(Note: Underlined text is supposed to be read as Sign Language.)
Play With Fire
Hisakawa Misaki stood at the gates of U.A. High with her hands gripping tightly onto the straps of her backpack. It wasn't every day at that middle schooler stood at the precipice of their future with one leg dangling off the edge and the other nervous about taking that next step to what could be a freefall or what could the next ledge on the uphill battle that humans call life.
Her stomach was churning and her knees were a little weak. She felt a hand brush against her own, and so she turned her head in the direction of the touch. It was one of her best friends, Shimizu Mari, who offered her a reassuring smile.
Another hand patted her on her back with a firm slap, causing her to turn her head in the opposite direction and get a big look at Hatsume Mei's grin.
"We can do this," Mei signed.
"Of course we will," Mari added.
Misaki was suddenly renewed with energy at that very moment, she tucked a strand of hair behind her ear and smiled at the both of them. It wasn't like she was the only person going through this. She had her friends, and they had her. "Yeah, I'm just anxious. Thanks. We will get in."
The three shared a look before they each went to separate locations throughout the school grounds; Mei heading towards the General Education exam, while Mari and Misaki strode forward to the Hero Exam. They two, however, would eventually split up after receiving their appropriate numbers and going to opposite ends of the auditorium.
They made sure to separate students that were coming from the same backgrounds as not to give anyone a single advantage in the midst of their examination; The written test that they had taken a previous date was nothing compared to the physical assessment that they would be going through.
At least, that's what the new coming students knew to expect from the murmurs of daunting tasks that changed every year. Misaki took her seat with nerves buzzing, but a newfound sense of determination burning through her veins.
The lights in the room dimmed not long after this, and seemingly from an elevator floor, Present Mic appeared out of thin air with all the spotlights drawn on him and him alone. His presence was… well, you couldn't ignore the guy. He had his own strange ambiance and to anyone that could hear his ungodly shrieks and shouts, he could really stifle any hero or student that got in his way.
However, this wasn't a problem for Misaki.
Vocalized quirks such as that could only affect the hearing, only those that had a range of use of sound would be affected in some way, shape, or form.
Since she had no hearing whatsoever, the last remnants of which had been lost years ago in her adolescence, his quirk was useless against her entirely. Although, for once, that was a relieving feeling that she felt. Seeing the discomfort and jump from the students around her as his voice clearly boosted and craked as his eccentricities took over in his explanation.
The rundown of the test was fairly simple, and fortunately, the interpreter kept things simple and didn't stretch things out as far as Present Mic did. He seemed deadpan and rather done with the man, himself. A small thing she noted to herself as she learned what they would be doing- rather, fighting.
There were a large number of testing sites scattered across the school grounds, seemingly one for every letter of the alphabet as far as she could note. Just how much land did they own?
Each site would have faux villains deployed as robots, each with it's own capabilities that could be used to slow down or stop the students from destroying them with a few easy blows. She counted one that could do this, one that could do that, and so on. The last robot listed on their diagrams seemed to be a boss type, much larger and heftier than the other three by a long shot.
It seemed some of the other students picked up on that because all eyes in the room had flickered onto a student to her left that seemed to be asking about it, but she couldn't exactly catch enough of his face to guess what his lips were forming.
The instructors were quick to say what they meant. It wasn't worth any points, apparently, it was simply made to get in the way and slow everyone down, even more, to get rid of more students. After all, they only accepted forty applicants for the Hero Course for their first-year, and the dozens testing were very unlikely to make it in.
It was a matter of skill and sheer dumb luck.
Well, if you wanted to make your aspirations of becoming a hero come to fruition, you have to be prepared to fight more than villains in your future. You have to be ready to fight the other students here, and in the other academies to even get to Pro Status. Misaki noted.
Things weren't always a step and a jump from point a to point b. Her Dad reminded of that the evening before, and she kept that thought close to her heart as the seconds ticked down.
With a single farewell that consisted of the school's motto, the pair at the helm of the room left and the lots of students were sent to their designated area to begin the examination. While she knew that Mari was going to get sent somewhere else on the U.A. grounds, it still stung a bit to see the mop of pink hair disappear into the sea of students heading in the opposite direction.
They had promised when they were young that they would become Heroines together when they grew up. That promise wasn't going to stop no matter what happened today, even though they were separated for the first time in their lives, and even though the challenge seemed daunting to face alone.
Misaki kept her head held high.
The students were escorted to a cityscape without much warning. It was amazing to see, actually, it was legitimately a city. There were skyscrapers and smaller buildings, things were posed and set up to look like it was really the outside world and not just here at U.A. The budget for their school must have been eating the government's wallet or something!
She didn't pay too much mind to the other students. There were a few of them that stuck out in her field of vision, but she couldn't focus on the others when she needed to focus on herself. The goal was to defeat as many of those faux villains as fast as she could do it.
The time limit was barely enough time for the average person to try and make a dent in that.
Well, Misaki wasn't the average person, was she? Her quirk was going to give her an advantage if she used it at just the right second. She wasn't wearing her headset today, the special gadget that Hatsume had created just for her to learn to work on her quirk with. It was a baby step into trying to focus her energy on saving people and using her own prowess to do it.
Her quirk was a special one that she regarded with pride.
She had the ability to halt the flow of time for a brief moment of time. To activate her quirk, the pads of her fingers had to brush against her hair, and the same could be done to deactivate it right afterwards. The longest that she could control it had topped at around fifteen seconds the last practice run that she had went through with her training, and that was pushing her previous limit by holding her breath.
The backlash that came with using her quirk was difficult to deal with. The space between when time paused and flowed freely was utterly silent, devoid of all sound and pressure. The longer that a person was in this time slip, the more that their bodies equilibrium would struggle to cope with the side effects. Your legs would become off-balance, and every move of your hand would grow progressively more off-target.
The reason that Misaki was able to withstand the effects of her own quirk was because of her own deafness. For much of her young life, she had issues with her own balance outside of her quirk, and it had taken a long time to become accustomed to it and learn to live with it. She wasn't immune to the effects of her own power, but she had a passage of time that was longer than what a normal person could withstand.
She had been learning to push her limits ever since the date of the U.A. Entrance Exam drew closer and closer, and thanks to Hatsume's device that gave her jolted buzz every time her body would start to become susceptible to her quirk had helped her.
But, would it be enough to help her pass the examination?
Misaki lifted her head and looked at the lights. The crowd was growing restless and antsy, but that wouldn't last for long. It wasn't but a few moments later that the red lights flashed to yellow lights and then turned into green lights. She took off running without hesitation.
Six hundred seconds.
That was how long they had to prove whether or not they were good enough to become the next crop of heroes.
Her plan was to use her quirk in quick bursts to get a leg up on the robots just long enough to knock them down. She ran ahead, lifted her hand, and tossed her hair over her shoulder, and then pounced on the robot with just enough kinetic energy to knock it down; Her hand repeated the motion to release her quirk not long after that.
She managed to take care of a few robots and only wasted a mere five of her seconds on the endeavor, but Misaki could feel that familiar hum in the back of her head like a phantom warning her to be careful. The edges of her vision were a little blurry but she pushed through it and kept fighting as long as she could manage and by the time the countdown reached the last few minutes, she felt as though she had done what she needed to do.
Misaki paused for a moment to catch her breath and glanced around some of the students that were nearby. Some of them were frantically trying to attack the robots but not getting anywhere with their quirks, after all, they didn't have to play it fair so this worked for everyone.
If you couldn't adapt fast, then it didn't look good. There was always General Studies; That's what they would say.
There were others that instead of running towards the danger and fire, turned tail and ran in the opposite direction in spite of what the examination was telling them to do. They wouldn't pass that way. It was just dwindling down the amount of students that would have a chance.
And then, there were those that acted without fear and without warning. But only one person here seemed to take that idea and push it to its limits. That was when something caught her attention from the corner of her vision. Explosions rocketing from left to right, robots and their metal casings shattering and crashing to the pavement below without warning.
She pursed her lips and followed the line of disaster until it connected with a boy with a spiky mop of sandy blond hair. He bore a wicked grin as he maliciously and wildly destroyed every obstacle in his way.
He's taking them down with his bare hands. Holy shit! Misaki found herself unable to turn her attention from him. Whoever he was, and whatever his quirk was, there was no doubt that the proctors were watching him with full attention. That was when the earth started to start underneath her feet, and her head whipped around to catch sight of the biggest and tallest obstacle to exist on this course.
That was the zero-pointer in all of its glory, and if anyone of these students had been fighting and working before this, they all stopped just as Misaki had to stare at it in horror and awe. It didn't move for a moment, just stood there without moving, and then, without hesitation, it surged to life and began rolling forwards towards the students.
She went to turn and duck for cover, but as she went to move her body, the blond rushed past her with incredible speed, the wind whipping her hair around her face as she tucked it up and watched as this guy sped right at the mech and into the sky-high enough to reach its head.
Misaki noted from her position the way he lifted his hand and then a massive tidal wave of an explosion triggered by his quirk shattered the zero-point robot to mere smithereens. She followed some of the falling hunks of metal with her eyes and then realized that students were in the impact zone and wouldn't get out the way in time if they tried.
There was less than a minute of exam left and Misaki wouldn't be able to take down any more of these robots if she wanted to in that time. So, she made her mind up, her hand rose from her side and activated her quirk.
She rushed ahead in the time delay and moved the people that were in the way one by one to a safer elevation. There were three that were too close and a handful of others that needed a push to a safer spot to continue their run. With each use of her quirk, her movements grew more and more sloppy.
However, she managed to get every one of them out of the way.
Misaki went to release her quirk but at that last minute, she noticed that the surly-looking boy in the way of his destruction. Against her better judgment, she decided to help him as well. That blast from his quirk must have used a lot of his energy, she reasoned, so he probably could just blast his way free of his own problem that easily. Once he was out of the way of immediate danger, as well as the others, Misaki released her quirk and let time resume its course.
She collapsed to her knees and tried her best to keep herself upright despite the protests of her body. The weight of keeping the world stagnant for even a second took a lot out on her body, and the strain that weighed her down was now released as the robots rained down onto the buildings and streets of the testing grounds around them.
The students that Misaki had helped were blurry-eyed and confused as to how they had wound up where they had, but they were unscathed from being piles of mush against the pavement, so there likely would be no protest to the sudden confusion they all experienced.
It was a well beyond a workout to hold the universe together, and it was even more than that when you were one girl trying to lug around people that were larger than you. Well, everyone was bigger or taller than you when you barely stood taller than one hundred and fifty-two centimeters.
The good news was that she managed to save everyone! The bad news was that not everyone was happy that she quote unquote saved them!
When Misaki had gained some of her senses back, it wasn't long before she was ripped back onto her feet with a tug against her collar. This guy was glaring daggers into her as if it was going to actually frighten her; He was clearly annoyed by her choice to rescue him, and if she could hear him, she would have sworn that he was growling.
"I didn't need anyone to fucking save me, you goddamn plum," she could make out the words that he was saying more or less. "Think twice before you do something stupid as that! Do I look like any of these other pathetic extras that can't defend themselves? Whatever the hell you did, don't do it again!"
She knew that she was going to have an ocular migraine the entire train ride home now, and she had wasted her last seconds to save some ungrateful brat. Oh, well, it wasn't always going to be fun to be a hero.
"What? No 'thank you'?" her instinctual reaction when her body ached was to be irritated, and as nice and as sweet as she was to everyone, something about this guy's stupid face and his red eyes made her a little peeved. It was the first that she had talked all day, and it was obvious that he was taken back by her use of Japanese Sign Language. She stared back at him. "You're welcome. I saved your sorry ass from yourself. Don't be cocky. Just be grateful you didn't lose your head. From your own quirk, too! I didn't want anyone to get hurt."
His double-take of confusion didn't last for very long. The doubt and confusion that had crossed his face were long gone and replaced with the prior of annoyance and frustration with her actions.
His next words were a little lost on Misaki, but she pieced it together as best as she could.
"Just what I need to deal with, another self-sacrificing fucking idiot, goddamn Plum who can't even hear shit thinks she has to save people who don't fucking want that help." The blond rudely brushed past her and disappeared into the swell ground of dust and gravel that had surrounded the area. It took a moment but Misaki washed the look of shock from her face and then turned her back on his retreating figure.
Again, against her normally sincere nature, she mumbled a curse word underneath her breath about the guy, "What an ass."
The counter that had been timing down since they had begun the test reached zero not even five seconds afterward. And so, the first challenge on her path to becoming a hero was completed and she wouldn't know if she passed or not for two weeks.
Would her actions prove her worthy or would it have all been for naught?