All men are not created equal.
It was a harsh truth Izuku learned when he was little, as the little All Might figurine slipped between the cracks of his fingers and dropped onto the floor. His four year old chubby face was morphed into an expression of absolute shock as the doctor delivered the news that he, Izuku Midoriya, was indeed quirkless.
The revelation was comparable to a straight punch to the gut. Unlike a punch to the gut, however, this was a blow that Izuku would never recover from.
That day, as he repeatedly watched the video of All Might saving all those people while his mother hugged him and they both shed tears, was the day that Izuku truly learned the harsh reality.
It was a harsh reality that was reiterated as he watched Kacchan mercilessly pummel him for defending another quirkless fellow. He looked up into the sky feeling the slight ache in his arms and legs. He couldn’t shake off the feeling of pure helplessness. A loss of sense and purpose rang in his head instead.
All men are not created equal…
It was a normal day like any other. Izuku was walking home from the market, plastic bags in hand. He didn’t usually walk home, but he had to fix the front tire of his bike and he was procrastinating on fixing that problem. It wasn’t a big deal anyways since the supermarket wasn’t a very long walk from home.
He was passing under a tunnel when he heard a strange slick noise behind him. Izuku turned around, eyes alert for any danger. However, he didn’t see anything.
He kept walking when he felt a shiver run down his back. He instinctively flinched back, setting himself into a defensive position but it was too late. A slimy arm had wrapped itself around his wrist. He looked up into the eyes of a disgusting, sludge villain.
It was so inhuman to the point that no human expression was discernible from its apparent face.
“A medium sized vessel I can hide in…” The villain murmured eyeing Izuku like he was a decent three course meal to be devoured.
“U-uh…” Izuku began backing away. He couldn’t believe his bad luck. Even as a random civilian, he’s getting attacked!?
Izuku tried to quickly make a run for it. Faster than Izuku can process, the slime villain tugged his slimy arm and his wrist and caught him in a complete choke hold. His hold on the plastic bags immediately went slack before he frantically tried to use his hands to pry the villain off him.
If only the villain was, well, solid.
“Don’t worry, I’m just hijacking your body. The pain will only last around a couple of seconds…” The slime villain tried to reassure him. All the while, Izuku never stops struggling and keeps making muffled attempts at cries for help.
Am I really going to die like this? Izuku wonders to himself. I can’t die. I can’t—not yet at least!
Izuku tries harder to escape to no avail.
“Oh, come on. Don’t you want to save me? You can be my hero, kid. I never thought he’d show up in this town…” Izuku felt a flare of anger heat up but couldn’t do anything but claw at liquid nothingness that still had somehow been able to choke him.
“H-Ha…T-To-!” Izuku wanted to cry out.
Was he going to die?
Izuku was beginning to lose his senses. His body felt like it was going limp.
He didn’t even notice when the sewer lid had popped up.
Or when All Might climbed out of the sewer hole.
“Fear not, kid!” All Might announced flashily. The villain took a step back in raw fear.
“I am here!” All might finished his signature trademark saying. Not that Izuku could really hear him at this point, only a loud poignant ringing in his ears. All Izuku could focus on was the pain of being suffocated.
Suddenly, it felt like the weight of the world had left his shoulders. The pain that had invaded his lungs was now retreating rapidly and Izuku felt like he was floating. Or maybe flying. He gasped trying to take in as much air as he could into his abused lungs. He didn’t realize he was on the floor until he realized that his entire world view was circling around him. He coughed up, greedily swallowing whatever air he could involuntarily.
His vision went blurry but in those last moments before going unconscious, Izuku could have sworn that he saw the face of All Might.
“Hey! Hey, hey hey! Are you awake yet?” Izuku’s eyelids fluttered slightly open. He realized he was unceremoniously lying on his back on the ground. He felt warmth from lying out in the sun in the middle of the day.
Eventually, his vision unblurred to the vision of All Might. Ah. So it wasn’t a dream.
“A-All Might!??!” Izuku shrieked, completely taken off guard. He scooted back in shock.
“Ah, so you’re okay! Thank goodness! I try not to get civilians caught up in my battles so I apologize for the unfortunate incident! I’m not too familiar with this town and I’m off camera!” All Might explained. Izuku just felt… dazed. He hadn’t thought about All Might in years yet ironically, here he was living his 4 year-old self’s fantasy.
“O-oh! It was no problem…. Really! It’s not your fault I got caught up in the crossfire… I guess I should really be more alert to my surroundings..” Izuku started to babble, placing his hand behind the back of his head in a modest fashion. He was kind of in a trance… if he was four years old right now, he’d probably combust then explode and All Might would have to clean up whatever remained…
“I’ve successfully contained the villain! It’s all thanks to you! I am glad that you weren’t severely hurt!” All Might smiled wider, if that was even possible since his face was always stuck in a perpetual smile. He held up a bottle with the sludge villain contained inside as evidence. Izuku could only just nod frantically. Why the hell was he getting so worked up over All Might? Maybe the child in him was making him feel nervous yet excited at the same time.
Izuku then remembered the whole point of the trip.
“Oh! My groceries..” Izuku looked around before seeing them neatly tucked together on the ground. It was almost as if they hadn’t been dropped by him in the first place. Izuku thinks he might have imagined sparkles on them.
“Consider it my thanks! It was the least I could do! Now, I must bring this fellow to the authorities! You can catch me on TV!” All Might waved off.
“W-wait!” Izuku yelled, holding his hand out.
“No waiting! A hero doesn’t only battle villains, but time too!” All Might said as fast he could before leaping off gracefully with a powerful boost of his legs.
Then he felt a weight on his leg…
“Hey now! There should be a limit to how much of a fanboy you can be!” All Might yelled.
Izuku didn’t reply though. He felt the nice cool air blow against his hair as he soared with All Might to the nearest rooftop. He felt a swirl of familiarity at the feeling fill him with warmth from the inside. His eyes were staring at the buildings below him, his expression concentrated as if deeply lost in thoughts.
All Might only grunted at the lack of a reply as he searched for the nearest building they could land on. He felt a drizzle of blood slip through his teeth. He reached a fist up to wipe it off.
“Shit,” All Might could only think.
“Of all the…! Hopefully the people downstairs will help us get down! I really got no time, though..!” All Might yelled.
Izuku, his expression unchanged from steeled determination, yelled with such force, “Wait!”. The force of desperation and conviction stopped All Might in his tracks. All Might could feel a… powerful aura of something quite indiscernible rolling off Izuku in waves.
“Even without a quirk, can I still be a hero?” Izuku yelled, the wind in his hair pushed it to the side. But Izuku seemed unfazed by the powerful force attempting to sway him to one side.
“Can someone without a quirk… become a hero like you?” Izuku asked, more quietly and softly.
“Quirks are…” All Might started before beginning to cough up blood profusely. He grabbed his stomach, and he literally began to sizzle.
“When I was little… all I’ve ever wanted to become was a hero. I thought saving people was the coolest thing someone can do… So please, tell me! Can someone who has no quirk put on that same fearless smile like you and become the strongest hero ever…” Izuku had been looking down at the floor, almost in flush embarrassment at even admitting the beginning part of his rant. He didn’t even notice that All Might had considerably.. shrunk halfway through his outburst.
“Just like y-!” Izuku looked up at All Might in the eyes but squeaked in shock at the sight of the completely bony form. His widened mouth that had been passionately been in the middle of sprouting out his thoughts was frozen open. His pupils had dilated.
“WHAAAAAAAAAAA?????????????????” Izuku yelled at the top of the building.
“Uh-uh-…. Are you an impostor? I thought I was speaking to All Might just a minute ago… I mean you’re just so… thin!” Izuku began to look around frantically, spotting if there was any impossibly buff man fleeing away from the building in sight.
All Might sighed, before opening his mouth.
“I am All Might-!” Blood spurted out of his mouth, making Izuku jump back in alarm.
“Whoa-! No.. no way….!” Izuku shouted, shock still in his system.
“You know people hold in their gut at the pool? It’s like that!” All Might explained. Izuku, genuinely awed at the thin form of All Might, could only meekly whisper “No way…”
“B-but you’re All Might! Everyone looks at you to save people with a fearless smile,”
“A fearless hero, huh…” All Might repeated, but more softly. He sat down, feeling the effects of fatigue catch up to him.
“You’ve seen the real me. Don’t write about it on the internet, ‘kay?” All Might warned. Izuku looked down at the floor, his complete mind reeling.
His childhood hero… was secretly reduced to such a form… It was almost too real to be true. Did that make sense? Maybe that’s what happens when you idolize someone to such a point… or maybe it was too hard to accept that someone so good was actually someone so… fake.
Izuku, who couldn’t really comprehend what to do, sat down across All Might. Unlike All Might however, he kneeled, keeping a generally polite form.
All Might pulled up his shirt.
“Five years ago, an enemy did this to me,” Izuku didn’t flinch at All Might’s extremely mangled skin. He had been keeping a dazed expression this entire time until now, where his expression only morphed to contain more tinges of pity and sadness.
“Oh my god…” Izuku wanted to touch it inwardly but knew that was a completely disregard of privacy. So he didn’t reach his hand out.
“My respiratory system was nearly destroyed, and my stomach was removed. I’ve wasted away because of the after-effects of those surgeries. I can only do hero work for about three hours a day now,” All Might elaborated further.
Izuku didn’t say anything. But the puzzle pieces began to connect each other in a realization of settling dread and terror.
It must have been Sensei who did this.
A flare of rage at the mere thought of the man had riled up inside of Izuku, who had to suppress it.
I can’t lose my cool here… not now… not in front of him! Izuku thought.
“This was never made public. That is, I asked it not be made public,” All Might said, unaware that Izuku knew what fight he was talking about.
“A symbol of peace who saves people with a smile… must never be daunted by evil.” All Might said with a determination sparked in his eyes. Izuku couldn’t help letting a small smile slip at the expression. He recognized that expression all too well.
“The reason I smile… is to stave off the overwhelming pressure and fear I feel.” All Might said.
Izuku’s smile fell.
“A pro should always be ready to risk his life. Without power, can one become a hero?” Izuku already predicated the answer in advance with dread.
“No. I should think not.” All Might kept that same determined expression on his face. Izuku also kept a solemn look on his face. There wasn’t despair, nor any anger.
“Ah…” Izuku closed his eyes, letting the answer shower him in disappointment.
“If you desire to help people, becoming a police officer is always an option. Those villain custody officers are often mocked but… that too is admirable work!” All Might stood up, wobbling a bit unsteadily on his knees while trying to balance himself.
Before he walked into the door to the stairs, however, he started, “..It’s not wrong to dream,” and stopped at the entrance of the door.
He turned to Izuku one last time before delivering the last blow.
“However… you need to be realistic, kid.” All Might said before leaving.
Leaving Izuku alone at that rooftop, the wind ceaselessly pushing his hair to obscure parts of his face. His expression has not changed.
This was the harsh reality.
All men were not created equal.
Izuku looked up into the sky. He mindlessly watched the clouds roll by. He closed his eyes, letting the sounds of the surrounding city fill his senses and nothing else.
After a few minutes, he opened his eyes again.
“I… didn’t get the groceries.” Was the only thing Izuku could state to himself at that moment. Having been just rejected by his childhood hero, he couldn’t help feeling weak. Why? Why did it hurt what All Might told him?
He had always known internally anyways.
He headed for the same door that All Might left in. He felt a buzz of his phone go off in his pocket but he ignored it.
Before beginning to descend the stairs, Izuku turned around to face the sky above the rooftop one last time.
A flock of birds flew by.
A few seconds later, a lone bird flew after the flock.
“Mom…! Wake up, mom…!” A four year-old Izuku yelled, tears flowing out of his eyes. He kept shaking the cold form of his mother, who was lying on the ground. Blood was flowing out of the body.
“Mom…! Somebody…. Anybody….. HELP!!!!!!” Izuku called out. Izuku couldn’t do anything but keep shaking his dead mother’s body to wake up. He peeked his head out of the dim-lighted alleyway to see almost nobody walking around, except for a few passersby who didn’t even offer a slight glance in their turn.
“Hero… I need a hero..! Please… please help me..! Someone save my mom…!” Izuku cried out. All he could do was stare into his mother’s dead lifeless eyes as he curled up against the brick wall and began to sob. His hands were a little red from having been exposed to the blood stains on his mother’s clothes.
After a while, Izuku had grown delirious. The child began to call out ‘All Might!’ repeatedly before switching back to “Someone help!”.
Eventually, his voice began to wear out. He just stopped calling out altogether and quietly sob to himself in the dark of night with his dead yet bleeding mother.
He scooted away when the puddle of blood began to slowly seep his way near his red shoes. He didn’t want to step in his mother’s blood.
“W…w-hat should I do….” The little boy pondered to himself. He didn’t know what to do. This wasn’t supposed to happen.
Why was this happening to him? Why couldn’t he save her?
Izuku only had himself and his thoughts while lying against this brick wall, with no idea on what to do.
It had only taken a few seconds.
The knife that the robber held in his hand, and in a flash the knife pushed forward and dug itself deep into his mother’s chest. His poor mother, who hadn’t in the slightest prepared for such an ordeal to occur, could only scream in pain as her four-year-old son watched in absolute horror.
The robber ran away quickly with her wallet in tow, leaving Izuku to deal with a bleeding mother on the floor. The little gasps of pain that had been choked out had slowly gave away to nothing.
There was nothing.
But a cold, lifeless body.
Izuku sat in the visible part of the street, his back leaning against the wall of the theater. There weren’t many people out that night. And the ones who had walked had walked past him, despite the dried blood that was caked on his hands.
He was too tired. Too tired to call out for help, too tired to cry, too tired to even sleep. Was that possible?
He was so lost in his thoughts that he didn’t even notice someone approaching him.
Izuku took a few seconds to realize that he wasn’t really staring at the floor anymore but a pair of shoes. His eyes traced from the shoes to the body up to the face of a teenager.
He had light blue hair and red eyes. He was wearing a plain black shirt and jeans. The teenager kneeled to be on eyelevel with Izuku.
He had eyes that shined with something… something that was not pity. But something that could not be explained with words. It made Izuku feel warm, though. As if he wasn’t alone.
The unnamed older boy reached out a hand, making sure he was only offering four fingers.
“Take my hand. Don’t touch the thumb.” His rough voice commanded. His voice was deeper than Izuku expected. However, there was a touch of warmth in the tone. Only if it was a touch, it was exactly what Izuku needed in that moment.
Izuku obeyed, wrapping his fingers around the teenager’s four fingers carefully. The older boy immediately stood up, dragging Izuku with a gentle but urgent force. They began to walk away from his mother’s dead body.
Izuku began to turn his head to confirm if his mother really was dead but was stopped by the older boy who tugged at him when he began to make the motion.
“Stop. Don’t look back,” The rough voice said.