Shouto comes home from the forest training camp with a weird expression on his face and a brain full of questions. All of them involve the villain he encountered in the woods.
“Nee-san?” he asks as he sticks his head into the kitchen where his sister is preparing vegetables for lunch. It’s a Saturday, and it’s just the two of them at home – Natsuo moved out to go to college across the city from the Todoroki family home, and their father is once again out on a mission or patrol or something like that.
“What is it, Shouto?”
“Can we talk?”
She finishes chopping up the carrot she’s working on before putting down the knife with a gentle clunk. Even after two and a half decades of not wielding a sword, his sister is still so precise in her bladework.
They sit down on the couch in the living room, facing the darkened TV. Shouto idly watches his sister’s reflection in it for a moment and sips at his tea.
“When our training camp was attacked by villains, I had an encounter with a villain named Dabi.”
He takes a deep breath. It’s still hard, even days after their classmate has been rescued, to talk about the training camp – how Shouji managed to grab Tokoyami’s marble, but he hadn’t managed to get Bakugo’s – and he’s grateful that his sister understands his need to collect his thoughts.
“The authorities calling his Quirk Cremation. His flames are blue.”
By his side, his sister stiffens for a fraction of a second, and if he wasn’t so well-versed in her body language he would have missed it entirely.
“Did he say anything to you?” she asks. Her face is blank, or maybe it’s just his inability to read the emotions of others.
“I asked him if what he did was worth it. If he had won. He called me Kanao.”
For a long moment, Fuyumi doesn’t move. The only thing that betrays her inner turmoil is how hard she’s clenching down on her mug of tea.
“Why did Touya-nii leave us?”
Finally, she unclenches her hands from the tea and puts the mug down on the table.
“I don’t know the details because I wasn’t there, but from what Natsuo told me later, it wasn’t of his own choice.”
Touya was never a fully healthy child, and the doctors that Endeavor kept taking him to repeated the same thing over and over again.
His Quirk was strong, yes. Usually, the possessors of such strong Quirks have built-in resistances that are genetically encoded. In Touya’s instance, his body – specifically, his skin and blood vessels, the parts that were most susceptible to accidental usage from his Quirk – should have been more fire-resistant that they were, if not for his mother’s genetics.
As a powerful wielder of an ice Quirk, her body was built to withstand low temperatures. And as it happened, Touya was one such possibility of such a powerful, elementally opposed union: he could wield his flames, but not for long, or his skin would literally burn.
Endeavor didn’t care at first.
When he had to take his son to the hospital for the third time to treat his burns, however, he came to the realization that perhaps this was not the best option. So instead, he focused on producing other, potentially more powerful children.
But he never forgot his eldest child’s potential. If only there was a way to strengthen his body so he could wield his quirk…
“I don’t know how much you remember about Touya-nii, since Father decided to separate us from you. But, well, Father kept sending him to doctors because he had such a strong Quirk, and they kept giving him different treatments. And then, one day, he didn’t come back.”
“What – did Father do something to him?”
“No. Natsuo says it was his doctor at the time, some man named Tsubasa. They couldn’t find him after that, no matter how hard they searched. But, Shouto, do you remember the day Father came home and told us Touya-nii had gone?”
Shouto shakes his head. “Not in great detail. Just that he came home without our brother, and over dinner he said that brother was gone.”
“Father was happy,” Fuyumi whispers, trembling minutely. “He was so delighted, he couldn’t stop talking about how he had gotten rid of a deadweight to the Todoroki name.”
If Shouto wasn’t Kanao, he’d think that his sister was crying. But Kanao knows Shinobu too well.
That was hatred, written clear as day across the lines of her face and in the spaces between her words.
Shouto looks at the blank darkness of the TV screen. In it, he sees only his own reflection.
“Was he one of us?”
Kanao dreads the answer, because if Touya was –
But he already knows the answer, because the moment Dabi looked at him in that forest and called a name of a long dead girl in a way that was achingly familiar, then he’d have to be –
Shouto wonders how life could be so unfair to all of them. But this is Shinobu-nee he’s talking to, and there must be something.
“What’s the plan, then?”
Fuyumi smiles. It’s not a pretty thing like most of the ones she pastes on when their father is around, all bright-eyed and filled with feigned happiness. No, this smile is jagged and bloody and absolutely seething with anger.
After all, they are all Endeavor’s children in one way or another. Touya and Shouto inherited his flames. Natsuo, his stubbornness. Fuyumi, his anger and cunning.
And as she starts to describe the idea she has in mind, Kanao feels viciously glad that Shinobu is on their side.
Dabi sits in the abandoned warehouse-converted-living space that the League has sequestered themselves in after the defeat of All For One. He ignores the sounds of Toga dancing around Spinner, and the muttering that comes from Twice’s corner.
He sits there, in a rusty, creaky chair, looking at his right palm and thinking.
Todoroki Touya is dead. This is a fact, and it has been true for the past six years.
Dabi is not Touya. This is also a fact, because Touya is dead.
Kochou Kanae is dead. This has been true since the Taisho era.
He is Kanae. This is debatable. Kanae was a kind person.
Kanae has siblings, all of whom would have died a long time ago, just as Kanae did.
He remembers what Todoroki Shouto had asked him in that dark forest.
“Did you win? Was it worth the cost?”
He doesn’t know.
He isn’t Touya. He can’t be Kanae.
He is a villain, he’s in the League of Villains, his idol is Stain, his name is Dabi. He has no father, no mother, no siblings.
The blue flames come as easily to him as breathing, and he summons one in his palm. It hovers there, blindingly bright in the gloom of the warehouse.
He can feel the skin of his hand starting to grow warm. If he keeps this up, it’ll start blistering in about eight minutes – well, at least the parts that haven’t necrosed from charring.
Just before it does, he wills the flame away.
Shouto goes back to school, and Fuyumi returns to her daily routine of teaching at the local middle school and preparing meals for her father. It’s mind-numbingly boring for the most part, and middle school level physics is nothing difficult for her to prepare lessons for.
That gives her time to think and to plan, and also to observe.
One day, as she’s taking a new route home after doing some light grocery shopping, she notices a swathe of wisteria in bloom outside of a modest single-family home near a park. She remembers the smell of the purple blossoms, and though she is in a new body with new muscle memory, Shinobu remembers the way their mild bitterness coated the inside of her mouth.
She’s intrigued. Wisteria are not the easiest to grow, and she counts at least four different trees in the front yard alone.
She checks her phone, which has one new message from her father.
Out on hero duty. Won’t be back tonight.
She smiles and rings the doorbell.
Her brother’s teacher opens the door while yawning.
“Sorry, we’re not interested in… oh, Todoroki-san.”
He suddenly seems much more alert, and she falls back onto her friendly older sister façade.
“Oh, Aizawa-san! So this is your house.”
“Yes. I’m pretty sure I didn’t list my address anywhere, so is there anything I can help you with?”
Though his words are kind, his facial expression screams “please let me go back to my work and stop bothering me”. She can’t help but smile a little at how similar his behaviors are to Giyuu’s.
“Did you plant these wisteria trees? They’re very healthy.”
“Oh, yes, my partner and I planted these when we first moved in a few years back. They smell nice. Do you like wisteria?”
“They’re such a pretty pale shade of purple,” she says, and she notices how his eyes stray to the butterfly clip in her hair. She’s chosen to wear the white and purple one that Touya gifted her all those years ago, and she thinks she sees a flash of some odd emotion on Aizawa’s face.
But then it’s gone before she can tell what it was, and he holds the door open a little wider.
“Do you want to come in and chat?”
She looks down at the groceries in her hand and thinks about the empty Todoroki mansion.
“I wouldn’t want to intrude,” she says, to be polite.
“You won’t be,” he says. It’s very blunt and very straightforward and it’s such a Giyuu thing to do.
But she doesn’t know for sure.
“Some other time, maybe. I have your phone number, I’ll text you?”
He hums in wordless agreement, and she walks away towards the train station.
She pulls out her phone and finds Aizawa in her list of contacts. In the section dedicated to notes, she adds the word “Giyuu”, followed by a question mark.
Then she turns her mind to dinner and its preparation.