Izuku stepped off the helicopter and onto the empty, endless, grassy plain of the Philippine island of Luzon. The sun was shining bright overhead, and it was so hot outside that Izuku could already feel sweat pooling in the small of his back, but he didn’t care much about that. All that mattered was that he was here , competing for a million dollars. At the end of thirty-nine days, he could be a million dollars richer than he was now. He could buy his mother a brand new house and a brand new car. He could pay off his school debt. He wouldn’t have to worry about anything at all for a very, very long time.
He only had to beat the other seventeen contestants who were standing around him. He didn’t know if he had what it took to actually get to the end, but he knew for sure that there was no way he’d get there if he didn’t believe himself that he could. So he had to tell himself that he was stronger, smarter, and more durable than anybody else here, even if it was far from true.
There were five others who had ridden on the helicopter with him, though none of them had been permitted to speak to each other during the duration of the ride. It was obvious that they would be his teammates, though; they all had the same teal-colored Survivor bandanas, marking them as belonging to the same tribe. He couldn’t say he was disappointed by who he was surrounded with, either. They all seemed relatively fit and capable. At least, none of them struck him as incompetent, which he figured was as good as he could hope for, considering he hadn’t had the chance to speak to anybody yet.
There were two other groups of six already gathered on separate mats; one of the groups had orange bandanas, and the other had purple ones.
And then there was Toshinori Yagi himself, standing in front of all eighteen of them, looking even more brilliant in person than he looked on television. And, okay, Izuku knew it was stupid, to have such high opinions of the host of a television show, but he’d always found something so irresistibly charming and charismatic about the man that he’d been watching for ten years now that he couldn’t help but feel more than a bit awestruck at seeing him person.
“Welcome to Survivor ,” Toshinori spoke once everyone was efficiently gathered, which garnered a generous smattering of applause and cheers from all the contestants. Izuku was beaming as he clapped his hands together, excitement rolling off of him in waves. He couldn’t wait to get started, to play this game that he’d been watching on television for so long. He knew it would be hard and extremely difficult, but that didn’t tamper his excitement one bit. If anything, it only kindled that flame within him even brighter. Izuku was never one to turn away from a challenge.
“You’ve been divided into three tribes based on three of the qualities it takes to succeed in this game,” Toshinori continued after everyone’s excitement had quieted. “Brawns, brains, and beauty.”
Izuku already felt a grin splitting across his face at this new information. If the tribes were split based on those characteristics, then Izuku was fairly sure he knew which group he had been placed in. It wasn’t like he wasn’t attractive, and he knew for a fact he was strong, but the quality that he used most in his life was definitely his intelligence. He supposed being in a group of people who were smart by nature was a good group to be in.
Toshinori pointed to a man standing in the crowd of purple bandanas. “Man in the black. What’s your name?”
“Yuga,” the man answered with what Izuku thought was a slight French accent. He had blonde hair, fine, pretty features, and sparkling eyes.
“Yuga,” Toshinori repeated. “Just looking at the mixture here, if you had to choose, what would you say you guys are: the beauty, the brains, or the brawn?”
“Well, looking at us, I’m pretty sure we’re the beauty,” he said in his accented voice, with an infectious smile and a wink. That got some laughter from those in his group, and Izuku found himself chuckling as well. It was true; everybody on the purple team was definitely beautiful.
“Let’s go down here to the end,” Toshinori continued, pointing to a member of Izuku’s own group, one of the bigger guys who was standing behind Izuku. “Guy in the back, in the green. If they’re beauty, where do you think you fit in?”
The man being addressed looked to be quite muscular, but his polo shirt, glasses, and haircut definitely cast a nerdy look to his otherwise athletic build. “I would say that we’re the brains,” the man answered with a smile in his voice.
“Based on what?” Toshinori asked.
“Based on all of them looking extremely physical,” the man said with a gesture towards the orange group, which generated laughter from those being indicated.
“That leaves the group in the middle,” Toshinori said, turning his attention to the last group. “You guys must be brawn.” He pointed to a member of the six assembled on the orange mat. “Guy in the gray, what’s your name?”
“Katsuki,” the man said, and when Izuku turned to look, he saw that the man in question had a shock of ash-blond hair, a pair of deep red eyes, and hard features that looked almost as mean as his voice sounded.
Something about the way he looked made Izuku’s heart stutter in his chest and his mouth go slightly dry. Which was stupid and didn’t make any sense whatsoever. So Izuku ignored that feeling and pushed it away. The guy wasn’t even on the same team as him; it was no use developing a schoolgirl crush on somebody who he’d likely never see - at least, not until the merge. If they both even made it that far. And besides, Izuku wasn’t here to develop feelings for anyone, and that was that. He was here to win a million dollars.
But still, Izuku had to force his gaze away from the muscles that the man so obviously sported and the smirk on his face that was as devillish as it was captivating.
“Does that feel right to you?” Toshinori’s voice brought Izuku back into the present moment. “Would you accept that?”
“I’ll gladly accept that,” Katsuki answered with a twist to his mouth that Izuku found way too attractive for his own good.
And, honestly, when did Izuku start to even think about strangers in such a way before? He’d never had thoughts like this about people he didn’t know. He didn’t understand what about Katsuki made Izuku feel so utterly enthralled.
“What is it you like about being part of the brawn tribe?” Toshinori asked, the question still directed at the man called Katsuki.
“Well, we’re gonna kill the beauties, and we’re gonna kill the nerds,” Katsuki said, which caused the others on his team to laugh good-naturedly, even if it wasn’t entirely clear that Katsuki meant this as a joke.
Toshinori smiled as well. “This season is gonna test your ability to draw on different parts of brawn, brains, and beauty while you adapt in this game, moment by moment, starting right now. We’re gonna choose a leader from each tribe. You’ve not had a chance to talk. Really, all you can do is size each other up by looking at each other. We’ll start down here on the end with beauty.” He gestured towards the group. “Figure it out. Who do you want to represent your tribe?”
The members of the beauty tribe turned inward for a few seconds, only long enough to make their decision.
“Guy on the end, looks like it’s you,” Toshinori said when a few of the others gestured vaguely towards the man standing at the end with hair that was half solid red and half white. “What’s your name?”
“Shoto,” the man said, not looking particularly thrilled at being delegated the leader of his team.
“Shoto, how does it feel, moments into this game, you’ve been selected as the guy to represent the beauty tribe?”
“If I’m the one that sticks out, then I’ll step up and do it,” Shoto said.
Toshinori nodded at Shoto’s words and then turned his attention to the orange group. “Let’s go here in the middle to the brawn.”
Once again, the members of the group turned into each other to discuss for a couple of quick seconds. When they finished, Toshinori prompted, “Who’s it gonna be?”
They all pointed to a muscular man with red hair. “Kirishima.”
“Kirishima, in the front. Man in the yellow, what’s your name?” Toshinori asked.
“Ojiro,” the man answered obediently.
“Ojiro, why Kirishima?”
“He seems the type of person who can hold us all together, who can get things done,” Ojiro answered, glancing at Kirishima and giving him an encouraging smile.
“Alright, let’s get down to the third tribe,” Toshinori said, wasting no time in continuing along on the itinerary. “Who’s gonna represent the brain tribe?”
Now it was Izuku’s team’s turn to discuss the question for several seconds.
A cute girl with light brown hair and big brown eyes began the conversation by announcing, “I think you look the smartest,” speaking directly to the man who had spoken to Toshinori earlier in the day.
“I don’t know that I’m the smartest, but if you choose me to represent this tribe, I will not disappoint you,” he said formally, his face and voice intense as he said the words.
The rest of the group nodded their assent and turned back to Toshinori, allowing the man to step forward a little to make it clear who their choice was.
“What’s your name?” Toshinori asked.
“Okay. Man on the end, what’s your name?”
“Tokoyami,” the indicated man answered. Tokoyami struck Izuku as intense but smart in a quiet kind of way.
“Tokoyami, why Tenya?”
“He’s well-spoken and seems to be the best fit for a confident leader.”
Izuku was inclined to agree with this sentiment. Out of everyone on their team, based on first appearances, Tenya seemed to be the most capable of remaining calm in difficult circumstances, and he definitely looked smart, not to mention his obvious strength on top of that. He seemed to have the full package of charisma, intelligence, and the muscle power needed to lead a team to victory. Izuku didn’t want to sound overconfident or anything, but he could already see his tribe doing well in the challenges.
But then he glanced at the brawn tribe again and second-guessed this assessment. They all were strong, after all. No doubt they’d be tough to beat in the physical challenges. And even though being pretty wasn’t a talent in itself, the members of that team looked to be honest competitors as well, with a good number of them sporting decent muscle mass of their own.
Still, Izuku couldn’t find it in himself to be particularly worried, not when they had only been standing there for less than an hour. It was too soon to be worried.
“Alright, so, we have our three leaders,” Toshinori said, yanking Izuku out of his thoughts. “Now the game’s gonna get a little tougher. The leaders of each group are now going to decide who is the weakest from their group.”
Izuku felt his stomach drop at the words. He risked a nervous glance at the other members of his group. He had to admit, he wasn’t feeling too hot about his prospects. He was small in stature, and the muscles he had indicating his strength weren’t entirely visible with his clothes on. By all appearances, he could very well be the perceived weakest member. His nerves began to kick in in earnest now.
“If you had to get rid of somebody,” Toshinori continued, who do you get rid of? Suddenly, being the leader is not the position that you want to be in. Shoto, we’re gonna start with you.”
Izuku turned his head, straining to see the group farthest from Izuku’s own.
“In the beginning, this game is all physical challenges, so if I had to choose someone, I’d have to choose Kyoka.”
Based on the reaction of the girl in the front with the purple hair, Izuku guessed that that would be Kyoka. She didn’t look weak, necessarily, but she didn’t look particularly athletic, either. It was like Izuku feared; they would be picked off based on their physicality. He prayed that Tenya wouldn’t choose him. Maybe he’d choose the cute girl who had nominated Tenya as the leader in the first place. Or maybe he’d choose the other girl, with the big eyes and the green hair.
“Kyoka,” Toshinori said. “Wow. Take a step over here, Kyoka.” Toshinori pointed to the space in between where he was standing in front of them all and where they were standing on their mats. “That must not feel great to be chosen as the weakest right from the start.”
Kyoka shook her head as she made her way over to where Toshinori indicated. “No, it doesn’t.”
“Let’s go to the brawn tribe now,” Toshinori continued. “Kirishima, based on first impressions, who do you dump from this tribe?”
Kirishima was rubbing at the back of his neck, as though being thrust into this position so suddenly stressed him out. Izuku didn’t really blame him; he would have hated to make a decision like this. But more than that, he would have hated to be on the receiving end of such a decision. “This really sucks. Everyone here is giving me good vibes; I don’t want to have to get rid of anybody, honestly. But if I have to, I would have to go with the girl with the pink hair.”
“Pink hair, what’s your name?” Toshinori asked as the girl picked up her bag and began to walk to the aforementioned location.
“Mina,” the girl said.
“Mina, you all agreed pretty quickly on Kirishima as a leader, and he’s the one who ultimately put you out.”
“That’s fine,” Mina said quickly. “I mean, I’m the only girl on a team of muscular guys. I kind of figured it would be me. It still sucks, though.”
“Alright, we need one more,” Toshinori said, addressing Tenya and the brain tribe. “Down to the Brain Tribe. Tenya, you were selected as the leader of this group. Are you used to making decisions like this, Tenya?”
“No, sir,” Tenya said from behind Izuku. “I like to think of myself as a leader, but I don’t normally have to cast people out. I like to bring everyone together, not the other way around.” He took a deep breath. Izuku felt his heart thumping painfully in his chest. He had to resist the urge to squeeze his eyes shut and pray that he wouldn’t be chosen. “If I have to choose though, I’d have to choose her, and I hope that there’s no hard feelings.”
At the word “her,” Izuku’s eyes sprang open.
He was safe. Tenya hadn’t chosen him.
He looked around to see who Tenya had chosen, though, and saw that it was, in fact, the girl with the green hair.
“What’s your name?” Toshinori asked.
“Tsuyu,” the girl said.
“Tsuyu. Tenya, what did you base your choice on?”
“I think the same as everyone else,” Tenya answered. “The challenges are usually very physical in the beginning, and my primary goal as leader is to ensure that we win as many challenges as possible.”
“Alright. Tsuyu, take a spot over here next to Mina.”
Tsuyu picked up her bag and made her way over to the other two girls who had been cast out so early in the game.
Knowing Survivor , though, Izuku sincerely doubted that they would actually be leaving the game; not three people, not on the first day.
“This is how fast Survivor changes,” Toshinori said. “If this had been a tribal council, all three of you - Kyoka, Mina, Tsuyu - would be out of this game. Fortunately for you, it’s not tribal council, you’re not out of the game, and you’re not even out of your tribe. But you’re not gonna go back to camp with them. You’re gonna get on the chopper. You’re gonna fly ahead. You will land at camp early, and you will make a decision on behalf of the tribe that just voted you out. Now it’s the three tribes that are worried, wondering ‘What did we just do?’ Grab your bags, get on the chopper, and good luck.”
The remaining fifteen contestants stood in relative silence as they watched the three walk onto the helicopter and fly away. Izuku was still glad that he hadn’t been chosen by Tenya to leave the game so early, yet now he was also slightly envious that it hadn’t been him. His feelings wouldn’t have been too hurt about it, as he expected to be chosen, anyway, and he could tell Tenya was a nice guy who didn’t want to have to choose anybody. And if it had been him instead of Tsuyu, he wouldn’t have to walk all the way to camp, and, on top of that, he would have been given the chance to make some kind of decision that had the potential to be game-changing.
He tried to shrug away these thoughts. The fact of it was, moments ago, he’d been praying to not be chosen. He was incredibly relieved that Tenya thought he was strong enough to remain on the team at all.
“Alright, for the rest of you, I have maps to your new home,” Toshinori said, pulling out small rolled parchments of paper from his pocket. He walked up to the beauty tribe, saying, “Beauty tribe, you are Solana.” He handed them a map and then walked to the orange tribe. “Brawn, you are Aparre.” Then he made his way to the brain tribe and handed the map to Izuku himself. Izuku took the map with a wide smile, his worries instantly falling away at seeing Toshinori so close, reminding him once again that this was real - he was really here, in the Philippines, competing on Survivor for no less than one million dollars. “Brains, you are Luzon,” Toshinori told them after Izuku had taken the map. Then he walked back to where he had been previously standing in front of everybody. “The good news is, you have great weather on day one. Grab your stuff, and head to your new camp. Get started on building shelter; it could be a wet season. Good luck.”
With that, Izuku unbound the map that he was holding and unrolled it. It was an incredibly easy map to decipher, and Tenya decided to take the lead, walking side-by-side with Izuku.
During their walk to the camp, they all made their formal introductions to each other. Izuku discovered that the cute girl with brown hair was named Ochako, and the last member on their team who had not been introduced was Koji, who admitted to being extremely quiet by nature.
Once they arrived to the camp, Tsuyu was there, and she seemed to have already started on collecting materials for a fire pit and a shelter. When she saw them approaching, she immediately abandoned what she was doing to meet them halfway, a small smile on her face.
Ochako rushed forward and hugged Tsuyu, exclaiming as she did so, “I’m so happy you didn’t actually have to leave!”
Ochako’s enthusiasm was infectious; Tsuyu’s smile grew at the words, and Izuku felt a smile forming himself. Tenya walked up to Tsuyu and gave her a hug of his own. When they broke apart, he said, “I’m really sorry, Tsuyu; I didn’t want to have to do that.”
“I totally understand,” Tsuyu said, smiling at him so sincerely that Izuku believed full-heartedly that she harbored no ill feelings towards Tenya for making the decision he was forced to made. “I’m still here, so I’ll just have to prove you wrong.”
“I hope you do,” Tenya said, the relief evident in both his voice and the relaxation of his shoulders at her words.
“So, what choice did you have to make?” Ochako asked excitedly, peering around, as if for clues.
“I was given a clue to the immunity idol,” she admitted.
The immunity idol. The words sparked excitement deep in Izuku’s chest. He was a huge fan of the game, and hearing the words spoken aloud, for real , made the game feel that much more real. He just couldn’t get over the fact that he was actually doing this thing, that the key elements in the game were here, right in front of him. Like the hidden immunity idol, which, once found, granted you safety from being voted out at tribal council.
“Really?” Izuku asked in a wondrous voice. “Did you find it?”
“Not exactly,” Tsuyu said. “I had the choice of taking the clue or getting an extra bag of rice for the whole team, and I chose the rice.”
Everyone broke out in cheers and grins at this information. Food was scarce in Survivor ; they had to carefully ration it and make it stretch over the course of thirty-nine days. The fact that Tsuyu chose to get the entire team an extra bag of rice instead of being selfish and claiming a clue to the hidden immunity idol for herself was incredibly selfless, and it definitely gave everyone positive opinions of her. Izuku wondered if this decision was, in part, a strategic move to convince people not to vote her out, should they be sent to tribal council. Izuku didn’t necessarily think it was the best decision; any smart person would have chosen to search for the immunity idol and lied about the choice they were faced with. This was a million dollars, after all. Everyone had to look out for themselves, not for their teammates.
Yet Izuku knew that had he been faced with that choice, he would have made the same decision.
“I also got some stuff together to build the shelter,” Tsuyu said, turning and leading them towards where all of her materials were gathered. “I got some bamboo sticks and palm fronds, and I found a bunch of big rocks we can use for the fire pit.”
“Awesome,” Ochako exclaimed, dropping her bag and moving to examine the materials. “Does anyone know how to build a shelter?”
“I’ve never built one before, but I have a few ideas about how we can do it,” Izuku offered.
“So do I,” Tenya said, dropping his bag as well.
So for the next several hours, their team worked diligently to put together a shelter, cutting up bamboo sticks and braiding palm fronds and digging holes. It was hard, laborious work, and Izuku was sweating a decent amount by the time they were close to being finished. In the end, though, their shelter stood sturdy, and it was large enough to fit all six of them easily.
The shelter wasn’t where they had any issues. Their trouble began with the fire.
Fire was a necessity in the game of Survivor . Without fire, they couldn’t boil water, so they had no source of drinking water, and they also couldn’t cook any of their food. Fire was something that they needed sooner rather than later, if they had any hopes of being successful in this game.
And yet none of them were able to get a fire started.
Izuku had been at it for about forty-five minutes, trying his hardest to get a flame going, when Ochako sat in the sand next to him and laid a hand on his shoulder. “Hey, why don’t you take a break?”
Izuku was frustrated enough that he threw down the sticks he was rubbing together to cast a forlorn gaze at Ochako. “Why can’t I do this?”
“None of us can do it, either,” Ochako pointed out with a small, reassuring smile. “Hey, I bet the other tribes aren’t having any more luck than us. At least we got a decent shelter put together.”
“You’re probably right,” Izuku conceded, sitting back on his palms.
“And no one will be able to say you didn’t try. You and Tokoyami have tried harder than anyone else to get a fire going. It’s just not going to happen tonight.”
Izuku nodded. “Alright. But we have a challenge tomorrow, and it would be best if we were well-hydrated and well-fed.”
“Well, we can try later, then, can’t we?” Ochako stood, brushing the dirt off of her bare legs. “You want to go for a swim before it gets too dark? It’s awful hot; we should go cool down while we can.”
“Yeah, sure,” Izuku said easily, standing up and following Ochako down to the beach. He stripped off his shirt and waded behind Ochako into the water, embracing the coolness of the water on his skin. He hadn’t even completely realized precisely how hot and sweaty he was. The water helped to cool him down, and it felt as though all of his worries concerning the fire and the upcoming challenge were evaporating the longer he stood in the water.
“Izuku!” Ochako exclaimed when she turned around and looked at him in the water.
“What?” Izuku asked with alarm, immediately jumping around in the water, thinking there was something swimming around ready to bite one of his feet off. Okay, so he hadn’t really had a lot of experience in the wilderness, and being on an island that was largely untouched when it came to modern technology and civilization made him kind of jumpy. It wasn’t like he was scared of wild animals or bugs or nature or anything of that sort, but the thought of carnivorous aquatic life roaming around his ankles was enough to make him tread with due caution.
Ochako began to giggle. “There’s nothing in the water, silly. It’s just - you have a lot more muscles than you look like you’d have. I was surprised, that’s all.”
“Oh.” Izuku looked down at himself and flushed slightly. “Yeah, honestly, I thought when Tenya had to choose someone to get rid of, he was going to choose me. Because, you know, I don’t really look like much.”
“Really? I thought he was going to choose me. For the same reason.” She smiled shyly and shrugged. “I hope I don’t disappoint anyone in the challenge. I’m kind of nervous, honestly. I mean, I’m excited, don’t get me wrong, but I’m nervous.”
Izuku brightened at Ochako’s candid admission. He felt himself liking her more and more by the second. “I feel exactly the same.” He cupped his hands full of water and splashed it across his face, the back of his neck. “I don’t think I’m going to be awful or anything, but - I mean, I’m still nervous, you know? I just don’t want to let anyone down.”
“Exactly,” Ochako said as she splashed a bit in the water. “That would suck, if we lost the first challenge, huh?”
Izuku shook his head. “That’s not going to happen. Don’t think that way.”
“If it does, though, I won’t vote for you.”
Izuku hadn’t thought that anybody would approach him with an alliance so quickly into the game, but, he had to admit, he was not upset by this sudden development at all. Ochako was not only a nice girl, but she was incredibly easy to talk to, he got along with her well, and she carried with her a positive energy and personality that were impossible to ignore. She was exactly the type of person Izuku wanted to be allied with in this game.
He knew it was too early in the game to try and be strategic and sneaky, but there was absolutely nothing wrong with forming a strong alliance on day one. If they remained loyal to each other first and foremost, then they could very well make it far in the game, just by sticking out for each other.
“Okay, yeah,” Izuku agreed with a smile. “I won’t vote for you, either.”
That got Ochako’s bright grin to grow even brighter. “Great.”
This was it. This was the real start of his Survivor game. Allying himself with Ochako, agreeing to stick up for each other to keep the other safe and get each other further in the game -
He was really here. He was really doing it.
And, at the end of thirty-nine days, if he played it all the right way, he’d be one million dollars richer. He only hoped he had what it took to get there.