Izuku Midoriya trudged out the doors of Aldera Middle School and walked along the base of the school building while grumbling to himself.
What does Kaachan think he's doing? You can't just go around telling people to kill themselves. What if I'd actually jumped off the roof, huh? What would you do then, Kaachan?
Kaachan was just so frustrating. He was so cool, and had such a good quirk, but he... had his rough edges. Rough edges that Izuku thought were in danger of holding Kaachan back. Izuku hated the thought that Kaachan might not live up to his dream. He wished Kaachan could see that all Izuku wanted to do was help him be great, but it wasn't worth saying anything. If Izuku told him it was wrong to say things like that, Kaachan would probably just say more things like that out of spite, and then Kaachan might get in trouble and not get to go to UA. Izuku would just have to keep quiet. That was probably for the best.
Izuku looked up from his feet and blinked. "H-Hey! That's my notebook!"
And then the rest of the scene registered and Izuku squeaked, freezing in place. It was his notebook alright, in the hands of a pretty girl who was sitting there on the edge of the koi pond reading it!
"Oh! This is yours, Midoriya-san?" the pretty girl asked, looking up from the pages that contained his hopes and dreams. "It's really cool!"
A pretty girl knew his name?!?! A pretty girl thought his Hero Notebook was cool??!??!?!?!
He knew her, of course. This was Michiko Kinohana. She'd transfered into his class a few weeks ago at the start of term, and mostly kept to herself. Why was she reading his notebook?!??!
Izuku squeaked again, suddenly realizing that the pretty girl had stood up and was now peering at him, her cute, smiling face and striking green eyes filling his field of view, shiny black hair in pigtails. "Ah! Y-Yes. It's mine. How do you book? I, I mean..."
"Oh, well, I was walking home when it came flying out a window and landed right on my head," Kinohana explained with a giggle. "What're the odds, right?"
"Ah!" Izuku reflexively bowed. "I'm sorry."
"It's fine!" Kinohana closed the notebook and handed it back to him. "Do you really have thirteen whole notebooks full of quirk analysis and summaries of hero careers?"
"Oh. Yes?" Izuku said nervously. "I'm sorry. I know it's a w-weird hobby."
"Who told you that? It's not a weird hobby at all. This kind of information is really useful if you want to be a hero!" Kinohana exclaimed.
Izuku felt tears well up in his eyes. Was this what validation felt like? "Y-You really think so, Kinohana-san?"
Kinohana's head bobbled several times as she nodded. "I really do! Oh, and call me Michiko, okay? I don't like it when people use my surname unless we've literally never met."
Izuku squeaked again, "Ah! Okay? Isn't that too familiar though?"
"I like being familiar," she said, with a warm smile that made Izuku's insides go all gooey. "You can be as familiar as you like with me... Izu-kun."
Izuku's brain threw an error and rebooted.
"Say, Izu-kun?" Kinoh-Michiko asked soberly. "Are you really serious about going to UA and becoming a hero?"
Still blushing at the nickname, Izuku nodded. "It's my dream. To save people with a smile, and make them feel safe. Just like All Might."
Kino-Michiko made an inexplicable, odd, high-pitched strangled sound and wiggled in place for a moment, before seeming to calm down. "I see. I'm actually applying to the UA hero course too!"
"Really?!" Izuku said with sudden excitement. "Why didn't you say anything in class?"
"Because it's none of their business," Kin-Michiko said with a sudden flat bluntness.
Ki-Michiko smiled at him again. "It's hardly your fault. In fact, I was going to ask if you wanted to train together."
"T-Train together?" Izuku asked.
"Yeah," K-Michiko said, bouncing on her feet a little. "I've been practicing parkour every morning and I've been sparring at a mixed martial arts dojo on weekends. What kind of training have you been doing on your own?"
Izuku was struck by a sudden sense of sinking dread. "Training... on my own?" he repeated in a tiny voice. "W-What do you mean?"
There was a long, awkward silence.
"Izu-kun," Michiko began gently, "tell me something. Do you think you could beat Bakubaka at arm-wrestling?"
Izuku sputtered. "Bakubaka?!"
"Hey, he calls everyone 'Extra'. I can give him a nickname if I want," Michiko said, sniffing. "Answer the question."
"Um," Izuku said. "No. Kaachan is so amazing, and has such a good quirk. I don't think I could ever beat him."
"What the heck does Bakugo's quirk have to do with arm-wrestling, Izu-kun?" Michiko asked. "You're the quirk expert. How does explosive sweat make the muscles in his arms stronger than the muscles in your arms?"
An excitement welled up in Izuku. She was asking him about quirks! "Oh! Well that's actually because when Kaachan's quirk first manifested his nitro-sweat had very low thermal action to force ratio so when he first started using it the constant concussive forces caused by the detonations allowed him to harden his skin and muscles against impact without burning himself. Of course these days he's pretty burn-resistant too because he's had so long to get used to the heat of combustion from his bigger blasts, allowing him to cause explosions with high destructive potential!"
Michiko nodded along. "In other words: he's stronger because he trained himself to be stronger, his quirk was just the source of his workouts."
Izuku froze. That... was kind of what he'd said, from a certain point of view. "But..."
"Doesn't that mean you could have muscles just as strong, skin just as tough, if you went through the same training?" Michiko prompted.
Izuku reeled. "I... I suppose, in theory, that's true." Izuku couldn't deny the logic. She was right. This wasn't even anything Izuku didn't already know. Somehow, he'd just never made the connection before.
"Yeah!" Michiko nodded eagerly. "You really do want to go to UA and become a Pro Hero, right?"
"Of, of course!" Izuku asserted, feeling off-balance from this roller-coaster of a conversation.
"To do that without a quirk," Michiko said, "don't you have to be able to beat dangerous villains who do have quirks?"
Izuku flinched. "Yes? Yes. You're right, I would. Somehow."
"Knowing what you're up against is an excellent first step," Michko said more kindly, gesturing at his notebook. "But I think, if you want to face villains as a quirkless hero, you also need to be faster and stronger than your opponent is without their quirk. That way, even with their quirk advantage making up the difference, you can still win."
Izuku didn't know what to say to that. It was a clear, logical argument that he couldn't find fault with. But the idea of fighting a real villain seemed so vastly far out of reach, that trying to get stronger on his own seemed laughably pointless. And it didn't help that everyone he'd ever told about his ambition had flatly told him it was impossible...
"I think you need three things, actually," Michiko continued, shaking Izuku out of his thoughts. She sounded thoughtful, like she was only just remembering this herself. "Knowing what you're up against. Enough physical prowess to overcome your opponent's quirk advantage. And tools: force multipliers, holdouts... Hey, the UA rule says you're allowed to use any support items you've made for yourself, doesn't it?"
"Oh! Um. Yes? I think that's what I read on the school's website," Izuku confirmed. "But, um, I really have my heart set on the hero course! I don't want to settle for the support course. I don't think I could make my own support items."
"Support items don't have to be high technology," Michiko pointed out reasonably. "All you really need is materials and a hobby shop for something to count as self-made under UA's rules, right?"
Izuku's mind spun. It was true that a lot of heroes fought with weapons. Sometimes even very simple weapons. After all, even a simple stick was a force multiplier, wasn't it? Izuku actually remembered watching a video with some guy ranting about how a plain wooden stick was an underrated weapon.
"Huh, yeah, you're right," Izuku agreed weakly.
Michiko nodded reasonably. "So... why haven't you been training and stuff, then?"
Izuku's gaze dropped to the ground. Why hadn't he been training his body and skills, or learning his way around a machine shop? He wasn't afraid of hard work. It wasn't that he was lazy, even if analyzing heroes and quirks was more fun than exercising. He just... hadn't.
"I don't know why," Izuku admitted.
"Izu-kun," Michiko said softly. "I don't know you very well, but from the moment I first laid eyes on you, I've had this feeling. You're a lovely boy. With a healthy body, a wonderfully keen mind, and a beautifully kind heart. I believe you have what it takes to be a true hero, and the only thing standing in your way, is that question."
Izuku trembled as tears welled up in his eyes. "Do you really think so? Could I really, for real, be a hero, without a quirk?"
"You can," Michiko said firmly. "You can. I know you can."
Izuku couldn't hold back the tears. He'd been waiting so long for someone, anyone, to say those words to him. He fell to his knees, all self-consciousness forgotten.
He felt warm arms wrap around him, pull him into softness and comfort. His head came to rest on fluffy warmth. A hand stroked his hair.
After a few minutes, Izuku managed to get himself back under control. And that was when he abruptly realized that he had his face pressed into a girl's chest. Through her uniform jacket, he could feel her boobs.
Izuku practically teleported out of her arms, standing and facing away from her as he scratched the back of his head. "Ah! S-Sorry!"
"I was the one who put your head there," Michiko said. "It's totally my fault if my shirt's wet now. I'm glad I could help."
Izuku sighed. He supposed letting a deku like him cry on her was a pretty heroic thing to do. No. If he was actually going to get anywhere, he had to stop thinking it was useless to even try. He clenched his fists and turned around to face her.
"I still don't have an answer," Izuku said, wiping his eyes. "But it doesn't matter, because I'm going to do it now. I'm going to try my best, and get strong enough that I don't need a quirk to win against villains and save people with a smile!"
Michiko giggled. "That's the spirit, Izu-kun!"
"Ah, thanks," Izuku said, smiling. "Thank you, M-Michiko-chan."
"Any time," Michiko said warmly. "So, we should probably get going. Do you want to walk home together?"
"I'd, I'd like that," Izuku agreed as he finished drying his eyes.
Michiko bounced over to him and took his hand. Izuku's breath caught, feeling her warm skin against his, then yelped as she tugged him along.
Together they left the school grounds and entered suburbia, where the apartments were spacious and in buildings no more than ten stories tall.
Izuku almost tripped as he had another stunning realization. Holy whoa! I just talked to a girl! HOLY WHOA! I'm on a first-name basis with a girl! HOLY SUPER WHOA! I'M HOLDING HANDS WITH A GIRL!
Beside him, Michiko giggled. "It's not as lewd as the internet would have you believe. Unfortunately."
"Oh no," Izuku squeaked. "Did I say that out loud?"
"It's fine, Izu-kun. You can enjoy holding my hand as much as you like," Michiko said warmly. "Speaking of which, are we going to be training buddies? You didn't give me an answer, before."
Izuku flailed for a moment and then nodded. "Y-Yes! I'd be honored to train with you, Michiko-chan!"
Michiko beamed, like she was actually happy about getting to spend time with him. "In that case, I should explain my quirk!"
Izuku's attention was instantly riveted. "Yes please!"
"I call it Cultivation," Michiko began. "It's a cell-activation type quirk. I used to use it to make plants grow in my dad's garden, but the thing it does when I'm not trying to do anything specific, is cure cancer."
"Cure cancer?!" Izuku exclaimed. "Wow! That's so amazing. Most cell-activation quirks are actually dangerous around cancer because they can make it worse. How does it work? If you can grow plants that means you're energizing cells to divide super quickly, right?"
"That's right!" Michiko said, sounding impressed. "It actually took a while to figure out, but it turns out that energizing cells is only half of my quirk. The other thing it does is control the genomic expression of those cells."
"Genomic expression?" Izuku repeated curiously.
"Um, that might be the wrong term," Michiko admitted sheepishly. "It's what my quirk councilor called it. What it means is that my quirk can treat any cell at all like a stem-cell, or even turn ordinary cells back into stem-cells, and control which specialized traits the cells take on in real time."
"Wow! That must have so many different applications?" Izuku inquired eagerly.
"I can take living tissue from any organism and basically grow it into any shape at all, in any substance that its genes can code for," Michiko agreed.
"Does that mean you can use it like a fabrication quirk?" Izuku asked.
Michiko nodded happily. "Yeah. I can basically 3d-print in bone, or keratin, or other organic materials that don't need to be kept alive, if I have something alive to start with. I've been practicing with that for making my own support items. I can make really dense bone if I try, way stronger than a normal person's skeleton."
"Does that mean you can strengthen a normal person's skeleton?" Izuku asked, his mind spinning with the possibilities.
"Yep. Not just your skeleton either. It won't be instant, or painless, and it'll still require some actual work, but the UA entrance exam is in ten months," Michiko said. "If we had to spend all year just getting your body ready, we'd be doomed. I think I can get us both to a necessary level of fitness by the end of this month, if we don't hold back. Then we'll have the rest of the year to train in important skills."
"W-Wait!" Izuku suddenly exclaimed. "You're willing to use your quirk on me so I can get stronger faster?"
"Of course, Izu-kun," Michiko said kindly. "By this time next month, you will be able to beat Bakugo at arm-wrestling, I promise."
Izuku felt himself tearing up again. "You'd really do that for me? Thank you so much, Michiko-chan!"
She squeezed his hand until he got himself under control.
"You have such an amazing quirk," Izuku sighed. "I think you're going to be a great hero too, you know?"
"That's the plan," Michiko giggled.
"A quirk that powerful," Izuku mused, then hesitated. "Ah, you don't have to tell me, but any quirk that powerful probably has some pretty important weakness, right?"
"I think Cultivation's biggest weakness is that it has no psychokinetic aspect," Michiko explained easily. "No matter how hard I try, I can't just grab cells with my mind and move them around. So, I'm actually pretty terrible at healing fresh wounds. I'm fantastic at healing scars. But fresh wounds? I'm better than nothing, but not better than a first aid kit."
"I see," Izuku said, following the thought. "Of all the healing quirks I've read about yours is almost a reverse of the standard expression of the type, which could lead to extremely efficacious synergies with other cell-activation types since you're good at what they're bad at and visa-versa. As a hero you would be ill suited to the role of a battlefield healer and as such your branded persona would likely benefit from a de-emphasis of the nature of your quirk and strong emphasis instead on its products. The implication of the genomic expression thing curing cancer without overt control suggest an intrinsic behavior of forcing cell-cooperation. Could multiple organisms be fused into one? Chimeric lifeforms sometimes occur in nature so fusing cells from different gene lines into one organism should be within Cultivation's ability. What about-"
Michiko pulled on his hand, dragging him to a stop. They were just outside the underground tunnel that connected two neighborhoods.
"Ah!" Izuku yelped. "Sorry, I was muttering wasn't I?"
Michiko smiled at him. "It's not that. I just, have a bad feeling about this tunnel, today. Do you mind if we go around instead?"
"Oh, uh, sure, that's fine," Izuku agreed.
They turned around and strolled on, hand in hand. Michiko glanced back, looking relieved, but also... worried? Torn? She muttered something uncertain-sounding under her breath that Izuku didn't catch. Izuku was curious, but didn't know how to ask.
They remained quiet for a bit as they walked, and Izuku reflected that... he was feeling really happy. He and Michiko had just had a long, energetic conversation about quirk minutia and she hadn't even gotten mad at him when he fell into muttering. What's more... he'd been able to talk to her like that. She kept up with his ramblings. That had never happened before.
"So, um," Izuku began hesitantly, hoping to keep the conversation going. "Who's your favorite hero?"
"The R-Rated Heroine, Midnight!" Michiko replied without hesitation. "She's amazing! I love how she can stand up for sexuality without shame, championing her cause out in the light in open defiance of society's mores!"
Izuku felt a flush creeping up his neck as he stared at his new training partner in surprise. "You um, that's a very um," Izuku flailed.
Thankfully, Michiko merely giggled at his awkwardness. "What about you? Who's yours?"
Izuku sighed in relief, then smiled shyly. "Um, this is probably a very obvious choice, but, it's All Might. I've always wanted to be just like him. To stand up with a smile and make people feel safe, because I'm there."
"I understand completely, Izu-kun," Michiko said, squeezing his hand. "For what it's worth? You've already got the smile."
Izuku felt something inside him bloom with warmth. "R-Really?"
"Yes really!" Michiko suddenly exclaimed. "Izu-kun, that smile of yours just about melted my panties off right then and there!"
"Wh-Wha-What are you saying a thing like that out of nowhere?!" Izuku sputtered, blushing so hard he was probably producing steam.
"I'm just telling the truth, Izu-kun!" Michiko insisted. "You're really really cute!"
Izuku yelped in denial. "No I'm not!"
There was a long moment of pregnant silence. Izuku slowly opened his eyes, to see Michiko facing him, her striking green eyes full of earnestness. He gulped as he realized he was holding both of her hands at the same time.
"I always tell the truth when I say lewd things, Izu-kun," Michiko said softly. "What kind of Midnight fan would I be if I didn't?"
Izuku gulped. Put like that, he could see where she was coming from. He knew exactly what it was like to idolize someone as a macrocosm of exactly the sort of goodness he wanted to put into the world himself. He knew enough about Midnight to guess that Michiko probably saw saying l-l-lewd things without getting embarrassed as a skill to train herself in on purpose. Izuku noticed for the first time that Michiko's cheeks were a little pink, but despite that she still wasn't balking even slightly. She was pushing herself forward with determination, going beyond and trying her best, for the sake of achieving her dream.
"Hey, Michiko-chan?" Izuku said, smiling tentatively. "It's really your dream to become a hero like Midnight, huh."
"I will become a hero like Midnight," Michiko said, full of determination. "No. Not just like Midnight. My dream is to surpass her! She's the R-Rated Heroine? Well I'm going to go beyond, and become the X-Rated Heroine!"
Izuku blushed in embarrassment even as he admired the clarity of her ambition. "I'm sure you can do it, Michiko-chan. And I'll help however I can!"
Michiko giggled and released one of his hands, hooking her arm through his instead. "Thanks, Izu-kun."
Izuku spent the next few moments preoccupied with the fact that he was now walking arm in arm with a girl. A girl who called him cute! His brain was refusing to process the other thing she'd said, but.
"You know," Michiko commented, "I don't think I want to ever have a boyfriend."
Izuku's heart leaped into his throat. "I-I-I-I didn't mean I wanted to be your boyfriend!"
Michiko stared at him in surprise, and Izuku suddenly felt like he'd said something wrong. "I know, Izu-kun. That isn't what I meant... but before that, do you want to be my boyfriend?"
Izuku's brain locked up and he made a mortified squeaking sound.
"It's okay if the answer isn't yes or no," Michiko told him, giving his hand a squeeze. "Take a moment to think and tell me how you actually feel."
Thankful for such responsible-sounding guidance, Izuku did as instructed. "Well, you are very pretty and a girl, but you're also the first person who's ever believed in me. You're even going to help me become a hero. So what I want to do in return is be the best friend and training partner that I can be and do whatever it takes to help you achieve your dream too!"
"I'm really glad to hear you say that, Izu-kun," Michiko said with a beaming smile. "You really are the sweetest cinnamon roll."
"Thanks, I think?"
Michiko giggled and gave his arm a squeeze. "So anyway, as I was saying I don't think it makes sense for me to ever have a boyfriend. Or a girlfriend. A monogamous romantic relationship, I should've said. If I'm going to be the X-Rated Heroine, I can't ever have one of those, and I'm pretty sure I don't want one anyway."
"Oh," Izuku said, feeling slightly lost at that declaration but wanting to be supportive.
"That said," Michiko continued, slightly hesitant as a blush appeared on her face. "If I'm going to be the kind of hero I want to be, I need to be sexually experienced. Very experienced. And I have to start somewhere."
"Oh," Izuku said in sudden, embarrassed comprehension.
"So, um, Izu-kun," Michiko said, grinning somewhat bashfully. "As my training partner, could you do me a huge favor?"
Izuku blinked at the change of topic, but quickly nodded. "I'll help you however I can, Michiko-chan."
"Then, would you take my virginity, Izu-kun?" Michiko asked earnestly.