“And...that’s what happened.”
Yamada faced the ring of other pro heroes, shaken to the core and staring at his hands as if he’d killed Akabane Karma himself. He could still feel the weight of his body weighing down his hands and the feeling of the clone’s ooze leaking through his fingers.
“Hizashi-san, I don’t necessarily approve of you bugging or staking out their house but I can’t deny the results. I suppose Akabane really has fallen to the villains side.” Nedzu laced his fingers together and rested his head on top of them sadly.
“It’s strange of him to admit to one of his allies quirks so quickly, but I suppose we would have figured it out sooner or later.” On the other side of the table, Kayama was rolling a pencil back and forth underneath her fingers.
On the other hand, Endeavour seemed ready to hunt them down right at that second. He seemed to have a few allies among the other Pro heroes, Gang Orca and Fourth Kind for sure, whereas some seemed more reluctant.
“We should still attempt to rescue him…” Tiger sighed, putting his large hand over Pixie-Bob’s next to him. His inability to catch Karma in time still playing on his mind. His teammate gave him a small smile, but she felt the same regret.
“He, and all his allies, need to be thrown in Tartarus.” Endeavour snarled, parts of his face beginning to smolder the angrier he became.
“Have you managed to get his location, Ragdoll?”
The woman in question jumped, thrown out of her stupor by Nedzu. She blinked owlishly before turning her head to the side. “No. There was too much going on and too many people to keep track of during the battle. He slipped from my radar.”
The debate continued for a little while after that, the heroes that had previously been on the fence about Karma’s supposed betrayal slowly began to take sides. Their world was slowly falling into disarray around them. With the number one hero being out of action, possibly permanently as some had theorized, there was a gap in power both among the heroes and the villains. Eventually the group began to leave in ones and twos, Nedzu staying behind the continue overseeing his school, while others had agencies and sidekicks to get to. Outside U.A. Tiger turned to Ragdoll and stared at her curiously.
“Why did you lie to them? We’ve been tracking them for weeks.”
For a moment Ragdoll didn’t respond. Pinned by her teammates’ gazes, she squirmed and jumped in place as she tried to figure out how to explain herself. “I believe in Karma-kun!” Ragdoll said, finally. Her big, yellow eyes looked up pleadingly to Tiger and she clasped her hands together. “His weakness right now- it’s Fumikage-kun. Whatever is going on, any physical issues he might have are totally dwarfed by is need to protect the other boy.”
Gently, Mandalay knocked her fist against Ragdoll’s shoulder. “If you believe in him, then I believe in him. We’ll save him Ragdoll.”
Tokoyami found Karma meditating outside. It was late evening and the boy slunk over, pretending for all the world as if he hadn’t been actively seeking him out. At first he stood quietly nearby while he gathered his thoughts until Karma turned his head a little. He stared at Tokoyami for a second before gesturing for him to take a seat on the grass as well.
“You look more worried than usual, Tokoyami.” Karma said, leaning back on his elbows. He had a serene expression on his face but Tokoyami knew that hardly meant he was peaceful inside.
“I must admit I am worried about you, Akabane-san. I fear you are falling into a pit of darkness that I cannot pull you from.”
Karma snorted, pulling a grin from Tokoyami. They both knew the chuuni act was always good for a laugh out of them both. Sighing, Karma stared up at the evening sky. It was grey and overcast, empty of the brilliant rays of orange and red of the rural mountaintop he’d called home- something that he frequently would wax poetic about if given the chance. The tension had bled out of the air some but Tokoyami was still on edge. As if able to sense it, Karma looked up at the boy.
“What’s on your mind?”
“I apologise if I overstep myself with this...but I know you hurt yourself, the other day, when I and Toga returned. I wanted to tell you that I am also here for you, if you need me.”
Karma’s face went carefully, quietly blank. Almost as if he was processing Tokoyami’s words. Then, he just smiled softly. “All right. I guess I’ll just have to learn to lean on you a bit more.”
The scars may not have been visible, and he may have been hiding many more, but Tokoyami made a promise to himself that Karma wouldn’t gain any more so long as they were stuck together.
The computer under his fingers chimed, signaling an email to one of the many disposable email addresses he was burning through. Karma and the assassin had been discussing business for the last few days. They’d been surprised when Karma had professed he didn’t want any of the heroes on his tail dead, but rather something completely different.
I need information on a girl’s whereabouts. Can you help?
I have some contacts. Trafficking?
Maybe. A lost friend. Goes by the names Kayano Kaede or Yukimura Akari.
I’ll look into it. What’s your payment?
How do you feel about a crack at one of the greatest villains alive?
After each email was read, the account would self-destruct. It was a little annoying to jump between disposable addresses and to use code-speak he only half remembered, but the less chances Shigaraki had to catch him the better. Once he reached an agreement they arranged the next point of contact, then Karma went back to his regular idle browsing. He was glad that Shigaraki was severely lacking in the tech skills department. The villain preferred to spend his free time playing old rpgs and lurking in the corners of the building.
Their plans were slow going, the idle trickle of chosen villains beginning to increase as more strangers were added to their party. A woman with steel spikes jutting from her skin. A man with more teeth than face, and giant black claws. A person whose blood ate through concrete. Karma made mental notes on each one he was introduced to until one day, what seemed like weeks later, Shigaraki dropped a large backpack that he recognized at his feet.
It was the one that they’d sent his clone after, stuffed with his clothes. They’d known it had died because Twice had gargled a scream into his hands when it had happened. Apparently he held fuzzy memories of the clone’s death and regaled them with what was probably a slightly embellished account of the clone attacking Present Mic before killing itself. The villains definitely treated Karma with a sense of respect that he felt he hardly deserved. Nagisa had been his rock amongst his self destructive tendencies that often reared their ugly heads- something his clone apparently had as well. From the very first day that he’d learnt he could wail on a student and get away with it, Karma’s aggression had been a force to be reckoned with.
“Here you go, Karma-kun. I had one of our friends pick it up after those pesky heroes had cleared out.”
“Ah. Thanks, sempai.” The bag mostly had clothes that he’d wanted pretty badly, but the thought of Shigaraki’s compatriots lurking in his home made him shiver with disgust.
“You’re gonna need them, we have some business outside and we don’t want you being recognized.” A wicked grin stretched across Shigaraki’s face as he also passed over a bottle of hair dye and some glasses. Apparently he was serious.
Fire roared past Izuku’s face, getting uncomfortably close to singeing off his eyebrows. He was getting tired of things that could wield fire, even if Todoroki was his friend, and Endeavour was the number two hero (though with All Might out of the picture the chances of becoming number one were climbing), the number of fire breathing things in his life was two too many. The Noumu reared it’s ugly head back once again and flames shot towards the group. Izuku threw himself aside, while Tetsutetsu tanked it and continued his inexorable push forwards. The others leapt away as well, Pony doubling around behind it with her horns firing at full throttle while Kaminari desperately looked for an opening.
More and more reports of Noumu were coming in to hero agencies across Japan. Usually students, even those with provisional licenses, needed some form of supervision but the teachers were busy dealing with another one of the villain’s creatures a few miles away. There were four in Musutafu, three in Tokyo. The worst part was that none seemed to have a goal, or even any control. They seemed to only want to wreck everything in their paths- and still Karma hadn’t been seen since the clone incident.
His information had let Izuku and the others head off more than a few of the Noumu’s attacks, with the occasional email sent to Bakugou, and he’d anonymously tipped off the authorities about even more than that. But, still, Izuku wondered how many people had gone into creating the Noumu that they were battling now. It breathed a stream of fire into the air as it wailed in pain- Kaminari had managed a direct hit and was now darting away from it as it wavered dangerously.
“It’s going to fall!” Izuku called, already in the air with an arm drawn back. It was going down, either naturally or he’d force it to.
The Noumu fell with a noise like a car wreck, clouds of dust and debris puffing into the air around it as it collapsed. The heroes fell on the downed Noumu quickly, restraining it’s oversized arms with more power limiting cuffs than might have been strictly necessary. Izuku had to take a deep, shuddering breath. He stepped away from the downed creature and had to remind himself that it had been human once. That somewhere in there there may have still been a person. Even if it was warped by All for One.
A crowd had gathered around them, hushed whispers from the civilians traveling around the edges. A few days ago Izuku and Todoroki had appeared in a magazine about future up-and-coming heroes and they hadn’t managed to escape the public’s attention since. He gave a little wave to the onlookers before turning to the police to give his report and help with the clean up. A flash of gold cat’s eyes too close for comfort made him snap to attention. Black hair instead of red and out in public where anyone could see him. Karma gave Izuku a quick, two fingered salute before disappearing into the crowd.
Something big was about to go down.
He flipped his phone open and dialed Jirou, hoping she’d pick up quickly. Izuku counted his lucky stars that she was nearby. “Jirou-chan! I need you to look for something out of place for me, I think we have a situation.”
“What sort of out of place?” She asked. “That’s an open question.”
“I’m not sure, just listen out for something weird okay?”
She grumbled but agreed and Izuku began to scan the crowd for hostile faces. Just when he’d thought that maybe Karma had been a false flag, Shigaraki appeared on the roof of a nearby building through a haze of purple. Behind him was Karma, looking much more tired than Izuku had just seen from him. And with red hair. Immediately Izuku shot into action, the crowd shouted in alarm as he grabbed the nearest police officer.
“You need to evacuate, now!”
“ Good evening, loyal citizens! ”
“We need to cause a stir. The Noumu are all well and good but people are going to forget we’re a threat without All for One.” Karma said with a shrug, wires and switches falling apart underneath his deft hands. “It was nice of you to introduce me to Giran.”
Shigaraki preened under the attention. To him, he’d introduced one of his best men to the broker that would help further their career in villainy. To Karma on the other hand, he’d found a politician that would make a wonderful bargaining chip. The mechanics of his device were simple enough. It was something he’d made since he was fifteen the first time, though there was much less of a need for an explosive as a bureaucrat.
“We should have plenty of time to make a nice, big speech before this goes off.” He grinned, connecting the last few wires. A red button on the top finished it off, a sense of cartoonish glee at being able to press it.
Shigaraki addressed the crowd below, the gathered heroes and stunned civilians. Izuku scowled. It had to be a clone, the Karma he’d just seen had black dyed hair to blend in with the crowd. Wire tapping the staff continued to pay off.
“Every single one of us lives under an oppressive regime!” Shigaraki was saying. “At any moment we could be branded villains for something out of our control- even the students meant to rescue you from disaster recognize this.” His long, bony finger singled out Izuku from the crowd. “You could be born with a quirk that hurts and be branded trash from the day it awakens! I urge you all to rise up and join us with the League, where we will create a new world!”
He began to cackle wildly, as the building underneath his feet shook with the first explosion. The windows shattered outwards, fire licked the streets, and Izuku’s body moved.