Izuku found the game by chance in a yard sale. It hadn’t even had a price on it- it was free, and when he opened it, it sounded fun.
(He could hear drums in the air, but he set that aside. It was a toy somewhere in collection of old toys, obviously.)
When he brought it to the owner of the home, they had waved him off, promising it was an old board game of his grandfather’s that he had hated , so it was fine if Izuku wanted to take it, no charge, really .
(Later, Izuku would wonder if that man had known what he was giving Izuku, if he had known what the game would do. )
Izuku was happy to take the game, even if he was a bit confused by the look on the former owner’s face and he didn’t hesitate to take it home. He spent at least an hour studying the rules, and warnings along the folding case, and flipping tokens through his hands. He liked the sound of a survival game, of a game that would work to make him think , if what he was getting from the rules was correct.
He smiled at the menacing warning, “Do not begin, unless you intend to finish ,” written along the board’s folding sides.
As if he would stop halfway through, honestly. Still, the bold red letters amused him.
How quaint, he thought, how clever.
(Oh, he despaired later, at the fool he had been, at the disregard he gave the entirely serious warning towards a real threat. At the joy he had felt for a challenge.
He had never wanted this. Not this .)
Izuku found hand written instructions tucked into the game, witten in a hasty hand, frantic and crooked in nature, as if they had been written on the run, and tucked in later. He smiled at the touches, the thought put into the mood of the game, how it was made to look like a desperate warning to any who played this survival game.
The warnings about supernatural creatures from all over the globe, the bold, underlined, and all capital-
“DO NOT CHEAT. DO NOT USE YOUR QUIRKS.”
-dead center of the list. Very eye-catching, and it almost looked like it had been written in blood. (And in the back of his mind, always working, he noted that the warning separated the two sentences, ‘do not cheat’ and ‘do not use your quirks’, two seperate warnings.)
How atmospheric. Still, he didn’t have a Quirk and it wasn’t like he was going to cheat at a strategy game , honestly, Izuku has more pride than that.
The only plainly worded, if not slightly confusing, warning was at the bottom, a simple and clear:
“Three Strikes and you’re Out”
Izuku didn’t quite understand that one, not then, but he noted it down anyway, memorizing the list and wondering at how the was supposed to work when the list warned of worlds, of zones , and changing rules. Maybe it was a bit like D&D? He folded the paper, and tucked it into his pockets, so he could share it with the others who were going to play with him.
He looked forward to it, excitement making him giddy. It would be interesting to see how the changes to each ‘zone’ in the game affected the rules. It would be fun to have a game that changed so constantly Izuku might not be able to pick it apart within the first ten minutes, might have to struggle a bit.
Might have fun.
Izuku asked Kacchan if he wanted to join him down at the Center to play.
Who else would he offer the choice to, but his oldest friend?
(- he’snotafriend anymore ,whenwillyou learn? )
Sure they had been drifting for a long while, and some days Kacchan was more violent than he had any right to be, but there were other days, where Kacchan acted the way he used to. Where he seemed to pause, and consider what he was doing, what he was saying.
And those times were getting fewer and fewer in nature, as the adults around them encouraged his actions in various ways, always enforced the idea that those with quirks were more than those with none...but they were still there, Kacchan was still there under all the bully and bluster.
Izuku hoped .
This last week, Kacchan had been more like they used to be, more open to interaction and playing together. So Izuku offered him the chance to join him down at the Quirkless Center, to play a new board game that focused on survival and strategy, that sounded interesting and challenging. (And Kacchan would know what it meant that Izuku used the worlds ‘interesting’ and ‘challenging’ both.)
It boasted of ever changing obstacles and trials, that no game would be the same no matter how many times they played, of shifting and varying settings and zones.
Kacchan didn’t much look like it, but he was strategic in nature, and he enjoyed games like the ones Izuku did. It was one of the things they had bonded over, before everything. Was something they still did even now, even if it was becoming less and less common to see.
Izuku knew one of the volunteers, down at the center, who would enjoy a game like this too. He made a note to invite him. It would be a sixty-forty chance he’d join in. The odds were in his favor, so he squared his shoulders and managed to ask without rambling too much.
Aizawa-sensei was constantly tired, and laid back, but he was smart , one of the only adults who ever gave Izuku a run for his money, and he was also one of the few adults present who seemed to actually care about the quirkless who came to the center for support.
He was one of the only adults that Izuku had ever met, who would fight other adults who discriminated against them. (He’d seen him punch one of the more violent men, who liked to show up at the Center and try to get ‘rid’ of those who didn’t fit in with society’s expectations. It was glorious .)
Izuku adored him. (And had some theories about Aizawa-sensei being an underground hero, that he knew better than to voice out loud.)
( Even if they were entirely true, and Izuku would never tell, but he had proof!)
Still, he was excited, when Kacchan said yes , and agreed to head down to the Center and meet him there. Izuku was happy to tuck the tokens and dice away, fold the board up, and giddily shove it into his messenger bag, next to a few blank notebooks and pens, just in case he needed them.
He kissed his mother’s cheek, bid her a cheerful ‘see you later, I love you’ , dressed in comfortable jeans and a t-shirt, with his red shoes, throwing his messenger bag over his shoulder, and rushed out the door.
(Later, he would be unspeakably thankful that the last thing he ever said to his mother, was ‘ I love you .’ That the last thing he heard her say to him was “I love you too.”)
By the time Kacchan had arrived, Aizawa-sensei had agreed to play, and Izuku had started setting up the board, while Aizawa was reading the handwritten notes, already finished with the side boards.
Izuku hesitantly smiled at Bakugou as he settled across from them, and leaned forward to read the rules on the side boards, while Aizawa finished the handwritten ones.
Kacchan wrinkled his nose at him, always more controlled in Aizawa-sensei’s presence, because the man didn’t put up with any of Kacchan’s more...spirited actions or reactions, and usually wrapped him up in his scarf (he was so Eraserhead, Izuku didn’t care what everyone else thought.) when he thought to try his luck anyway.
Still, it was a calm response and Izuku basked in it.
Aizawa passed the handwritten notes over to the blonde, and then eyed the tokens.
Izuku had already chosen his, an owl token, carved to look as if it was mid dive, wings stretched wide. Aizawa-sensei had chosen a stalking panther token, and Katsuki eventually picked up a lunging snow leopard token.
Izuku picked up the dice, and grinned up at the other two players
(Faintly, but growing stronger, as if just out of sight, he could hear drums. He dismissed them- just the tv in another room.)
His eyes widened as his owl slid forward- on it’s own - and the green orb in the center of the game, previously dark, lit from within, words appearing on the surface.
POISONOUS AND FAST TO GROW
IF YOU’RE NOT QUICK
Izuku tilted his head, squinting at the words. The game was obviously warning about poisonous plants, but how was he supposed to-
The drums in the air swelled, and Izuku’s head jerked up, before he felt an odd tugging sensation at his toes.
He looked down and scrambled to his feet as he realized he was fading like he was made out of dust, that was being sucked towards the orb, still glowing and pulsing unnaturally.
Kacchan and Aizawa-sensei both jumped to their feet, and Izuku was so scared he couldn’t even scream. Panic was stealing the breath in his lungs anyway, it wasn’t like he had enough air to speak, let alone shout.
What was happening .
Izuku leaned away from the game, but when he tried to step backwards he couldn’t move. He was frozen in place, and still fading from sight, towards the sucking swirling green of the orb.
Aizawa-sensei reached for him, but he passed through even the solid parts of his body. A flash of red eyes and floating hair- Eraserhead, he knew it!- and still nothing changed, nothing stopped. He was still going, his limbs fading into green mist. Izuku’s terrified gaze locked onto Eraserhead’s eyes. The barest traces of fear crept over the underground hero’s face.
Izuku’s heart skipped a beat.
Even Kacchan scrambled to attempt to grab him, but his efforts had the same lack of results.
“K-Kacchan- I don’t, I don’t know what-” Izuku gasped in a terrified breath, as the fading reached his waist, and sped towards his chest.
His eyes met wide, frightened red and then moved to hard and focused onyx.
“I’ll get you out, Izuku.” Aizawa’s voice was strong, intense, focused, and Izuku finally felt the tears he was too terrified to cry begin to well up.
“Promise?” his voice was small, shaking, and pleading for some sort of miracle.
Aizawa nodded, firmly, without hesitation, keeping his gaze fixated on him.
“I won’t stop,” he promised, with a hard tone, and he was a hero , Izuku knew. He had sworn, his eyes said he was serious.
Izuku closed his eyes as the fading reached his neck, cutting off his words, his breath and then, with the strange sensation of falling, Izuku’s feet hit the ground.
He opened his eyes.
Before his disbelieving gaze…
...all he saw was jungle .