"Let me see him."
"For the last time, Midoriya, my boy—no means no."
"You don't understand!" he shouts, slamming his hands against the table. "If I don't talk him now, I might never get a second chance to know!"
"Know what exactly?" Izuku chokes.
"I-It's none of your business, All Might. Why I need to speak to him is because of... personal reasons."
"You want to meet with the most heinous villain of all time because of personal reasons?"
"Y-Yes, that's right," he lies through his teeth to the best of his abilities, making sure his nervous facade isn't askew. If lying to the man he's admired since childhood wasn't as shameful as it was, he'd probably be spilling everything he knew without thinking of the consequences. Gods, he need to keep his moral inclination in check.
(Telling Yagi Toshinori the truth wouldn't be the first time he's done so, and it certainly won't be the last. But he's seen the fallout of such times; they never end well. Sir Nighteye's called in 73% of the time and people would call Eraserhead in as a close second 22%. But occasionally, if very rarely, what happens with the remaining 5% is a bit... extreme. They get a civilian to come and say she's Detective Tsukauchi's younger sister (which he already knows) and they let her use her Quirk on him. He usually manages to fly under the radar and they stop calling him a liar.
They've never hesitated to lock him up in solitary confinement before. What would make now any different?)
After a beat of silence, All Might says, "I won't allow it."
The trust, the betrayal—all of it comes rushing back to him in an instance. He can't allow this. He can't. Not again. Not once more. History will repeat itself and there will be nothing he can do to stop it from happening but merely stand as a witness for another chance.
For another him. He can't make the same choices like his dreams did. Things need to change, starting now.
"Then you can try and stop me."
Turning his back on the only man who's ever listened to his cries for help, Izuku doesn't regret.
There is no time for him to do so.
His breaths slow. A name on the edge of his tongue doesn't make itself known. He can't. He can't do this to his brother, no matter how much the reasonable part of him is screaming at him that it's for the better good. If he ends it here, life go on. If he doesn't, it doesn't make a difference.
One way or another, there will only be one man left standing.
And he knows it won't be himself.
He ends up accosting Tsukauchi Naomasa, threatening the man with publicly revealing his past before his career as a detective. He had to, he has no other choice even if there is bile rising from his throat. In order for things to fall into place, he needs this man to watch his back. Needs him at every corner and blind spot—his second pair of eyes. And ears. And mouth. Arms, legs, the whole shebang. He can't afford to miss the opputunity of a lifetime by listening to a withering hero who knows nothing. Izuku can't afford that; he can't afford the time he will inevitability spend isolated if the former Symbol of Peace catches wind of his actions.
Despite his status and age, the entire nation knows his face. (He shouldn't have tried to reach out to little, naive Todoroki.)
If anybody finds out, he'll be dragged away from his dreams in chains, hidden beneath a pathetic rag as cameras scramble for a glimpse of his face. If it's happened twice already, who's to the say the third time will be his last?
But he has to do this.
He has to meet All For One.
He was seven when alongside his usual wave of premonitious dreams, another kind of life unfolded beneath his eyelids.
It is the only one lifetime that he knows of where the improbable happens. Things are strange there. Everything is almost the same. In that lifetime, he has no universal knowledge, but the echoes of another's life runs through his head:
Izuku looks at the man—a true villain through and through; fear's physical incarnation; death itself walking amongst mortals; All For One—and balls up his fists tightly. And it isn't Toshinori or Nana's iconic, 'I am here,' that escapes his mouth.
"Why don't we bring an end to this silly spat, once and for all?" he says instead.
The adults in swishing white coats say he doesn't have a Quirk.
His mother apologises for his Quirklessness.
Friends wander off, far beyond his reach when the news breaks out.
It's his previous life all over again.
Except, this time, there is no older boy standing by his side—comforting him in any way possible. The closet thing he has to the older boy in this life is the absurd amount of books and merchandise he owns. The books, a not unwelcome side-effect of being Quirkless—both now and before—are stacked in numerical order, safely hidden in a box beneath his bed. As for the merchandise... of heroes he had never heard of, they line the walls of his entire room. Fascination overwhelms him with the unparalleled potential of today's generation. Which eventually leads him to the Symbol of Peace, the most revered hero of Japan and as equally popular overseas...
"He's laughing!!" cried the reporter.
" Hahahahaha! It's fine now. Why?" The camera zoomed into the man's face. "Because I am here."
... All Might.
For years, he wonders what his idol's Quirk is, but unfortunately, All Might doesn't use it as much on camera, preferring to use raw strength to down his foes instead of activating his Quirk. Something in the back of mind begins to shout that he should recognise the way All Might fights. It sounds similar. It looks similar. It even feels similar when he attempts to imitate some of the older man's moves, curiously enough. But he still can't figure out what this feeling of nostalgia is.
He curses his lack of conclusion.
That is the diminutive sobriquet he is bequeathed by the child who lives nearby. A simple misreading of the characters in his name and interpreted wrongly. Useless is what it's supposed to mean, yet he doesn't find himself caring much for what it symbolises for the child who made it up.
"You can't do anything, Deku! You don't have a Quirk, you're not strong, you're pathetic!" said the child.
"It—" he cut himself short of saying something that would only result in more berating.
"What? Can't even defend yourself?" the child taunted. "I guess you really are a good-for-nothing Deku!"
He watches as the others trail after the child like he's the king of the mountain.
He wanders behind the group wearily, making sure they all return to their respective homes, before scampering back to his own. He doesn't miss the way the child's eyes carefully watches him turn a corner; he pretends not to notice the way a fire sparks in the distance. A fire that needs to be put out soon, lest it engulf the child's entire being.
... the hand that ruffles the greasy disaster known as his head of hair is petite and comforting. "Make sure you keep a good eye out for... your brother, alright? He's a troublesome one, just like your father. Catch him like from falling in too deep... Promise?"
"I promise, Mama."
"Good, good... Now, I can finally rest without any... regrets..."
"Mama?" The hand slowly freezes up and slides down his face with the sort of serene grace he's only ever seen in dancers. She smiles.
The child will end up just like him.
To him, the idea of what peace is seems to have changed over the years.
In the beginning, peace was necessary to bring order and balance to the world when the aburpt phenomena of Quirks was regarded as a dangerous thing. Those who manifested a uniqueness, whether or not they were young or old, were orstracised by society for their abnormality. And as a result of this isolation, some thought it would be best to revolt against the green laws that only applied to them, seeing it as an unfair way to judge them against those who were still normal. The first generation of Quirk-users mainly consisted of children and teenagers below the age of fifteen—however, there were a few exceptions of adults also developing Quirks too. Perhaps it was the universe's idea of a joke, but it was by mere chance that his older brother manifested a Quirk. One of the many cases that went unnoticed in still-panicking Japan.
From the small window of our countryside home, he saw how the world was changing.
He saw the chaos.
He had a chance to make things right...
... but in the end, he too was swallowed headfirst.
To him—to Midoriya Izuku, the idea of what peace is seems to have changed over the years.
Nowadays, it's commonplace to see a bipedal otter taking the morning commute or serve a seemingly normal customer who can actually manipulate blood if you're a convenience store cashier.
The world itself has changed entirely, with Quirks being possessed by at least eighty percent of the international population.
Keeping the peace these days is described as apprehending petty thieves that snatch wallets off the streets.
(Who knows. A thief might've had an honest-to-god reason for doing what they did, but nobody listens. They're held in a cell until they are free, and those mere hours are made torturous in any way possible.)
It's almost pitiful in
their his eyes.
They can see the corruption.
He (they) will change everything, once again.
Just like always.
Izuku is fourteen when he gets to meet his number one inspiration and hero.
Izuku is also fourteen when he is practically told to go die in a gutter by taking a jump without a secure parachute.
Izuku is fourteen and Quirkless.
His heart is fragile (yet at the same time, it has spent its time in the rough). He can't help it. He can't stop himself from asking, "Can someone without a Quirk become a hero?" even though he already knows what the answer will be. The foolishly young part of him needs reassurance.
The man stares, and stares, and stares, and stares, and stares—
"You can't become a hero," says All Might, withered beyond public recognition—he doesn't look like anything Izuku's seen on TV. "Without a Quirk, it just isn't reasonable. Your chances of falling in the line of duty would increase tenfold, and a pro should always be prepared to risk their life. But without a power? Hell, kid, the only reason I stand before you today is because of the overwhelming pressure of evil and expectations bearing down on me."
But Izuku doesn't say anything in response. He absentmindedly thinks, 'Shame on you, whoever you may be.'
"It's not wrong to dream a little, but..."
'You need to be realistic,' goes unstated.
His eyes follow the man's back as he disappears down the stairs.
In the distance, a boom resounds in the air, catching his attention. Despite all that he knows, another side of the coin flips itself as his feet stumble past All Might, following the hollow echo of his heart, desperate to help in any way possible. Some might call him foolish, others might call him suicidal, but he can't help it.
The desire is too strong.
His hands fall from his mouth and hangs in the air. The scene before him unfolds, escalating with each second that passes; people watch from afar, doing nothing but smiling widely and filming videos for the internet. With their phones. The very devices that they could be used to ring up HN headquarters and request for somebody with a suitable Quirk to come in and handle situation, seeing as none of the heroes present can do nothing but keep the crowding civilians a safe distance away from the roaring blazes. And the frenzied villain.
The times have changed how heroes operate these days—something that he realises only moments later.
Back in the day, anybody could ask for the service of a hero to aid them, regardless of their status, whether it be for the reason of weeding a garden or stopping a sighted murderer. But after constant abuse of this service, somewhere down along the line, accessing the Hero Network was restricted to only heroes, in order to enable them to contact one another. No longer is picking up trash in the park considered admirable, and even few heroes do do that, no one notices. In the eyes of today's society, that is a duty reserved for the ones specially hired to clean up after other people.
His stomach drops in light of this fact.
Nobody will save the victim merely because they are unsuitable.
The villain's form twists and contorts in grotesque angles and Izuku's heart stops.
Somewhere, in another place, in a different time, this has happened before.
(Evil is the maw; corruption was his salvation.)
And he runs forward—not because it's the right thing to do, or because the child who has filled his days with grief is captured—but because he remembers an echo of a memory with startling clarity.
"I believe you're worthy of inheriting my power."
"Huh? What do you mean?" The voice he uses sounds so revolting on his tongue.
"This concerns my Quirk, kid," he says whilst wiping away the excess of blood staining his lips. "The media likes to think that it's super strength or some kind of power booster, and I often have to deter them from digging deeper by joking around because I, as All Might, the Symbol of Peace have to be viewed as a natural-born hero. But in reality... my Quirk—it was passed down to me."
(No, no, no, no, no, no, no...)
"You—" I start to exclaim, face set in faux confusion, "—that's impossible! Never in the history of Quirks has there been such a quality present! Except—"
(—the antithesis of his power.)
"Do you really doubt me that much?! Nonsense!"
"No, I don't but—" (... After all these years?)
(Now it makes sense.)
"I have many secrets, but I certainly don't lie! The Quirk I inherited—the ability to transfer power—it is called, One For All."
"One.. For... All...?" I whisper under my breath, recalling something entirely different in a heartbeat—
"No, you can't be serious!"
"Oh, but I am, Kazuki. For the first time in my life, I'm being true to myself."
"But this..." My hands shake in fury. "This isn't what she wanted!"
"Bringing up Mother again?" he scoffs with a resigned air about him. "It's been many years, my brother. When are you going to finally grow up and open your eyes?"
"MY EYES ARE OPEN!!" I shout. "I always knew something was up the moment you returned home, all those months ago, but I decided to avert my eyes from the truth for one reason!"
"And what might your so-called reason be?"
"... Because you are my one and only brother."
"And you're a fool for still thinking like that."
He leans in closer to me, his cold breath tickling my ear, and whispers, "Listen well, Kazuki, everything I've done—and will do—was for you. Society has unintentionally poisoned itself with its apt enamournation of Quirks. People like you are tossed to the side every day. And I've been given the chance to right the world's wrongs." He raises his hand, outstretched and threatening as his fingers clamp around the crown of my head and his palm presses down on my eyes. "But perhaps I, myself, am a sentimental fool... by granting you a chance to stop me yourself."
First there is the confusion, then the searing prickle, the hot white light, the pain, the screams and—
"—kid? Are you alright? You looked pale for a second there."
I suck in a deep breath, slowly easing myself out of the delirious haze. "Yeah, I'm okay, All Might. I'm just shocked that such a Quirk exists... It sounds like something out a dream, to be honest," I lie.
"My boy, I assure this is no dream." All Might spews blood. "I've been searching for a successor for a while now and I believe that you are worthy! You may be Quirkless, someone cast out, and a mere admirer of heroes, but what I saw back there... Kid, back there, you were more heroic than anyone else!!"
And I can't help but shed a tear at that claim. The disgusted eyes from before and now still haunt my dreams. The eroding words still linger in the back of my mind. You can't be a hero, the shadows said. You are nothing.
You are disgusting. You're not our hero.
"Can I really?"
"But of course, the choice is all yours! So, what do you have to say?"
(I have no reason to refuse. Another life? Another chance? It's a miracle come true.
And as for One For All... Heh. I almost forgot about the name of the damned thing earlier. It had a nice ring to it. It made me remember of that one book Mama would read to us over and over again when the nights were long...)
He works himself to the bone, forcing himself to get back up every time he falls despite the way his body protests anguishedly.
The burning sensation of his muscles is familiar but not all at the same time.
This body is not used to such extremities, and All Might's 'Pass the American Dream' Plan is to rectify that. All in the course of ten months. It's brilliant; pure genius. Despite the man's appearance (both in and out of his hero form), he thinks on a higher level. Izuku would've never dreamt up such an excruciating regimen all by himself. A mind-numbing combination of work and play, with a healthy amount of rest on the side—it's like squeezing in last-minute training for the final showdown.
The final fight.
He falls flat on his face, crashing into the pavement of leaves, and drops the outdated air conditioner. All Might, perched atop his segway, calls something out to him, but he can't hear the man—doesn't want to. In the end, this isn't only about regaining One For All or becoming a figure of hope—right? All of his efforts will boil down to taking down the very man who started this long journey. He wheezes hysterically in mirth. His hand crushes the leaves in his hand with a comforting crunch, anchoring him back down to the present.
(There was blood everywhere. On the streets—people who had nothing to do with their conflict were practically wallowing within it, some drowning even. The exact shade of red, it was, haunts him to this day. His shoes are testimony to the stains that dyed his clothes and bare feet, reminding him that wherever All For One goes, One For All will follow. He screams; he shouts; he cries. It doesn't make any difference. What has happened has been done and said, he should've listened. He should've listened to the friends he made along the way, warning him of a possible trap.
He should've listened to the pleas for help instead of blindly rushing forward.)
"Overdoing yourself is no good!" says All Might. "Don't you want to pass?"
"I do... but I don't want to just pass!" he cries, looking up to face the man with sweat running down his visage. "Working hard is the only thing I've ever known to do, working harder than anyone else will help me! Otherwise, otherwise..." Izuku swallows down a sob. He doesn't say what's on his mind and consuming his thoughts. He doesn't even know if All Might has knowledge of that man, even though it seems to be an unbroken coda for users of One For All to know of him. "I want to be like you. Like the strongest hero."
A moment silence passes by and—
The hero's face is unreadable but he takes slow steps towards the boy's tired form and hulls him to his feet, transforming into his muscular form in the process. "Such dumb zeal... and relentless dedication... THAT'S EXACTLY WHAT I LIKE TO HEAR!!" he exclaims quite loudly in Izuku's ears, almost shattering the poor boy's eardrums.
"This old man will modify the Plan for you, as it seems you won't give up on pushing yourself further! And don't panic, I understand where you're coming from, but three months will pass in a flash if you don't pace yourself properly!"
Izuku laughs dryly at All Might's claim of being old. "You're not an old man, Toshi," he barely manages to stutter out as he's hauled over the hero's shoulder.
(He regrets a lot of things.)
The view from atop the mountain of trash is ridiculous. Almost.
He's seen the sun rising over the horizon plenty of times, just not in this way. It's surreal. Ten months ago, this beach was cluttered with towering mounds of trash as far as the eye could see, and now... Pure white sand skirts the edge of his peripheral vision and the water glistens near blindingly a blue hue. He can't believe it. He did it. Ten months is all it took to become this. He climbs down the pile shakily, mindful of how exhausted his body is, and stumbles over to All Might, who happens to be standing nearby with a proud expression.
"I... I did it! I really did it, All Might!"
"Of course you would, my boy! Though, it's astounding that a teen like you achieved what most adults would balk at!" The man shoves his phone in Izuku's face. "Here, take a look!"
"W-What's this?" he asks, mildly curious (he still can't get over the fact that holograms is an actual thing nowadays). He squints at the screen, seeing an image of himself standing hunched back over.
"This was the you of ten months ago."
"Your path forward is evermore clearer than before, you're now a true vessel!"
"But..." He bends over his knees, looking at the marks lining his right hand with a visible quiver. The feeling of triumph begins to slips out of his system. It's just like before. A chance moment started it all. "... It feels like I cheated—getting this kind of support and help from you of all people, All Might, I never thought I'd..." Izuku chokes and stops himself from breaking out into tears, but alas, a stray makes it past his iron will. He never thought he'd be able to pursue his dreams again.
"You've gotta bring a stop to the waterworks one day, Midoriya Izuku! Now, time for the awards ceremony." All Might slaps him heartily on the back with a guffaw. And he watches as the hero pulls out a strand of hair. Oh, no... "There's a major difference between having a silver spoon from birth and hard effort, kid, know this and take it to heart. You did everything fair and square, earning this rightfully..." He holds out the hair. "AND EAT THIS."
(No, no, no, no, no, no, no... He completely forgot about this part. He'd been in a state of muddling shock days before he passed off One For All to his own successor that he'd forgotten about the inheritance process works. The details, at first, were vague because he'd be the first person to entrust his Quirk to another in history (save for that man), but he went with what he thought was best and forcibly shoved a pint of his own blood down his successor's throat. They almost died from the suddenness. Suffice to say, the consummation of bodily origin scares him.)
The boy gulps tensely and plucks the strand of hair from All Might's fingers. He stares at it for a few seconds before turning to the man and back before shrugging to himself. His lips part and Izuku lowers his jaw, allowing him to drop the strand down into his throat. A flare of sourness courses through his taste buds as the hair momentarily makes contact with his tongue and he quickly clamps his mouth shut. He swallows it whole like taking a pill dry. He valiantly resists the urge to puke and instead wonders if his childhood hero washed his hair before this.
Aw, fuck, fuck, fuck, runs through my head at mach speed.
(It was a bad idea to try use 100% on the first try.)
Year and years ago, the instinctive push of muscle memory could blows away mountains... But now? Seven people down to now? So much power was stockpiled and cultivated in that unknown period of time, it's insane.
One For All has improved for the better, but for the worst—for me—it's bodily desolation. Every bone in my arm is snapped clean through and I can barely feel my legs. Sailing through the air, back down to earth, I feel like a lump of flavoured gelatin. It's getting hard to breathe with the wind raking against my ears, free-falling isn't good for a broken body in the long run anyways. I begin to remember when that one time when one of the first heroes that specialised in aerial-related crimes deactivated their Quirk by accident. It wasn't a pretty sight. That incident was a total PR nightmare to cover up apparently...
But never mind that because out of nowhere, out of the corner of my eye, a hand slashes itself across my face like a whip with an almighty crack.
(It reminds me too painfully of the times I spent, all alone, at the park as child while waiting for him.)
Unfortunately, blanking out at the worst possible times seems to be trait that carried over from my past like to the next—this life. Before I even know what's happening, Recovery Girl heals me and I'm shooed off to the written portion of UA's entrance exams. The questions are easy enough to answer, seeing as All Might made sure to put enough study time in the Plan to allow me to be prepared, and for being someone as old as I... It shouldn't really come as a surprise to know things that I couldn't have been possibly taught by today's education system.
Everything's changed. From the way things are assessed to how a vending machine works.
But in a good or bad way?
I don't know.
Change could be seen as a good thing for some.
my brother him.
Others would treat change as a radical threat.
Like... myself, something I'm ashamed to admit currently. Which is rather ironic if somebody knew his real name.
Izuku isn't all that surprised when he opens the door of his brand new classroom to see the child and another boy duking it out verbally over the matter of feet and desk. After many years of harrowing harrasment, physically and mentally, he quickly got used to the lingering afterthought of being Bakugou Katsuki's literal shadow. Well, that was, until he found out that One For All was still around. For the past ten months, Bakugou hasn't gone out of way to bother Izuku since the Sludge Villain incident. Almost as if he was consciously trying to deny Izuku's selfless act of heroism.
Izuku, himself, in question, found this to be amusing; possessing the mind/heart/soul of a former hero did that to people sometimes.
His tentative 'childhood friend' behaves dangerously. In a way, he knows Bakugou won't be widely approved by the public (if being told, "If you think you'll have a Quirk in your next life, go take a swan dive off the roof!" was anything to go by) if he decides to go all out in becoming a hero. His personality, for one, might seem sharp and alert, but if an ordinary person looked up, they would only see a merciless demon. Unworthy of any kind of praise. If his 'friend' decides to keep acting like this—the path to self-destruction is waiting. But there are some good things that have come out of obsessively observing Bakugou behind the scenes; quick on his feet, charismatic and being an asshole all at the same time would be just what the hero circuit needs as a good wake-up call.
The world could benefit from having somebody like Bakugou Katsuki as a hero.
He's sure that a lot of bad would also come out of Bakugou becoming a hero.
A boy like his 'friend' will attract the eyes of many.
Good and bad things will come out of whatever that child will choose to do.
(Maybe that's why he pretends to do bad on the apprehension test. There's no reason to go all out at the beginning of the semester; he doesn't miss the confused gaze of Aizawa as he tosses the ball without One For All and proceeds to be abysmally average for any other task dished out. And unsurprisingly, the threat of expulsion was just a logical ruse.
He thinks it's strange to be testing one's physique when being a hero constitutes so much more than being in shape.)
That evening, he dunks his head in water and tries not to fill his lungs.
In the morning, he checks his temperature only to find that he has a cold.
For two whole days, he rests with a feverish agony, dreaming of the past and present as his memories bubble to the forefront of his mind—
"Papa! Papa!" he calls out to the retreating shadow. "Where are you going?"
"Kazuki..." The faceless figure's form wavers as it hunches forward listlessly, as if all the energy to stand had been sucked out of it. "Papa's going somewhere far, far away..."
"There's nothing left for me here. Your brother's becoming more and more like me every day and I'm scared that if I stay around him any longer—"
The little boy laughs. "Oh, Papa, Tamo-nii isn't scary!"
The shadow grimaced at this outbound of positivity. Almost as if this 'Papa' person didn't agree with the sentiment. "If only it was that simple to believe," it whispers.
—and Izuku awakens in a cold sweat.
If only it was that simple to believe...
If only it was that simple...
The answer has always been there; only forgotten thanks to the natural immaturity of his (his? Their? Kazuki's?) young mind.
The echo of days long gone had always known. 'Papa'—the other father he had besides Hisashi—knew when it was time to run. And run he did. With everything he could: sellable valuables, everything in the family's numerous accounts and the clothes on his back. He left behind a woman and two sons, leaving nothing to their names.
"That piece of scum," Izuku hisses, now knowing it was all too clear not to linger on the feeling of not being good enough. Good enough for their father to stay—no, it was never him, or their mother, it was always his brother striking fear into the hearts of others.
The cause of this disrepair.
A man living through his own story; ignoring the plot and supporting characters; meticulously crafting a separate narrative over the years.
Was him meeting All Might part of that...?
No. He shakes his head in denial. For all that his brother has done and could do, there would never have been a need to orchestrate such an elaborate event. A criminal happens to steal some money from a register and All Might just happens to be nearby to give chase? It was by pure chance, he assures himself. A chance occurrence that just happened to line up with his alternative route home. But then again, if it weren't for Bakugou, he wouldn't have walked that way... and the only reason Bakugou acts the way he does is because he has some kind of god complex... and said god complex has been built up over time because society is blind... and the only reason Izuku followed after the child was because he was doing it out of concern... and... and... and...
"So it's my own fault then." He clenches tightly onto the fabric over his heart, covering his eyes with his free arm. "It's my fault that All Might didn't have the power to save Bakugou earlier and why I had to step in myself. It's my fault I got caught. It's my fault everything's turned out the way they have. Because I didn't heed the warning of a desperate man all those years ago. Because I wanted to truly believe that nothing strange was happening. Because I made a promise... Because I wanted to save my brother?"
The saying 'love is blind' has never rung any truer.
I return to school with a heavy heart and two days’ worth of chatter going through one ear and out the other. I had missed a lesson in foundational heroics that included poorly-drawn partnerships and a lunchtime interrupted by an emergency alarm. It's not much, I supposes, but the fact they both were important factors in my classmates' lives—I've missed my chances to inlay an image.
At 12:50 pm, it's not All Might standing at the podium, but Aizawa instead.
He talks about a special lesson for today, something that requires us to travel off-campus.
It sounds almost like a comical joke. Back in my day, there was no such thing as formal training, most heroes were originally vigilantes and even then, it was hard to gain proper recognition. Nobody knew what to believe in anymore, the appearance of Quirks having thrown people over a bit. Moralities were challenged, lines were either toed or crossed over too many times for comfort. First aid courses were filled to the brim with willing supporters. I remember the turbulent times just before he became a villain. Quirk regulation laws started coming into play and vigilantes were painted as criminals by various government bodies. Well, that was until a hero licensing system was devised and implemented somewhere in America. It still sucked though. It took a while to bring the system over here (it took time to fix the problems our western counterparts faced), and by then, my brother had already amassed the criminal underground, domestically and on the cusp of internationally.
Aizawa points some sort of controller at the wall besides him with a beep and four sections of the aforementioned wall slide out. "Oi, Midoriya, this one here is yours," he says, pointing at a cabinet containing a case embellished with the number 18 in red.
(Ah, so that must be my hero 'costume'. Once again, another ridiculous thing the modern times has cultivated in my spiritual absence. It's frivolous. Cheap spandex was the go to option when I was young, no matter how little protection it provided. Most vigilantes just needed the mobility to deal with a crime swiftly and escape the clutches of the police.)
I take the case from its place and trail after the other boys into a changing room.
Yes, the universe is trying to screw with me (us?).
I should've known, after being told by Iida that one of the assumed reasons for the alarm going off yesterday was because of a villain attack.
I don't how the other kids survived, but alongside Asui and Mineta, I managed to get away from the flood zone and I watched on in horror as Aiza—Eraserhead's bones are snapped like twigs. My eyes can't bear to linger on his broken form, so they look higher at the perpetrator. A hulking, black mass of muscle—it looks similar to a prototype weapon of his making. And that's when I realise this isn't just some random assault after all.
My brother is stepping out the shadows again.
(He's playing at some kind of game where he is the wizard looking for people to gather a treasure with his chosen champion being the boy called Shigaraki Tomura. He's playing at some kind of game he doesn't even know he's participating in. He's playing at some kind of game thinking he can keep all his cards close and deck them out one by one. I don't like it.)
People once said blood sings.
"Oh, did they now?" Izuku traces a path his former self carved in the etches of his mind.
Turn left here.
Stop, there's something here.
Don't you remember?
"Of course I do," he mutters.
Open the door then , and we'll see.
The wall doesn't budge under the force of his push.
He punches it furiously, over and over again, bloodying his knuckles in the process. "I am, I am, I am! Can't you see how much I'm struggling?"
I can, I just don't think you're putting your all into it.
"But you're me!"
And I'm you.
He crumples to the floor. "Maybe it's you—or me—but we're probably suppressing something important to protect ourselves."
"How should I know? You're just the voice I made up to dissociate from the rest of the world!"
Beyond that point, Izuku doesn't remember the full details, only bothering to pick out the important bits and pieces he'll need to crack into All For One in the present—in this universe. He doesn't want to become attached to the sentimentalism cherished by another that isn't his own. It's not his right. It's not his problem. It's not his fault. He was just raised by the world, that's all. He is cruel nor kind; he remains indifferent to it all, masking his calm with his uniform, silly, oblivious self.
He has to meet All For One because there's no other way to confirm his suspicions.
Tsukauchi informs him it was a hard battle fought but the detective managed to get to get him a visitor's pass and a time. Tartarus, as it turns out, does live up to its reputation of being a highly sophisticated detainment centre with its (seemingly) impregnable gates and towering walls topped with state of the art barbed wire and electric fences and automated turrets that fire live rounds loaded with a potent sedative. Once he bypasses those with Tsukauchi behind the wheel, from what he can see, Tartarus is essentially a cube-shaped building with no windows, a large frame caged around it to fortify its defences and even more turrents and a plethora of satellite dishes that constantly transmitted information to and from the detainment centre to multiple facilities to actively keep watch.
(In one of his many dreams, he became a security guard for this very place: rising up in the ranks swiftly, improved the system and became well acquianted with the various nooks and crannies he could exploit to his advantage.)
But the interior was worse.
Here, if you even breathed wrong or looked at something for too long, the cameras would be in your face and fire without hesitation.
(In one of his many dreams, he got a mouthful of lead before falling.)
They're led down a flight of stairs before entering an elevator that will take them to where he needs to be. It descends.
The guard escorting them is tense, almost as he wants to question why Izuku wants to visit All For One, but luck is on everyone's side it seems because a familiar dings fills the air. Beside him, Detective Tsukauchi's face morphs into a flat stare, the adult preparing himself for the inevitable. "If I let you do this... You promise you won't say a thing?" he whispers.
"You have my word, sir."
(I can't lie to you.)
And there he is—the dreaded monster that was once a dead man's brother.
"You're wrong," he answers, stepping into the room and past the threshold before taking a seat in front of the villain. The doors smoothly slide shut behind him, cutting off Tsukauchi entrance. Good. Now he didn't have to worry about what he was going to say. What he said from this point onwards would stay in this room. Nobody would believe All For One if he snitched. "I am not him."
"So you know of him then?"
"In a way."
There's a pause of silence before the villain breaks out into another smirk. "Ah, now I remember where I've heard you from before, I thought you sounded familiar."
"You're him, aren't you? You're All Might's successor—the ninth One For All. I remember you and that little stunt you and your little friends played during the raid."
"I've wanting to meet you for a very long time."
"... Do you think I'm stupid? I can hear it in the way you speak, in the way you hold yourself—I know many things that I shouldn't."
"Like what." He doesn't know if he should expect much, considering his 'age'.
"Kazuki?" All For One questions.
(The world begins to crumble beneath his feet because Izuku realises what he knows. His face freezes up, as does the rest of his body as dread rises from his stomach. He hadn't known this. He hadn't anticipated this. Whatever 'this' was wasn't supposed to happen. It's irrational, he knows, but he can't help it. He can't help it but resonant the frustrations that aren't his.)
"DON'T YOU DARE CALL ME THAT!" he screeches, reaching forward to smash past the pathetic barrier that keeps them apart. Beneath his rage, it cracks. He tries again. And again, and again, and again, and again—he ignores the people behind a two-way mirror crying out in protest—and again, and again, and again before glittering shards rain upon him. He climbs through the hole, over the bench, and presses his outstretched hand over the elder man's oxygen mask. "I will not hesitate. Speak, you bastard."
And you know what the villain does? He chuckles. "I never thought I'd get to meet one of your kind."
"That man outside, Tsukauchi Naomasa was it? He's your Constant, isn't he?"
"You can't hide it forever, boy. Eventually the world will find out, people will want to know, and you'll regret every possible scenario."
"I can't imagine you ever turning your back on the people."
" What are you talking about, Tamotsu?"
"No... I was just musing."
"Oh, okay." Kazuki rises to his feet, his arms stretched out towards the sky with a satisfying pop. He offers his hand to the older boy. "C'mon, brother, dinner isn't go to make itself."
"No." Tamotsu made a dismissive gesture with his hand. "You go on ahead, I want a moment to clear to my head."
"Alright...? I'll see you soon then?"
"Do you hate me?" Tamotsu—All For One; his brother; the villain; a killer; a stranger in passing—asks.
"... I always do," Izuku answers. He willingly allows himself to be dragged away from the villain by Tsukauchi and a number of other people; the door slides shut yet he can still see the smile on that man's face. It disgusts him: making him want to throw up whatever is in his stomach all over the floor. It disgusts him: making him wish that he just went for the kill and get things over and done with. It disgusts him: making him wish he didn't have to keep on dreaming.
It disgusts him in every way possible.