The man with no name sat at his desk, hands clasped as the boy who matched the awkward photo of client 412 startled himself awake. This client was a young man, perhaps no older than seventeen, whose unkempt curls and freckles added to his youthful appearance. Izuku Midoriya—or so the paper in front of him read--was apparently was a prospective hero of sixteen years old who and was already desperate enough to end up here.
With a sigh the man stretched his arms and settled into a more relaxed position. It had been a while since he had assisted one so young. These kinds of jobs came with their own sorts of annoyances—firstly he had to make sure not to scare the brat off, but the real trouble was making sure the client actually saw his job to its end. The number of cowardly kids seemed to be exponentially rising from generation to generation, which just made work harder.
But even their pay was good, and that’s what mattered to the man in the end, wasn’t it?
A small clock ticked incessantly on the wall, breaking the heavy silence that filled the office. The odd freckled kid – Midoriya – glanced around the room, taking in the white walls and freshly carpeted floor. His doe eyes blinked in confusion, which was to be expected. It was inevitable, after all, for one to be confused when they were whisked away out of sweet dreams or terrifying nightmares and ended up in a place that was, frankly, incredibly mundane.
“Todoroki.” The words left the boy’s lips with a croak, more of a statement than a question. The man’s lips quirked upwards. Did the name belong to a family member? A friend? A lover? Perhaps none of the above.
The boy turned his gaze towards the floor, as if his scuffed red shoes were the most interesting thing in the room.
“I know. You didn’t get the eyes right.” The boy mumbled, and the man shrugged. His eyes--the pale silver of the moon in the office's fluorescent lights -- danced merrily
“Consider that a stylistic choice.” The man smiled. He liked this boy. Midoriya was observant, quite unlike some of the others he’d spoken with who were as much arrogant as they were ignorant. “The human brain is truly a fascinating thing, pasting the familiar over something it can’t comprehend. Uncanny, don’t you think?”
“Yeah, I guess it is.” Midoriya was nervous, practically jittering out of his seat, yet he still forced his mouth into a smile. The man took this as his cue to get to the point.
“You’re probably wondering why you’re here aren’t you.” Midoriya simply nodded, looking up at the man, who proceeded to flip through a stack of papers in his desk’s drawer.
“In order to answer that, I have a question for you—Do you have a wish, one you’d be willing to do anything for? Perhaps unlimited wealth, incredible success.” The man’s tone grew cold, as he pointedly looked up from his papers and at Midoriya. “The ability to bring one back from the dead.” The boy recoiled as if struck. Bingo.
The man already knew what his answer would be. There was only one reason lost souls ended up under his jurisdiction after all.
Fear flashed over Midoriya’s face, before being replaced with a grim sort of determination. Then, in a slow, fluid motion the boy nodded again.
“I’d do anything.”
And the man laughed.
Izuku Midoriya was used to waking up in odd places—be it on the floor of the UA dorm common room in a failed attempt to reach the couch (a longer story) or in Eijiro Kirishima’s bed (an even longer story). It seemed to be a natural side effect of a nasty combination of working oneself to the bone and a general lack of sleep – the lifeblood cocktail of Izuku’s daily life of the past six months or so. Luckily, the rest of the students in Class 2-A seemed to notice that a soft pillow and a warm blanket worked as an automatic Izuku tranquilizer. But hey, if someone was offering up a comfy bed, Izuku certainly wasn’t one to refuse.
What Izuku wasn’t used to was opening his eyes to find himself in a dark alley tucked between two skyscrapers. Instead of pillows and blankets he was greeted with slick asphalt and a killer headache.
Surprisingly, it wasn’t the strangest morning Izuku had ever had, but it sure was the most unsettling.
With trembling fingers, he reached up to push his bangs out of his eyes only to find them crusty and matted to his pounding temple by a thick substance. He pulled his hands away with a wince, trying to ignore the sharp pain that was radiated from where his fingers touched.
The stickiness that matted his hair and now coated his was something he was intimately familiar with, despite still being the young age of sixteen. Even though the only light in the alley came from the flickering streetlamp of a nearby street he could already tell what it was.
Blood, still recent enough to dye his fingertips red even though his forehead was beginning to scab.
It looked a little like strawberry jam—the kind with the large fruit chunks that his mom used to buy—some morbid part of his mind helpfully provided. Judging from the spots dancing at the edges of Izuku’s vision, there was about a fifty-percent chance that that was a concussion talking. The other fifty-percent was the chance that his brain was going loopy from blood loss.
Izuku was placing his bets on it being some combination of the two.
Despite the alarming presence of a serious injury, the part of Izuku’s brain that wasn’t deliriously comparing clotting blood to a breakfast topping immediately kicked into high gear.
If he was lying in the middle of what appeared to be an unoccupied alleyway bleeding half to death, someone must have attacked him while he was off UA’s premises. No—that wasn’t right. Izuku hadn’t left the dorms the day before, instead spending the whole day holed up in his room as he crammed for midterm exams. He still had the awful crick in his neck to prove it. That meant that the perpetrator must have somehow infiltrated the UA’s dorms, despite the whole campus’s drastic security increase after—
A familiar pang resounded hollowly within Izuku’s chest from a pain that was as much physical as it was emotional. Anxiety had snuck up behind him and gripped his neck in a chokehold, forcing his breaths to become shallower and shallower with each passing second. He felt his fingernails digging into the cracked pavement in his body’s futile attempt to ground itself.
If someone had kidnapped him from the UA dorms without anyone’s knowledge, then there was a high possibility that the events of last year could be repeating—
No. Izuku shook his head firmly, wincing as the renewed pain in his temple pulled him back to reality. He crashed that train of thought back into the far corners of his mind where it belonged.
He couldn’t afford to dwell on that any longer than necessary, not when he had to keep a cool head with more pressing matters at stake.
Izuku took in a deep breath that he released with a huff, calming himself somewhat. It was time to get to work—his first objective would be finding out where the hell he was. There were no skyscrapers of this height anywhere near UA, so he must be somewhere decently far away—probably a few hundred kilometers at the least. If he could at least figure out where he was, Izuku could fight his pain and make it back to UA as swiftly as possible. He’d done it before, hadn’t he, so he could do it again. That would probably be the safest course of action, however--
What would All Might do?
All Might certainly wouldn’t turn tail and run for the hills, that’s for sure. Izuku frowned in frustration. Of course he wouldn’t-- All Might would try to minimize total casualties by searching for any and all injured even if it put him at more risk!
Izuku could feel his lips moving along at the pace of his thoughts, relaying his thoughts to the shadows in a scratchy whisper.
Therefore, the best course of action would be to check if any of his classmates had met the same fate as him as unpalatable as that thought was. Wait—
At the thought of All Might, Izuku flexed both of his arms hesitantly before breathing a heavy sigh of relief. His arms were banged up—covered in bruises that he would surely pay for in a few days—but the familiar bone-crushing sensation of overusing One for All was nowhere to be found. It was the first stroke of luck Izuku had all morning—if it even was morning. He couldn’t really tell with his bangs still messily shielding his eyes.
If one good thing came out of this situation, it was the wake up call that Izuku desperately needed a haircut. The boy snorted. It was a small sound at first before it exploded into a fit of giggles. Now he was ninety-percent sure that his concussion was talking, and a pretty nasty one to boot. This was a problem, because Izuku’s thoughts were already hard enough to wrangle on an everyday basis. A concussion would explain why this trait had somehow increased tenfold.
He lifted his hand to brush away his bangs once again before stopping short as it came into something long and thin sitting upright atop his abdomen. Izuku probed at the object with his pointer finger and felt a shock of pain instantly course through his abdomen.
That was definitely not something lying on top of him—it was stabbed through.
Izuku’s body turned to ice. All thoughts of both rescue and escape immediately evaporated from his mind. If he squinted, he could make out the silhouette of a shining cylinder shafted protruding from a bloody gash of a sweatshirt he didn’t remember buying.
The area seemed to be mostly numb from…shock? Yeah, shock was probably the right word for it. That’s what happened when adrenaline prevented you from feeling pain, right? Izuku wasn’t quite sure. He had definitely learned it in some lecture somewhere, Present Mic's lecture? No, that wouldn't be it, Present Mic taught English. His thoughts were becoming harder and harder to decipher.
“That’s funny.” His voice crackled, and he could just barely hear his words slurring. “I don’t remember this being th—”
Before the final word could pass Izuku’s lips, his vision was entirely consumed by spots.
The whole world finally went black.
The first thing Izuku was aware of was the spotless white ceiling above him, quickly followed by the haze of painkillers dulling his senses. He didn’t even need the sharp smell of antiseptic stinging his nostrils to know where he was, but it was there all the same.
He was in a hospital, a much more sterile environment than the coziness of Recovery Girl’s office – though he probably only considered her office cozy due to the number of times he had frequented it during his first year. Here it seemed everything was white—sheets, pillows, walls—it was the textbook definition of a city hospital, complete with the sneeze-inducing chemical smell. Izuku wrinkled his nose. He could be anywhere west of Tokyo for all he knew.
His brief reverie was interrupted by the squeak of his room’s door as it slowly opened, and Izuku perked up, attempting to push himself up into a sitting position. A screaming pain in his abdomen apparently had other ideas, as it forced him back onto his bed with a sharp intake of breath.
A pale nurse slunk through the door, clipboard decorated with brightly colored stickers in hand, and forced a sheepish smile onto her thin face.
“Looks like someone’s finally awake.” Despite her sickly appearance, the nurse genuinely looked relieved. “I’m Yuuki Takeba, the nurse who has been overseeing your recovery.
Izuku glanced down at his chest mummified in bandages.
“I don’t—” He winced at the movement. Takeba studied him, her eyes impassive.
“I wouldn’t move that for a while if I were you.”
Izuku grunts in agreement from his pinned-down position. It wasn’t like he could if he’d wanted to. Even risking a nod would probably bombard him even more pain, so it was better safe than sorry. Takeba slumped against Izuku’s bed, taking extra care not to shake it and gestured to a large pile of cards and a vase of colorful flowers piled on top of Izuku’s bedside table.
“You seem to have worried a lot of people.” She scooted the stack of cards away from a bottle of painkillers they were threatening to push off the table.
“Yeah, I get that a lot.” He said drily.
“You had a very—how should I put it—” the nurse paused, smiling wryly “—spirited group of friends checking up on you. I practically had to fend some of them off with a stick.”
Yikes. Izuku winced, this time out of embarrassment rather than pain. He could practically feel his cheeks heating up. The crew from UA could certainly be a handful. Izuku knew from experience that even the combination of Iida and Uraraka could be overwhelming when they were being pushy enough—and considering he had been gravely injured, their combined mom-friend abilities likely broke the charts. Despite everything, the thought of his friends caring so much gave way to an odd feeling of pride.
“I’m sorry about that, Ma’am.” Izuku tried his best to fight off his growing smile.
Takeba shook her head with a laugh, cutting him off.
“No,no. It’s nice to have such an energetic group around here, especially on the night shift.”
Izuku craned his neck towards the window as far as his injuries would allow. The sky was the marmalade color of sunrise.
“They came to see me in the middle of the night?”
Takeba hesitated before responding, twisting the ring on her finger.
“Technically it was outside of visitation hours so don’t tell anyone about it, okay,” Her tone was harsh, but her eyes were full of pity. “They expressed that they hadn’t seen you in so long and, well, I have a bit of a soft spot for that kind of thing. ”
Takeba’s explanation seemed to create more questions than it answered, further thickening the fog surrounding Izuku’s consciousness.
“A while—but I just saw some of them yesterday, didn’t I?” Izuku felt his heartbeat stutter in his chest. Just how long had he been out from that injury? He had figured only a night or two at most, but now he wasn’t completely sure.
Takeba studied him, a concerned frown growing on her face, before standing up and grabbing a clipboard from a nearby table. She muttered something under breath to herself that Izuku couldn’t quite make out.
“Can you tell me your name?” She asked, the abrupt change of topic startled Izuku. He fought the urge to sit up and give the woman an odd look.
“Izuku Midoriya. Why are you—” Takeba clicked her pen twice.
“Both Midoriya and Izuku, just where did he—” The woman’s mumbles were lost beneath the sounds of her pen rapidly scribbling down notes onto her clipboard. “And your age?”
“Turned sixteen in July.”
“And what high school do you go to?”
“UA, heroics course.”
Takeba sighed and set the clipboard down, apparently done with the sudden bombardment of questions.
“You seem coherent enough, but I’m going to grab a doctor to talk about those memory issues. It’s likely that your head injury has temporarily affected your long-term memory, or at least scrambled your thoughts around. This will probably be something that will heal on its own, but we will do our best to try and care for it in the time being.”
Before Izuku can even thank the woman, a loud knock shook the door and startled Takeba to her feet.
“I thought I told him to give you some space.” She huffed before turning to Izuku.
“One second, I’ll deal with this.”
The moment Takeba twists the brass doorknob, the door blasts open, as if propelled by a vicious windstorm. The nurse struggled to stop the door before it slammed into the wall shared with the next patient’s room, but was less successful than she would have liked to be.
Izuku used his uninjured arms to shimmy up to a sitting position, ignoring his protesting gut, to get a better look at the newcomer. In the open doorway stood a tall boy with unruly blond hair, clutching a bright red envelope and a cardboard parcel. He seemed to take the stunned silence at his arrival as an invitation to bound into the room.
There was something off about this situation—Kacchan was smiling brightly, not smirking and spitting at the as he approached Izuku, before wrapping him into a tight hug. However, he seemed to be just as imposing as ever. Izuku felt a smile light up his own face as well, even though he could nearly hear his ribs cracking over the sounds of Nurse Takeba’s protesting.
Wait a second, Kacchan? Izuku immediately flinched back from the hug.
No. There was absolutely no way Kacchan could be here, because Kacchan was gone. The Kamino Ward incident had stolen him away the same way it had stolen away the public’s trust in UA or the morale of pro heroes.
Swiftly, mercilessly, and unyieldingly.
Izuku knew that well, as he was the one who had watched the embers of his firey eyes finally fade away.
“Kacchan, please let me go.” Izuku tried his best to keep his voice level, watching the boy wearing Kacchan’s face warily. He released with little protest, grin only growing wider.
“Kacchan?” The boy’s voice sounded the same too, albeit filled more with amusement and less with gruff malice, it was still unmistakably Kacchan—a powerful baritone honeyed in pride and resolve. Izuku’s stomach dropped. “Geez Yamikumo, what are we, six? You haven’t called me that since elementary school.”
Yamikumo. Izuku mouthed the word. What was that supposed to mean, some sort of new insult? Takeba took the opportunity to nudge herself between the two boys. She placed her hands on her hips and leveled a glare at the tall boy.
“Excuse me Mr. Bakugou, didn’t I ask you to wait outside? I know you want to see your friend, he needs to rest.” Bakugou thrust the gifts he was carrying into Izuku’s arms that were still awkwardly open from faux--Kacchan’s killer hug.
“I just wanted to deliver this in person—the card at least. That’s from me.” He gestured at the box and his expression became more guarded. “That’s from Todo, he asked me to give it to you. Was weird about it too.”
“I see, thank you Kacc--Katsuki.” He corrected himself, but not quickly enough to escape Katsuki’s notice. He quirked an eyebrow before leaning in, breath warm on Izuku’s cheek.
“Meet me in the hospital cafeteria tomorrow at ten.” His voice was barely louder than a whisper. “The group’s made a lot of progress since you last saw us, so there’s a lot to catch up on.”
With that he spun around to cheerily wave at the nurse, who at this point was glaring daggers at him.
“See ya doc. Yami, don’t forget—or pretend to forget, I’m not falling for that and you know it.” The door slammed behind him, and suddenly everything was quiet again.
Nurse Takeba sighed, looking even more exhausted before, and Izuku didn’t blame her. Fending off this Katsuki all night seemed like it would have been no easy task. He had a different disposition than his Kacchan, but they both shined just as brightly. It was only natural that others would be blinded by his intensity.
“I’m going for a smoke break.” She reported, taking care to close the door much more softly behind herself than Katsuki had.
“Sounds good, I’ll rest here.” Izuku replied, more to comfort himself than anyone else.
His eyes travelled down to the envelope and parcel sitting in his lap. Gingerly, he picked up the card from Katsuki and placed it on top of the mound on his side table. He wasn’t about to open that can of worms right now.
Instead, he picked at the plain wrapping of Todo's--likely a nickname for Todoroki-- parcel, peeling it away to reveal a pristine white box with a folded piece of paper taped to it. Izuku unfolded the sheet, revealing a handwritten message in loopy scribbles. Even from a passing glance he could tell that it was not from Todoroki.
Dearest Mikumo Akatani (Formerly Izuku Midoriya),
Were you expecting a package from your friend? It’s the blue package, to the left of the flower vase.
Izuku glanced up, looking to the left of the flower vase, to find a small parcel wrapped in plain blue paper and tied with a white bow. Very Todoroki, indeed. He frowned, returning to the letter.
I’m sure you’re wondering about the name change—it’s a temporary measure that you will have to deal with for now, sorry. Sometimes these kinds of things can’t be helped in this line of work. Since you have accepted my offer, please consider this my welcome gift to you.
Izuku could vaguely remember sitting in a plain room, conversing with a man with pale eyes and Todoroki’s face. Had he agreed to do something for him? He couldn’t remember, but not because of his head injury, rather because the whole conversation had seemed dreamlike and surreal. The more he tried to grasp for answers, the farther away they slunk out of reach.
Please keep in mind that you must always give up something if you want something in return when completing this assignment, as it may make take some of the weight off your heart.
Besides, this world is only a pale reflection of your own.
You have ten days, at sunset on the final day, if the assignment is still not completed, your chances of bringing back your beloved will vanish.
Best of luck,
The letter was signed with a dash, evidently the moniker for the phantom man, but Izuku could really care less. His mind was too preoccupied with the letter’s meatier contents.
An assignment? A reflection of a world? A chance to save someone close to his heart?
A chance to save his Kacchan.
Everything suddenly clicked into place—all of this, the strange man, the missing memories, the odd Katsuki—they were all a piece of the puzzle he had to solve to get Kacchan back.
Renewed with resolve, Izuku shook the white box, where the word “Assignment” was written in blocky letters where the letter was taped to it. Something clunked around inside it, filling Izuku with a sickening sense of apprehension. What exactly would be an assignment worthy of giving someone a chance to revive the dead?
Izuku slowly removed the lid, closing his eyes as he did so. There were only two items in the box. A picture of a boy in a scarf standing in a snow-covered city. It was Katsuki, obvious from the way he smirked into the camera—it was cocky, sure, but not menacing like Kacchan’s would have been. His nose and the tips of his ears were red from the cold, yet he still seemed carefree.
It was a nice picture, or it would have been if it wasn’t sliced through with a large “X” drawn in sharpie marker. The other item in the box however—
Izuku felt the box slip from his fingers and land on his lap with a thud.
Inside the box lay a dagger, gleaming in the morning sun. It was encrusted with a single red gem that winked mischievously, taunting Izuku.
Izuku gulped slamming the top of the white box shut before the sight made him sick.
His assignment was clear now: if he wanted want one Kacchan, he must get rid of the other.
Let the games begin.