The compress has disoriented him. For a brief moment, Tokoyami had no idea where he was or how he had gotten there. There had been a flash of light and a similarly stupefied Dark Shadow retreating back inside.
The grip of a cold hand wrapped around his neck. A scream – his name – burst from wild eyes and mass of green hair. A thick, foggy darkness resembling ink edged around his vision, a tangible thing that swallowed him whole.
Tokoyami hadn’t been able to do anything at all.
The lights were a little painful, but all things considered, they were the least of his problems.
It had been a makeshift thing, Tokoyami realized; a haphazard collection of lamps, dimmer lights flipped to their maximum setting and a few flashlights turned on and aimed in his direction. The villains that had taken him from the campgrounds had not intended to contend with Dark Shadow; the chair he was restrained to was certainly built for a much stronger body. In hindsight, UA’s decision to televise their students’ weaknesses during the Sports Festival – particularly after being attacked by a group of villains – had probably not been the most intelligent of choices. It had not only publicly aired exactly how to take every one of them down, but may have led to… This.
The villains had intended this for Bakugou. At least there was that small bit. There were too many locks on this chair; around his ankles, upper thighs, an entire metal casing around his hands that he suspected had been heatproofed and an array of cabling keeping his back flat against the chair. Dark Shadow had made an attempt to pick the locks – something they had taught themselves using online tutorials as a strict ‘just in case’ ages ago – but these weren’t traditional locks. They were mechanical, all connected to a single panel on the side of the chair.
Most of the villains had left after he had been stuck to the chair. There had been a man waiting for them, a tall and lanky figure with a ghoulish disembodied hand on his face – was that the same man from the Hosu city attack? He seemed familiar but Tokoyami couldn’t immediately place him – that had complained immediately on their arrival. The wrong kid; the Compress villain had tried to explain the whys, but Tokoyami hadn’t heard most of what was said. Eventually, most of them had simply left. The only ones left were the man with the hand on his face, a tired looking man with disturbing skin fragments and staples all over his body, and a teenage girl that gave everything – including himself – a strange smile. None of them said a word; they seemed to be waiting for something.
None of this had been intended for him. He didn’t know if that made things worse or better.
The lights weakened Dark Shadow considerably – and they were both already weakened by earlier events – but it didn’t have the strength to force him away entirely. Dark Shadow lingered over one shoulder, but Tokoyami could feel that his quirk was as nervous as he was.
“Psst.” Dark Shadow whispered. “I think we’re a hostage.”
That was, of course, the best case scenario. The villains hadn’t gotten their target, instead making away with what was essentially a compensatory prize; the most logical thing would be to hold him ransom, wouldn’t it? Perhaps call UA, threaten him in front of a camera in the way all the movies showed? Still, Tokoyami couldn’t help but twitch in some annoyance; if Dark Shadow hadn’t gone berserk, they might not have been as vulnerable and weak as they were now. As it was, Tokoyami was exhausted.
Still, being angry at his quirk wouldn’t help now. “Don’t worry.” He wasn’t even sure if he was trying to calm himself down or Dark Shadow. He kept his voice as low as he could, though; no need to give his kidnappers a reason, as flimsy as it was, to get brutal. They had both seen enough movies about kidnapped sidekicks to know better. “We weren’t kidnapped in secrecy. The police and pro heroes will be looking for us.”
A small chortle came from one of the villains. The man with the hand on his face was looking in his direction; the girl, sitting nearby, now had a wider smile. They had heard the conversation and were all but laughing about it. Quietly non-laughing about it. It was… Odd. Tokoyami couldn’t quite make sense of the behavior. Were all villains this… Strange?
The sound of a door opening echoed from down a hall. The corridor was almost directly in front of the chair he was held to, an open frame behind what looked very much like a bartending table, but a dark curtain was blocking the way; heavy footsteps sounded off, getting louder with every step. There must have been stairs for that kind of noise.
A moment later, a large – very, very large – figure pushed aside the curtain. Tokoyami sputtered in sudden shock.
“What the hell?!” Dark Shadow only half whispered, radiating alarm.
They had, of course, been incredibly disturbed after Hosu city.
With Midoriya, Iida and Todoroki all recovering in the hospital, the rest of them had gone over what they knew. News coverage would only say so much as not to cause mass panic; the internet, on the other hand, gave them much more. Even with the repeated video takedowns.
“There has to be some kind of ringleader.” Shoji had concluded a little later than the rest of them. “And a place where they keep making these… These things!”
“People are calling them ‘nomus’.” Mineta stuttered a little, visibly bothered by it all.
“Those things!” Shoji nodded. “There’s got to be this… Evil genius villain behind the scenes for stuff like this.”
They were, naturally, jumping to conclusions bred by years of media, the internet and even comics. The lives of real pro heroes were often dramatized, creating the background radiation that being attacked only confirmed to be true. With their class seemingly at the center of recent events, they murmured agreement.
“This figure keeps popping up.” Kaminari pulled up a screenshot on a tablet; a piece taken from one of the many videos that had been removed. “He’s got… A hand on his face. That’s not creepy at all.”
“Likely not him.” Tokoyami shook his head. “At best, he’s a lieutenant of some sort. The leader of an organization wouldn’t place himself in danger so directly.”
“Makes sense.” Uraraka frowned deeply; the worry hadn’t left her face since they got word of the latest attack and the wounded it created. “But then, what kind of person would be leading such a horrible group?”
The closest feeling he could place this was what he felt around All Might. The difference was, although there was this same awe inspiring aura of sheer power and strength, All Might beamed with a calming smile and always had words of praise. It was a power backed with kindness.
This was the polar opposite of that. The man stood easily as tall – if not more so – than All Might, draped in a black suit that might have been ordinary if not for the nearly demonic ebony skull-shaped helmet that reached taller than the average person would need. Thin, gleaming pipes wrapped themselves around the tapered neck of the strange helm.
There was something very, very wrong about this man. Something dark and sinister; Tokoyami leaned back in caution, unable to place words to what was setting off every instinct he had for flight-or-fight. There was something starkly powerfull about this man.
“What the hell…?!” Dark Shadow whimpered again, feeling the same terror that Tokoyami did; this time, his quirk did retreat back inside.
The dark man quietly stepped out from behind the bar and took slow, quiet steps until he stood in front of the chair. Hands were behind the back of that black suit, a posture of authority, as the helm tilted down to stare at the chair-bound captive.
Tokoyami stared back in wide-eyed fear. He could barely breathe, taking short gasps as he tried to figure out why, exactly, everything suddenly felt cold and wrong.
“This is what you brought me?” The voice matched the figure; deep, just on the edge of gravely, and vaguely threatening.
“Ah, blame Mr. Compress for that.” The man with the hand on his face answered with a calm, amused tone. As if this were nothing at all. “He had a lot of wonderful things to say about this boy’s quirk, though. Supposedly, he took out Moonfish single-handedly in one fell swoop.”
The black helm tilted a little back in appraisal. “Did you, now?”
Oh. He was being spoken to directly. Tokoyami had the feeling that this was not a good thing. A pit in his stomach began to form and he could not bring himself to even try to answer.
“What is your quirk, exactly?”
“He has this… Shadow monster quirk.” The man with the hand on his face again. He casually leaned his elbows on the bar. “It can even speak for itself, or so I was told.”
A beat of silence passed.
“Show it to me.”
Tokoyami could physically feel Dark Shadow quaking in terror inside of him. He decided that this was a perfectly reasonable response; he was barely better himself, limbs shaking in the restraints.
As it must have become clear that he either wouldn’t or couldn’t do as commanded, a soft sigh let itself out of the man in front of him. “There are ways to force such things. If necessary.”
Well, that was obviously a threat. A sudden jolt of worried alarm flared from Dark Shadow.
“Don’t…!” Tokoyami tried.
Dark Shadow hesitantly peeked out from above his shoulders; as if he could use his human as a shield despite not having a tangible body of his own. It was a stupid plan forged from the overwhelming fear.
“Aww!” The teenage girl suddenly giggled. He had forgotten she was even there. “It’s so cute! But why is it so small?”
“The lights weaken the quirk.” The man with the hand on his face shrugged. “In the dark, it’s much larger. Didn’t you watch the Sports Festival?”
Ah. So the villains did learn about them from the sports festival. If he escaped this room alive, Tokoyami would make certain to bring it up.
Another moment of silence passed. The dark man hadn’t moved.
“I want to see what you’re capable of. Attack me with your shadow.”
“What?” Tokoyami and Dark Shadow gasped at the same time.
The teenage girl let out a delighted squeal and sat up in her chair. “The shadow can talk!”
The room became uncomfortably quiet. Tokoyami looked at Dark shadow with a deep, unsettled worry and received the same in return. Neither of them understood what was happening or where this was leading. Hesitantly, he gave a nod; he wasn’t certain what the alternative was, but it was probably worse than being forced to perform this display.
Dark Shadow paused for only a moment. Then, he flared himself out as much as the lights and current exhaustion allowed; it was hardly anything at all, resembling more of the way frightened cats fluffed themselves up before they howled. Still, his quirk lunged, striking at the dark man with whatever he had, yelling as he did so.
It was only for a moment. A single strike with both claws. Then, Dark Shadow pulled back, immediately fleeing as quick as he was able.
A couple of large tears had been left on the suit. The dark man gave it a short glance before looking back up. “Impressive display, considering you are at your weakest.”
Somehow, the praise was alarming. What did that mean? What did it mean when the person in charge of your kidnapping was impressed?
A hand that had been behind the dark mans back brought itself forward, although the other stayed where it was. It settled itself in front of Tokoyami’s chest, hovering barely within touching distance, palm facing up as if it were grabbing for something that wasn’t there. The villains behind him perked up in visible interest; the girl moved closer, looking incredibly excited.
Tokoyami didn’t know what was happening. For a moment, nothing did. Then, he felt a sharp, sudden pain deep in his chest. He gasped.
Strangely, so did Dark Shadow; ordinarily, his quirk wouldn’t be able to feel pain in the same way he did. They had used it to their strength on more than one occasion, fighting independently of each other without fully feeling the wounds that the other received. The fact that Dark Shadow felt anything at all caused a spike of alarm; Tokoyami looked over his shoulder to find Dark Shadow looking confused.
The pain did not go away. After a moment, it got worse, rattling him to the bones. Tokoyami gaped again; he would have doubled over if the restraints allowed it.
Suddenly, Dark Shadow was no longer at his shoulder. Instead, he felt the familiar tendrils at his midsection, right around where he felt the pain.
“What is this?!” Tokoyami looked up at the dark man. “What are you doing?!”
There was no response.
The tendrils that made up Dark Shadow, however, were starting to erupt from his body. They were flowing in to the large open hand. No, that wasn’t quite right; they were flowing in to the hand. With it, a strange emptiness began to form in the back of his mind, as if something was being removed.
Or, rather, being taken away.
He remembered, quite suddenly, that the monstrous nomus had all possessed multiple quirks.
“No!” That came from Dark Shadow, who must have realized what was happening before he fully could. He appeared in front of Tokoyami and, for a moment, he thought his quirk was going to attack the dark man. Instead, he turned away from their enemy, shadowy claws grabbing hold of his own shoulders.
Tokoyami knew that it wasn’t going to work. The understanding of exactly what was happening trickled in to him a bit slow from shock. The pain was still there and felt now as if it were more of a tearing. “Stop it!” How could – how was this even possible to take a quirk?! To take Dark Shadow?! “I’ll do whatever you want, just stop!”
A high pitched giggle came from the watching gallery. Dark Shadow had started to scream – a howling, really, from pain, from fear, he couldn’t tell – and he couldn’t stop himself past the chaos of it all from doing the same. It was as if a strong wind was blowing against Dark Shadow, pulling him back and away; shadowy claws were quickly losing their grip, ripping apart the cloth underneath.
The tearing pain had hit a pitch; when it did, there was a sudden jolt, a pull – Tokoyami thought, briefly, that he heard Dark Shadow sob – and then Dark Shadow was simply… Gone.
A few short wisps floated around the dark man’s hand; they quickly evaporated. The pain suddenly ceased as well; it felt very much was if he had hit a brick wall going very, very fast.
The world started to go dark around the edges; Tokoyami heaved and vomited across the floor.
“Hmm. Never came across a quirk that resisted before.”
Somewhere that felt distant, someone was clapping.
Then, everything went black.
The water felt nice on a day like this. There had been a heatwave over most of Japan – as was typical for any time after May, really. It had been such a nice surprise to get the group text from Midoriya inviting them all to UA’s pool.
They were there under the pretense of ‘endurance training’, but they all knew that there’d be plenty of rest and relaxation around it. Iida had even brought a cooler filled with drinks and had, after a couple of hours, practically forced them all to take a break.
Tokoyami smiled to himself as he climbed out of the pool and wrapped a towel around his shoulders. Iida held out a can in his direction but looked distractedly over at Mineta and Kaminari. Grinning, he thanked Iida for the drink before taking a seat in the shade.
“Do you need an extra towel, Tokoyami?” Ojiro offered, looking a little confused.
“What? What for?” Tokoyami blinked as he looked up at his classmate.
Oh, so that’s what this was about. Tokoyami rolled his eyes; he never understood why people were so awkward when asking about body-related things. Especially with so many different kinds of quirks around. “For my face, no. They’re closer to feathers than hair. They don’t stay wet for long.” This was honestly silly, but the concern was nice. “But thank you.”
“Feathers?” Ojiro mused as he took a seat. “That sounds convenient if they dry quickly. Do you have to use a special shampoo or…?”
Tokoyami gave his friend an amused look. Was this really necessary information to know? They were friends, certainly, but questions about grooming? He noticed Dark Shadow peeking out from over his shoulder – a preferred spot – to give Ojiro a dirty look.
Before he could either answer the question or chide his own quirk, Shoji chose that moment to join them. Thankfully, he changed the subject.
It was nice, odd questions aside, to have friends to talk to.
He was still swimming. Or he thought he was. When had he gotten back in the pool?
Blearily, Tokoyami opened his eyes; rather, he tried to. He winced at the first attempt as liquid immediately flowed inside. He was underwater? The world was, for a moment, a milky white before he adjusted. Whatever he was in wasn’t hurting his eyes.
It took a moment for the information to catch up to his higher functions. He was inside a liquid. He was inside a liquid but he could breathe perfectly fine. Then, he noticed the mask over his beak; a thick, heavy thing that felt a little too large for him.
Where was he?
He tried to move; something big and heavy held his hands down, wrapped around his wrists and keeping them together. There were similarly heavy things on his ankles. Cabling was wrapped around his chest and he was reminded of the chair –
The chair! He had been kidnapped after the fight and…
Where was he?!
Now, panic fueled his need to know. Right, he needed to take stock of the situation; his wrists and ankles were both restrained and he was floating in some sort of… Liquid. Yes, he knew that for sure now. Whatever he was in allowed him to see clearly enough and he could see thick metal cables connecting both the single piece around his hands and the two around his feet to a gray metal floor. He assumed his chest was held similarly, but the mask – a breathing apparatus for the water, he assumed – prevented his head from moving too much.
Then, he noticed he wasn’t wearing any clothes.
If that wasn’t just the wonderfully disturbing icing on this insane cake.
For a brief moment, he wondered how he would be able to call Dark Shadow with a mask over his face before the remembering hit.
They had taken Dark Shadow! That dark man had taken his quirk! Tokoyami tried to take a deep breath at a sudden wave of emotion; his vision began to blur and everything felt as if it were shaking.
They had taken Dark Shadow! What was he going to do now?! Was there a way to get his quirk back?! How was he going to –
Wait. Focus. He can panic later or fall in to the depths of despair or whatever it was that followed these things. Right now, he needed to figure out where he was and how to escape. After a few deep breaths to calm himself, he looked back up.
With that, he noticed that the walls around him – were they round? He thought he was inside some sort of round tube, the sort straight out of science fiction and horror movies – were completely transparent. Though, he couldn’t see very far past a certain distance; he could make out something across the room, but they were vague shapes. A desk? Some chairs?
To the left, another tube. It confirmed the tall cylindrical form of it. Inside of that was… Another person. Tokoyami stared in surprise; another kidnapping victim?
It was another boy. About his age, he thought, with white hair that for a moment caused a flash of panic filled fear that it was Todoroki in there but, no, it was a stranger. A stranger with the same restraints and mask. Whoever he was, he hung limply, eyes open but glazed over.
Tokoyami gulped the growing unease down before looking to his right.
Another tube. This time, there was a nomu inside of it. It was held in the same restraints; however, the water in the tube reached only to the nomu’s neck, below a skull with a very visibly exposed brain.
Tokoyami stared at it. He stared for what felt like a decently long time. Was this… Was this where the villains turned people in to nomus? The place where they performed their mad experiments, because how else would they be able to do this?
Oh, no. Oh. Oh, this wasn’t good. Was this real? Was he literally in a villainous mad scientists’ laboratory right now, stuck in a vat, living in the aftermath of having his quirk stolen?!
Shock at the absurdity of the situation was trumping the fear. He used it to look around as best he could, to make certain he hadn’t missed anything. He was able to notice a few additional details past the numbness.
There were IV lines in his arms. They were in both of his arms and there were several different lines. He couldn’t turn his head far enough to look where they went, but he assumed it was outside this… Tube.
The shock was now slowly ebbing away. As it did, the terror was starting to reform itself.
He was in a mad science lab, he had little doubt that absolutely no one knew where he was, and Dark Shadow was… Gone.
Dark Shadow was gone.
Tokoyami couldn’t stop the sudden heaving. A rumbling began to shake the world, an earthquake formed entirely of his own scattered emotions. He tried to pull his arms up to hold his head, to stop the growing thumpthump of his own heart rattling around the inside of his own skull.