In this world, a boy named Midoriya Izuku will become the greatest hero.
This is not the world where U.A. High School exists.
i. at the crossroads, a fisherman met a labourer
On the old calendar, the beginning of the week and holidays are marked in red.
Shouta remembers staring at the calendar. He couldn’t read yet, but the colours fascinated him. He eagerly awaited each morning when his grandfather tore off a page. He watched as wrinkled fingers with pitted nails tore the page into tiny pieces. His grandfather used it as kindling to the grill out on the back porch. He roasted peppers and potatoes every afternoon.
After his grandfather passed when Shouta was three, the year’s calendar hung unchanged for three years. 20— March 3. Shouta looked at it every day until his vigil creeped his parents out so much they finally threw the calendar out.
Shouta, in kindergarten, thought it was a waste of good kindling.
Yagi Toshinori concludes, his stomach growling and refrigerator inadequate:
This winter is horrid.
Fall came and went in the blink of an eye. The trees went bare as if shocked. There lingers a sense of robbery of the fall colours.
During the day, the temperature rise just enough for snow to melt, so the ground iced over so quickly in the evening that it is a daily health hazard. The entirety of Tokyo looks like someone with an Ice Quirk went mad. Toshinori hazards that it was the worst winter he’d ever experienced, including the blizzard his second year in New York.
It is fitting. All For One has reached a new peak of power. His League of Villains has been foritified and nigh unstoppable since the assassination of the Chief of Police. Gran Torino’s major injury a week before weighs heavily on Toshinori. The League grows bolder every day as the police flounder and Pro Heroes struggle to keep up. Corruption, as expected, flourishes.
Life, however, goes on. People go to school and to work. They do their shopping with their head down and their wallets clutched close to their chests. The general citizenry continue to overlook little uses of quirks that are outside the newly implemented legal parameters. If it makes things a little easier, a little more expedient: it goes with the uneasy, uneven flow. It is a bad dance, too easy and too arbitrary.
Toshinori spends most of his time trying not to feel trapped.
Going to the nearby convenience store to Gran Torino’s apartment is part of this. Going through the motions of a normal life has merit.
Even so, the kid stands out. Not to the convenience store employees, who are more engaged with pottering around at the til. Nor to the other shoppers, who were all engaged in finding fast fixes for their afterwork hunger or hangovers. Toshinori noticed the kid almost as soon as he entered, looking to pick up cream cheese and breakfast bread.
It was his hero instinct. The hunched set of the kid’s shoulders. The way his hair was overgrown and damp. How he huddled with his arms and elbows against his sides. Toshinori picked up his bread and then the cream cheese two aisles over. The kid didn’t move from his contemplation in front of the discounted bento, his left hand clenched in the folds of his battered scarf. He’s thin enough that Toshinori can see multiple blue lines in his bare hands.
He isn’t in his All Might gear, but Toshinori can’t ignore this.
“Hey, kid,” he murmurs as he leans down to pick up a random item.
The kid’s breath shutters. Toshinori straightens up, careful to keep his gaze on putting the bowl he’d grabbed in his shopping basket.
“Do you need help?”
When he looks down, the kid is looking at him. Through his hair. His eyes are red-rimmed and shadowed. There’s few spots on his cheeks. His lips, parted, are purpled with cold. Otherwise, under that mop of black hair, he’s bone white.
Looking at him up close makes Toshinori’s heart hurt.
The kid shuts his mouth. Blinks forcefully. He looks away. Back into the refrigerator case. His fingers tighten on his scarf as his stomach gurgles. An unpleasant, desperate sound.
Toshinori watches how hard he swallows.
“Sorry,” the kid whispers, almost inaudible. “Excuse me.”
He can’t stop the kid from stepping back. Turning. He watches the kid make his way back through the shop, passing in front of the drinks, ice cream, hot food cases, and the checkout into the cold. Toshinori grits his teeth as he takes the same path, stopping at the cashier and paying as quickly as possible. Conscious that the kid hesitated outside the sliding door before turning left.
The snow is starting to come down again when Toshinori steps out. He turns left, his plastic carrybag clutched in hand as he hurries forward, looking up and down the side alleys. It turns out that he didn’t have to rush. He finds the kid, huddled in the pale lights of several vending machines only two blocks down.
He jumps. Clenches something in his right hand. Turns.
His eyes glow red.
Toshinori is glad that he was standing still. He doesn’t know exactly what this kid’s quirk is, but he can feel how distant One For All suddenly feels. If he reached for it now, it would slip through his fingers. Not quite nullification. Something else.
Very carefully, Toshinori lifts his hands. The kid breathes. White mist. His eyes glow through it.
“I am a Pro Hero,” Toshinori says, very carefully, very aware of that clenched right hand. “I’m not on duty right now, but if you need help, I will help you.”
The kid breathes. In. Out. A little faster. The snow falls in his hair, floating on end.
“A civilian,” the kid says, taking a slow, unsteady step back, “cannot use their quirk unless as a last resort in self-defense.”
That’s true. He will have to report this. The kid will get reprimanded, but there’s also the chance he will face the new vigilantism fine for using his quirk on another person. Considering the condition the kid is in, he will not be able to pay. He’ll have to serve time. Especially because Toshinori is All Might, he won’t be able to step in. He must adhere completely to the new laws that came into effect this past year. He helped to get them passed.
“Please,” the kid whispers, barely audible; he breathes hard. “Go away.”
Toshinori grits his teeth. He lowers his hands. His heart hurts. His mind races.
This kid needs a hero who will do what is right.
Slowly, carefully, he places the carry bag on the ground. Cream cheese. Breakfast bread. Char sui ramen. The change for the ¥1000 he paid with dropped into the bag.
“I’m going,” he says, deliberately stepping backward; his trainers crunch on fresh ice. “You stay safe, okay?”
The kid doesn’t move. He stares at Toshinori unblinking. The only indication that he understands what Toshinori is doing is how his gaze shifts just slightly down. Acknowledging that Toshinori is leaving the bag behind.
Toshinori retreats far enough to turn around the corner and out of sight. As soon as he is out of the kid’s line of sight, One For All is back in reach. Toshinori pauses, momentarily tempted to risk returning and trying to talk to the kid again. Rationality kicks in almost as quickly and he forces himself to turn. Walk back towards the convenience store to repeat his shopping.
His heart hurts.
After a long few minutes, Aizawa Shouta takes several cautious steps forward. He bends. Picks up the bag by the handles. Looks at the contents. Cream cheese. Bread. Noodles. ¥261.
Clenched in his right fist is his last ¥100.
Shouta swallows. Saliva. His stomach growls.
Even as he glances up to check, All Might is long gone.
Shouta, turning and retreating back towards the empty garage he’s been hiding in for the past three days, grits his teeth.
He’s a runaway. A delinquent. And now, by using his quirk on All Might, a vigilante.
This world is unkind. All Might, despite everything, chose to be kind.
Shouta clutches the handles of the bag. Close to his chest.
“Thank you,” he whispers.
He won’t forget.