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HEROISM

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Not all men were created equal.

Nagisa supposed his level of equality was decided in the womb. He never even had a chance, really.

He never had any aspirations growing up; just a vague hope for escape from the bonds and chains he’s always been subjected to from his mother. The boy was envious of his father having found his escape, even if it meant leaving Nagisa to sink or swim. It was alright though. Nagisa’s okay with that; he would rather his father save himself than both of them to drown in their attempt at security.

It didn’t matter in the end, he supposed, looking back—Korosensei did his best to help. That in itself meant the world to him. Nagisa loved his family; he always wanted them to get back together, start anew, fix what was broken. Then everything would be alright and he wouldn’t have to walk on glass anymore. Words of a villain-turned-hero echoed in his mind, though, after that dark night.

“It’s good to have hopes, Nagisa, just make sure those hopes aren’t unrealistic. You’ll have a harder time rising from it than if you faced the reality of things. People don’t change overnight.”

He understood that; more than anyone, he understood that. It took years for a gradual rise in hysteria to show its head before his mother drove her husband away and resorted to physical reactions to get Nagisa “under wraps”—or in her mind, at least. To him, it was more like “to get Nagisa into a pretty, little cage.”

Looking back, though the words seemed harsh at the time, the boy assassin was glad to hear them. It was meant to prepare him mentally should plans fall flat. Through the overwhelming delight and freedom that came with his parents’ declaration to try again, Nagisa had felt a small nudge in the back of his mind telling him not to keep his hopes up despite the immense amount of happiness that drenched the graduated student, yet he didn’t.

That is, until he started seeing the signs again, seeping through his mother’s shoddy attempts at concealing her true intentions.

He noticed the way her eyes lingered on him with a crooked smile when he was looking through the boys’ section at the clothes store. How her hold on his shoulder tightened when she spoke to him, studying the vipers in his hair as they stared back. How she would purse her lips whenever he commented on something he knew she didn’t agree with, almost holding herself back. She would still suggest brighter, softer colors to wear, even going so far as to suggest jewelry in a subtle way (if he wouldn’t wear girlish jewelry, he would at least wear the more masculine kind, right? Wrong).

Nagisa and his father could practically feel the pressure building within his mother, as if it physically strained her not to see her precious doll in a dress or with its hair down. They both were bracing for something each day, beginning to flinch at the sound of her voice like grains on a chalkboard, stressing and Nagisa could feel himself teetering on a wire again. It was just too fresh, he thought. The wound was too fresh still—he loved his mother, he did, but he feared for his own bloodlust and oh gosh, Korosensei’s not here anymore to call for help, what do I do? And like the Octopus’ own arm-whip snap, his mother finally caved to her beastly form.

Maybe he should have stayed quiet in the end.

All he did? All he did was mention applying for UA. That’s all it was—new dreams away from what his mother wanted. It was a dangerous career path, no doubt, but it was what he wanted to do. He wanted to save people, like Korosensei saved him and the rest of them. Why couldn’t she see that? Why was it so hard to move on? To release him finally?

The blue haired boy supposed it was something akin to riding a horse carriage; loosening the reins just a bit to give the horses some breathing space before tightening them just to steer them to the left or right or stop entirely, or snap, run faster, or—

What scared him was the thoughts that floated in his head, reappearing and burning like an old scar that started itching again. And he stood over his mother’s sleeping form with his snake heads uncoiling and staring venomously at the woman, tasting the air and relishing in the hostile aura that emanated from their host in a way they haven’t experienced since the night before graduation. Their heads vibrated with anticipation, knowing just what their Nagisa was thinking, desiring. One bite from Roka and the woman would begin bleeding from her insides out, and if she was as deep of a sleeper as Nagisa remembered her to be, only strong pain would be enough to wake her and by then it’d already be too late. Not like it mattered away; no antidote exists for Roka’s poison. It’d be quick, anyway.

Nagisa blinked himself out of those thoughts and took a step back, his snakes sharing glances with each other—no, no, no, no. Korosensei wouldn’t approve. He’s not an assassin. Not anymore; he lost that title when they collected their share of the reward for… releasing Korosensei. When they graduated. He couldn’t go back to those dark and bloody thoughts; not to his mother of all people (‘least of all people’, his mind numbly added).

Another step was taken and he slipped out of his parents’ bedroom silently.

The thoughts would come and go after that night, tasting the bloodlust that seeped through his mental basement, bleeding through the floorboards just enough for his feet to get wet and leave red footprints everywhere. He felt he was going insane and he was surprised his mother didn’t try to tear his hair from his scalp again like she used to. It was only a matter of time, he thought.

Then there was that dark, swirling pit in his stomach he hadn’t felt in months, twisting deeply and making him feel sick. At least...At least this time he wasn’t alone. At least this time Dad was there, right? He’d save him this time, right?

Nagisa remembered his father come home to see his son on the floor, picking up shards of glass while his mother loomed over him, arms crossed and foot tapping while her face contorted a gross red (she vaguely reminded him of an ugly Oni mask). He didn’t break the cup, but he wasn’t about to argue after earning himself a faded bruise on his cheek that had darkened throughout the day, pulsing painfully from time to time.

There was a certain kind of relief one feels after seeing their more kind parental figure experience several shades of emotions before settling on righteous and protective rage, then the words flew and the next thing he knew, the boy was being pulled to his feet by his father, hand wrapped around his wrist before they both exited the apartment in a blur. Dad was on the phone, and Nagisa could vaguely hear the door swing open behind them as they walked toward the stairs, monstrous and wild screams and curses shot at them with heavy, angry footsteps following and suddenly the boy found himself assuming the ‘rope’ role in a sick and twisted game of tug-of-war.

Screams of, “DON’T YOU DARE TAKE MY CHILD AWAY FROM ME!” and “I’VE GIVEN HIM EVERYTHING! HE OWES ME! GET YOUR SLITHERING HANDS OFF HIM!” howled, but Nagisa was only half aware of them. Soft, desperate blues sharpened to slits as they locked onto the enraged gaze of his mother, freezing her in place with his quirk before they made a run for it.

The car ride to the police station was stiff and silent but comfortable, a noticeable weight lifted somewhat, as though the evil spirit that haunted their home was gone—and he supposed it was true. He could feel peace in that, though the circumstances were more than tragic to him personally. Korosensei was right, he thought with a sad smile. He wished he could text Karma or Kaede; at least to have someone to talk to but it was almost midnight and they still needed to speak to the police about Mom and—oh, he left his phone in his room at home… He could get that later, but… Anxiety wriggled into his stomach, vicious snakes coiling and constricting his insides in a tight vice grip.

After everything that’s happened, between a life of forced dresses and abusive hits and screams, like a puppet on marionette strings bowing to the master puppeteer, gaining friends in a class meant for deadbeat students with no future, befriending a giant octopus teacher, being saved by his teacher(s multiple times), then being forced to kill his dear teacher (friend, guardian, savior, hero) with your own hands, then to see his attempt at further saving fall flat like a house of cards in the wind… What else could he have to remember his dear Korosensei by but the names of his snakes and his father’s presence beside him?

Nagisa could feel his insides burning, heart screaming for real peace and perfection in his life, gut bubbling up a nasty acid that was forced back down as his eyes grew misty with desperation and frustration and everything inside him almost started to cave into a whirlpool leading to a dark, dark place he honestly never thought he’d return to yet here he is, and mother fricker, he really wished he had his phone right now.

He really wished he had his hero right now.