Ojiro Mashirao was born blind. After people found out, they scrambled to tell him how brave he was and how they could never imagine what it was like.
When he was little all the pity confused him; his life didn’t seem harder or easier than anyone else’s. At fifteen, he understood that most of those people were underplaying their horror towards his situation.
Well before the emergence of Quirks, people were born seeing everything in the same shade as their soulmate’s eyes. The only way to see the full spectrum of color was to lock eyes with your soulmate for the first time. If you couldn’t see anything, you could never know when you met your soulmate. Being blind, in the minds of the general public, meant you were destined to an unfulfilled existence.
“Dude, are you listening?”
“Huh? Sorry, go on.”
Takeda sighed and instead took a loud sip of his drink. A waitress argued with a customer, someone’s baby cried, and a pair of girls shrieked with laughter in the background. The cafe’s midday rush seemed to be starting.
“Never mind, we should head out before it gets too crowded,” Takeda said.
Outside of the cafe was a jumble of conversations, footsteps, and traffic. The sun felt nice and warm on Mashirao’s skin. He wrapped his tail around his waist and sighed peacefully. Takeda was already walking ahead and resuming his story.
“As I was saying,” he continued, “There was this big, tall scaly guy by the water who looked to be in his early thirties. He looks at this woman across the lake, and then just shrieks. The woman starts screaming too, and now I’m looking around for the villain. Then, while still screaming, the woman books it across the water and tackles the guy. They start laughing and hugging and you can almost hear the collective sigh of relief. Reactions ranged from ‘aww’ to someone yelling, ‘were my eardrums worth it?’”
“They were that excited to find their soulmates, huh?” Mashirao said with a small smile. Even if he didn’t really understand it, soul bonds were very significant to most people.
“Yeah, it was kind of cute. You could tell they were the kind of people who’d been waiting their whole lives for that moment.” Takeda said that like he wasn’t one of them. There was even a wistful tone in his voice.
Mashirao nudged him with his elbow and said, “You’ll find them someday. Even Onishi found his.”
“Exactly! Even Onishi! It seems like everyone at the dojo will find theirs before I do,” Takeda groaned. Mashirao bit back a remark.
For the rest of the walk they talked about anything other than soulmates like TV shows and the Hero Billboard Chart. They reached the street corner where they split and Takeda punched him on the shoulder as a farewell.
Mashirao was already across the street when he heard Takeda yell, “I almost forgot! Good luck at the entrance exam! You’re going to kill it!”
“Thanks! I’ll do my best!” Mashirao called back.
He walked home in silence, mulling over Takeda’s words. A pit of doubt was sprouting in his stomach
UA was the most prestigious hero school in the country, and its entrance exam was notoriously difficult. Mashirao had a strong Quirk and was at the top of his class, but he was painfully average. The only way he stuck out was as ‘the poor blind kid’.
Then there were his parents. They did their best to be supportive, but ever since he applied to UA they were becoming unbearable. (“Son, I want you to seriously consider this before you go making any major decisions.”) (“I’m your mother, I worry about you”) (“We’re proud of the strong young man you’ve become, but...this is just too much for us.”)
Their fears weren’t unfounded. There had never been a blind student in UA’s hero course, and blind heroes in general were sparse. Fully sighted heroes died or were severely injured every day...but if he wanted to save people, then he couldn’t let fear stop him. He would adapt and overcome no matter what.
Mashirao shifted from foot to foot, stretched, did breathing exercises, and anything to calm himself down before the practical exam started. It seemed simple enough; destroy robots and get points without hurting other examinees. He had no way of distinguishing the 0-pointers from the 3-pointers, so his strategy was to destroy whatever was in his way and hope for the best.
The supervisors had recommended that he use a support item of some sort, and their worry was almost palpable when he passed up the offer. If he was going to prove that he was as capable as anyone else, he was going to do it by his own skill.
He almost jumped out of his skin. A girl had somehow snuck up to him to yell support in his ear.
“Uh-um good luck,” he managed to reply. How had he not heard her footsteps approaching-
Wait what did that-
“There’s no countdown in real fights! Go!”
He started running.
Walking down the halls of UA was surreal. Every day since getting the acceptance letter seemed unreal. His parents had thrown a celebration despite everything, and everyone from the dojo showed up to congratulate him. He was going to Japan’s best hero school.
He had his cane with him and was tapping along the giant halls (Recovery Girl gave him a nasty scolding after the exam for not using any support items). An upperclassman had given him directions to his classroom, but the school was still like a labyrinth.
“Excuse me!” a voice called to him, “Do you know where class 1-A is?” It was the same girl who had startled him. Once again, he didn’t hear her approaching.
“I think so,” he said, “I’m trying to find it too.”
“You’re in 1-A too? That’s so cool! My name is Hagakure Tooru,” she said.
“Nice to meet you, I’m Ojiro Mashirao,” he said, trying to smile in her general direction. She became very quiet, and he wondered if he’d done something wrong.
“Hmm, it doesn’t look like we’re soulmates,” she said; she must have been gazing into his eyes. “Oh well,” she continued, “I’m hoping they’ll be someone in our class. What about you, have you met your soulmate yet?”
There’s the question he was waiting for. A nervous laugh slipped from his mouth. “I’ve never given my it much thought,” he said, “Hopefully they won’t mind having a blind soulmate.”
One beat. Two beats.
“Oh! I’m so sorry! I saw the cane but I didn’t-” she started.
“It’s okay,” he interrupted, “I know that it’s not too obvious.” An uncomfortable silence fell over the two of them. He started walking with nervous energy. “Anyway,” he said, “We should head to class. I think I know where I’m going.”
The silence didn’t last long.
As they turned a corner Hagakure asked, “So you took the entrance exam?” When he nodded and she said, “Wasn’t it so unfair? It was way too hard! I barely passed!”
“It was a bit difficult,” he admitted, “But UA is known for pushing the limits. What’s your Quirk?” The practical exam was definitely geared towards those with physical Quirks.
“Huh? Oh! I’m not used to being asked that,” she said with a laugh, “I’m invisible.”
"That's a cool Quirk," he said. It would probably be cooler if wasn't unable to see her in the first place.
"Yeah, but I could only pull apart three robots before the time ran out," she whined, "If it weren't for the rescue points I would be done for."
He nodded in a way he hoped looked understanding. Mentally he was thinking of the directions. If he remembered correctly, the classroom should be coming up soon...
"Yay! we finally found it!" a new voice cried.
"This school is ridiculous! How can they expect anyone to navigate it on the first day?" said another.
Hagakure gasped and ran ahead. Her and the other two people started chatting excitedly. Then someone else loudly scolded them on the dangers and rudeness of blocking doorways.
Ojiro Mashirao was part of 1-A now, the class with more energy than anyone knew what to do with.
“And while you guard the weapon, I’ll capture them with a sneak attack!”
“Okay, but try to split them up and take them out one at a time. If things turn for the worse then lure them away from the weapon.”
Hero Studies immediately went into full swing with combat training. Mashirao and Hagakure were teamed up against two of their classmates (he believed their names were Todoroki and Shoji). They were now in their hero costumes while protecting a fake nuclear bomb; everything he’d ever hoped and dreamed when he was little.
Mashirao’s ideas for his costume started and ended at a simple karategi. It was the company who thought of his support items. He had hearing aids that picked up everything in a room and automatically muffled sounds loud enough to damage his ears, a collapsible bo staff doubling as a cane, and special goggles that used thermal imaging and light to let him sense the locations of people and objects (The company advised him to avoid wearing them too long as it could cause migraines).
The goggles felt weird and made his head and eyes buzz. He spent the first ten minutes wearing them waving his own hands in front of his face.
“I’m going to get serious,” Hagakure said, “I’ll take off my gloves and boots too!”
He heard the rustle of cloth, and it finally occurred to him that in order for Hagakure to be completely invisible she had to be…
Nevermind, he wasn’t going to think about that. In fact, he was going to focus on anything else at the moment. He was going to stare at his hands some more.
“You can’t look, okay?” Hagakure said. Her voice gave away her embarrassment.
“I can’t see you even if I tried,” he muttered under his breath.
Hagakure slipped out of the room so quietly he could barely tell even with the hearing aids. Her heat signature slowly faded until he was left alone with the weapon. This was his first chance to show All Might and the others the extent of his skill.
That was his thought process until the building’s temperature started dropping rapidly. A wave of cold grew closer and closer to the room Mashirao was in. It must be Todoroki’s ice.
Before Mashirao could do anything, the floor and his feet were encased in ice. A small pillar of heat grew closer to the room, and he heard slow, deliberate footsteps. It was Todoroki. He walked past Mashirao with a cold air different than the actual cold air in the room.
“You can move if you want," Todoroki said, “But the skin on your feet will come off, so you won’t be able to fight your best.”
The horn blared to signify their failure. He sighed and let his shoulders slump.
He quickly learned a lot about each of his classmates. Kaminari sat behind him and liked to play with his tail out of boredom. Aoyama had a French accent and somehow seemed...brighter than their other classmates? If that was possible? Shoji was more of the quiet type, along with Tokoyami and Koda. Bakugou and Iida were always yelling, but for very different reasons. Midoriya would sometimes mumble rapidly under his breath and make Bakugou yell more.
Over half the class had already found their soulmates, mostly in each other. The first few weeks everyone was careful to avoid talking about their soulmates around Mashirao, but they quickly caught on that he really didn't care. Mr. Aizawa did care though, if they wasted class time gushing about every new color they could see.
Mr. Aizawa was a decent teacher, if a bit intimidating. He wasn't above using lies and threats of expulsion to motivate students. Mashirao felt ambivalent towards the man until the trip to USJ.
USJ was a disaster. Being warped to an unfamiliar area was disconcerting enough without throwing in dozens of villains. Everyone got out alive, but he'd be lying if he said he didn't have nightmares for weeks afterwards. His parents almost went through with pulling him out of UA.
The school itself went on as if nothing had happened.
The Sports Festival was yet another disaster, but in a more personal way than a possibly fatal way. Being brainwashed was not what he had in mind.
(“What’s wrong? Midoriya’s frozen up with a blank expression!”
Mashirao had to put his face in his hands for a few moments.)
The internships and final exams came and went much faster than the time it took to prepare for them. And like that the first semester was already gone. Now there was the summer training camp to look forward to. They decided to go to the shopping mall as a class (minus Bakugou and Todoroki).
The mall was abuzz with chatter. Most of it was background noise, but Mashirao could hear the whispers about him and his classmates. Going to UA really did boost publicity (a thought which only increased his Sports Festival-based embarrassment).
Mashirao went with Shoji to do some clothes shopping for the summer. He trusted Shoji to give him good fashion advice as one of the people in class who'd found their soulmate.
"What about this pair?” he asked, “The material feels nice."
"It’s a good color, but that's unimportant to most people. The design doesn't suit you,” Shoji replied.
Mashirao sighed and put back yet another pair of pants. This is why he let his mom buy clothes for him. How anyone found this enjoyable was beyond him.
“Ojiro, Shoji! Want to go get ice cream with me?”
He jolted. Hagakure moved so quietly he was almost convinced her real Quirk was teleporting.
She giggled and said, “Sorry Ojiro, I thought you heard me. So do you want to go get ice cream?”
“Weren’t you shopping with Kaminari?” Shoji asked.
“Yeah, but he started messing around with Sero on the escalators,” she said. He heard a chirp and Hagakure gasped. “Mina says they’re getting yelled at by security. I have to see this. Have an answer when I get back!”
This time he heard her as she ran off.
“Ice cream sounds a lot better than shopping,” Mashirao said, “What do you think?”
“I need to do some more shopping. Besides, I’d rather not intrude on you two,” Shoji replied.
“What do you mean? It’s not like it’s a date or anything.”
Shoji just said, “But she wants it to be” and continued rifling through shirts.
Mashirao’s brain took a few seconds to catch up with him. When it did, his face started to feel very warm. “Why would she want that? I’m not her soulmate,” he said. Part of him felt irritated at Shoji for even suggested it.
“Soulmates are great, but they don't determine every emotion you have. Hagakure jumps at any opportunity to spend time with you and acts extra cheerful when you're around."
Now that he thought about it, Hagakure did go out of her way to talk to him…and she touched his shoulder more than normal. Mashirao didn’t notice he was wagging his tail until it hit a clothing rack and almost knocked it over.
Shoji didn't say anything. Unlike some of their other classmates, he knew when to stay quiet.
"Ojiro!" Hagakure called, "Are you guys ready?"
"Um, yeah," he said, "Shoji's…"
"I'm going to look for more shirts."
"Yeah, that." More quietly, Mashirao asked, "Are you sure you don't want to-"
"Okay, see you later then! Come on Ojiro, let's go get some scoops," she said while tugging on his sleeve.
Hagakure lead the way and he lagged behind. His mind was busy playing back every scenario in which she might have shown interest in him.
"Come on," she said, "We're almost there."
His mind returned to his body, and he realized that she was leading him by the arm. He quickly hyper focused on the way her hand felt wrapped around his wrist. His skin tingled and burned at the same time.
All of his questions rushed to the tip of his tongue. Did she really like him? Was he selfish for wanting her to like him? Could she be happy with someone who wasn’t her soulmate?
Would he find anyone happy with that?
The quiet was going to drive him crazy. No one was saying anything. The ambient sounds of the hospital were a constant, grim reminder of where they were.
Midoriya, Yaoyorozu, Jirou, Hagakure, and several 1-B students were still unconscious. Bakugou was still...gone. Mashirao had never been close to him, but his absence was still disheartening.
A shallow, rasping breath came from the invisible girl's bed. Ashido started crying again and Asui murmured comfortingly to her.
He felt sick to his stomach. They were first years, they shouldn't have to deal with this. So why did it keep happening?
What's worse is that this time, he couldn't do anything. In USJ he had at least was able to fight for his own survival. Now he was one of many with no injuries, while Midoriya was out with multiple broken bones.
"Visiting hours are almost over," Iida muttered, as if he was saying it to himself.
His classmates slowly filed out of the room until he was left alone with one other person. By their heavy presence he assumed it was Shoji.
They sat in silence. Mashirao's thoughts returned to the day at the shopping mall. A dangerous individual had been spotted inside the mall, and it was evacuated before he and Hagakure could order.
As they left, Hagakure had said, “Oh well, we can get ice cream some other day.”
He didn’t want to admit how much hope that one sentence gave him. Maybe, he thought, just maybe she did want to spend time with him. It didn’t matter now. There was no guarantee that either of them would continue to attend UA. If her parents were anything like his, then it would be an uphill battle for them to even consider letting her stay. Oh well, it would just be another of many missed chances.
He was jolted back to reality by a hand on his shoulder.
"It's time to go," Shoji said quietly.
He allowed himself to be led out of the room and into the busy hallway. Hagakure would wake up eventually, and he could ask her then.
“Do you want to go out?”
“What?” he asked. He was just trying to make a sandwich when Hagakure decided to throw that at him.
“And get ice cream,” she said, “We haven’t had a chance yet, so why not today?”
Mashirao had completely forgotten about that after everything with moving into the dorms and getting their provisional licenses.
“That sounds good,” he said. He struggled against a huge smile; his dignified image needed to remain intact. He was betrayed by his tail, which started wagging on its own and hit somebody.
“Dude!” Kaminari yelled, “Watch the tail!”
“Great!” Hagakure said, “Let’s go to that new place that opened up by the cat cafe!”
His sandwich was forgotten immediately and in ten minutes they were on their way out. They decidedly ignored the wolf whistle from Ashido when they left.
“Just be back before curfew,” Aizawa drawled when they signed out.
While they walked to the shop, Hagakure carried most of the conversation. She bounced from topic to topic with boundless energy. Listening to her was like trying to predict a dice’s roll.
“And then Yaomomo told Mina to-Oh! This is the place!” She grabbed his arm and pulled him inside. The shop was cool and had a faint sweet scent. There were a few other customers inside, talking in low voices.
“Hello there dears,” said a woman with a kind voice, “What can I get for you today?”
He got vanilla and Hagakure contemplated every option until deciding on strawberry.
The woman commented, “I’m surprised, most young people want to get the most colorful flavors possible after finding their soulmate. Here you go.” Someone, probably Hagakure, pressed an ice cream cone into his hand.
“Thank you,” he said, “But we’re not soulmates, just...friends.” Just saying it stung a little.
“Oh, well that’s lovely too,” she said. Her voice was flatter than before.
They sat down at a table and Hagakure immediately started talking again. She talked about how pretty the interior design of the shop was, how good the ice cream tasted, and about all the flavors she wanted to try. That’s one of the things he lov- liked about her, she could bounce back from any awkward encounter.
“It's just sickening seeing teenagers date outside of their soul bond," an unfamiliar voice muttered.
His ears perked up and he instinctively leaned towards the voices. There was no way they were talking about him and Hagakure, right?
"It's just desperation nowadays," a different voice whispered, "Neither of them think they'll find their soulmates, so they get together to not be alone."
A mixture of anger and embarrassment heated up his face. Hagakure must have overheard too, as she went silent.
He leaned forward and said quietly, "Maybe we should leave now." He didn't want to cause a scene, but if he heard any more then all bets were off.
She wasn't in the mood to be as discreet, and loudly pushed back her chair to stand up.
“Come on Mashirao, let's go,” she announced. When he stood up she looper her arm around his. His ears felt red hot as they made their dramatic exit.
As the door closed behind them, he heard the woman say, "They're just kids, let them fool themselves for a bit."
They finished their cones in silence, still arm in arm. It was almost dark when they made it back to UA. On the way to their dorms, Hagakure stopped and placed a hand on his arm.
"Can I call you Mashirao?" she asked, “I was just showing off back then, but are you okay with it?”
"Of course," he said, a little too eagerly. He had definitely never played this scenario over in his head; nope, never.
"Okay!" she chirped, "Then you can call me Tooru!"
“O-Okay,” he said. As they got closer to the dorms he stopped and asked,“You didn’t take what those guys were saying seriously, right?”
Tooru didn’t respond immediately. "Sometimes,” she started quietly, “I worry that my soulmate will miss me because I’m invisible. I’ve never told anyone this but...my parents aren’t soulmates. They're both invisible and never found theirs. They say they’re happy together, but there are moments when I wonder…” She growled and sounded like she was shaking her head. "But that doesn't mean I need to listen to what anyone says about me."
He nodded firmly, still somewhat caught in his own thoughts. There was something he wanted to do before the opportunity passed.
“Can I...touch your face?” he asked, quickly adding, "I want to know what you look like."
After a few moments she said, “S-Sure." Well, it wasn’t complete rejection.
Her cheeks were soft and smooth. His fingers traced across her cheek bones and down her jaw line. His thumb brushed her bottom lip and he quickly moved it away. Heat was already rising to his face. He brushed aside a few strands of hair and gently tugged on her earlobe. She giggled and his heart skipped a beat.
For a brief, longing moment he let himself pretend that Tooru was in love with him. This was one of their normal, boring dates they had every other week. He had felt all the stray pimples and scars on her face a million times before. Even if they weren't soulmates, they were still happy with each other. That's what allowed himself to believe.
Without noticing it, his left hand started holding her cheek and lovingly tracing circles with his thumb. And whether or not she noticed, Tooru leaned into his touch.
A painful lump formed in his throat. His face must have twisted, because Tooru asked, "Are you okay?"
He nodded briskly and brought both of his hands back to his sides. He was okay. This was okay.
Her voice, saying his name so sweetly, felt like a knife cutting his heart in two. He was not okay.
The first sob escaped from his throat and he clamped a hand over his mouth. Tears started flowing freely down his cheeks and his whole body was shaking. He couldn't remember the last time he'd cried in front of someone else, especially like this.
It wasn't long before Tooru gently pried his hand away and held it in her own. Her other hand tried in vain to wipe the tears from his face.
"Oh, Mashi," she murmured, "Your eyes are too pretty to be all red like this."
He will never be able to put into words what seeing for the first time was like.
His brain filled to bursting with information. Suddenly there was so much more than he had ever experienced.
Everything became a blur. He picked her up and spun her around. They fell on the grass. They laughed so hard that tears started streaming down. She held onto him like the world was ending, and all he could do was hold her back.
When he looked up, his breathing hitched. So those were stars. They were... beautiful.
“Hmm? Is something…” Tooru faded off when she looked up. It was her first time seeing the night sky in full color too. She untangled herself from him and lay on the grass beside him.
“Oh,” she whispered. What a fitting word.
They stayed like that for a while.