The purple smoke of Kurogiri’s quirk enveloped him as he plummeted towards the floor. Tiger’s arms had stretched out to meet him, but he wasn’t fast enough. Kurogiri had been faster. Karma hit the wooden floor with a pained noise. He was thankful he hadn’t hit it at top speed, because that would have hurt. Gingerly, Karma pushed himself upwards and patted his arms and legs down. The boning of his uniform had crumpled under the impact, it’s sharp crack filling the air. He didn’t seem to be majorly injured, maybe just some bruising in a few hours, so he took stock of where he’d landed.
It seemed to be an empty bar, almost unused judging by the dust buildup on some of the tables but the bottles along the shelves were mostly full and the glasses were clean. There were signs of use along the taps. He didn’t recognize the view from the window, but that didn’t necessarily mean he’d gone far. At least if he was going to be stuck here for a while, Karma was going to enjoy himself a bit. He vaulted over the bar top and dug through the drinks and mixers until he found what he wanted. It felt like it had been years since his last proper drink.
The portal opened again as he was putting a shot of grenadine into his already luminescent orange glass. He stuck a little orange wedge on the end and a tiny umbrella he’d found in the back of a drawer and waited for Shigaraki to show himself. The mist of Kurogiri’s warp flooded the back wall. The pale man blinked through a curtain of ragged hair.
“Finished harassing the Pussycats?” Karma asked, taking pride in the way Shigaraki’s head jerked up in shock.
“You’re not old enough to drink.” He said, as Karma took a sip.
Technically he was the oldest person in the room, but explaining that felt like a headache waiting to happen. He perched on the edge of the counter with one leg swung over the other. His heartbeat felt like it should be audible, if it beat any harder he wondered if it would come out of his mouth. The adrenaline made his hands shake but there was nowhere for the energy to go.
“You’re a villain, Shigaraki. Are you really going to tell me not to break the law? I hope you don’t mind if I make myself at home.”
Another blood curdling smile crept across Shigaraki’s face. Karma could just about see it underneath the hand that was stuck to him.
“You’re right Karma-kun.” He plucked the disembodied hand away and stuck it around the back of his neck. It looked just as disturbing as it had been over his face. There was a tiny mole near his lips that looked out of place on the man. Too innocent. He shuffled around the room like a child. “It’s cute how they thought they could hide you from me by putting you with a rescue agency .”
Again, Kurogiri’s portal opened up near the back of the bar. A snarling black mass fell through, followed by an oddly scarred man. He may have been handsome once, if it wasn’t for the gruesome burn scars covering his face and arms. Dark Shadow retreated with a whimper from Tokoyami as blue fire crackled in the palm of the man’s hand. It lit the room up, shadows dancing in the corners. The other was wrapped around Tokoyami’s neck. He said nothing. Along with him was a broad shouldered woman and a girl who made no attempt to disguise the venom behind her sweetness and light.
“Welcome back, Dabi. And friend. Take a seat, take a seat-!” Shigaraki urged, kicking a wooden stool over to Tokoyami.
The boy pushed himself up and took the seat. His piercing red eyes were locked on Karma, but he kept his own attention on Shigaraki. The man was unpredictable, lurching around the room, pacing back and forth as if he was anxious. Karma had almost finished his drink by the time Kurogiri's warp appeared again. This time a huge man who was more muscle than body stepped through it, dragging Bakugou by a set of huge manacles, as well as a man dressed like a stage magician. Immediately, Shigaraki rounded on them with his eyes alight. Bakugou snarled and growled and kicked at his captors before being forced into one of the bar stools.
“I’ll fucking kill you!” He roared, thrashing in the bindings even harder.
“I wouldn’t use that quirk of yours.” The magician chuckled. “All you’ll do is burn your own hands.”
Bakugou calmed his aggressive writhing, just long enough to glance around the room. When he caught sight of Karma, calmly hanging out on the tabletop with a glass in his hand, he began to kick and spit again. Karma reached behind the counter and added more to his drink.
“Almost, almost…” Shigaraki muttered to himself. “Just Kurogiri and Mustard and Spinner, now.”
Once more, as if on cue, Kurogiri’s portal shimmered open again. A man who looked suspiciously related to a lizard stepped through, followed by a damn middle schooler and finally Kurogiri himself.
“Sorry, boss.” Said the lizard man, scratching the back of his neck awkwardly. “We couldn’t get the last kid.”
Shigaraki snarled, dragging his nails down his neck angrily, before he seemed to come back to himself. He took a deep, rasping breath. “No matter, no matter… Everyone is back, now. Let’s say hello to our new friends.”
Karma wiggled his fingers in his classmates’ direction. Bakugou, eloquent as always, spat more curses at the assemblage of villains. They were introduced to the members of the League one by one, but other than the man with the flaming hands Karma couldn’t effectively guess at their quirks. The woman carried a huge block of what seemed to be some sort metal, half wrapped in bandages.
“Now that we’re all friends can I trust you not to injure my associates, Katsuki-kun?” Shigaraki asked, leaning towards the bound boy. His pale fingers flexed as if they itched to touch him and Karma could see Bakuou’s eyes flicker towards them. He nodded.
They unlocked the cuffs around Bakugou’s wrists. He rolled them and rubbed at the raw skin around the edges. There was slight charring along his fingers and palms where he’d been setting off his quirk inside the manacles. Karma couldn’t help but wince at the sight of it. Even with Bakugou’s tough skin he was sure that that would hurt.
Shigaraki continued speaking. “I want you all to join my party!” He flung his arms wide open, as if he could pull all three of them into a hug. They all eyed him warily.
“What’s in it for us?” Karma was the first to speak, and Bakugou shot him the dirtiest look. There were more pressing matters in the room than Bakugou’s pride though.
The out of place crt monitor buried away in the corner of the room flickered on in a haze of static and a blurry man appeared on the screen, shrouded in darkness. Karma had to lean around one of the villains to get a good look at it. The shadows were pretty strategically placed to hide most of the man’s face, but he could see some sort of rebreather on his face and the thin poles of medical equipment behind him.
“You’ve got an interesting one there, Tomura.” The voice crackled over the speaker. Karma wondered where the heck they found a crt. “I think I’d like to speak to Karma-kun.”
Shigaraki’s eyes seemed to light up, his back straightening under the intense stare of the man on the screen. “Absolutely, sensei! Karma-kun, come here please.”
He waved his hand, encouraging Karma to hop off of the counter and over to himself and Kurogiri. Karma brought the last of his drink and stuck the little paper umbrella in Kurogiri’s suit pocket with a smirk.
“Hold onto that for me, would you?”
The portal deposited them in a dimly lit room with white walls and a tiled floor and no windows. If the journey was a little rougher than usual Karma didn’t say anything, but he quickly scanned his new environment. There was a flickering, humming, strip light above them. It felt awkward and eerie, like the relic he knew it was. Even in his time there were more efficient methods of lighting than the phosphorescence of a hospital bulb. On the back wall was the mysterious man, propped up on a bed. Karma could feel his piercing gaze lock immediately onto his person.
“Welcome, Akabane Karma.”
Stain was dragged, half senseless, from the alleyway by the gaggle of police and gathered pro heroes. While they were fighting, even more chaos had broken out around them as a Noumu with bat like wings had fallen from the sky in the middle of battling with another hero. Iida had barely noticed, as Stain made it difficult to pay attention to anyone other than himself.
“Is this what you want your heroes to be?!” He was roaring at the media. “Children with no morals!”
Stain wasn’t being ignored as he was dragged away, but no one said anything. Iida recounted his version of events to the police, carefully leaving out the shock gloves that he’d been gifted, and as he didn’t technically use his quirk he was let off with a light warning. As far as they were aware Stain jumped him in the middle of his internship.
“He’s a liar!” Stain continued to struggle against his bonds as he was pushed into the police van. “Just like every single one of you worthless heroes! All of this is for the sake of justice, for a world where heroes aren’t just in it for the fame and money-!”
He was silenced as the doors slammed closed. A shiver ran through the watching crowd. Iida could see the logic behind his insane ramblings. It was true that there were many heroes who only took the job for the spotlight it placed on them, and there’d been more than a couple of ‘Captain Celebrity’ incidents, as they tended to be called, but he refused to acknowledge Stain. Being a hero for unjust reasons was better than being a villain.
“If you had to be a bad hero, or a good villain, what would you pick?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well...if you were a hero that saved people, but did it for the money or fame, or if you could be a villain that hurt people but did it for good reasons...what would you pick?”
“I think...I’d be a villain.”
Karma had met more than a handful of people who’s auras of death or bloodlust gave him pause. The first was Koro-sensei, after he finally learnt to read a killer. It wasn’t a tangible feeling. It was closer to the tension in the air moments before a snake’s bite. Like electricity arcing through the clouds miles away. Then there was Karasuma-sensei, Lovro, the Shinigami himself. Over and over again Karma had stood up against people who’s being meant death. Even Shigaraki made his body shiver in fear.
The man who called himself All for One felt like none of these things.
He felt like nothing at all, like a void where a person should be. The monitor next to him beat steadily, like it mocked the heartbeat he didn’t have. His breath wheezed through the mask that Karma was sure he didn’t truly need. All for One looked frail and weak, laying back against the farce of the hospital bed.
Inside, Karma despaired.
This was the man that they were fighting against. This was the creature that injured All Might, the greatest hero of their generation.
This was the person Karma had to pretend to agree with.