The next morning, Kenji gets a call from Midoriya.
“I know who the traitor is.”
Any leftover drowsiness is immediately washed away by those words. They agree to meet up within the hour, and Kenji hurriedly sets about getting dressed.
Midoriya and Kenji meet up, and then head towards UA together.
Kenji… almost wants to ask Midoriya what exactly they found (or even why they didn’t bring it up earlier) but… Midoriya’s expression is so stormy, he decides it’s better to not ask.
Nedzu lets them in right away when they arrive.
“Have a seat, have a seat,” Nedzu cheerily offers, “Would either of you like a cup of tea?”
Kenji can’t help but be a little angry that despite everything that’s happened, Nedzu is now acting all “buddy buddy” with them. For that reason, he grumbles, “No thanks.”
Midoriya simply shakes their head.
With a shrug, Nedzu pours out a cup of tea for himself. “Now then, down to business. Midoriya-kun, you have something to report?”
Midoriya purses their lips. Eventually, they murmur, “Orenji Ketsueki. From Class 1-A. She’s the traitor.”
Kenji can’t help but glance over at them in shock.
He had… actually ruled her out just because of how… nice she always acted, according to others at least. His theory had been that the traitor must be outside of her actual friend group, someone who had just decided that they were all, well, nice.
Well… that was what he wanted to believe, to be honest. Not what he really was sure about as the truth.
“And… do you have proof for this-?” Nedzu starts to ask.
“I saw it with my own two eyes,” Midoriya interrupts. “And she said it herself too. She would… also like to inform you that she won’t be coming back to UA. You don’t have to worry about a traitor anymore.”
“Ah,” Nedzu hums, taking a sip of tea. “That’s good to hear. Well then. Congratulations, to the both of you! It seems your mission is complete.”
Despite Nedzu’s cheery tone… somehow, Kenji can’t feel like this is a win, and he gets the feeling that Midoriya next to him is the same.
“And… what about your promise?” Midoriya asks, hesitantly.
“Ah, right. I’ll think about transferring you to the Hero Course as well,” Nedzu says.
“You’ll… think about it?” Kenji repeats, with a slight glare in his direction.
Nedzu shrugs. “Circumstances have changed a little. If she’s not coming back, is there really a point to revealing her now? Technically you could say she wasn’t really beaten by either of you either. And, as I’m sure Midoriya-kun knows, most heroes now know about you being a vigilante. Due to this, I can’t say for sure that-”
“No.” Midoriya murmurs, their hands clenched at their sides.
“…What was that?” Nedzu asks, looking up from his teacup at them.
“I said… no,” Midoriya says, standing up suddenly. “You’re not doing this to me again. I passed, your stupid, and quite frankly, bullshit, exam. I’ve passed every test so far to get here. And… if I’m not going to stand there and take it when a villain tries to use me for their own goals, then I certainly should not have to take it from you. Do you hear me? I’m done. I am done playing this game with you. I’m not going to let you puppeteer me towards whatever goal you want in the name of some ‘heroic test’. If… if any thinking on it still needs to be done, then know that this time, your decision means whether or not I stay. Because, I swear, if you try to use me again, I can and will drop out of UA all together and find somewhere else.”
Nedzu stares at Midoriya for a long time after their declaration. Kenji can’t help but stare as well.
Nedzu stirs his tea in front of him. “It looks like I have some more thinking to do.” Switching topics, Nedzu continues, “Now then, Sora-kun… With the end of this assignment, you’ll have some free time, but I’ll keep in touch if I ever need your assistance again.”
“Actually…” Kenji mumbles, feeling a bit braver now, thanks to Midoriya, “I quit.”
Nedzu looks up at him sharply. “…I see. So that’s how it is.” He returns to his tea and stirs it a bit more. “Well, if that’s the case, then; Sora-kun, you’re expelled.”
Those last two words hit him like a hard punch to the gut.
What? For real? You mean I put up with that bullshit just for him to expel me anyway, even though the traitor is caught?
“You can’t do that either,” Midoriya insists.
“And why not?” Nedzu asks, “He is only here because I let him in, and I let him in to help me-”
“Catch the traitor,” Midoriya interrupts, finishing his sentence. “Which, we have done. That condition is fulfilled. And even if it wasn’t, he passed the Support Course exam. And he’s passing his other classes as well. You have nothing that you can use as grounds to expel him, and so the only reason you’re doing it is spite.”
Softly, Nedzu sets his tea cup on the table in front of him; his expression gives away that he’s contemplating how exactly to respond to this.
Eventually… he looks up with a smile.
“I suppose I have been a bit hard on you! All right. If you want to quit, that’s fine, and I suppose I won’t expel you for it.”
Trying not to give away how relieved he is, Kenji mostly contains his reaction to that statement, but he can’t help the shaky sigh of relief that escapes him.
“Then I suppose our business with each other is concluded,” Nedzu cheerily (too cheerily) says. “Now then, I do have some stuff to think over, so if you’ll see yourselves out…?”
Kenji and Midoriya leave the room, together.
Outside of the room now, door closed, Kenji bites his lip. “…I almost want to go back in and apologize.”
“You have no reason to,” Midoriya murmurs.
“I know but… we just crossed the rat. Crossing the rat never works out well.”
Midoriya’s gaze hardens. “Let him do what he wants. I’m not letting him use me or you like that again.”
Kenji stares at Midoriya for a long moment. “…Midoriya-kun… thank you.”
Midoriya’s face softens, and they give Kenji a small smile. “I just did what I could to help.”
…Heh. I guess that’s what you always do, huh?
“Now, come on,” Midoriya says, turning away from Nedzu’s office door. “Let’s go.”
At first, there’s only darkness and silence.
That’s always how this nightmare starts.
No. Not a nightmare. A memory.
Why? Why am I seeing this again?
Stop. Make it stop.
The nightmare doesn’t stop. It never does. No matter what they do, the events always play out… just as they did the first time.
The door opens and… that villain steps into the room.
The memory of their past self scrambles backwards, trying to get away. But they know. They knew it then, too. There is no escaping.
Wake up. Wake up. I don’t want to see this again.
“Get away from me,” Their past self warns, fearfully.
The villain sighs, exhausted. “Or what? What are you going to do? You’re just a scared child.”
“I’m- I’m not scared,” Their past self stammers, faking confidence, “Why would I be scared of you? You look like a badly peeled boiled egg-”
It slams into their past self, and their present self stuck in the memory feels the same thing.
A sudden inability to breathe. Choking, drowning.
“You know…” The villain murmurs, unphased as he watches them desperately try to breathe to no avail, “I’ve had to put up with a lot recently. My proteges are warring with each other now more than ever, and I have no idea what to do with this stupidly stubborn child vigilante that we’ve caught. But I can’t take any action against them, no, I have to just take it and stay patient. As you might be able to tell… because of that my patience is running thin. So if I were you, I wouldn’t try testing it.”
The choking stops and suddenly they’re able to breathe again. Their past self gasps for air, letting out hoarse coughs.
“Now then, were you saying something?”
They don’t respond.
“Good. As I thought.”
“What…” Their past self coughs, “What do you want from me?”
“From you?” The villain laughs. “There’s nothing I want from you. There’s nothing that you can give me. I already stole your quirk. You’re useless.”
Useless. They’ve always known that. They always knew they were useless.
“Then let me go,” Their past self begs desperately, giving up on acting strong. “Or… or just kill me already.”
“Letting you go isn’t something I can do,” The villain hums. “That other option though…”
It’s more distant, but they can still feel the jolt of fear that had passed through their past self at those words. True, they did think death must be easier than this, but that didn’t mean they were ready to just die.
“As I said. You’re useless as you are. There is nothing you can give me. But if I give you quirks… you’re not useless to me anymore, are you? Unfortunately, adding any more than two quirks into an individual leads to… the destruction of their mind. Well. It’s unfortunate for you, not really for me.”
They shiver at the implication of those words.
The villain raises a hand, and black tendrils start to emerge from his fingertips, the same ones that had first stolen their quirk.
Their heart is in their throat.
“Don’t worry. By the time I’m done, you won’t even remember a thing.”
The black tendrils zoom towards them.
Akari shoots awake, sitting straight up, eyes wide open. They still feel everything that they felt from the nightmare, just as real as if it had occurred moments before. Their heart thunders against their chest, and their breaths are short and uneven.
They bring their hand up to their mouth. Calm down. It’s just a stupid memory. Calm down.
After a second, they realize that it’s pouring rain down on top of them. They shakily stand up, quietly cursing to themselves repeatedly as they do.
It’s dark- still the middle of the night- and incredibly stormy, so for the most part they’re just left stumbling around blindly until they can find some cover from the rain at least.
Eventually they do find a road that passes underneath a bridge, and the bridge offers some… decent cover (it’s better than nothing).
Akari is still soaking wet, and the wind keeps them chilled down to the bone, but there’s not much they can do about that as it is.
Some time passes. A few hours. They’re not sure exactly. But the storm has… somewhat calmed down, and the light coming through the clouds tells them that it’s day now.
Akari never fell back asleep- they never do after having a nightmare like that- so instead they sat in the same spot, staring into space.
They’ve dried off at least a little by now.
They’re hungry though. Hmm. Maybe they should have stayed at the hospital for a little longer…
They were already around for too long. They don’t need anyone. (They… don’t need anyone to worry about them more than they deserve).
Akari slowly comes out of their thoughts to see a… ferret, sitting at their feet. It has a strange screen on it’s head.
“Leave me alone,” Akari mutters. They’re not in the mood right now.
The ferret doesn’t leave, and instead comes closer and pulls on the laces in their boots, as though trying to get Akari’s attention.
“I will kick you,” Akari threatens, doing their best to give a glare to the little creature.
The visor on its head blinks, and then displays a single word.
The ferret pulls at their laces again.
“What are you after, little dude?” Akari asks, bored, because… well, why not. Sure. Whatever.
The ferret gives one last little tug… and then walks away.
Akari tries not to let it show that they’re disappointed.
A few seconds later, the ferret stops though. It stops, and turns back around to look at them.
“What? Do you want me to follow you?”
Akari stares at it for a long moment. Then, they let out a heavy sigh.
Well… it’s not like I had any other plans for today.
Izuku is at the beach, just tidying up a little bit, when Garby runs in looking absolutely pleased with himself.
Huh? What were you up to…? Izuku is about to ask out loud, when a voice from behind them says,
“Ah. I probably should have guessed the ferret was yours when I saw the headset.”
Izuku turns around surprised, and finds Akari standing in the doorway.
“Akari!” Izuku jumps up. Last time they saw each other, the other had kinda… run away from the hospital, and so Izuku had no idea if they were okay or not since then.
Akari smirks. “Aw. Was I missed? I’m touched.”
“To be fair… yeah, I was kinda worried when you ran off. Where have you been? Have you been staying somewhere?”
For a brief moment, something flickers in their eyes, but it’s already gone within the same second. “Of course! Five star hotels and giant mansions only.”
(Out of the corner of Izuku’s eye, Garby’s visor blinks [Doubt])
“Right,” Izuku mutters. “What happened to working for villains because you needed money?”
Akari shrugs. “Never said I paid. Or, hey, you never know if that was a lie or not.”
“I see,” Izuku hums. “So… you’re good?”
“Of course! Why wouldn’t I be?”
This time, Garby actually steps forward and gently nibbles the edge of Izuku’s finger. Izuku softly mumbles Ow! and pulls their finger back, but it’s mostly out of surprise than anything.
“…Well, see, the thing is, Garby here has been calling you out on pretty much everything you’ve said since showing up,” Izuku says.
Akari’s expression falters for just a second. Their smile seems just a bit more forced. “Maybe it’s just a really skeptical ferret.”
“Akari, you know… if you’re not okay, you can say so. You don’t have to hide.”
“…Why do you care?” Akari asks softly. “I don’t get it. Why… why do you care?” Their voice grows louder as they continue, their act of false confidence completely shattering, “Why did you try to save me? Why did you stick up for me? Why did you care enough to ask why I would save you? Why do you care enough to ask if I’m okay? Why? I’m just… I’m just useless…”
“Akari, you’re not useless. You’re a living breathing person. You could never be useless. You’re… you’re a good person.”
Izuku doesn’t know much about them… but they know enough. They know Akari tried to save them. They know they’re not a bad person. For now, that’s enough.
For the longest time, Akari doesn’t do anything but stare at Izuku, disbelieving. Eventually they duck their head, hiding their eyes, but the way that they bring their hand up to rub their eyes makes Izuku pretty certain that… they’re crying. “Geez,” Akari mutters, “You really are just. Something.”
“Akari… please be honest with me. Do you have a place to stay?”
“…No,” They murmur quietly, under their breath.
“All right then,” Izuku says decisively, “You can stay at my house.”
“I mean, I’ll have to check in with my mom first, but I really can’t imagine her saying no, so if you need a place to stay, you can stay with us.”
“That’s not that smart,” Akari scoffs, trying to distance themselves again. “Inviting me to stay at your house- you don’t know what kinds of things I could-”
“Akari,” Izuku interrupts, “No offense, but there is literally no possible way for you to convince me that you’re secretly scheming and evil. So just come on.”
Inko is busy preparing dinner when she gets a phone call from Izuku.
She answers right away of course (you never know how important a phone call is, so it’s better to answer every call like it’s an important one). “Hello?”
“Hey mom!” Izuku responds, then nervously asks, “So, uh, I have this… friend, and they don’t have anywhere to stay. Would you mind if they stayed with us for a bit?”
Inko blinks in surprise. She can’t help being curious what exactly the situation is, but… now might not be the best time to pry. And she can’t very well turn down Izuku’s friend if they really have nowhere else to go. “That’s absolutely fine! Bring them over!”
“Thanks mom!” Izuku cheerily responds. “I’ll see you in a bit. Bye!”
“Bye,” Inko says into the phone. A few seconds later, Izuku hangs up.
Inko looks back at the dinner she’s preparing, and adds a bit more to it knowing now that a third person will be staying over.
Before long, Inko hears the door open.
“I’m home!” Izuku announces so that she can hear, and Inko hears them say something to the friend they brought with them, but it’s not quite loud enough for her to make out what they're saying.
“Dinner will be ready in a few minutes!”
Inko looks back at the food cooking on the stove for a moment, then takes a second to quickly glance out of the kitchen to see… well… which friend they brought.
After the quick glance, she returns her focus back to the kitchen.
She… vaguely recognizes them. Probably only because it was still recent, because it was so brief that she doubts she’d remember them otherwise.
But… they were the one that had shared Izuku’s hospital room after… the incident, and all Inko knows is that pretty much as soon as she was allowed to visit Izuku again, they disappeared altogether.
And they’re missing their left arm. There’s also that.
It’s a mystery. And, due to the fact that they were in the same hospital room… Inko can only assume that they must have been in some kind of a similar circumstance…
Adding on top of that… how Izuku mentioned that… they don’t have anywhere else to stay…
Frowning to herself, Inko goes back to stirring the cooking food. Hmm. I most certainly can’t turn them away.
Sparky is… weird.
What kind of weirdo lets you into their house after you, A, were hired by villains to stop them, B, utterly failed at helping escape or saving them in any meaningful way, and then C, showed up out of the blue after being dragged to their place by a ferret?
Actually, you know what, the whole situation is. Strange.
Akari can’t help but glance around anxiously at the small house around them, feeling… out of place. Do they really belong here…?
(They can’t remember the last time they truly belonged somewhere)
Sparky sets about setting the table, and Akari attempts to help, but after a few seconds, they realize that ah… there’s not much you can do with only one arm.
Hm. Still getting used to that.
Anyway! Moving on! Not thinking about that!
Not much later, Sparky’s mom brings dinner out to the table.
“Uh, Mom, this is Akari!” Sparky introduces, before turning to them and continuing, “And, um, Akari, this is my mom.”
Akari still feels too… awkward to meet her eyes, so instead they glance away and mumble, “Um… thank you for letting me stay here, Miss…” Wait, what was Sparky’s real name again?
Before they can worry to much about their mistake, she smiles at them, “It’s all right, you don’t have to be so formal. Just Inko is fine, dear.”
“…If you insist,” Akari mumbles. She’s so trusting. Just like they are. I… probably shouldn’t be surprised, huh?
The food is… good. Really good. Akari can’t remember the last time they had home cooking. Before they know it, all the food in front of them is already gone. They get the feeling that eating this much after not eating at all might give them a stomach ache later, but right now they don’t really care.
Inko sends Sparky out to take care of the dishes when dinner is done, leaving… just the two of them sitting there.
Akari can’t help but wonder in the back of their head if she did it on purpose.
Whether or not it was the intention… it does mean that Akari has an opportunity to talk to her.
“You know, uh…” Akari murmurs, clearing their throat, “Anyway if, um. If I’m a bother, at any time, you can tell me to leave. It’s fine.”
“…I’ll keep it in mind if you insist on it, but I don’t really think you’ll end up being a bother.”
A bit more silence.
Akari doesn’t really… know how to act around her. Usually, their first instinct is to drive people away, which, usually, involves lots of teasing and taunting, but… maybe it’s her aura, but Akari just can’t do that with Inko.
What are they supposed to do…?
“You really… have nowhere else to go…?” Inko asks softly.
“Ah… yeah…” Akari mumbles awkwardly in reply. “Um. I don’t have to stay here for that long if it bugs you though. Really, it’s fine.”
“You can stay here for as long as you need to,” Inko tells them, “And I don’t want you to leave a second sooner.”
“I’m not sending you out if you have no home to return to. And if you need it… this is your home now. I don’t know you well, yet, but… Izuku trusts you. And that’s good enough for me. Whenever you have nowhere else to stay, this home is open to you.”
Akari… almost wants to cry. Home. When was the last time they had a home? A place like this?
(What did they ever do to deserve this kind of kindness?)
When Inko first saw Akari, she’ll admit she was… a bit intimidated. As far as looks that teenagers go for, they certainly weren’t on the softer end of the scale.
But… at the end of the day… they’re just a child. And they’ve probably had to go through worse than what they ever could have deserved.
Inko has always had more compassion than sense. She won’t deny that, and she knows that Izuku definitely gets it from her.
That’s why she could never turn them away. She would add, “even if she wanted to” but… no. She can’t even imagine herself wanting to. Even if they turn out to be troublesome, she still can’t imagine that she’d ever turn them away.
She meant exactly what she said.
Akari will always have a home here.
“Okay! Air mattress is all set up!” Izuku says cheerily.
“Great. I call dibs,” Akari mutters.
“What- no,” Izuku stammers, “You’re the guest. You take the bed.”
“I can’t just steal your bed, that’s rude.”
“And I can’t just make you sleep on an air mattress, that’s rude!”
“Dude, I’ve been sleeping in ditches, a roof over my head and an air mattress is like, heaven.”
“That doesn’t make it better!”
“Look, I’m already laying down! I’m already on the air mattress! If you want me to move you’re gonna have to do it yourself.”
“I can’t believe you.”
“So… I win?”
“…Hitoshi is right. You are like an annoying sibling.” Izuku mutters.
“Aw, does that mean you still like me anyway?” Akari teases.
For a moment, Akari just stares at Izuku, dumbfounded. Then, they turn over on the air mattress to face away from them. “…Whatever,” They mutter, half to themselves, but Izuku can hear just a touch of softness on their voice.