Izuku Midoriya was four, when he came to the realization that not all humans were created equal.
His face stung and throbbed, after the beating he took. The tears of the kid he attempted to defend were but a meager consolation in the face of his overwhelming weakness. Was there something he could’ve done different? Was there a way, for him, to come out of that fight victorious? Any way at all? Could he have tried to dodge on the left, instead of the right?
Did he even have the possibility to choose a path, or was it simply written in front of him? Was he destined to just walk forward toward his set destiny, head low and weathering whatever the world threw at him?
Izuku Midoriya often thought about this concept, about the chaos of life— Why him? Why was he the one to be born without a power? Laughed at, and casted away— He often wondered how things could’ve gone, in different circumstances. Maybe if his mother married a different man, Izuku wouldn’t be like this. Maybe if he was born earlier, or later, he wouldn’t be like this.
He often wondered about the possibilities— Every step taken was a step in the unknown. In all its predictability, life had a way to shake things up at the drop of a pin.
Like the flapping of a butterfly’s wings, a single choice opening a path into the darkness.
Izuku Midoriya unknowingly diverged from the road he was walking on, the day he decided to go home after he met the greatest hero of all time, and got his dream destroyed, instead of lingering around in the city.
Izuku Midoriya came home, forcing a greeting for his mother out of his mouth, and climbed up in his room. He put down his backpack at his desk, shed the jacket of his uniform, and then fell face down on the bed.
He cried, silent. The words kept looping back in his head, like a broken record.
“You can’t be a hero.”
I can’t be a hero. I can’t be a hero. I can’t be a hero .
“There’s nothing wrong with dreaming, but you need to face reality.”
There’s nothing wrong with dreaming, but that is all that it can be. Just a dream .
I can’t be a hero.
Izuku Midoriya cried, silent, and let the broken pieces of his dream go.
Somewhere in the world, a butterfly flapped its wings.
The week after, Kacchan ended up surrounded by people, even more than usual, after he came back from the hospital.
“Dude, were you scared?”
“How are the heroes from up close? Were they as cool as they look?!”
“Man I bet they all were impressed with your quirk, you already have a foot in the door!”
“I’m glad you made it, did it hurt a lot?”
Kacchan’s laugh had a strained note in it, but it disappeared, by the time he spoke. “Of course I wasn’t scared! It wasn’t so bad, they kept me in the hospital just ‘cause they are all a bunch of worrywarts, but I’m fine! A stupid pile of sludge ain’t gonna stop me!”
Izuku kept his head low, ignoring the ruckus behind him. He was writing down some notes about Mt. Lady —old habits die hard— but without putting any real effort in it. He focused back on them, tuning out the chattering, until a hand slammed on his desk, making him jump.
“Oy, Deku.” Kacchan slurred, irritated. “Still writing this shit? Haven’t you given up, yet?”
Try jumping off the roof, maybe you’ll have a quirk in your next life.
He doesn’t fight back, when Kacchan slipped the notes from under him, scoffing.
“You really are a lost cause.” He said, rolling his eyes. “Here—“
He launched the notes in the little group of people. Whoever caught it, started to read it aloud, mocking giggles rising along the words being spoken.
Izuku kept his head low.
The days blurred into one another in a single gray cloud. Monotone, unchanging, uncaring.
Words didn’t hurt anymore. (Liar. They do. They hurt all the time.)
Punches didn’t hurt anymore. (Liar, liar. They do, they always hurt.)
It was a subtle shift. Mom did not realize anything was wrong or different for the longest time. She wished him a good day every morning, welcomed him back with a warm meal. Gave him space as he sat in his room and studied. Izuku moved mechanically, as his soul dried and crumbled a bit more every day. The pain and sadness receded slowly, leaving place to a hole full of nothing in him. One month went by, then two, three—
He tried to fight back, at first. He tried to think what he could do from now on. All Might was right, wasn’t he? Just because he couldn’t become a hero, it didn’t mean he still couldn’t try and do something to help people, to bring a change in this world.
But what could he do? He was just a kid— A quirkless kid.
A quirkless kid in a world that seemed to value and celebrate only those that made noises and colors. The flashier, the better.
He was a small, scrawny quirkless kid in a world of superhumans.
He might as well be an ant.
He stopped thinking about his future. What was the point? All that was in front of him was a boring, anonymous life. He’d go to a high school, get good grades, and then move to a university. He’d find a boring but well paying job, maybe find a nice girl down the line to have a family with.
(Assuming any woman could possibly desire a life by his side, let alone have children.)
It’d be a boring, normal life, lived under the radar. Kacchan would forget about him, all his classmates would forget about him. At some point he’d die, after living his anonymous, boring life, and become just unnamed dust in the wind. Years of nothing, but a waste of time and space.
Why waste energy trying to make plans for the future?
Going to school became harder. He didn’t want to leave his bed in the morning, he just wanted to stay there and never move again.
During the weekends, he would do exactly that. Mom let him be, assuming he must be studying, but he just spent his free days like that.
He could go out there, having fun, (with who? He didn’t had any friend—) but instead he stayed in his bed, a ball under the covers, as the time ticked by.
Food stopped having any taste. It all felt bland and uninteresting. Sometimes he simply wasn’t hungry at all, and whenever mom wasn’t home and he had to cook for himself, he couldn’t bother. He just skipped the meal. Much easier that way.
The world was gray. Was it always so gray? It was as if everything was covered by a thick layer of dust.
Izuku wished he could stop existing.
One day he lingered back at school, in the empty class. Just one more day that went by, as usual. His classmates turning him into the butt of all jokes, shoving him around like a doll.
A little thing to have fun with. Ah-ah, so funny, playing with the little quirkless toy that won’t fight back.
When he finally stood from his desk and exited the class, he took a left instead of the usual right. He climbed the stairs up, the door to the roof opened with a whine of metal in its hinges. The air was crisp as he walked toward the iron railings.
Climbing over them was easy. He stood there, on the thin belt of cement between the railings and the nothing. He looked down.
Would it hurt if he jumped? Or would he just die on impact? Was the school roof high enough to end it quickly and efficiently?
His toes stuck out in the nothing, curling a bit. It would be so easy to take a step forward. So, so easy—
His phone rung, making him jump in his skin. He slipped, instinctively turning and holding onto the railing for dear life, as one leg hung off the roof, the other just barely propped on the cement.
Cold sweat broke on his forehead and his heart shoot up to his throat, beating painfully as he took in a series of short, panicked breaths, awkwardly twisted with his arms circling the bars in a iron lock, one leg swinging into the void. The phone kept ringing. It must be mom, she was the only one that called him.
Slowly, shivering, he managed to climb back up, standing on shaky legs, before scaling the railing back on the safe side.
Nausea clawed at his stomach violently. The phone stopped ringing as he stumbled back into the school, down the stairs, making it just in time in one of the bathrooms to vomit in the sink. When the spasm of his stomach subsided, bitter liquid trailing down his chin, he slid on his knees on the floor, rough, wrecking sobs shaking him.
The day after something felt different. Murmurs followed him when he entered in the class. He kept his head low, as usual, as he made a line for his desk.
The teacher wasn’t there, yet. Izuku put his bag in the usual place—
“Deku.” Kacchan growled, irritated, stepping by his side. “What the fuck did you do, yesterday? Some shithead says that you almost jumped from the roof—”
Izuku’s heart skipped a beat, but his indifferent expression didn’t change, as he turned a small look on Kacchan. He looked angry, as usual.
“What if I did?” Izuku replied, voice so low it was barely above a whisper. Kacchan recoiled, eyes widening a bit.
“What the fuck?!” He replied, much louder than Izuku. “What the hell is wrong with you?! You creepy ass son of a—“
“Midoriya.” The teacher’s serious voice interrupted, effectively shutting Kacchan up instantly. “In the principal office.”
He still kept his head down as he silently obeyed, exiting the class, feeling the burn of dozens of eyes pointed at him. He still kept his head down as the principal went on a tirade about mental health and asking for help before doing things you will regret, sounding like he did not quite believe in those words himself. He still kept his head down when they finally let him go, and mom was outside, clutching a handkerchief to her face, cheeks red and eyes full of tears.
“Dear—“ She sobbed, hugging him. And for the first time in months, Izuku felt something. An almost blinding rage toward those that thought they could meddle— That felt the need to call his mother and tell her that he attempted to kill himself.
Couldn’t have they left her be? Was there really any need to let her know?
She was babbling something incoherent through her tears, her voice muffled against his shoulder. Izuku realized he was just standing there, hands limp at his side, and he forced himself to hug her back.
That’s what you are supposed to do, right?
“Hun, why d-didn’t you tell me?” She sobbed, a bit more clear. “I could’ve done something— I could’ve— Oh, Izuku, please, talk to me—”
“Mom.” Izuku managed to force out, voice raw. “I’m sorry they made you worry so much. I don’t know what happened— There must’ve been a mistake.”
“…What?” She exhaled, pushing gently against him to look up in his eyes. Izuku subtly shifted his gaze away, just barely. “What do you mean?”
“I don’t— I didn’t— I would never do that.” He lied, and the words rolled out his mouth with such ease they almost scared him. “ Whatever they saw, it wasn’t me. It was a mistake. I promise.”
“…Izuku.” She replied, trembly. “Are you sure? Dear, if there’s anything you need to speak about, I—“
“I’m sure, mom.” Izuku interrupted her, forcing a small smile on his face. He wasn’t sure if he succeeded, but she looked relieved, so he guessed he did. “Everything is ok.”
“…Tried to jump and couldn’t even go through with that.” Someone said from inside the class as he lingered in front of the door. “He really is a Deku—“
Izuku stopped going to school.
He didn’t tell mom. Their mornings went by unperturbed, Izuku would enter the kitchen in his uniform and with the usual backpack. He’d leave it by the door, eat breakfast with mom with the small tv on as they watched the news. He’d wish her a good day, putting the backpack on his shoulders and getting out, taking the usual road to go to school—
He’d slip in a small, ignored little alley and go elsewhere after a couple hundred of meters. He had no idea for how long he could keep it up. Surely one of these days someone from school would call to ask mom why wasn’t he attending classes anymore—
Or maybe they just assumed mom must’ve gotten him admitted in some kind of hospital after his suicide attempt, and leave it at that. No one wanted ‘student committed suicide’ in their school’s resumé. They probably were relieved the issue was taken straight off their hands.
Izuku soon became well accustomed with the most hidden, out of sight roads of the city. Much easier to avoid people asking him why wasn’t he in school, that way.
He’d wander with no goal in mind, observing life bustling around him. For the first time in his life, he noticed things that never really registered in his mind, before.
Homeless people drifting at the edge of society, avoided by most, just trying to function as well as they could. Snippets of conversations reached his ears, letting him into a world of bitterness and pettiness he never thought about before. People, walking alone with a dead gaze, that mirrored exactly what Izuku saw in his own eyes every time he gazed upon his own reflection.
Petty criminals giving heroes a wide berth, sly and capable in hurting others. Heroes complaining about how annoying the work and the people could be, when they thought themselves away from the prying ears of civilian.
Humans, singled out because their quirks didn’t align with the general consensus of what a ‘good person’ is supposed to be.
Was it any wonder that the criminality rate rarely got down despite how many so-called heroes were out there?
The more he looked, the more bleak everything seemed. How dumbly hopeful had he been, but a handful of months prior? How naive, of him, to try see the best in people—
To think he could be a hero. That he could make a difference.
And yet, he kept going. Despite the fog surrounding him, despite the fact he wished he could just poof out of existence, despite how much he wanted to roll up in a corner, sleep, and do nothing else—
One day he helped a old man, deep lines in his face and sadness in his eyes, stinking of someone living in the streets, by buying him food with the little money he had. Another he tackled a robber, gaining a bloody nose and a tearful thank you from the lady that got her purse back.
He jumped into a fight when a bunch of kids only slightly younger than him were trying to trample on another just as small kid. He growled a “Stop.” at a mother berating her young child way beyond what should be acceptable, gaining back a hateful look and a stony invite to mind his own fucking business.
It did not matter just how… Barren inside, he felt. There was still this tiny part of him that simply could not turn away. That pushed his feet to move on their own. That screamed and yelled, incapable of accepting reality.
He kept wandering late into the afternoon. Got home as if he just spent another ordinary day at school.
He wandered, and wandered, and wandered.
“Oh, my—“ Mom said, her concerned tone of voice snapping him out of the usual daze surrounding him, filling his head with a vague buzz of white noise. “That’s terrible—”
“What?” Izuku replied, shaking his head vaguely. “I wasn’t listening, sorry.”
“The news— They reported an homicide, a pro hero—“ She sighed, a little frown emerging on her face. “It’s always such an unsafe world to be in— Please, be careful on your way to school, ok, dear?”
“Ok, mom.” Izuku replied, voice carefully trained to appear normal. “I will.”
Izuku’s precarious world came crashing, that day.
He got back home, at the usual time. Nothing different. Except once he stepped in front of his house, a couple of cars he wasn’t familiar with were parked outside.
Paying it no mind, he opened the door, his set of keys jingling. He called out, as usual, to let mom know he was back—
When he stepped by the kitchen, the principal of his school and another man he didn’t know were standing there, mom sitting at a table with wet eyes and cheeks.
“Izuku—“ She exhaled, trembling, as he looked at them with wide eyes. “Have you been skipping school all this time?”
He knew it couldn’t last. He knew. And yet, the three set of eyes trained on him burned on his skin. He looked down, lingering by the door, nervously clutching at the straps of his backpack—
The fact he was still wearing the uniform, as usual, made him feel even more out of place.
His silence was the only answer they needed. Not that Izuku could deny reality, in any case.
“…We will leave you to speak with your son.” The man Izuku didn’t know said, voice low. “If you need anything, you have my number—“
They walked past him without a word. The entrance door clicked open and then close.
Izuku didn’t move, hands still hanging on the straps of his backpack, face tipped down. He heard the scratch of the chair moving and soft steps in front of him.
“You lied.” Mom whispered, voice broken. “You lied to me when you said it was a mistake—“
She sobbed, her voice getting higher. “All this time— It’s been a month, Izuku! A full month you’ve been going out, and I thought that you were at school, safe— And instead you were out there, in the streets! Anything could’ve happened to you, do you realize how dangerous it was?!” She angrily sniffed, before continuing. “What have you been doing all this time?! Did you— Did you got yourself in danger? Are you doing drugs? What?!”
“No— Mom—“ Izuku finally found words, hands tightening around the straps. “I’ve been— Walking.”
“Just walking?! The whole day?!”
Izuku shrugged. Something must’ve snapped in mom, because she grabbed his shoulders, rough in a way she had never been before, and pushed him down on a chair.
“I don’t want anymore lies!” She almost shouted, tears streaming down her cheeks. “Izuku— I want to know what’s wrong. I want to help you— Please, tell me how I can help you.” She added, her voice lowering, breaking. “I’m not— Mad. I’m worried. Baby, I’m so worried for you— Please, tell me what I can do to help.”
Izuku finally managed to look up, meeting her eyes. She recoiled violently. Whatever she must’ve seen in his gaze—
“I don’t know.” He replied, flat. “I don’t think there’s anything anyone can do.”
“Baby— Don’t say that.” She sobbed, a fresh wave of tears running down her cheeks. “There is always something we can do. I’m sure there must be something we can do— Izuku, please, I need you to work with me— You have to tell me what you feel—“
“I don’t.” Izuku bit back, frowning. “I don’t feel anything. I just want to stop existing.”
The words rung true to him, and he didn’t think they were so terrible— Much better than outright saying he wanted to die—
And yet, mom released a whine, like a wounded animal, hiding her face in her hands as she suddenly fell down kneeling, like her legs simply stopped working.
“Izuku—“ She wailed, finding his knee with a shivering hand. “Oh, my boy— My baby boy— Why—“
He could understand her reaction, maybe— Mom has always been very emotive. But this, this goes beyond that—
“Izuku, why didn’t you tell m-me—“ She sobbed, leaning in to rest her forehead on his leg, her voice sounding like her entire world came crashing down. Another sob wrecked her, as Izuku stood there, unmoving, clammy hands a tight fist on his thighs. Her sobs seemed to never stop, until she finally took a deep, trembly breath, calmed herself down, and slowly climbed back up on her feet. She looked like she just came out of a funeral, and yet she forced a small, frail smile on her lips.
“It’s ok, baby.” She whispered, gently tucking a stray tufty curl behind his ear. “It will be ok. We will find someone that can help you, ok? Mom isn’t going to let you down anymore, I promise.”
Izuku blinked, frowning vaguely. But his confusion didn’t seem to be apparent to her, as she caressed his cheeks almost frantically, staring at him with watery, almost far eyes.
“First thing tomorrow morning we’ll go speak with your doctor, ok? I-I’m sure he will be able to point us in the right direction— And then— Then I’m sure we will be able to go back to normal soon. You will be able to go back to school— You’re so smart, I’m sure it will be no trouble for you to catch up—“
His stomach gave a painful churn, as he observed her starting to pace back and forth in the small kitchen, like a caged pet, mumbling to herself.
He observed, silent.
Later that night, lying in bed, Izuku stared at the ceiling of his room.
The posters and figurines around him were still there, almost mockingly. He kept mulling over mom’s words—
Going back to normal— Getting back to school—
He felt nauseous at the mere thought. Why should he go back to school? Everyone hated him, there. They probably had the best month of their lives, without Izuku around.
What was the point? His life had no meaning either way. He had been condemned from birth. Nothing he could do will ever change that.
He was born a Deku, he will die a Deku. Was it really so wrong, that he wished he could stop existing?
Sleep eluded him, leaving him jittery and tired, eyes burning with the effort to keeping them open. He felt as if he was slowly losing his mind, forcing himself there, attempting and failing to just don’t exist, even if only for a few hours.
He finally gave in, throwing the covers off of himself. The clock on his nightstand informed him it was just barely past three in the morning.
He had time. He could go out, maybe taking a walk would tire him out enough to allow him to sleep. Or if it doesn’t, it would at least distract him away from the thoughts.
Mom didn’t had to even know.
He slipped silent as a ghost out of his room, down the corridor. Grabbed his keys and put on his shoes, not making a sound. Clicked the door open and close oh-so softly.
Once more, he hit the streets.
Musutafu at night looked like a different city.
Far less people loitering around, far more unsavoury looking individuals lingering, grouping up in dark corners to speak in low voices.
Most of the time, Izuku steps echoed in the dark and silence. He got some odd looks along the way, but no one stopped him.
He walked, mindless, moving down on now extremely familiar roads. It maybe looked like a different city— But it still was his city.
He didn’t keep track of the time. He figured he could make a loop and go back as soon as he saw the first lights of day over the horizon. He knew he was simply not going to sleep, that night.
He got snapped out of his mental fog when he heard a whiny gurgle and a stifled call for help. Suddenly his senses seemed to step in overdrive, and a pungent smell of blood reached his nostrils so strongly he wondered how he did not notice it earlier.
He followed, his feet moving almost on their own. The alley was dark and uncomfortable, so tight he barely fit in. Only vague blades of orange light managed to cut in the cramped space, rending visibility extremely low.
“P— Lease—“ A watery voice begged, barely understandable.
“Should’ve thought about it sooner.” A deeper voice replied, impassive. “Goodbye.”
Izuku managed to saw it, in the dark. A crumpled figure on the floor, someone towering over it holding an actual katana, blade pointed down.
He’s going to sink the blade in— Izuku realized, faintly, heart shooting up in his throat. He’s going to kill—
“WAIT!” Izuku yelled, raw, the words rolling out his throat. “DON’T DO IT!”
“Huh— Did you had a sidekick?” The deep voice asked, vaguely interested. “I had no idea— He’s lucky he’s so young, I’m going to spare him— In any case, stand back, kid. I have to purge this world—“
Izuku didn’t leave him time to finish the sentence, barrelling down the tiny space of the alley. His move was surprising enough that the man with the katana crashed on the floor, the blade skidding on the cement with a strident noise of metal.
“D’you got a death wish, brat?!” The man with the katana yelled, irritated. “I don’t have any business with you! Now scram, let me finish my job!”
The man attempted to shake Izuku off, but Izuku grabbed his arm and held on with all his strength, eyes squeezed close. The man growled, his movements hindered by the tight space, until he managed to grab a fistful of Izuku’s hair and violently yanked. Izuku let out a choked grunt of pain, jerked away and releasing his grip enough that the man shook him off, launching him on the floor.
“You goddamn brat— Now my prey it’s gone because of you!” The man barked, picking up his katana. “Look how much good it did you, attempting to save that sack of shit. He left you here with me— Now stay put, I’m going to catch that guy—“
Izuku rolled on his belly and circled his arms tight around the man’s calf, fingers firm behind his knee.
“You—“ The man hissed. “Let me fucking go! I’m starting to rethink my choice of not killing you—“
He attempted to shake him off, but Izuku held on, even when the man’s tibia painfully crashed against his nose. In a second, Izuku found himself yanked up by the neck, hovering fifteen centimetres off the ground, barely capable of breathing.
“A kid might as well become a target, if they don’t step aside.” The man hissed, glacial. “And you’ve refused to do so. You asked for this.”
Something sharp poked Izuku’s chest, near his heart. Izuku went limp, and waited to feel the blade sink in.
…But nothing happened.
“…Why are you not attempting to fight back, now?” The man asked, his voice a mix between perplexity and wonder. “What the hell are you doing, kid?”
Izuku didn’t answer. His heart was racing in his chest and he was struggling to breathe.
He ran in, unable to stop himself when he knew someone was about to die, but—
If it was him, then it was ok.
The silence stretched, the tip of the blade still vaguely caressing Izuku’s chest. Then, the man put Izuku down, and took a step back.
A weak ray of orange light hit him. The man was wearing a sort of mask, looking more like a ragged bandana, that fell almost all the way down on the floor. His bloodshot eyes were intense, irises a deep red. A scarf, just as red as his eyes and ragged as his mask was rolled around his neck. Messy black hair framed his pointed features, and for what little Izuku could see, the katana wasn’t by far the only blade this man carried with him.
Their eyes met, and the man squinted, as he examined Izuku’s expression.
“You look like someone that wants to die.” The man said, blunt. “Were you actually with that guy? Or did you just jump in hoping I’d put my sword through your chest?”
“Neither.” Izuku replied, voice like gravel. “I just didn’t want you to kill a person.”
“So you didn’t know him?”
Izuku’s eyebrow scrunched in the middle, as he held the man’s gaze. “Because killing other people kinda sucks? Did you miss that lesson in school?” He replied, sarcastic.
The man did not reply for what felt like a long minute.
“You are a weird kid.” He finally said. “How old are you?”
“None of your business.” Izuku quipped back. “Didn’t you want to kill me or something? Go on with it.”
The man seemed to frown, under his mask. “I don’t kill children.”
“You told me you didn’t mind like—Three minutes ago? You don’t seem all that convinced of your ideals.” Izuku immediately replied, crossing his arms.
“I especially don’t kill shitty, sarcastic children.” The man huffed. “If you want to die so badly, jump down a roof. I’m done, here.”
The words hit Izuku like a sledgehammer. He tensed violently, finally breaking the contact with the man’s eyes.
“I tried, and couldn’t do it, in the end.” Izuku whispered, shifting his hands to hug himself. “Everyone saw it. Saw what a coward I was. They teased me because I couldn’t even kill myself right.”
The man stood there, unmoving, despite his declaration of ‘being done’.
“…How old are you, kid.” He murmured, low.
“Does it matter—“ Izuku exhaled back, tipping his face down. “I’m just— Tired of everything. I want it to stop. I don’t want to exist anymore.”
“Do you have family?”
“Only my mom— She’d probably be better off without me.”
The silence stretched once more, so heavy it was almost difficult to breathe.
“If you really are so done with your life— Why did you run in to save a person you didn’t even know? Why did you care?”
“…Killing’s wrong.” Izuku muttered, almost childish. “I just moved on instincts.” He finally looked back up. The man was regarding him almost interested, now. “And you? Why were you trying to kill that guy?”
“…I took on a oath.” The man replied, serious. “To purge this world of fakes and false idols. Of people taking the word ‘hero’ and twisting it to fit their selfish desires. Our society is rotten to the core and full of worms, that feasts on a fame that’s undeserved and a glory that they should not claim. I’ve chosen the blades in order to clean this society of those that have stained the ideal of what real heroes are by demanding money for their services and using their quirks selfishly.”
Izuku blinked, tilting his head on a side. “That’s a mouthful. And you think that you can do all that alone? By killing people?” He asked, unable to help himself. “I mean, not that you are entirely wrong, in theory— But I don’t think killing is quite the right way to go at this. And working all alone will only make you super slow.”
The man sighed, almost amused, shaking his head. “Someone had to do it, at some point. If it wasn’t me, then who else?” He replied. “I don’t pretend you to understand, kid—“
“But I do.” Izuku interrupted, flat. “I do understand. There are so many people out there only thinking about climbing a popularity chart, using their quirk inappropriately, not because they want to help others, but because it serves them and their egos. But isn’t a hero supposed to work in order to help and protect? Even if it brought them no glory? No matter the circumstances, or how difficult it will be— A hero should always do everything in their power to help others, even if it meant butting their noses in other people’s business.”
“Yes, exactly.” The man said, satisfied.
“…So why did you even ask me why I ran in to save that guy? Isn’t that exactly what a hero should do?”
The man turned to look down at him with vaguely wide eyes.
“Do you want to be a hero?” He asked, careful.
“I wanted to.” Izuku murmured. “But I can’t.”
“I’m quirkless. I’m weak. I’m just a deadweight.” Izuku listed, shrugging. “I’m useless. I can’t do anything. Even All Might told me I can’t.”
The man’s eyes seemed to almost lit up. “You spoke with All Might?”
“I met him months ago. Asked him if he thought even someone like me could be a hero— He said no.” Izuku added, flat. “It destroyed my dreams. Becoming a hero it’s all I ever wanted. And now here I am, speaking in the dead of the night with a guy that— You are that serial killer, right? Stain.”
“Yes.” Stain replied, promptly. “Since you know who I am, don’t you think you owe me the courtesy to tell me your name?”
“…Call me Deku.”
“Deku. Ok.” Stain sighed. “Kid. You’re just barely a vague idea in your mother’s head. Go back home, and try to find a way for yourself to live. You’re far too young to have such a strong death wish.”
“I don’t want to!” Izuku barked, surprising even himself. “I don’t want— She’d only worry herself sick. She’d live so much better without me around. And no one else cares about me. No one would miss me, I’m ok with dying. I don’t want to go home.”
Stain sighed, grumbling. “This is why I don’t like brats— Listen, it’s not a request nor I’m asking you gently. I don’t give a fuck about what you do. Go home or don’t, I really don’t care.”
He turned, walking away. Izuku gaped, watching his back get further and further—
He followed. He didn’t know why. He didn’t want to think about why he followed. Maybe it was the way Stain didn’t skirt away from him. His sincere, unmoving bluntness in front of Izuku’s words, the same kind of words that but a handful of hours earlier turned his own mother in a sobbing mess.
Stain reacted as if he understood. There was something in those deep red eyes—
“What the hell are you doing—“ Stain hissed, incredulous, turning just vaguely toward him as they walked down the small alley.
“Making sure you don’t kill anyone else.” Izuku promptly replied, tailing after him. It wasn’t a complete lie. “I may agree to a certain extent to what you say, but that doesn’t mean that I will let you just run around gutting whoever you like.”
“You goddamn— Get lost!”
“Or what, you’ll kill me?” Izuku deadpanned. “Big fucking deal. I’m shaking in my shoes.”
Stain turned so suddenly Izuku hit his face against the man’s chest, forcing him to come to a stop. He looked up, meeting flabbergasted red eyes.
“You’re the craziest fucking brat I’ve ever met.” Stain commented, vaguely irritated. “Fine. Follow me around. If you can keep up.”
And with that, he suddenly jumped, agile like a cat. He climbed up the walls of the alley, using anything at his disposal with an ease that spoke of expertise, disappearing up into the night.
Izuku glared. Maybe he couldn’t climb goddamn walls, but he had other weapons at his disposal. Stain was underestimating him— Just like All Might did.
He’d show him.
Somewhere in the world, a butterfly flapped its wings.
The sunrise came and went, and Izuku didn’t go back home.
He picked up some little tricks, in his month of wandering. He wasn’t proud, but he figured the twenty thousand yen he snatched from the guy wearing a rolex and shoes that looked like they could buy about six months of groceries for him and mom wouldn’t miss them too much.
He got himself a couple of cheap changes of clothes and a practical drawstring backpack. Some bare necessities easy enough to carry around, a refillable bottle of water. A hat to conceal is permanent mess of curls. Fake glasses. Just enough to tweak his appearance a bit. After all, mom probably ran to the police the moment she realized he wasn’t home.
He felt guilt squirming in his stomach. He could not imagine how agonizing it must be, for her—
But it’d be better for her in the long run. Izuku was sure of it. She’d move on, and maybe find herself a nice man, without being saddled with the responsibility of caring for Izuku that tied her down to her long absent husband. She could build a much better life for herself. All she had to do was to bear the first painful days, and then she’d be free.
He spent most of the morning sewing a little hidden pouch in his new hoodie. It was a bit lopsided, but it’d do the trick, and he put the rest of the money there. He was going to need it.
The next step was easy. Public libraries weren’t as busy as they used to be, but they still existed. It was easy enough to convince the clerk that he just accidentally forgot his student ID, couldn’t she just let him in? He was in a real hurry with his homework and going back home to grab the ID would take forever—
Vaguely satisfied with himself, he sat down at the first computer he could find in a secluded enough corner, opened the brand new notebook and the set of pen and pencils he bought that morning, and got to work.
Stain worked in a predictable pattern.
He’d lay low for long stretches of time, but always appeared in zones with high density of hero work. He’d single out a specific target, patiently waiting for the right moment to strike, and did so rapidly and efficiently, before completely slipping under the radar once more. Rinse and repeat.
His modus operandi rarely varied. He’d always surprise isolated victims in secluded, hidden alleys, went in for a quick hit that won him the upper hand, and do his deed. He didn’t linger around, didn’t leave traces, and the very few still alive witnesses reported that he rarely engaged in excessive goading, clearly focused on his objective.
It was unclear which kind of quirk he could possibly have. Izuku was ready to bet it must be some kind of incapacitating quirk. Signs of an active fight were rarely found on the crime scenes, which clued him in. If Stain could somehow paralyze his victims, it’d be much easier for him to do his ‘job’ quickly and efficiently.
There was something almost— Fascinating, in the way he worked. Part of Izuku protested, at that thought. The man was a monster that took dozens if not hundreds of lives already. Izuku was being stupid. He should stop this, right away.
He stifled that small, frail voice, and kept going. If he could show Stain that he had been wrong in underestimating Izuku, then maybe the man would be more prone to answering his questions and listening to him.
There was nothing bad in that, right? He was doing something useful, at least. He was trying to help. Beat just walking around like an idiot, or go back home to go speak with some shrink. Or go back to school.
Izuku sat and worked until pretty much closing hour. By the time the same clerk he convinced to let him in gently asked him to wrap things up, he had almost filled half of his new notebook already.
He obeyed quietly, not before fully clearing the traces of his web searches. He had all the info he needed. Once outside he fished some coins out his secret pouch, got the cheapest and most filling thing he could find at the konbini, and hit the road, munching on his dinner.
His work came to fruition the night to follow. His mapping turned out to be on point, and when Izuku woke up around midnight from his park-bench nap, it didn’t take him long to individuate the possible next victim and follow.
Stain’s face as Izuku emerged from the darkness, a hood over his head to conceal his features from the terrified-looking young pro-hero currently stuck on the floor, was priceless.
“You—“ Stain let out, voice low. “How in the hell—“
“Maybe you leave that guy alone.” Izuku replied, keeping his voice low. He didn’t want anyone to be able to recognize him easily. “And then we can talk.”
“Like fucking hell. You’ve ruined one of my hunts already, brat. Ain’t gonna happen a second time—“
“Yamashita Suzuki, Hero name: Cloud.” Izuku interrupted, monotone. “Started working in the ‘Raion and Doragu’ agency two months ago. This guy’s pretty much a student fresh out of school, do you really think he deserves to die?”
Stain sighed, long suffering. “He intervened three days ago in a robbery and let a civilian die. Great job there, huh?”
“Yeah, because the civilian didn’t obey his request and ran into danger.” Izuku snapped back. “Do you think he isn’t tortured enough by that? He’s just an intern, he’s learning. You gotta cut people some slack, man. We are only human. We all make mistakes.”
Cloud was pretty much in tears, at this point, his eyes darting between Izuku and Stain looming above him, clearly confused.
Stain hesitated, red eyes lingering down on the pro-hero immobilised at his feet and then turning back to Izuku, calculating.
“I can give you a bit more motivation to let him go—“ Izuku continued, breaking the impossibly tense silence. “Like, for starters, I can rattle off how I managed to find you so easily— I’m sure the pro-hero with a communicator in his ear would be really happy to rely that info back to his superiors.”
Stain’s eyes widened, and he looked back down. He growled, when he spotted the little gray object stuck in Cloud’s ear.
Slowly, he put the katana back in its sheath. “Fine, let’s have it your way, you insufferable brat. Come here.”
Izuku sauntered toward them, as Cloud’s eyes went even wider.
“No— What are you doing?!” He managed to croak. “Run! He’s dangerous!”
“It’s ok.” Izuku replied, looking up at Stain from behind his hood. “He won’t hurt me.”
“Awfully presumptuous of you.” Stain replied, almost jokingly. And yet, they both knew it was the truth. He offered his muscly arm down to Izuku, leaning in, and after a moment of hesitation Izuku let him circle his waist, as he hooked his arms around Stain’s shoulders.
He climbed the wall, one armed, carrying the weight of Izuku as if he was made of paper. Cloud attempted to shout something after them, but they were already too far for the words to make any sense.
When Stain finally put him down, they were far from the alley. There was chilly wind, up there, in the dead of the night, and Izuku forced himself not to shiver.
It wouldn’t do, to show weakness in front of him.
“Now talk.” Stain barked, clearly sore.
“I can do better.” Izuku replied, taking his lithe backpack off his shoulders and rummaging in it to fish out his notebook. He launched it toward Stain, that easily caught it mid-air. “Take a look.”
With a sigh, Stain obeyed, opening it. He eyes tightened in a squint, at first, but as he kept reading they got wider, a deep frown setting on his features. Izuku waited, patient, as the man skimmed through his notes, before looking back up with a gaze so calculating it almost felt as if Stain was attempting to dismantle Izuku like a third dimensional puzzle.
“You— Wrote this.” He said, not quite a question. “You compiled this in two days—“
“One.” Izuku replied. “Today, I mostly spent mapping the city alleys and running probabilities in my head. About where you could possibly pop up.”
Stain looked at him, mouth slightly open, for long silent seconds. “Kid. What the actual fuck are you—“
“Someone that has nothing to lose, I guess.” Izuku replied, shrugging. “Will you listen to me, now?”
Stain stepped closer, giving the notes back almost carefully. “Why go through all this trouble to talk to me?” He asked, quietly.
“You—“ Izuku hesitated on his words. When he spoke again, he did so slowly, as if measuring each one. “You didn’t seem surprised by my desire for death. Everyone seems to react with horror at the idea, but not you— Maybe it’s because you are so intimate with it, or because you’ve felt these kind of feelings, before, but I’ve never met someone that just took my words at face value, and didn’t immediately tried to convince me what a ‘gift’ life is.” He spat out those words, bitterly. “But you— You just understood and accepted them, and that— Made it easier to acknowledge that it’s ok for me, to feel this way. And— And maybe I wanted you to acknowledge me, too.”
“…Why?” Stain replied, voice so low it almost got lost to the wind.
“I guess I just didn’t want to accept to get dismissed by another overwhelmingly strong person as if I’m just a stupid kid that knows no better.” Izuku murmured, steel in his voice. “All Might already destroyed my dream. And I know he didn’t mean anything bad with that— But I still don’t want to live that kind of feeling again. Not again.”
Stain was still holding his notebook in hand almost gently, keeping it just a bit stretched toward Izuku. When Izuku took it back, his bandaged fingers relaxed.
“I understand how that would hurt you, but All Might was probably right. It would be insanely dangerous, to become a hero without a quirk.” Stain commented, flat. “He was looking out for you—“
“I know that!” Izuku snapped, the rage bubbling up his throat like bile in an instant. “I know! But do you have any idea how much it hurt— The person I’ve always looked up to the most— The greatest hero ever telling me point blank to just put my lifelong dream on the shelves—“ Izuku felt the tears run down his cheeks, but ignored them, as the words came tumbling down his mouth. “In that moment I felt— I felt like my heart was taken out of my chest and stomped on— I would’ve much preferred dying trying to be a hero, than live a life like this—“
“Is that what you are doing?” Stain asked, quietly. “Are you trying to die a hero by stopping me?”
“Maybe yes.” Izuku sniffed angrily wiping away the tears. “What about that?”
“But you know I won’t kill you.”
“I guess if I pester you enough, you’d finally snap—“
“Deku.” Stain suddenly interrupted, making Izuku recoil. He forgot which name he’d given him. “Stop. You are smart, clearly, but I’m not an idiot either. Your story doesn’t add up. Why show me all this information you’ve compiled about me, if stopping me is what you wanted? You could’ve easily gone to the police—“
“—Who would’ve laughed in my face.” Izuku finished for him, irritated. “I’m just a stupid quirkless kid. You seem to forget that part of the story far too often.”
Stain groaned, dragging a down his face, before his fingers stopped on his chin.
“You are a strange kid. What it is that you want? I mean, really want?”
“I—“ Izuku hesitated, gaping wordlessly, before admitting softly. “I don’t know. I just don’t want to go home. There’s nothing for me, there.”
“So you filled this hole by playing detective— And how long is that going to last, I wonder?” Stain replied, still massaging his chin. “But you— You have potential.”
Izuku blinked at Stain’s chest, before looking up. “Excuse me?”
“What a waste would it be, to let you become a red splatter on the sidewalk.” Stain continued, almost contemplating. “No. No, kid, what you need is a new purpose. Your old one is gone? Well, time to get off your ass and find something else—“
“I tried. For months.” Izuku hissed, irritated. “Nothing feels right. Nothing will ever be the same as becoming a hero—“
“You’re still thinking in the box.” Stain locked eyes with him, crossing his arms on his chest. “You’ve got to get out of that kind of mindset. You are a rare breed, Deku. You’re not made to fit in the nice little slot society prepared for you. No, there’s so much more you can do.”
Izuku blinked, frowning, and speechless. What was Stain even hinting at?
“Come with me, the night is long.” Stain added into the silence, stepping away to stand by the edge of the roof, looking down in the city. “Kid like you out there alone? As good as dead. I’ve gotta teach you some things, before you become a human shish-kabob.” And, before Izuku could even say anything, he added. “Don’t start asking me why or how or what-the-fuck-ever. From now on, you shut up and obey my orders, or you’re out. Are we clear, brat?”
Izuku stared up at the single red eye he could see from his position. He wordlessly nodded.
“Good. Get on my back, now, I’ll find a place to start. Lesson one is how not to move like a goddamn sack of potatoes, so watch closely.”
Izuku went from asleep to fully awake in two seconds flat.
He sat on the naked cement floor, looking around. The abandoned, dilapidated basement looked just as dusty as it did the night before. He yawned, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes.
He was still curled up in the corner, using his backpack as a makeshift, vaguely uncomfortable pillow. Stain was nowhere to be seen, but, in the place he was sitting when they both went to sleep around five in the morning, there were two cups of instant noodles, along with a battered gym bag and the tiniest camp stove Izuku had ever seen.
Izuku got up on his feet and got closer. One of the cups was empty, but the other wasn’t, even if it was unsealed. Peeling away the plastic label revealed a sad looking broth and noodles. It was cold and slightly gross, but Izuku downed it in two minutes flat, famished. He licked the last traces of the broth away from his lips, before padding back to his own bag and fish out his water bottle, emptying it. He had to remember to fill it again at the first chance.
Stomach quieted down, Izuku took a better look around. The place looked even more disgusting than it did the night prior, with the golden blades of day light coming in from above, dust swinging in the air, thick webs hanging from the ceilings and in the corners. There was a good amount of trash abandoned on the floor, too.
Izuku shrugged to himself, kneeling by his bag and emptying it to do a quick inventory. He took a sniff of his clothes. They smelled stale and vaguely sweaty, but it wasn’t unbearable, so he guessed he could go on without changing for another day, at least. He sat down, back against the wall, and opened his notebook on his knees.
His pen hovered on the paper and he hummed, before a small, lopsided smile pulled at his lips, and he started to write down.
How not to move like a sack of potatoes.
He got lost in the familiarity of it all, this habit of writing, making bullet points, analyzing, draw little diagrams— He wrote down everything Stain told him the night prior, not forgoing any detail. He got so engrossed in his work he jumped violently when something moved out the corner of his eye.
Izuku turned, eyes wide. Stain took the hood off his face, revealing the now familiar messy black hair, his face covered with a pearl white cold mask.
“Lesson number two—“ He said, rough. “Keep your damn guard up, brat. An elephant could’ve sneaked up to you, right now.”
“…Yes.” Izuku murmured back, attempting to quiet down his racing heart. Stain huffed and slid the mask off his face, revealing—
“You don’t have a nose.”
“Yes, amazing observational skills.” Stain huffed, sarcastic.
“…Sorry. I guess that’s not so strange, after all.” Izuku replied, looking down at his notebook. “A guy in my class could just— Pop his eyeballs out of the sockets and let them dangle off his face. Was gross as hell.” A sniff. “Not having a nose is not so bad.”
Stain let out a little rumbly chuckle, as he stalked silently toward his gym bag. He kneeled by the empty cups.
“Glad to see you’re not a picky one.” He commented, shaking the empty cup of instant noodles. “Can’t afford to be, when you’re on the move.”
“Huh. Yeah.” Izuku replied, blinking. “Thanks for the breakfast?”
Stain hummed, as he opened the gym bag’s zipper and stuffed something from his pocket in it, before launching him a little look. “What are you writing, so intently?”
“Oh— What you taught me yesterday.” Izuku shrugged. “Writing things down always helps me memorizing them.”
“I see. I won’t tell you not to, but it’s a dangerous habit. Written words can be a double edged sword. If you were to lose that little notebook of yours, it could be a mess.” Stain commented, flat. “Write down, memorize, and then burn it”
Izuku looked down at the notebook, clutching it almost protectively. It was a small, thin thing, not many pages at all. Izuku almost filled all of it already. With a sigh, he got up. “Wait, don’t put away that thing yet.”
Stain picked up his intentions immediately. He got the little camp stove back out from his bag, and turned it on.
They watched the paper rapidly burn, silent, leaving behind only a little pile of ash. Stain distractedly patted the last little burning pieces to fully stifle the smoke.
“Looks like you are a wanted brat. Even more than me.” He suddenly said, wiping the ash away from his fingers.
“What?” Izuku replied, confused.
“Got asked a couple of times by police officers if I saw a boy as tall as you, with messy, curly green hair like yours. Green eyes. Like yours.” Stain shrugged. “I guess when you get a suicidal teenager disappearing in thin air, people are going to get worried.”
“…Oh.” Izuku exhaled, frowning. “I… Guess.”
“Pack your stuff, we’ve gotta move.” Stain continued. “We can’t stay here anymore, obviously. Unless you changed your mind and want to go back home?”
Izuku took a second, before murmuring. “No. I don’t want to go home.”
Stain hummed, closing his gym bag and hauling it on his shoulder. He slipped the cold mask back on.
“Get ready, then. We’ve got a long way ahead.”
Chizome leaned against the wall, arms crossed on his chest, and observed.
The kid was putting on a different kind of shoes, some cheap looking running shoes, pocketing his bright red ones back in the backpack, along with everything else. He had to admit that, for a brat, he was pretty smart. For what he could see of his few possessions, the kid made sure to bring with him only what was necessary for a life in the streets.
But then again, it was not surprising. This boy was far smarter than what his plain-looking exterior let on.
He was only barely fifteen years old, if the officers that stopped him this morning said the truth. A boy so young, and yet with so much pain and darkness in his eyes, already— No wonder he choose the chance to run, when it was given to him.
Clearly, his life mustn’t have been great. A quirkless kid— Probably got bullied to hell and back. Maybe his parents were divorced? He only mentioned his mother, and who knows which kind of person she was— Wouldn’t be surprising if the boy came from an abusive household.
In any case, it wasn’t any of Chizome’s business. The only reason he took the boy with him was because of the exceptional observational skills he shown. What he saw in the now thankfully burned notebook— This kid got a real knack for observing people and dismantling them piece by piece.
That, and the fact that the brat could prove to be a real problem, if his stubbornness was anything to come by. It costed Chizome pretty much nothing to keep an eye on the boy and assess him for a bit, and his quicksilver mind could prove to be useful, in the meantime.
If anything took a turn for the bad, he could always kill him. He didn’t like the idea much, but if necessary, he’d do it. After all, the kid still had that dark light in his eyes— He probably won’t mind to get killed too much.
“I’m ready.” The kid said, carding a hand through his messy hair to push it backward, before putting on an anonymous looking dark blue baseball cap. It did a decent job in hiding his hair. He took out a pair of glasses from the pocket of his hoodie, too, sliding them on.
“You’ve got bad eyesight?” Chizome asked, flat. Glasses could be annoying—
“Ah, no. They are fake. Just to tweak my appearance a bit.” He replied, shrugging.
“Mh. I see. Good choice.” Chizome admitted, eyeing him. It was a small touch, but it definitely helped hiding him in plain sight. “When we are out there during the day, my name is Daiki Ueda, and you are my little brother, Hideki Ueda. Got it?”
The boy nodded, silent and expressionless. His eyes were as dark as usual, bags under them. Chizome nodded back and turned, starting to climb back up and out the abandoned building, the kid following closely. They walked in silence for a long while, taking small roads away from majorly trafficked areas, the only noises around them the birds chirping, the distant cars going by, people just chatting as they went by their daily life, ignoring the two unassuming figures walking side by side.
“St— Daiki.” The boy suddenly said, rapidly correcting himself. “Just a minute.”
Chizome stopped and turned, adjusting the hood over his head and the mask on his face. They were alone, walking by a river bank. The boy took his backpack off his shoulders and rummaged in it. He took out his bright red shoes, and with a determined throw, he launched them in the river. They went down with a soft splash, the bright red rapidly disappearing, dragged away by the currents.
The boy wasn’t done. He fished out a small set of keys. He seemed to observe them for a few seconds, a bright All Might keychain dangling from them, before he also threw those in the water.
“There. Now I’m dead.” He muttered to himself, before putting the backpack back on. He walked up to Chizome once more, dull green eyes looking up at him expectantly.
Chizome said nothing. He just nodded. And they started to walk again, silent.