He knows he's in the more... let's say less than savory parts of town. Midoriya Izuku would be an idiot if he wasn't aware of it, and that's why he had two knives on him. One is in a sheath, tucked in a secret pocket of his thick jacket, and the other hidden in his shoe.
But only here is where he will find jobs that will take quirkless high schoolers, and that's how he finds his way to a small bar.
A mist man opens the door when he knocks on it.
Izuku blinks, squashing down any and all emotions. He got through years of Kacchan, he's getting through three more years of people tormenting him for being quirkless, he can survive a few years of working in a bar.
Izuku holds up his phone, tilting his head a bit, "You have a job spot open?"
Midoriya Izuku had always been a learner.
He's learned a lot since he started working here. He's learned that names are important, and that you shouldn't give it out freely. Names can be traced, names keep you from being enveloped by what you've done.
Here, he's only known as Deku.
Izuku's learned how to serve drinks, how to quickly and efficiently clean cups. He's learned how to weave through tables and chairs and rowdy people (villains, some say, but he sees some and can't bring himself to call them so). He's learned how to lie.
"And then, you add a teaspoon of cinnamon, right?" Izuku speaks to one of the villains as he cleans a glass.
"A teaspoon?" The villain scoffs back, "Kid, tablespoon. You're cooking for a party, not yourself."
"Ah, how many grams of sugar?"
The villain pauses, "Depends."
Izuku tilts his head as he sets down the glass and starts wiping a new one, "Sorry, I don't follow."
"Depends if you want the sugar or not. If you do, about seven grams will do. If you don't, only two is fine," They shrug back, sipping their drink.
"Of course. At what temperature should I bake it?"
"At 416 degrees, for about twenty minutes."
To others, it seems like a harmless conversation about baking. But to the two of them, it's nothing but harmless. The villain is Tarot, and they're well-known for their foresight quirk. They were born in the wrong circumstances, forced to villainy to have enough money to keep their family's apartment.
But they also taught something new to Izuku.
How to speak.
As much as he's a learner, so are others. Keep cards close to your chest, cheat, make your opponent think you have a garbage deck.
But everything gets flipped upside down when a... new villain shows up. Tarot wasn't there that day.
Izuku is the one to serve him. The lightest drink they carry, and he doesn't even touch it.
This man-- Shiragaki, he calls himself-- scratches and speaks. Speaks of a group of villains, of an entire social reform (Izuku knows that's not what the man's after, the look in his eyes is much too feral, much too violent. But Kurogiri has always wished to be more than his quirk and to know that Shiragaki has already wrapped his boss around his finger is concerning--) and he talks about taking down All Might.
And Kurogiri, against all odds, accepts.
Just because his job now has a few... unfortunate connections, it doesn't mean Izuku can't help.
He eavesdrops and researches and hungers for every scrap of knowledge he can find. So that's what he does. He listens to Shiragaki's whispers to Kurogiri, so quiet and punctuated by an almost childish, giddy laugh. He listens to rumors of conversations between the two that come up between drunk villains.
He hears about gathering villians as cannon fodder from one of those unlucky enough to be offered.
Jaws, a loyal customer, had once babbled to him while drunk about how Shiragaki had come up to them and asked if they had any plans on a Wednesday. They said no, and the man had asked if they'd like to go swimming in one of the most expensive schools ever.
Another customer, one with guns in his fingers, had told another person about how Shiragaki asked him if he wanted to join him and Kurogiri ambush a group of brainwashed children.
They both had said yes.
After all, Shiragaki had money. From where, Izuku wasn't quite sure.
"Hey kid," Iridescent smiles up at Izuku, tugging at his sleeve. Her multicolor eyes flash in the dimly lit bar, and he really hopes she doesn't activate her quirk. That'd turn it from a bar into a club, "Want to hear about the latest episode of my drama tv show?"
Izuku immediately agrees, and offers her a seat up at the bar.
"So, the latest episode is about Theodora again. I think she's an interesting character and all, but Harley has so much more potential, you know? Elicia too! But no, apparently Yasmine's whole arc with Theodora is more important," She rests her head on her hand, drumming her gaudily painted fingernails on the counter before he slides her a drink, "Rachael was as annoying as ever, and even though Issac is head-over-heels for her, I think he should've drawn the line at bullying Elicia all of those seasons ago, not when she mildly sasses Deborah."
Izuku nods his head along, "Of course."
"Shush, I wasn't finished," She holds a hand up, "So Theodora does this 'pretending to date Owen' thing, so they both can pretend they're straight. But then Rachael comes in and exposes both of them, like what the fuck! Elicia comes in, but barely has any lines, and it's to tell Chris that Rachael needs his help like. She doesn't! She can handle herself! So then Udwin comes in and tries to make it all Issac's fault. And I mean, it kinda was, since he was the one to urge Theodora to confess to Martin even though he clearly knows she's been in love with Elicia since day one. God, it's such a mess but it's so good."
"I'll try watch it," Izuku replies, smiling a bit.
Iridescent smiles back, "Kid, that's what you said last time. You haven't watched it once."
"Maybe," Izuku replies, but stops talking just in time to hear Shiragaki whisper one last thing. And the pieces fall together to form their plan. A plan to infiltrate UA, to kill All Might when their guard is down.
Apparently, today Shiragaki had broken into UA to steal one of the schedules, and Class 1-A's trip to the USJ was a lot earlier into the year than he thought it was.
Izuku couldn't just sit and listen.
As he learned, Izuku gained people he could pass messages through. Miles was a retired villain who sometimes frequented the bar, complaining about his lame leg that had ended his career.
Izuku liked him the most. He told the best stories.
But this time, it was time for Izuku to tell his own story. So as the date of the attack looms overhead, he sits the man down on a table and strikes up a conversation as he delivers the drink.
"I ran into a really cute cat the other day, and I was hoping if you could find someone who'd take care of it," Izuku frowns a bit, and Miles laughs loudly.
"Haven't heard of you taking in cats for a long time now. Finally going back, eh?"
"Of course! Someone has to do something..." Izuku huffs.
"Not trying to rain on your parade, kid," Miles stares down at his drink, "Continue."
Izuku smiles a bit, "As I was saying. So I ran into this cat in a box in an alleyway. It was meowing really loudly, so I couldn't just ignore it. It was a brown tabby kitten, and who was I to not resist that look? I mean, they lashed out at me, but I think they might calm down eventually. I took them to the 4-1-6 Animal Rescue, if you want to tell anyone--"
"This cat of yours," Miles is staring at Izuku, "Do you think it likes feather toys at all?"
And Izuku's eyes are absolutely sparkling, "They love it."
"Good news, kid," Miles informs him as they pass by on the street, "Thought about your cat and remembered someone who might be interested. Here's their address..."
Izuku glances down at the address written on a slip of paper, and he looks back up at the door. He squashes down his fear, pats his cheeks a couple times, because this is important, damn it!
So he knocks on the door.
And as the door creaks open, one tired, bloodshot eye peers out, "I don't want what you're selling."
Now he gets why Miles sent him to him. This is Aizawa Shouta, or Eraserhead, Class 1-A's homeroom teacher. Class 1-A being the class a certain Bakugou Katsuki is in.
This is going to be a gamble, of whether or not Kacchan is going to remember their old code, one spoken in days years past where they still considered one another friends.
"No, I'm actually here to talk to you about something!" Izuku smiles and hopes to God it looks geniune enough for this scruffy man to buy.
"That still sounds like a salesman," Aizawa is starting to close the door.
Izuku jams his foot in the doorway, "Sorry! But this is really important!"
Aizawa pauses for a few seconds, as if contemplating and mulling over what Izuku said. Then, there's a sigh and the unsliding of locks. He opens the door wider, "How important are we talking about here?"
"Pretty important to the safety of you and your students," Izuku shoots back.
A few more moments of silence. Then it opens completely, "If you make one wrong move, I'm capturing you and taking you to the police station."
"Understandable," Izuku replies, stepping inside and shedding his shoes as he closes the door, "First of all, huge fan. Okay, back on my original topic."
Aizawa's eyebrow twitches a bit at that.
"So I need to tell you a message. But honestly, we can be being overhead right now, so you're going to have to get it from Kacchan. He's one of your students. And you might need to write this down because it's kinda of a list..."
The paper weighs heavy in Aizawa's pocket come the next Monday. He has no clue what it means, but all he remembers, as he steps up to the podium...
"Who in this class is 'Kacchan'?"
And immediately, the top of Bakugou's desk blackens from an explosion and he jumps to his feet. Iida's yelling in the background about respecting school property and rules, but Bakugou doesn't care because he's Bakugou, "Fucking greasy rat bastard! Deku set you up, didn't me?"
Kaminari's giggling off in the corner, "Kacchan?"
Aizawa walks over and slams the paper on Bakugou's desk, "Great. Now crack this code."
And Bakugou's anger is replaced with confusion, "What the fuck?"
"The other night, Midoriya Izuku came to my house. Gave me this message and told me to give it to you. Can you crack it or not?"
The last sentence seems to set off a switch in Bakugou, because he pulls out a piece of paper to set next to the other, and as he unfolds the first, his nose scrunches up, "The fuck. I haven't seen this shit since we were five."
"We'll be using the period as a study hall," Aizawa carries on, walking back to the front of the room where he zips himself into his sleeping bad, "Don't bother me."
"Bakugou, you can understand that?" Kirishima whispers with unmasked awe.
Bakugou scoffs, and his instant response of 'of fucking course' dies when he remembers that he can't remember the meanings behind half of this shit. It was an old code, one they made when they first heard English and wanted to have their own language. Their old messages were often terribly misspelled, and short.
"Who are these people-- That's you!" Kirishima points at Bakugou's family name on the paper.
"Duh," Bakugou huffs, turning back to the paper.
'bakugou-noodles-bucket-bucket-inko-noodles-forest-lake inko-katsudon-masaru mitsuki-skipping stones-noodles-forest-mitsuki fight-skipping stones inko-beach-all might-heroes-lake-moss fight-moss-masaru heroes-lake-home skipping stones-forest hiking-skipping stones-heroes-katsudon lake-noodles-quirks-fight-masaru-masaru-forest'
It... it didn't make sense. There were some he could figure out. Bakugou was 'V', since Katsuki meant victory. Mitsuki was 'G', for her Glycerin quirk. Masaru was 'E' for his Exploding Sweat, and Inko was 'A' for her Attraction of Small Objects. But all the others he totally blanked out on.
Could... Moss be... P? For plant? No, that didn't seem likely, they had thought outside the box for this. Then again, Moss did look a bit like Izuku's hair.
So he noted down the possibility.
Kirishima blinks, "Wait, you don't remember?"
"Obviously not, shitty hair," Bakugou huffs, writing down that hiking could be s for sport of f for favorite, "It's been nearly ten years since I looked at this goddamn thing, I'm obviously not going to remember it."
"Then I can try help!"
"Goddamn it I don't need your help-!!"
In the end, he ended up getting everyones help.
"Maybe quirks could be X?" Yaoyorozu suggested, "Since whether or not you're quirkless can be discovered via X-Rays of your feet."
"Then what's fight?" Ashido groans, "What fight did you two get into?"
"That little coward never got into any fights! If anything he only saw me after I fought someone," Bakugou huffs, "He was... standing near a tree, by some TVs. Could be T."
"But what's bucket?" Kirishima wonders aloud, "Did one of you two own a bucket or something?"
"Deku did," Bakugou scrawls down the updated sentence with fight as T, just in case, "Aunt Inko wrote his name on it and everything."
"Did she write it on a label?" Uraraka pipes up, then her face lights up, "Label! It might be L!"
"Yeah, yeah--" Bakugou freezes halfway through writing the word.
"Then it'd be spelling out villains," Todoroki notes to himself, frowning a bit. Then he looks up at Aizawa, and back to the paper.
This is the right combination, Bakugou realizes as he puts mostly everything together. And it's a bad message.
Aizawa wouldn't lie that he was scared that the whole code thing was an excuse for her students to lack off. That it would lead them to their doom somehow.
He was scared that this strange Midoriya Izuku was a bit too close to villains. Being corrupted by them.
But Bakugou's yelling at him and he cracks an eye open to see a paper. The paper. With the code cracked. And he realizes it.
Realizes that Izuku had tried to reassure him of being friendly through an admittance to liking a pro-hero still, through inconsistent speech patterns.
Realizes that Izuku is still on the hero's side.
'VILLAINS ARE GOING TO AMBUSH THE USJ ON FOUR-SIXTEEN'