Midoriya Izuku is the boy with a stippling of stars across his cheeks and a sun for a heart that desires only to help others. And despite his quirkless status, despite the bullying, despite everyone telling him that he’ll never be a hero, that desire has never wavered.
But, he’s a smart kid, he knows that one cannot simply become a hero through dreams alone. He’s quirkless, but that doesn't mean he’s disabled . It simply means that he has to try that much harder, that his start line has been set further back than the rest of his peers.
So, at nine he begs his mother to enroll him at a small dojo, it’s a thirty minute walk from their apartment, and only thirteen minutes from his current school. Inko never mentions how she’ll manage the extra bill, but he notices that she’s started coming home later on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
And Izuku feels bad that he’s making her work even harder than she already is. But, he needs this. He needs to be a hero.
His new martial arts instructor is a Korean woman with blue, luminescent freckles, and blacked out sclera. She gives off a sort of ethereal energy, but her regal posture and the slight squint to her eyes help dissipate such illusions.
“My name is Ji-woo Chee, in this dojo you are to refer to me as Chee Sensei.” Midoriya’s own posture straightens as she turns to face the six of them. “You’re here to learn the art of Muay Thai. It is not a game, nor is it a hobby, it is a martial art, a lifestyle, and I demand that you treat it as such.” Her eyes are somewhat unnerving, the fact that he’s unable to tell if she’s looking at him or not putting the boy on edge. “If you are unable to understand or accept this then this is not the right dojo for you. You came here to learn, but I will only be able to teach you if you are willing to be taught,” she pauses, looking over the group. “There’s only one major thing that I ask of you here, and that is your promise that you’ll only use what you learn here to protect. If I discover that you’re using your skills to bully or intimidate others I will ban you from this dojo and you will not be allowed to return. Am I clear?”
There’s a chorus of student voices, “Yes, Chee Sensei!”
Her stance shifts. “Now, arms up!”
“Midoriya! Elbows up! You want to leave your midriff exposed in order to lure your opponent’s attacks there. Trick them into thinking it’s a weak point in your defense.”
“Hai!” They’ve been doing drills for the last thirty minutes so the word comes out breathy as he brings his arms up further before throwing another punch.
“Tanaka! Feet together! Your stance is too wide and your hips aren’t squared. This isn’t boxing.”
“Hirano! Keep your feet moving! Make sure you’re shifting your weight from foot to foot, the march is the most basic skill you’ll need for Muay Thai.”
“Midoriya! What’d I just say! Keep your fists in front of your face, pay attention to what you’re doing.”
The boy’s cheeks flush before he stutters out a ‘yes, Chee Sensei’. He’s tired, and the fact that his arms keep drifting down makes him embarrassed, but he’s happy. The sun in his chest makes him almost radiant, the light leaking out in the form of an uncontrollable smile that’s nudging the corners of his mouth upwards.
I can be a hero.
It isn’t until a year after Midoriya had started at the dojo that they see Ji-Woo follow up on her initial promise, the events surrounding it serving as a reminder for the remaining five.
Hirano is the first to bring up the missing student, asking the question that everyone else had wanted to know the answer to. “Chee Sensei? Tanaka hasn’t been here in awhile, is he sick?” The others all pause in their stretches, gazes finding their instructor’s.
Izuku never had disliked the older boy, but there’d always been something a little too vicious that would come out of him while sparring that made Midoriya wary.
Chee Sensei takes a moment to respond, her pitch stained eyes watching them, putting the class on edge. “I learned from his mother last week that he attacked one of his classmates at school. He couldn't follow the dojo’s rules therefore he will not be returning to us.”
Murmurs go through the small group, Hirano leaning over to whisper something in the ear of the girl next to her.
“Let this serve as a reminder for all of you. The rules you agreed upon at the beginning of your training here will not be made a mockery of.”
“There’s only one major thing that I ask of you here, and that is your promise that you’ll only use what you learn here to protect,” the voice ringing in his head is Chee Sensei’s. The memory surrounding it feels years away, but the words themselves echo like Izuku had only heard them yesterday.
“I will not let anyone smear this dojo’s reputation because of something so impulsive.” Her expression is carefully blank, but woman’s luminescent freckles flare, the change unnoticed by all but Midoriya.
She’s angry, he observes.
“Your actions reflect back on not only yourself, but on everything that you’re affiliated with. Your friends, your family, your school, your dojo, they are all affected by what you do. Remember this the next time you feel the urge to make a fool of yourself. Now back to stretching.”
There’s a rumble of “yes, Chee Sensei” from the remaining five students as they resume warming up.
Midoriya’s gaze follows the woman across the room as he sits down. Her black ponytail swings behind her as she makes her way towards the window where she watches the sun set over Musutafu’s skyline.
“...Use what you learn here to protect.”
Izuku lets out a slow breath as he bends, hands wrapping around the base of his left foot.
I will, Midoriya thinks, eyes closing, I’ll protect everyone with the power I’ll earn.
The next year passes peacefully for the five remaining in their class. All of them holding Tanaka as a strong reminder to think before they act, and for Midoriya it serves as the extra push he’d needed to work even harder.
It’s during this year that Chee Sensei first brings up the idea of competitions. Class is over, and they’d just been released from practice. “Before you leave, there’s a local muay thai competition coming up next month. If there’s anyone that’s interested in possibly competing then please come talk to me before you head out. If I think you’re ready for it then we can talk to your parents.”
It takes only a moment before there’s a mad dash to line up in front of the woman. Ji-woo chuckling at their excitement.
From her own place in line Hirano spies Izuku heading for his backpack. She bounces on her heels twice, glancing between him and Chee Sensei before abandoning the other three to go talk to the boy. “Midoriya?” He looks up as she approaches. “Are you not going to ask Sensei about the competition?”
Izuku blinks at her in mild surprise. “No, I’m not really interested.”
“Don’t you think it’d be fun?” She leans forward, balancing on her toes as she waits for his response.
“I’m not here to have fun though.”
Hirano’s cheeks puff out as Midoriya turns back to his bag, undoing the wraps around his hands and wrists. “You don’t have to take everything so seriously all the time you know.” The boy flexes his fingers, knuckles a bit sore from today's training. “You’re younger than me so you shouldn't worry about everything so much!” She decides to ruffle his hair before turning back to the line in front of Chee Sensei.
“I’m not worrying about anything,” he murmurs just out of earshot, “It’s just that I have to work twice as hard as everyone else to get where I’m going.” He shoves his hand wraps into his backpack before throwing it over his shoulder and heading towards the door.
Ji-woo eyes him as he goes. She’d been expecting the boy to be the first of the five to come and talk to her about the competition. But, it figures that he’d have an aversion to such types of pointless fighting. He’s a diligent kid, a good fighter.
Not one for needless violence.
Ji-woo makes a noncommittal noise, turning back to look at the student in front of her. She plays off her silence as thoughtful contemplation. “Your reaction times are still rather slow Gamon. I don’t think you’d be ready for the competition in time.” She watches the boy’s face fall. “But, if you improve enough before then I’ll reconsider, so work hard.”
“Midoriya, I’d like to talk to you for a moment before you leave.”
It’s his third year at the dojo, and this certainly isn’t the first time Chee Sensei had wanted to talk to him after class. But, usually it’s either trying to convince him to enter a competition or to inquire after the burns and bruises he’d earned after a one sided skirmish with Bakugou. But, it’s been awhile since Katsuki had picked a fight with him, and there weren’t any upcoming tournaments that he knows of. Izuku looks away from his sparring partner, giving Hirano the opening she needs to send a quick kick to his ribs while his guard is down. He stumbles at the unexpected attack, eyes zipping back to see the smug smirk on his partner’s lips as she throws a fist towards his face. It gives him just enough time to redirect the punch away from him.
He can hear Chee Sensei laughing behind him, a reaction few of her students are privy to. “You shouldn’t let your guard down while you’re fighting. You can’t let something as simple as words distract you.”
Izuku feels fire in his cheeks as he catches Hirano’s arm when she goes in for another jab, using her own momentum to bring her down to the mat. “Yes, Sensei.”
He’s pulling off his gloves when the woman finally comes over to talk with him. “Midoriya, I was wondering if you’d be interested in trying something new.”
He turns quickly, fatigue forgotten and eyes sparking with new life. “Yes.”
The woman lets out a quiet laugh. “So quick.” The corners of her eyes crinkle. “You don’t even know what it is yet.”
“So, you’d be fine if I started training you on how to use weapons?” Ji-Woo swears she sees literal stars in the boy’s eyes when she says this, the light radiating from the smile he’s giving her almost blinding.
“We’d replace two of your regular lessons with weapons training, and we’d have to meet later than usual on those days.”
“ Yes .” Izuku is vibrating with excitement, weapons would be essential if he wanted to be a hero.
She lets out a small laugh before patting Midoriya’s shoulder. “Alright then, I’ll talk to your mother about it and set up a new meeting time.”
Midoriya doesn’t know what he’d been expecting when Chee Sensei had talked about weapons training last week, but he’s knows this certainly wasn’t it.
“We’ll start with this.”
When she pulls out a wooden staff, Izuku is more than a little disappointed.
“Jahng bong. Though you’re more likely to hear it called a bo staff.”
It’s a stick, he thinks, staring at it with a furrow in his brow.
“I’ll teach you the basics before I add you to another class I’m working with, they’re all older that you, but I’m sure you’ll be able to hold your own.”
Izuku’s eyes brighten.
”This can be an effective weapon in the right hands.” She twirls it in her hand. “I believe you’ll be able learn it quickly. You’re a smart kid Midoriya.”
The twelve year old straightens his posture, squaring his shoulders as Ji-Woo tosses him the staff in her hands before grabbing another one for herself.
“Now, I want you to mirror my stance.”
In the end it takes him a month to master the basics, and despite what Chee Sensei had said, she’s surprised he’s got everything down after only eight sessions. Of course she doesn’t know about the training he does at Dagobah everyday, fighting invisible enemies with a metal pipe he’d found among the trash.
“I think you’re ready for the other class. There’s not much I could teach you here that you wouldn’t learn just as easily there.” Ji-woo lets out a breathy laugh as she reaches behind her head to tighten her ponytail. Midoriya leans himself against his staff, his breathing only slightly labored. “Most of the students in that class either have work or cram school, so class starts at six on Tuesdays and Thursdays. A bit later than you’re use to so make sure you don’t fall behind on your school work. ”
Ji-woo smirks at the boy as Izuku huffs out a laugh. “Hai~”
Over the next two years as Midoriya continues his sessions with Chee Sensei, they lose another student to the sands of time. Though in this case the choice is a willing one. When Hirano leaves she says it’s because she’s grown up and grown out out of it, says that she wanted to try something new now that she was starting high school. And Izuku really doesn’t get it, doesn’t understand how she can spend almost five years training only to act like none of it mattered in the end.
“Hirano never saw muay thai as a lifestyle.” Chee Sensei’s voice startles him. “It was only ever a source of entertainment for her. She never cared about winning competitions either. I’m sure she was only in them for the adrenaline rush.” Ji-woo gives the boy a soft smile as he turns towards her. “You were mumbling again,” is the only explanation she gives as the rest of her tuesday class continues running through a set of drills she’d given them. “Hirano is a smart kid, but she doesn’t take many things seriously, this was just a hobby for her. ”
Midoriya doesn’t believe he could think of muay thai as a hobby even if he wanted to, the idea that it could so easily be categorized as something so inconsequential troubles him. He absentmindedly twirls the bo staff in his hand.
Hirano’s going had been on his mind since she’d left, and now adding what Chee Sensei had said he was sure it would continue to tug at his attention in the days to come.
“Don’t let it bother you too much Midoriya.”
But, it does bother him.
They’d lost Tanaka to power, and now Hirano to boredom.
There had only been two things asked of them, not to harm others, and take the training seriously.
This place, this training, was a stepping stool for him. His race had begun at the age of four, and for the last nine years he’d been struggling just to catch a glimpse of the backs of his peers. But he’d been drawing closer every day since he was nine. With every new training session, whether he be at the dojo sparring with his classmates or battling invisible enemies at Dagobah, he ran faster.
Muay Thai was a lifestyle to him because it had to be. If he didn’t try his hardest, if he didn’t give it his all then… He’d learned over the years that hopes and dreams were as useless as the shooting stars he’d wished upon as a kid. Hard work would be what he used to surpass those running just ahead of him, hard work is what would push him to run faster, to outdistance even more of his peers. His desire would fuel that hard work, in order to protect people, in order to save them. Izuku just had to make sure he didn’t stop running.
But, the race is a hard one. He’d grown up watching Bakugou’s back disappear into the distance, no matter how fast Midoriya would run, no matter how much he pushed himself to do better. There are times when Bakugou makes it hard to run, other times when he makes it easy. When he’s fifteen Katsuki makes it a little bit of both, even from so far ahead the boy still manages to screw up Izuku’s race. And, it’s during this time that Midoriya nearly breaks one of the dojo’s only rules.
“Only use what you learn here to protect.”
It’s a moment where he very nearly sends a right hook into Bakugou Katsuki’s jaw.
“If you want to be a hero that badly, there’s a quick way to do it.”
Midoriya’s fists clench around the straps of his backpack as he makes his way towards the dojo. He hadn’t needed to see Bakugou’s face to know about the mordant smile on his lips.
“Believe that you’ll be born with a quirk in the next life and take a swan dive off the roof!”
“He’s telling people to kill themselves now?” Izuku snears, “I’d love to see him bear the consequences of those words.” He pauses, his stride stuttering, “No, that would mean…” Midoriya sighs, kicking at a pebble on the sidewalk. He’s late today, the fiasco with Katsuki taking longer than he’d liked. So, when he gets to the dojo the others are already stretching and he has to be quick to make his way into the small bathroom to change. He notes the damage done to his jacket and shirt and curses Katsuki in his head. It’s hard to see from this angle, but there’s also a painfully, bright red spot on his shoulder from Bakugou’s quirk that Midoriya’s sure will blister given time.
He sighs, pulling on a pair of shorts and slipping a t-shirt over the burn mark before heading out to stretch with the others.
He’d been noticeably more vicious with his punches against the training dummy today. Vicious to the point where Chee Sensei had banned him from sparring for the day, even though she knows he’d never purposely hurt his classmates. Instead she redirects his attention to training his kicks, worried that he’d somehow manage to bruise his knuckles through his kickboxing gloves. But, even then, his kicks had been ruthless and insatiable and she worried about how his legs would hold up against such a beating.
Her students were not immune to bruising, and Midoriya Izuku was certainly no exception. But, there were days when the boy would come in with bruises too fresh to be from one of his sparring sessions, or show up with burns marks mottling his skin that have no business being there. The boy always has excuses for the injuries when she asks after them, and though she’s never fully believed them, she gives him his space and reminds him that she’s here to talk if he ever needs to. But, this fury of his today is particularly troubling, it’s not a first time occurrence, but it’s certainly a rare one.
It’s amazing just how much his mood can affect her other students, the number of their mistakes always spiking higher when Midoriya slips into moods like these. All of them wary of his temper and left to question what had managed to cloud the sun in his chest.
“Fear the day when a good heart gives up on you,” Ji-woo quotes quietly as she watches the boy. His face is pinched with anger, but it would take a fool not to notice the pain swirling there. “A heart does not turn cold unless it’s been treated with coldness for awhile… So, who’s been hurting you Midoriya?”
Izuku fights a grimace when Chee Sensei stops him on his way out, resting a heavy hand on his burned shoulder. “You were late today. Any reason why?”
This time the boy really does grimace. “It wasn’t anything important.”
One of her brows quirk upward. “It was important enough to make you late.”
Midoriya tries to look anywhere but her eyes, his inability to determine her line of sight still somewhat unnerving even after being around her for six years. “I just left my notebook somewhere and had to get it.”
She continues to eye him skeptically.
“That’s why I didn’t say anything, because it wasn’t important.”
The woman lets her eyes drift closed for a moment, letting out a tired sigh as she gently squeezes Izuku’s shoulder. She misses the pained twitch of his eye. “I’m not just your instructor Midoriya. I’m also your caretaker while you’re here, it’s my job to make sure that you’re safe and protected and learning what you need to while you’re with me. Don’t hesitate to talk to me if there’s someone or something bothering you.”
Izuku is ready for the day to be over, his shoulder aches, and he can feel a dull throbbing in his fists and legs from the training dummy. So when Ji-woo drops her hand from his shoulder he almost sags with relief because he can finally go home and eat the Katsudon his mom said she was making tonight.
But, that isn’t the end to his bad day.
He checks their apartment’s mailbox on his way to the stairs because as exhausted as he is Izuku knows that the mail is the one thing Inko always forgets to grab when she comes home. A soft smile makes its way across his face when Midoriya opens their box to see several envelopes still there.
He thumbs through it as he walks, pausing in his steps when he sees one addressed to him. It’s a letter from UA, one that he hadn’t been expecting. Lead pools in his stomach as he stares at it. He turns around, tucking the rest of the mail back into their box as he continues staring at the envelope.
Izuku bites the corner of his lip, brows furrowing before he shoves it into his jacket pocket and jogs away from the building. It takes everything within him not to stop in the middle of the sidewalk and tear open the letter there. The pit of lead in his stomach has only grown larger, heavier, to the point where it’s begun to crawl it’s way up his throat the more he thinks about what they could want ten months before the exams.
He picks up the pace of his jog.
When his feet finally hit Dagobah’s sand he’s quick to weave his way into the mounds of old appliances and other discarded trash until he’s made his way to his usual small clearing. He rips the letter from his pocket and stares at it in the falling darkness. The street lamps kicks on behind him, its light seeping through the mountain of garbage at his back. Izuku’s hands shake with barely restrained nerves as he carefully tears open the envelope and pulls out the letter inside. His eyes strain to read it in the fading light, but his eyes hone in on one particular word ‘regret’. Midoriya’s knees buckles and he goes down. The sand catching the boy as if it’s trying to comfort him.
He strains his eyes harder, gaze jumping back to the top to start from the beginning, hoping, praying . But, dreaming never got him anywhere, and evidently neither did his hard work.
They’d sent his application back, saying that “the dangers of hero work without a quirk are simply too high”. They encourage him to apply for a different department. Not the hero course .
The thought makes him sick and suddenly the sun that had for so long burned in place of his heart begins imploding. It’s slow at first, the complete opposite of the nightmare sequence that’s playing rapid fire in his head. But, with every new thought he descends into a darker place until the star between his ribcage collapses into a black hole that’s sucking the breath from his lungs. It’s changing the effects of gravity, pulling viciously at his organs until he’s certain he’ll die from it. He’ll die, he’ll die, he’ll die, he’ll die.
The black hole in his chest is pulling at every quark within his body, latching onto every atom with an inescapable drag of gravity. He watches the letter to see if it will be pulled in as well, but it stays where it is, resting innocently between his hands like it hadn’t caused the implosion of his heart.
His fists clench, crinkling the edges of the paper. His vision blurs at the corners as tears drip down his star lined cheeks, several dark splotches appearing on the paper in his hands. His teeth are grit and grind painfully together.
They hadn’t even given him a chance .
There’s an ungodly noise that’s forcing its way out of his throat, burning like acid. He lets out a mix between a scream and a sob, a cocktail of pure misery.
They hadn’t even given him a chance .
Midoriya Izuku is the boy with a stippling of stars across his cheeks and a sun for a heart that desires only to help others. And despite his quirkless status, despite the bullying, despite everyone telling him that he’ll never be a hero, that desire has never wavered. Not until now.