The world is on fire.
Izuku lies on the ground, the pain hot and pounding through him with every breath he drags in. There’s smoke and ash clogging his lungs, and the ringing echo of the battle in his ears. The air is scorching .
The battle cries have long since been silenced, and Izuku feels his stomach drop with the realization. It’s too quiet.
Shigaraki Tomura steps into his view, and Izuku narrows his eyes in a glare. Shigaraki smiles, slow and twisted. “That was easy .”
Rage courses through Izuku, enough for him to bare his teeth in a weak snarl. “You haven’t won.”
Shigaraki’s eyes grin splits wider. “Really? But all your heroes are already dead.” Izuku’s eyes widen, the dread rising up, cold and terrible— he’d seen them fall, but he’d hoped so badly...
Shigaraki revels in his horror, smug, and leans in to brush four fingers along the column of Izuku’s throat.
Izuku can’t move away; he’s certain he’s broken something important, if the pain is anything to go by, and Shigaraki knows it. But it doesn’t mean he’s going to go down without a fight. He twists away when Shigaraki leans down, but it doesn’t stop Izuku from hearing him.
“First All Might, now Deku,” he gloats, gleeful, “I think I’ve gotten a high score.” Before Izuku can respond, choke out some sarcasm with all the bravado he doesn’t have, Shigaraki’s thumb presses down on his windpipe.
The pain burns, horrible and all-consuming for a split second, worse than anything he’s ever felt— and nothing.
Midoriya Izuku dies in a desperate final stand, his world in ashes, surrounded by the corpses of his allies and friends, and One For All dies with its ninth user.
He dies a hero.
He dies at eighteen, alone.
Izuku chokes awake, hands scrabbling at the echo of pain around his throat. Shigaraki’s fingers are closed around his neck, choking him, he can’t get away and oh god he can’t breathe , he doesn’t know where he is and Shigaraki’s fingers are tightening someone get him off GET HIM OFF—
He doesn’t know how long he spends in blind panic— the world is in a haze, reduced to the thudthudthud of his heart in his ears and the hand clamping tighter around his throat, tight and unforgiving. Izuku shakes through it, dragging shallow gasps into his lungs— in for seven, out for eleven, calm down, calm down.
When he comes to, the skin of his neck is raw and stinging under his nails, wet with tears, and his limbs are heavy with exhaustion. Shakily, Izuku pushes himself upright, and takes stock of his surroundings.
He blinks. What the hell?
It’s dark outside, but bright moonlight illuminates the room. He’s in his room, but not. It doesn’t look right. He squints at the shelves; All-Might figurines, his analysis notebooks, posters…
Except that his hero costume, normally folded over his chair, is missing. The shelves of his friends’ hero merch are filled with textbooks instead. Everything looks so new.
He’s in his childhood bedroom.
Did he survive Shigaraki’s attack? Was this some kind of twisted interrogation method? Kacchan, Shouto, Ochako, Tenya, everyone— were they all okay?
All your heroes are dead. Shigaraki’s voice taunts, shrill and mocking, and Izuku clamps down on a wave of panic. Calm down. Find a way out.
He moves to get up, investigate, happens to glance down— and stares .
His hands— they’re whole , skin unmarked and fingers straight, like they’d never been broken. He turns his arms over, flexing, marveling at the newfound suppleness of his limbs. He’d never really considered how stiff his arms had become after all his injuries.
But for all the bizarre lack of scars, his arms seem to have lost muscle. He pokes at his arm, marveling at the easy give of his muscles. Squishy.
Izuku runs his hands over his face, feeling softness of his baby fat under his fingers. His arms and legs are lanky and thin, untrained. He looks like a stick. He hasn’t been like this since…
… since All-Might’s training, all those years ago.
His mind whirls at this realization, counting off the possibilities. Was he hit with some kind of de-aging quirk? It wouldn’t have made any sense, considering what Shigaraki did…Plus, putting him in a perfect replica of his childhood room made even less sense...
Tentatively, he reaches for One for All, searching for the familiar crackle of power, warm and reassuring inside him.
There's only one other possibility-- but it's impossible.
Izuku cautiously steps out of his room, making his way to the kitchen. He half-expects Shigaraki's lackeys to come running, or the floor to crumble under his feet. Instead, the warm scent of miso soup fills the air, and Izuku walks into the kitchen to face his mother.
Inko Midoriya is years younger and happier for it, face still unlined with stress and worry. She’s humming while she lays the table, cheerful as always.
(The last time Izuku sees her, she’s crying. She holds him close, tears streaking down her cheeks, but her expression is firm. She makes him promise to come back, and don’t you dare die, Izuku —)
Before Izuku knows it, he’s barreled into her arms, burying his face into her shoulder—her shoulder, wow, he’s really short now . She smells like fresh laundry and mint shampoo, warm and familiar, and it feels so much like home that Izuku never wants to let go again.
“Izuku? Is everything okay, sweetheart?” his mother asks, worried. Izuku tightens his arms around her. “Nothing, mom.”
So. He’s apparently twelve. In middle school. Right now— a bullied, friendless, quirkless loser all over again. To say Izuku was having a bad day would be the understatement of the year.
The worst part is knowing that Kacchan hates his guts again— their tentative friendship quite literally lost to time. But Izuku's managing, mainly through avoiding Kacchan at any cost, so really, he's not acting any different from his usual twelve year old self.
He succeeds right until he accidentally meets Kacchan's eyes from across the classroom--
Kacchan is bold and determined and terrified, too young to be caught in a war. But when Izuku comes up with his hopeless kamikaze plan, he is the only one who doesn’t react with immediate disbelief. He just takes a deep breath, lets it out slowly. He meets Izuku’s eyes with absolute certainty, and speaks.
“I’m in.” His eyes brim with trust, unshakeable faith—
And Izuku wants to cry out of sheer gratitude.
“Oi! You got a fucking problem, shitty Deku?! Quit staring at me with those weird eyes!” Kacchan snarls, stray sparks already gathering at his palms.
Izuku snaps out his reverie. “S-sorry, Kacchan.”
This isn't your Kacchan, Izuku, get a grip. His eyes burn with tears, and he blinks them away before they can fall.
It’s fine. He’s fine. He’ll… deal with it later.
His mother isn’t coming home early, which is good, because it means that Izuku can stay up and figure shit out.
He flips open a clean notebook, and thinks.
He’s got the facts— he’s six years in the past, as evidenced by the newspapers and calendars, as well as the distinct lack of One for All. Which means it’s about one year till he meets All-Might and inherits One for All, and around two years before he attends U.A.
He doesn’t know why he’s in the past— plausible theories were shaky at best, and he’d left it on the back-burner, for now— He doesn’t have time to dwell on it. What matters is that he’s back in time, and he can stop history from repeating itself.
He could wait a year for All-Might— get stronger, faster, become a better vessel for One for All. It would be the safest way, to not mess with what he knew.
Izuku wants to do that, so badly. Not having One for All feels like a void in him, wrong and empty; it makes him feel small. Useless.
But two more years of training wasn’t much, in the grand scheme of things, and then everything could play out exactly the same. He couldn’t, and wouldn’t be selfish. He’d had his run, and he’d failed— One for All should have a better successor. Besides, there was no use repeating everything; he'd had first hand experience of what his future had led to, and Izuku would rather die a hundred times over again than to doom this world to the same end.
Which left another question— what could he do?
An idea takes root in his mind, and he taps his pen thoughtfully against the page. It was crazy, dangerous, and would mess irrevocably with the timeline—
But it could work .
Deliberately, he flips to the cover of his notebook, and writes “Villain Analysis Notebook #1”.
He remembers fire and smoke and silence all around him, and he’d be damned if he lets it all happen again.
Izuku needed to make a name for himself, stir up just enough trouble to get himself noticed by the villain world.
But first, he’s going to fix something.
The next week, La Brava, sidekick to budding vigilante Gentle Criminal, receives an unmarked envelope at their headquarters, otherwise known as their two-bedroom apartment.
Inside, she finds folders of information. There are newspaper articles, police transcripts, public records: and they all have one thing in common: each features the number two hero, Endeavour. One folder has articles with sections helpfully underlined, citing Endeavour’s destruction of public property during rescues, the added casualties in rescues jeopardized by Endeavour’s disregard for civilian safety. There are numerous eyewitness accounts, about how those involved were all ignored, bribed, or threatened to silence.
Another folder detailed his marriage to one Rei Suzuki, a retired pro-hero, clipped to medical records showing her admission into a psychiatric ward, on the grounds of suspected abuse and mental trauma. The whole folder is dedicated to their relationship, containing everything from dodgy gossip articles speculating on Endeavour’s hasty marriage to someone he barely knew, to bank records showing a sudden, large deposit of money into the Suzukis’ bank account, a week before Endeavour’s engagement.
La Brava pages through the documents, excitement mounting with each page. If this got out, they would go viral — this could stir up enough controversy to last weeks .
A note lies beneath all the folders. Curiously, she picks it up, and reads a single line of typed characters.
Check the cameras at the Todoroki estate, particularly the deleted footage. It will be of use to you.
The next day, Musutafu wakes up to a media firestorm.
La Brava and Gentle Criminal had done the information justice. They’d leaked it to every major news channel, to the police, even to their own Youtube channel, every shred of evidence come to light.
Todoroki Enji was a paranoid man, but he hadn’t been a careful one. There were cameras in every room of his house, including Shouto’s training room. The videos, apparently, had been deleted regularly, but not overwritten— there was months worth of footage of Endeavour “training” his son.
Last Izuku checked, Endeavour had been taken into custody, and Gentle Criminal’s channel had gotten thousands of new subscribers from his latest video. There was talk of transferring custody of his children back to Rei Suzuki, or to her family— whoever it was, the children would be far away from their abuser.
Gentle Criminal and La Brava were praised as true heroes for exposing the crimes of the former Number 2 pro-hero. They had taken the praise gracefully, promising to change the world for the better. They were going to be successful— A brilliant hacker and a chivalrous criminal in love, with a touching underdog backstory and an anti-hero angle to boot. The public was going to eat out of their hands.
In another life, Gentle clutches at La Brava, heartbreak in his eyes as he lets his dreams crumble for her. In this life, Izuku watches them smile together in their videos, luminous with happiness, and feels a tiny bit better.
It starts with an anonymous notebook, sitting innocuously on the counter of Kurogiri’s bar.
Plain and cheap, Kurogiri notes, the kind students use. The interesting part, however, isn’t the notebook itself— it’s the words ‘TO ALL FOR ONE, FROM M’, neatly lettered on the cover in black marker. Another, smaller, heading read: Villain Analysis Notebook #1.
A bold move, for sure. Kurogiri flips it open, half expecting to see the inane ramblings of some fanatic. God knows how many wannabe villain-vigilantes he’d seen, all bark and no bite.
Instead, he finds a neatly written entry on him, complete with a decent sketch. Kurogiri pages through it with an increasing sense of unease . It was like flipping through a record of his life, with every detail hyperanalsed, from his full name to an unnervingly accurate account of his past. An impressive feat, considering that he had taken care to wipe all traces of his past life away.The analysis of his quirk was thorough, to say the least— whoever had written it had found analysed his quirk to terrifying detail, complete with two entire pages on possible improvements to quirk usage.
Perhaps the most disturbing of all, however, was the section innocuously titled Possible Countermeasures; suggestions ranged from blowing away his mist to a kill on sight — after all, he needed to be present to activate his quirk.
‘Destroy the source, and the quirk is useless’ , as the author had put it. Well. How... succinct.
And he wasn’t the only one— a quick flip through the notebook revealed similar entries, each on a high-profile villain in Mustuafu. How to blackmail. How to defeat.
How to kill.
Carefully, Kurogiri closes the notebook, considering.
From ‘M’, huh?
The notebooks appear every two weeks, regular as clockwork.
No matter how early he comes, Kurogiri never catches the culprit. Nobody else succeeds; Shigaraki seethes childishly, but All for One smiles.
“He’ll come when he’s ready,” he’d said.
Inscrutable as always, but Kurogiri’d been in a good enough mood to not press for answers. With all the intel “M” had so helpfully provided, they had managed to recruit many more into their ranks. Coercion, after all, was rather easy when you knew what made them tick.
The League of Villains was well on its way to ruling Musutafu’s underground.
Two months after the appearance of the first notebook, a boy walks into the bar, and slides a notebook across the counter.
Kurogiri looks up from polishing the last glass, and catches sight of the words on the cover, neat and precise. Villain Analysis Notebook #5. He smiles vaguely at the figure. A hood was drawn over their eyes and hair, their body draped in a dark cloak— paranoid and secretive, then. Kurogiri could respect that. A little young, perhaps, judging by their stature, but so full of potential.
“‘M’, I presume.”
The boy smiles, bright and guileless. It gives a strange, lingering sense of unease.
“Call me Deku,” he says. His smile widens.
“I want to join the League of Villains.”