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Together, We Fight

Chapter Text

we 
are all
haunted by our
demons 悪魔と私たち

 

break 

Endeavor could still taste the smell of burnt flesh at the back of his mouth. He felt his anger mix with uncertainty and other countless emotions, threatening to cloud his judgment – the flames on his shoulders flickered, dancing at the compass of his all-consuming emotions. His footsteps echoed in the cold silent corridor, he left black ashen footprints on the white linoleum as he made his way towards the conference room where the melody of a piano was being played.

 

The door almost fell off its hinges as he opened it forcefully.

 

The sole occupant in the room didn’t so much as flinch at his entrance, if anything, Midoriya Hisashi looked faintly amused.

 

“Would you care for some tea, Endeavor-san?” He asked pleasantly, gesturing to the seat in front of him while closing and setting his laptop aside.

 

Endeavor didn’t answer. Midoriya looked like he wasn’t expecting an answer from him either; he began to prepare the tea. He gently placed a flowering tea ball inside a large glass teapot on top of a delicately decorated serving tray. Endeavor made his way towards the seat Midoriya had pointed before, noticing water had already been about to boil in a portable kettle.

 

Midoriya poured the water into the glass container. He didn’t speak to Endeavor for the time it took the flower to bloom inside the teapot. The flower inside was pale golden colored, surrounded by green leaves and tiny red scattering petals – Midoriya began to pour the tea into two cups. The aroma wafted from the cup reached Endeavor’s nose.

 

Slowly, the smell of burnt flesh was purged from his system – but not from his mind.

 

Endeavor placed the cup back on the coffee table with a single deafening tink.

 

“There were children in there.” He said lowly, his flames rising to attention once more.

 

Midoriya placed his cup down without a noise, and took his time to speak, “Regretfully, we weren’t able to acquire solid intel of—”

 

“You are lying.” Endeavor interrupted, grinding his molars and clenching his jaw.

 

Midoriya stared at him unfazed, golden eyes bright and cold, “I am not. We did not have evidence to confirm the whereabouts of all captives in the facilities. And even if we did, it would not have mattered in the least. Our job is to burn down the tree down to its roots. Casualties will appear whether we want it or not. Do not mistake our purpose here, Endeavor-san. We are not in Japan. We have a mission and a goal. We have a window of time to act in these foreign lands. We came to cleanse the sin that spilled outside our borders and nothing more.”

 

Endeavor slammed his massive fist down on the coffee table – the flower bathed in the golden liquid trembled – he glared daggers at Midoriya. “They were kept like animals!”

 

“Clearly, a means to an end, Endeavor-san. They were quality Quirks for harvesting. Or maybe future soldiers depending on their their abilities. Who knows.” He paused, gaze fixed on Endeavor. “I do not understand why you seem so disconcerted—Quirks have always been a commodity, a tool, a medium to success. For as long as people give a significance and a value to them people like All for One will forever exist to keep on making their ideals true.”

 

Midoriya stood from his chair slowly, an unsettling smile appearing on his face as he stared at Endeavor – he looked like he was eager to do something amusing.

 

“Get a hold of yourself, Endeavor-san and harden your resolve for we are far from over—the war had just started. I can’t have you derailing my project for some misplaced heroism. Think of the greater good when you waver. Think of the glory that will come. Think on what needs to be done.” His smile grew an inch. “Think of your children if it makes you feel better after a long day at work. Think you’re doing it for them. Think on the faces they are going to make by knowing your accomplishments—on how the Great Hero Endeavor helped defeat a despicable evil.

 

Endeavor remained silent, staring back at Midoriya.

 

“Hisashi.” Oguro Iwao appeared at the open door, wearing a black suit and an intercom in his ear. “It’s time to go to the consulate.”

 

“It’s certainly terrifying how time flies by.” Midoriya said with an airy tone, walking to the exit. “Our time here will fly by us too.”

 

He spoke again, addressing Endeavor, “Just think of their faces, Endeavor-san. That will surely make anything we do here easier for you.”

 

He sounded as if he was laughing

 

Endeavor didn’t turn to see what kind of expression Midoriya was making. They left silently, leaving him alone. Endeavor stood from his seat, walking to the windows. The music still played the piano with its melancholic tune. He caught his reflection on the crystal but what he saw wasn’t his face – what he saw was a child crying while covered in blue flames and the smell of burning flesh reappeared like the phantom pain of a severed limb – he saw a small soft face with one glaring gray eye try to convey all the hatred in the world while a burn mark hid under white bandages.

 

What he saw on the reflection were the faces of his children – his own reflection was already long lost.

 

He poured himself another cup of tea, it had turned lukewarm.

 

The smell of burning flesh didn’t go away this time.

 

break

 

The doors slid close behind Todoroki with a quiet hydraulic hiss. The train rattled mutedly as it moved on the rails, Todoroki swayed gently from time to time. It was Saturday night and Todoroki took the last train leaving Mustafu. His destination was somewhere around the north outskirts of Tokyo city. It would be an hour trip before he reached his stop.

 

Todoroki fiddled with the strap of his backpack, glancing inside the almost empty passenger car. His luggage consisted of a big traveling bag and his backpack with his school supplies. He still couldn’t believe he was going to spend most of the following week outside his house. It seemed impossible and yet there he was – sitting alone in an almost empty train without worrying about Endeavor because he wasn’t in Japan.

 

Next thing he knew, his father was being sent overseas as a Japanese representative of some kind for the Japanese Hero Foreign Relations Committee which was apparently a branch of the Hero Public Safety Commission. Endeavor left for weeks. Weeks. Todoroki, thanks to years of practice, masked his overwhelming happiness at the dinner table when his father spoke to him and his siblings about it. Midoriya texted him that night, asking him if he would like to stay at their place for the following week. Somehow, Todoroki Shouto was going to experience a sleepover for the first time.

 

A long sleepover at that. He was absolutely elated.

 

Todoroki didn’t want to think too deeply on how or why his father was being sent away. But he had an inkling on who had a hand in it. The timing of the text messages was too perfect after all.

 

Not that he was complaining.

 

 

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He breathed in, leaning back on his seat. He felt nervous – giddy and hopeful. He eased himself into the moment, watching the passing lights and shadows outside the windows of the train. Time moved too slow for his liking but at some point, finally, the speakers announced his stop. Todoroki gathered his things and walked to the platform beyond the warning yellow line. He sat on a bench and waited. He debated whether to text Midoriya again when two arms wrapped around his neck from behind and a cheerful, boo! rang in his ear. Before he could react to Midoriya’s assault, Kodai jumped in to hug him from beside Midoriya, me too!

 

They toppled down from the bench in a pile of limbs and laughs. Awase scolded them, pulling each one of them to their feet while fussing over their clothes, do you know how many people have walked here?! You three are taking a bath when we get home!

 

Shinsou silently took Todoroki’s traveling bag, let's move. Todoroki couldn’t protest in time as Midoriya and Kodai grabbed both of his hands while pulling him towards some direction. As usual, they were chattering away, telling him about their plans and the things they had done in the day. Midoriya said they were taking the scenic route so he could memorize the way to their place.

 

Awase asked him if he was hungry. Kodai asked him if he had played FPS games before – with a strange glint in her eyes. Shinsou seemed content on watching the others fawn over him restlessly – as if he took joy watching them interact. At some point, Kodai and Midoriya stopped dragging him along and simply decided to hold his hands as they walked through the silent streets.

 

His chest felt full, and his heart was – arduously fighting to burst out of its cage – swamped with gratitude towards these people who decided he was worth knowing.

 

Todoroki breathed in, giving a small clumsy smile of his own when they talked to him.

 

break 

 

After taking a winding path through a small woodland area beyond a park, they reached a secluded community with western style houses. There was only a path connected to the main road to drive back to the city below the hill. The small cluster of houses looked identical to one another other. Their destination was the house in the cul-de-sac.

 

It was a two story house with plants hanging from the edge of the veranda at the front. Several small bushes with blooming roses and a small dry pond – that for some reason had a sign that said: UNDER CONSTRUCTION DO NOT TOUCH (I MEAN IT GUYS!) and then added with several scribbles made with colored markers: I know you’re gonna kill the fish! Fish Murderer! Do not let him do it!; You’re never gonna finish this anyway so whatever; You don't get a say on this! I’ll put as many rubber ducks as I see fit!

 

As Awase promised before, they were ushered to take a bath. Midoriya and Kodai complained about it but Awase was having none of it.

 

I don’t care how clean you think that place was or how you 'already were clean'. GERMS WERE STILL THERE. We are not inviting that filth into our home!

 

And that was how Todoroki found himself putting on his nightwear inside the bathroom after taking a warm bath. He pressed his towel to his face, he took a big breath and stood straight. He walked out of the bathroom and then directed his steps to the living room where he could hear voices.

 

“Do you think this is enough?” Kodai asked Shinsou as she threw another pillow to the pile on the floor.

 

“I brought the sleeping bags!” Awase announced, as he dragged two sleeping bags down the stairs.

 

Todoroki stared at the living room floor, blankets, pillows, cushions and now sleeping bags were placed down to make a makeshift sleeping area.

 

Todoroki glanced at Shinsou who quirked his lips in a half smile. “We have a long night before us.”

 

Todoroki blinked, feeling curious as to what he meant.

 

“I found it!” came Midoriya’s gleeful voice from the second floor. He raced down the stairs, holding a small colorful square package.

 

“We’re gonna have a UNO tournament, Todoroki-kun!” He smiled like the sun, and then took Todoroki’s hand and prompted him to sit on the floor. He took one pillow and set it on his lap and then gave him the package to inspect. They were colored cards with numbers and symbols with the word UNO at the back of it. Kodai joined them, sitting beside Midoriya.

 

“Wasn’t the hair dryer in the bathroom?” Awase asked, a tone of mild alarm in his voice. “Let me get it for you.” Todoroki realized he was talking to him.

 

“No. Thanks.” He said, turning to Awase. “It’s fine, really. It’ll dry on its own.” He had never really bothered about his hair – his mother was the one who did it. And since they weren’t going to go bed any time soon it shouldn’t be a problem.

 

“You’re gonna catch a cold.” Awase said concerned.

 

Todoroki was about to assure him that that wasn’t the case when he felt two presences getting closer to him.

 

“Are you going to sneeze fire if you catch a cold?” Midoriya asked, leaning in.

 

Kodai also leaned in. “Does your hair caught on fire when you sneeze?”

 

“What about your ice side?” Midoriya asked, “What happens?”

 

“Shards of ice shoot out while surrounded by flames?” Kodai theorized.

 

“Wouldn’t that melt the ice?”

 

“Mm. You’re right.”

 

“Does that mean it becomes water or steam?”

 

“Does that make it a hidden ability?”

 

“Hey, you two. Let him breathe first.” Shinsou said, a hint of exasperation in his tone.

 

“Ah.” Kodai and Midoriya exclaimed at the same time, they seemed to caught themselves, as if they hadn’t noticed how they were acting. They pulled back, looking apologetic.

 

“Please, you have to excuse them.” Shinsou said, “They like you to the point where they are forgetting themselves in their frenzy. Be careful, Todoroki, or some day they are going to kiss you out of nowhere just to see how the temperature of your chin actually feels.”

 

At that comment, Midoriya and Kodai’s faces exploded crimson red.

 

“You ass!” Kodai said mortified, leaping to her feet and chasing Shinsou out of the living room while throwing a pillow as a projectile with perfect accuracy, Shinsou protested while getting away – clearly amused – You know I’m right!

 

Midoriya just gripped the pillow he had on his lap, face still red, muttering softly, “Well, yeah, we like him a lot, we all do, I mean, Todoroki is nice so of course—”

 

Now it was Todoroki’s turn to turn same color as one side of his hair. He understood, there were times where the two smallest of the group ran with a type of high energy, they tended to raze over whatever was in their path to get to where they wanted to be. He also knew they were curious about him. He felt it was flattering in all honesty. And he would be lying if he said he didn’t like the attention but he had yet to master the same techniques and buffers Shinsou and Awase seemed to have when dealing with Midoriya or Kodai.

 

“Sorry, Todoroki-kun.” Midoriya’s voice was soft and he looked shy, “We’ll try not to bother you so much.”

 

Todoroki didn’t know when but he had also grabbed a pillow from the pile on the floor, he mirrored Midoriya, he said softly, “I don’t mind.”

 

He was sure he was blushing again but Midoriya’s answering bright smile was worth the effort.

 

break

 

While the rules of the game seemed fairly simple when Midoriya explained them to him. He must have missed something because the only person who looked relaxed was Midoriya as he dealt the cards. They were in a circle, Midoriya was on his right while Shinsou was on his left. Kodai was beside Midoriya and Awase was between Shinsou and her. Their faces were serious, their expressions grave. They hadn’t uttered a word after Midoriya began to shuffle the cards.

 

“Don’t worry, Todoroki-kun.” Midoriya said brightly, “I’ll protect you from these savages.”

 

It was just a game right?

 

Todoroki could only nod in answer, confused as to what was going on and what he had actually signed up for.

 

break

 

Shinsou was idly flickering the corner of one of his cards, lazily watching the pile of cards before him.

 

“Are you going to make your move any time soon, Hi-kun?” Kodai asked, mildly irritated. “It’s been two minutes already.”

 

“Oh? Are you counting?” Shinsou faked his surprise, smiling slowly.

 

“I had to. You’re taking too long.” Kodai said. “And stop doing that, if I see you’re marking that card I’m taking it out of the pile.”

 

“You wound me, Yui.” Shinsou said deadpan, “I would never do such a thing. Here. My move.”

 

He threw a red skip. Awase looked back and forth between Shinsou and Kodai, he groaned. Kodai narrowed her eyes.

 

“You better have a red card.” Shinsou said.

 

Kodai began to draw from the untouched deck.

 

“Uh-oh, too bad.” Shinsou didn’t look sorry at all.

 

Todoroki shifted when he noticed Kodai's darkening expression.

 

break

 

Midoriya threw a red reverse card.

 

Kodai smiled delightedly.

 

“Do you remember when you did this to me?” Kodai asked, placing a red skip on the pile. Awase facepalmed.

 

Shinsou’s face soured.

 

“I remember.” He said, taking ahold of his expression as he began to draw from the deck.

 

His hand doubled in size after that.

 

break

 

“Izuku, let’s play tennis.” Shinsou said, drawing a green reverse.

 

Todoroki placed a green three.

 

“M’kay.” Midoriya said, placing another green reverse.

 

Todoroki placed a green seven.

 

“This is fun.” Shinsou said, placing yet another green reverse.

 

Todoroki placed a green six.

 

Midoriya smiled as he placed a blue six.

 

Todoroki frowned. How did they know he didn’t have special cards that could have disrupted the flow of their strategy? Were they counting cards? By the dark look Kodai was sending Awase and his resigned face it seemed likely. But how? The cards were impeccable. They didn’t seem to be marked in any way. How? And how was Midoriya doing the same? They weren’t sending signals to each other for what he knew.

 

It was impossible.

 

break

 

“Come on, Izu, ditch Shi. We can end this game and play something else! He doesn’t deserve your alliance! Don’t play to his tune!”

 

Todoroki looked with interest at the drama displayed before him – silence has been cast aside, the untold rules added to the game had changed. Todoroki knew this was going to be the beginning of the end.

 

“Oh? Trying to steal my best player?” Shinsou said, deceptively calm. “You’re gonna regret that move.” He threw a blue reverse.

 

“Listen, Izuku and Todoroki. I’ll take us to victory.”

 

Todoroki wasn’t sure when he became part of Shinsou’s group but since he was between them he guessed it was fair.

 

“Todoroki when you get a plus 4 use it. And make it yellow.”

 

Awase gasped and Kodai glared at Shinsou.

 

Somehow, Awase ended up with twelve cards before he could win.

 

break

 

“To unleash the plus 4 during the final wave of a UNO battle is to truly risk a friendship, Todoroki.” Kodai said darkly, the cat stamps on her pajamas looked ominous all of a sudden. “Don’t do it.”

 

Todoroki froze, hand already ready to draw said card.

 

“Wow, that’s a new low.” Shinsou said, raising a brow. “Don’t worry Todoroki, Izuku and I have your back.”

 

Todoroki looked at Midoriya for confirmation – he smiled sunnily. “It’s alright!”

 

Todoroki threw the card. What happened next was quick and somehow incredibly painful. Midoriya threw another plus 4. Kodai ended up with eight cards. Awase threw a blue nine.

 

“UNO.” Shinsou said, throwing a blue eight. “There you go.”

 

Kodai was silent. Todoroki threw a blue seven.

 

“Are you angry, Yui?” Shinsou asked.

 

Kodai remained silent as Midoriya threw a blue two.

 

“Are you angry at me, Yui?”

 

“No. I’m not. Because I have this!” She placed a Wild card on the piling deck, “You better have a red card, you panda-eyed jerk!”

 

Shinsou stared at Kodai for a moment, waiting for Awase to place his red eight, and then placed a red three on the pile, saying calming, “I won.”

 

The noise Kodai made afterward will be forever seared into Todoroki’s subconscious.

 

break

 

“Well, that went better than expected.” Midoriya said to him, leaning on the couch behind them and stretching his arms until his back popped.

 

Kodai laid on the ground, muttering plans of revenge. Her back to them. “I’m gonna PK Hi-kun when we get to teach Todoroki PC games. I’m gonna enjoy it when I get him fragged—”

 

Midoriya laughed beside him, “Hitocchi is gonna get murked so hard.”

 

Todoroki didn’t quite understand what they meant but he wholeheartedly agreed with that assessment.

 

break 

 

The screen was playing a black and white German horror movie. It was called Nosferatu. Todoroki had never heard of that movie before. It was strange and clearly old. Very old. But it was strangely appealing in a way that made him want to keep watching. He felt at ease, Kodai and Shinsou had made up – Shinsou had come back and given Kodai a CD. She looked at the CD and then at Shinsou and huffed, looking away but she clearly looked pleased.

 

Shinsou, for his part, snorted at her behavior, bent over and kissed her cheek. She leaned into the gesture, giving him a kiss of her own when he pulled away. At that moment, Todoroki remembered they grew up outside Japan. While he wondered if that kind of conduct was normal for them, Shinsou announced they were going to have a movie marathon.

 

With an assortment of candies and other junk food they turned off the lights as the movie began to play on the hologram on the wall.

 

The time passed. The evil creature was being defeated by good. It vanished as the sun rose on the window. A new day. Peace. Hope.

 

“Do you think evil meant the same for the people of the past as it does to us nowadays?” Shinsou asked him quietly while Midoriya stood from his spot beside him to cover Awase with a blanket, he had fallen asleep – Did you know he doesn’t believe he snores? Kodai asked Midoriya. You are the same, you know? Lies! I don’t snore! Sure, Yukkun. Sure.

 

“What do you mean?” Todoroki asked turning his head to look at Shinsou who had his eyes trained on the hologram queuing the next movie.

 

“Do you think they also thought the word ‘evil’ meant more than just monsters under the bed? Like the one we saw in the movie.”

 

Todoroki began to think quietly to himself. It was a hard question to ask – he could see it from different angles and try to answer to the best of his abilities, try to compare what he knows in the present about the meaning of ‘evil’ with what he knows from the past, but that meant he already knew how people really thought back them and that was tricky. Because, how could he say he knew how someone else truly thought?

 

Case point, when he was younger and his father wasn’t more than just giant who lived with his mother and his siblings, Todoroki thought he knew what he thought – and felt – but as soon as his quirk came to be that notion was banished from his reality. Shinsou leaned back on the stack of pillows behind him as he looked up at the pictures moving on the wall. Todoroki did the same.

 

“Do you think they intended for him to be evil because of his actions or merely because of his appearance?”

 

Todoroki replied softly, seeing as the new movie continued on its own while they talked. “Isn’t a blend of the two?”

 

“Do you think they ever thought that there could a separation and a difference from the two?”

 

“I don’t know.” Todoroki answered truthfully.

 

They stopped talking as the movie progressed. It was the story of a child-murderer who couldn’t be caught by the police – in an effort, criminals also decided to join the manhunt for his head.

 

“Scientifically, evil can’t be defined, you know? It’s something that doesn’t exist in nature. It can only be found in religion, legends, and culture. Evil is a concept humans made up—fruit born of human illusions.”

 

A noise caught their attention, Kodai was sprawled on her back, her soft snores beginning to echo in the room. Midoriya stood from his spot beside Shinsou again, rubbing his eyes – he looked like he was fighting sleep. Nonetheless, he went to her side and covered her with a thick warm-looking blanket. She immediately curled up, sighing contently.

 

Midoriya stumbled back to Shinsou’s side. Shinsou wrapped an arm around him, Midoriya protested saying that he wanted to stay awake with them but soon after his breathing evened out. The movie still played on the wall.

 

“Before,” Todoroki said softly, trying not to stir the people asleep. “What you said. Do you mean—do you think evil is an illusion?”

 

“No. I don’t think so.” Shinsou paused, turning his tired indigo eyes to Todoroki. “Evil is real. It lives in people.” He touched his chest, above where Midoriya had gripped his shirt in his hand – Todoroki recalled watching a long diagonal scar across his chest at the Sports Festival.

 

“I think evil is something people do because they want to do it.” Shinsou smiled a humorless tired smile. “No matter how irrational it is.”

 

 

break

 

After Saturday’s night, their sleep schedule was, as expected, disrupted. The only one who didn’t seem affected by it was Shinsou. Despite the heaviness Todoroki felt at waking up due to little sleep time he had, he felt oddly dégagé. The nagging feeling he usually had at his home – what to do, what was done, what was expected, what had failed – was oddly absent. He wasn’t questioning his actions. He felt liberated, somehow.

 

Todoroki felt Sunday fly by. They cooked together, played together, and somehow ended up advancing the construction of the pond on the front yard – even if the debate of whether they should add live fish to the pond or not ended up inconclusive in the end. Todoroki could have voted but he felt that he wasn’t ready to cast his opinion on the fate of a living being, even if it was only a fish.

 

Monday morning was still a day of adaptation for Todoroki. He was used to taking the train from his house to U.A.. His days of being driven by a chauffeur when he was little in elementary school were over. But by the waiting black – clearly armored, maybe even quirk proofed – SUV, his friends were still driven to school unlike him. Two towering men in black suits were waiting by the front entrance.

 

Shinsou yawned loudly, pulling him out of his reverie. “C’mon, let’s go.”

 

Todoroki followed him. Shinsou gave a curt greeting and the men nodded sharply. They climbed into the car and sat in the back row waiting for the others. Awase climbed next, fixing his headband. A few minutes after, the clear sound of a door being slammed and the running steps of two people signaled the arrival of Midoriya and Kodai.

 

“First!” They said at the same time as they clambered into the car.

 

“I was first!”

 

“Nuh-huh, my foot was inside first!”

 

“Lies!”

 

“Alright, break it up. You both are always barely on time. There’s no need to know who was the fastest to be barely on time.” Awase said, pushing them apart and making them sit at each side of him.

 

Midoriya and Kodai stuck their tongue at each other. Todoroki thought their synchrony was charming.

 

“Seatbelts.” The driver said, it was a woman with silver hair and pink eyes, she stared at them with a no-nonsense look through the rear view mirror. The five passengers did as told.

 

The ride to U.A. was uneventful, even if Todoroki noticed another SUV leading them and two motorcycles trailing behind them, which wasn’t as strange as it was peculiar because he coined it to be something else that happened around his friends’ daily life and left it at that.

 

Midoriya had tried to talk to Shinsou and Todoroki on the back row at some point but with a quick reprimand from their driver he gave up. He sulked on his seat for the remainder of the ride. Beside Todoroki, Shinsou rummaged inside his bag, he leaned forward and poked Midoriya’s cheek with his closed fist. When emerald eyes turned around with a questioning frown, Shinsou opened his palm showing him a big round colorful caramel.

 

With bright eyes, Midoriya smiled, taking the candy and noisily opening up. The driver gave him a sharp look, he merely kept on smiling as he savored the candy in his mouth.

 

Soon after they reached U.A.’s back doors – Todoroki had never seen the protocol for the inspection of cars but as he expected it was more throughout than the simple identification tags the main gate required. The car went through a tunnel with a huge scanner. St the end of it a sentry post stood asking for identifications. Their driver flashed her ID while one of the windows was opened for a robot to make a face scan of everybody inside.

 

Once it was done they got out of the car and made their way inside the main building hallways. Todoroki was a little disoriented as to where he needed to go.

 

“Just climb those stairs to the second floor.” Shinsou said, picking up on his predicament. “Turn left on your first turn follow the hallway until you get to the start of another hallway, follow it and you’ll be able see where you need to go to get to your class.”

 

Todoroki nodded. “Thanks.”

 

“No problem. We’ll try to get these two to be on time tomorrow.” Shinsou karate chopped gently Midoriya and Kodai’s head. “Sorry you’re gonna cut it close for the start of homeroom.”

 

“It’s alright.” Todoroki said.

 

“We’ll see you at lunch?” Midoriya asked, capturing Shinsou’s hand on his head.

 

“Yeah.” Todoroki nodded.

 

Midoriya smiled. “Okay, see you later!” He began pulling Shinsou along.

 

As they left, and as they waved their goodbyes, Todoroki heard Kodai ask Shinsou for candy. Shinsou answered that he didn’t have any for her.

 

“Typical. What was I thinking?” She said, not sounding upset but rather detached and accepting. “Hi-kun only thinks about Izukkun.”

 

Awase huffed a little, “Don’t be envious, Yui.”

 

“What? No, I’m not. It’s datum.” Kodai continued, voice getting faint as they moved away. “Hi-kun can’t live without Izukkun by his side. So it’s obvious why he won’t care about anybody else, right?”

 

Todoroki couldn’t hear Shinsou’s answer.

 

break 

 

Lunch was uneventful, they ate and talked. Nothing seemed out of place. Todoroki saw them as they were, close to each other, friends, classmates and maybe something more. They were defined by those denominators in his eyes. And yet, finally, Todoroki realized something. What did he know about them? He knew them now, they were wonderful people. They shined like the sun and were gentle like a passing breeze. But he remembered Midoriya’s words at the end of their fight, telling him they could understand him a little even if their pain hadn’t come from the same place.

 

When Todoroki’s school-day ended and looked for them to go back, he saw them – Shinsou was staring at Midoriya while the latter seemed to be lost in another world, far away from reality. Kodai watched their interactions with a blank face while Awase gazed at the three with a wistful expression.

 

It was at that moment where Todoroki finally began to wonder about what was behind their smiles.

 

Midoriya was the first to notice him. His eyes were bright again, and he smiled wide at him. It was a ripple effect, Shinsou, Kodai and Awase noticed him too. And they were back to how Todoroki knew they were. Todoroki didn’t know what was wrong – if there was something wrong to begin with. He only knew that something was there that maybe shouldn’t be. He didn’t question his gut instinct, he just knew he had the overwhelming urge to help. To help them. To reach out. To do something. Like they did to him.

 

A box was trusted into Midoriya’s hands when they reached the parking lot.

 

“Package.” The same woman who drove them in the morning said. “Midoriya-sama said to mend it as soon as possible.”

 

“Oh.” Midoriya said, looking down at the small box. “Okay.”

 

Something shifted in the air – quick emotions passed in his friends’ faces but too quick and too sparse to pin down. They flickered in and out of existence like shadows of butterflies’ wings.

 

Midoriya spoke softly when they were inside the silent car, as the sun began to set on the horizon.

 

“Is he coming back?”

 

“Midoriya-sama still has matters to settle. However, Oguro-sama will come in three days time to resume your training.”

 

“Oh.”

 

The ride back was charged with oppressive quietness.

 

Midoriya stared at his unopened package, with his lips pursed. Shinsou, despite focusing his gaze on Midoriya, didn’t say anything. Kodai fidgeted in her seat, she opened her mouth several times but in the end she said nothing. Awase looked outside the window through the whole ride until they reached their house.

 

Once inside, an unspoken agreement was made. Awase and Kodai went to prepare dinner. Shinsou went to the second floor without saying anything.

 

“Todoroki-kun, would you mind coming with me to the backyard?” Midoriya asked, a sad little smile on his face. Todoroki followed him outside wordlessly.

 

The sunset dyed the sky orange gold. They sat on the outdoor chairs, facing the line of trees beyond the wall surrounding the house.

 

Midoriya took a deep breath, “I’m sorry. We were—are freaking you out, aren’t we?”

 

Todoroki considered what he said, he shook his head. “No. You’re not. That’s not it. I’m—” he paused, choosing his words was difficult. Should he plunge in and ask what he wanted to ask? Did he have the right? Would he be crossing an untold boundary? Should he say anything at all? He breathed in, staring straight at Midoriya, “—I’m just concerned about you.”

 

It seemed like a glass had shattered before them and they were skirting around the broken pieces.

 

“What a sorry excuse for friends we are.” Midoriya looked away. He looked upset. “This was supposed to be your break from your father before he returns. I’m sorry I’m ruining it.”

 

“You haven’t ruined anything.” Todoroki said, clenching his fists. “Yesterday. Today. All the texts. Our lunches. And the ice-cream that day.” Todoroki recalled the latter with infinite fondness. “Everything you guys have done for me—it has been wonderful. I don’t have anything to complain about. I just—I want to know if you guys are okay.” He licked his lips, saying in a rush. “I just want to help.”

 

Todoroki felt bared, vulnerable in a way he hadn’t experienced before – offering a piece of his heart was terrifying.

 

“You’re going to be a great hero someday.” Midoriya said suddenly, Todoroki saw his new smile, it was still small but less sad. “You’re a good person, Todoroki-kun.”

 

Todoroki felt himself redden slightly, he felt embarrassed but also pleased but he didn't focus of it because there was more pressing matters that required his attention. “It’s not a big deal.”

 

Midoriya hummed a little, “You’ll be surprised to know how much that’s not the case.”

 

He leaned on his chair, looking up to the sky where some crows were flying away in the distance. “I guess I should start by telling you how I was born and how we grew up.”

 

Midoriya breathed out, with that breath and the next he looked older somehow, as if twenty years had caught up to him in an instant.

 

“I was made in a test tube. My life and the life of my brothers were merely an inevitable secondary result in the pursuit of some people's goals. You see, my quirk, it’s a finicky thing. It can only work in a certain way with certain people. I was assembled for my quirk from the ground up to accommodate for it.” Midoriya looked at his hands, the tip of his fingertips were blackening, expanding and eating up his skin; the diamonds on his arms lost their forms, becoming wavering shadows.

 

“The project working on my birth had been going on for years—a hundred of years or so. It sounds ridiculous, don’t you think? I was the last attempt to make the quirk work. And they succeeded. I’m not perfect, far from that, but I’m able to control it to an extend.” He reached for the box he was given at school, opening up to see a soft looking plush toy. “I need a—a gauge of sorts to know when I’m reaching my limit so I don’t hurt people, you know? Hisashi calls it a Charm.”

 

Shinsou appeared at the doorway, holding a big medical kit. He opened the container, pulling out a syringe and a small bottle filled with a colorless liquid. He knelt beside Midoriya, preparing the injection and cleaning Midoriya’s arm with an alcohol soaked cotton ball, he did it with the ease of someone used to the task. Midoriya didn’t flinch as the needle pierced his skin or when the oily looking substance entered his bloodstream. Shinsou went back inside to put the medical kit away.

 

“Our birthplace doubled as a training facility of sorts. Hitoshi, Yousetsu, Yui and I were raised with the idea that we’d be soldiers. As you can see we got away from that place but I guess we are—we haven’t really forgotten some things…”

 

Todoroki wasn’t sure if he should say something. He wanted to say something but he felt that his words became ash.

 

Shinsou came back with a smaller first aid kit. He was holding a elastic band, he proceeded wrapping it as a tourniquet around Midoriya’s right arm before sterilizing a section of his skin, he took out a butterfly IV cannula out of the kit, he punctured Midoriya’s skin until he got a back flow. Efficiently, he secured the puncture and the cannula with medical tape. His last step was to connect the catheter to the hub of a new syringe as an opening. Slowly, blood began to run inside the transparent plastic tube, through the opening until it flowed out drop by drop. Midoriya took it and let it drip on top of the plush toy he was holding on his other hand.

 

The shadows on his hands, began to stir, they pulled out, much like Tokoyami’s Dark Shadow did. But, Midoriya’s shadows were different. Instead of the misty texture Dark Shadow had, Midoriya’s shadows were like molten lava. The shadows crawled over the toy reaching the blood staining its fur. It ate everything, the blood and the plush, it expanded as more blood fell. Midoriya’s eyes were intent on his task – the sclera of his eyes had turned black.

 

Shinsou waited silently by his side.

 

Todoroki had many things to think about. He had many questions in the back of his mind. He was afraid of hurting his friends by asking those questions. In that moment he felt unsure of many things, but there was something he was sure he wasn’t going to regret asking.

 

“Is Midoriya going to be okay?”

 

Shinsou turned his gaze to him – there was a moment were his face was open, surprised, joined with another emotion Todoroki couldn’t quite understand. He gave his usual half smile.

 

“It’s alright.” He said gently.

 

Todoroki nodded.

 

“Hey, Todoroki-kun?” Todoroki was a bit startled by Midoriya’s voice, for some reason he didn’t expect him to answer in the current situation. His green eyes were still trained on the toy and his shadows.

 

“Yes?” Todoroki asked.

 

“Can I call you Kii-chan?”

 

Todoroki had been allowed to glimpse a bit of their past – Todoroki finally saw the looming darkness perched on his friends’ shoulders. Todoroki was sure their conversation only brushed the surface of the whole story. But, he had been given trust, not only Midoriya but Shinsou too and surely Awase and Yui – they had faith in his person. He was allowed in their home and in their lives. He was a friend. He was their friend. It warmed his heart – it was painful. It made him want to cry.

 

“Yes, I’d like that.” Todoroki answered softly.

 

Midoriya’s eyes were still on the toy but he was smiling, bright like the sun.

 

break

 

Midoriya was slammed down on the mat. Todoroki saw how the impact knocked the air out of him. The man he was sparring with was three times bigger than him. The man just stared passively without a follow-up attack. He didn’t say anything, he just silently waited for Midoriya to stand up again. Midoriya did so without complains. He was breathing heavily and he looked pale. Todoroki suppressed the need to move, what he was doing was reminiscent of his past, where he sat in seiza when Touya trained with Endeavor.

 

But, while that time he was forced to watch the training out of fear – Learn from his mistakes, Shouto – this time was different. Midoriya and the others had asked him if he wanted to watch them train – We don’t want to leave you alone again! How much do you wanna bet Mei-san hits on him? Do you think Iwao-sensei is going to ask him to participate? I don’t know if that’s a good idea, I mean, he should just watch, our sessions tend to be a bit… intense.

 

The word intense couldn’t convey entirely what the four gen students did when they reached the training grounds that were located behind their house. The training they did was not only severe but downright spartan. It was the second time Todoroki watched them train and he could conclude that it was entirely different from Endeavor’s training.

 

While Endeavor focused in defense and attacks aimed to disarm potential villains without causing major injuries and the heavy use of his quirk, what Midoriya and the others practiced and were taught was the opposite. They fought with the aim to incapacitate their opponent with deathly force. Their trainers didn't say it outright, but Todoroki could see it. They were being trained to kill.

 

What they did at the Sports Festival paled in comparison to what they could really do.

 

They were not holding back anymore – the ones who were holding back were their trainers. Not in the sense of letting them win without testing their abilities, but in the way that they weren’t exerting the final blow when Midoriya or the others did a mistake. Even so, Todoroki could see it, their trainers were worlds apart in experience. They were adults but Todoroki knew that it wasn’t just that. There was something else but he couldn’t put his finger on to what.

 

“All right,” Oguro Iwao clapped his hands, “change of pace. It’s time to use your weapons. All of you change into your gear. We’ll be done for the week after the last fight.”

 

Silently, all the presents did as told.

 

Todoroki watched with interest as Midoriya helped put the armor on Shinsou and the others while his own armor slowly materialized on his body. Oguro made his way where Todoroki was quietly sitting. He sat down beside Todoroki, pulled out a cigarette and lit it up, after taking a drag he yelled his instructions.

 

“Fifteen minutes spar. Until you win or you consider yourself unable to continue. Free for all.”

 

There were murmurs before him and Todoroki saw how instantly his friends began to form a group. It slowly dawned on him what the rules implied – Don’t let your opponent win. Defend.

 

“Now the mayhem begins.” Oguro said, laughing.

 

For the little time Todoroki had known Oguro Iwao, he could conclude only two things: he was a massive man and had a strange sense of humor. The first time Todoroki met him, it was Wednesday, his fourth day at the sleepover while he was still adjusting at the controlled chaos that living with the four gen students entailed. He was doing his homework with Shinsou while Midoriya slept on the sofa. Kodai was playing games in her room. And Awase was cooking since it was his turn for the day.

 

The front door opened and closed loudly.

 

“What’s for dinner?” A bear of a man asked as he took off his jacket.

 

“You’re not even going to pretend you have manners? You know we have a guest.” Shinsou deadpanned. “Also, don’t raise your voice. Izuku is sleeping.”

 

“I just came back from overseas, my manners are the least of my concerns.” He finally noticed Todoroki. “Ah, the duffel bag boy.”

 

Shinsou sighed, “His name is Todoroki Shouto. Todoroki, this is our teacher, bodyguard, part-time vigilante and unofficial uncle, Oguro Iwao.”

 

“Hi there candy cane, welcome to the fold.” He grinned brightly, the scar on his face scrunching up.

 

“Don’t mind him too much.” Shinsou said, returning to his homework.

 

The sound of metal grinding together brought him back to the present. Before him, Awase was covering for Kodai while brandishing a Uchigatana and pushing back their opponent. Todoroki could see Midoriya and Shinsou defending themselves from the onslaught as well. They were back to back, parrying attacks and covering their blind spots. Todoroki fidgeted. There was something disconcerting on watching them wield weapons – Shinsou using a rapier and a dagger, Awase with his long katana and Kodai with her spear. Midoriya’s whole armor was a weapon in itself at the moment, it form completely different from the one he used at the Sports Festival, his tail was meant to be all offensive armaments in one.

 

“Would you like to try it yourself next weekend?” Oguro asked, eyeing Todoroki thoughtfully.

 

Todoroki blinked. “I don’t know how to use weapons.”

 

Oguro shrugged unconcerned, “I won’t put you up to that part then. Besides, for what I remember of the Sports Festival you actually held your own against Hitoshi without your quirk.”

 

Barely. Todoroki wanted to say, he asked something else instead. “Do you always make them train without their quirks?”

 

Oguro leaned back, supporting his weight on his hands. “There isn’t much we can do about that. You kids are the only ones with quirks around here.”

 

Todoroki's mind came to a screeching halt. What did that mean?

 

Quirkless? Every adult? Everybody besides them didn't have a quirk?

 

Todoroki wasn’t sure what kind of face he was making but Oguro laughed loudly and Todoroki scrambled to say an apology.

 

“Take it easy kid. I’m not offended.” Oguro waved his off. “Besides, Haru-chan is the one in charge of helping them with their quirks.”

 

“Haru-chan?”

 

“Ah, right. That’s Ectoplasm-sensei for you.” Oguro said with a laugh, “He’s the one in charge to guide them to a better understanding of their quirks, morals and all that shit.”

 

Todoroki nodded, not sure if he needed to add something else to the conversation. Still feeling a bit bad for his previous reaction when he learned twenty or so adults in the facility were quirkless.

 

“My job is to teach them how to survive in a fight.” Oguro said.

 

Todoroki thought he was training them for a war but he remained quiet with that thought. Although, there was something else nagging at him.

 

“Are you guys part of some kind of Special Forces Unit for the government or something?” Todoroki plowed with his question in a breath.

 

Oguro stared at him and for a moment Todoroki thought he overstepped but then he barked a laugh as if he didn’t expect Todoroki to ask that. “You could say that in a sense, we are.

 

Todoroki turned again to the fight before him as he heard a deafening sound of metal clashing. In an instant, a swords were throw in the air. Kodai was pinned to the ground, her staff broken in half. Awase was in a similar position, a blade poised inches from his throat. Shinsou was still struggling in vain as he was captured in a choke hold while he watched Midoriya being pinned to the ground by several long spears piercing his armor.

 

Oguro stood up. “Alright, wrap it up guys!”

 

They broke apart, freeing Midoriya and the rest. Slowly, the armor surrounding them began to unravel into black particles – dark snowflakes. They were breathing hard, sweating and clearly tired. Todoroki was grateful it was Saturday and they didn’t have school next day. They stood in shaky legs, Todoroki saw them amble towards them. Todoroki was about to stand when Kodai yelled him to stop. He complied. Before he knew it, Kodai and Midoriya crashed into him, knocking him flat on his back. His protest died in his throat when he felt their hands roam over his side.

 

“Seriously? Izu! Yui!” Awase looked too tired to save him. “At least ask him first!”

 

“Please.” Kodai and Midoriya said as one.

 

Todoroki threw Shinsou a bewildered look as he felt his two tiny friends begin to rub against his side like cats.

 

“Ice.” Shinsou said simply, sipping from a bottle of water.

 

Immediately, Todoroki released his powers and then attempted – and failed – to move to a respectable distance from them.

 

They sighed in contentment, blissfully unaware of his predicament.

 

He felt an overheated nose brush gently against his neck – Todoroki’s left side burst into flames.

 

Shinsou and Awase emptied their bottles of water on him to quench his fire while Oguro doubled over with laughter.

 

break

 

Ectoplasm set an flash drive in front of Aizawa. Aizawa lifted his gaze, taking the small device in his hand. “What is this?”

 

“You’re interviewing them tomorrow, correct?” Ectoplasm asked, procuring two cans of coffee and setting them in front of them. “I think this will help you understand their actions a little better. I’m clearly biased in this matter, I won’t deny it—I still believe it would be better if they weren’t involved in a Hero’s path.” He paused contemplating, sitting across Aizawa while opening his drink. “However, I think… no matter the decision they take. They should have a say in the path they want to take. Our actions will bring a change to their lives. Much like their own actions seem to have reached one of your student’s life.”

 

Aizawa’s recalled a certain dual haired boy. “You’re talking about Todoroki.”

 

“Indeed.” Ectoplasm said. “They had a weeklong sleepover. They had also become friendly with some students from 1-B.” He sounded amused and fond.

 

Aizawa raised a brow. So that was the reason his student had two close calls at being marked late. They remained in a companionable moment, sipping their cans of coffee in relative calm. Beyond the doors of the teacher’s lounge, U.A.’s students were milling about the facilities, going to the cafeteria to get lunch. Some stayed in their classrooms, others traveled to join other buildings; in the eastern gardens under the compassionate shade of a blooming Sakura tree, five students idled about, unaware of their role in the discussion of their teachers. Pink petals dotted in red color fluttered in the wind, carried along to unknown destinations.

 

“Even if you’re biased.” Aizawa began to say, “You still hold insight into their lives. Would you mind share some information with me?”

 

“Sure.” Ectoplasm finished his drink. “I did it as a favor at first. An old friend of mine asked me to help him settle them into the country. Their guardian is a busy man and he required extra help.”

 

“Why ask you specifically?” Aizawa asked.

 

“He’s a very private individual. Wary of strangers and very protective of what he consider his own. He allowed me close to his wards only because I was recommended by a close aide of his.” Ectoplasm said, recalling with exasperated fondness the moment that started it all.

 

 

flashback

 

Haruto’s private line had rang and a cheerful voice greeted him as he picked the device, “Hey Haru-chan, how’s it going?”

 

“May I inquire what this call is about?”

 

“What, no hello back to your old pal?” Iwao laughed good-naturedly.

 

“I know you. You don’t do courtesy calls.”

 

Another laugh, this time a bit sheepish. “Okay, you got me there. I need your help.” His tone became serious. “There is nobody else I can ask about this matter.”

 

“What do you need?”

 

“You like kids, don’t you?”

 

Haruto paused.

 

“Excuse me?”

 

flashback

 

Iwao was directing him through the hallway to the courtyard of a traditional Japanese house. Iwao had commented that Midoriya had bought the house specifically for the kids learning. Haruto thought that was a bit excessive but to each their own, he supposed. As they reached the courtyard, they could hear voices talking.

 

“I don’t know if we should do this, Yu-chan...” A boy said nervously.

 

“I told you it’s fine!” A girl answered. “You worry too much! I want it gone!”

 

“You’re telling me to cut your hair!” The boy spoke again, clearly getting upset. “I’m not a barber! And your hair is so long and pretty! I just can’t! Let’s call Hi-chan and Zuzu for help.”

 

“Stop being a baby, Yo-chan! I’m fine with you cutting it so do it! If you don’t I’m gonna do it myself!”

 

“What is going on here?” Iwao made their presence known. “Yui, Yousetsu, care to explain?”

 

The boy’s gray eyes widened upon their arrival, he was holding a pair of scissors. Before him, the girl sat at a chair with a white blanket covering her small body, she glared at them.

 

“I’m cutting my hair.” She said, lifting her chin in the air defiantly, her cerulean eyes were piercing.

 

Iwao lifted his hands in a pacifying gesture, “Okay, okay, back up a little. First, why do you need to—”

 

“Are you telling me I can’t?” Her eyes narrowed even further.

 

“Hold on, I didn’t say that. Look, let’s talk this out, okay? Don’t you think you—”

 

She turned around snatching the scissors from the boy’s hand, she ripped the blanket off herself, took a handful of her locks, snip – Iwao sprinted to her side but before he could even reach her a chair was thrown in his path, making him face-plant into the ground. Haruto watched the chaos unfold in perplexity. Black luscious locks fell on the floor, the boy looked horrified at his actions Sorry! I’m sorry! You looked scary! I just—! You were—! he began to cry – the girl stood as tall as she could, chest heaving, angry tears unshed, she breathed through her nose, she spat her words sharply, “Don’t tell me what to do!”

 

flashback

 

“How the fuck did you manage to calm them down?” Iwao said, his expression a blend of confusion and reverence. “The only one who can do that is Hisashi and the fucker just left me to fend off by myself for the rest of the week.”

 

“One, language—children will imitate what they see. Second, don’t fret about it too much. Not everyone is born with common sense. Yours is specially stunted to be completely frank.” Haruto said dryly, taking note of what he needed to do next time he visited.

 

“Hey, that’s uncalled for.” Iwao said weakly.

 

“Remind me who was the 180 pounds grown man who charged like a mad bull towards two emotionally distressed eleven years old kids?”

 

Iwao had the decency to look contrite, “Fair enough, definitely not one of my best moments.”

 

Haruto hummed.

 

“Still, such a shame. Her hair was beautiful.” Iwao rubbed the back of his neck.

 

“Hair can grow back.” Haruto said, “Trust, on the other hand? That’s a tall challenge, sometimes insurmountable to achieve, to preserve. You need to learn how to communicate with them if you’re ever going to be more than a substitute caretaker.”

 

Iwao was silent. Haruto studied his friend’s face. After a moment he concluded that he would be fine. It was the face he made when he was a Pro-Hero.

 

“Now, where are the other two?” Haruto asked. “I need to meet them before leaving.”

 

Iwao sighed, “Probably in one of the rooms on the second floor.”

 

“Probably? ” Haruto narrowed his eyes. “They aren't in their rooms?”

 

By Iwao’s grimace, Haruto wasn’t going to like the answer to that. “They have their own rooms but they refuse to be separated so they wander around other places a lot. I caught them setting up camp in the courtyard once. It was pretty cute—”

 

Noticing Haruto’s glare Iwao backpedaled. “Not that I approve! It’s just, Hitoshi can be pretty convincing…”

 

Iwao cringed at Haruto’s icy stare. “You were clearly understating the help you need with your current assignment, Iwao.”

 

“That’s why I called you! You’re the hero we need!”

 

Haruto sighed through his nose. “Let’s look for them.”

 

The only reason Haruto was able to find them was because he stumbled upon a DIY bell alarm. It was simple, a fishing line secured by duct tape attached to several tiny bells to sound when disturbed. While there wasn’t a direct staircase to the unused space on the third floor there was a hidden ladder under a blanket. The roof’s beams hung low on top of each other in a complex puzzle, the house like many other traditional houses was supported by huge central pillars as none of the internal walls were supporting the house. The floor creaked under Haruto’s weight. He had to walk with his head bent, at the end of the empty space was a sliding window with view to the courtyard, under it, a boy with tired indigo eyes sat. He eyed Haruto’s advance silently.

 

“Hello.” Haruto said, “I’m Igarashi Haruto. Iwao should have told you I would be coming today.”

 

A gentle breeze came in through the window, his purple hair swayed along. “What do you want?”

 

“Introduce myself, mostly.” Haruto said, he sat down a respectable distance away from the boy. “We’ll be seeing each other for a while. I will be teaching you and your siblings—”

 

“No.” The boy said, eyes frown in place.

 

Haruto paused, when there wasn’t further elaboration on what he meant, he asked, “What do you mean?”

 

“We are not related. They are not my siblings.”

 

“But you grew up together. Blood relation isn’t necessary for familial ties.” Haruto pointed out.

 

The boy looked away from him, “Whatever.”

 

“If they aren’t your siblings. What are they to you?” Haruto asked softly.

 

“Doesn’t matter.” He answered, eyes narrowing much like Yui had done to Iwao before.

 

Haruto didn’t press. “Where’s Izuku?”

 

“Why do you need to know?”

 

“I want to greet him.”

 

“He’s not here.” He said, still glaring.

 

“Do you know where he is?”

 

“If he wanted to see you or talk to you he’ll be in front of you. But he isn’t. Why? Because he doesn’t want to see or talk to you. So there’s no point for you to stay.”

 

Back off.

 

The boy didn’t raise his voice but each word bled out the hostility he felt towards Haruto.

 

“Fair enough.” Haruto said simply. “I have overstayed my welcome.”

 

Haruto retreated, he knew how to pick his battles. He closed the door to the floor silently. He made his way down. He didn’t hear the appearance of a new voice on the floor as he left. A tiny green eyed boy climbed through the window, stumbling in his steps to Hitoshi’s side.

 

flashback

 

“All in all, that first meeting wasn’t as bad as it could have been.” Ectoplasm said, empty can of coffee in his hand. “At the time, they still had problem compartmentalizing certain emotions. While Yousetsu and Hitoshi could externalize their anger and fear, Yui and Izuku aimed it all inwards. It was a struggle to make them see emotions as something different from what they had been taught. While they know it now, and are more mature—they still feel relief from feelings of hopelessness when they exert violence—even if they know that relief is only temporary.”

 

Aizawa listened the story in silence. His own opinions dancing in his mind.

 

“Do you see why I’m hesitant on giving my approval to this venture? Why I’m so conflicted? They aren’t ready.”

 

“Nobody is ready for life, Igarashi-san.” Aizawa said, staring at Ectoplasm, calmly. “Thinking we are is self-indulgence.”

 

break

 

The teacher lounge had a side room where teachers could talk to students undisturbed. There was a soft knock on the door.

 

“Come in.” Aizawa said.

 

“Excuse me.” Awase said, opening and closing the door carefully behind him.

 

“Take a sit.” Aizawa said, motioning at the couch across him. “Tea?”

 

“Yes, please.” Awase said, he watched quietly as Aizawa poured two cups of green tea.

 

“Did Ectoplasm tell you why you were called?” Aizawa asked, leaning back on his seat.

 

Awase sipped his tea, he nodded. “Is it a normal occurrence to offer this to students from the gen department?”

 

“Not usually.” Aizawa said, “You and your friends displayed exceptional abilities in the Sports Festival. We currently have four spots available in my class. The principal and other teachers are interested in knowing if you four are willing to pursue a hero career.”

 

Awase finished his tea, “Are you interested in us too then?”

 

Aizawa paused, holding his stare. It was refreshing and a tad disconcerting on watching such seriousness in a kid. His class was full of vibrant individuals – almost childish in nature. He did have a couple of serious kids but there was something different reflected in their eyes and Awase’s. A whole different set of experiences and hurt.

 

“I am.” Aizawa said, “I want to know what you want and what you think of this offer. I will base my expectations from there.”

 

Awase seemed surprised by his response.

 

“I never thought about becoming a hero to be honest.” He said, gaze steady. “My plans for the future are just wistful thinking on my part. I know what I’m good at and I’m not sure I like it.”

 

“Can you elaborate?”

 

He made a humorless smile, “I’m a good fighter. I’m always told I have a knack for it. I’ve trained for years, we all have. But, you see, I don’t particularly like it. It’s fun sometimes but I don’t see the appeal others see in it. Yui and Izuku do. Maybe they will be more enthusiastic about this offer but I don’t really…care? I’m sorry.”

 

“It’s fine.” Aizawa said, “What do you think about Heroes then?”

 

Awase replied promptly, “They are government employees with really bad health insurance. Though I guess if you’re popular enough insurance pays by itself in the long run.”

 

Aizawa blinked. “That's all what you think?”

 

“No, it isn't. But I have to be frank, I'm undecided on what to tell you.”

 

“You can just tell me your honest thoughts.” Aizawa said.

 

“I think...” He began, “This offer is more trouble than it's worth.”

 

break

 

A strong knocking alerted him of his next visit, Aizawa made them come in.

 

Unlike Awase, Kodai made her presence known, in the way she walked or in the way she held herself. She was the smallest of the group but she didn’t behave as such. Not one in the slightest.

 

“Tea?” Aizawa asked.

 

Kodai shook her head, “I’m good.”

 

“I’m sure you already know why I called you here.”

 

“Yes, I do.” She said, “And I’m curious… Who thought this was a good idea?”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“Mm, Hitoshi said that to be accepted in the hero course a background check is required and that means that you know about us. So, if you know, why are we coming here? It’s…irrational.”

 

“Why do you think so?”

 

“I don’t think we have the mindset you’re looking for.”

 

“I don’t know that. That’s why we are having this conversation.”

 

Kodai frowned, “Point taken. Not that it’ll change anything.”

 

“This mindset you mention, what is it?”

 

Kodai smoothed her features, “We are not nice or good. We are not selfless or dumb. We are not flashy or brawny. We were not raised to be heroes.”

 

Aizawa assessed Kodai with a look, “That’s a very black and white judgment of what a hero is. While is true a heroic attitude would be ideal for a hero to have. It is not necessary. I admit we are saturated by the image All Might has forged into hero society but it is not, by all means, the only example of what a hero should be. Besides, the selflessness portrayed to your generation is grossly misinterpreted.”

 

“Mm, so you don’t teach people to run into a blazing building on a regular basis?”

 

Aizawa raised a brow, “Tell me who is in the building, who is in our team, what quirks we have at hand and what situation is actually happening for us to risk going into a burning building. What I teach in the hero course is to use their heads to be heroes who come back alive from disasters. I do not teach heroes to be kamikazes.”

 

Bit by bit, Kodai eased her countenance. “Does that mean that, hypothetically, if I needed to break every bone in a villain’s body to get away safely, you wouldn’t be mad at me for it?”

 

“Don’t push it.” Aizawa said dryly.

 

Kodai laughed.

 

break

 

Aizawa stared as Shinsou sipped from a can named Brandy’s Sugary Murder.

 

“I hope that’s non-alcoholic.” Aizawa said deadpan.

 

“It is.” Shinsou said simply. “Murder’s pretty good. Though, I personally prefer to drink Scarlett’s Blood.”

 

Aizawa gave him a flat stare. “Shall we begin?”

 

“Sure.” Shinsou said, tone edging on sarcasm. “ Do tell me why we should join the heroes’ noble quest for greatness.”

 

“I told Awase and Kodai that this interview was to know you all. I don’t have preconceived notions about your character.”

 

“Oh, but you do. You might not want to, but in the end you do. You can’t deny it.” Shinsou said, tilting his head. “You’ve read our files. Broken little orphans, survivor victims with emotional and mental issues. Whether you have access to our therapy sessions or not doesn’t matter, you have a decade of hero work experience under your belt and you’re a teacher to boot—you’ve seen people like us. You’ve already assigned us labels. Let me guess what we could have, mm, Adjustment Disorder? P.T.S.D.? Survivor Guilt? Derealization? Schizoid personality disorder? I.E.D.? I could go on but I don't really want to spend more time than needed here.”

 

“You’re deflecting.”

 

“Am I?” Shinsou asked, feigning confusion.

 

“Let me rephrase that,” Aizawa said, “You are sabotaging this opportunity by antagonizing me. Why?”

 

Shinsou hummed, “You’re implying there was an opportunity from the beginning. There’s none. Not for me.”

 

They stared at each other for a moment. While Aizawa expected cynicism from this encounter, he didn’t expect Shinsou to wield it so bluntly. That gave him an idea.

 

“You are setting a precedent.” Aizawa hazarded. While he applauded Shinsou’s grip on his emotions, the lack of a reaction was a tell by itself. “Why go so far for him?”

 

A sliver of annoyance leaked into his response, “Why would I not?”

 

“If he’s chosen his answer you don’t need to accommodate to it too, do you?”

 

Irritation finally burner clear in his eyes, “You don’t get a say on what I do for Izuku, you know? You’re an outsider who read our story in a piece of paper—the rest of you just want to use us because it’s convenient. I certainly don’t plan to let Izuku in on this flimflam alone.”

 

“You’re reading our intentions wrong.”

 

“Oh? Am I, truly? Should I guess that Principal Nedzu has noble plans for us? Forgive me for taking that assessment with a grain of salt.”

 

Aizawa frowned and waited, this wasn’t going like he had expected.

 

“What would you do if Midoriya chose to give it a shot at becoming a hero?”

 

Shinsou narrowed his eyes, his eyes traveled back and forth between Aizawa’s left shoulder and his face. “I will follow him.”

 

It was the first honest response Shinsou had given him so far.

 

Aizawa could work with it. “But you don’t think he’ll accept.” And that was the reason he was undermining himself in their conversation.

 

“I know he won’t accept it.” Shinsou said.

 

There was something in his eyes which Aizawa read crystal clear. “You think he’s making a mistake.” And yet you don’t say anything about it.

 

Shinsou’s silence was telling.

 

Aizawa breathed out discreetly, “Doing the right thing—sometimes—requires hard choices. To bring a greater good for yourself and for others requires a choice that often leads to unethical actions against our core values.”

 

Shinsou remained in silence.

 

“Let me put it this way,” Aizawa said as gently as he could, “If you were in an impossible position where to save him the only choice was to hurt him momentarily, would you do it?”

 

Shinsou took a deep breath, exhaling shakily in the next moment. “You’re good.”

 

“I have a decade of hero work experience under my belt.” He said dryly. “And I am a teacher to boot.”

 

Shinsou huffed, mouth quirking up slightly.

 

break

 

The Midoriya he read in the medical papers, the brave one he saw at the Sports Festival, and the happy one he caught glimpses of walking with his friends through U.A.’s halls wasn’t present in the anxious bundle sitting in the left corner of the small couch.

 

“You don’t have to be nervous.” Aizawa said calmly, voice level. “Do you want something to drink?”

 

“No, thank you.” Midoriya said, playing with his plush toy’s paws. “I’m sorry.”

 

“Why are you apologizing?”

 

“I-I’m no good when I’m alone. And I probably made Hitocc—Hitoshi act rude towards you. I apologize.” He avoided Aizawa’s gaze. “I’m probably wasting your time anyways.”

 

“Let me remind you, that it is my decision whether this meeting is worth my time or not. I also doubt you'll force Shinsou do anything he wasn't already planning on doing.” As Midoriya apologized again, Aizawa sighed inwardly, he knew he was better equipped to deal with teenagers like Shinsou or Kodai but soft spoken, polite and well mannered kids usually had a sway with him that made him weak.

 

Mentally slapping himself Aizawa began the interview, “At first, I was strongly against offering you and your friends the free spots in my class.”

 

Midoriya’s emerald eyes finally lifted to stare back at Aizawa’s black ones.

 

“You are a wild card. You are different and don’t fit into the usual mold an aspiring hero usually comes or aims to be. However, suitability or not, there are some people who think you and your friends deserve an opportunity. And I agree too, everybody deserves a second chance.”

 

Aizawa waited for a reply for a while, when it was clear it wasn’t forthcoming he decided to prompt one. “What is a hero to you, Midoriya?”

 

Midoriya blinked, not expecting that question. He fidgeted for a moment before answering, “Someone who helps others.” He paused, worrying his lower lip with his teeth, “They don’t expect anything in return—living for others... At least, that’s what used to be the definition.”

 

“What about now? What are heroes now?”

 

“I don’t know.”

 

“Would you like to find out?” Aizawa asked, eyes stern. “Would you like a second chance?”

 

“I don’t deserve a second chance.”

 

“Why?”

 

“You’ve read my file.”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Then—”

 

“I want to know why you think you don’t deserve it even when your friends think otherwise.”

 

Midoriya fiddled with the ears of his plush toy, “I’m not a good person.”

 

“Debatable. Nobody is one hundred percent good or one hundred percent evil.” Aizawa shot down that kind of thinking swiftly.

 

Midoriya paused, uncomfortable at not getting the reaction he expected. It was clear to Aizawa these four kids needed exposure outside their comfort zone. Ectoplasm was correct about the assessment of their guardian being a little too overprotective.

 

“Look, I’m not forcing you or your friends to accept. Nobody is going to do that.” Aizawa began, “What I want is to know what you want. What you’ve said to me so far have sounded like excuses.” And fear.

 

Midoriya seemed to tense and shrink in his seat.

 

“I don’t need your answer right now. I have discussed this with Ectoplasm and we came to an agreement. I’ll hear you final answer after a field exercise with my class. This Friday, you and your friends will participate in my class’ rescue training at the USJ.”

 

Midoriya nodded, gathering his toy carefully in his arms, standing from his seat, understandably eager to join his friends who were surely waiting for him outside.

 

“By the way,” Aizawa said as an afterthought, “There’s no need for you to bring the equipment you usually carry with you.”

 

Midoriya looked alarmed at that. “Um, sensei, we—we aren’t allowed to be without it if we’re outside the main building.”

 

“You won’t be alone. You’ll be under supervision. Thirteen, All Might and I will oversee the exercise. We’ll keep you safe. You don’t have to worry.”

 

Midoriya’s brown was creased. He was clearly concerned. He opened his mouth to say something but then decided against it. He bowed respectfully towards Aizawa before closing the door behind him.

 

I needed over a year to make them trust me when they were little.

 

Aizawa sighed, sinking back into his seat.

 

I hope you fare better in less time.

 

break

 

Aizawa had the visit planned out – his students have been ecstatic when he announced that they would have guests for one of their classes. Not even Bakugou had raised complains. There had been a barrage of questions and excited chatter. Todoroki seemed specially thriller in his own quiet way – anyone could tell. Aizawa had assigned group leaders to lead the gen students in which they would hopefully feel at ease being part of – Yaoyorozu would lead Midoriya and Shinsou for the first part of the exercise while while Iida would take Awase and Kodai under his wing. From then on, things would flow naturally. Aizawa would show them how hero work helped people’s lives, its importance in society.

 

He would try to change their mind and give them a gentle push that could maybe change their lives in a positive way.

 

The bus ride had been normal by his class’ standards. Ashido, Kirishima and Asui had lead the twenty questions game. The gen students taking it surprisingly well. There was still nervousness around Midoriya but far less pronounced when being sandwiched between Shinsou and Todoroki’s calm demeanor. Kodai was as outspoken as Asui, and probably would be far harsher in her response if Awase wasn’t there to soften up the blow of her words. With everything considered, things were going smoothly.

 

All Might wasn’t at the site.

 

It was a bothersome hiccup in their schedule but it shouldn’t have ruined the day.

 

However, the villains did.

 

There were soft gasps coming from the gen students as their eyes were directed to the plaza beyond their position.

 

It was a testament on how they were trained that they didn’t waste time to ask what was happening but acted according to what they knew.

 

Aizawa wasn’t fast enough when one of the villains attacked.

 

Throughout that day, Aizawa was always late.

 

break

 

Shigaraki crossed Kurogiri’s portal, he looked around him, expecting to see All Might’s annoying smile. What greeted him were only two teachers and a bunch of wannabe heroes. But, among those kids he recognized four faces. A soothing sense of opportunity began warm his heart. He smiled as he saw their faces pale and twist in apprehension. They knew who he was and by the way they acted – hurrying to put on the gear the fake's quirk could make – they knew what he was planning to do.

 

His grin grew an inch.

 

“Take one out of those four.” Shigaraki said to Six, pointing to the four kids.

 

Six clicked his tongue but complied, throwing one of his Tanto knives towards the girl at the back in their little group while she still hadn’t acquired her headpiece. While Shigaraki expected Six’s speed to be enough to accomplish the job, Midoriya’s tail knocked the blade mid-air, ruining the opportunity of an easy kill. The Tanto knife clattered on the ground loudly.

 

“Did you know those little lambs are O’Clock’s protégés?” Shigaraki commented, holding back a laugh when he saw Six attitude change. “I wonder if he’s gonna make one of them his true successor?”

 

Shigaraki laughed then, seeing how Six’s eyes were screaming murder.

 

“Seriously, we came for All Might but it seems I’m gonna bring the heads of the cattle that got stolen to Sensei before killing the Symbol of Peace.” Shigaraki didn’t pay attention to the two pro Heroes trying to guide their students while they panicked.

 

“Hisashi-san has been naughty. He’s made Sensei very disappointed. Don’t you think is fair to get compensation for what he’s done? Kurogiri.”

 

Before anyone could do anything, the portal opened below the students – Eraserhead and Thirteen tried to intervene but Six and Kurogiri were faster. In seconds, the rest of the students were scattered in several locations in the USJ while the four lost lambs were deposited not so far away from Shigaraki.

 

They weren’t dumb, they stuck together since they believed they had security in numbers. Whether they knew how Kurogiri’s quirk worked was of little importance at that point. Shigaraki tilted his head to the side a little, addressing the four kids.

 

“Ready to play?”

 

“You’re outnumbered. What makes you think it’ll be easy to kill us?” The kid with the brainwashing quirk asked – obviously trying to use it on him. Cute.

 

Shigaraki laughed, grinning gleefully, he snapped his fingers in the air.

 

Several portals opened all around them, and not only there but also in several places in the entire facility. Villains began to come out – five to one.

 

If they looked scared before, it didn’t hold a candle to the terror displayed in their eyes now.

 

break

 

Six snickered, looking how the hero students were trying and failing to defend against the villains. He had made quick work of Thirteen with Kurogiri’s help. It was hilarious the faces that elicited from the kids when they saw his hurt teacher. He wasn’t interested in them though. He left the rest to Kurogiri while he went back to the plaza. There, already five grunts were down for the count, some limbs and blood were scattered at the little lambs’ feet. Six scoffed.

 

“Pathetic.” He said, using his quirk to kick one of the kids, breaking their obvious defensive formation.

 

“Yui!” They yelled.

 

Six moved away as a katana slashed where his head used to be. If he didn’t have his quirk, he would have probably been beheaded by now. He sauntered away, appearing before the girl as she scrambled away. His laughter cut short when she threw a set of blades his way. He had learned to always set his quirk in the back burner when fighting, just fast enough to read sudden body movements. Again, if he hadn’t had his quirk, he would have probably been impaled by the blades.

 

“Aren’t you heroes in training? That’s two times you guys could’ve killed me.” As he said it, the boy who had tried slice him in two attacked from behind.

 

“Yousetsu,” the girl said, joining the boy when Six moved out of the way. “He has an acceleration quirk. Probably something else too, otherwise he wouldn’t be overusing it.”

 

“Correct!” Six said, prancing around them. “Though those quirks can’t compare to O’Clock’s, you know? How’s he, by the way? It’s been a while since I last saw him.”

 

The two narrowed their eyes at him, “You lowly thief!” The girl said, anger pouring in waves.

 

“Hey, at least I’m a fan. You should be grateful a thinking being is using it not one of the Nomus.”

 

“Does the quirk disappear if you die?” The boy asked, setting into a stance, poised to attack – the girl did the same.

 

Six laughed, “I won’t die. I can’t say the same for you though. I’m gonna shred you both as a present to Oguro-san. Ah-ah, I wish I could see the expression on his face when he sees his kids gutted like fish.”

 

The girl threw an object at him. Six moved out of the way, the boy was already in his way, slicing down where his steps were taking him. Six readied his next attack at the boy’s head. The girl had already throw another thing at him. Six was forced to move away before he could strike. They all retreated. Six narrowed his eyes with a sneer. Faintly, he could hear the Nomus’ screams in the background not so far away from them. He took a deep breath, he used that breath to go overdrive. He rushed to them, punching and kicking them with his secondary strength quirk. Their weapons clattered on the ground at the same time they fell on their knees before him.

 

They gasped for air, Six couldn’t see what kind of damage he had done. The armor they wore covered them from head to toe, even with his regeneration quirk the wounds in his hands were slow to close. He was sure the armor had also halved the impact of his attacks. Six felt annoyed but he was a patient man. He would tear them apart prettily soon enough.

 

“Even if that damn armor protects you, it doesn’t mean it negates the damage that actually passed through, right? Otherwise you wouldn’t be panting like dogs.”

 

To their credit, the kids just stood back up. The girl giving them a new set of blades from one of the pouches on her hips. “How about acknowledging my insight on not following Aizawa-sensei’s request Yo-kun?”

 

“You just don’t like to follow orders, I'm not praising you for that.” The boy huffed.

 

“Hey, this time it worked in our favor though.” The girl said, a cheerful tilt to her voice.

 

“Don’t ignore me.” Six said, testing his new fully healed knuckles. “Making me annoyed will just prolong your suffering.”

 

“Blah, blah, blah.” The girl said, “What I hear is a fool yapping his mouth off. Do you think you’re special? You talked as if you were Iwao-san’s friend. Newsflash freak, he doesn’t even know you. We, on the other hand, we’ve been with him for years. He has trained us and you can see it, don’t you? If you didn’t have more than one quirk you’d be already long dead.”

 

Six gritted his teeth, “You’ve done it now, little pest.”

 

“Hah!” She let out a laugh, “Admit it—” she paused, cocking her head to the side, Six could feel her grin behind her helmet. “You are a failure!”

 

Six was on her face, ready to smash her face in, when he heard it, the click of something metallic, he glanced at her hand, the grenade didn’t have a pin. The light hit his eyes first, then some type of black shrapnel pierced the side of his body, the deafening noise was last. Time flowed back normally as he lost hold of his quirk. The boy was ready, he was close to them as he stabbed a dagger into his liver, twisting the blade and slashing in a downward motion to his bowels. Six sprung away, holding his wound and his insides with his good arm.

 

“That was a kamikaze move.” The boy said calmly. “Didn’t Aizawa-sensei told you he didn’t approve of that?”

 

“We aren’t his students. Yet.” The girl replied, pulling out a different set of weapons for them. “Besides, it’s not that kind of move if I know we aren’t going to get hurt.”

 

The boy sighed, “I let it slide for today. Let’s finish this, we need to help Shi and Izu.”

 

Six was boiling in anger, his regeneration wasn’t working properly, he felt dizzy and it wasn’t for the blood loss. The dagger must had been coated in something. Those brats were mocking him, they thought they could beat him. They were wrong. As if a entity from beyond was listening to his thoughts, something changed in the air. The armor that had protected their lives until that point began to crack and fall apart like porcelain. Six didn’t waste any time to drink into their expressions of despair and surprise, he didn’t care when they whispered a name. Izuku…

 

Six picked up the longswords discarded on the ground – the boy was a fool, in an attempt to protect the girl, he stood before her, shielding her in vain. Six thrust the sword into the boy’s chest, his bones broke by the impact – still he tried to move away from the trajectory of the attack. It worked, the tip of the sword impaled itself into the girl’s shoulder and not her heart. Six wasn’t done yet, pivoting on his feet he brought the other sword behind them, striking the girl’s unprotected back, thrusting the sword’s edge through her stomach and the boy’s.

 

The sound of them choking on blood was a sweet melody to Six’s ears. He watched them stand precariously on their feet, he could imagine their pain – and relished on it. His regeneration had finally fought off the poison in his blood, he pulled out his phone and began to take pictures. At some point, they had wordlessly decided to fall on the ground and on their side. Clearly as an attempt to minimize blood loss they didn't try to pull the blades out of their bodies. Six smiled darkly, as if that made any difference, as if they could survive with those wounds.

 

“Yo-kun...” The girl said softly, hand moving onto the boy’s torso.

 

“It’s alright…” He answered, bloodied hand gripping hers. “I’m with you…”

 

Six was still snapping pictures with his phone when he heard howls.

 

He stopped moving.

 

Those weren't coming from the Nomus.

 

break

 

Shigaraki watched them fight against the low level villains for a while. Even when there was only two of them, it was clear they had far superior skills to the people Shigaraki had brought. It was a shame they had been indoctrinated by Hisashi. The only end they could meet was by that point was death. All the training they had clearly underwent would be lost if Sensei turned them into Nomus. A new conditioning would take time and resources and they were already losing that by the minute thanks to Hisashi’s interference. If anything, it was quite the twisted poetic justice Shigaraki managed to stumble on. Hisashi had been messing with Sensei things so Shigaraki was going to do the same to Hisashi.

 

Humming to himself, Shigaraki snapped his fingers calling forth one of his Nomus, “Attack them.” He ordered. Shigaraki watched as the Nomu attacked the duo – the brainwasher knew his role, the fake would tank the initial attack, making sure they could find an opening for counterattack. He saw it before Six made them split, they had assigned roles and plans, countermeasures and rules – Hisashi had made sure they could defend themselves tooth and nail against anything.

 

Shigaraki smiled, “Almost anything.” He said to himself, motioning his second Nomu, the one meant for All Might. “Join the other, and play with the tall one.”

 

Just like that, their careful laid out plans were obliterated. The fake was the cornerstone of their little group – it was a mistake to make their tank have also the role of secondary support. The fake was their golden goose, which meant that if they didn’t use him right everything fell apart. The Nomus went after the brainwasher again and again, and the fake defended him again and again, taking the brunt of the punishment meant for the other. No matter how good the fake had adapted to that quirk, even him had limits. A power bank had a set capacity of storage after all. A tiny slip was all it took for one of the Nomu’s to send the fake flying in the air – he went through one of the walls of the facility, concrete fell down like bread crumbs, creating an ever growing maw.

 

“Bring him to me.” Shigaraki ordered, once restrained the brainwasher couldn’t do much. The fake appeared again, chasing after the Nomu holding the brainwasher. The other Nomu blocked his path, taking the power of his punch with his shock absorption – it was good to see, his regeneration was also working well, no matter how many times the fake tore through his skin and muscles, his Nomu stood unfazed.

 

Shigaraki’s attention changed to the brainwasher, “His natural ability is to redirect damage, isn’t it?” He said to himself, not really looking to have a conversation with the kid. “That’s why he needs to make substitutes with his blood. At least, that was the last information written in the report before you escaped. Sensei was so disappointed when he realized. You four were so promising for his plans overseas.”

 

“Cry me a river why don't you?” The brainwasher said, his breath labored. His short of breath was understandable, Shigaraki guessed, they had almost finished with all the villains around them and then engaged in combat with the Nomus.

 

Ignoring his commentary, Shigaraki got closer, “I wonder what would happen if I use my quirk on you.” Without preamble, he splayed his hand on the brainwasher’s chest – he fought like a mad dog to get away from the touch immediately, using his legs and the Nomu’s hold as a leverage he kicked Shigaraki on the chest.

 

Shigaraki dusted off his shirt unperturbed, eyeing the spot where his hand had been. “I wonder…” he said slowly, grin slowly morphing his face. “Do you think he’s transferring half of this damage to himself instead?”

 

The brainwasher angry cursing amused him.

 

He placed his hand again on the brainwasher’s chest, this time in an angle where he couldn’t kick him. At some point, he saw how finally his quirk seemed to flake bits of the armor. It was at that moment where his Nomus had to protect him from the fake's attack. The fake’s tail stopped millimeters from piercing his brain. His Nomus immediately threw him away. But, in that instant, he was able to take a hold of the brainwasher with another tail he had created. Thanks to the Nomus’ attack, they were a great distance away from them. Not that it would help them at all. Shigaraki laughed and laughed, and ordered the Nomu meant for All Might to kill them.

 

The Nomu sprinted towards them.

 

break

 

Izuku didn’t move and took every single punch the Nomu send his way, he hit the ground again and again. But he didn’t waver, he protected Hitoshi. The Nomu wasn’t going to go after Hitoshi until he was done with him. Izuku countered with a final punch, packing all the strength he had accumulated against the monster – neither Izuku nor Izuku couldn’t see people from 1-A appearing in the sidelines at that moment. They couldn’t hear Todoroki’s voice calling them, finally deciding to use their given names to address them. They could only see how Izuku’s attack failed as he only managed to push the Nomu for a few meters away from them.

 

The abomination stood tall, grinning in perpetual deformity.

 

Hitoshi’s voice couldn’t come out – he reached for Izuku but he was far away and Hitoshi couldn’t move. Izuku swayed in place. His armor began to crack, it fell down in broken parts. Hitoshi’s felt his world crumble along with it. He screamed as his best friend collapsed on the ground like a broken doll. Black goo began to mix quietly with the warm running blood oozing from Izuku’s wounds. Red and black mixed together in a swirling waltz – together once again, as it should be.

 

The earth fed on that ether and trembled, delighted.

 

There was a moment of constant silence where the world seemed to hold its breath in anticipation of what was to come. The thunderous roar that followed made anyone listening feel the uncontrived need to run and hide; but, they couldn’t move, everybody – every single villain, every hero in training and even the Nomus were paralyzed by an otherworldly force.

 

More roars ripped through the air one after another, adding to the ever growing cacophony surrounding them, shoving down a primordial fear into the hearts of every mortal present. Massive beasts emerged from the dark goo surrounding Izuku’s prone body one by one – they had white horned skulls above black satiny lion manes, four arms with elongated dark claws and protruding ribcage-like bones around their torsos.

 

They didn’t look like anything any of present had seen before.

 

They howled.

 

They bellowed in rage and grief and loathing and hatred and – they attacked the villains.

 

A black wave of vines swept in every direction with Izuku as its axis. It lashed at the low level villains, trapping them, piercing them with its thorns. The attack awoke their sense of self-preservation. Many tried to escape but the vines, the thorns, the black ether just expanded and chased and captured and wrapped around them to never let them go.

 

The use of their quirks was futile. The vines acted like Izuku’s quirk did. They adapted to what they were exposed to. All of them were too weak to overpower or outrun its growth. They screamed as they were caught but the black wave did not care for pleads of mercy – what it sought was retribution and their blood was the price to pay.

 

The three beasts battled the Nomus. Their claws and jaws tore through skin and flesh, their tails pierced their hearts, lungs and intestines. They were vicious in their executions, ripping apart their bones and their organs as quickly as possible; they obliterated their enemies until there was nothing left and they roared in joy to the skies – they were human enough to celebrate that achievement. They were human enough to reflect on their actions, to regret leaving one of their own behind in this chaotic filthy world.

 

The gold eyed one would never be one of them – they knew now.

 

But, the one born blessed by the stars would – the child that warmed their shadows, the beacon of starlight in their void, he was one of them – he could become one of them.

 

Hitoshi had crawled where Izuku laid covered in vines and still bleeding – he tried to stop the bleeding with his hands but it was futile, the damage was everywhere and he couldn’t do anything about it. He was crying, calling Izuku’s name frantically, begging him to open his eyes. Silent, like specters, the beasts loomed over them. Hitoshi lifted his gaze to the beasts. It was nostalgic in a way, he had seen the beasts destroy his Hell and everything of Guarda before when he was nine, and now he saw them again saving them from villains. But he couldn’t feel glad about it. He knew what they wanted.

 

“Please.” He said brokenly, bringing Izuku to him, holding him close in his trembling arms. “Don’t do it.”

 

The beasts didn’t say anything, remaining quiet. One of them reached with one of its arms towards Hitoshi.

 

Yami!” Hitoshi yelled desperately – using his quirk despite knowing it was useless as they didn’t speak.

 

The beast paused, cocking its head to the side as if seeing Hitoshi for the first time.

 

“That’s you, right? That’s how Izuku called you when we were little. He loves to give people nicknames. You knew that—you know that. You are his brother. You have to understand, he belongs here. He belongs here.”

 

The beast resumed its task, this time reaching with his four arms, two pried Izuku away from Hitoshi’s grasp without a problem; its other two arms held the struggling Hitoshi in place.

 

No! No, no, no!” Hitoshi screamed, scratching at the claws holding him down. “Please, please! Don’t take him away from me!”

 

The black vines wrapped around Hitoshi’s body, chaining him down so that he couldn’t move. Two of the beast’s arms still secured Izuku to its torso, the beast went on all four, Izuku was hidden under its massive frame – it was the closest it looked to a regular animal. It howled with its frightening voice. The remaining beasts complied with the request, doing the same and forming an arrow formation – much like a pack of wolves – the beast carrying Izuku acted as their leader. They left through the hole on one of the walls towards the forest beyond the USJ.

 

The specters left, leaving just destruction behind.

 

What happened next happened after a second, or maybe after hours; Hitoshi couldn’t really tell but it definitely was after Izuku was taken – the black vines spread all over the ground and walls began to dissolve into dust, the villains trapped in them began to fall like puppets cut off their strings, drenched in blood, probably dead or barely alive. The remaining pieces of Hitoshi’s armor vanished into nothingness, the lost of its weight was deeply disconcerting to him.

 

Similar to not feeling Izuku at his side.

 

Hitoshi felt something wet run down from his chest anew, crimson blood stained the rest of his clothes.

 

He looked at his hand and the red color in a daze, he noticed Igarashi-san making him laid down on the ground, he was talking to him but Hitoshi couldn’t hear him. Hitoshi could only hear his own voice inside his head, repeating over and over, like a broken record:

 

I lost him.

 

break