The arena was filled with a consistent hum of activity. In either direction, there was a flurry of movement and sound; medical staff rifled through bags packed with gauze and antiseptic, PR staff spoke to seasoned coaches in hushed tones, and various other personnel circled the octagon centered in the amphitheater. Camera crews donned the unoccupied corners, fiddling with expensive lenses and microphones. In the background, the crowd emitted a buzz of chatter and anticipation--they filled the surrounding court, a person in every available seat, and tainted the air with a diffused sort of white noise. Static white light shone glaringly on the black cage of the octagon, highlighting the stage and the possibility of failure.
Midoriya Izuku took a long swig from his water bottle, bare foot bouncing absently as he leaned against the brick hallway wall of the stadium. He was panicked, heart pounding in his chest as he removed the bottle from his lips and held it tightly in his scarred hand. His skin felt hot despite his tank top and shorts and the crisp, conditioned air that encompassed the building.
Tonight was the debut fight he’d been training for; the introduction of his career in the Official Fighters Alliance, where professional mixed martial artists duked it out for a chance at a championship title. Tonight was the night where all of his skills--years, and years of training--would be put on display in front of a bustling crowd and the entire sports community. The thought alone had Izuku pressing the cold bottle to his overheated forehead, viridian eyes circling the hallway as he breathed through his nose.
He had been nervous since the previous night, tossing and turning in his bed as he considered the possibilities of his upcoming match. He’d avoided food all day because of his nervousness, despite the angered remarks from his dietitian and doctor, Chiyo Shuzenji. To please her, however, he’d drank a bulky protein shake for dinner and continued to chug water. He wished he’d not eaten anything, now, though, stomach lurching aggressively as another wave of panic hit him.
The co-fight of the night had ended twenty-five minutes ago, which meant Izuku was to be inside the cage in the next ten minutes. This would be his first formal match against another professional amateur fighter, his first time being broadcasted, and his first time being commentated. The apprehension in Izuku’s veins only doubled when he remembered who he’d be fighting; Featherweight combatant Hitoshi Shinso, who currently held five consecutive wins out of his seven total fights.
As the disciple of Toshinori Yagi, former five-time Heavyweight Champion, Izuku’s skill level was considered beyond that of a noob fighter. At least, that’s what Toshinori had told the OFA when he’d registered Izuku as a pro. Whether Izuku believed it was a different story, and, at this exact moment, Izuku didn’t have faith in his abilities within this matchup. However, the OFA had watched samples of his practice matches, had deemed him a Featherweight at his weigh-in, and listened to Toshinori ‘All Might’ Yagi when he said Izuku was beyond ready for a scrap against a decent competitor.
Paperwork had been signed on autopilot, Izuku’s mind a whirlwind as he consented to his position in the OFA. Afterward, Toshinori had set up one press conference, introducing Izuku, his so-called ‘secret’ protege, and answering a few questions about the upcoming fight, but keeping an altogether mysterious persona. Izuku’s PR Representative, Uraraka Ochako, had taken to promoting the match on various social media outlets, garnering a reaction large enough to have the stadium sold-out tonight. Everyone, absolutely everyone, wanted to see the ever-famous All Might’s new, supposedly ‘lethal’, weapon.
Oh, this night. This was the night where he’d possibly get wrecked in front of thousands of watchful, manic eyes. Izuku placed his water bottle on the floor, forehead now cool and damp, and carded his hand through his thick, green curls; pushing the strands away from his freckled face. From outside the hall, he surveyed the encompassing crowd of boisterous fans, the flashing, retracting stage lights, and the ever-taunting octagon. He felt his heart flip in his chest and took another steadying breath through his mouth. He knew being panicked was bad, especially when his match was in the next few moments, but the thought of being on display, of potentially losing his debut fight, was entirely fear-invoking.
Fighting as a profession was not for the faint of heart, and Midoriya Izuku knew this better than anyone. He’d landed on his face and gotten enough concussions and broken knuckles to remind him of that fact. He’d spit blood onto training mats, sweat to the point of dehydration, and pushed his body beyond normal limits. He’d been training with Toshinori since he was fourteen; that gave him six years of experience under his belt. Six years of Muay Thai and Jiu-Jitsu, and six years of ruthless fitness markers. In reality, he had no reason to be so agitated. Toshinori had always instilled confidence and calm into him, claimed that they were the most important components of a battle. Except, Izuku couldn’t seem to quiet his rattling brain. He had begun to consider pacing when a large, bony hand gripped his shoulder, causing Izuku to loudly squeak and go rigid.
“So this is where you ran off too,” Toshinori’s tall, emaciated frame was haloed in the soft light of the hall, electric eyes shining as he smiled at Izuku. He was dressed plainly in an oversized, black tracksuit.
Behind him stood Uraraka Ochako, his co-coach Sorahiko ‘Gran Torino’, and his manager Iida Tenya.
Aside from Toshinori, they were all dressed in Detroit Combat Academy’s signature blue and red T-Shirts. Iida had a large green duffle bag slung over his broad shoulder, black-rimmed glasses glinting as he fumbled absentmindedly with the silver zipper. Uraraka held a clipboard in her arm, and her large, expensive camera hung around her neck as she spoke quietly to the Bluetooth tucked in an ear beyond her short brown hair. Gran Torino leaned against his knobbly wooden cane, wrinkled eyes surveying the crowded stadium.
“You look very pale, Young Midoriya. Is something wrong?” Toshinori’s voice was calm, but Izuku could hear the slight hint of concern in his words.
The green-haired boy looked at the older man sheepishly, eyes slightly wide. His trepidation was imminent, and Toshinori was as observant as ever. Izuku knew he was not the best at hiding his emotions; he was an open-book who got flustered easily, and his team was more than aware of his behaviors. It was only expected for his Sensei to notice when he was at unease.
“I thought seeing everything first would make it easier,” Izuku gestured absently toward the inside of the building, where the swirl of affairs was picking up in preparation for the bout.
Toshinori nodded slightly, long blonde hair shifting as he moved, “Did it?”
Izuku laughed without humor, mouth pulled down at the corners, “No.”
“Everyone’s nervous before a fight, boy,” Gran Torino huffed, waddling to stand next to Toshinori, “It comes with the territory.”
Izuku looked toward his co-coach, nodding sharply as the short old man stared up at him with a bored expression. His cane lifted from the air, tapping Izuku’s large, bare hands, “Iida, get his hands wrapped and his gloves on!”
“Hai!” Iida replied, looking at Izuku behind his thick-rimmed glasses, dark hair falling into his eyes.
He set the heavy duffle bag on the ground, pulling open the zipper and digging inside for the roll of bandages. Uraraka wandered over then, placing Izuku’s forgotten water bottle in the confines of the cloth, still murmuring into her Bluetooth as she gave his freckled face a small smile. He smiled back clumsily as Iida stood and began to wrap the bandages through his fingers and over his palms. Padded black and emerald gloves were then pushed onto his hands, over the wraps, and the velcro tightened securely.
“Now, when we all walk up to the octagon,” Toshinori said, “I want you to be confident. Don’t let those nerves show on your face.”
Uraraka stepped over, writing on her clipboard, Bluetooth call paused, “The camera is going to be directly in your face too, and fans are going to try to touch you and Toshinori-san. As your Sensei said, don’t get flustered!”
Izuku took a deep breath and stared at his gloves, furling and unfurling his fingers. Don’t be a coward, he thought, this is your night. This is your chance to finally show the world what you’re capable of, to do what you’ve wanted for so long. An OFA champion belt had been the motivation of his training since he’d started; nothing had changed his mind about that. He looked up toward his team, fingers clenched into powerful fists, and gave a firm nod, “Whatever happens, I’ve got this.”
Outside of the corridor, the secondary stadium lights began to dim, green and white hues flickering from the stage. The crowd fell a bit quiet as the announcer’s booming voice filtered through the crackling speakers. A rush of adrenaline filtered down Izuku’s spine, and he turned to stand in the entryway of the hall, pushing his chest forward in feigned confidence. Uraraka and Iida flanked his sides; his high-school friends turned campaign and management heads. Behind him stood Toshinori, who placed his cool palms on Izuku’s shoulders, kneading slightly. Izuku let out a slow, steady breath, rolling his neck side to side. Gran-Torino stood next to Toshinori, lightly bouncing his cane up and down.
The announcer’s voice was replaced with the beginning of a hip rap song with a constant, steady beat. It rebounded on the concrete amphitheater walls, sending shocks of reverberation through the bare flats of Izuku’s feet and into his chest and ears. It was his intro song, the one he and Uraraka and Iida had mulled over for two-weeks over canned beers and takeout. It was tough, a song that suited the scenario; a song that pumped Izuku’s motivation as he stared at the chaos of lights and personnel surrounding the cage. Izuku noticed the cameraman preparing to follow him closely the moment he stepped out of the dim hall. Could see the sea of people on either side of the walkway looking to catch a glimpse or a grab of All Might.
“And now,” The grating voice of the announcer called, “Representing Musutafu City and Detroit Combat Academy in his debut match, the Featherweight disciple of All Might himself...Midoriya Izuku!”
The crowd screamed.
“That’s our cue,” Uraraka said softly.
Toshinori let go of Izuku’s shoulders and pushed him forward slightly, ushering him to begin walking. Izuku paused for a moment, flustered at the sudden onslaught of noise and light. A thousand voices filled his ears as he forgot how to use his feet, looking around him with wide, distraught eyes. The cameraman was directly in front of him now, the black eye of the lense meeting his startled expression. He stared at it dumbly, arms stiff at his sides, as the jittering lights and pounding music seared his brain. Training at the gym was never this distracting, this nauseating. Izuku quickly felt his mind blanking, motivation instantly fading, until he felt a sharp sting across the back of his left calf. He yelped, jumping at the pain, and turned to see the annoyed face of Gran-Torino glaring up at him.
“Get moving, boy!” He all but yelled over the congregation of sounds.
Izuku blinked harshly, mind returning to him, and quickly realized his mistake of pausing so abruptly. He turned toward the octagon again, toward the crowd, the medical staff, the camera. He rolled his neck for a second time, taking a shuddering breath and securing his footing on the hard linoleum floor. He began walking, back straight, and was met with a bombardment of hands reaching out for him; he was grabbed on the shoulders, hands reached out to fist-bump him. Security guards dressed in black flanked the narrow walkway, pushing back the more serious of fans, rippled arms straining against the sea of limbs. Over the roar of noise, Izuku could hear the voices of fans.
“It’s him! It’s really All-Might!”
“What happened to him? He’s skinny as fuck!”
“All-Might, I love you!”
Great, his debut match and people were more infatuated with his champion Sensei than they were with Izuku himself. Figures. Izuku opted to keep his eyes trained ahead of him, ignoring the hulking camera pressed toward his face and the delusional fanatics. The black, glinting chain of the octagon loomed closer and closer, sending electric shocks through Izuku’s body with each step. He kept walking, strides long and ostensible until he broke free of the sea of onlookers. Around him, medical staff and OFA employees rushed in circles, speaking to each other in half-screams. The flickering stage lights had diminished, now replaced with sanitary white light. It highlighted the light blue floor of the octagon and caused Izuku’s forest eyes to squint. In a few moments, he would be standing inside that cage; a dog fight promised for the world.
“Izuku-kun,” Iida said suddenly, lightly grabbing Izuku’s face and turning it toward him. He was wearing bright blue medical gloves, a wad of clear ointment dabbed on the back of his left hand.
The rest of his team was behind him, each branching off to their designated followings. Uraraka was speaking with two OFA associates, shuffling pages on her clipboard as she nodded quickly and firmly. Toshinori spoke with a medic, hands coming forward in description, ice blue eyes intense. Izuku couldn’t see Gran-Torino, and was about to search for him, but Iida was liberally spreading the ointment on his hand on Izuku’s face. Izuku’s groomed eyebrows drew together in distaste, a frown pulling at his soft features.
“Ugh, Tenya, what is this?”
“Petroleum jelly, Izuku-kun. It helps prevent your skin from splitting!”
Oh. Right. He was about to fight an opponent who currently had five consecutive wins; four of said wins being knockouts. The possibility of Izuku becoming the sixth win was very real. Excellent.
“We never did this at Detroit,” Izuku said numbly.
Iida’s steel colored eyes looked at him with humor, “Well, it is a typical protocol here.”
After Iida finished rubbing the jelly on his face--mostly near the cliffs of his eyebrows, corners of his lips, bridge of his nose, and cheekbones--an OFA official scuttled up to him and ushered him to lift his arms above his head. Izuku did as told, and was quickly patted down for weapons. A medic followed directly after, shining a pocket torch into his eyes and checking his pulse.
“Drugs or alcohol tonight?” They asked suddenly and harshly, eyes narrowed.
“None,” Izuku said, expression firm as he shook his head.
The medic nodded and turned away, rushing over to their other work as Izuku sucked in a breath. He knew this would be hectic--the fight--but he didn’t expect this level of mania. Everywhere he looked was commotion, with a series of movement stemming from some sort of group. The crowd was animated, drinking in the sights, creating a loud drone that deafened. It was anxiety riddled, could put even the most seasoned person on edge, Izuku thought. He shifted his gaze toward his Sensei then, and Toshinori walked over to Izuku with a smile on his face. He lifted his hand and pinched between his fingers sat a lime green mouthguard.
“Once you take this, it’s time to get in there,” Toshinori’s other hand drifted in the direction of the cage door, currently open and guarded by a referee dressed in black.
Viridescent eyes scanned the sunken face of his Sensei, and he felt a strong surge of admiration and rationale fill his chest and stomach. He opened his mouth slightly, and Toshinori slipped the mouthguard between Izuku’s pearl-like teeth. Izuku bit down a few times, shifting the plastic with his tongue, and reached down to peel off his black tank top, leaving him in his black and green Tudo shorts. Toshinori took his shirt and inspected his gloves one last time. When he deemed them acceptable, he pulled Izuku into a quick, one-armed embrace, ruffling his thick hair with his other hand.
“I have faith in you,” he said, “Hitoshi Shinso won’t be a problem. He’s trained in Judo and boxing and always goes for standing submissions. You excel at grappling, so get him on the ground. Just remember your training.”
A harsh nod from Izuku was all the reply Toshinori needed, and he pushed the smaller boy toward the stairs that led up to the octagon’s entrance. The referee ushered him inside and Izuku felt another hot wave of adrenaline surge through him. The piercing bleached light saturated the octagon, washing out anything beyond the corners of the cage. He could hear the crowd, but couldn’t really see them. That was a bit of a relief, he thought, as the referee moved him to the opposite side of the floor, facing the door he’d just entered through.
Izuku could see Toshinori, Uraraka, Gran Torino, and Iida standing on the outer left side of the stage; Uraraka was snapping pictures with her expensive camera, while Iida wrote on the clipboard. Gran Torino, the old geezer, had brought a folding chair, which he sat in as he flicked his cane forward and back. His blonde-headed coach was standing stock still, eyes meeting Izuku’s in a fierce display of ice colored support. Izuku nodded faintly, rolling his shoulders and bouncing lightly on his feet as he waited for his opponent.
The wait was short, and Izuku tried to ignore the booming music that flooded the arena. The announcer’s voice picked up again and filled the room with a sensation of hyperawareness, snapping Izuku’s attention to the same hallway he had filtered in through. He could see the distant silhouettes through the dimmed stadium and the blinding hypnotic purple lasers. The beat of the music shifted, sliding into a cool toned rock song that garnered tough guitar riffs. It filled Izuku’s eardrums, and he continued to bounce on the balls of his feet, shaking out his shoulders, arms, and wrists. Clenching and unclenching his scarred hands and forearms.
“Now, representing Tokyo and Eraser Head Fitness,” the ballooning voice from the speakers called, “With five consecutive wins and four K.O.’s, Featherweight amateur, Hitoshi Shinso!”
The crowd cheered wildly as Izuku watched a tall, slim figure saunter out of the corridor. He walked with a practiced ease, face obscured by the links of the cage and the symphony of flashing lamps. He had two men on either side of him, one with spilling dark hair and the other with spiked blonde locks and a hefty pair of shining sunglasses. He lightly touched the hands of the pestering crowd with his gloves, garnering louder cheers as he breached the floor leading to the octagon. He was already shirtless, Izuku noted, hands capped in purple gloves--gloves that matched his wild, lavender hair--and dressed in a pair of white and violet grappling shorts. He was lanky, with toned, firm arms and a chiseled stomach. Izuku kept his eyes trained on him.
He was given the same run-down as Izuku; a mouthguard was fitted, petroleum rubbed upon his eyebrows and cheeks, a quick pat down and a once over from the medic. He was speaking to the dark haired man the entire time, shaking his head occasionally and nodding quickly. The man placed a hand on his shoulder and shook him lightly, speaking lowly in his ear. Hitoshi Shinso nodded again and flicked his eyes towards the open door of the cage--directly into Izuku’s emerald stare.
Izuku tried to keep his face stone-like, but he wasn’t sure if he looked all that intimidating. Shinso’s amethyst gaze was unbreaking, even as the referee ushered him up the steps and into the ring with Izuku. He was languid in his movements, as if he didn’t have a care in the world, and stalked forward with a strange sense of monotony. It was unnerving, chilling in a way; Izuku wanted to break the eye contact but felt that he couldn’t. Like he was being challenged. He clenched his fists at his sides and shifted from foot to foot, still staring at the unmoving Hitoshi.
After what seemed like an eternity, the referee called them both up and made them stand toe-to-toe. At this range, Izuku could see the dark bruising under his opponents impending eyes, could see the hollow of his cheeks and his sleek jaw-line. He had no expression on his face, and Izuku was reminded of the fact that he had done this seven times before. He was collected, cool and unbothered. It was expected, in a way, for him to be so. Nonetheless, it struck a chord in Izuku’s panic center, causing the smaller, green-haired boy to finally shift his gaze towards the referee. He could hear the commentators talking buoyantly in the distance and the audience had quieted in preparation for the match to start.
“A fair fight,” The referee called, standing next to the boys and placing an arm between them, “Five rounds, five minutes each. One minute’s rest in between.”
Izuku searched for Toshinori’s eyes and met them in alarm, but Toshinori simply shook his head lightly, as if discarding Izuku’s fear. He brought a fist up and shook it, mouthing the words, “Remember your training.”
Stocky build turning back towards Hitoshi, Izuku released his breath through his nose. He met that unending pastel leer, bit down on his mouthguard and brought his hands up in a loose position. The referee’s arm was still between them, and then suddenly, it was gone.
“So, who would’ve thought you’d come out of retirement to train a brat,” Aizawa Shota’s voice was gravelly and filled with disdain as he approached Toshinori ‘All Might’ Yagi, flanked by Hizashi Yamada and a crew from Eraser Head Fitness.
Toshinori pulled his cerulean eyes from the match, looking unimpressed as he took in Aizawa’s black and red uniform, a small smile on his face regardless, “Ah, Shota-san. It’s very nice to see you!”
The spindly, scruffy man bristled at Toshinori’s always polite demeanor, flipping his nose up as he turned towards the cage, “Where’d you find this one, Toshinori? The streets?”
Uraraka and Iida, off in the distance, shared confused glances as they took in the strange coach speaking to Toshinori. Gran-Torino watched with piqued interest, weathered orbs focused on the exchange.
“Ah, no. I think finding fighters off the street is your specialty, isn’t it, Shota-san? What was that boy's name again?”
“Tch, you know his name, you came to his fight. But what can I say, I’m a sucker for a good charity case.”
“Woo,” Hizashi suddenly interjected, throwing his arm around Aizawa and grinning a dazzling smile, “You guys are so intense!”
Aizawa scowled at the blonde man, whose large designer sunglasses were completely unnecessary, considering they were inside and it was well past eleven o'clock at night. He pushed the other man’s arm off of him, stepping forward as he eyed the figures circling each other inside the cage.
Midoriya was shorter than Hitoshi but definitely more muscled, his legs thick and sturdy. He was slightly stocky, but still on the slim side, and his broad, freckled shoulders showcased strength that traveled the entirety of his arms. The opposite of Hitoshi’s willowy, taut figure. The green haired boy was a rock, and Hitoshi the filtering water above. It almost didn’t seem like they were both Featherweights, as Midoriya could easily pass as a Welterweight.
“He weighs 64.8 kilograms, or 143 pounds. I can see you’re confusion while you’re studying him,” Toshinori’s statement was cheerful despite his pinched grin.
“You always size up the competition,” Aizawa’s voice was stone, “Especially when said competition is unknown and has been secretly trained by All Might himself.”
A tight laugh left Toshinori’s lips, “Ha, no secrets here! Young Midoriya just didn’t have an interest in pro fighting until recently, is all. He trained hard, despite that, though.”
Aizawa took notice of Toshinori’s last sentence; a warning wrapped with a bow. It had him clenching his teeth as he chose to leave conversations for later--Hitoshi was currently circling Midoriya, stepping in closer with every turn of his heels. He was stalking his prey, looking for an opening, and Midoriya was completely alert, arms placed in a relaxed defense. Every time Hitoshi got close, he’d take a jump back, tufts of green hair bouncing as his eyes drifted downward toward Hitoshi’s thin legs. But, that single second of broken eye contact threw Hitoshi forward, a smooth right jab sailing toward Midoriya’s head. Aizawa waited for the connection he knew was coming, but blinked when Midoriya, lightning fast, threw his head to the left. Hitoshi’s fist met empty air as Midoriya twirled away, light on the balls of his feet despite his muscled frame.
The audience cheered, thirsty for blood, encompassing the amphitheater in raucous chants. Beside him, Hizashi laughed, clapping his hands together, “He’s fast, huh, Shota?”
Before Aizawa could reply nastily to Hizashi’s comment, a rough, familiar voice sounded behind him.
“I guess we’re fuckin’ late, huh?”
Aizawa turned, black eyes meeting crimson as his other disciple stalked forwards, red-haired companion in tow.
“Bakugou, Kirishima. I told you to be here by ten.”
The tall, tanned blonde clicked his tongue, shoving Kirishima roughly, “This fuckin’ dipshit decided video games were more important.”
“Hey!” The scarlet-haired boy cried, auburn eyes glinting sadly, “It was just supposed to be one more game, bro!”
Aizawa took a deep breath, pinching the bridge of his nose as he roughly shut his eyes, “This is important. I told you both how important it was for you to sit in on this match.”
Bakugou ignored the comment from his Sensei, fire-colored eyes drifting upward and into the octagon. He had his broad hands shoved into the pockets of his black sweatpants, grey hoodie two sizes too big. His hair was a spiky mess of corn-silk, bleached almost white from the lights above the cage. He bared his lips, teeth visible as his eyes zeroed in on the forest colored mop of hair dancing in the ring.
“This lil’ shrimp the god damn competition?”
“Heh,” Kirishima laughed, fiddling with the drawstrings of his black sweatshirt, “That’s supposed to be All Might’s successor, right? Whatever, Hitoshi has this in the bag!”
Aizawa glanced at the boys unceremoniously, eyes narrowed.
“Yeah,” Hizashi laughed, “He’s fast, too.”
Aizawa, blindingly fast, brought his hand up and ripped Hizashi’s stupid sunglasses from his narrow face, whipping them backward and into the swarm of OFA personnel. Hizashi gasped loudly, jaw dropped as he spluttered at Aizawa’s sudden display of aggression. He rushed forward, grabbing Aizawa by the shoulder.
“Those were designer, Shota! Designer! What the hell!”
Kirishima laughed loudly as Hizashi dashed for his glasses, crawling on hands and knees between medics and support staff, hands searching along the black linoleum floor. The three of them--Aizawa, Kirishima, and Bakugou--watched with mild interest as the blonde grasped desperately along the floor, whining about designer prices. Aizawa sighed deeply, turning away from the scene to face Bakugou and Kirishima. His face was tight, and the boys suddenly stiffened as they prepared themselves for a lecture on their lateness. Except, Aizawa wasn’t able to speak over the absolutely deafening roar of the crowd. His eyes widened as he turned towards the octagon.
His mind blanked at the sight before him.
Hitoshi was on the ground, out cold, with Midoriya Izuku’s leg falling loosely from a kick. He was breathing heavily, moss eyes wild as he looked down at the purple haired boy, laid slack against the octagon floor. The referee dashed out, sliding down and beginning to count. He raised his arm, signaling the end of the match, and various medics busted through the cage and to Hitoshi’s unconscious body.
“AND MIDORIYA IZUKU WINS THE ROUND BY KNOCKOUT! HITOSHI SHINSO’S WINNING STREAK HAS COME TO A GLORIOUS END!” The commentator yelled aggressively into their microphone.
Toshinori cheered loudly, followed by the rest of Detroit Combat Academy’s team, and Izuku rushed to the edge of the cage, climbing it with ease and dumping himself on the other side. The crowd’s screams of excitement were ear-splitting.
Aizawa, face diluted with shock, stared dumbly as Midoriya hugged his crew.
Bakugou stepped forward, voice hard enough to cut titanium, “No fuckin’ way.”