Panic. Fear. Pain. Shock. Panic. Panic. Panic.
“Hey,” A voice says, and somehow despite how softly it's said it immediately cuts through the haze of their dream.
Izuku lurches awake, breathing heavily.
What- what just- huh-?
“Hey, hey, hey, calm down. It’s okay,” The same voice quietly murmurs.
Izuku forcefully tries to slow their breathing, and after a moment, they realize that they're… in their room. Confused, they glance over to see who was talking to them in the first place.
In the dimly lit room, Akari stares back at them.
…Oh. Yeah. That’s right.
“Sorry,” Izuku mumbles quietly, “I um… I probably woke you up, didn’t I?”
“Don’t worry about it,” Akari mutters drowsily. “You’re not the first person in the world to have a nightmare. It happens.”
…Yeah. There’s no way they're denying that, considering Akari was… literally right here to see it.
“I still woke you up though. Sorry.”
Akari just sighs heavily, possibly annoyed that Izuku is apologizing again. “I said, it’s fine. Don’t worry about it.”
“…What time is it?”
“I don’t know,” Akari mutters. “Didn’t check the time. There’s no point really, because whatever the time is, if you look at it you’ll be disappointed.”
“I… you’re not wrong I guess.”
“…Do you wanna talk about it?” Akari asks. “For some people it helps. I guess. I don’t know.”
“…” Izuku hesitates, thinking about… the nightmare. “No. I’d really rather not.”
Akari nods. “Yeah. I wouldn’t wanna talk about it either,” They mutter.
Then, they give a soft chuckle, “Actually, um… the other day I accidentally woke myself up ‘cause I don’t have any control over my quirk. Anyway, so I um… I kinda accidentally activated my quirk in my sleep, and I made this rock go flying and it just-” for dramatic effect, they flick the center of their forehead, “bonked me right awake.”
Izuku knows Akari is just trying to make them feel better but… “Your… quirk? I thought. Um. I thought that… wasn’t it stolen?”
Akari stares at them blankly, as though only just realizing that they accidentally said more than they meant to. “…That… that one bastard could take quirks and… could give quirks. So…… you know what, look, I don’t wanna talk about it.”
“Yeah I get that,” Izuku murmurs. “…What kind of quirk is it though?”
“I’m… not actually a hundred percent sure,” Akari hesitates. “Something to do with weather, apparently- I keep making it storm. Either that or life thinks it’s really funny to keep making it rain and thunder around me. But sometimes I send objects flying around too. So… I have no idea.”
Izuku’s still tired and not fully awake, but they do consider the possibilities. “Something… to do with air pressure maybe?”
Akari shrugs. “There’s no point talking about it right now. Let’s talk about something else.”
“…Yeah. All right.”
For a while, they just… chat. About anything or everything, as long as they avoid talking about villains. Akari does tease Izuku about all of the hero merch around their room, but that’s as close as they get to talk of villains.
Before they know it… they’re both asleep again, and Izuku is sleeping too deeply for a nightmare to bother them again.
The first thing in the morning, Shouto leaves his house.
He can’t stand it. He can’t stand being around the old man anymore.
It’s like the old bastard’s pissed off at everything. He’s pissed off at All Might for retiring, apparently he’s pissed off at Nedzu for… well, not expelling Midoriya yet, and… he’s pissed off at Shouto, too, for being there to try to rescue them.
“Why,” the old man demanded over and over, “why did you go out of your way to save a quirkless nobody like them?”
Shouto couldn’t answer. He knew that no matter what reasons he gave, the old man would never be able to understand.
So for today, Shouto’s getting out of the house before he can get worked up again.
On the other hand, though, that leaves him pretty… bored.
Eventually, Shouto pulls out his phone.
[Support Team For a Reckless Vigilante Idiot]
Hey. Is there anyone available to hang out today?
#1 Support Course Student:
oof, sorry, me and natsuki already had plans :P
Yeah, unfortunately, we’re already busy.
We would consider inviting you but, it’s just a bunch of support course work and you probably wouldn’t be all that interested anyway.
That’s all right.
Shouto can’t help but notice that Midoriya seems to be the only one not currently reading the chat (looking to the active bubbles on the side of the screen), but… he decides not to look too much into it. If anything happened, Inko wouldn’t have kept it from them, so Shouto can only assume that Midoriya is preoccupied. Or maybe they're not even awake yet.
i’m busy too
Well, I’m free!
If you don’t mind it being just the two of us, we could hang out
Shouto doesn’t mind hanging out with Sora. Actually, out of all of them (besides maybe Midoriya), he’s probably most comfortable around him to begin with.
They end up meeting out at Dagobah Beach, but not in Midoriya’s workshop; instead they’re actually at the end of the beach’s dock, watching the waves, and skipping rocks.
“So, what’s up with you?” Sora asks first. “Usually you’re not the kind to instigate hangout stuff.”
Shouto shrugs. “Avoiding going back to the house, and I was kinda bored. Spending time with other people is less boring.”
“I see,” Sora says. “Any reason in particular that you were avoiding it, or was it just the general?”
Tossing another rock at the water, Shouto lets out a sigh. Sora… while he doesn’t necessarily know the full situation, he knows at least that the old man is bad news.
“He’s mad about All Might’s retirement. And, well… the whole situation with Midoriya. Apparently the pros were all told about Green Lightning situation, even if the information hasn’t been made public.”
Sora winces. “Owch. …I figured he’d be happy about All Might’s retirement though. Doesn’t that make him number one? I always thought that was what he wanted.”
“It’s… complicated,” Shouto mutters. “Long story short, he’s upset that he didn’t ‘earn’ it.”
“And short story long?”
Shouto hesitates, frowning to himself.
“…Sorry,” Sora quickly backtracks, “It’s probably personal. You don’t have to tell me.”
“…No. To be honest, venting about it might help me feel better,” Shouto mutters to himself. “Besides. I already told Midoriya before our fight in the Sports Festival, and I didn’t even know them back then.”
“The true origin story of ‘It’s always Endeavor hating hours, lads’?” Sora murmurs, just under his breath.
“Ah, haha, don’t worry about it,” Sora laughs nervously, waving his hand as though to drive off his previous statement. “But, if you’re comfortable with sharing… then I’m here for you, and I’ll listen to what you have to say.”
Shouto takes another skipping stone from the pile and turns it over in his hands for a moment, thinking to himself as he stares at it.
“Have you ever heard of quirk marriages?”
“Pairing up based on quirks, usually to… to try and get child with a powerful combination… of the two…” Sora murmurs, before hesitantly glancing to Shouto, “Is… is that why…?”
Shouto throws another rock to the water, this time a bit more forcefully. “…The old man always wanted to be number one. But… pretty early on, he must have realized there was no winning against All Might as he was. So he came up with a… different plan.”
Another rock skips into the water.
“He found my mother because of her quirk. And he was already rising steadily through the ranks, making a name for himself so… it wasn’t hard for him to win her family over. They set up a whole arranged marriage deal and well… you can probably tell the rest.”
Sora grimaces, “You mean… so… basically your father was trying to… forcibly create a kid with a quirk that was ice and fire, with the intention that they would be stronger than All Might and overtake his spot as number one.”
Shouto nods. “Basically.”
“Dude. That’s… really messed up. He really is the worst, huh?”
“I’ve heard Nedzu gives him a run for his money,” Shouto jokes flatly.
“We’re talking about Endeavor being shitty right now, I can complain about Nedzu later.”
Shouto laughs softly at that, but as he continues explaining, his face returns to neutrality; “Anyway… it took a few tries to get a ‘perfect’ combination of an ice and fire quirk, but… well, I’m here now, so it succeeded eventually. …Ever since my quirk appeared, the old bastard has been basically raising me as a tool to defeat All Might, and nothing else.”
Shouto skips another rock, trying not to let too much of the bitterness curling inside his stomach get to him.
“So now, from his perspective, it’s like he’s spent all these years trying to create the perfect tool, only for the purpose of that tool to suddenly become obsolete. More than that… the way All Might went out kind of ensures that no matter what the old man does, he can’t ever compete. All Might only ended his time as the symbol of peace because he fought a villain like All for One. No matter what Endeavor, or anyone else does, there is no replacing that kind of a symbol.”
“Ah,” Sora hums. “Well, it’s what he deserves.”
Shouto can’t help but smile at that. “You’re not wrong. The only downside is that the old bastard is… pretty hard to deal with when he’s that mad.”
“Oh… yeah. I can see that.”
Shouto thinks for a bit longer, frowning. “I just… I don’t know how he could do all of this. I suppose I know why he did it, and what his reasons are, but… I don’t know if I could ever understand how he could actually do it. How was he able to do something so awful, and then go on to continue working as a hero like nothing’s wrong, without ever stopping and actually considering what he’s doing?”
“Guess he’s just not a real hero,” Sora mumbles. “I can’t understand it either. …Have you ever thought of doing something about it?”
Shouto grimaces. “Can’t.”
Shouto sighs, “Why do you think? He’s… well, he was the number two hero, and now he’s number one. He’s got at least a few fans who wouldn’t give a single shit about this stuff if they knew, but more than anything else, he’s got more than enough money to throw at any problem that comes his way. He would never actually pay for his actions no matter how much I want him to. And… this might be kind of selfish, but… I don’t want people to give me that pitying look all the time.”
“What do you mean?”
“If people knew about the full truth, there’s no way I could ever escape his shadow. Everything would be about him and how I ‘had to overcome what he did’. That’s not what I want it to be. I want to forget him and leave him behind as if he never existed. I want people to know that he’s not a good hero, but in a way that makes it so they all just forget about him. And I’m not quite sure what the best way to make that happen is.”
“I think it’s possible,” Sora says quietly. “If there’s any justice in the world, it’s possible.”
Somehow, just those words manage to make Shouto feel emotional. He tries not to let it show though, and instead murmurs, “Yeah. I hope so.”
Shouto reaches to grab another skipping stone from the pile, but instead he finds his own hand brushing up against Sora’s.
Both look over, surprised, to find the pile of skipping stones already emptied. For a moment, the two of them just stare.
Sora is the first to pull his hand back, mumbling "Ah, I guess we should go find more rocks."
"Right," Shouto nods.
"You know, talking about this has made me feel a little better at least," Shouto sighs, sitting back down next to Sora with the new pile of skipping stones next to them.
"So… what about Nedzu?"
"I mean, obviously I can't make you talk about it, but… I did say that if you ever want to talk, I'm here for you."
Sora turns over a rock in his hands, thinking.
So far, all Shouto knows is that Nedzu was working with Sora to find a traitor who had snuck into UA, apparently, and… that other day when Sora had come out of Nedzu's office an emotional wreck.
Sora throws the rock at the water. "My problems aren't really… as bad as yours."
"It's not a competition," Shouto says. "If it hurt you, then it hurt you. And it shouldn't have happened."
"……With Nedzu, it was… well, at least, it didn't start out personal. It was just… the way that he did things, they rubbed me the wrong way."
"…You can't tell anyone about this. Anyone."
"I won't tell anyone," Shouto promises.
Sora thinks for a minute, almost glaring at the water. "Nedzu knew about the USJ. I mean, he knew the villains were going to attack there. And he knew about the training camp."
The gravity of what Sora is saying sets in. "You mean he… let it happen?"
Sora nods. "For the sake of catching the traitor. And… I don't know. Yes, we stopped the traitor now; Midoriya-kun found out their identity during the Kamino incident; and maybe because of that we shortened the conflict and prevented future attacks but… is it worth it? To put you in danger both of those times, was it worth uncovering the traitor?"
"I… don't know. That depends on how long it would have taken to get to the traitor otherwise. And we have no idea how that would have happened."
"Nedzu says that what he does is for the greater good," Sora murmurs, "And… I guess I can believe that. But the things he sacrifices along the way to get to that greater good… I don't know how he's able to do it and keep a clear conscience."
Sora throws another rock to the water before continuing, "And then… well… after the USJ, I started… doubting Nedzu, obviously. Then, the way he treated Midoriya-kun made me angry because… no matter what excuse he gives, I can't see what he did as right. So then, uh… it didn't take long for Nedzu to realize that I didn't think very highly of him."
Another rock hits the water.
"After that, Nedzu must have decided there was no point to playing nice for me. He basically threatened to kick me out of UA if I didn't find the traitor." With a sarcastic voice he continues, "After all, I was ONLY at UA to help Nedzu find the traitor in the first place. Why wouldn't he kick me out if I didn't manage to complete my one job?"
"Sounds to me like he saw you as less of an ally and more…" Shouto trails off, the word on the tip of his tongue, but he doesn't want to say it.
"A tool," Sora mutters. "Yeah."
Shouto winces. He can't help but think of the old man at that… (maybe the two of them have more in common than they thought.)
"I'm… not special on that front, though," Sora continues, throwing another stone to the water. "For him, everyone else is split up into two categories. People he can use as some kind of tool, and enemies."
"Must have a lot of enemies," Shouto hums. There are quite a few people he can't imagine getting used as tools…
"You'd be surprised," Sora frowns. "When you don't know about his true nature, he's rather manipulative. For most people, he never lets them see his true colors."
"He let you see his true colors though, apparently," Shouto points out.
"Cause he thought I wouldn't be able to do anything about it," Sora grumbles. "After all, in most cases, who are you going to believe; the principal of the most prestigious hero school in the country, or some first year high school student who's not even in the Hero Course?"
"I believe you."
Sora stares at him for a moment.
"I never doubted you in the first place."
Sora merely continues to stare at him, bewildered. Then, he glances away, anxious. "Wow, sometimes having friends really is… something."
"You're telling me?" Shouto laughs, disbelieving.
After a second, Sora laughs too.
A bit of time passes in somewhat silence, as they toss a few more rocks into the water.
"I mean, it's nice getting this kinda stuff off my chest; you're right about that," Sora says, "But… thinking about how much the principal of UA sucks and talking shit about the new number one hero… almost makes me want to give up on the hero ideal thing."
"…Why don't you?" Shouto can't help but ask.
"Because. There are people like you in the Hero Course."
Now it's Shouto's turn to be stunned. "Well… you probably wouldn't be saying that to the me from the beginning of this school year. It's really only thanks to Midoriya and you that I'm out here instead of sitting around at home being bitter and driving everyone away."
Sora scoffs, "Oh come on, I didn't do anything. Midoriya-kun is probably the one to thank."
"For a lot of things, maybe, but… you didn't do nothing," Shouto hums. "You were the one who taught me… that it's okay to not be perfect. That it's okay to not be good at something. You, uh… I know you didn't mean it in the context of being a hero, but. Hearing you say so simply that I don't have to be perfect at everything… made me think."
"I… kinda didn't really mean anything by it, yeah, but… when I think about everything you just told me, it probably meant a lot," Sora murmurs.
Each of them tosses another couple of rocks, thinking more of… what to say.
Shouto can't help but notice that Sora still seems to be a bit on edge. "What's wrong?"
"I'm still… a little nervous. Midoriya-kun and I quit working for Nedzu just the other day, so…"
"Okay, you're gonna have to explain why that makes you nervous, because from what I can tell, that's like. A good thing."
"We crossed the rat," Sora murmurs. "Never cross the rat. He almost always has something up his sleeve, some kind of plan… and the more time he has to plan, the worse it's going to be."
"He's not really that spiteful, is he?" Shouto asks.
"It's more like… you know what I said before? To him, either someone is a tool or an enemy? Midoriya-kun and I have made it clear that we refuse to be tools anymore. That makes us enemies. From his point of view, we're dangerous, because… well, we know about his true colors. I just ranted to you about how he really is. True, I can't do any large scale damage because most people won't believe me, but I can still start rumors here and there because of what I know."
"…Hm," Shouto hums, now frowning. "Yeah. That's a problem for him."
"So Nedzu wants us to keep our mouths shut, but now we're not even tools for him," Sora continues. "In his mind, he either has to find a way to dissuade us from talking, or… discredit what we could say-"
At the same time, both Shouto's and Sora's phones give off a message tone.
The two glance at each other.
[Support Team for a Reckless Vigilante Idiot]
Reckless Vigilante Idiot:
Check the news.
We have a problem.
Sora is already going ahead and checking the problem, and so Shouto anxiously waits to see what this… "problem" is.
Sora's face goes pale as he stares at his phone.
"What? What is it?" Shouto asks.
Wordlessly, Sora turns the phone screen towards him. Shouto reads the headline at the top of the page;
[The True Identity of the Vigilante Green Lightning Revealed?]
“But who would do this?” Natsuki asks, now that the group has gathered together at the base on the beach.
“I can think of a few ideas,” Todoroki mutters, arms crossed.
“It has to be Nedzu,” Sora grumbles, glaring at his phone (assumedly, he still has the article pulled open), “It says the source was anonymous, but who else knows about it and has the records to be able to confirm that Midoriya-kun was missing on the day of the USJ attack?”
Akari leans over to Izuku and whispers, “Is now an appropriate time to say ‘that bitch’?”
Izuku, still somewhat in a state of shock, just glances over to them and stares for a second, mixed between annoyed and bewildered, before muttering, “Yeah, sure.”
Akari gasps dramatically and says, “That bitch!”
“Uh,” Hitoshi mumbles, “Not to be rude or to derail the conversation but… why are you here?”
“Blame the ferret,” Akari mutters.
Garby, sitting on the table, smiles innocently.
“Okay, well, getting back to the rails of the conversation,” Hatsume interrupts, “Why would Nedzu do this?”
“He’s too much of a coward to take action without knowing how it will reflect on him first,” Sora mutters, “This is him testing the waters to see how the public reacts; if they have a good reaction, he’ll move Midoriya-kun to the Hero Course and take all the credit for it even though he was the one holding them back.”
“That… sounds like a good thing though,” Akari hums. “I think I’m lost here.”
“That’s if people have a good reaction to it, but chances are, they won’t. Even if Midoriya-kun hasn’t actually done anything wrong, just the word vigilante has mostly negative connotations and would probably make people misjudge the situation if they’re looking at it from just a glance.”
“So…” Hitoshi asks slowly, “What is he going to do if there is a bad reaction to this news?”
Sora stares at the ground with a grim expression, arms crossed. “…Midoriya-kun already threatened to drop out of UA, so Nedzu would have zero problems with just expelling them on the spot. Worse than that, because of this reputation, they probably won’t be able to go anywhere else. And on top of all that, Nedzu has secured a way to make sure that nothing any one of us could say against him has any merit to it anymore.”
“I shouldn’t have done it,” Izuku mumbles. “I shouldn’t have stood up to him, I should have known something like this would happen…!”
“It would have sucked either way,” Sora mutters. “You don’t win with the rat.”
“So, hang on, let me see if I’ve got this. Whole situation straight,” Akari says, “So, you told him that you weren’t going to let him continue to manipulate you through promises of getting into the Hero Course… and in response… he decided to do something that has a high likelihood of, hmm, literally ruining your life?”
“…Basically, yes,” Izuku mutters, feeling a little depressed that, yes, that really is what is happening.
“That bitch…!” Akari whispers again.
From the TV, a voice exclaims, “Hold on, this just in, Green Lightning has been spotted in the downtown area!”
Everyone looks to the TV confused and then to Izuku, more confused.
“I have no idea what that is, I’m right here and I haven’t done anything since Kamino,” Izuku promises.
“Is this… a recording?” Hatsume asks, hesitantly.
“No,” Izuku mutters, eyebrow furrowing, “We had the news turned on live to see… well, what the reactions would be.”
Baffled, the six of them look up at the screen and watch.
The footage switches to live footage of a downtown area, and as the reporter said, on screen is…
“They look the exact same!” Hatsume exclaims, dismayed.
The exact same, the same gear and everything- except, not even Izuku has that gear anymore because it was confiscated from them by the villains. What really baffles them is that they have a copy of the helmet, because even if the villains disposed of their other Green Lightning gear in a way where someone could find it, the helmet was absolutely destroyed, turned completely to dust.
And then… this new “Green Lightning” shocks the villain that they’re fighting without using one of the gadgets.
“AN ACTUAL ELECTRIC QUIRK?!” Hatsume exclaims again.
“No,” Sora murmurs, squinting at the screen, “That’s not it. It’s… a transformation quirk. She… turns into other people and is able to use a small amount of their quirk.”
“She?” Hitoshi asks. “You… know who that is?”
“I recognize the quirk,” Sora mutters, eyebrows furrowed. “She… she was with the villains.”
There’s no one else it could be- and it explains where the gear came from- but…
“But why would a villain be doing… this?” Todoroki asks.
“Actually,” Natsuki says, “If it’s the one I’m thinking of… she might not be a villain after all.”
“She’s doing it for me,” Izuku murmurs, almost not even believing it themself.
Everyone turns to them. “What?”
“No doubt, she heard about the apparent ‘Green Lightning’ reveal just as well as we did,” Izuku explains, staring at the TV screen, “And she knew it would work out badly. So… she did this to remove suspicion off of me. Look- by using an electric quirk like that, she’s reconfirming that Green Lightning has a quirk- people are still probably wondering if the article is real or not, and so by showing off Green Lightning using a quirk, it will make people decide that… a quirkless student could never be Green Lightning.”
And so the problem… all resolved itself in the same afternoon.
The next day, there were already articles taking back the previous “identity reveal” and clearing Izuku’s name.
They only wonder… if Orenji had anything to do with it too.
Izuku and Akari are playing cards early in the morning.
“You know…” Izuku mumbles slowly.
“Oh boy, that’s the advice giving voice,” Akari groans.
“I’m just saying. That. If you were trying to work with villains for money. Did you know? That heroes… also make money.”
Akari glances at Izuku over the cards in their hands. “…Are you trying to convince me to come to UA with you?”
“God no,” Izuku scoffs, “We just went over why Nedzu is the worst, go literally anywhere else.”
Akari snorts a laugh at that.
“But…” Izuku continues, more seriously, “I think you would make a good hero.”
Frowning at their cards, avoiding Izuku’s eyes, Akari is silent for a moment. “…I’ll take it into consideration.
“Hello!” Mei greets cheerfully with a mischievous gleam in her eye, the kind that specifically comes when she has an idea for a new project.
“Yo,” Akari greets back unphased.
Ah. Mei likes Akari. They’re already so weird that they don’t even get nervous when Mei gets excitable about making gadget babies…
“Are you, perhaps,” Mei asks, “In the market for a robotic arm with cool functions?”
“I mean, I don’t really need it to have cool functions, if I could literally just have an arm that would be great.”
“It’s gonna have so many cool functions and you’re gonna have to live with it.”
“Oki doki, if you say so.”