she had her hands on Ibara. It took more than a dozen large rocks, a few hits that she had to endure just to win, and in the end Kendou had to grit her teeth just so she endure the pain of plucking Ibara right out of the arena, but in the end, she did it.

“Winner, Itsuka Kendou of Class 1-B!”

She won.

Turning her gaze to the stands, she seeks out several people from the cheering masses. At this point, Kendou barely cares about the faceless people cheering her on – no, her interest lies solely on the people who believed in her to win this match, and it is when she finally finds her team from the Sky Garden that Kendou allows herself to smile.

“I knew you could do it, Kendou!” She has to blush at the sight of Tsubaraba cheering her victory from his seat with Kuroiro. “Atta girl! You certainly showed Shiozaki who’s boss!”

Turning her gaze slightly to the side makes her eyes meet with Monoma’s, and when the Monoma nods pleasantly back, Kendou knows that something certainly changed within the boy, because the Monoma before today wouldn’t have done anything like that.

A meek noise comes from her front, and Kendou has to utter an apology as she finally remembers to put down Ibara. As her hands shrink back to their normal size, Kendou winces at the bright red scratches all over her hands as she waits for Ibara to regain her breathing.

“So I’ve lost.” Ibara sighs as soon as she recovers. “I have to apologize to Honezuki-kun for wasting his honorable sacrifice.”

Kendou blinks at that, remembering, “Right, Ibara, you only got to this tournament too because Honezuki let you take his place…”

In her determination to prove Monoma and the rest right in trusting her to win this tournament, Kendou had forgotten that Ibara was yet another of her classmates, and as such one of the people she was responsible for as Class 1-B’s class president. She won, but it was at the cost of defeating one of her classmates, and only brought about because two other classmates let her enter this tournament and another allowed her to get Ibara as her opponent.

In face of that fact, immediately her victory felt a lot less sweet.

“It’s fine, you don’t have to feel guilty, Kendou-san. We both fought well, so I’m sure he would understand.” Ibara immediately reads her thoughts straight out of her face, and once more, Kendou is reminded just how the girl in front of her is easily one of the sweetest people she knows. “Now then, let’s head to where the rest of our classmates are, shall we?”

Kendou manages a grin at that. “Sure thing, Ibara-chan. But for just a moment…”

Once more Kendou sweeps her gaze across the crowd, looking for a different group of people this time. After all, while they weren’t her classmates, Midoriya-kun and his friends had certainly made an impression on Kendou – she wanted to see how they would react to her victory too.

Taking a minute, she finds… only Midoriya? Where were the rest of his team from Class 1-C?

“Kendou-san?” Ibara asks curiously, bringing her attention back to her.

Kendou shakes her head. They were probably just off for the moment, maybe even taking this chance in between matches for a short bathroom break, and Kendou already took too long to end this match anyway. “It’s probably just nothing. Let’s go back, Ibara-chan!”

Little did she know that the moment she leaves the stage, Izuku is already sending hurried texts to his friends to warn them of the incoming match…

#-#-#-#

She can do this. While she might have wanted to have a bit more time to prepare, Momo is far more ready now compared to how she had been mere thirty minutes ago. She can even still feel the new information swimming in her mind, settling in places she never knew needed to be filled and making her fingers practically tingle with what she is now capable of.

Momo takes in a deep breath, and with a long exhale, she fixes her stance into the basic form that she had been taught in her self-defense classes. It’s not the same level as Megumi-san’s martial arts – for all that her Quirk is a miracle, even Megumi couldn’t pass on her fighting skills as easily as the schematics Momo now knows – but it’ll have to do.

No, not that. It would be enough.

I can do this. I can defeat Bakugou Katsuki.

The newfound determination must show in her eyes, because both Midnight and Bakugou look at her warily. Midnight, with barely-suppressed excitement at the kind of fiery spirit she is now seeing in the usually gentle Momo, and Bakugou with his instincts telling him to be careful.

“Ponytail, I saw you earlier…” Bakugou starts speaking, prompting some surprise from Midnight. “So you asked for help from Deku and his lackeys, huh?”

Momo doesn’t flinch at the accusation lying behind Bakugou’s words. “I’m just giving you the rightful respect you deserve, Bakugou-san. Save for you and Todoroki-kun, I probably would’ve felt safe enough to not rely on others like this… but no. I’m not naïve enough to think that I can defeat you without some assistance.”

“Tch. This is why I didn’t want Deku to…” Bakugou says for a moment before he shakes his head, clearly having no intent to finish what he was about to say. “No matter. Whatever plan Deku might have given you, I have no intention to let you win. Not when my fight with him is waiting just ahead of this.”

“You seem to have mistaken something, Bakugou-san. Midoriya-kun didn’t help me – I don’t know why he seems to be so loyal to you when you treat him like I’ve seen you do, but no, Midoriya-kun had even been apologetic about how he couldn’t help me fight you.”

Bakugou’s eyes widen at that, and Momo feels a bit of irritation seep through her at it. Midoriya-kun had been so loyal, and Bakugou doubted that loyalty? No, the boy before her really didn’t deserve that kind of dedication.

And in the end, that’s why Momo ends up saying this. “Everyone else though? That’s a bit different. After all, for all that they are Midoriya-kun’s friends and as such supposed to be yours by extension, Kensei-kun, Hitoshi-kun, and Megumi-san all seem to really want you to lose. And in the end, I think that was your biggest mistake.”

“After all, because of it, you’re going to lose.

Bakugou stays silent at that for a moment, before he snorts and ignores Momo in favor of Midnight who was the witness to their little stand-off. “Shouldn’t we start the match, sensei?”

The way the honorific rolls off his tongue makes it sound like an insult, but Midnight only ignores it. After all, he had a point. Midnight had been so enchanted by their words that she had forgotten that she was the referee here as opposed to one of the audience.

“The eight and last match of the first round, Yaoyorozu Momo vs Bakugou Katsuki, begin!”

Both participants react instantaneously. Miniature explosions forming underneath his hands, Bakugou blasts himself towards Momo’s direction, entirely intent on ending the match quickly before Momo can do anything.

But he doesn’t hit anything, not when Momo is already there to receive him with a newly-created net, predicting Bakugou’s initial punch and redirecting him like how a matador would with an incoming bull. And as he wrestles with the net – blast-proof, of course – Momo is already slipping away, recreating the initial distance she had between him and more.

Trapped as he was under her net, Bakugou gets hit by the incoming vial Momo lobs at him just as he finally rips the net away from his head. With a splash, Bakugou is covered with a sticky layer of oil, further buying Momo time with how she knew he wouldn’t be making anymore explosions anytime soon, not with those covering his hands.

And just like that, her plan begins.

(“So, Hitoshi, I don’t think I have to even ask what we need from you?”

Momo could only watch in curiosity when Hitoshi-kun rolls his eyes at Kensei’s question. “Of course you don’t. It’s not like we had planned for this particular eventuality, no, not at all.”

Momo’s brows rise up to her hairline, “All of you planned for this?”

“Not this situation precisely, Momo-san.” Megumi smiles at her gently. “But more for the case of Hitoshi-kun having to fight him. After all, while we respect Izuku-kun’s relationship with Bakugou-san enough to trust that he has something planned for the scenario where they fight, Hitoshi-kun is unlike us in that he wants to win this tournament too.”

“And for that, we read the book of tactics, from the man of tactics himself!” Kensei announces, before nudging Hitoshi in the ribs. “So go on, Hitoshi. Pass on all those hardearned lessons you’ve learned from Aizawa-sensei.”

Aizaw- no, Momo could question how the hell they managed to get Eraserhead teach someone outside of her class, when Momo and the rest of Class 1-A barely managed to keep Eraserhead from expelling them all at the beginning of the year.

With some irritation at Kensei’s antics, Hitoshi moves towards Megumi. Immediately understanding what he intends to do, Momo follows and takes Megumi’s right hand while Hitoshi beheld the left.

A stream of information flows into her mind, of tactics and strategems in regards with Quirks that are so different from her own but so much more effective, and honestly how did Momo fail to realize this before? Why was she creating shields and weapons that she barely knew how to use, when she could be focusing on something else? And why did she start off with complex things, when she could be making so many simpler ones to buy herself time?

No shields, no swords, no complicated contraptions when I barely have the time to create them as it is. Instead, I’ll be moving from simple creations to more complex ones once I’ve managed to give myself space away from my enemy.

“That’s… that’s a lot of information.”

Momo closes her eyes as she says that, still processing everything, but Hitoshi-kun only chuckles at her words. “Yeah, and it certainly didn’t come easy to me with how Aizawa-sensei was like, so be grateful. He practically leaves and breathes sink-or-swim.”

“As for Bakugou-san’s fighting style?”

After all, while her homeroom teacher was good, she couldn’t imagine Aizawa-sensei giving Bakugou so much attention that he could teach Hitoshi-kun how to predict his every move, especially with only a month or two since the year began.

“From Izuku’s notebook of observations regarding Bakugou. After all, while he may have not volunteered it for you, it’s different if I was the one who had taken a peek at it while he wasn’t looking, right? And let me say, when it comes to analyzing things, Izuku is absolutely terrifying.”

She can imagine that. “Thank you, Hitoshi-kun.”

“You’re welcome. Now then, on to Kensei and I suppose Hatsume’s bit…”)

“What the fuck is this!? Get this fucking shit off of me!”

Internally wincing at the way Bakugou swears in front of the tournament audience, and by extension the rest of the world, Momo replies calmly, “Motor oil. It’ll stick to your hands and inhibit your explosions, and if you try to force it even then? Be careful. After all, wouldn’t want you to light yourself up on fire now, don’t we?”

The stream of even more colorful words coming out of her opponent’s mouth tells her that her attempt to enrage Bakugou worked, and though she has to quickly move away when Bakugou rushes at her again, this time it’s much easier without the force of his explosions behind his blows.

Allowing herself to put more attention on the next thing she makes, Momo ramps up her Quirk with the complexity of her next creation.

Normally, she wouldn’t have been able to do this… but with the help that she had gotten, she now could. After all, like how Kensei-kun and Megumi-san’s work with her for Midoriya-kun and Hitoshi-kun’s weapons showed, she could create support tools.

All she needed was the willing, no, enthusiastic help of a girl who created those tools…

(As soon as Megumi finished explaining to Hatsume the specifics of her Quirk, Hatsume exploded.

Really, that could be the only way everyone watching her could put it. At first, she was quiet, like gas slowly expanding in a pressurized tank, and then. Then…

Momo, Kensei, and Megumi were immediately bowled over by a Hatsume-turned-projectile.

“I am blessed! I can’t believe I could just- I can kiss all of you! The sheer amount of potential you’ve just given me – I would be the envy of every other scientist and inventor in this century! I’ll help, I’ll help, as long as you all promise to let me join all of you!”

As Kensei slowly turns red at those words, Momo tries to recover from the tight hug Hatsume has all three of them trapped in, “S-So, you’ll help me, Hatsume-san-”

“Of course I will! Not only do I stand to gain when the daughter of the Yaoyorozu family uses my inventions, the things I could do with this group… I don’t even care about this tournament anymore, this is nothing compared to what we can do in the coming future!”

All three of them wheeze when Hatsume’s hold on them only gets even tighter, and in the end, a ridiculously amused Hitoshi has to wrestle Hatsume away just so all of them could do important things like breathing.)

Hatsume had been incredibly helpful, allowing Kensei free access to all of her inventions, both offensive and defensive, but ever since Momo seen her show it off during her match with Kensei, Momo already knew what she wanted.

Mobility.

It was her greatest weakness. Physically, Momo had to admit that she was at most an above-average teenage girl. Impressive, considering the easy life she knew she lived compared to most people she knew, but nothing to write home about, especially compared to physical powerhouses like Bakugou and Shouji.

That meant that she couldn’t stand in the face of a frontal attack, which meant that if she couldn’t fight, she had to dodge.

And dodging, well, Hatsume had a lot of things that helped with dodging, but nothing was simpler for Momo to use than the blueprint she had in mind.

Gasps come from the crowd when Momo ducks beneath one of Bakugou’s punches and the back of her shirt rips apart as something bursts out from behind her, shaped like a backpack and with two metal limbs coming out of its sides. Catching her arms with its straps, Momo soon whips away from an even angrier Bakugou with the help of her latest creation.

“Isn’t that-!?”

Present Mic’s commentary is interrupted when Hatsume’s voice, once again enhanced by her own mic, overrides his words. “One of my babies, the Hydraulic Attachment Bar! With how she can manipulate its metal limbs so easily, Bakugou Katsuki’s attacks won’t be able to reach Yaoyorozu Momo!”

“Hey, don’t steal my commentary!”

Momo can’t help it. She laughs at Hatsume’s sheer panache to interrupt even Present Mic, especially when it soon devolves to both people arguing loudly on live television on who got to speak for this match.

This only further enrages her opponent, who doesn’t take the insult of Momo looking away from their fight so kindly. “Ponytail, stop with your fucking playing and fight me head on!

Fight him head on, when Momo knew that Bakugou would have no issue over punching a girl? Any other time, Momo might have respected her opponent’s beliefs in treating all of his opponents equally, no matter their gender, but right now Momo knew a losing match where she saw one.

So instead, as she continues to buy herself time, Momo pushes on the last stage of her plan. After all, Bakugou is now sufficiently angry, and she also has the mobility to not get caught in her own trap.

Creating two objects, Momo connects the rope she has just made to her other creation before she launches it to the sky and pulls.

#-#-#-#

When Yaoyorozu-san throws a sack of shiny powder over the stage, enveloping a considerable part of it in a blinding smokescreen, several members of the audience even have to look away at the odd way the smokescreen interacted with light, Izuku’s stomach drops with a realization.

Ignoring the way his friends try to stop him, Izuku cups his hands over his mouth and yells:

DON’T DO IT, KACCHAN!

But by then, it was too late.

#-#-#-#

Katsuki roars as he fights to keep the irritating dust out of his eyes.

The motor oil covering him doesn’t help. Katsuki has to rip part of his shirt off just to remove most of the oil from his hands, and even then there’s still enough left that just by putting his hands over his eyes gets some of the oil in them.

Still, he endures it. He can’t lose here, not now, not ever.

But like everything else that has happened in the match so far, his rage builds from the humiliation at being so outplayed. If he hadn’t initiated the match like he did, if he had caught Ponytail before she had managed to make that fucking contraption of hers, if he hadn’t let her create this fucking smokescreen that was now burning his eyes and making it difficult to breathe-

Fuck it, fuck it, fuck it!

What the fuck was with this bullshit!? It was as though Ponytail had read his playbook from top to bottom, while she was playing with a completely different deck of cards from what he knew of her just an hour ago!

Had those fuckers, those hanger-ons around Deku prepared this precisely for him? That was the only thing that made fucking sense, when Katsuki knew that he would’ve easily steamrolled over Ponytail if not for their help.

The mere thought of the idea further enrages him. To think that they, of all people, would go so far to prevent him from fighting Deku, when his goal, his goal was-!

No. I’ve had enough of this fucking bullshit. I’m blasting my way out of here!

Cupping his hands over his head, Katsuki tries to create a small blast to blow the smokescreen away-

DON’T DO IT, KACCHAN!”

-when the cloud of aluminum powder around him ignites in a giant dust explosion.

(Combustion is a chemical process where a fuel source and an oxidizer meet to produce oxidized products.

In the case of a piece of wood being burned in a campfire, the fuel source is the complex chains of carbohydrates that is cellulose, reacting with the oxygen in the air to produce waste products such as soot, smoke, and even water vapor.

Due to some specific factors though? Combustion can be much faster, and as a result more explosive.

One of these is the addition of more volatile compounds like gasoline or alcohol. Funnily enough, the reason why this is so is not because of how energy-rich these compounds tend to be – after all, there are many other things richer with energy than even gasoline. Instead, this is because they evaporate easily, and its these vapors in the air that react more readily with oxygen.

After all, many individual parts have more surface area, and with more surface area comes more surface to react with. And powders, while still solids, when suspended in oxygen-rich air can have a lot of reactive surface area, waiting for something to kick off the chain reaction.)

Katsuki knows that he is resistant to both sudden spikes of heat and air pressure.

After all, how else could he use his own Quirk without blasting his limbs off? While fire and atmospheric heat was different, part of his Quirk had to be a subtle mutation that let him endure his own explosions, even as the forces involved tried to rip his body apart.

Prior to this match, Katsuki never questioned it – was glad of it, because otherwise his Quirk was less than useless if he couldn’t even use it without hurting himself – but now that he is in the center of an explosion bigger than any he had ever made before...

He finds himself doubting that he’ll walk out of this explosion so easily.

It is only his instincts, combined with Deku’s warning, that he manages to drop flat to the ground as well as he does just as the shockwave and the heatheatheat smacks him, drawing out all of the air from his lungs and making his throat dry up in a mere instant.

Everything is pain and hellfire, and then, just as suddenly as it started… it ended.

#-#-#-#

Momo pushes herself up slowly from where she had also hunkered down for the blast that she had kicked off. After all, as soon as she threw the bag of aluminum powder that she had made, Momo had retreated to the farthest corner she could take from the explosion she knew was incoming, landed and pressed the entirety of her body down to the ground.

She had repeatedly calculated for this. Down to the energy formula of the reaction she knew aluminum powder had with oxygen, to how much she had observed Bakugou take from his own explosions before, to even how much a sack of aluminum powder would disperse if she had released it like she did, she hadn’t allowed herself the idea of actually doing this kind of thing until she was sure that she was safe, that the audience would be safe, that Bakugou…

…that Bakugou, even the reckless, rude, and vulgar Bakugou wouldn’t die from being the center of an explosion that was as big as the arena itself.

Unwrapping herself from the now aluminum-laden fireproof cloth that she had covered herself with when she landed, Momo raises her head to find the entire arena colored black and white by what aluminum powder remained unused by the explosion and the soot that covered everything else.

Taking off the earmuffs she had hastily made over her ears, Momo turns to see Cementoss lowering some hastily made structures to protect the audience from the after-effects her explosion, and the entire audience practically rioting at what she had done.

“W-What was that!? Did, did Bakugou Katsuki just blow himself up!?”

Momo winces. Putting it that way… there were better ways Present Mic could’ve said it, because in that kind of light, he made it look like Bakugou had been incompetent, when it had entirely been the opposite.

Bakugou Katsuki was someone she couldn’t hold back with, and so she had pulled out full stops. The fact that she had to rely on these kinds of tactics should’ve been recognized, because anything else was to dishonor his own very real abilities.

Still, as her eyes fall on the prone form of Bakugou Katsuki, Momo… found herself regretting her own actions. After all, how could she not look at the burn-covered and unconscious body of Bakugou Katsuki, with his arms raised and covering his head as though to protect it from the rest of the world, and not feel guilty?

“Winner…”

Midnight approaches her, but Momo doesn’t really hear the words that her teacher is saying.

“Yaoyorozu Momo.”

And just like that, several things change even further from how they could have been.

#-#-#-#

The television turns off as a button on the remote is pressed by one of the watchers.

Ignoring the complaining that got him from his customers, even as they started to walk out of his bar, Kurogiri turns to the man sitting in front of his recently-replaced bartop.

“You’re not going to watch anymore, Shigaraki Tomura?”

Carefully holding his Coke and Rum with two fingers, for a moment Shigaraki downs his drink before he slams the glass back down on the bar top. If Kurogiri could roll his eyes, he would’ve then, at the moment the delicate glassware cracked at the mishandling it was being forced to take.

Well, at the very least, Shigaraki wasn’t destroying anymore of his furniture after Sensei lectured him about it.

“No, not anymore. I’ve seen enough, plus, at this point it’s gotten boring. I’ll just have to amuse myself some other way, I guess.”

A bored Shigaraki was a Shigaraki with a lot of property damage, so, “Do you wish for me to portal you to him?”

That gets him a grin.

“That’s a good idea. Sensei did say that he had this special Noumu waiting just for me, and how could I resist his invitation? Not when I’m such a big fan…”

#-#-#-#

Back in the arena, Izuku has his hands gripping tightly on the bars separating the box he is in and the center of the arena. He has tears in his eyes as he watches the person he respects so much get carried away in a stretcher.

“Kacchan…!”

Behind him, his friends find their tongues tied. Even Mei, for all that she had seen herself free to compete with Present Mic for the attention of the audience, couldn’t speak because this in front of them? They were as responsible for it as Momo had been, on that stage.

And while most of them hated Bakugou, even if by differing degrees, none of them could ever feel that Bakugou had deserved a defeat as humiliating as this.

“I guess he really was just a loudmouth in the end, unlike that Midoriya who really is a potential Hero through and through.”

“Didn’t like him that much anyway. You saw how he hunted down even his classmates? That’s a loose cannon, I tell you.”

“Bakugou Katsuki… That’s certainly someone I won’t be inviting to my office, that’s for sure.”

Izuku flinches as the whispers begin to flow amongst the audience.

For a moment, he wants to jump up and catch everyone’s attention, to just tell everyone else how wrong they were about his childhood friend, but then just as he is about to do that, a pair of hands hold him down by the shoulders.

Swinging his head back and forth, Izuku’s tears only get worse at the somber looks both Kaminari and Kirishima send him.

“Don’t, Midoriya. If you try to defend Bakugou in his place, things would only get worse.”

Kaminari says that with an entirely uncharacteristic pained expression on his face, and when Kirishima follows it up with a nod, Izuku only feels worse.

“Then I’ll- then I’ll visit Kacchan! If I can’t help him, I can at least go to Recovery Girl’s and-!”

“And then what? You’ll complete his humiliation when he wakes up after this defeat and the first person he sees is you?” This plaintive question from Kirishima is like a punch in his gut, taking all of the air out of him and leaving him stunned. “Midoriya, I have to respect your manliness for wanting to help my bro, but Bakugou… he’s a man of pride, and there’ll be no greater blow to that than to see someone he sees as a rival first thing after a defeat.”

Izuku goes silent as he remembers something he had been told before.

Deku, I’ll be your rival.

It had been before all of this had happened, before Izuku had entered Yuuei, before he had dragged Kacchan into that alley and found out the reason why he had been treating Izuku so differently. In fact, it even went all the way back to their middle school, just one seemingly-random day where instead of Kacchan turning around and destroying his Notes for the Future, Kacchan had picked his notebook up with a strange look on his face and said:

“Deku, I’ll be your rival. Remember that, alright, because I’ll definitely never let you forget it.”

Back then, it had bewildered Izuku so much. The Kacchan who was so violent, who treated him so badly… he was used to that kind of Kacchan. But a Kacchan who waited so he could walk with him quietly every afternoon? A Kacchan who repeatedly called him an idiot for ‘not understanding his own Quirk’, a Kacchan who frequently chased him as opposed to Izuku having to be one the looking at his back?

Izuku hadn’t been able to handle it, not after so long where he had to beg just to get recognition from his childhood friend.

And so he ran.

Izuku had avoided Kacchan as much as possible in the months before he signed up for Yuuei’s General Education Department, and when he was inside Yuuei, he still hid from Kacchan as much as he could, up until Kacchan cornered him that day with the rest of his friends.

And even then, even after he found out what Kacchan felt – guilty, why did Kacchan feel guilty? – Izuku still ran away, thankfully taking Toshinori-san’s offer of keeping Kacchan away from him with what, in retrospect, had to be All Might’s help.

Two of Izuku’s personal Heroes, working just to keep his childhood friend away from him.

And now, now that Kacchan really needed help, it couldn’t be from him?

“Just go on and fight to win this tournament, Midoriya.” Kirishima pats him comfortingly on the head. “It’s what he would’ve wanted, so just leave the job of talking to him to me, alright? I’ll make sure Baku-bro gets through this alright.”

Izuku sniffs his nose, fighting to keep down his tears. “O-Okay, I’ll trust you on that, Kirishima-kun.”

And that was that before Izuku found himself wrapped and surrounded by his friends.

#-#-#-#

Meanwhile, while all of that was happening…

“So Bakugou lost.” Tokoyami says from his seat, not quite looking at certain classmates of his but the intended receivers of his words clear as day. “That leaves our class with three people left within the competition.”

“Todoroki, Yaoyorozu, and me, huh? Man, that’s scary!” Despite saying that, Sero only has a confident smile on his face. Idly, Shouto let himself feel a bit of envy at the teenager’s ability to roll with pretty much anything – adaptability had never been Shouto’s strongest suit. Still, when Sero turns to him, Shouto manages to keep his face unreadable. “So, our match is next, huh? Let’s make this a fair match, Todoroki.”

Sero holds out his hand, but Shouto doesn’t acknowledge it, standing up to leave the premises.

As he leaves the stands, he hears Sato whisper, “Man, Todoroki is pretty antisocial, huh” but Shouto doesn’t give any thought to it, his mind swimming with something else more important, more disappointment, and more anger because Bakugou lost, and now-

“What are you up to, Shouto.”

Shouto growls at the infuriatingly familiar voice of the man who had managed to sneak up on him in his reverie. “Endeavor.

“Pay your proper respects to your father, boy.” Endeavor rebukes him, causing Shouto to bristle at his ridiculous words. Father? Since when was Endeavor like a father to him? “I’ve been letting you go as you please so far, all because you promised me that your coming fight with this Bakugou would be worth it, but I should have guessed that a loose cannon like that boy wouldn’t be able to win something as simple as a match like that, don’t we, Shouto?”

Shouto barely manages to keep the lid over his rage at the man’s presumption to include Shouto in whatever ideas he had. Bakugou had seemed to be a good choice to pick out of all of his classmates, a challenge to satisfy what idiotic thoughts Endeavor seemed to have about rivalry…

…but then he lost before he even reached Shouto.

“Don’t think I have failed to notice how you haven’t used your fire side.” Endeavor continues to harangue when Shouto keeps quiet. “As my legacy, that won’t do. I did raise you to use your ice with your fire, but as the son of the Flame Hero I expect you to-”

That is the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

Shouto snaps.

“Let me get something straight here, Endeavor...

#-#-#-#

Ten minutes later, Shouto is thankful that he hadn’t returned Sero’s handshake.

“A little much, dontcha t-think…?”

After all, a fair match? This most certainly hadn’t been that, not with how Sero is now trapped in a glacier covering most the arena and even beyond that. The other teenager honestly didn’t deserve this, but Shouto could always apologize later, after Shouto is done glaring at Endeavor from the stands.

Yes, I did just do that. What can you do about it, Endeavor?

Endeavor wanted Shouto to use his power? He thought that as long as Shouto only used his ice side, he wouldn’t be able to remain at the top?

Shouto responded to that by making two challenges. First, he would show everyone the power of his ice side, by ending a match so quickly and finally that nobody could ever doubt Shouto’s ability even as he refused to ever use Endeavor’s.

The second challenge? A bit of the opposite.

Shouto’s gaze moves away from Endeavor, seeking out a familiar head of purple hair.

Honestly, as far as everything went, Shouto never really cared for those from Class 1-C. True, Shouto had to respect their determination to win this competition, but that applied for nearly everyone Shouto knew. While it was indeed impressive that Midoriya and Shinsou got this far… in the end, Shouto had no intentions to let them continue doing so, no matter what their dreams were.

And with Shinsou Hitoshi being his next opponent…

He approaches Sero once the other teenager admits his surrender to Midnight, all to the background noise of Present Mic yelling animatedly.

“I’m sorry, but I’m just a little mad.” Shouto says, both to Sero as well as to Shinsou, who meets his gaze just as Shouto picks him out of the crowd. “You don’t deserve what just happened,” and what is going to happen, “but I did what I had to do.”

(“I will fight on that stage, and first I will win, so quickly and so decisively that nobody can doubt that I am strong even your Quirk. Then, on my next match, I will take my time, slowly and methodically wearing out my opponent.

“I will trap him in ice. I will break all of his tactics. I will chill him to his core. This, I will repeat and repeat until his spirit breaks. Only then will I take my victory, just so I can rub it in your face that I don’t need you.”

“Do you understand me, Endeavor?”)

“Winner, Todoroki Shouto!”

Slowly, Shouto lets himself make a smirk.

 

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 21: Tournament Part 7

 

Tenya only realizes that he is being spoken to sometime after the fact.

“Iida, are you alright?” Jiro has an uncharacteristic look of worry on her face, the result of her having been talking Tenya’s ears off about Bakugou for a minute now, only to not get a scolding, a wave of an arm, or something. “If you’re still feeling bad after your fight with Midoriya, I’m sure you can”-

“I’m glad to hear your concern for me, but I am alright!” Iida does wave his arm this time, prompting Jiro to duck. “Recovery Girl’s healing had fixed any injuries that I’ve had from the fight.”

Jiro gives him a look that says, That’s not what I meant and you know it. And indeed, Tenya knew it – after all, while physically he was fine, in his heart…

It still hurt, losing to Midoriya.

“I am alright.” Tenya echoes, quieter this time in an attempt to convince no one but himself. “I am alright.”

Honestly, Tenya couldn’t understand why it hurt so much.

He always knew that he could lose. That was a simple fact of life; in a competition, he could win or he could lose. He knew that. And it wasn’t as though that this sports festival was something as crucial to his stay here in Yuuei as it was for his opponent – after all, whether or not Midoriya could transfer into the Heroic Department depended on this event.

Compared to Tenya’s intent to catch the attention of several Hero Agencies, when in the end all likelihood was that he would just end up interning in his brother’s office, his need and Midoriya’s need were incomparable. Clearly, Midoriya needed this win more than him.

Was it because Tenya had tried so hard, until the very end? Even then, nobody could be blamed other than himself – after all, Midoriya had been holding back, at least before Tenya provoked him into pushing harder. Tenya had only brought about his own defeat, and now he couldn’t decide whether it was his sense of honor or just plain pride that prompted him to say that to Midoriya.

As for the idea of disappointing his family, especially Tensei, Tenya also knew that they wouldn’t judge. Instead, they would only celebrate that he reached so far into the competition, and that it took someone like Midoriya to take him down. It was something to be proud of, not something that should make him want to hide from the rest of the world.

So why then, did this hurt so much, when all logic pointed to him being able to gracefully accept his own defeat?

Jiro frowns as she stares at him, but then her face lifts up when she sees something from behind Tenya.

“Hey, Iida.” She smirks at him, looking way too amused. “Guess who’s behind you?”

Tenya barely has enough time before a pair of arms are already around his shoulders.

Arms that were absurdly cold and dripping wet.

“Tenyaaaaaaa!”

He recognizes this voice. How could he not, when he had been just thinking of him mere moments ago?

“T-Tensei, why are you here!?” Tenya yells in shock, both at the sudden appearance of his brother as well as the sensation of cold water seeping into his clothes. “A-Aren’t you supposed to be in Hosu!? Why are your arms so wet!? And l-let me go, my classmates are staring!”

Despite Tenya’s hopes, his humiliation only continues when Tensei keeps on hanging on to him despite all the amused looks getting sent their way.

“Tenya, don’t be so callous! To think that I ran all the way here from Hosu ever since I saw your match, just to see you – your older brother feels hurt, you know that!”

Ever since his match from Midoriya? But that had only been less than an hour!

Realization rushes into Tenya. “Is that why your arms are like this? Tensei, did you push yourself to get here so much that Recovery Girl had to douse your arms with cold water just so they wouldn’t overheat!?”

That’s when Tensei lets go of him, letting Tenya finally get a clear look at his bedraggled brother who has a guilty smile on his face. “Uh… yes?”

“Stupid Niisan!” Tenya doesn’t care anymore that his classmates are watching. He has to get this through his dolt of a brother. “Weren’t you the one to tell me to not overdo it with our Quirks!? You could’ve risked hurting something important, and you would’ve needed an operation just to fix it, and you can’t do that, you’re Ingenium and-!”

“And I’m willing to risk that just to see you when you’re sad, Tenya. Never forget that.”

Anything else that Tenya was about to say only chokes in his throat. Tensei’s brows tilt down. “Tenya, you’re hurting, aren’t you?”

Tenya could always try to lie to himself, but to Tensei? He could never bring himself to ever lie to his older brother, not that Tensei would ever fail to see through them anyway.

“It doesn’t make any sense.” Tenya looks down as he says this, unable to meet Tensei in the eyes. “It shouldn’t hurt this bad. Despite everything that my mind says to try and make it less painful, my heart feels like it’s ripping itself apart.”

Tensei hugs him again, gentler this time. “Stupid otouto. Emotions are like that – they don’t have to make sense. What’s stupid is that you’re trying to force yourself to feel better. It’s alright to not be alright, Tenya.”

A sob comes from Tensei’s shoulder, and quietly everyone else around them begin politely looking away, not wanting to watch this private moment between the two brothers but also unwilling to tell them to leave and risk ruining this.

After what feels like an eternity, Tenya finally gets the will to pull himself away, eyes slightly red but a small smile finally forming on his face.

Tensei grins back at him. “Now then, won’t you introduce me to your classmates? I’ve heard you say a lot about them, but this is the first time I’m actually meeting all these crazy people you’ve mentioned!”

Just as Tenya is about to agree, Jiro says this irritably, “I better not be one of those crazy people he is talking about, or you’ll have a lot to say for, Iida.”

The girl has to blink when she sees twin grins sent back her way.

“Funny you should say that, Kyouka-san…”

#-#-#-#

If there was one thing consistent in Toshinori’s life, it’ll be how tall he was compared to most people.

Even slouching, he towered over nearly everyone else. Whether his form was that of All Might’s or his civilian self didn’t matter – at the absurd height of seven feet and two inches, he always stood out in crowds, which had been useful back when All Might was still a relatively unknown name and he still had to put in a bit of effort just to rally people.

Of course, this also meant that occasionally he had to lower his head just to get through doorways, and he had to watch where he went inside small apartments and rooms, but the combat and social advantages of having his height more than made up for its disadvantages, most of the time.

This is not one of those times.

“Shouto, don’t you dare ignore me. Stop walking away and face your father, young man!”

You see, if there was one thing being tall never helped, it was when it came to hiding. When Toshinori decided to follow the problem student Shinsou made him all too aware of, he hadn’t expected it to ever come to the point where he was trapped in a hallway with Endeavor and the young Todoroki.

Luckily, he had found a cart to hide in – judging from the smell and moisture inside though, it had once been filled with dirty water, presumably to clean up messes within the stands – but as it was, it felt a bit cramped with how Toshinori was nearly double the cart in height.

With his arms wrapped around his head and his legs folded, Toshinori controls his breathing to the best of his ability and just hopes that neither of two would notice him. Said attempt to control his breathing is made more difficult by the fact that his own arms are covering his mouth.

Toshinori had never been so aware of his long limbs before in his life.

“Yaoyorozu’s match is about to start. Considering my next match is coming up next, one would think that even you would understand that I have to leave.”

As All Might, Toshinori is all too aware of how Endeavor losing his patience sounded like. And judging from the sudden whoosh of flames, it is exactly that which is happening the same moment Toshinori decides that the sensation of his own elbow digging into the giant wound in his chest is worth allowing himself to breathe.

“You can do that after you explain your words earlier, Shouto! Sto- listen to me!”

No. All my life you’ve tried directing me to what you want. Today, it’s my turn.”

Well, that certainly confirmed things nicely for Toshinori. Clearly, Endeavor and his son had considerable issues with one another, and while he still didn’t know the reasons involved, Toshinori could always investigate later as All Might, maybe even get Tsukauchi-kun’s help on the case.

Now, all that he had to do was to somehow survive this situation without being found out…

A few minutes more, and as soon as the sound of footsteps patter out into silence, Toshinori transforms into All Might from within the cart’s confines. As the cart breaks into many pieces from his expanding form, for a moment Toshinori just savors the destruction of the object that had come closer to killing him than most Villains.

Too bad though, that he didn’t notice the people standing beside the cart while he was doing that.

“Uh… Before any of you ask, I plead the fifth?”

Meeting the eyes of his students, All Might can only stare at them with his arms stuck in the air, having been raised in victory over the evil cart when he realized the presence of his three witnesses.

“I’ve never known that All Might could pop out of cleaning carts.” Kensei looks way too amused, as though he isn’t the Symbol of Peace. “Hitoshi, do you think Izuku would be excited to hear this when we get back?”

The teenager who unknowingly led All Might into this situation in the first place closes his jaw, visibly grabbing for words for a moment before finally saying, “…honestly, we probably shouldn’t tell him. I’ve got a feeling he’d start obsessively checking every cart that he sees if we do.”

Megumi, the blessing that she is, is the only one to react appropriately. “We’ll pretend that we didn’t see this, All Might.”

Her expression is just the same as Aizawa’s whenever he finds All Might in this kind of situation. Toshinori doesn’t know whether to feel relief or despair at the mere idea of one more person who seemed all too ready to deal with his occasional silliness.

Kensei whines, because of course the boy does, “But Megumi-chan-”

“No means no, Kensei-kun. If All Might wants us to keep this secret, we keep this secret for him, no questions asked. Hitoshi-kun, we should go on ahead. Momo-chan just made you those things – you’re going to need all the practice you can get.”

Forcibly pulling away his attention from All Might, Hitoshi lowers a hand down to feel for something in his pockets. “Right. Let’s go, everyone.”

And just like that, the three of them leave before All Might can say anything. Watching them go is easily one of the most painful blows he has received, especially in the ego.

He only manages to snap out of it when Kan enters the corridor, the other Pro Hero clearly curious as he approaches All Might. “All Might, I’m surprised to see you here in that form. Weren’t you just telling us that today is supposed to be one of your body’s rest days from being All Might?”

Kan really doesn’t deserve being grabbed by the shoulder just as Toshinori deflates and releases the mother of all blood geysers.

Really, he doesn’t.

#-#-#-#

Meanwhile, outside the arena and away from all of the crowds and stalls, Kirishima finally found the person he had been looking for.

Let it never be said that Bakugou didn’t know how to hide away from other people, because it is only due to Kirishima’s understanding of the other teenager combined with Midoriya’s help that directed him here after he visited Recovery Girl and found out that Bakugou had left after her healing session.

Taking a moment to study Bakugou before approaching him, Kirishima notes the sheer amount of bandages still covering Bakugou, most of it centering on the back of his bro’s neck. Had Yaomomo’s explosion really been so bad that Bakugou was still hurt despite Recovery Girl’s Quirk?

Remembering the white-hot explosion that covered the stage, Kirishima winces.

“Shitty-Hair, I know you’re there.”

Not bothering to hide his surprise at the way Bakugou actually called him out, Kirishima steps forward to reveal himself behind the door of Class 1-A. “B-Bakugou, I’ve been looking for you.”

“Yeah, I know.” Bakugou doesn’t take a step away from where he is sitting on the ledge of one of the opened windows of their classroom. Kirishima would be more worried at how the other teenager’s legs dangled outside of the window if it weren’t for the fact their classroom was on the ground floor. “Deku would’ve wanted to talk to me after watching that stupid defeat of mine, but those lackeys of his would’ve stopped him. That only leaves him asking someone else to go in his stead, and knowing your insistence on butting into everything, I knew you would arrive here sooner or later.”

Bakugou had thought that far? But… in the end, that was incomplete, wasn’t it?

 “Have you ever thought that maybe, I would want to visit you? I’m not denying that Midoriya asked me to be here for you, but did you really think that I didn’t consider you my bro?”

The way Bakugou twitches at that tells Kirishima that, yes, the other teenager really did figure himself alone. And that won’t do, so Kirishima takes the chance to also climb up to the window beside Bakugou, sitting there to provide his friend company.

The fact that Bakugou doesn’t say anything to make him leave is enough permission for him to stay.

“So… we both lost, huh?”

As far as conversation starters went, at least that makes Bakugou snort, even if only derisively. “If you want to get me talking, you have to try better than that Shitty-Hair.”

“Well, Baku-bro, you were the one to hunt down my team back at the Sky Garden, so I thought it was apt.” Kirishima shoots back with a smile, causing Bakugou to look away again. With a sigh at the other teenager’s evasiveness, Kirishima decides to be straightforward. Never was he good with subtlety anyway.

“Bakugou, why did you do that?”

Why did you have to make enemies out of everyone, even our own classmates?

Bakugou stays silent for a moment, before closing his eyes and sighing. “I thought… I thought that it would help. That it didn’t have to be this way, for him.”

“And by ‘him’, you mean Midoriya?”

The other teenager laughs, not just a little emptily. “Who else but that shitty Deku?”

Sensing a rant incoming, Kirishima opts to remain silent. And as it turns out, his intuition is right – for all that Bakugou refuses to meet him in the eyes, now that he has started talking, the dam has burst open, releasing what Kirishima thinks Bakugou has been holding back for way too damn long.

“That Deku… I bullied him since we were kids, you know?” Kirishima holds back the shock trying to make its way to his face – no, he will not judge, not at least until he had the entire story. “I taunted, tormented him about his Quirk that was so weak that even our counselors treated him like he was Quirkless. I treated him like trash, picked on him when I felt frustrated – fuck, I messed with his head just for the fucking giggles. All of that, ever since we were four.”

Kirishima can’t help but ask, “Midoriya’s Quirk? Weak, with everything he has done so far?”

He had even managed to defeat Iida. Kirishima doesn’t really try to rank his friends, not even in terms of physical ability, but even he knew that their class Vice President was one of the more balanced and skilled fighters of Class 1-A.

For Midoriya to beat him, with a Quirk which for all accounts failed to make sense to Kirishima with how many applications Midoriya seemed to have for it, that certainly said a lot about Midoriya, but none of it was weak.

Bakugou snorts again at that. “Yeah. Certainly shows how even these supposed Quirk counselors could make mistakes, right? But even then, that didn’t justify the shit I did to Deku. Not by a long shot. After all, while they might have treated Deku like he was Quirkless, all the bullying was me. It was me, who saw him and thought, ‘It’ll be fun making his life fucking hell.’”

“You changed though.”

Kirishima has to point this out, because wasn’t it clear to see that Bakugou was tearing himself apart for it?

It isn’t enough for Bakugou though. “Yeah, but too fucking late. The damage was done. I fucked up with his head, All Might fucked up with his head, and if it weren’t for that skinny ass rake of a teacher that Deku met one afternoon… Deku would’ve quit. He would’ve abandoned the path of a Hero.”

“And the worst part of it would be that the little fucker would probably even have thanked me for it if that had happened.”

Everything clears u