“You can be a hero.”
When All Might stands on a rooftop and tells a young boy he cannot be a Hero without a quirk, he is lying. Later in the day, when the world has changed and nobody yet knows it, All Might tells the same boy that he can be a hero. He is lying then too.
When Midoriya Izuku runs out to save someone who needed help because no one else was going to, he was running straight into his destiny as a Pro Hero, and as someone who would save more lives than he lost and overcome despair on a worldwide level. But at that point, he was already a hero. The world just hadn’t seen it yet.
But All Might, with fatigue in his bones and courage in his smile, also had a heart of kindness that overcame everything else. And he knew heroes. Until that moment he had almost forgot.
When Izuku gets home that day, still flushed and red eyed from, well, everything, his Mum hugs him, tells him that she saw him on TV and to never do anything like that again. Izuku, still dazed, just nods before going to his room, taking out a new Hero notebook and writing down everything he just learned. From random details on All Might’s Hero costume, to theories on his true emancipated appearance, a list of probable health problems that would arise from his health state, an evaluation of the slime villain attack’s, and everything that All Might’s desicion could mean for him and the future.
He then checks everything against what information he has so far. It’s a lot. So goes his evening, and the following night. When his alarm wakes him up in the early morning hours to call him for his daily run - all heroes have to be strong, everyone knows that - he gives himself an extra hour in to sleep. He deserves it.
Yagi Toshinori on the other hand, stays up just as late. He sends out a text to an unknown number on his phone: a simple ‘oa9’ that means more for the world than nearly anyone else would know. Then, he goes home.
Not to his nearly empty apartment that he’d taken in the city in preparation for UA, but to the stately home sitting a trains ride away in the middle of a sprawling estate that has been the centre of his legacy for the past 200 years.
He walks in past finely decorated wall and banisters covered in a thin layer of dust. It’s seen use, but not from him. There are scratches and faded colourful crayon marks decorating the chipped paint walls of the family living rooms that have seen far too little use in Toshinori’s opinion, and half stacked wood piles still laying by the grand fireplaces that still adorn the halls from a time long before quirks were even a fantasy.
The manor has been standing for hundreds of years, and it’s been silent for far too long. It’s time Toshi opens it up again.
The weekend following the slime villain attack, All Might gets in touch. He wants to meet Midoriya at Dagobah Municipal Beach to begin his training. Midoriya gets there early, notebook in hand and excitedly jumping up and down while doing warm ups. From a short distance away, Toshi smiles.
“Ah! I can see you’ve already started! It is good to see your enthusiasm is strong, my boy.”
Midoriya startles, jumping backwards into a small pile of rubbish. “All Might! You came!”
All Might tilts his head. “Why would I not? I did promise to train you, did I not? How are you to be a good successor of mine if you cannot handle my power?” Internally, Toshi makes a mental note to look into Midoriya’s family history. Abandonment issues may be a problem.
Midoriya blushes and looks away. “About that, um, would you mind maybe answering some of my questions? It’s just, you were pretty vague yesterday, and... oh no, I can’t just ask All Might questions, what’s he gonna think, that I don’t care…”
Toshi, sensing that the boy has gone off track, interrupts him with a “You may ask me any question you like, Young Midoriya!”
Midoriya startles again at the booming voice, but opens his notebook all the same. And that’s how Toshi spends half an hour sitting in a dump, answering questions that he would never have thought to ask himself, and getting to know the child. It’s a nice time. But eventually Toshi has to cut him off with mild disappointment and begin the real reason they were at the beach.
“This place used to be a place of beauty and wonder! Where people would come to play and admire the sea! But now it is merely a garbage dump. You, Young Midoriya, will begin to clear it.”
Midoriya takes a moment to look down the beach, past the mountains of broken appliances and plastic bags. Toshi himself can’t see past more than 100 metres. He looks back to Toshi with a confused and doubtful look on his face. Toshi coughs and blood flies out. He continues.
“A part of being a hero is inspiring others to do what good they can. By starting the clean up for this beach, you will prove to me that you care about your community beyond stopping villains, and prove to civilians that they can make a difference!”
By the end of his speech, Midoriya has tears in his eyes and is nodding eagerly. “Of course All Might! I won’t let you down!”
Toshi hands him a pair of gloves and he rushes off. “I know you won’t, my boy. I know.”
When Izuku is two months into training, the stretch of beach he had picked reaches the horizon. It’s a Sunday, so he’s there early, carrying a washing machine with far less difficulty than he had two months ago, when he realises he can see the sea. It’s been so long since him and his Mum have been able to go on holiday, what with her being a single parent and the busyness of all the tourist beaches nearby that they’d never really bothered. But now…
Izuku quickens his working pace and by the time All Might gets there - an hour of hero time already clocked - there is a gap in the wall large enough to see a shimmer of blue through. In his true form, Toshi walks through the gap and sees the ocean for the first time in longer than he cares to admit. Or maybe, the moment just feels that special. Midoriya is sitting, watching the waves. He’s been working hard, Toshi thinks, and instead of reaching out a hand to pull him up, Toshi sits down next to him, legs in the surf.
For a few minutes, they just sit there, admiring the calm of the bright blue day. There is peace, just for a moment.
And then Midoriya sighs and stands up, holding out a hand to Toshi despite not being that far above him. Izuku smiles softly down at him. Toshi smiles back. It’s one of the realest smiles he’s smiled in a while.
He stands up and says, “There’s someone I want you to meet.”
The thing about secrets is that they get told. Back when All for One was still an innocent, his quirk was a secret to keep him safe from a fearful anti-quirk society. But still, his younger, sickly brother knew. And the rumours that would hide in the corners of the internet for decades to pass, well, they started somewhere too.
The problem with secrets is that once they’re told, they can’t be rehidden. It’s one of the reasons why the families of heroes are at such a risk, and why civilian identities are a thing; and why when One for All told his best friend and closest confidant that his brother was becoming a monster, said friend was not inclined to forgive nor forget.
The first One for All was perceived as harmless: the boy with the rebel brother; the genius level grades and the sickly body. However, the fact that his large and trusting group of friends followed him above all others? Stood out. He had the sort of charisma that could lead a country to war or a government to peace if he so wished, despite everything. His potential was eclipsed with a smile, the image of hope.
So when he - in the wake of another attack on a government building where a bill on quirk rights was being passed - stood up on a stage, barely a platform, amidst the fighting and screams for justice, told them that the Quirked and Quirkless needed to work together to fight the evil, many were willing to follow in his stead. Civilians and vigilantes, and all those with strong quirks that they wanted to use to protect.
So became the first heroes.
But not only was a world of superheroes to find its feet on that stage, but as did another legacy begin.
One for All and All for One. What a world it would be.
That Sunday, Toshi takes Izuku on a short train ride. Barely an hour later they are standing outside a large ornate door with a silver plated box welded to that Toshi puts his eye to before grinning and swinging it open. Inside, Izuku gasps.
The room is as big as a large warehouse and is filled to the brim with noises and smells that crowd Izuku’s senses and trigger his mind’s ecstatic train of contemplation and wonder. To his left is a space taken up by training mats thrown haphazardly around a boxing ring in which an instructor is shouting encouragements and criticisms alike at a small group of adults practicing hand to hand fighting. The instructor looks over at them for a moment when they walk in before turning back to their students.
To Izuku’s right is a wide room with glass windows covered in stains and a bright green goo. From inside, Izuku can hear explosions and shouts as shadowed figures run around in a hurry.
Covering the far walls is a u-shape of office sized rooms, the front-facing windows ranging between blacked out, translucent or covered in a goo similar to the sort Izuku saw on the workshop walls. On the back wall is a large room with the same security system on the door that Izuku saw outside. It’s right where All Might is heading.
Izuku is only fearing for his life a little bit by the time they get there. He’s equal parts curiosity and worry, but he trusts All Might to not get him killed, even if the man himself has no self-preservation instincts. Ha. Like he’s one to talk.
Who’s the one who tried to fight a sludge monster while not being in any position to fight? That’s right: both of them.
Izuku is cut out of his internal wonderings by the sound of a door opening. They stand in front of a office like any other that lines the walls in this massive place. They’re here.
When All for One went underground, so did One for All. While keeping up appearances in a society slowly becoming used to quirks, a group dedicated to working around the laws restricting quirk use and vigilantism rose to protect the world against the rise in crime that came from the new powers of criminals obstructed by society and who were quickly becoming the first so-named ‘Villains’. While Pro Heroes did what they could, nothing could compare to the rise of All for One and his hidden crime empire. And so, One for All rose to destroy what had become of his brother.
The war began.
The woman sitting at the desk has light silver hair and a tight lipped smile. She’s sitting in front of a computer screen casting a pale blue light over her weathered features and catching the light of the pale pink markings crawling up her face. Her attention is captured by the screen in front of her; a thin white wire is trailing from the keyboard to an ear, but when Toshi walks in without knocking she looks up and takes the wire out.
“Good morning Yagi. I wasn't aware you were planning to visit.”
Toshi winces internally. He’d forgotten how strict Akiyama was. Outwardly, he chuckles as if it’s an inside joke between them. It's not. He honestly forgot this time. And every other time this has happened.
“I’m sorry Aki, I know how you are with these things,” he says sheepishly. “But I wanted to introduce you to my successor!”
Midoriya looks over at him with an alarmed expression from where he's been half hiding behind Toshi’s far too thin body. Oh, right. He still needs to explain to the boy what's going on. Ah well; this will be a good lesson in contextual observation and finding out what's going on when you don't have a clue. It's a lesson that has served Toshi well in his career.
Akiyama peers forward over the desk. “Good morning. Yagi has neglected to mention you were coming, so I apologize for being unprepared. I am Akiyama Jun. It's an honour to meet you.” She stretches a hand over the desk.
Midoriya reaches out to shake her hand. “It's, nice to meet you too. My name is Midoriya Izuku.” He smiles, and it's a bright smile, and it's one that Toshi knows is hiding the anxiety rushing through his head right now.
Akiyama sits back in her chair and hums under her breath. “Knowing Yagi, I'd guess you know nothing about any of this, then?”
Midoriya shakes his head.
Akiyama looks at Toshi. Toshi tries for a smile. She frowns at him.
Turning back to Midoriya, Akiyama nods decisively. “Very well. I will have someone show you around, then we might as well give you the introduction video.” She turn her attention back onto her computer, but Toshi swears he hears her mutter 'You’ll need it if you’ve chosen to stick around.’
Toshi wonders if coming here so soon was a mistake.
There is a blind spot in the middle of the country, hidden from everything. It's a trains ride away from Mustafu, which is half the reason Toshinori had decided on UA above any other hero school. In the blind spot, a very powerful quirk was used to create an area of protection, of peace, to be a refuge from one brother to another against all evil.
After All for One began his empire and took up his name, he could no longer breach the wards of his home.
On the top floor is a corridor with numbered rooms and locked doors. All but one are locked.
Number 8. Now Toshi stands here, hand nearly upon the handle of a heavy wooden door and looking up at the brass number 7 catching the light of the ancient chandeliers that line the corridor.
It has been a lifetime, but it is still too soon.
As he turns to walk further down the corridor, moonlight catches his eyes, streaming through the large windows that light his path.
He turns the key in door number 9.
The person who meets them in the doorway of Akiyama's office is tall by Izuku’s comparisons. They reach All Might’s shoulders, so Izuku chooses to think of them as above average, even though to him everyone is tall. They look younger than Izuku might of expected, and electric blue hair falling wildly behind ears gives the impression of an eccentric personality.
That impression is immediately proved wrong when they open their mouth.
“Welcome to the One for All Primary Experimental Base. I will be your guide, so please refrain from touching any equipment you may come across or any,” they purse their lips, as if the very thought makes them want to squirm. “hazardous materials.”
This will be fun.
While they walk, the guide introduces themselves as Nakamura Kaoru. “But please, call me Naka.” They sigh, as if this is the burden they bare. “Everyone does.”
They're heading over to the workout area Izuku saw when he came in, a small gym of workout equipment, when a loud voice calls out over the room.
“Hey, Naka! Who’s the new kid?” It's a lady, the one who’d been shouting at the trainees when they walked in. She swings herself over the rubber walls of the boxing ring and jogs over to their group. Naka sighs. Audibly. But they do stop walking.
The lady is grinning widely by the time she reaches their group. “Toshi! It's been ages! Where've you been? Doin’ Hero stuff I bet. Hey is this your kid? Yagi you dog. You know what we've told you about socialising with fans. Autographs are fine, sex is taking it too far.”
She looks down at Izuku before anyone else can get a word in. “Hey little Yagi. How's it rolling?”
All Might splutters, Izuku blushes crimson, and only Naka has the composure left to answer.
“Yoshi, no.” They turn back to Izuku with a frown, but Izuku can see a smile in their eyes. “Midoriya, this is Yoshida Hiroko. She trains everyone who comes through this centre and is a master of countless fighting techniques and arts.”
Yoshida nods eagerly. “That's me! So, you a new recruit? I've been looking for some fresh meat and you look like you need some shaping up!” She says all this while bouncing on the bowls of her feet, and Izuku gets a wide look at a mouth of sharp shark teeth. He hopes the comment about 'fresh meat’ wasn't too literal.
Naka turns back to Yoshida. “This is Midoriya Izuku. He’s the next inheritor of One For All. Be nice.”
Yoshida rocks back on her feet and takes in all of Izuku, from his bright eyes, short height and wide nervous smile. She grins.
“Oh yes. This is going to be great! We've been trying to find you a successor for years now Toshi. Where'd you find this one?”
And Izuku, who is currently very very confused and is still trying to make this situation work in his head, panics and says “Under a bridge.”
There's a moment of silence where everybody looks at Izuku: All Might with his eyebrows raised, Naka with a confused expression, and Yoshida like she’s holding back a laugh.
“Well Toshi,” she says. “Looks like he's got your sense of humour too.”
Izuku puts his face in his hands and hopes that someone will please tell him what's going on.
Nana had been living in the manor part time when Toshi had met her. The Hero Starling had been making a name for herself over the past five years when she ran into an scrawny underfed blond teen while out on patrol. He'd been being beat up by a group of far bigger men than him, and failing miserably to land more than a few weak hits. Nana had swooped in and chased them off; and the resulting conversation had been enough to make the situation memorable enough for her to vouch for him not two weeks later when the young boy had acted without thinking during a hostage situation in a villain attack.
But the whole reason Nana had stopped to talk to him in the first place, as she told him later, was because everytime he was knocked down, he would get back up smiling. Every. Single. Time.
She could respect that.
So after kicking some ass, she’d gone and she'd asked him why he was smiling while he got punched down to the ground. She didn't expect much, was ready to be disappointed, maybe an answer revealing an addiction to danger or a broken mind. It's what most people who smile while they fight would be assumed as.
But the boy, bruises littering his skin and blood trickling down his arm, said with a conviction that reminded Nana of herself, “When you smile, it can reassure people. It's my way of saying, 'I am here!’”
He frowns and looks down at the floor embarrassed. “I’m working on it.”
Nana grinned hurriedly. “No no, I love it. It's so… motivating. I guess you want to be a hero then?”
The boy smiled nervously. “It's my dream. But nobody thinks I can do it.” He looks her right in the eyes. “They don't think I can do it because I’m quirkless.”
He says it with strength in his voice, but his body falls into a fighting stance and his eyes look more wary now.
Nana herself, just smiles. “I’m sure you can.” She then swings off before she does something dumb like offer the kid One for All. She's only known him for two minutes after all.
After their group gets sidetracked by Yoshida, they get taken to one of the identical offices lining the walls. It's one with blackout windows and a name plaque on the door simply saying 'Tech Support’.
Naka knocks on the door, then walks in without waiting for an answer. Sitting at the desk is a man, looking to be in around his late twenties, with a slim frame and shadowed eyes. His desk is a clutter of papers and tablets all showing a variety of graphs, emails and handwritten notes. The mess rivals Izuku's own desk at home.
He doesn't look up when they enter, and only acknowledges their presence after Naka knocks hard twice on the desk, startling the man. He pushes himself back in his chair and uses a hand to take his thin-framed glasses off his face. He squints at them, then rubs his eyes for a moment before they flash with recognition.
“Naka! When did you get in here? And who’s… this?” He frowns at seeing All Might’s true form, as if he should recognise the man.
Naka sighs again. They seem to do that a lot. “This is All Might, remember? And this is his new successor: Midoriya.”
The man’s eyes light up at the sight of All Might. “Oh yes! That was it. And, Midoriya?” His eyes catch on Izuku, who is standing behind All Might, still confused. The man shakes his head and puts his glasses back on. “Greetings. I am Itou Taichi, the head of tech support at this facility. I suppose you'll be spending time here in future?”
Izuku nods. ”Yes sir.”
He waves a hand and a flutter of papers fly off his desk and onto the floor. “Oh don't bother with any of that sir nonsense. I'm sure we'll get to know each other soon enough, so call me Taichi.” He smiles, and it's only a little too wide than the situation calls for.
Naka gives one long look at Taichi, before they turn to Izuku and start walking out the door. “That's just Taichi. He's always like that.” The man himself has already gone back to work.
“Come on. There’s still more to see. I think we'll skip the workshop for now. Now... it's not the best day to be introduced to them.”
Nana meets the boy again a week later. Maybe it's because he sparked her interest, or maybe because she just can't resist butting in to situations that have nothing to do with her, but that mop of blond hair catches her eye once again during patrol.
This time, it's different.
The bully this time is bigger this time, an actual criminal Nana guesses judging by the patch on one sleeve identifying him as a member of the crime syndicate she's been tracking for the last month or so. Ah shit. What's the trouble kid got himself into this time?
Nana jumps down into the alleyway and stands protectively in front of the boy. Strangely enough, he holds the same pose, but she doesn't have time to think about that right now. She's got other things to deal with. Namely, the ugly brute poistering before her at this moment. He's bigger, and his arms are very obviously ripped - like that's ever stopped her before. He scowls when he sees her; internally that makes her laugh because god this guy looks dumb. She's already taken down most of his crew, and now he's picking on kids in alleyways for fun? What a joke.
Nana smiles, bright and wide. Beside her, the kid smiles too.
Naka leads them through a corridor hidden between the lines of offices and rooms, and takes them on a tour. They pass break rooms where people sit smiling, frowning, yawning and chatting, all holding drinks and food curled up on sofas and armchairs.
There are rooms where the only clear window is through the door, and all Izuku manages to see before they move past is a wall of blue TV screens and the flustered waving of hands.
Another corridor leads off of the main corridor they're walking down, and Naka points it out as the storage room. “It's where we keep all the main outfits, weapons and information we keep at this facility. You'll discover it it your own time I'm sure.” Down the corridor, Izuku can see two people trying to fit a large box onto an undersized cart. They are quite clearly struggling, but don't seem inclined to ask for help.
Their group passes more and more rooms until they start to blur together in Izuku's mind. He's so overwhelmed, and is still not sure what this place is.
He has a suspicion, but he doesn't yet want to voice it. It's too much.
They stop finally at a nondescript door tucked in between a break room that currently stands empty and a messy office that's only occupant is a man sleeping on a bright pink couch. Naka takes out a key and unlocks the door. They look at All Might.
“You know what to do.”
All Might nods. Naka takes off briskly down the corridor.
All Might opens the door.
The room is small, with the main feature being a TV screen taking up a large portion of one wall, and a range of sofas and chairs cluttered around all facing it.
All Might walks over to the screen and picks up a small remote half hidden by the mount it sits on. He gestures to Izuku to sit down, so Izuku walks in, more hesitant now, and sits on the faded yellow sofa directly in front of the screen.
All Might sits next to him. Still looking at the screen, he avoids Izuku's questioning gaze when he says in a slightly odd tone, “This will change everything. What you know, and what you don't know. I hope that you can forgive me, for not letting you live in peace.”
Izuku puts a hand on All Might's knee, where his hand is clenched. “I trust you. I will do whatever it takes to be a hero All Might. I just hope I can live up to you.”
All Might meets his eyes, and they're sad, but also so very proud. “My boy, you will. And, if you wish, my name is Yagi Toshinori.”
He presses play.
After Nana has dealt with the criminal, she turns back to the boy. He's not where she'd expect him to be - watching the fight - but crouching on the harsh gravel in a dark corner. There is soft speech coming from his direction, but Nana can't make it out at her distance, so she moves closer.
“...please, don't be afraid, nobody’s going to hurt you, I just want to make sure you're safe…”. From the darkness, Nana spots a flash of amber eye and the tear of grey fur. The boy is holding out a hand, and the cat is slowly making their way of to him.
Oh. The boy was fighting, for a cat?
She doesn't know whether to laugh or adopt the boy simply for the sake of teaching him some self-preservation instincts.
How about both. Yeah, that sounds good.
Her laugh is quiet enough to not scare the cat, but the boy flinches despite it. In the pale evening light, his hair is glowing. Nana kinda wants to take him home and feed him a sandwich.
The cat jumps out at her, hissing in protection, and and the boy seems startled but not disappointed. He grins up at Nana, and Nana can't help but grin back.
“Kid you've got the bravery of an idiot and the heart of a hero.” She chuckles and shakes her head. “Boy, have I got an offer for you.”
She reaches out a hand and pulls him to his feet. “What’s your name, beansprout?”
The video begins with an image of a press conference, a stage where a man wearing a loose fitting hero costume stands. The quality seems more suited to the pre-quirk era.
“All for One and One for All. Two titans, locked in a battle spanning decades for the sole purpose of destroying the other. Ever since the first quirks arose, All for One has sought to destroy what fragile peace heroes like One for All strive to protect.”
The video flashes through a series of pictures, still pre-quirk era. A blurry picture of two brothers, faces hidden, joking. A burning building. A riot. A still from an interview.
“One for All: born with a quirk he could pass onto future generations, but no real power. All for One: born with the ability to take and give quirks as he pleased. In an act of what may have been pity or love, he passed a stockpiling quirk onto his brother, unknowingly creating what we now call: One for All.”
A shakily filmed video without sound begins. In it, a teenager sits in a bedroom holding out a fist. White lightning flashes around it for a second before the video cuts out.
“All for One wanted the quirked to be recognised as above the quirkless, and so he created organisations with the purpose to terrorise and intimidate until he got what he wanted. Caught up in deeper and darker matters, he eventually began his reign of the whole criminal underground, which too had been thrown in terminal by the emergence of quirks. New trade for quirks themselves began, with All for One at the spearhead.”
A faded form, with 'Quirk Request’ clearly at the top. The side effects list: possible loss of bodily functions, small chance of brain damage. The paper is filled out.
“On the surface, One for All led the movement that founded our modern heroes, inspired by comics and movies that had similar ideas but were only fictional. But he also worked to create a group for the sole purpose of defeating All for One. Over the years, we have moved into acting where government sanctioned heroes cannot: by infiltrating and subverting criminal organisations and taking down individuals who pose a great threat to the peace and welfare of our nation.”
A group of people posing for a camera standing in front of a nondescript building, all smiling. In the centre, stands a man wearing a white and gold hero costume, standing with several others in similar clothes.
“But our end goal is still to take down All for One. The legacy of One for All is passed down from person to person, with the current holder being All Might. All for One still lives, hiding in the corners of the underground as he's done for 200 years, and soon it will be the next holder of One for All’s turn to destroy him once and for all, if All Might fails again. Since their last fight All for One has been weakened, but not destroyed. He must be defeated, so hope can reign evermore.
On the screen eight images are shown in succession. The man from the pictures, fist raised on a stage. Six others in a similar position.
Then All Might, standing strong and bright, his fist raised and eyes looking straight at the camera, a wide smile on his face.
“The end will come.”