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Pro Hero Metal Bat

Chapter Text

Izuku Midoriya remembered coming across a checkbox calendar online one. It followed through each day of the year, like a graph the way it was formatted, and to its side was a color indicator; a list of colors representing an emotion or outlook on experiences. People were meant to fill in the boxes with the color that best represented their day, and apparently it was to motivate them to work on making bad days followed by better days until those were what remained. Izuku decided to download it to his computer, mainly out of sheer curiosity if it could work for him, and for about three weeks he got a good sense of how to use it.

That wasn’t a good experience, by any means of the imagination. Too many of his days ended up mediocre at best, and downright awful at worst. Red and orange dictated almost the whole column of the month of June, and he was about ready to just give it up. It wasn’t that he wasn’t trying hard enough. It wasn’t that he put in no effort to make his days better. No one would let him make his days better. Namely, Kacchan wouldn’t let him better his days.

‘Not all men are created equal’ was a line Midoriya got tired of hearing, because the reality of it was much less dramatic on his life than the spun everyone took on it. For the most part, it was right; people are not created equally. Not in the sense that they all had to be born looking and averaging out the same as a new born, but that some babies were born with differences. Some babies were born without the luck to grow up healthy from a birth deficiency given to them in their mother’s womb. Some didn’t get to grow up. Then there were the people like Izuku.

Izuku, by no stretch of the imagination, thought he was worse off than the people who were born with illnesses and disabilities, but he was certain everyone tried to make him think as such. Not a day went by that a voice didn’t call out to him just to ridicule him. Not a day went by when someone didn’t remind him of how useless he was as a quirkless. Not a day went by that Kacchan wasn’t there to make him remember his place in the world.

And he hated to think about that. He hated to think about Kacchan’s voice, playing in his ears as the two students ‘talked’ at the end of class, and the one with a quirk capable of generating explosions from the palms of their hands telling the one without a power to swan dive off a roof top and die and hopefully find a quirk via rebirth. With the window in front of Izuku wide open, as the green haired teen stared down in despair at the hero notebook scorched and landing in a fish pond, the blond still had the nerve to yell it to him.
And Izuku listened.

And Izuku rejected.

Izuku was, by no stretch of the imagination, smart. He was a capable kid, exceeding in his academics in school and holding positions in the top five on every subject with his peers. Even if Kacchan was the one sitting at the top of their grades, he wasn’t about to start taking any advice that advocated suicide and distraught. The amount of damage that would do to not only Izuku, but his mother and the school and Kacchan and the Katsuki family wouldn’t have been worth it.

So Izuku ignored the voice of Kacchan echoing in his ear to take the jump and took the stairs down instead, recovering his notebook for what it was worth and leaving the school grounds to go home.

Only he didn’t make it home. It seemed Death was dead-set on taking Midoriya’s life and, seeing as how the teen wouldn’t take it away himself, sent someone else to do it for him. In the form of a sludge quirked individual, Izuku found himself suffocating under a stone bridge, trapped in a gooey body with the slime form forcing itself into his body for control. And Izuku cried, as loud as he could with sludge in his mouth deafening his screams and tears mixing in to the green liquid down his cheeks. He thought he would die.

And the instant he had lost hope, Pity entered the scene, shining under the sun in the form of All-Might himself, the number one hero in all the world, and capturing the slime villain in two empty soda bottles. Izuku was alive, but struggling to breathe, and several minutes with All-Might’s assistance to give him air and make sure he was at least mentally okay to not need a visit to the hospital helped him get back on his feet again. He even got All-Might’s signature in the ruined notebook.

But Izuku wanted more. He needed more, and when All-Might took a leap to leave, Izuku latched on to his leg and followed. The two landed atop a building, and there Izuku dropped the question of his future into the pro hero’s hands: “Can I be a hero despite not having a quirk?” Maybe the weight of the question was too much to bear on his shoulders, and All-Might transformed in a puff of smoke into a figure not at all tall or muscular or smiling to give hope. His words had no hope to give. A ‘no’ could summarize the talk the hero and student had, before the two parted ways on a sour note.

It didn’t hurt, the idea that Izuku could try to become something else that was meant for helping people, like a doctor or a police officer. That wasn’t why the ‘no’ hit him. The ‘no’ hit him because it was a cherry on the top of the pile of ‘no’s he had heard for years, many of which were directed at him with harmful origin and malice. A pro hero had added himself to the list of people telling him he could not become what he wanted to be, what he dreamed to be, and was better off letting the world decide his place in society. Had told Izuku to give up and submit to the cruelty he faced, even if the hero didn’t know that was what he faced.

That hurt.

Sorrow hung over his shoulders and followed Izuku, or he may have been the one controlling where Izuku walked. He was uncertain himself why he had chosen not to head home straight away, but the universe was supposed to have a plan for everyone. And that day, its plan was to lead Izuku back into the clutches of the slime man. Or really back in close range to it, leaving Izuku to watch from the crowd as it aimed to do to Izuku on someone else, in the middle of a burning shopping district, with heroes on either side standing by unable to do anything to save the boy in its grasp.

To save Kacchan.

So Izuku took control of his body again, and in doing so darted pass the crowd and the heroes and straight for his classmate/bully and the monster of a person trying to suffocate the blond menace. But Izuku could do nothing to stop them and free Kacchan. Only for a moment could he stun the foe by knocking them in the eye, but it only lasted for so long before a whip of slime collapsed to Izuku. It never met with the boy; it never hit his skin. But it did meet skin. Specifically All-Might’s, as the hero stood over the green haired boy to protect him and, with a single punch, saved the two boys and incapacitated the villain from attacking anyone else on its way to prison.

Shame took a minute to step up, fueling the words of the heroes to make Izuku feel such, for stepping into the fray and nearly getting himself killed (for the second-third-fourth – Jesus – time that day). Not one acknowledged him for stepping up when the heroes refused to. Kacchan took not a single look in his direction for stepping in to help. And a brief glimpse over his shoulder from All-Might did nothing to help him feel good about the day or anything he had done.

Izuku didn’t have to go to the hospital – the first responders to the scene deemed him stable enough to head home with a warning from the heroes to stay out of trouble – and when he left he left with Sorrow, Regret, Sadness, and Anger haunting him. The feelings in his stomach were unsettling to move with, but Izuku didn’t want to stop and hurl them into the nearest trash can. He just wanted to get away from everyone, if no one was going to step in to be with him. He could go to his mother, the only person who was on his side even if she didn’t believe in his dream like everyone else, but with the way he was feeling and felt he was looking the last thing he wanted to do was just worry her from the day he’d had.

So Izuku walked away, sending quick text sent to his mom telling her he would be home a bit later as he lied about going around town for a bit to study some heroes on their daily patrols. He walked out of the city, the tall buildings and towering businesses full of people that gave him no sense of safety, and traversed through a housing district beside it. The silence was the most comfortable aspect of his surroundings, but even it was haunting the boy’s mind. For a while, aimlessness was all the boy had for supporting company, until a scent and sound washed over him from just a few blocks away. He diverted his attention and direction to the beach calling out to him, disturbing the silence and unease over his shoulders as he approached.

A hollow laugh found its way out of Izuku’s mouth as recognition took his eyes, and the beach covered in trash became more obvious. Takoba Municipal Beach Park; he knew the place. Trash occupied the beach more often and in a much larger group than people ever did, enough to the point where people wouldn’t visit at all if it wasn’t to drop more trash. The place had turned into a dumping ground as the tide pulled up waste that no one made the effort to remove. Or at least a good quarter of it had turned into a mountain of trash, with little specs making their way down either end of the beach. That didn’t make it any less abandoned, and it didn’t make anyone who lived nearby interested in coming over to fix it.

If Kacchan was around, the explosive blond probably would have congratulated Izuku on making it home.

Ignoring the taunt he made in the back of his head, Izuku pushed onward onto the beach, easing himself down to the shore and joining the piles of trash flanking either side of him. His bag dropped to the sand behind him, and soon he followed suit, folding his arms over his legs and watching the sea as the sun shone in the sky behind him. The tide was calm, rising lightly onto the shore meters away from him, and the sound of the wind passing it by was calming, soothing, needed. Izuku closed his eyes with a deep breath and relaxed in his seat in the sand. That was what he wanted. Peace, and nothing but peace.

Izuku rolled back into the sand and stared into the sky, watching the clouds roll by with his thoughts. No one believed in his dream. Not his classmates. Not his teachers. Not his peers. Not other heroes. Not All-Might. Not his mother. Maybe he didn’t either. He wanted it to happen, more than anything as far as he could remember, but believing it would happen was a whole new stretch of land entirely untouched. There seemed to be no truth to it other than him already existing for it to be considered, much less plausible. So what could he do? What was he capable of?

Izuku kicked up his feet and crossed them over one another. Maybe he could be a police officer. The profession would keep in contact with heroes all the time, or at least most of the time. Their freedom in tackling villains and situations more suited for heroes wasn’t as free as a hero had it, but they had just as much responsibility at keeping people safe, only in different ways.

His shoulders rolled as his hands cupped beneath his head. What about being a doctor? The profession was about equal to if not more gruesome and graphic than being a cop; the situation was very much, well, situational. He’d have to really regulate himself to the sight of injuries far greater than he ever suffered if he wanted to work in that field, but the reward of being able to save people in far greater danger than being in the presence of a villain (also situational) would be worth it.

Izuku frowned in a similar fashion of the cloud passing overhead, judging his choices as he did. He could very well go into those professions, but that wasn’t the deal. The problem was the people around him, getting a reward out of their treatment of him in seeing Izuku give up the dream he had to do as they ordered him to. He’d only be making the bad people around him feel good about their actions. He couldn’t do that, and by extension, couldn’t run away to those jobs. He had to try to become a hero, if only to prove everyone wrong as they needed to be.

But how would he ever accomplish that? He had no powers, no physical mutation, and no skills. Actually, the last one he could probably work with, given his analysis. If he aimed to be a field hero, he’d have to train and learn to fight, given his pencil of a body and limbs weren’t capable of that kind of action by any means. He could maybe get his mother to sign him up for a self-defense class or martial arts class that could teach him those sorts of things. Would that be enough, just learning hand-to-hand combat? A scoff got Izuku to realize probably not.
What else would he have to do then? Izuku rolled over and moved his head onto the fold of his arm. Maybe he could…take up baseball?

Izuku blinked and lifted his head as he looked over to the pile of trash on his left. He understood the piles contained a lot of useless junk no one wanted any more, and he could see on the surface level of the pile alone that was true. But then why would someone throw away a perfectly good metal baseball bat?

The green teen picked himself out of the sand and inched his way slowly to the baseball bat. His hands eased around the grip of the handle and lifted it from the sand with a fair amount of effort (look back to the line of ‘pencil arms’). His brows furrowed as he rolled it in his hands and gave it a look over up and down; aside from the sand staining the top, the bat was in perfect condition. It had no reason to be with the trash surrounding it.

Izuku looked up to the pile it was leaning against, checking over every object he could isolate from those around them, looking to find anything in as good of a condition as it. But nothing was fine. Most anything with glass was cracked or broken open. Electronic appliances showed no signs of organization, with walls open and wipes pouring out in each and every direction. The closest thing to perfect was a still inflated tire of a truck but even that looked worn out from use. Nothing on the bat was scratches or peeled or worn, not even the wrapping on the handle. It looked brand new.

Izuku turned his body every which way, moving himself about and looking around the piles of trash, looking for anyone else in the area the bat could have belonged to. No one was around. No one but himself. And he saw no one leaving the beach as he entered, and no one was swimming out in the sea before him. He was alone with the bat.
Midoriya stepped back to his stuff, swinging the bat weakly in his grip as he walked. His body swayed after it until he reached his bag and raised the bat to line up with his body. It was pretty thin for a bat, especially for its length, but it held its weight in his hands. For a moment he stood still, staring at the warped reflection of himself on the bat in his silence until a click rung in the back of his head to widen his eyes.

What else would he have to do to become a hero? Just using his hands wouldn’t be enough. Just his regular human strength would only get him so far. His smarts were good, but they wouldn’t always be helpful on the field if his body wasn’t there to back up the actions he would have to take. He would need something else, something to help him accomplish more. Could a baseball bat do that?

Izuku dropped into the sand again as the bat feel from his hands and he dug them through his back, pulling out a cleaner notebook that he used for class instead of the hero notebook in ruins. A baseball bat: what could he do with it? The object itself was basically used for swinging and hitting in a sport, but so could most anything of its shape and size, say a pole or a stick of wood. And there were weapons like that, poles of metal and wood using in martial arts from what he could remember off of action movies and the heroes he’d studied. They didn’t always have to be used for just attacking; they could serve a purpose of blocking and disarming too. He’d seen people use various items made of metal to crack open locked doors, stick between closing doors to allow people to keep passing through, used with restriction in battle to only knock people out instead of bludgeoning them violently. If people could use long sticks and discs to fight people without acting out violently and in unwarranted ways, he could use a baseball bat made of metal.

Besides, it wasn’t like using a weapon was out of the question to being with. Many pro heroes used tools and objects to fight off villains and robbers and really and bad person disrupting peace and lashing out at others. Their powers themselves were regulated and heavily lawed by the governments around the world, but heroes like Snipe with his revolvers and pistols and Midnight with her whip and, when he racked his brain hard enough to remember him, an underground hero by the name of Eraserhead using a tool akin to rope were allowed to fight without known quirks that enhanced their bodies. If they could get away with it, why couldn’t he?

Izuku smiled and curled in on his book as he wrote away on the bat, and as his mind drifted to everything he thought he would need to do to make his dream of being a hero come true. He had something to work with, now he just needed to make sure it would work. He needed to make sure his own body would work too. He’d have to train extensively – Yuei’s entrance exam would be in March, about nine to ten months away – but he could go online and find a workout routine or something to follow to get his body into shape if he couldn’t find a fitness class for his mother to let him attend. That meant he would have to change his diet too, start eating foods that would help his body grow faster and stronger to get the strength he needed to be a hero and to use that bat. And speaking of the bat, he would have to learn how to fight with it, not just using it as a bat like he was a baseball player but using it in every way conceivable that could be used to fight villains and protect innocent people and himself. Maybe he could treat it like a staff or a sword, its shape already edging that of the other weapons. If he really couldn’t get into a martial arts class, he could probably go online and find articles and videos to go off of and learn by himself. He’d been alone most of the time to being with, so it wouldn’t be anything new.

Izuku took in another breath as his back straightened out and he looked to the page of notes he was beginning to make for his dream. He could help but let a smile pull on his lips or his hands from shaking in excitement. It took more proper thoughts on how he could be a hero, maybe thanks to all the heroes around him telling him no and giving him a reason to reflect on what made them heroes. But he had something to work with. Plans to follow and ideas to cultivate and shape into a reality and a profession and a future. Maybe he could become a hero.

The smile across his face lifted Izuku’s head high, and his eyes were caught by the rays of the sun closing in on the buildings across from him. The day was getting late into the evening. His mom would be expecting him home soon. His body jerked from the memory and started cramming everything back into his bag as he stumbled back onto his feet. He darted across the sand and back up the steps before lagging at the top and running back down. He made way across again, heaving the bat out of the sand and into his arms before taking leave once again from the beach.

Izuku Midoriya breathed out at the top of the steps, taking a turn on the balls of his feet to the shoreline and the trash hills once more with a smile he didn’t want to fade away. He could be a hero. There was hope for him yet.

Chapter Text

God, was Hope far away. And tiring. Very…very tiring.

So, from the top of that night. Izuku got home in time for dinner not too later. His mother had questioned him (really hovered over him in doing so) about how he was and what he was doing. The news of the slime villain, as the news was calling him, had reached her through the TV not too long before he got home, and Inko was reasonably worried for her son and his health and safety. Izuku explained the Quick Notes of his day, meeting All-Might and the villain in an order that wasn’t true because he omitted a talk about what happened under the bridge and the more personal talk between him and All-Might but he was able to get it across how fine and alright he was. He was able to calm her down enough to trust his word and understand he would be fine. Then she noticed the bat and took a lead into conversing about it. Izuku didn’t follow the conversation, and instead used its acknowledgement as a means to break into the conversation he wanted to have with his mom.

Izuku wanted to learn self-defense, plain and simple. Not how to fight head-on; that could wait for the day his body was more capable to fight. He just wanted to learn how to defend himself from people attacking him, and maybe lead them or stall them so people more capable in combat could subdue them. He gave it thought on the way home, and while he could learn how to fight hand-to-hand too, he really didn’t have the body to hit someone and get it to mean anything. He would have to improve (or really finally gain) muscle mass to be efficient in fighting. Besides, his mother would probably worry and advocate more against that idea given his current situation.

But he could be passive with self-defense. Learning to fight without needing to throw a punch, to be quicker on his feet to avoid confrontation and contact. It would be a good place to start, to learn how to use his body and weight and improve himself and then improve it all over time. A way of avoiding the fight without having to run away and keep himself involved for the greater good. Tactical running.

And to explain the bat, it would be a tool. He was familiar with some similar weapons in martial arts from media alone, and maybe he could learn those first and then translate them to the bat. He didn’t have to use it for attacking, and the day he would could wait for the future. He understood enough that if he wanted to fight to protect others he would have to keep himself protected to be there, so all of this is what he needed to learn first. He had to convince his mother to let him take a class to teach him what he needed to know, and assure her he would do everything in his power and the power he would grow in practice to keep himself safe for her.

With hesitation and small amount of playing the Devil’s advocate, Inko complied, but with a few rules. The whole rest of the week would be nothing. They could look around online for a self-defense and martial arts class or school not too far from home, something Inko could afford with the money she had and that Izuku’s father across seas was supplying them with. After the incident in the shopping district, and the bridge she wasn’t made aware of, the last thing she wanted was to have Izuku going too fast into all this and jumping back into situations like that when he still wasn’t ready to take action. Then, after the week of getting everything ready and giving Izuku time to breathe and accept everything he was asking, to make sure he truly wanted to do it all, he could take the class they found a few times a week, just so it wouldn’t get in his way of school. He could take the class as long as he wanted to, until he either wanted to quit if he ever got second thoughts or until the possibility the money couldn’t keep him attending. He would keep his training only on self-defense, and any combat sparing that went beyond those studies and teachings were to be avoided until both of them thought he was ready. And under no circumstances was he to be using that bat without learning how to wield a proper weapon, and that too could wait if it wasn’t a part of his self-defense class.

And Izuku agreed to it. To all of it. He wasn’t offended by his mother helicoptering the whole ordeal, seeing as how her only child wanted to get into the heroics program and profession. It was a worry she probably shared with all parents with sons and daughters attempting to become heroes. Her worry was warranted, and Izuku didn’t want to betray that or her, so he agreed to her terms. He’d take it slow and ease into the whole ordeal before picking it up to keep up with those around him attempting to become heroes. He promised.

Izuku coughed into his sleeve, collapsing on the sand and swiping the water bottle from his bag.

He took the whole week off from any confrontation and physical involvement that would get him in trouble and danger. Kacchan was the only one who stepped close enough to make him feel threatened, but the blond only yelled at him to back off next time there was danger, and not to butt in when he couldn’t do anything. Words Kacchan apparently wanted to say following the slime villain’s attack but never found Izuku around to tell him. Aside from that, the class around him kept their own distance too, some dropping their jeers towards him altogether and others lightening up on the teasing and bullying. It seemed Izuku getting involved with that incident unsettled the previous thoughts they had about him (all but one person’s) and wrapping their minds around it and the Izuku they showed on the news was still underway.

They were beginning to think, at the very least amuse the idea, that Izuku was and could be heroic. It was a start.

And in that week, outside of school and inside his room and on his computer, when Izuku wasn’t studying for class and doing his homework, Izuku found himself working around his whole new plan to make himself a hero. Lucky enough for his mother, and especially himself, there was a martial arts school not too far from where they lived, a place that would take Izuku minutes to reach on the railways. Their training schedule was online too, and they had a block that was two hours long in the afternoon, for two days a week, that would focus specifically on teaching self-defense; jujitsu, specifically. It wasn’t a class about throwing a punch (which Izuku checked online and found quite a number of videos he could use to practice that form outside of class) but about disarming and pinning opponents. He ran it by his mom: the price of him attending both classes a week was manageable, and the class description fit the bill of what he was looking for and promised to focus on, and the distance from it to their home wasn’t an issue.

They went to the school later that week, to see the place for themselves and to meet the instructors. Inko, albeit reluctantly, made it clear that Izuku was quirkless and didn’t have experience with martial arts prior, but the instructors had no problems with it. According to their rules, emitter quirks were forbidden in class, and any physical mutant quirks were to be minded at all times, with practice for and against those with enhanced physical abilities mixed into the classes if need be. And it wasn’t required that Izuku had experience with martial arts, as long as he understood what he was and would be doing. Izuku explained that he did, and the lead instructor kept the talk going a little longer to learn of the whole situation and when Izuku would be attending their classes.

The lead instructor of the school asked Izuku directly why he wanted to take their self-defense classes, and within his stuttering he explained the dream and drive he had to be a hero. He explained that he thought it would be smarter not to learn how to fight but how to stop the fighting, something the class description voiced similarly and that helped draw Izuku into taking it. Heroes did know how to fight, but if he could learn how to do so in a means that was less messy and destructive to everything around them, the better off he would be. And while Izuku was nervous his explanation didn’t win him any points or promises, the instructor very much liked his state of mind. He explained that many of the students his school got voiced a similar hope, a few aiming to put it into heroics, others aiming specifically for the police positions, and others learning it knowing their quirks couldn’t help defend themselves, especially if they didn’t have the license to use them freely out in public. Izuku need not worry about his reasons to join. They were reasonable and acceptable enough for the school owner and lead instructor to give him a pass and offer him a “Good luck.”

The price his mother would have to pay for him to attend regularly each month was discussed and worked out, and when all was said and done, the two Midoriya’s waved goodbye with the workings of a smile on their faces. The instructor offered them a seat to stay a while and watch the classes going on so he could be familiar with that, but since the class Izuku wanted to take would be the day following, Izuku promised to stop by and watch that day to get himself familiar with it then. He wanted to keep his focus on defending himself before letting it ease into learning how to fight back, no matter how much his mind edged him on doing so.

The rest of the time Izuku had that week, he spent online searching up everything else he needed to know about that he thought would be important. The diet he worked out with his mom wasn’t anything too demanding on her wallet, which Izuku was just as grateful for. He didn’t want what he was doing to be too much for his mother to handle and by no means did he want her to run the wallet dry just for him and dream everyone was against. And, letting his mother know and understand, Izuku would spend the time around his studying, sleeping, and jujitsu classes running to help get into shape. Nothing too extreme, just a few laps around the block and near his home; however much he could manage a day when he had the time. He kept to running on the days between his martial arts class.

And he did run on those days, usually for an hour to just over half an hour around the block of their apartment. It really put into perspective the first few times just how out of shape he was. And when the jujitsu classes started, the same point was made there. Teaching went slowly the first few days, going over just what the martial art was apart from all the others there were to learn, and the practice they had dug a lot into Izuku’s head. His form greatly needed work, which was something he could also be practicing outside of class just to remind himself of what he was learning. It was advice the teacher had passed on the first day for those around Izuku who were struggling too. And Izuku personally had to lose his stiffness problem. He was too hesitant to move and act on the small techniques the teacher was giving them. His grip also needed work. Hand and foot placement also needed work. Most of him needed work, but the instructor he had seemed not offended or angry with him at the dilemma. They were understanding of everyone’s problems and promised that the more everyone practiced, the more everyone could overcome those problems. Izuku couldn’t remember a teacher as pleasant as her since the one he had in preschool.

Izuku straightened his back where he sat and worked on controlling his breathing, bringing air back into his lungs.

His classmates were also something else. For the most part, everyone was strange to Izuku, though it was apparently normal by everyone else’s standards. No one was really rude to anyone else, and people made friends and conversation in and between practices fairly easily. Only one other kid, someone a bit younger than Izuku, was abrasive with their words but their instructor was by no means pleased with their attitude and promised to kick the kid from the class if he kept his mouth yapping with those words.

Izuku really only interacted with one of the boys in his class, avoid the girls because no and the other boys because they seemed more interested in other things than he was familiar with. Mashirao Ojiro was a fairly nice and interesting boy, being the only one in the class with a mutant quirk, given he had a pretty big tail coming out from under his shirt. The few talks Izuku had with him at the start of all their classes made it clear he was there for almost the exact same reasons Izuku was. He was aiming for hero classes too, and for the same Yuei High School that the young Midoriya wanted to attend. He was pretty nice too, so Izuku stuck to him for most of the classes and practices they did. Mashirao had to avoid using his tail in most of the exercises until one came up specifically for defending with and against it. A lot of the other kids seemed hesitant to spar with him having a fifth limb in the way, but Izuku jumped to the challenge to partner with him. It gave him someone he was growing more comfortable with near him more often, and learning how to defend against someone who had more experience in martial arts and had a physical quirk that could benefit himself in battle gave Izuku a good challenge to work with and learn for his future endeavors.

And when class was over, Mashirao had to wait for his mother to come and pick him up, seeing as how they actually had a car for transport and Izuku only had the rails to move him around. So Izuku decided to keep him company when his mother was running a few minutes late, and the two boys got into discussions about heroics and the specifics of their quirks, or in Izuku’s case the lack-their-of.

God be forgiven, but Mashirao didn’t have any problem with Izuku being quirkless as so many others had been towards the green teen. Mashirao saw himself as practically quirkless, having nothing special but a big tail that, for most of the time in everyday life, just functioned as an extra limb. It wasn’t anything special like controlling water or releasing explosions from the palms of his hands, nor did he have enhanced strength or muscle fibers or bones throughout the rest of his body, so for the most part Mashirao saw himself as being a normal kid. With a big tail. At least he was nice about it.

Izuku set his hands on his knees and pushed himself back up to his feet. It had been a month since he met All-Might, nearly died a few times, was told to give up on his dream by numerous big people and a bully, found a bat in a dump of a beach, and worked out with his mother how he could become a hero. He’d taken his jujitsu class for four weeks, practicing loosely outside of class when he was alone and trying harder in class to make ends meet and was slowly working his way to getting the hang of it. He kept running every other day to keep his body growing fit, and had moved his running plan just last week from his neighborhood to the abandoned beach, running along the shoreline back and forth as many times as he could before his body told him he had done enough for the day. At best, that meant from one end to the other and then halfway back. It was a start.

Izuku cracked his neck, wincing at the small snap he heard, and moved himself forward in a jog, keeping the sea on his right side and following it along. Kacchan had been bothering him less, especially since Izuku was keeping so quiet and introverted about everything he was doing that the blond had no interest in bothering as often. Every now and again Izuku would hear the snide comment or sneer, but Izuku could put that off. And Mashirao was really nice. The two boys had exchanged numbers and kept small discussions in text whenever they had something to talk about, be it heroes or something they had learned in their self-defense classes. A new friend was a new friend and Izuku appreciated having him.

Izuku slowly eased his jog into a run, moving his feet faster and farther a second at a time. His breathing was shortening as his pace moved up, and his arms swung to join his legs.

Running was tiring. Really, really tiring. But Izuku liked doing it. He liked running when he had the time, and learning how to throw a punch properly, and practicing yoga-like forms to better his balance. It was bettering him, and he was getting better at doing them. That was what he wanted, and he was happy to be doing them.

The only thing he had not done in that month was touch the bat. It sat lonely in his closet, leaning against the wall beneath his shirts, waiting for the day Izuku took it out again. He had seen the various weapons in the martial arts school that was used in other classes, and his instructor had explained that they would practice disarming people who attacked them with a knife or a gun in the future. Those weapons weren’t anything similar to the baseball bat, but he would learn how to use those other ones and then learn how to fight against them eventually.

Izuku let himself smile through his short breaths. He would learn how to fight eventually. He would know how to fight and win eventually. He would get into Yuei eventually.

He would become a hero.

Eventually.

Chapter Text

Swing. Exhale.

Roll back. Step. Rise. Inhale.

Swing. Exhale.

Roll back. Step. Rise. Inhale.

Swing. Exhale.

Roll back. Step. Rise. Inhale.

Swing. Exhale.

Izuku kept his eyes forward as the bat fell in an arc, rolling past his feet and barely grazing the sand below before swinging back up to point at the sky. His hips followed it back, feet repositioning themselves apart correctly and giving Izuku a moment to breathe before he let out another swing with an oomph of a breath.

Another month gone by, and still so many more changes made to his life. His relationships with his classmates and Kacchan were very much non-existent (not like there was a good connection between him and any of them to begin with) so in class he kept himself very reserved. A few times he was caught muttering, but it was muffled beyond understanding and either the person in front or behind him would snap him out of it before the class broke in an uproar about it again. Kacchan specifically kept ignoring him, not even bothering to throw an insult his way in or outside of class. And their interactions were cut even more as Izuku kept his exercising outside of the neighborhood.

Speaking of which, those had changed within a month’s time. Izuku knew what it was like to feel sore, but he never knew how to feel a happy sore, especially when it was his own doing. Alongside his running, Izuku added more exercises and reps to build his body. Push-ups, sit-ups, punching drills (mainly of which was for perfecting his form to fight in the future while still staying out of fights for the time being), knee raises, and some weight lifting. Izuku kept all of his exercising around the beach, practicing on the sand or the pavement a stairways away. He didn’t want to work up a sweat in his room or the living room. That would be gross. And the weights he used weren’t really weights, as much as they were objects in the trash Izuku was able to lift and carry or push around to work out his muscles more. His birthday was in the middle of August, and he had thought in the weeks building up he would want some weights to give his arms a good work out when he was just in his room and had the spare hand to lift, but something else came up.

Izuku had moved his training to the beach, but it wasn’t all that better to begin with. While he had more space from people to himself, it was replaced with heaping piles of trash covering a fair portion of the sand and of his sight. And it wasn’t pleasing, and he understood why so many people decided to avoid it and the beach. The trash had become too big a nuisance, and no one was doing anything to get rid of it. No one stepped up to clean the beach and leave it good as new all over again. And nearly tripping over a microwave gave him idea; he’d clean the beach.

Izuku wanted to be a hero. He wanted to be a hero who could go out and fight villains and save people and do good deeds and just overall make people feel safe and happy. But that wasn’t what all heroes did, nor was it something he could jump into doing any time soon. Heroes weren’t made to fight, they were made to help, and that had no bounds to its meanings. Helping people across the street, helping people escape danger, helping people live, and even helping people clean. If Izuku couldn’t act as a hero trying to fight baddies, he could at least act as a hero trying to make the world and the places around him friendlier for all the people. That would be a good mark on his resume.

So for his birthday, alongside the hero merchandise and a new notebook or two, Izuku decided to cut some of that and instead ask for a wagon. He had to explain to his mother the reasoning behind it, because a 15-year-old asking for a wagon wasn’t a parent’s usual expectation. He told her that he looked online and found a proper dump about 12 blocks away from the beach, and she knew about the beach. Izuku decided he would take smaller objects and appliances, whatever weight he could manage and not something like a fridge (there in fact was a fridge amongst all the beach trash, and he avidly went out of his way to steer clear of it just on a regular basis: no way in hell was he walking across frozen heads in the middle of a beach if he could help it). He wouldn’t do anything too strenuous on his body, nor would he stay out too late doing it. He could spend probably the weekends only, and maybe sometime on Friday when he was exercising moving trash over and work at the piles little by little. Community service was heroic, and if he wanted to be a hero, he could at least do that. No fighting was involved, so the most danger he had was getting sore and maybe only once kinda dropping something on his foot.

Inko was much more reluctant to agree to that idea, thinking and arguing with her son calmly that he was putting too much pressure and work on his body, more than he needed to for getting into Yuei. Izuku argued reasonably that he wouldn’t do anything to destroy his body and stunt his growth, training and such, and he would keep his dwindling of the trash under careful watch to only do as much as he could. He wasn’t pressed for time to clean the beach, so he would work only as much as he could to clean it.

(It really wasn’t an argument as much as it was mother and son fretting over the other and their hyper reactions to everything they were discussing.)

Lucky him, he got a wagon. Getting it on the rail from home to the beach and back was an awkward two-way trip he was still getting used to, and the people riding with him were probably trying to adjust as well. He kept to his promise to only go on the weekends with the wagon and had spent a few days already moving trash over to the dump, having several breaks in between trips to rest his arms from the amount of stress the whole ordeal was putting them under. It was still a welcomed feeling, knowing sore meant he was training his body right and he was only conditioning himself to get used to it.

He told Mashirao the following class what he was doing, and the tailed boy was both surprised and impressed at the idea. It wasn’t something he thought of doing, though it was a good thing. Sadly he couldn’t join in. Izuku had opened up the invitation if the other boy wanted to join him to help or just hang out at the beach, but the blond boy had much a busy schedule, what with his exercising and training, his school work and grades he had to make sure met expectations, and all the family times and outings he had with his parents. His mother had promised they could try to work something out, but Izuku didn’t want them to have to ruin any of their plans to do so. It wasn’t too big a loss for Izuku that he couldn’t spend more time with his friend outside of the self-defense classes, but it did dishearten him slightly.

Izuku swung the bat towards the sand again, giving himself a moment of rest and breath in the middle of his practice.

Speaking of the martial arts classes, Izuku was happy to see some improvement in them. He had been just about two months in his practicing, and while his body structure grew and improved, so did his performance in sparring. Mashirao could still sweep him off his feet in free sparring and takedowns, but at least in the scripted practice his muscles and joints were loosening. He could flow more freely from a stand to a crouch, was finding it easier to lift someone onto his hip and bring them to the ground (though the weight was still a milestone he had to overcome) and diverting and dodging punches were fun and becoming easier to react and deflect. His other classmates were the same, if his instructor’s words of appreciation to them as a whole meant anything. And the abrasive boy was growing less abrasive, though the small comment of his ‘awesomeness and how much better he could do what his classmates did’ would come out in a whisper. He just never went out of his way to try and prove it with the intent of doing so.

And while they still had yet to tackle weapons, another gift came to Izuku on his birthday: permission to use his bat, given some restrictions. Inko decided to lift her embargo on Izuku actually using the bat for something, but she kept the restriction on him using it against anyone, especially since he could easily hurt someone more than he would want to if he didn’t know how to fight properly. Izuku accepted that, and his first order of business in using the bat was just to familiarize himself with it. He’d watch some videos and read some training articles on using weapons like escrima sticks and swords and staffs, and the first matter they addresses was learning how to handle each weapon. Get familiar with the weight distribution and the right grip and the movement of the weapon in each possible movement. Find a movement to practice and play on repeat until it’s natural.

So Izuku did just that. He would take the bat to the beach and practice swinging the bat, treating it like a normal bat that anyone else would and getting his arms used to the new weight of a metal distorted cylinder he wanted to use for heroics. If the heat in his arms were any indication, he was doing it right. The bat was growing less strenuous just to pick up, and Izuku was too embarrassed by the idea of celebrating for growing muscles on the pencils he had coming out of his shoulders just a number of weeks ago.

The green haired teen took a large gasp of air as his grip eased off the bat and kept it hanging by his leg from only one. Swinging the bat was good and all, but after a while it did feel somewhat boring. Maybe he should by some baseballs to practice with. Help improve hand-eye coordination and response times. Would also be pretty harmless if he’s practicing on the beach a good distance away from the homes on main land. Izuku rolled his spine straight with a slight crack in sound, giving the sea another look and a smile through his sweat before turning away.

To find someone watching him.

“Gah!” Izuku jumped back with a spin of his hands, dropping the bat in his hands and startling the boy sitting on the stairs watching him.

“My apologies!” the other boy announced, jumping to his own feet and taking a step down and closer to Izuku. “Are you alright?”

Izuku on his part was recovering fast, placing a hand on his chest as he calmed down with his breath. “Y-yes, I’m f-fine,” he manages to speak to the taller boy in the blue tracksuit. “Y-you startled me. I d-didn’t hear you come up.”

“My deepest apologies!” The tall boy made his way down the last few steps to the sand and feel into a stiff bow. Izuku blinked, his surprise staying as the other boy continued. “I did not mean to scare you. I came out of my way to the beach to confirm what my brother had told me about this place. I had no intention of frightening you with my unannounced presence.”

“No, no, i-it’s fine. Y-you don’t have to apologize.” Izuku kept his hands shaking in front of him with a smile to match. On the inside of his head, he couldn’t help but kick himself. He finally had a friend, one in the form of a blond boy with a tail, but actually talking to other people outside of him was always a crutch. Especially now that someone had come across his training with the bat. He gulped down what nerves he could and carried on. “S-so you came here because your brother…”

The other boy shot back up straight, giving Izuku a small jump in his shoulders as the boy turned his attention to the green teen. “Right!” the taller teen announced, shooting a hand forward in a very flat and stiff form. “My brother had told me about this beach before, and the…state it had become over the few years. I had never come out here to see it myself before, but now that I do,” the taller boy turned his hip, facing one of the trash piles and rising his hand to fix the pair of glasses over his nose, “I see why my brother had said it wasn’t bringing in anyone’s attention.”

Izuku swallowed again, licking his lips and nodding his head slowly. “Y-yeah, it…does look bad.” The young Midoriya turned his head to look at the trash piles with the taller boy. “The tide picked up a lot of the trash to begin with, but no one really bothered to clean it up, and since there aren’t that many attractions around here, not a lot of people had the interest in coming here to swim or relax to being with, and knowing the state of society there’s probably more people than not without time on their hands to spend going to the beach so the trash just kept building up to the point people would avidly avoid coming here at all, and when anyone does come around it’s just to drop off more trash which in hindsight is pretty lazy of them when there’s a dump a couple of blocks to the east—”

“You seem quite familiar with the beach.” Izuku jumped in place without leaving the ground, turning his head back to the other boy. Said teen had changed the expression of his face from the slightly saddened face to a different kind of frown that Izuku was trying to decipher. “Do you perhaps live in the city here?”

“A-ah, no, I don’t. I-I live on another edge of town. I’ve just been…coming here often.” Izuku could feel the sweat still rolling down his face, and for the life of him he wasn’t sure which bead was from the training and which was from his nerves. He turned away from the other boy to his bag in the sand, dropping in a crouch and diving through it to pull out a towel and smother his face with it.

“Oh. I see you are out here to train?” Izuku nodded against his towel instead of giving the boy another verbal response. That stupid stutter still needed work. “I must say, I wouldn’t have expected a place such as this as an area I would have considered training in. But then again, it would be wrong of me to say I know much about the sport of baseball.”

A few moments of silence passed until Izuku lowered the towel on his face, just below his eyes so he could blink against air instead of cotton and turn his neck to the other boy, sharing with him a look of wide eyes full of confusion on both ends. The other boy opened his mouth to speak, but he cut himself short, moving his hands to rest on his hips before he did actually talk. “I’m…sorry to ask, but did I say something out of line?” His tone sounded genuine, just as confused as his look. “If you were planning on keeping your practicing private by using a beach that people do not come to populate anymore, then I do formally apologize for having interrupted you—”

 “No!” Izuku shot his hands out to the other boy before he could bow again, dropping the towel into his lap. Not even a second later did the volume of his voice register in his own ears before his hands darted back over his mouth to let his voice reset. “No, I-I don’t play baseball. I’m n-not practicing or training for it.”

“Oh.” The boy’s rigid movements seemed to translate to the rest of his body as he, as far as Izuku could tell, was struggling to find the right words. “My apologies for presuming. I just thought with the swings you were making and the way your form was, you were practicing to be…up to bat, I think it goes?”

“I…wouldn’t know,” Izuku confessed, face heating up as he looked down at the bat behind him. “I-I’m not actually into baseball.”

“But then why would you have one? A bat, I mean.”

Izuku gulped again, reaching over for the bat and pulling it over to rest by his legs. “I’m actually…” He breathed a big wisp of air, giving it several seconds to rest in his chest before letting it all back out with words to follow. “I’m training to be a hero.” The boy continued his curious look as Izuku kept talking. “I-I’m training out here with a baseball bat because I plan on using it to be a hero so I need to treat it like a tool and a weapon and like all weapons I should at least learn to handle it first and get used to carrying it around and since it’s a baseball bat and I promised my mom I wouldn’t get into combat fighting or anything dangerous again, I thought it would be best to use it as a regular bat and get my body used to its weight distribution and size any batter would instead of going about it like a hero would while practicing self-defense instead of offensive combat, but once she allows it and I’ve trained my arms more to handle the weight and it feels comfortable in my hands I’ll learn how to use it like a bō-staff or a sword to not only protect myself but use it in combat offensively as…well…”

Izuku’s voice drifted with the dust in the wind as he caught the boy’s eyes again, staring at him through the glass resting upon his nose in a look of shock and surprise. Yeah, his muttering didn’t go away, and to his unfortunate luck it never let up either. He could feel his face growing warmer as he ducked it to his chest and mumbled out an apology. Though apparently that didn’t reach the other boy’s ears as he began talking.

“It sounds like you’ve put quite the amount of thought into using it for heroics,” the tall boy admitted, placing a hand on his hips and the other over his chest. “I wouldn’t have thought to use something like that for a role in heroics, but your commitment to it sounds marvelous. I commend you for your idea. Besides,” somehow the boy straightened his posture even higher, “I’m looking to go into heroics myself, so I would hope to see you there too.”

“Y-you are?” Izuku’s head rose slightly to the other boy, looking up to his from the highest point his eyes could roll to.

“But of course. My brother is actually a pro hero, and I’ve been learning a lot from him to be able to become one myself and make him proud. I’m going to test to get into Yuei next year.”

As the boy in blue smiled with pride to the boy in green, the latter rose his head higher, breathing out the heat building in his cheeks. “Y-your brother is a hero?”

The boy in glasses nodded taking a step forward and gesturing to the sand before Izuku asking to sit, which the green teen nodded a bit too quickly to let him know he could. “My brother in Ingenium. I’ve only been to his hero office a few times, but at home he’s been able to teach me a lot from his own experience.”

“Ingenium? I know of him…” Izuku furrowed his eyebrows as he conditioned his mind to move on with the subjects changing before him. “He’s the hero with engines in his arm to keep him slightly above the ground and move at pretty fast speeds. H-he’s pretty cool as a hero. His armor is similar to a knight’s, isn’t it?”

“Yes it is,” the boy in blue confirmed, turning his legs over just slightly for Midoriya to actually take notice of the pipes coming out of the back of his legs. “My quirk is similar to his, though it is positioned on different limbs of our bodies.”

“It does look a lot like the engines on his forearms…” A hand stroked Izuku’s chin lightly, itching to take out a notebook and write down what he could about it before the boy spoke up again.

“And what of your quirk?”

Izuku froze at the question, and like the crashing waves behind him, the harsh reality he lived in came rolling back and washed over his small moment of peace. “I, uh…I…” He pressed his mouth into a line, looking not at the boy or the sand, but just ahead at the nervousness playing in his mind. “I…don’t have…a quirk.”

He flinched and curled in on instinct, sitting in wait for the insults of his deficiency and worthlessness to come flying out of the other boy’s mouth, riding on the laughter that other boys would present him with.

But that didn’t come.

“You’re…quirkless?” One look at the taller boy and Izuku could tell he was more confused than literally every other emotion and reaction the green teen was expecting out of him. “I had assumed you had a strength based quirk, which was why you were using the bat; to compliment the amount of power and momentum you could put into each swing, which sounded ideal for a sport like baseball and then just as useful when you said it was heroics.”

“Y-yeah…I don’t have a strength quirk…or any.” His fingers were dry as the rubbed along the fabric of his pants, still on edge waiting for the boy to turn into the rest of the world. “I’m just…using the bat to help get into heroics. Kind of…in place of a quirk, I guess…to do more than I would with just my regular strength.”

The other boy was silent for a moment (which did absolutely jack to ease Izuku’s nerves) and crossed his arms against his chest. “…I believe I understand what you are getting at, having a tool or device on hand to make up for where you would lack in comparison to other people and their quirks. Though – and sorry if it sounds rude of me, I mean no intent by it – I am confused as to why a bat and not a sword or staff as you had mentioned.”

Izuku let his mouth moisten up to speak again as the boy’s words took to the register in his head. He…wasn’t go to berate him? He sounded so calm about it, so did he actually not mind Izuku not having a quirk? That didn’t sound right… Everyone else did…

Then the question clicked in his head, and a line Mashirao had told him when he learned about the bat played over his tongue. “Well, i-if I’m not going to have any special powers to stand out…might as well go with the unconventional.”

The boy blinked at the advice passed on before jolting his back upright in an instant. “That is an excellent idea. The hero world is full of very diverse heroes, especially in their presentation on the field. It only makes sense to keep yourself noticeable with something that would be unique to your style.” His head turned to the side with a scoff. “How could I have not guessed that sooner?”

Izuku blinked in his own confusion to the other boy’s quips before collecting himself and turning back to the green teen. “So you are planning on being a hero too.” It wasn’t really a question; it didn’t sound like one. It seemed the tall boy was just saying it out loud to remind himself of the detail. “Does that mean you will be applying for heroics at Yuei?”

“A-ah, yes, I am. Or…a-at least I’m hoping to. I know…I know they opened up the tests for quirkless students to apply, but I still have training to do before I can take the tests.”

“Then it’s lucky we have just over seven months to catch up. I have some training of my own I need to work with, and it seems I need to do some more studying as well.”

“Y-yeah…” Izuku didn’t really want to end the conversation (he did, but he didn’t want to come off as rude about it) but the sun catching his eye inching closer to the building in the distance caught his attention. “O-oh it’s getting late. I-I have to get home; my mom’s expecting me soon.”

The taller boy turned his head back to his shoulder, giving the sun a glance from the corner of his eye. “I best be doing the same. My brother should be arriving home from his office as well. It would be better of me than to keep my family waiting.” The two boys rose from the sand, one composing himself straight as the other fumbled about to collect his things and have them together. The taller one took a step forward with a hand leading his direction. “It has been a pleasure to…Oh, I just realized we never introduced ourselves.” For a moment his composure fell apart, but his body shook as the hand darted back to him and landed against his chest, just as Izuku was stretching his own shaking hand to meet it. “My name is Tenya Iida. It is a pleasure to meet you…”

The hand came forward again, and Izuku let his own continue its momentum to meet it in the middle and give it an awkward shake in his blush and surprise. “I-Izuku Midoriya. N-nice to meet you t-too.” The shaking went on for a few more seconds before they both let go and made their way up the stairs together. At the top, as Izuku turned away to book it to the railway system home, he was stopped by the young Iida brother.

“Will you be coming back to this beach another day?”

Izuku blinked to start his response before blushing again as he actually decided to answer with words. “Y-yes. I come here every other day and over the weekends. I-I…no one else comes here so it’s an o-open place to train…well, aside from the garbage…”

“Yes, that is quite abundant here.” Tenya gave the trash a look from the corners of his eyes before letting them fall to Izuku again. “Well, then, I may stop by another day. It was nice to have met you, Midoriya. Have a good night.” The tall boy gave the green teen a salute before turning on heel and starting to jog into his run back home.

Izuku watched after him, stone in his spot as he eased himself to understand everything that had happened. “N-nice to meet you as well, Iida.” His eye flinched from the sun above and the promise to his mom to be home played again in his head and had him booking it to the rails to catch the next one home in time.

Iida seemed like a nice person, Izuku thought as ran through the blocks. A bit rigid and formal, but he seemed not to mind Izuku’s quirkless diagnosis. Maybe Iida would come to the beach again.

Chapter Text

Tenya did in fact come back to the beach a week later. It was their second meeting, but at least his first time he announced his presence when Izuku wasn’t paying attention. The taller boy still carried with him an easier going attitude with his rigid posture, so Izuku didn’t necessarily worry about talking with him again. Izuku’s quirklessness was only a side note in their talks, so at least some god above was looking down on him kindly. Or as kindly as one would be to him.

As Izuku took a break from his swinging, the two boys took to another conversation, and since Tenya was so inclined to meet with him again and praised his brother in similar yet less depth that Izuku did All-Might, the green teen decided to ask a bit about the hero agency his family owned. And Tenya was blissfully ready to gush about that. The Iida Family line of heroes, according to the boy in blue, had been heroes or just trying to be since before heroics had even become a government funded profession. Not every child in the Iida line became heroes, but the agency under their name never left family ownership, and Tenya planned to continue that tradition with his brother in the future.

Speaking of his bother and the admiration the younger Iida had to him, Tensei now knew of the young Midoriya from his younger brother. Tenya had spoken briefly of the boy he had met at the beach who, through a small conversation after crossing paths and surprising one another a plenty of times, had shared his own desire of becoming a pro hero and attending Yuei. Tensei had repeated back to his brother how happy he was to know he would be making friends going into that school and their futures as heroes with, which did nothing to sooth the growing blush on Izuku knowing a pro hero knew more about him personally.

However, Tenya had not shared with his brother the state of Izuku’s quirklessness. While the green teen had shared his genetic state with the engine quirked boy after a few minutes, the young Iida did not see it in his place to spread the information without prior consent. People of a similar status were of a very small margin in the population, and Tenya was well aware of how some were treated just online and media, despite never seeing any of it in person. He had no doubt in his mind that Tensei would think no differently of the young Midoriya, Tenya still saw it appropriate to keep that away until Izuku told his otherwise.

Midoriya appreciated that sentiment but hesitated going further into that discussion. His mind drifted back to the events months prior, when he had come in contact with other heroes telling him to step down and keep out of trouble for his quirkless genes. He hadn’t crossed paths with them again, only seeing their reoccurring feats on the internet and news back home, and it wasn’t intentional. Yeah, their words hurt, but Izuku was still trying to defeat those doubts within himself and still become a hero despite the setback he was given at birth. That didn’t mean their opinions didn’t stick all the same. He wanted to talk with more heroes, get to meet them more and gush how he does in his notebook, but he’d been putting so much forward in his priorities he hadn’t the time to find any working in the area.

But if Tenya trusted his brother enough to be nice about his lack of a quirk, Izuku allowed him to share the fact when he thought best.

Then Tenya took control of the conversation, asking Izuku about what he has been doing for training. The blue teen had only been doing basic exercises to build his body and keep himself in shape, only every now and again practicing with his quirk when his family was overseeing his training. But compared to Izuku’s training, his was nothing similar. While Izuku didn’t have a quirk of his own, he still had a focus for his training and preparation for the world of heroics that Tenya was not partaking in, and the few tid bits Izuku had given him of self-defense and weapons training had the taller boy invested in learning more details about them.

So Izuku through a blush from the actual interest Tenya voiced went on explaining what he could of his self-defense classes, along with his friend Mashirao he had told a bit about Tenya to, and his plans for training in combat and weaponry. He informed Tenya briefly of the villain encounter that started it all, given his time to breathe since the two months the times he was almost prevented from doing so occurred (now that he thought about it, Mashirao was never told about the incident and he probably should be, too, knowing the news coverage never mentioned his or Kacchan’s name), and finding the bat discarded amongst the trash sitting with them at the beach that set the idea in his head. Tenya was very interested in the jujitsu Izuku explained to him, and going over how leg oriented his own training was, pondered the idea aloud to mix some more hand oriented techniques to better himself as well. Izuku backed that idea, not seeing any reason not to get better and learn more knowing it could become of some benefit in the future against villains, but admitted he needed to learn more himself before he could pass it on to Iida as the taller boy started to suggest.

Instead, Izuku invited Iida for a jog and a run, having planned on one to follow his swinging practice because he had decided to mix the order for the day. Iida accepted the invitation, and giving them both a moment to set their things aside that they didn’t need, the two took off in a jog along the shoreline side-by-side.

For a time.

Izuku huffed his chest high before collapsing forward onto his knees in a coughing fit. Tenya beside him was standing straight with his hands resting on his hips and taking long and controlled breaths. The tall teen looked down to the hunched back of the new companion. “Are you feeling alright, Midoriya?” he had asked with concern, moving one hand to rest above the teen’s shoulder.

“You…” Izuku rose an inch before letting his body hang loose by the hip. “You run too fast. Were you using your quirk?”

“I assure you I was not using my quirk. Not only is it against the law to do so without a provisional license, it would have been rude of me to do so in the run I agreed to do by your side.”

“S-sorry, it…you’re really good at running.” Izuku pushed off his knees and straightened his back again, coughing out each exhale of the air he sucked in.

“Well of course I need to be proficient in such a physical activity, given it compliments my quirk.” Tenya gave the shorter boy a look over the red face. “If you’re having trouble breathing, I would put your hands on your head. Lifting your arms opens your chest so your lungs can take in air better and help you breathe without hurting for air. My brother shared that with me when I started my training.”

“Y-yeah, I know a-about that. Thanks…for reminding me.” Izuku did such, placing his hands one over the other and atop his head. “I-I read that online; the arms like this get the diaphragm to work more. Apparently that’s the muscle that lets you breathe.”

“Is that so?” Tenya raised an eyebrow as Izuku let out an affirmative grunt.

“I didn’t know that before, either. I…I don’t remember that from biology.”

“I do not believe it was ever mentioned in my own classes.” Tenya turned his neck and head to the trash pile they had originated from further down the beach. “Should we head back now?”

“I-I…yeah.” Izuku gave a small nod before taking slow steps forward back to the mounds of trash, with Tenya tailing close beside.

“Do you need help walking, Midoriya?” Izuku heard the worry in Tenya’s sentence and gave it a small shake of his head, barely managing from the weight of his hands in his hair.

“I-I’m fine. Thank…thank you, Iida. That…I don’t usually run that much…That was a length more than I usually do.” Pauses in his sentence came when he had to breathe again, each time drawing Tenya to focus his worry on him more. The sentence Izuku had ended with added surprise to the taller teen’s emotions.

“That was? My apologies, Midoriya. You should have spoken sooner; I would have agreed to stopping if you weren’t up to running another.”

“No-no, i-it’s fine.” Izuku took one of his hands away from his mess of a hair style to hold it loosely facing the boy beside him. “I-I need to work out regardless. I can’t…I can’t be holding myself back because I don’t have a quirk. It’s fine.”

“That doesn’t mean you should be running yourself into the ground, Midoriya.” Tenya took his own hand across to Izuku, resting a hand on his shoulder to get his gaze over. “You would only be hurting yourself pushing your body through what it can’t handle. We have months until the Yuei entrance exam; you don’t need to rush yourself in training to hurt yourself before it.”

Izuku slowed in his pace with Tenya, pulling his own hand back to his side and dropping the other from his head. His head turned away slowly back to looking straight ahead as he gave a small nod with his contemplation. Tenya was right, voicing the same opinion his instructor had given him and the rest of his jujitsu class. “You’re right…Sorry. Can’t be a hero if I’m not healthy enough to stand up, can I?”

“I think it’s better not to test that hypothesis.” Tenya gave the smaller boy one last look before blinking and turning the conversation around. “Why is it you want to be a hero, Midoriya?”

That stuttered Izuku in his step, leaving Tenya to catch him before he could fall into the water. The tall boy rushed out his own apologies for catching Izuku off guard, for that was how it seemed. Izuku muttered out his voice, reassuring Tenya it was his own fault as the two edged closer to the trash piles.

“W-why do I want to be a hero?” Izuku repeated, twitching ever-so-slightly as he looked to the other boy who nodded for his response.

“We’ve talked a fair amount about our own admirations for heroes, and I myself have shared with you that my family drive and inspire me to become a hero, but we haven’t talked about why you do. I am quite curious to know your own drive, considering the amount of effort you’ve been putting in to apply for Yuei.” Tenya sent his friend a smile as the two reached their own items sitting between the piles of trash, eager to hear about the other boy’s inspiration.

But Izuku kept himself quiet, moving over to his bag and easing down beside it. As he tipped the water into his lips, his mind pondered over the question and curiosity from Tenya. Why he wanted to become a hero. That was a question he had put on the forefront of his dreams, back when he had reason instead of muscle to desire the title of a hero. He wanted to be like All-Might. Then he met All-Might. And his perception changed.

Izuku blinked as he turned over to look at Iida. “I…Did I tell you I met All-Might?”

While it wasn’t an answer to his question, Tenya straightened in excitement. “You have? This if the first I’ve heard of this. That must have been quite the encounter to meet the number 1 hero himself.”

“Y-yeah.” It wasn’t. Not for him. “He…he was my hero growing up. I-I would watch old videos of his fights, and it really inspired me to become a hero.” Izuku’s fingers drummed on the water bottle in his hand. “I wanted to become a hero because of him, to be like him, but…”

Tenya let his excitement drop as he did too, resting on his legs in the sand. “But what? Did something change?”

“I-Kinda. I…still want to be a hero because of him, but not…because I want to be like him. Now…I think…”

---

“I think I want to be a hero to prove everyone wrong.”

Mashirao looked to the green haired boy hiding under the towel draping over his head. The two boys hand ended their class, and since the tailed boy’s mother was running late, Izuku opted to spend another couple of minutes with the other boy until she arrived.

The blond boy dropped his arm and water bottle against his leg. “What brought that on?” he asked Izuku.

The green haired teen raised his hands to rub the towel in his hair before brushing it back to rest around his shoulders. “I…Iida was at the beach yesterday. Got to talk more with him and we got to talking about heroes, and then my reason to be one.” Izuku turned his head slightly to his friend beside him, but didn’t look up to meet his eyes. “And that’s mine.”

“Huh.” Mashirao looked to the top of his friend’s head before turning his own to look ahead. “I guess that makes sense. You…don’t sound happy about that though.”

“It’s stupid.” Izuku rose his head, letting it lean back lazily and stare ahead blankly. The boy beside him snapped his attention back over to his friend, furrowing his eyebrows with concern. “And it’s selfish. Not really becoming of a hero.”

“A-Midoriya.” Mashirao turned his body a bit more in the chair towards his friends, curving his tail in front of him and Izuku’s legs. “That’s not a bad thing. Every hero has a reason to be one, and you have a good reason to be one.”

“It’s rude, Ojiro. I want to be a hero because I want to shove it in everyone’s faces that I can be one, if I can ever become one. That’s far from heroic, and it’s just selfish of me. Heroes aren’t supposed to be selfish.”

“But they do make things right.” Izuku tilted his head back down to Mashirao and his interjection. The tailed boy hesitated to continue looking at his friend, so he turned his head back away to look forward with the rest of his body. “I know I’m probably not the best person there is to talk about these sorts of things, but you have every reason to want that, Midoriya. If everyone has been to you what you’ve said, and I don’t doubt that, then you’re doing this for a good purpose. You shouldn’t have to be treated like that, no one should, so becoming a hero to tell everyone who thinks that way is wrong, that people who don’t have quirks and want to be heroes can become heroes, it’s…righteous.” Mashirao looked back over his shoulder to Midoriya. “I’m using that word right, yeah?”

“Y-yeah, you are…” Izuku pushed his head forward to sit straight upwards. “And…but it’s a selfish reason, and I shouldn’t be a hero off of something like that…”

Mashirao let his eyes drop from Izuku’s for a moment before snapping back up. “Why does…Iida?” Izuku nodded to assure he got the name right. “Why does Iida want to become a hero?”

“Iida…he wants to be a hero to take on the family legacy,” Izuku answered, darting his eyes about as the facts played out in his head as a reminder. “His brother and parents are why he wants to be one, and he wants to do them proud by becoming one and joining their hero facility.”

“Well that’s a selfish reason.” Izuku blinked with wide eyes to Mashirao’s straightforward statement. “He wants to do it specifically for himself and his family. That’s a selfish reason. But it’s not bad. You told me he was kind and nice to you, remember? Trying to step in when he was fretting over you? That’s heroic. It…it isn’t his purpose, but what he was doing in the moment was what a hero would do, what they should do. That should be reason enough that he could become a hero.”

Izuku kept silent as he stared back at Mashirao staring at him. Neither said anything for a moment, the young Midoriya stilling still and the young Ojiro licked his lips as he paused his speech. It was Mashirao who spoke again.

“Just because you want to be a hero to tell people what they’ve been doing is wrong isn’t bad, Midoriya. That’s also very heroic. And, personally, I think you’re the nicest person I’ve met. No one’s as excited as you are about all this. You’re trying your own hardest to be the best you can be, and you’re not trying to leave anyone behind while doing so. You fret over accidentally hurting anyone even though we’re all holding back and you’ve gotten hurt instead. You’re putting other ahead of yourself, which is…mostly good.” Mashirao brushed a hand against his tail, giving another moment of pause to breathe. “Why you want to become a hero shouldn’t matter so much more than what you can and will do as a hero. Just because you want to do something selfish doesn’t mean you are selfish, and it doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. You’re trying to do something right, too. There’s no shame in that.”

“I…” Izuku gulped to cut his own sentence, loosening his spine and leaning forward in his seat. In just a few seconds, his stale expression broke as a wet smile took over with short breaths. Izuku looked back up to his friend, blinking apart water brimming in his eyes. “T-thank you for that, Mashirao,” he spoke to the other boy, his lips quivering as he did. “I…shouldn’t be thinking that way, should I?”

“Probably not,” Mashirao responded with a soft smile. “As long as you’re not thinking of it as just bad.” The two took a comfortable pause of silence before the blond cut in again. “And, to that ‘protecting others’ thing…you shouldn’t be protecting that ‘Kacchan’ for what he’s been doing. I know we’ve gone over this, but…you still shouldn’t.”

Izuku whole expression and atmosphere broke apart for a second before reconnection and forming into a new one as he shook his hands wildly in front of himself. “I-I-I’m not defending h…him at all! I know i-it’s wrong! I’m not saying anything h-he said was good or right!”

“He should still be punished for what he’s done.” Izuku’s finger’s flinched in towards his palms. “Same with everyone else who’s been rude to you.”

“Y-yeah, but…no one’s doing it anymore. K-Kacchan too. They’ve all stopped. We don’t need to-to bring them into that anymore, and I-I’m fine, so it’s fine. I-I promise.”

Mashirao let his stare sit on Izuku before he turned away to sigh. “Honestly, you really are too kind something.”

“I-I’m sorry!”

“That’s not something you have to apologize for.”

“Sorry.”

“Midoriya.”

Chapter Text

 October

Izuku doesn't remember the last time he was impatient. Or at least to the degree he was feeling lying on his bed, staring at the ceiling and idly roaming his fingers around the bat. He doesn't remember the last time waiting for so long really got to him, to the point that he couldn't think of much to do. And that was weird to say out loud knowing the list of activities and chores he could be doing. He could be at the beach, cleaning or exercising or practicing; or he could be on his computer, studying or watching videos or reading up on the hero news and theories and whatnot. But he couldn't find the energy in him to do any of that, even with how simple they all were.

He knew he had to relax in between everything he was doing, but even in that space of relaxation he couldn't find something to fill in the spae. His mind could think of the ideas of literally anything to fill in his time, but his body didn't have the driving energy to do any of it. The only thing keeping him awake and not sleeping the day off was his mind constantly running circles with second guessing. Not once did it decide on committing to an action to fill in the free time he had made in his plans.

Maybe bored was a better word for his feelings than impatient.

Izuku took the grip of his bat in both his hands and pulled it up to his chest, tapping the hilt against his ribs lightly as he stared at his empty ceiling. It was the only part of his room vacant of any decoration or furnishing and the only thing he could focus on to calm his mind and his thoughts from going everywhere.

Was this Limbo? Wanting to do nothing but trying to find something to do and the energy to do it, only to come up short and resort to staring at empty space in an attempt to quell the mind of its endless process of decision and dismissal?

Izuku closed his eyes, sighing and sitting up in his bed, the bat sliding down to his legs. A hand rubbed over his face to wipe away the existential crisis a blank white ceiling was giving him. Of all the things that was supposed to do for him, that was not one of them.

His eyes opened to the wide smile on his wall and in an effort to look away only to find many more gazing upon him. Hero memorabilia was everywhere in his room. Not just of All-Might, but most any heroes he could name just off their slogans, as easily he could off their costumes and logos. The amount of toys and posters and figurines and comics and really everything he had of heroes probably built up into the hundreds over the years, just passing a decade by last year. His affinity and attraction to the world of heroics, and the dream of becoming one, had built most of his life growing up. He wasn't sure just how much of it he relied on since he first saw a hero in action.

And he couldn't give any of it up. He had grown up hearing the world of heroics was in the realm of impossibility for him ever since being diagnosed as quirkless. People reminded him every week, nigh every day, that a hero was something he could never become. Their words never stopped his fascination, though. No words; no bruises; no threats could turn off his affection to the heroes and what they did and who they were. Not the doctors. Not his mom. Not his classmates. Not the heroes. Not Kacchan.

Not All-Might.

In retrospect, he should have thrown out everything he had of the hero when he got home after the villain incident. While the man had saved his life, he had unintentionally backed the words Izuku had heard from his peers every day. Key word: unintentionally. Izuku had amused the idea of cleaning his room of hero memorabilia in his frustration with All-Might. But the baseball bat in his hands made him think the night he came home after the sludge villain incident, as it had at the beach. All-Might wasn't looking down at him like everyone else did. He was looking out for him. That was his intent. Without a power like his peers and enemies around him, Izuku was at a disadvantage, and to that same extent a higher risk of losing his life need he rush in to battle a villain. The heroes at the sludge villain incident had all voiced a similar sentiment—no, concern—no, issue. The heroes at the site of the sludge villain mall incident were very loud and angry with Izuku. Their words didn't come off as equally concerned as All-Might's had, even though his, too, were less than encouraging to tell the young Midoriya to move on.

But all the same, Izuku couldn't believe All-Might to have meant any ill-intent by his words. He was just trying to be a hero, doing what he thought best. And he thought Izuku was safe with a life better fit for someone without a quirk of their own. That was what Izuku concluded of the hero's intentions. He was just trying to look out for a life. All the heroes were. All of them were just looking out for his life.

Even if that meant crushing his dreams.

Izuku dragged a finger down the bat.

They hadn't crushed enough.

Maybe, had Izuku listened, he would have put aside his hero collection and focused elsewhere. But his dream hadn't died that day. His desire hadn't shriveled away and rot to nothing. The world of heroics didn't get away from him fast enough to keep on clinging.

"I'm thinking realistically now," Izuku spoke out loud, eyes drifting slowly to the poster at the foot of his bed, the poster of All-Might, staring back at him. "I'm thinking and I'm doing. I can keep my dream and act in reality. I don't have to do one or the other. I'll do them both to become a hero." The space that were All-Might's eyes stayed longer on Izuku than his eyes stayed on the poster, dropping to the bat in his lap. "I want to help people. I always have wanted and acted to help people. But I can't be a police officer. I-I mean, I could, but…You can't even hear this." Izuku's hand came up and his head dropped, meeting only to shake side to side and wipe away what was watering up.

His tongue brushed over his lips. "I have to be a hero. I…Not for me, not entirely. I'm-I'm doing this for me, but I'm also doing this…for you." The bat was leaning against his shoulder, close enough for him to drape an arm around it. "You…you said you smiled because you're afraid, right? Y-you have to smile, all the time. It's for the best, right? Then…then so is me and what I'm doing." His eyes blinked and darted back to the poster, just the one specifically, of the hero standing with arms flexed and fists resting against his hips, blocking out the words behind him that were supposed to read I AM HERE. "You do what you do to fight bad people…I-I want to do the same, even if the people or what I'm fighting for isn't the same. I want…I don't want them to be right." His lips pursed as he swallowed wet air. "I don't want Kacc…Katsuki to be right…What he does is wrong and I-I don't want him – I don't want anyone – to think what he does or-or says…is right.

"So I'm doing this for him, too, same as I'm doing for you." His hand tensed and gripped the handle of the bat. "To tell you you're wrong. To tell you I can be a hero. To tell you anyone could be." The bat rose from his lap, circling slowly overhead until it pointed an inch away from All-Might's face. His eyes did the same, both fierce and fighting back tears. "I'm going to be a hero. Just like you. Because I need to be one. I'm not backing down from this." In his words of fire Izuku stayed, eyes locked on to the poster's. And then he faltered. "Would you even be proud of me?"

Do I even want you to be?

---

Weekends were lonely for Izuku when he was out of the house. Ojiro he only ever saw every other weekday, and Iida on the days between. But he saw neither and no one other than his own mother on the weekends. He alone moved trash and metal off the beach, dumping everything he could get off the ground in their respectable piles.

It felt tedious to do it alone, but it felt reassuring to do all the while. To know at least something was being done right. To pitch in what help he could to society. To be at least something, even if no one was watching. Eyes were always on him when it mattered the least, but it never felt that way when it did matter. It would probably be forever until he had a name of someone for people to even look to. Years, even, by his luck.

Until then he had an army of trash to figure out.

Izuku circled a fridge with slow steps, his bat guarding the space between him and it. The household appliance was one of the few that stood outside of a pile of trash so its presence on the beach was always the clearest and the most distracting whenever he came around. He couldn't move it on his own. He didn't have the strength in his body to carry it about. If he hoped to move it on his own at all, he would have to take it apart piece by piece and move it all when it was lighter.

Only it smelled really weird and sometimes it looked like it had been moved or it moved and Izuku didn't trust touching it.

His bat tapped lightly against the door, pushing against it but making no ground to move it from its spot. Either he would have move it or it would have move on its own accord. Izuku wasn't sure which of the two would happen first. Or which sounded more likely. What he did know was how to swing his bat, and with the small devices he practiced with he knew his aim was getting better in that ballpark (Izuku was really proud of the pun).

When a minute or two had passed, and the fridge showed no sign of reaction or movement, Izuku backed away with a sigh. With one concern pushed to the side for another time (he would catch that contraption in the act one day) he moved back to the wagon, sitting atop the stairs waiting to move on. He carried on up the stairs, bat in hand, and soon the handle of the wagon was in the other. And then he was off on the streets, scrap metal in tow.

Over the near four months he spent at the beach, Izuku hadn't made grand changes to the building trash piles it sported. He chose to focus one pile at a time, after he removed the small spills of trash dotting about the sand, of course. For the most part, it was trash through and through. Little to be recycled, most of waste that needed to be thrown away, all until only the two mountains remained. Of those two piles, Izuku spent his time with one of them, taking what he could manage with his growing muscle mass and loading it on the wagon to drop someplace that wasn't in the way. Said pile had yet to drastically diminish in size but Izuku could see how much height it had lost. He could tell he was making a difference, even if the results were still very small.

The walk to the dump was quiet and lonely. No one had bothered talking to him, passing him by with a careful eye or just watching him from across the street. The houses he passed never had someone coming or going on the weekends, not that he knew why. It was odd not to have anyone say anything, given he's a kid with a baseball bat, a wagon and a bunch of junk walking in one direction or the other, but still no one did. Probably for the better, since it meant getting around quicker and throwing more trash away in a day than if he stopped to chit-chat with someone.

The only person who had ever talked with him was a man who worked at the dump, Seisōfu, who questioned what a kid with a wagon and trash was doing there, and since their first encounter never talked to Izuku again other than a distant hello as he worked. Izuku greeted him back, but he could tell quick enough that the man wasn't keen on conversing, and instead using his octo-armed, enhanced strength quirk to sort and dispose of the trash around him while keeping his fit form (Izuku wondered if each of the four arms on either side of his body actually had increased physical capabilities, if it effected the entirety of his body and gave him substantial strength to more than just his arms (which would make sense given the weight of a car over his head had to be supported somehow), or if he was just that strong thanks to having that many biceps).

Sorting the trash into their respective piles didn't take too much time in his day, given he could only move along so much with his basic strength, and going back every time got him familiar with the position of each pile. He was slowly moving more and more trash, at least by the number of trips he made back and forth increasing every week. The knowledge gave him the hope that the day he fully cleaned that beach was coming closer with his efforts. He would have accomplished something good. He would have done something worthy. He would have proved his worth as a person.

When the wagon was empty he took his stroll back, easing his arms by his side since lifting so much in one go – it was smarter to take one item to the piles at a time but that was too slow to sorting everything in the wagon and taking as much of one trash type to their piles in one go worked better (Izuku couldn't find a better way to word that, sue him) – was a workout of its own atop everything. As it was supposed to be. The bat still perched itself in the arm opposite of the wagon. He didn't want that to be stolen when he wasn't looking. Actually, he didn't want it to be stolen at all. Keeping it close felt reassuring.

And the walk back was quiet as well. He was left to muse in his thoughts as he always appreciated, but that didn't quell his feeling of absence. While he enjoyed the peace from scrutiny he had away from school and surrounded by trash at the beach to deter most people, the lack of their presence and judgement was missed all the while. Or not missed, per say, but with the scrutiny missing, things felt different. Off, but not bad. That was probably the feeling of peace.

Had Izuku found peace? Had he found his time of calm days down the road to happiness eternal? Izuku looked out across the trash piles and the beach and the waves and the skyline as he stopped atop the steps. Not a voice around in the air, not a squawk from the bird over the sea; only the faint revving of engines behind him and the flowing tide sounded in his ear. All the familiar voices and words and taunts and feelings were nowhere to be seen. No one but himself and peace—

"Holy cow! This is paradise?!"

Izuku tensed and stilled, eyes widening to the water as the peaceful smile he was making shrunk slowly. The sound and blow of heavy breathing (?) passed his shoulder from the city behind, and his head turned to look over bat and shoulder to the person standing inches behind him. His eyes blanked on the goggles, pink tentacles of hair and the mouth agape in awe and joy as the girl (can confirm) practically looked past him to judge the beachfront he faced, turning head left and right towards each ends of the shore before truly focusing on Izuku. The targets on the goggles bore into Izuku's emerald eyes, one face shining bright with a smile with the other frozen cold with flat lips.

The teen Midoriya licked his lips unsteadily as his mouth opened. "U-u-uhh…hi?" he piped up, only to be meted by the scopes of the girl's goggles darting towards his own.

"Hi!"

Izuku (did not (you weren't there so you don't have proof)) screamed as he jumped back and away from the teenage girl, lucky to hit his back against the railing from the sidewalk and not trip down the stairs an inch away. His bat bounced to his other hand, which gripped the object tight as the other hand clawed over his heart. His breath moved out as gasps, heaving his body as his mind caught up to the reality of a person moving to him as fast as they did.

The girl seemed unperturbed by his heart attack, still standing and smiling and shining bright in her composure. Her look hadn't even stayed on Izuku, turning and facing the trash now behind him. "Amazing," was her first word moving forward. "So many parts – so many tools – just left unattended and unused and for the picking." Her feet carried her past Izuku, bouncing down the stairs as said boy paced out his breathing. "How could I not have known of this place before?"

Izuku struggled to keep his eyes following her movements as he stumbled down the steps after her, watching on as she darted between the piles gushing over and prodding various devices and metal craftwork items with her tools. Where the heck did she come from? How long had she been behind him? Did she know who he was? 'Paradise'? This? Was she making fun of him for being here? What was even going on?

His eyes closed again, palms pressing to his temple, groaning and pushing his hair around with his fingers. Calm down, Izuku. You're overthinking again. This is nothing. Nothing is going to happen. Everything will be fine. Just calm down. He paced his breathing again, counting the seconds between each before his arms dropped back down to his side to hang with the bat. He opened his eyes slowly again, repeating to himself, Just…calm…boobs.

Izuku blinked with a blank mind as he noticed the human torso placed before him. He looked to the boots dug into the sand, up the baggy and dirt-stained pants above them, to the wool-stripped tank top, past the human skin poking out if it, to the face in front of his. The goggles of scope sights were no longer at his eye level, now placed further up the head, and in their previous place sat the girl's yellow eyes of the same pattern. They blinked at him and he blinked at them, his stale lips doing nothing to mirror the girl's smile.

A hand shot forward, nearly hitting Izuku in the chest had he not flinched and stepped back. The open limb stayed stretched out to him, and the girl's smile stretched wider with it. "Hello! I'm Mei Hatsume! It's a pleasure to meet you!"

The young Midoriya eased down slowly, finger relaxing and bat lowering (had he lifted it to defend himself?) as his eyes darted between the hand and the girl's complexion. "Uhhhh…H-hello…" His hand moved to take it in greeting, only it snapped back to the girl's side as she took an almost heroic pose with the hands on her hips.

"You have no idea how long I've been waiting to meet you, Metal Bat!" Izuku blinked in processing the nickname, but Hatsume continued on. "You have no idea how long I've been digging through Seisōfu's dump for parts for my babies only to find such low quality scraps lying around his place! Until, just a month ago, I went in for scraps for my weekly project and find a Toshiba M-454 Stereo VHS Cassette Recorder still in one piece with a top just the size of a plating my baby needed to be finished! Sure, the internal wiring was broken to the point that it couldn't play any of the videos my parents had from their wedding but they already have a fully functioning VCR player that I'm not allowed to touch, but that's beside the point. But then! I come back next week, and what do I find? A Ninja brand Coffee Bar 10-Cup Coffeemaker in near mint condition with its button control system still in-tact and reprogrammable for my Hydro Jet baby's drone mode testing! There's never anything that good with that old man's junkyard! I asked him where he had gotten all this junk from, and he told me this boy about my age has been coming in on the weekends constantly dumping whatever he had to bring with him to the junkyard, but he didn't know any more about the boy so I had to do some digging of my own! I was going to confront you last weekend but my parents had to drag me out of town for a convention for a father, so I left behind a camera to watch over the entrance while I was gone, and when I got back the day after reviewed the footage and saw you—" she punctuated the word by pointed directly at the still Midoriya "—towing behind you all this trash early in the morning, but then you kept coming back throughout the day, and then by noon you were silent for a good hour and then came back with spare parts and devices behind you, and I knew it was you!

"You've brought over some of the best materials for my projects I don't already have back home for the prototypes, and I've been wanting to ask you where you've been getting them all from and why you're throwing them out and not recycling them into something else, but now I know. This place is amazing!" Hatsume swung her arms in both directions as she spun on her heels for dramatic effect. "All these scraps, spare parts and materials free for the taking to put into use for my prototypes! All thanks to you!" She turned back to the boy with the baseball bat. "I can get to work on so many of my babies with all this junk! I'll have all the babies I need to graduate and enter Yuei!"

Izuku blinked slowly, hand cupping the bat against his leg. She has babies? She's my age, how does she already have…oh…wait, she's going to Yuei too? She's using children to get in?

He gulped in the air around him for one large breath as his eyes focused on hers (eyes, eyes, eyes, and stay on the eyes). "U-umm…I-I'm not sure I f-f-f-follow…you-you're babies?"

"Yes my babies!" she announced, stabbing a thumb to the skin of her chest. "All my creations are my babies, even in their prototype stages! From my first stage Hover Boots all the way to my stage seven Grapple Gauntlets, my inventions are going to make me the most well-known inventor in and out of Japan, all over the world!"

Air escaped his lungs in reassurance. "Oh thank godI MEAN—" Izuku coughed into his hand and shuffled in place. "A-ah…you're…also going to-to Yuei?"

"Of course I am! It's the most famous school all over the world! Going there puts you in the eyes of everyone who doesn't! What better place to go to than the front stage itself?"

…Oh, Izuku hadn't thought about it like that. Yuei was well-known all over the world, thanks to the amount of heroes and inventors and other famous quirked people over the years who had graduated from their specifically. All-Might himself had drawn in a horde of eyes to the school after he revealed his own status of graduation from the hero school. Its students, without a doubt, were the center of attention for all other schools and students aiming to become heroes. If Izuku was accepted in, that would mean he would be a center of attention.

That was…unsettling. Not unusual, but it meant that he would either be praised for being the first registered quirkless student of the most prestigious school in all of Japan – in all the world when it came to its heroics programs – or the belittlement would only worsen due to his lack of abilities and pace with the rest of his classmates actually striving and achieving the status of working heroes. And that was only if he could pass and gain attendance to the school as a student at all, with his luck.

"What about you?" The voice of the pink haired girl drew Izuku out of his contemplations and back to the girl, now standing in one of the piles of trash and examining a microwave. "You've been hogging all this future weaponry to yourself so you've got to have something planned for it all!"

"Oh, umm…A-actually, I'm…" Izuku licked his lips. "I'm t-training to be a h-hero. I'm…I'm going to Yuei as-as well."

Hatsume's head snapped so quickly in his direction, Izuku swore he could hear her neck break. "You are?!" She darted out of the pile back to him so fast Izuku only had enough time to realize she was making way back to fold in on himself and stand his ground in hope not to take too bad a hit. Lucky for him she skidded to a stop just short enough not to tackle him to the ground. Unlucky for him, oh god she's against me and I can feel them and oh god what did I do to deserve this why is she so close is this the sweet embrace of death?

"This is perfect then! I'll be going into the Support Department of the school's programs, which means I get to build and I get to build for the heroes! You'll get to test out all my babies and perfect them for mass distribution to all the heroes!" The sparkle in her eyes were nice to see despite the internal struggle of Izuku's mind not to react to her because why are they soft and why won't she back away? "What's your quirk, Metal Bat? I can make any gadget to benefit and play off your quirk, just tell me what it does and you'll have it!"

The feeling of a girl against him disappeared, as did every other feeling in his body as his eyes paused on hers. His quirk…was it worth lying about that? Could he get away with it? Should he try to get away with it? Aw, who's he kidding? He's aiming for the same school as he, and he'd only get away with the lie if he failed the entrance exam while she passed, but holding that up for three years together, and letting her know half a year in advance because of this beach and his actions to clean it up? No way could he do that.

"I, ah, I…quirkless." His lips curled together and his eyes blinked back to life as he let the words sink into her ears. "I'm quirkless."

He could see the second her sparkle faltered, and he continued to watch on in surprise as the shine of her eyes grew with her smile and posture. "You are? That's perfect!" He shook as she shook him, hands gloved and clasped to his shoulder as she talked. "If you're quirkless, then that means you could benefit from nearly all my babies! You can use them to their fullest extent because you'll have nothing else to rely on to do their job! You can be the mascot to show all my beautiful babies to the world to know who I am!"

('Because I have nothing else to rely on'? Was that an insult? Am I insulted?)

Hatsume released Izuku and left him to shake in place all on his own, marching past him and back up the steps with a cheer. "This is going to be fantastic, I can feel it!" As she reached the top both teens turned around, Hatsume facing down the steps and Izuku facing up. "Machamp says you come by every weekend? Then I'll see you next week! I have my own babies to attend to thanks to what you just dropped off, and I'll make sure to take more you continue to bring over! See you Saturday, Metal Bat!" And then she was off.

Midoriya stared still at his wagon at the top of the steps sitting alone. His fingers fiddled with the handle of the bat and he blinked ever so slowly. "…I didn't get to tell her my name." His eyes came closed as he sighed out the tension of his body and fell backwards to the sand.

---

Izuku made sure to smack his hand against the mat as he came down. The sound bounced off the walls but no one really payed it any mind. Everyone was in their own drills, and hearing his classmates hit the mat rung in his ears too. Mashirao kept his grip on Izuku's arm to help him back up, both stumbling back into their stances as they moved again.

Izuku threw the slow punch, intentionally as instructed so, and Mashirao parried it away. The back of his hand followed Izuku's punch back and the tailed boy's foot shot forward. His hand wrapped under the green boy's fist and his foot behind the other boy's, and the two limbs moved in opposite directions back towards the center to push Midoriya back to the mat below their feet. As Izuku's foot swung up, his fist rolled back, arm bending at the elbow now pressed against Mashirao's shoulder to trap the shorter boy in his hold.

His hand hit the mat again, and a gust of his breath went with the sound of the slap. But he smiled anyways, signaling to his classmate and friend that he was fine. Mashirao smiled back and pulled his friend back onto his feet, and the two took to their stances again, ready to carry on their practice.

"Stop!" The two boys stilled before Midoriya could throw another punch, and so did the rest of their class. Each on took a stiff and tall stance, turning to face their instructor as she looked out to each of them from the edge of the mat. After a minute of pause, she nodded. "Two minute water break."

Each of the students bowed from the waist, a quick few seconds, each sounding off with a, "Thank you, sensei," before returning their heads above their shoulders and walking off the wat to get a drink.

Izuku stayed in place, softening his breath as his hands drummed his noggin lightly. His eye dragged along the floor, counting the pieces of mat that made the flooring they trained on. His thoughts rolled absentmindedly in his ears, the most recent of notable events on replay. Curls wrapped around his fingers, her voice and demeanor and proposition and promise/demand under review.

A mass bumped into his side, drawing his eyes down to the fluff of blond hair shaking beside him. He followed the stem of flesh it stood atop behind him, trailing back and around to the boy it belonged to staring at Midoriya and motioning him along. Izuku smiled back at his friend and followed the tail along as it curled back to his owner making way to the corner of the room.

"You feeling okay there, Midoriya?" Mashirao questioned, watching his friend as his hands worked to uncap his bottle. Izuku did the same, turning his head with his body stuck in place.

"Uh, yeah, I feel fine. Why do you ask?" the green teen responded. "You didn't throw me down too hard, Ojiro."

"No, that's not what I meant." Mashirao leaned back against the wall, sipping his water for a moment opposed to his friend's longer gulp. "Did anything happen recently? You seem a bit…spaced-out, I guess."

"Oh, um…" Izuku stared at the wall instead of Mashirao as his jaw shifted to the side. "I…Yes, but it wasn't anything bad. It's not any of…that," he waved a hand with wrist in place between the two boys, "stuff, I promise. Just weird, I guess?"

Ojiro flicked himself back to his feet, tossing his bottle to his tail and using that to place it on the ground. "Define weird," Mashirao went on, lifting his chin up and flattening his lips. "I know it's different for you than it is for me."

Izuku almost (almost) spat out his water as his head jutted forward and placed his water bottle back on the ground, crouching after it to recap it. "Oh, r-right." Izuku wiped his jawline clean as he followed after his friend and classmates back onto the mat. "I just, um, met someone. Overt at the beach."

"Oh, you did? That's cool. Did Iida meet them too?" Mashirao took into a fighting stance again, doing as their instructor told them to continue their takedowns and falls. Izuku did the same, bringing his hands up with dancing fingers in front of his face.

"No, Iida didn't meet her. I-actually, I haven't been seeing Iida on the weekends. He's only coming over some days on the week. He even told me he was there when I wasn't, last week. Thought the shoreline was still a good place to go for his running routine."

Mashirao approached with the punch this time over, and Izuku followed through to dodge. His hand and foot moved in opposite directions, taking place and hooking around Mashirao's fist and foot respectively, and then pushed back towards the center. But Izuku took it slower, taking his time to drop Ojiro carefully as to not drop him where it would hurt his tail, and at the same time working to position his partner's elbow against his shoulder to ease the takedown. Ojiro did his part, falling with it and using his tail as a spring to slow his fall and shift his body to fall safer.

"She?" Mashirao voiced his question for confirmation, receiving a nod from Izuku as the green boy helped him back to his feet. "What was she doing at the beach?"

"She followed me there." Izuku let Ojiro's hand go as the boys found themselves both on their feet, backing away slowly back into their stances. "You, uh, remember what I'm doing there?"

"Cleaning up?"

"Yeah, well, apparently, she found out I was. Apparently, she's a mechanic of some sort, and a lot of what I was dropping off at the dump that wasn't trash or completely broken was still useful for her to take apart. I think." Mashirao punched again, and the two boys flowed through their practice again.

"You think?" Ojiro asked as he was lowered to his back.

"Uh, we didn't exactly talk. She kinda just came over and ranted and left." Izuku crouched after Mashirao until both were on the ground, the former on a knee. "I barely remember everything she said, but I'm pretty sure she said she was a mechanic." He rose to his feet, pulling his partner up with him. "Apparently she's using the junk to build…prototypes of sorts. I can't remember what any of them were called. Sorry."

"Eh, it's fine. Not sure I need to know them anyways." Mashirao raised his fists back to his jaw. "So, new friend?"

"Not…entirely." Izuku's form faltered for a moment. "I didn't so much as talk with her as…listened and waited for a chance to speak. But she left before I could even give my own name, and I still know hers. I don't have her number like Iida's or yours, and I don't know where she lives or even the general area. For all I know she goes across town to that junkyard and lives nowhere close to it for me to find her again until Saturday."

Mashirao stepped forward with a punch, drawing Izuku's attention back on him and into the hand drills once again. "So," Ojiro continued on, "you're looking forward to see her again?"

"N-not really…no?" The green teen almost fell with his partner in the takedown just to hide the blush of suggestion. His friend's wiggled eyebrows did nothing to help. "I-It's not like I hated her or I do—a-and that's not to say I like her, but-but I do, it's just—"

"Nah, I think I get it," Mashirao piped up from the mat, nodding his head in unison with his words. "She's cute, isn't she?" Izuku merely ducked his head to the front of his gi as he helped his partner back up, not gracing that question with a verbal answer. On its own, however, it was enough for Ojiro to keep his teasing smile strong. "I'm messing with you, I'm messing with you. I promise. I get it. But why wouldn't you want to see—"

"She brought up the fact that the whole world will be watching us if we get into Yuei," Izuku sped through his words, cutting Ojiro's composure and sentence as the two boys stood close to one another in their practice. "That going to the most prestigious school in Japan and for heroes will put us in everyone's eyes and we're going to have so many people watching us as we become heroes, what with the Sports Festivals and the internships and the various pro heroes' names to live up to graduating from the same school as them. We're going to have all that pressure on us going forward if we want to be heroes."

"Ah…" Mashirao's lips parted from the sound he made, staring blankly ahead as he blinked. "…oh…oh, she's right." The blond boy sniffled himself back to attention, dropping his gaze lower. "That…slipped my mind, I guess. But, it's not like it's a bad thing. It's not they'll be breathing over our necks in class and out practicing, so I guess it's not too terribly bad."

The scoff from Izuku brought Ojiro's eyes back up. "Not for you maybe, but…" Izuku flailed his hands a moment before gesturing them both back at himself. "Not all of us are going in with every 'requirement' to be a hero."

Mashirao's hesitation was answer enough to his own reaction about the news and to Izuku's own comment. Or not. Izuku wasn't sure if it was catching him off guard. But the conversation was catching their attention from practice, which their instructor pushed them back into with another sequence of moves the boys were too distracted in their thoughts to catch it the first time around. The two boys trudged back to their spot, stealing a glance at their classmates in practice and took from them the gist of their routine and drill before facing one another again.

"Do you want my honest opinion?" Mashirao quipped before either boy lifted their hands, and Izuku nodded for his response. The tailed boy smacked his lips before he continued. "You'll probably handler it better than I will." The look of disbelief Izuku was giving him must has been both obvious to see and expected building up to the speech he had. "Look, it's…easy to tell between the two of us who is going to get use to everything he sets his mind to. You jumped to the beach head on, you usually go gung-ho in this class every time we move onto something knew that, honestly, if you want to be seen in the light by people as a hero you'll barge into that challenge without a moment's hesitation. Probably be the first person out of us and whoever we get as classmates to take on a villain without pause. I mean, yeah, knowing people are going to be keeping tabs on you is weird, but you do that already with heroes. And you still need to show me one of those journals. You said you have stuff on Taekwareda and I want to see those." Mashirao stabbed a finger towards his partner almost accusingly, getting a small and scratchy laugh out of the green boy to make them both smile. "If there is anyone who can go into the spotlight and take it for himself without giving it a care, it would probably be you."

"You…" Izuku rose both his fists stopping them up to his chest to clench tighter. "You really think that?"

"Yeah, don't worry too much about it," Mashirao added, tacking a pat on Izuku's shoulder as he closed in. "You'll figure out what to do."

---

Izuku didn't know what to do.

He knew nothing and if he did, he would have known not to spare a glance to his classmates on his walk home. Not to spend time around Teashishi and Suchīrubōn.

"Hey, Midoriya!" The green teen turned over his shoulder to the two boys stalking after him. They were blocks away from the school, finally getting out for the day so Izuku could go to the beach and keep training. But it seemed like that was going to have to wait, as two of his classmates (term applied loosely) seemed intent on confronting him today.

Izuku gulped down any premature fears and turned more to meet them in their approach. "Y-yeah?" he responded. "W-what do you need?"

"Answers." The smirk Suchīrubōn put with his words didn't do anything to help Izuku swallow. "And you're going to give them to us."

"W-w-what about?" Izuku's hands clenched the straps of his backpack, thumbs fiddling on the inside anxiously.

"The fuck do you think you're doing at that beach?"

The thumbs paused in their moves with the rest of Midoriya's body as he stared pale at the other two boys. His tongue was the only piece to move, licking his lips to keep his mouth from going dry. He...oh god he didn't want to speak. How did they know about the beach? It's so far out of their way, Izuku knew that much. He'd seen them usually take the opposite route after school, so he assumes that meant they at least lived further that way, even if home wasn't their first stop.

"W-w..." Izuku swallowed his stutter down for the moment. "What do you mean?"

"What do you think I mean?" Suchīrubōn tapped a knuckle to his head, making an exaggerated face Izuku assumed was meant to mock him. "Uniken said he saw you, 'That kid with the green hair who's always muttering to himself in class,' jogging and exercising on the beach. The hell do you think you're doing?"

"W...What I'm doing..." Izuku's voice died in his throat as his chest wrenched. What did he think he was doing? He was training, exercising. It wasn't even clear that he was still doing it to become a hero. He's kept himself at least quiet if that. If they didn't know that, then why were they butting in about it?

He took a deep breath, adverting his eyes from the other boys. "I-I'm exercising. Taking...jogs and stuff. What's wrong with that?"

"The hell do you have to do that for?" Teashishi chimed in. "You're not going to become a hero - hell, what could someone like you even contribute to society? There's no reason for you to try and stay 'in shape' when you can't do anything with it."

Izuku wished he has his baseball bat, just to hold. His hands tightened on the strap of his backpack instead as his head ducked away from the other boys. What was he supposed to say? Tell them he was training to be a hero? After keeping quiet about it for the last few months so they wouldn't pick on him about it? Throw all that hard work down the drain, why doesn't he?

"That's what I thought," Teashishi sneered. "There's no reason for you to get stronger, so don't bother going back to that beach, got it."

He inhaled raggedly, the other boy's voice pricking in his ear as he swallowed down any rash emotions. "I-I'm still going b-back there. It...The beach is still covered in trash and n-no one else is going to clean it up—"

"The hell do you have to do that for?" Suchīrubōn came in swinging again. "What, you trying to do something good and useful? I doubt you've barely cleaned even an inch of that beach with your frail body. I bet I could have that place cleaned by the end of the month, and I don't need you around there to get in the way."

"I doubt that," Izuku mumbled to himself, regretting the action almost immediately.

The three boys kept in silence as Suchīrubōn stalked forward. "What did you say?" The boy asked in a deep tone, threatening the hairs on Izuku's neck.

Izuku didn't reply.

Suchīrubōn inched closer until he was within arm's reach of the green teen.

"I said," his voice rose. "What did you say?"

Izuku shook under the other boy's breath, and his mouth quivered in every direction uncertain of which emotion to push through, before once again the heat in his heart was shoved back down. He wanted to fight, didn't he? Suchīrubōn loved doing that, trying to pick on people's nerves until they lashed out just so he could fight back and prove himself superior. It worked a lot, but it didn't work on everyone, and Izuku would like to think of himself as part of that group. He didn't want to pick a fight with someone, even if said someone was up in his face about it and was as rude as Suchīrubōn was. That wasn't what heroes did. So he tried diverting the conversation instead.

"I-I don't think you'd be able t-to clean the beach in only a month," Izuku rattled off, bouncing his lips and words out fast. "There's too much junk on-on the beach and it's not just trash but also appliances and metal and heavy objects and even if your quirk turns your bones metal it-it doesn't necessarily mean you could lift everything on your own—" Izuku's words were cut short by a discolored fist crashing into his nose and sending him reeling down.

Both his hands shot over his face, cupping the small feature on the front as it bruised and bled from the sudden impact assumedly enhanced by the boy's steel bones. "The fuck you think you get off saying that to me?" Suchīrubōn all but shouted down at the green teen. "You can't do anything to begin with, so what makes you think you can be the judge of what I do? I can do everything you do and a hundred times better! Why don't you watch your tongue?"

The blood trailing his lips felt warm, probably coming from the rapid beating in his chest and the heat in his eyes as Izuku tried to push himself back to his feet. His teeth ground together under the cover of his hand, and the fire of emotions in his eyes argued with the passivity in his mind. Was this about to be his first, real fight? He needed to defend himself, right? Yeah, yeah, that rig-

Another fist came to the side of his head before he could see it coming.

"What, you think you can fight back? You think fighting back is gonna make you a hero? As if! I'm the one here with the quirk! You want to be a hero, but you can't be one with any quirk, so you can kiss that dream goodbye!" Izuku's eyes fluttered to stay open against the pounding in his head, only to watch Suchīrubōn shrug in his snark. "But hey, I got an idea: if you can't be a hero, you can be the villain. Perfect for the quirkless someone who's a waste to society!"

Izuku doesn't remember standing up, or throwing his backpack behind him, or taking the steps forward to the steel boned boy. But he is aware when he stops, when his stomach to his throat burns, and when he tells himself to stop and to not fight. That same word didn't reach the other boy, the fist to Izuku's stomach indicating such.

"Would you look at that, Teashi? A villain's trying to attack me!" There was a laugh to Suchīrubōn's words, one that stung with the unease of Izuku's head and stomach. But even the rush in his ears could let Izuku know the laugh was alone. "What do you think I should do to him?"

"Suchī." Teashishi's voice was less stable than his companion's. "Dude, I think you got him enough."

"Eh?" From his crouched position on the ground Izuku could see the turning of Suchīrubōn's heels. "What, you want me to stop? The little shit probably still has it in his head that he could ever become a hero, and you want me to let him go?"

"Look at him. He's probably already got that in his head. He knows this would happen again if he tries. You don't have to keep doing this."

"Of course I do!" Izuku's hands pulled from his stomach and pressed into his knees, sidelining the conversation before him. "Bakugou never stops when he gets going, especially when he's telling Deku to quit it with the hero act! We have to beat him to a pulp if we're going to get the message in his head! That's what he would do!"

"K-Katsuki wouldn't be dumb as you..." The two bickering boys turned their attention back to the green teen, struggling on his feet and bleeding down his teeth. His eyes flickered to stay open, but their direction stayed two the classmates in front of him. Blood trickled onto his tongue, and he kept himself from speaking before he could spit it out. "To keep going when...when he knows he's done enough." Izuku's breath moved in long, sharp bursts, filling the space between his sentences. "Any more...and he'd get in trouble...He'd ruin his reputation. Can't...can't be a hero like that."

Even blurry, Izuku could see Suchīrubōn walk up to him at a dangerously close distance, near breathing down his neck if they weren't face-to-face. "Do you want to say that again?" Even his voice was threatening in its low tone.

Izuku didn't do as the other boy challenged him. But he didn't back down from the glare he was getting from the taller boy, even though he couldn't stare straight on his own. His arms shook stiff as Suchīrubōn gripped the front of his uniform and pulled him closer to his own face.

"Do you. Want to. Say that. Again?" Suchīrubōn repeated, and Izuku repeated his silence in place of a response. His hands wanted to come up and meet the other boys, but with his head pounding doubt held them by his sides wondering if he could even do anything at all. Both boys stood breaths apart from one another, once with a fierce expression and the other a tired one. Blood slowed its decent down Izuku's chin, probably healing within from the earlier impact, but its loss did nothing to soften his half-made state to challenge his classmate's.

After the silent seconds passed, a normal-colored skinned Suchīrubōn released Izuku's uniform and pushed him back in the same motion. Izuku stumbled on his feet, but he managed to stay standing all the same. "That's what I thought," the taller boy growled. "Fine. I'll let you go. This time." He turned around and walked back towards Teashishi and continued speaking over his shoulder. "You better drop that stupid dream of yours. A quirkless shit like you won't ever become a hero."

"Yeah, and a dumbass like yourself is totally capable of being one instead..."

Each of the three boys froze in their place all too quickly. Teashishi stood on the sidelines, eyes dragging from one boy to the other. Suchīrubōn had paused with one leg in the air turning with the rest of his body back the way he came. And Izuku had not moved from his spot, and had not lowered his stare, and instead had slowly widened his eyes as his own words registered in his ears.

Even with one eye blurring his vision from the second punch, Izuku could still see. Izuku could see the closer teen's skin alter from underneath from his quirk's activation. Izuku could see his face contort into a snarl and burning eyes as he stomped over. Izuku could see his mouth bounce with slurs and threats his buzzing ears were still working to process.

Only Izuku couldn't see when someone else took the boy down three steps short of attacking him.

It took Izuku a blink (which did worsen his vision for a few seconds how hard did he get hit again was there a bruise and bump to show where Suchīrubōn had hit was he losing more blood) to register the taller body now before him, standing between him and the down classmate groaning on the concrete. Izuku took note immediately of the man: stature, tall and eased with a slight lean to his right side: attire, of grey sweatpants and a tight, black, long sleeved shirt sticking to his muscled form beneath: hair, snow white and probably gelled and worked into a V-shape shooting backwards on his form: face...turned away from him.

"Suchī!" Teashishi cried out in worry, stumbling forward to assist his classmate, but skidding short when the man's head rolled on his neck to face him directly.

(Teashishi is afraid of him. Is he a villain? Does his quirk work with his eyes to paralyze those he stares at? Would there be a limit to how he paralyzes someone? Does he have to look directly into their eyes to—)

"The fuck, man?" Suchīrubōn groaned and yelled from his place on the ground, facing up to the man and the sky. "What was that for?"

(If it was a paralyzing quirk, Suchīrubōn would be on his face. He would have tripped over in his momentum. Paralysis wouldn't have reversed his motion. Does he have a speed quirk then? He took Suchīrubōn down fast, and he may have done something in the instant to stop Teashishi in his tracks. Speed quirks of that caliber are unheard of though. I didn't see him move a muscle. What could he have done—)

"You were picking on a kid," the man spoke, and Izuku started taking more tabs. His voice wasn't that deep, so he wasn't that old in comparison to what Izuku thought. It wasn't gruff or scratch as though he meant to intimidate. It didn't waver or drop in pitch from word to word. It was loud and flat and riddled with confidence not even the other boys carried in their words against him. Only it lacked the emotion they— (Wait, he's here to defend me? Is he an underground hero?) "You have better things to be doing with your day. Go home."

"This doesn't concern you," Suchīrubōn snarled up in an attempt to intimidate.

"It shouldn't happen in the first place." The man's voice never wavered, showing no sign of success on Suchīrubōn's part. "Now leave. Stop bothering the kid and go home."

Suchīrubōn snarled as his skin discolored again, the iron of his blood expanding over his bones, as he pushed himself up to face the man. He moved an inch up, before he was shoved back down again. Like his entrance, the man moved too fast to see it all happen, but Izuku could assess what he did as the man's hands trapped Suchīrubōn's arm to the ground by digging his own fingers into the concrete, placing a knee over his chest, and holding a knife hand by his ear aimed for the teen's face. Izuku couldn't tell from Suchīrubōn's expression if he saw it either, but the fear across his face was obvious enough because of his position.

"You're bothering me." A shiver rolled over Izuku from the dry words of the man and the watering eyes of the teen trapped below him. The air around them had changed, and Izuku was no longer sure the man was there just to help him, if at all. "Do you not want to go home?" But Izuku acted as thought the man was there to help.

The threat woven into those words got him to step forward. Izuku stumbled in his step, but his approach was still made and intent, and the scuffing of his shoes against the gravel garnered the attention of the man just slightly to tilt his head in Izuku's direction. Not enough to show his face but enough to hint his attention was on the green teen.

"D-Don't...don't hurt him." His voice was slurred, nausea and fear doing their best against him, but they came out audibly all the same. "P-please..."

The man turned his head more, showing Izuku half of his lean feature and yellow dotted eye that made the left side of his face. Izuku blinked, and the man did not. Nothing about his gaze felt threatening. It looked more puzzled than it did fear-inducing. The man said anything to follow, and it seemed neither Suchīrubōn nor Teashishi had any courage to do something of their own, so Izuku continued. "It-it won't s-solve anything to hurt...him too."

The young man kept his eye trained on Izuku for a moment longer before looking down at the kid beneath him. With a sigh either of exasperation or need, the man rose to his feet, sliding his fingers out from the road and removing his knee from the boy's chest. With a swipe his hand gripped Suchīrubōn by the collar of his shirt and effortlessly tossed the teen into his friend further to catch. The two boys shivering and gulping looked back to the man as the composed themselves. "Leave. I don't want to see your faces again."

They did. Izuku watched in slight amusement as the boys contemplated yelling their responses, but the two kept to themselves as they turned and ran off around the block. He and the man stayed still, watching the corner in wait for the two boys to come back around with company, or to steel their stomachs and come back with their own will to stand up for themselves. They did neither.

The man turned around to face Izuku, allowing the teen to take in how he looked. Yellow eyes, young facial features, eyebrows to match his hair, and an expression on the verge of doubt and disbelief looking at Izuku. "You do realize your nose is bleeding," he commented flatly, prompting Izuku to wipe a finger across his upper lip. Fresh, wet blood stained his hand and the young teen hissed under his breath as he stumbled to turn around and dropped to his backpack for tissue. "S-sorry about that, mister," he fumbled out his words, pushing books out to reach the tissue packet stuck below them.

"You're bleeding out your own nose. What are you apologizing for?" The man looked either way before walking closer to Izuku. The boy flinched at the approach but did nothing as the man patted him on the back. "Get out of the street. Someone might run you over."

With a moment to notice Izuku was doing just that and dumping the contents of his bag about, the boy blushed and stuffed the tissue in his nostril and pushed books back into his bag. The man picked up a few more for him and guided the stumbling boy off the street and to the nearest bench to sit him on. Izuku fixed the assortment of textbooks in his bag, taking from the man what he handed over to help the teen, until his bag found itself organized once again. He sighed in relaxed relief knowing all of his supplies were safe, and turned to the man sitting atop the back of the bench…

Flipping through his hero notebook.

"Did you write this yourself?" the man questioned, skimming through page after page without so much as a glance to the slow dropping of Izuku's expression. "You have a lot of notes in this thing. You must really know your stuff about heroes." The book was swiped out of his hands in a moment's notice. The man made no notion stop the blushing Izuku as he took it back and all but shoved it between the books and clicked his bag shut. His yellow eyes dragged across slowly to the boy huddled against his bag, the blood covered part of his face hidden from view. The man let out a chuckle of a laugh as his hands dropped to hang off his knees, leaning forward in his spot. "Not keen on sharing that stuff?"

Izuku's hands gripped the handles of his bag for a moment longer before he eased himself off his bag. "S-sorry," he muttered out, not raising his head to meet the man's eyes. "They're just…notes I take sometimes, in case the heroes do something new. They're nothing special."

"Really?" The man's voice doubted Izuku as much as the man did. "You keep yourself up-to-date on all the heroes? That's kinda impressive. Been meaning to keep up with them."

"R-Really?" Izuku darted an eye up to the other man, whose gaze had shifted away to look forward.

"Yeah. Been trying to come across one myself. Kinda hard to get time with a hero, isn't it?"

"Y-you…" Izuku's eyes adverted to the street. "You're not…a hero?"

The man let off a scoff to that, turning his smirk into a small frown. "Nope," was his resounding answer. "Haven't become one."

Izuku's eyes scrolled to the small holes in the pavement, left behind by the man sitting beside him. "You…you stepped in to help me."

The man looked back to the teen sitting lower. "You say that like it isn't an obvious thing to do. Besides…reminded me of something I've seen before. Didn't want it going through this time."

"What…oh." Izuku's hands found each other, rubbing the nerves over his knuckles. His head ached a bit, and his eyes felt better to flutter, but he didn't find himself passing out just yet. Must have been worse for the other kid

"Yeah. Kids can be the worst, even when they grow up. Some at least grow up when they're supposed to, actually try to be the things they tell other people they want to be." He paused, fingers rolling for a brief moment in between. "Like quirkless kids wanting to become heroes."

Izuku's head snapped to face the man, the whiplash hazing his sight for several seconds following. When it did return, the agape expression he had only deepened to the stranger. "Y-you-you heard t…that?"

"It's what I walked in on." The man's voice didn't waver. "Didn't think I'd have to jump in when the kid with the stone hair told the other boy off. Kid's got hell of a skin problem though?"

Izuku blinked past his confusion, like the man has spoken past his quirklessness. "B…Y… Suchīrubōn?"

"If you mean the kid that was punching you, yeah, that punk."

The green teen curled inward at that, dropping his gaze momentarily. "I-It's his quirk: Iron Skeleton. H-he uses the iron in his blood to c-coat his bones, turning it from the element to-to the mineral. The skin coloring is…makes sense, since he's affecting his blood as much as he is his bones when he uses it."

"He actually tell you all that?" Izuku shook his head to the man's question, a bit too fast for his head to be okay with before it fought back against him.

"I-it…" Izuku flicked his head from the pounding on his brain, attempting to push it aside. "Not hard to figure it out after hearing the name and seeing it a few times."

"Figured it out all on your own? How long did that take?"

"8 minutes." Izuku cupped one hand in the other, blinking until he only saw one of each. "Name helped a bunch. Probably would have taken an hour just to figure out what his bones were becoming underneath all the muscle fibers without being explicitly told."

"Well damn. I probably would have done that." The man's gaze adverted again. "So why did you tell me to stop?" Izuku licked his lips with a nervous shiver, but the man continued on. "Did you even try fighting back? They did say you wanted to be a hero. Heroes usually fight back."

"They...I know." Izuku's fingers dragged further down to his wrist, circling for a secure hold. "I didn't...think it'd get to-to that. And I...I just wanted to avoid a fight. It would have been worse for everyone had...had I tried to drag it on."

The man hummed softly to himself, and his own voice was hard to hear following. "Old Bang wouldn't have thought the same..."

"Huh?" The two turned their head's again, the man's yellow irises locking with the one green eye Izuku was using, before the gold eyes trailed down below the boy's eyes.

"Should I take you to the hospital? Your…" The man gestured to his own face mirroring what he saw from the teen, but it didn't register in his ears.

"I…N-no. Y-you don't need to do that, mister. I don't need to go to-to the hospital. I-I'll be fine." Izuku gave a wavering smile as best he could, flashing some of his blood stained teeth without realizing, internally hoping to get the man to smile and agree he was fine. The disbelief he saw failed half his mission.

But the man scoffed a smile anyways, hopping off the bench without much of a sound and turning on heel to face the green teen. "I should probably take you to the hospital, kid. You're going delusional."

"Wha…No! No, I'm fine!" Izuku waved both his hands in front of him in a flurry. "I'm—I'll be fine. I promise. I can just…patch this at home."

"I don't think you know how much blood you have over your mouth."

"I-I promise I'll make sure I get what I need at home. H-he didn't do that much damage to me! I promise!"

The yellow eyed man kept his blank stare with Izuku's for moments before he shrugged and turned on. "Fine, I'll let you go home. Want me to walk with you back?"

"Uh, n-no. I'll be fine, mister."

The man stabbed a thumb in the direction the two teens had left in. "If someone jumps you again?"

Izuku shook his head. "N-no one's going to. I usually walk alone this way…They went out of their way to be here. I-I don't think anyone else did too."

The man let an audible sigh escape his lips. "You're really persistent. Fine, I'll let you be." Forward he went, opposite the two boys, waving a hand over his shoulder. "Good luck becoming a hero."

Izuku wanted to jump off the bench if his bag wasn't weighing him down and his head wasn't pounding on him to stay. "W-wait, you think I can become a hero?!"

The man stopped his momentum, pausing on one foot without ever turning his head around to the other boy. It was several seconds of waiting silence before he moved again, raising his head as he pushed forward. "Yes," was the only word he replied with, announcing it without turning his head so Izuku could still hear him.

"B-but I don't have a quirk! How cou—"

"Doesn't matter." The bluntness of his words cut Izuku short. "You've got a better personality than those morons. One of an actual hero. You're qualified enough. Good luck." He turned the other corner on the block before Izuku could protest anymore, leaving the boy alone on the bench.

He looked away from where the man had gone, body easing into his position slowly. His fingers drummed pointlessly over his knees, and his eyes couldn't help but gloss over the finger indents in the road, and the small cracks around it that must have been from Suchīrubōn's fall from the man. The whole of the scenario played in his head again. A standoff between a boy with a stone quirk, one with an iron quirk, a man with super strength for a quirk, and then one quirkless boy, all with their own insults and points to make about one another.

Did he really have the personality to become a hero?

Chapter Text

November

 

It was through sheer luck that Suchīrubōn and Teashishi didn’t confront Izuku at school the day after. By all rights, they should have cornered him at any time, in a crowded place or a secluded one. But neither boy made move towards him; in fact, they did quite the opposite. The few days following the street fight consisted of the two boys actively avoiding their quirkless classmate whenever conversation could be had. Neither bothered looking in his direction, and even a lick of a glance was diverted a second after. Izuku had thought maybe they were on edge of the man who had defended him, fearing he would crash through the classroom window had they made even a hint of assaulting the green teen. That was preposterous, though, in Izuku’s mind knowing the man had only crossed their path on hapchance. It should have been obvious to the two boys as well, but apparently that wasn’t the case.

Speaking of, Izuku hadn’t seen the man again for the whole week following their first encounter, not like he had been looking for him to begin with. Just as easily as he had come, the young-and-yet-older man disappeared. No sign of him in the neighborhood they met in, nor anywhere in town when Izuku went in to visit, nor anywhere at all that Izuku had to be in his routine schedule. He never got the man’s name, and since he had kept the fact he had met someone from his mom (he kept the whole fight a secret from her, using the cover of a villain attack that had happened in town around the same time and he was hurt in the crossfire but send home by paramedics on the scene deeming him without a concussion or any cranial damage (which he hoped he was right about and was lucky she took it at face value) in its place) he didn’t really have anything to go off asking other people if they’ve seen him around.

Though the thought of that man and his actions and words lingered in the back of his mind, Izuku chose to drop any hopes of chasing him down to continue on his path of training and bettering himself. It was his first fight since the incident with the slime villain, or really the first real one outside of his self-defense classes, and he still had ways to go. Every punch Suchīrubōn landed, his mind screamed at him to throw one back. But Izuku knew fighting as they did would solve nothing, so he chose not to instead. He argued throwing up his arms to push away the blows and move around the other boy to avoid fighting as he had learned in class, but not wanting to get in a fight was why he took the first hit, and the roaring in his ears made it hard to concentrate on the two that followed to have any hope of defending himself well enough. If Izuku wanted to be a hero, he needed to fight. He needed to stand up for himself. He needed to be level headed.

Anger had been building up in him, or at least a heat Izuku called anger to keep himself understanding. Frustration targeting himself to boot, displeased by his lack of improvement in all the time he had. Disappointed in himself that his convictions were getting him nowhere. Izuku knew – he knew – better than that; that he, just like everyone else before him, needed time to get better, more maybe than they believed it would take. He knew starting much later than the kids around him meant he was behind, and to catch up he couldn’t do it in one day. He was smarter than to believe he would be anything to compare to his peers. But the back of his mind grew impatient anyways and gave Izuku the added task of keeping face forward, and keeping his attention where he wanted it to be and nowhere else.

The distraction was probably the reason Izuku didn’t duck his head when he was slammed against the wall.

Izuku gasped out his breaths from how his head bounced off the brick as he stared level with the steel boned classmate of his holding the collar of his uniform. “S-Suchīrubōn—”

“You’ve kept your mouth shut until now, so I expect you to keep it that way right now,” said classmate growled as he cut off Izuku’s words. That didn’t stop him, though.

“I e-expected you to do this sooner,” the green-haired teen retorted. “G-guess we set the bar too high—” Suchīrubōn shook Izuku by his collar, cutting his sentence short again to prevent biting his own tongue.

“I’ve been wanting to all god damn week,” Suchīrubōn continued on, “but I wasn’t going to let some twerp like you ruin my reputation in class.”

Your reputation is being a block head in class, even beating out Teashishi who should have had that on lock down thanks to his quirk alone, Izuku wanted to comment and share the snide remarks the classroom around him has made about one another, but he decided to (metaphorically, just to keep his word) bite back his tongue on speaking that aloud. “How-how would I ruin your reputation?”

“By running your fucking mouth,” was the hissed response his spoken words received. “The last thing I needed you to do is spout to the class that your bruises were from me and that you didn’t cower back like the weakling you are. Or of that fucking nobody guy who tried to step up and defend you. You’re lucky you didn’t say shit to anyone, right?”

“Does it look like I did?” Izuku could hear the touch of snark in his words he didn’t intend, but it must have been potent enough for Suchīrubōn to slam his head against the brick wall again. His own hands shot up around the other boy’s wrists in an instant, holding on to them more than attempting to pry them away. “L-look, I don’t even…know who that guy was. I never met him before that day, I never got his name, and I haven’t seen him since.”

“I don’t care about him. It’s your face that I have to see every day, not his, so it’s your mouth that I have to make sure stays shut—”

“Oi!” The boys froze in their standoff, the callout of another snapping their attention from the other to the newcomer. Down the hall stomped the voice’s origin, blond spikes standing stiff over flashing red eyes. The sneer below that was potent more so, rumbling the air to the two facing boys as Katsuki Bakugou continued to call out. “I can hear you dimwits on the other side of campus and it’s pissing me off. Shut the fuck up and go home already.”

The fighting boys blinked in union, and as one stared on in silence to his old friend the other jolted back to reality and turned more to the on-comer. “B-Bakugou!” Suchīrubōn announced in a tone of shivering glee. “You’re just in time! Come and help me deal with Mido—”

“I don’t care.” The blond teen butt in, stopping only a few feet away from his classmates. There was a gleam to his eyes that didn’t lack the emotions his words suggested, but his body did nothing to act upon them. “I thought I told you to fuck off.”

Suchīrubōn and Izuku loosened their grips on one another, the former turning more to the newcomer while the latter leaned only slightly in the opposite direction. “B-But Bakugou! Midoriya is—”

“I don’t give a rat’s ass what Deku’s doing as long as he isn’t in my way, and the shithead hasn’t been in my way for months.” Suchīrubōn opened his mouth to speak again, but a step in his direction and a pop from his palms got Bakugou to shut him again. “What I do care about is that you’re in my way, and you won’t shut the fuck up? You wanna fucking fight, tin man?”

Had Izuku not known Suchīrubōn’s quirk gave his skin a sickly yellow hue, he would have believed him going pale was a sign his quirk was activated. “N-no, no! Wha—Bakugou, you can’t be serious right now! Would you actually—”

An explosion went off between the three, flinching back the boys closer to one another as smoke piled in front of the third. The gray clouds rose from the eruption, leaving the ruby orbs and a fanged smile to shine dark in the hallway lighting. “You either fight me or get lost, you fucking extra! I don’t have time to listen to your shit anymore, so make up your damn mind and fight me or fuck off!”

Izuku kept his gaze on Bakugou, even though he was no longer in Suchīrubōn’s clutches and could have easily run off earlier. His body fought itself in a game of tug-o-war, pulling apart his balance of steeling his gut to stay or spilling it to hide away. The iron-boned boy in front of him gulped and seethed through his teeth, throwing a glance over his shoulder to the green-haired teen before settling back on the explosive boy challenging him, weighing his own options to fight or flight. His answer was clear he scoffed and turned away from both boys to the opposite end of the hall.

“Fine,” he grumbled out, fists trembling into his uniform’s pockets. “I’ll go, I’ll go. Whatever.” A sneer was tossed out of the corner of his eye to Izuku against the wall, whose fists balled at the anticipation of a challenge coming his own way. There was no other threat after that, not to keep his mouth shut or a repeat of the confrontation the week prior. Izuku let his gaze follow the boy’s back down the hall, until he rounded the corner and the doors outside could be heard swinging about.

“Deku.” The call of his nickname – surprisingly untouched for quite some time by the boy commenting – turned Izuku’s head back around to gulp at the hard stare Bakugou was giving him. The green teen didn’t verbally respond right away, but the notion didn’t seem to bother the blond as much as the silver boy’s responses did. Bakugou inched forward, step by step until he took Suchīrubōn’s spot prior and bore holes into the side of Izuku’s head. The two boys met shoulder to shoulder, neither turning their bodies more to fully face, and neither hinting on the intent to. So the blond continued. “The hell do you think you’re doing?”

Sharp and to the point, just how Izuku remembered his voice being; but little to no sting backing those words further. No steam building in the boy’s palms, no snarl twisting his lips, no screeching from his lungs in a battle cry. Nothing but a simple questions with more implications than actions.

His green eyes faltered from the red higher than his, only to check the thin line of the boy’s mouth – no pout either, very out of the norm – before flicking back to meet the taller boy’s gaze. “…Nothing,” was the more than hesitant reply Izuku mustered.

Bakugou felt colder than Izuku remembered him being from previous private encounters. No loud, boisterous noises from his mouth or his hands, no wild swings of his arms, no singeing of his body or his surroundings. Now, Katsuki was stone cold, imposing shadowing threatening.

“Keep it that way,” was the flat response Izuku got for his own word, watching on over his shoulder and Katsuki took down the hallway, bag swinging over his shoulder as he sauntered off. “I don’t want you getting in the way of me becoming a hero, or getting into Yuei. If you know what’s good for you, you’ll give up now.” It was before the turn to the door that the blond looked back over his own shoulder, a singular red dot glistening dim to the green boy. “You’ll never be a hero, got that, Deku?”

Izuku dug his nails into his palms at the hissed accent put on the insult, but said nothing as Katsuki took the turn and disappeared from the hallway, leaving the Midoriya child alone to his own thoughts. Thoughts of Suchīrubōn and his shift of attitude, of Katsuki the hardening of his presentation, of the mysterious man and his wish of luck to Izuku to become a hero.

“…It’s not worth it,” was what he ended up muttering to himself, turning his attention from the empty hallway to the filled backpack by his side. He shuffled through the contents, aimlessly counting the books and utensils before securing it over his shoulders. “Kacc—Katsuki…” He blinked, only for a moment, to realize the difference in the sounding of the names for the blond boy, before pressing that thought down for another day and continuing forward on his own path.

---

If Midoriya thought of anything as dangerous, his focus would solely be on Mei Hatsume.

Izuku could list the amount of times his life felt genuinely threatened. When he was young, his child mentality feared fights with Bakugou (and calling them fights paint Izuku in a better light than he actually was) would go a step too far, but as they grew up and nothing changed beyond the norm, the reoccurring worry was squandered. The first time he handled scissors he nearly impaled himself, only really cutting along his side and freaking both himself and his mother beyond what they thought they could mentally handle. It wasn’t until the two-timed meeting with the slime villain that Izuku felt his life on the line, but both times the number one hero of the world came in to spare him a tragic fate. Since then, nothing in the month following aimed to use his life as a bargaining chip.

Until Mei Hatsume nearly threw a fridge on top of him.

It was an honest (-to-god-terrifying) mistake on the girl’s part, Izuku knew that much. It was their third meeting, by Izuku’s counting, and he could ay with the only confidence he had that he had a good feel of the girl and her personality.

(The phrasing of his musing took a minute to sink in before he melted into a stumbling and stuttering mess, feeling the need to apologize to Mei on his poor choice of wording in a sentence she didn’t even hear.)

The pink-haired girl’s love of mechanisms and the physical labor of breaking and building was the most striking detail of her personality, second only to her over-the-top actions and booming voice whenever something caught her intrigue and passion. She was fast, on her hands and feet, with and without her gadgets guiding her around. (Izuku noted her hover boot prototypes spewing steam with each sharp turn around the trash piles, and especially when scaling said piles.) She was surprisingly athletic and capable of dynamic maneuvering, and what she lacked in physical strength she seemed to make up with having devices and other ‘babies’ of hers bother with the heavy lifting. All she seemed to deeply care about was getting what she wanted, making what she got into what she dreamed about, and giving it to the rest of the world. Simply put, she was kind.

So he understood entirely that having her OctoDrone.5 attempt to carry the broken fridge off the beach for Izuku’s sake and bouncing it around in the thin, whip-like arms of the drone only for it to fly out and nearly clothesline Midoriya in the face was a complete accident.

And Izuku was pretty sure he saw the angels waiting to take him plastered on the freezer door.

“Sorry about that, Metal Bat!” Hatsume yelled atop the shorter pile of trash, down to the boy hunched on his hands and knees clawing at the skin, shirt and jacket covering his heart. “My baby was using the sensors to distribute the weight better! Did ’ya get hit?”

“I—” Heaving and breathing cut his response short, opting to recollect the air he had almost lost the feeling of in its entirety. When he had gathered all he required, he pushed himself back to his feet alone with great effort, even relying on his bat to help prop him on his way up. “I-I’m fine, just-just…” What would could he use that meant terrified and on the verge of a panic attack but didn’t come off as rude or overdramatic? “…startled, is all, I-I guess.”

“OK, good!” If it wasn’t for the sweat of workout and worry already pouring from his hairline, Hatsume might have seen the sweat drop Izuku gained from her careless nature. “Can’t have the presenter of my babies fall into bad condition! I let you off the hook for the bruises last time, and I’m not letting you get away with more next time, ya hear?” Midoriya felt nothing but God-given thanks for the workout he had just finished to help mask the rise of blood of embarrassment and praise on his face, even if his arms wrapped around his head quick enough to hide it when it began.

“OH! That reminds me! Metal Bat!” A space parted between Izuku’s arms for his eyes to peek back out to the girl towering above the trash. “I need a design of your hero costume!”

“A…what?” Lowering his guard, Izuku brushed past the red still plastered on his face to focus more on the girl above. “My…my hero uniform…?”

“Yeah!” Despite his better judgement, Izuku did push forward to help Mei down the pile, watching her bounce as she went level after level to his, nearly becoming an obstacle as she barreled past him and landed safe on the sand. “If you’re going to become a hero, then you’ll need a uniform to work in! I bet you I can make tons of gadgets, tools, weapons and adjustments to your costume to keep up in the field with the other heroes! All I need are some basic blueprints and I can get started on crafting anything you need!”

“Just-oh, um…” He chuckled something unsteady, fiddling his fingers on the handle of his bat.

“I – uh – don’t have any idea what I want for a hero costume, actually.” A lie, actually, knowing the pervious iterations and drawings he made for his hero uniform existed and waited in his hero analysis notebooks back home, but were no longer meeting his appeal and were scrapped all too soon. He was still looking for a substitute to send in when he applied for the school in only a few short months.

“Then you better get to it then!” Mei lifted a fist to the air, slapping her other hand on her bicep to keep the arm from launching out her shoulder. “You won’t be taking the world by storm in that green tracksuit! A proper hero needs a proper attire!” It was without hesitation that she jumped to the refrigerator, calling her drone back over to haul the appliance in the air again.

Izuku shrugged off the upper of his jumper, folding the jacket over his non-dominant arm as the other twirled his bat, whirling the thoughts plaguing him, questioning confidence and probability. “You…think I can become a hero?”

“Dunno. You haven’t tried yet.” The burst of her nature vanished in a second, the wind behind it gone to stop the windmill of Izuku’s choice of weapon. The green boy blanked, locking vacant eyes with Hatsume’s perpetual smile. “If you’re any good at it as I am building, then you’ll probably become one. You’ll have to prove yourself first, then get into Yuei with me. You ready for that, Metal Bat?”

“What—but…” Izuku’s hands shook in front of him and his lips tugged down at the corners. “We-we have four months until the entrance exam is open for participants and I have so-so much I still have to learn, I mean I’ve barely practiced at all with my bat as a-a-a-a-a weapon or-or a tool I could use in battle or for rescue miss—”

“That’s not the energy of a hero, Metal Bat!” Izuku flinched back as Mei darted up to his face once again. “If you’re gonna be the first quirkless hero telling off the public with nothing but a baseball bat and the clothes on your back, then you’re gonna have to go in without even the slightest hesitation! Got that?”

Izuku gulped, adverting his eyes every which way and making sure to keep backing away to keep her…body from getting any closer to his. “D-don’t worry, I g-get that.”

“That doesn’t sound like the commitment of a hero to me, mister!” Thank the heavens above Mei backed away from Izuku, hoping on a broken washing machine and striking a pose with a hand to the sky, a long finger pointed to the clouds and sun above. “I need to hear you shout your desires to the heavens! Tell the world you’re going to become the next greatest hero!” Izuku did nothing, bat clutched tightly against his chest and eyes blank as they stared at her. “Come on! Say it with me! I’m going to get into Yuei and become the greatest there is!”

“Hatsume, please, you don’t have to—”

“That doesn’t sound like the voice of a future hero, Metal Bat!” Her interruption cut through his words as fast as she could walk. “Come on! Say it with me and prove that you’re going to become the next greatest hero! I’m going to get into Yuei and become the greatest there is!”

Izuku swallowed, eased his bat into his left hand and rose his right to mimic Mei’s, minus the standing finger and with his own elbow bent. With an elongated inhale, he repeated, “I’m…going to get into Yuei…and become…the greatest there is.”

“That’s not high enough in energy, Metal Bat!” Mei shouted back, flinching Izuku a step away. “Say it with energy and pride! I’m going to get into Yuei and become the greatest there is!”

He took another, deep breath, eyes closed, chin dropped slightly to his chest. “I’m going to get into Yuei and become the greatest there is.”

“Louder!”

Her command straightened his arm closer to a solid line and lifted his chin to the pile of trash he couldn’t see behind the lids of his eyes. “I’m going to get into Yuei and become the greatest there is.”

The clang of her foot stomping on metal echoed on the sand. “Louder.”

He inhaled, puffing his chest and raising his fist higher with his head following. “I’m going to get into Yuei and become the greatest there is.”

“What are you going to be?!” Her shouting dug the nails into his palm.

“I’m going to get into Yuei and become the greatest there is!”

“I said what are you going to be?!” His body clenched at her voice, and his other arm rose with the bat shaking in his grasp.

“I’m going to get into Yuei and become the greatest there is!”

“What are you going to be, Metal Bat?!” His heels dug into the shoreline, his other arm bent out to his side with the bat raised slightly over his head, his right arm bent again but with a fist tighter than he had ever tightened before.

“I’M GOING TO GET INTO YUEI AND BECOME THE GREATEST THERE IS!”

“You’re goddamn right you are!” Mei’s shouts rung with his own, rattling off sheets of metal and wrappings of plastic in the two mounds of trash flanking either side of them. “You’re gonna go in there and become the greatest hero there is, ain’t cha?!”

His eyes shot open with a spark and his teeth clashed in a growl. “I’M GOING TO GET INTO YUEI AND BECOME THE GREATEST GODDAMN HERO THERE IS!”

“That’s the spirit I wanted to hear!” Mei’s gloves collided the knuckles with one another. “Are you ready to become the next star hero in all the world, Metal Bat?!”

“You’re fucking right I am!” His fist held high dropped in a dash in front of his face, the snarl he wore over his lips pulling up in a full-blow tooth-filled smile.

“Then give me the schematics to your hero uniform so I can make it the best hero uniform it could be!”

There was a fire building in Izuku’s lungs when he first muttered the sentence Mei wanted him to repeat. With each repetition, the flame grew, and it grew and grew and burned throughout the whole of his chest and then through the whole of him until he could feel it on the outside. Within three seconds of processing Mei’s last sentence, that blaze was gone in its entirety.

 “…I-I still don’t know what I want my uniform to-to be, though…” he admitted to the still triumphant-standing girl before him.

“Aw, come on, Metal Bat.” Her smile never ceased, even as her head fell to the side with what must have been a sigh in the middle of her sentence. “You’ve been at this for months now – four, like you just said – and you don’t know what you want to look like to the public? You need to have some idea for a uniform.”

“Well, I did, but…I can’t really u-use any of them…anymore.” He didn’t know if his mumbling could still be heard by her. “And I…I don’t really know what I can do that goes well with this.” He raised the bat weakly for emphasis.

“Not planning on becoming a professional baseball player and using an altered uniform of whatever team you’re signed on to?” With Mei’s expression, it was hard to tell if her words were a tease or a genuine question. “I think it would fit wonderfully with your bat! And your helmet too, I could probably add night-vision goggles to for when you have to work a late shift or a place lacking in installed light fixtures. Or add a removable shell to so you can use it in place of having to carry a bag of baseballs around everywhere. Or—”

“I’m not planning on using the bat like that, Hatsume,” Izuku grumbled with little effort. “I’m supposed to be learning to wield it like a sword. Like-like a samurai would.”

“Ah, that’s right! Then we should put you in a do with a home team logo and number on it. I know! We’ll add extra metal plating to the chest and back plates of the dō, light ones that can be mechanically retracted into a single line of plating so when you fight you can jump between slow and armored to take hits you can’t avoid and flexible and quick on your feet when you go in for the kill!”

“Heroes don’t kill…” He really didn’t care if she couldn’t hear his mutters anymore. Mei was prone to tuning out the world for only specific words to listen to, when she wanted to. It reminded him of his muttering.

He could being to understand why his classmates hated listening to it in class.

“Also, you should watch that mouth of yours when you interact with the public, Metal Bat.” The irony wasn’t subconsciously lost on him as he turned his attention back in to the girl in front of him. “Use big boy words like that when you’re working and people might think you’re just some delinquent.”

Izuku blinked, running the sentences he had spoken within their last twenty minutes of a conversation until her warning made sense and the color in his cheeks drained away. He blinked again.

“Oh, wow, would you look at the time. I need to start running now.” He turned on heel, arms squaring up by his sides in balled fists with more blood in them than his head.

“But you don’t go on runs—”

“Sorry! Can’t hear you over the sound of me running!” He booked it, not caring that his bat was still in hand, or the laughter that was following behind him, or that he was running away from another problem. He was usually good at that.

---

Some problems he just couldn’t run away from. One of those was a holiday dinner with his mother. On Thanksgiving. And with no one else.

Despite the fact in the back of his head that he and his mother could have ended up sitting on the short ends of the table, leaving the longer length of the wooden surface in between them, Izuku always took the longer end to face so he could be closer to his mother, even with the table still between.

The Thanksgiving they celebrated wasn’t Labor Thanksgiving Day. This year, that holiday was the day after. The Thanksgiving they were celebrating, they held on Thursday, just before the month was coming to a close, with a big meal of imported turkey and homemade rice and katsudon and yakitori and tempura for them both to share for the night and the few following. The Thanksgiving they were celebrating was one in honor, more so than it was in respect for the holiday in America.

Aside from their thanks, of which Inko gave to her job and to Mitsuki and her baby boy, and which Izuku gave to his mother and his school and his newfound friends, there was no talk at the dinner table. Izuku learned over the first few times they celebrated together that his mother would fall into a state of silence for the meal and for the rest of the hours in the day following, and over those times he began to understand why and adopted the silence as well. He knew she didn’t want him to point out the third and empty seat at one end of the table, still decorated with its own silverware and plate and cup of cider. He didn’t want to talk about it either.

So the son and mother ate in the silence of their voices and the sound of chewing and clinking and the radio on the kitchen counter sounding off names of the Hosu professional baseball team. Izuku didn’t dare look up as his mother, and watched instead his own plate as he drained it of food and the servings about the table as he and his mom dwindled them together.

Inko called herself full first, and Izuku followed in quick agreement, he was too. He helped repackage the leftovers and stack them in the fridge and freezer, and helped in cleaning the table and dishes. When what needed to be done was done, he wished his mother a goodnight and left to his room with only a nod from his mom wishing him the same.

Izuku kept to his desk instead of his bed following the goodnight wishes. His mind was too jumbled and active for him to fall asleep sooner, he didn’t even want to attempt the effort. A picture, framed, became the center of his attention. In the middle of all the dust-collection hero memorabilia and pristine school related books and tools, was a picture of his family; mother, father and son, the last one they took together. Back when he was only three. His hand shot up to the frame and flicked it forward, dropping the photo to face his desk and lie flat against the surface, out of his sight to work out of his mind.

He pulled his recent journal of his heroics writings, though it wasn’t exactly about the heroes he watched. More aptly named Hero Future, he had made the journal specifically for himself, centered around himself. The occasional entry of a new or old hero in the news made a page or two in his entries, but he added on ways he could learn from them regarding the world of heroics: moves he could adapt into his own set, offices he could join when he gets the option to, legal reasons and people’s perception regarding tools and weapons used by heroes, etc. He flipped through the pages until he came to the empty ones and held the book open on the first two. His free hand shuffled through the stack of pencils, and his mind replayed the words: Just think about a hero costume. Just think about a hero costume. He flicked a pencil out of the pile, gave the tip an once-over to make sure it was sharp, and brought it down onto the paper.

And did absolutely nothing.

He sat there for a minute, and then two, and then three before he gave up with a sigh and threw the pencil into the lined paper. It had been a good two weeks since he talked with Mei about the designs of his plans for a hero uniform, having used the last Sunday to avoid the topic at every second and sentence he could. But no ideas had jumped into his head. He didn’t bring up the topics with Tenya or Mashirao yet, and he was almost certain the two boys would have theirs planned out in advance and probably even have some pointers for him.

But the little cubic inch of his brain that nagged him about how often and how long no one but his mother had been there for him sprouted the idea of working on it all his own: the inspiration had to be something he took notice of; the whole design had to be crafted the way he wanted and imagined it to; every inch of layer and pocket and design and tool had to be from him and him alone, without any feedback or opinion from an outside source on the matter. He didn’t know why he listened to it, but he found solace in the truth it presented despite the argument he had made that he had people sticking their necks out for him now. He just didn’t know how much he could trust them, or for how much longer he could. Mei was energetic and excited throughout all their time together, but she was a girl who had expectations she practically demanded to be met. If Izuku doesn’t meet those, he could get the boot. Iida was closer to and just as enthusiastic about heroes as Izuku was, but he was strict and vocal about the ideologies he had learned from his family of and representing the world of heroics. If Izuku didn’t act those ways, he could get the boot. Mashirao was a great partner in learning how to fight and had a simple approach to answering Izuku’s questions and dilemmas when presented, but everyone had their limits, everyone got burnout. Whenever he reached his over Izuku’s problems, he could get the boot.

It sounded almost a stretch beyond reality, but it happened with everyone else, so why wouldn’t it happen with them too?

Izuku flipped his notebook shut, threw on a jacket and twirled the bat into his hands, told his mom he was gonna go out for a short walk and that he would do his best to stay out of trouble, even if he was bringing the bat with him, and took to the sidewalk in the pink glow of night. He mumbled to himself as he walked, spinning the bat in his hands and letting it be his center of attention and topic. The bat was probably going to be the center of his uniform, he had no doubt about that. Only he didn’t want to dress up as a baseball player; that was too tacky, wasn’t it? Heroes could have some out-there costumes, he knew that, but he didn’t want to be that. It would probably stand out more if he kept his look to something simple (like I’ve always looked, apparently, he grimaced in his head). The idea of a samurai uniform popped in his head more than once, given the general techniques he was learning were going to translate to how he handled the bat in their place, but one to resemble the ancient uniform would probably be too bulky and, once again, too overdone and overcomplicated. There was a more modern, more professional attire he could use, one he’d seen in practice videos and back at the dojo, but that wouldn’t mesh well enough with a weapon of a baseball bat. He could alter the uniform, find a way to combine the modern samurai clothing with an attire that went with the baseball bat, like the player uniform; only, yet again, the idea was too tacky and complicated. And painted the wrong picture that he was into baseball. He was not as invested in the sport as he was heroics.

With the internal debate at the forefront of his attention, Izuku had failed to notice the man walking behind him until a hand fell onto his shoulder. The contact set off alarms in his ears, and Izuku’s first response was gripping the bat tight with both hands and spinning on the balls of his feet with the bat swinging with him. With a single hand in the bat’s way his momentum was stopped, and Izuku parted his feet to better his stance not to fall from the sudden stop, only to meet his green eyes with the gold ones looking down at him. For a moment he could see a glare to them, but they too filled with recognition upon closer inspection.

“Oh,” the white haired man, the same one he had met and stepped in for him, breathed out in surprise. “It’s you, kid.”

“OH, mi—” Izuku jumped his shoulders in his surprise, but bit back his tongue remembering the man’s name was something he didn’t know, nor how to address him as such a stranger. “H-hello again, sir.”

“Still jittery, huh?” the older man quipped, gently pushing away the bat aimed for his shoulder. “You should watch where you swing that. Could really hurt someone if you aren’t careful. Put quite the power behind it too.” He shook the hand that had caught its impact early; whether for show or honesty that someone of his strength could feel the power Izuku put behind his swing, the younger boy didn’t know.

“Sorry about that,” Izuku hastily apologized. “I thought – had thought – you were trying to attack me—”

“I get it,” the tall man waved the apology away with tongue and hand. “Thought you were some delinquent with a bat going to mess someone up. Pretty late out, couldn’t really see the color in your hair if not for the street lights.” He pointed up for emphasis and Izuku’s squinted eyes followed to the light source directed down on them before he looked away. “What are you even doing out this late, anyways? It’s a Thursday, don’t you have school tomorrow?”

“It-it’s not that late—how do you know I go to school?” The absurdity of the question was clear the instant he asked it. Of course a Japanese teenager was in school.

“You were wearing the same clothing as bonehead and his friend when we first met.” The man pointed behind himself with a thumb, even though the street behind them was not the same street Izuku had gotten punched on. “And with how well he seemed to know you, or what he thinks of you anyways, I doubt two kids wearing the same uniform is hap-chance or that you two were in church clothing or something like that.” Yeah, the uniform would have given it away, wouldn’t it? Same for the backpack, now that Izuku thought about it. Had someone thought of him as a choir boy in that would’ve been more concerning.

Izuku spun the bat by his side. “Okay, but…I’m just out for a walk, right now. Needed to think, and being in my room wasn’t really helping me with that.”

“Too much shit or not enough shit?” The unnamed name chuckled to his crass words, and Izuku with him.

“Too much. Way too much.” Izuku shook his head, looking down and away from the man before him. “It’s…too much of hero stuff.”

“Shouldn’t that be a good thing?” The man lifted his gaze and turned, giving the street a look-over. “Do you want to keep walking, or is it getting too late for you to stay out?”

Izuku looked out as well, and took note of the lack of warm colors on the horizon and tile rooftops replaced with a thick, dark blue with the specks of white sprinkled about it. “I should probably head back,” Izuku admitted. “Mom would freak out if I stayed out too late, and I told her I would only be out to walk for a little bit.”

“How long has a little bit been?” The man’s question had Izuku picking his phone out his pocket and reading the timestamp given.

“15 minutes…” Had he been that lost and long in thought? It felt shorter than that, for sure.

“You’ve only been out for fifteen minutes and you’re heading back now?” A white eyebrow raised with the man’s following question.

“Yeah, well, my mom can worry sometimes, and it is better I don’t press it.”

“Is it worry or is it helicoptering?” Izuku gave the man a puzzled look as he walked past and back in the direction of his home. The white haired gentleman sighed, audibly. “It’s…an English phrase. It means a parent too overbearing and controlling on what their child does, basically.”

“Oh, uh, no, she’s-she’s not like that.” Izuku thought to stop to explain but found himself pressed forward as the man stepped to follow. He turned his head away to hide his embarrassment of the collision. “M-mom is…she worries a lot because I can get in trouble and danger a lot, and I am her only son, so I’m really all she has to be overprotective of.”

“Well I can agree that you get into trouble a lot, given that trigger finger of yours with the bat.” The red on Izuku’s cheeks only grew hearing that. “Speaking of which, what the hell is it even for? I thought you were into heroes, I don’t remember anything about sports. Were you actually on your way to take someone out with that?”

“No no no no no no no.” Izuku let his free hand disappear in a flurry of shaking between his face and the man’s. “It—the bat is what…I’m using to become a hero…”

“Really?” Izuku nodded, thought faced forward and away from the man to see his facial reaction. His words were more clarifying, which he appreciated: “Man, you really are one crazy kid. Trying to take the world by storm, aren’t ya?”

Izuku only nodded again and said nothing. His mind wandered to the right as he turned left on the street corner, and he looked back over his shoulder to the man with white hair. “I—we never introduced ourselves, you know…” His voice drifted as his eyes met the man’s golden ones. They looked so empty of emotion and only carried the sign of life behind them.

“You’re right, we haven’t.” There wasn’t any surprise or excitement or any emotion behind the man’s words. Izuku flinched and nodded. “Guess I should learn your name, then. Be better than just calling you kid all the time, wouldn’t it?”

“Y-yeah…” Izuku coughed into his shoulder, tucked the bat under his shoulder and stopped to turn and face the man with him. “M-my name is Midoriya Izuku. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

“Midoriya, huh? Alright.” The man kept his gaze on Izuku for a minute longer, not saying a word until he broke his silence with a hum, as though debating whether he shared anything at all. He ended up doing so. “I’m Hunter.”

“Hunter…” Izuku let his name roll slowly off his tongue. “That’s…a very English name.”

“Yeah, you can blame my old man for that,” Hunter scoffed. He took a look around the block. “We at your house or something?”

“Oh, I, uh, live just down here.” Izuku pointed down the block, though not directly at the apartment complex he called home. “You don’t have to follow me all the way to the door; I should be fine the rest of the way. Thanks for, um, walking me home.”

Hunter blinked at Izuku before looking around again. “Huh, guess I did. Don’t mention it.” His hands slid to rest on his hips, fingers slipping into his pockets. “Yeah, I’ll let you walk the rest of the way. Have a good night kid—ah, Midoriya.” His face contorted with the closest expression without becoming a grin Izuku had ever seen. “Got to remember that, don’t I? Try to stay out of trouble. And keep practicing your swings.” He turned his back to the green boy and walked back the way they had gone together. “For a kid with no quirk you sure have a lot of power in those arms. Make good use of it.”

Izuku watched in silence as the man – as Hunter – left and disappeared around the corner of the next stop sign. The bat swung out from under his arm and landed to be cradled in his other hand. He ran his thumb over the scratched metal, taken its own beatings from the ones it delivered in his practice against trash. Hunter caught it with ease, just has he had pierced pavement with his bare hand, so the man was strong. Did he really believe Izuku was getting somewhere with the bat too?

He turned and walked down, back to his apartment mute, listening only to the distant sound of the cars lanes around him, birds whistling their babies’ goodnight, and the tapping of his shoes distracting him from his thoughts.

Chapter Text

December


 

Izuku gave the video on his phone another look over, watching the man on it stop around from stance to stance, performing his practiced technique for what must have been his 100th time to have as good of form as he did. Izuku studied the way his arms moved and paused, swung without throwing or limping. Izuku watched as his head moved with the neck, ducking and dipping and leaning and stretching to pose with or dodge the sword in the man’s grip. He watched until the video ended and plopped the device on his bag before taking to the stand and starting off as the man did in the video, and copied the performance as best his memory could remember.

While Izuku deeply enjoyed his classes with Ojiro and sensei Teai and the rest of his self-defense class, they rarely worked on weapons. Some training was used, because some people did use knives and guns and clubs and the works, and it was a good thing to know how to disarm and turn the power of their enemy against them until someone of authority could arrest them, if they themselves didn’t have the power or position to. But more often than not, people were committing acts of violence with their quirks; their physical, attached body parts and the powers that came with them. Judo and Karate and all other martial arts were from a time long before quirks came into the lives of humans, and had barely adapted to catch up given the sheer diversity in everyone’s looks and abilities, so really the techniques had to either be cut or transformed to meet expected standards as best they could knowing no one could ever learn every ability out in the world to counter.

Because of that, weapon training and sparring was bar minimum in the class activities. Izuku’s classmates were taught how to use their quirks, in theory instead of practice because Teai did not have a dojo built to withstand all forms of damage, while Izuku was taught instead how to counter his classmates. How to strike faster and where to strike fastest to throw off his opponent enough to try and get close to throw them down and then get away. Given, his classmates didn’t like it when a quirkless kid showed them up in class, even when practicing moves for the first time and he was supposed to be the one showing his classmates how to defend themselves, Teai didn’t like their attitude about it either, so at least Izuku had a second backing in class on his performance.

But nothing could get them to use and teach more weapons in class, so he had to cover that ground himself. And thank the internet for having such a diverse access to videos and demonstrations on proper wielding and grip and handling of weapons like staffs and bats and swords that Izuku could transfer over to his baseball bat when training on the beach, dragging his feet through the sand and holding each stance for about five seconds until he felt he was copying the images of his head to a solid enough T.

Neither Mei nor Iida were anywhere in sight, and it was a wonder the two still hadn’t crossed paths at the beach yet, or at all. Iida had once randomly come to the beach on the weekend, apparently wanting to spend some of his free time training with his potential classmate, and had come just a minute after Mei had to leave early and be at home with her family for some relatives from outside the country visiting. While his engine-legged friend didn’t see the same comedy in it, Izuku got a good laugh out of the scenario. But today was a day all to himself, and he wanted to spend it his way.

When Izuku finished the whole performance, he rested himself a few seconds before standing back in his starting pose and going through it again. And again. And again. And he knew it wasn’t something he could make applicable in a fight – it just wasn’t practical to take so much time to get a good stance when he could move and have a better reaction time – but he practiced all the same to show he wasn’t just learning to be a brute. He didn’t want to come off as a kid with a blunt weapon just learning how to hit hard, but someone who cared for the craft he was learning and could apply it in his own style to make a name for himself in the hero world.

(It hurt, looking at everything he did from three angles, but he knew it was only practical to understanding what he was getting into by multitasking as often as possible. He probably wouldn’t make it as a side kick if he couldn’t meet the bare minimum of everything.)

It was a good 2 degrees Celsius outside, nothing but overcast in the sky and the slightest of breezes by the ocean side, but Izuku could work up quite the sweat twisting and swinging and stopping himself sort of throwing himself off balance with every swing of his bat. Two layers of shirts probably wasn’t the best workout material, but he’d rather be heated than freezing. And the five bottle of water he packed stacked beside his bag were the only back-up he needed to not pass out on the sand in the middle of the day. The last thing he needed to do before his winter exams was pass out with no one around to help him home—

“You know, when people practice with swords, they usually use a sword.” Izuku tripped over his spin and caught himself just in time not to eat the grain beneath his feet. His head snapped towards the pavement and the stairs leading to him to see the silver-haired man in his usual get-up looking down to him with a quirked eyebrow. “Then again you nearly whacked my head off with that thing the other day so I get it.”

“H-Hunter, what—how—when”—Izuku coughed into his shoulder and straightened up on his feet—“H-how long have you been standing there?”

“Just a minute this time,” the young man responded, swaying in his steps and he descended to the sand. “I remember those shit-head teens beating up on you the last time mention something about a beach, but I didn’t think you’d surround yourself with those kids’ relatives.”

Izuku looked to the one large pile of trash still left on the beach as Hunter looked over at it, and over-extended his neck as he choked back the snicker he felt rise up in response to the older boy’s comment. He coughed again into the back of his hand as he looked to the gentleman. “I-I don’t think they’d appreciate hearing that.”

“Shame that doesn’t bother me in the slightest.” Hunter walked on in stride as he got closer to Izuku and ended plopping down on a broken washing machine a few feet away from the green-haired boy. “So what are doing spending your time at a beach like this?”

The boy under question rolled his shoulders as he looked over the empty space of sand to his side, stretching out for quite the while. “I’m, uh, practicing what I can for the Yuei entrance exams, since my self-defense classes aren’t exactly teaching us how to use weapons to defend ourselves.” He smacked the bat lightly into his palm. “And sometimes cleaning up the beach to do what a lot of other people won’t. There used to be a whole other pile here trailing to the other end of the beach when I started.”

Hunter looked down the stretch of sand before him and the boy, virtually cleaned of trash and scraps minus what must have been some recent littering. He hopped off the broken machine and walked around the rest of the still present pile, looking down to the small but present sprinkle of junk reaching to the opposite end, and whistled as he turned back to the boy. “You cleaned all that up? Wasn’t that like two months ago?”

“Uh, no I started long before they brought it up and you saw…that.” Izuku didn’t really want to talk about the other boys and the ‘fight’ they had back in his and Hunter’s first meeting. It didn’t settle in his stomach in the right way, and he didn’t want to lash out as his chest told him to. “And I’ve had some help. There’s a girl who apparently likes reusing trash and making gadgets out of them – she’s going to Yuei too – so she’s been taking some stuff for herself while I throw out what’s left. Makes it easier when it’s all we do in the afternoon some days. It’s quite hard to move what I can, sometimes.”

“That’s pretty impressive, kid,” Hunter commented. His lips curled into an ever-so-slight smile. “Planning on getting this place renamed so everyone knows not to litter on your beach? I’m pretty sure people would think twice about trashing what belongs to a kid swinging a metal bat left and right.”

Izuku sputtered out as he waved his hands and head to the older boy. “No, no, I-I don’t want to take any credit like that for d-doing this. I’m just t-trying to use this for training. A-a-and I don’t s-swing the bat like crazy, I—“

“I didn’t mean it like that kid.” Hunter tapped his feet in the sand as he stepped closer to Izuku, pointing at the bat in his grip. “You look like you’ve got some decent form, ‘specially for someone teaching themselves.”

“Thanks,” Izuku stuttered out, eyes diverting away and to the sea shore beside them. “Thought it would be smarter to show that I know what I’m doing if I’m going to attend using this.”

“They allow weapons in school?”

“If they’re classed as support items.” Izuku rubbed his fingers over the top of his bat. “Like how Snipe has his guns and Midnight has her whip, they’re technically categorized as support items; so if it can assist in any way to hero work, it can be listed as an item or tool, not a weapon.”

“And what about a baseball bat in the hands of a kid without a quirk for it to enhance?” Hunter smirked and slid his hands into his pockets. “Asking for a friend. Some quirkless kid going to school to bash some heads and make some names for himself as a hero. Think they’d let him in like that?”

Izuku decided to cough over a good amount of what he said, twirling his bat between his hands with enough friction to feel the same level of heat on his face. “I’ve already sent in my application and filled the paperwork I’d have to if I wanted to class my bat as a support weapon. I’m still waiting for it to be reviewed and allowed for the entrance exam so I can actually show it off there, though I don’t know what the exam will be this school year.”

“Eh, it’ll probably be something stupid and easy. You’ll probably get in.”

Izuku’s body snapped straight in surprise at the comment. “But, Yuei’s average acceptance rate for the entrance exam is supposed to be as little as five percent!”

Hunter widened his grin. “Then you don’t really have that much competition to prove yourself over, do you? Bet that’s the right amount of people who might actually give you a run for your money.” He laughed at the sputter Izuku gave for the compliment and insult before he looked up and down Izuku’s figure. “Do you know how to defend yourself with that thing?”

“Huh?” Izuku blinked and looked down at the bat a moment. “Oh, uh, kinda? I haven’t really gotten the practice to use it as much, but I’ve done some escrima stick training and have tried transferring it over. My self-defense class doesn’t teach me a lot with weapon training.”

“Then let’s start.” Hunter’s hands rose with the roll of his shoulders, both curling into fists before the younger boy.

Izuku jumped back and sent his hands flying around in front of him, the bat a grey streak in the mix. “Wait! Wait! W-Why do we have to fight?!”

Hunter blinked his golden eyes at the boy. “I meant practice.” He punched towards Izuku in the slowest of speeds he could probably manage, telegraphing his whole attack and the rest of his body’s movements. “I’ll be slow, I promise. Can’t go beating up a kid on the beach I’ve only met twice and call it training when someone walks by, can I?”

With a gulp, the green-haired teen nodded. “N-not a lot of people actually pass the beach though…the trash kinda deters them from coming around…”

“Is that a good thing or a bad thing, because it kinda sounds like you’re giving me the go to beat you up without consequences,” Hunter commented, giving Izuku another good-hearted (Izuku assumed) laugh before easing his stance to look less battle-ready. “Come on. Let me help you practice. Got nothing better to do today.”

Izuku lulled over the offer a moment before accept, because he really couldn’t see a problem with letting Hunter help him train. He’d practically done the same with Iida and Mei – and silently wondered if the beach was just where he had to go to keep making friends with some underground magical being watching him that he didn’t know about – and Hunter had been nothing but a genuinely good guy the last two times he met him, so what harm was there?

So they practiced, Hunter taking it slow with his strikes allowing Izuku to show his various counters and blocks and parries so he could make it out of a fight relatively unscathed and even get away if he got pressured. Only Hunter didn’t seem so impressed with it, and with a moment to explain why, Izuku couldn’t really feel bad about Hunter’s frown directed his way.

Hunter argued that, if Izuku was supposed to train to be a hero, he really needed to know how to fight back. Dodging was good and all, but it was only going to get him backed into a wall if he didn’t apply his own pressure in a fight. So Hunter had him go through the motions again so he could see where and how Izuku moved, and once they had gone through them all again, Hunter added revisions. He stopped each move short of Izuku throwing their bodies around (or really mimicking how to do so) and helped Izuku move his arms and the bat in a motion that would strike the person he was fighting. He didn’t have to whack them hard, Hunter noted just that, but he could at least make the contact to either throw them off their game enough to get in a second stronger hit to try and knock them down or out, or he could just make that first contact his strong blow. When they had gone through each move and each added strike to the front or sides or head or back, Hunter started punching faster, slightly enough that Izuku could still move to counter but forced him to keep up and keep form in their mock-fight to really show off what the older boy was teaching him.

Izuku had to say, he greatly appreciated the help and time Hunter was giving him. The white-haired guy seemed just as pleased watching Izuku counter as fast as he did and kept commenting on the control of his strength every time the bat made contact with his free-to-block hand. It was probably because he wasn’t surrounded by other kids with their quirks who had to learn their own styles of adapting to the fights that he had the sole focus on just fighting and not how to counter specific quirks his classmates had. And he only stopped once his arms felt so tired he didn’t want to swing anymore. It was probably the most vigorous training he had done with the bat ever.

Hunter didn’t seem anywhere close to as tired as Izuku felt, but the older boy sat down beside him in the sand all the same. He rubbed and eased his own hands as Izuku worked to filter in some air, but he watched Hunter ease away the pain and wondered what quirk the older boy had. His hand had pierced solid concrete, stayed strong against the whack of iron, and even forced down a boy whose skeletal structure had been nearly completely covered in iron; he had to have some sort of a strength enhancing quirk. The muscles forming his back, the ones Izuku could see through the skin-tight shirt, made it obvious enough he was pretty strong, but he wondered just how strong Hunter could be. Maybe his quirk was a regular enhancement of power, given his physique was quite natural and basic despite the coloring of his features. Or maybe they were indicators to a metal-esque quirk like Suchīrubōn’s, and the man just had the control over it to keep it from showing a physical change when using it. Izuku knew a few heroes and villains who were recorded admitting to that kind of training, just so they could get the upper hand in confrontations—

“You really talk this much?” Hunter piped up, a raised smirk and eyebrow pointed Izuku’s way, sending the boy into a blushing an apologetic mess for his disturbance. “Eh, it’s fine. Was about as loud as the waves, so it almost blended right in.” He looked down at his hands and showed his pink palms to the other boy. “And don’t worry about me. I can handle the hits just fine. You’re strong but not that strong that I have to worry about it. But I can tell you’ll get there one day.”

Izuku only blushed more to the praise and hefted himself up to sit instead of lie on the sand. “You-you seem to know quite a bit about fighting,” he commented, eliciting a nod from Hunter.

“My…old man taught me how to.” He didn’t sound too happy saying that, or look to happy either, if his glare to the ocean was any indicator. “’S been useful. I don’t see him anymore.” And beyond that Izuku didn’t question anything else about it; he knew fully well how touchy the ‘father’ subject could be for himself. Hunter was probably in the same shoes. So he moved on.

“Thank you.” Hunter took a second out of his glare to the distance to turn an eye over to Izuku. “For helping me—for teaching m—for—thank you. I’m sorry I’m taking time out of your day to be here. You didn’t have to offer that—“

“Midoriya.” Despite knowing his name, Hunter hadn’t really said it out loud, and vice versa, during their practicing, so Izuku stopped talking when he heard it. “Don’t worry about it. I wanted to.” Hunter looked back out to the horizon of the sea. “At least if any of those dicks at your school try to pick on you again, you have a way of fighting back and beating the shit out of them.”

“No, I would never beat them up!” Midoriya jolted where he sat, waving his hands around wildly. “I-I could get arrested for that! It’d be put on my record and I wouldn’t be able to attend Yuei if I did that! A-And besides, they haven’t been bothering me for a while now, probably because of you—“

“Oh, well you’re welcome for that.” A smile graced Hunter’s lips again. “And I’m messing with ya again. I know you won’t do something stupid like that, don’t worry.” A hand made its way between them, landing on Izuku’s shoulder and pausing his jittery actions. “Good luck getting into Yuei kid. You’ll impress them for sure. Knock ‘em dead.”

A moment of silence passed between them before Izuku smiled, although shakily. “I-Is that another joke?” he asked within a questioned laugh.

“Eh, that’s up to you,” Hunter responded with a shrug, smiling brighter as Izuku freaked out about the implication of knocking out fellow examinees and getting kicked out for unwarranted and unlawful assault.


 

Izuku hummed as he walked, but kept his voice low enough as he passed groups of people walking in every which direction. Tokyu Plaza could be quite the busy place over the holidays, and while he wasn’t one to enjoy being crowded by a hoard of people he didn’t know, he swallowed the courage to go out more and get something for his mother for the holiday season coming up. It was the tail end of his last week of the winter exams, and he and the rest of Japan were moving into the week of break, so he knew he had the time to work and get something fast for her.

He wanted to get something for the rest of his friends too, but he was sure it was probably too late and too heavy on his expenses to get Ojiro, Hatsume and Iida a gift as well. As much as the allowance his mother gave him was helpful when the times came around, it wasn’t a bottomless pit. He didn’t have that kind of luxury and he was sure he shouldn’t have to worry and more than he already did because of it. They hadn’t gotten him anything either, so they were probably keeping it a family thing for gift giving, and he was fine with that. It only left him with the question of what his mom wanted most.

Izuku swerved out of the way of another group of adults, tightening the twisted arm grip on his bat so it didn’t lean out and whack someone else.

Maybe he could get her something for the kitchen? No, Aunt Mitsuki was already doing that. She’d called him a week ago to look in the kitchen for the mixer they were using, one the Bakugou mother was aiming on replacing for them. In return, his own mother was considering a few different decorations for the backyard patio the Bakugou’s had. So that ground was already covered.

Maybe there was a painting she would like, or a picture they had she would like framed. But where was the space in their apartment, amongst all the other photos they had? Nowhere but waist-height on the walls, that’s where. So that wouldn’t work for her or him.

Izuku took a moment to look up the mall to the layered crowds of other people, and the stores past them for any ideas (on the inside, he wondered how many of the civilians were just heroes on their free time, but he knew that thought could wait for another day). A toy store that wouldn’t really appeal to her, a clothing store that probably wouldn’t impress her, a candy store he could probably just pass later for something that couldn’t really match the appreciation he really wanted to show her, a jewelry store that—

Actually, that could work. Izuku knew his mom liked to dress up. Not doll up, but dress up. Treat the days as thought the father of the family was still around and about to take her on a date, but instead celebrated it with her son. And Izuku liked to indulge in those days, dressing up a bit himself and joining his mom treating a night in like a night out. Izuku just knew he couldn’t say that to his mom, who in her best attempts did what she could to convince Izuku it was a just a tradition from his father’s side of the family she wanted to keep up.

He stared at the store’s sign, looked through the windows on either side of the entrance at the contents inside, and took a step forward to go in. And before he could even snake his way through the sea of people to get there, he saw the one face just out in front of the store staring back at him. Katsuki had almost walked past the store without seeing Izuku approach it, but saw the green-haired teen not a moment too soon.

Izuku said nothing and moved nowhere under Katsuki’s watchful eyes, standing like a deer in headlights from the ruby gaze. And Katsuki didn’t say a word or move an inch when he saw Izuku notice him. The two boys stared at one another in their own thought bubbles of pauses; Izuku panicking for a brief moment that the boy had appeared only to bring him lower than the thoughts of his father could, and Katsuki looking both confused and as normally unhappy to see Izuku as said boy in question knew him for.

With every passing second, the worry bubbling in Izuku grew and grew. Katsuki didn’t take one step his way upon seeing him, and usually his pause of silence meant his rage was building, and that only meant a worse time for Izuku. But instead of the blond teen rushing the other boy, Katsuki scoffed and turned away, sulking down the direction Izuku had come in the store without ever looking back at Izuku over his shoulder. And Izuku watched him stomp away, each breath pushing out the stress worry he had built up. Katsuki hadn’t approached him, hadn’t said anything to him or called him anything, didn’t make a big scene after all the ignoring they had given each other in class; Izuku didn’t know which god was looking down on him, but he thanked them for the luck to get out of that unscathed.

With the blond boy now gone, Izuku tiptoed his way through the crowd and into Jewelry Eve. At least inside, the crowd was small enough for him to deal with without having to push his way past others. The first thing he did was circle the island of jewelry in the center of the room, aligned with earrings and necklaces and rings and hair pins that had his eyes bouncing from left to right in search of the best for his mother. There were a lot of crab-decorated pieces, ones meant for the Cancer zodiac that he could probably get her, but they were all designs she had on other pieces of jewelry the Bakugou family had gotten her. There were blue gems too, her favorite color, but no design to them was anything meaningful compared to the zodiac designs. No, he needed something else, probably something she had less of and didn’t involve some memory of his dad.

“Hello, sir.” Izuku did not almost jump out of his skin as a woman walked up to him, dressed in the same colors as the store’s walls with a pin holding the sign’s name on the left of her shirt collar. “Is there something I can help you with finding?”

Letting himself catch a breath, Izuku responded, “Uh, y-yes actually.” He looked back to the table eyes flickering about from stand to stand before landing on the rack of necklaces in the center. “Do you h-have any necklaces, of”—his free hand roamed past each one, taking into account the designs of each symbol and outline—“bird? O-or parrots specifically?” He turned back to the employee, finger dangling behind a necklace to push it forward as emphasizing his item in question. “I’m—Want to get it as a New Year’s present for my mom, and I think she’d like the design.”

The woman looked back between him and the necklace he was using as an example – he knew it was of a mountain, so she wasn’t looking at him like he was crazy, thank all the gods – before nodding with the smallest of smiles. “We might not have one of the parrot, but I do know we carry iconography of avian creatures. There was actually a rack of them this morning that people came in and out for.” She pointed over and across the table, and Izuku followed her finger to the empty bar against the wall. “We should have more in the back to restock. Let me go check for you.”

“Thank you. I’ll-I’ll wait right here. Thank you.” Izuku’s head turned back to the woman before swinging to the table beside him and his own shoes. Why couldn’t he just talk to people while looking them in the eye? She nodded and turned away to the door in the back of the room, leaving Izuku to stand there somewhat awkwardly and look back at the table as if he was actually looking for anything else.

His eyes instead lifted a bit and looked around the room, surveying the other people around him. A man and a woman, most likely a couple, were testing the looks of necklaces around the woman’s neck; beside them, two guys, probably also a couple, were doing the exact same test. He looked past them, turning his neck over the several other individuals, and two clerks bouncing between them, all probably doing what he was, though probably not all for their mothers. The other side of the room drew closer into his sight, and by the time he had given the room a full 180, his gaze landed on one waiting on him.

Izuku froze under the girl’s stare, unflinching as his eyes caught her own, and took no time in looking her up and down. Given her height and…growth, she was probably a young woman already. Maybe just reaching 20. Her dark hair was nothing but a large plume of a ponytail, adding on another half foot of height, he assumed. Her onyx eyes shared the depth of color in her hair, and matched the intimidation of her unflinching stare towards him. Her attire was neatly elegant, almost business-like with her skirt and her blouse.

Izuku’s eyes flicked away from her for a moment before drawing back to her stare. Her stare was far more intense than he would have liked, and what he would have liked was an explanation as to why she was even looking at him. He did the process again, and she seemed to catch on to just how weird she looked to him, and snapped her whole head away, a blush on her face he assumed was of embarrassment. He could feel the same heat on his own as he looked away again.

He was happy when the (he assumed) clerk returned with necklaces folded over her extended fingers, moving his attention away from the pretty girl who’d been staring at him to the quirk use in front of him. She gave him a welcoming smile he hoped he returned convincingly enough not to look nervous, and she presented the row of jewelry in her hand to him. “These were all I could find out back,” she informed him, looking over the line herself. “Are any of these to your liking, sir?”

Izuku snapped his eyes away from her, suppressing the urge to ask about her quirk and focusing instead on looking over the options he was given. All of them were birds; though there were only four, their designs were vastly different. A dove he wouldn’t get, a crow that didn’t really click as appropriate, a peacock of vastly different colors changing under the light, and the perfect design of a parrot with the same color-changing gems filling its outline.

“This one,” he told her, plucking the necklace from her fingers and resting it in the palm of his hand. “She’ll like this one. Thank-thank you.”

She nodded with the smallest comment of “Thought so” and moved to hang them up on the wall, only going back to him when he was waiting at the register for her or her coworkers to cash him out. Lucky for him, the necklace didn’t put a huge dent in his allowance, and what chunk was gone he knew his mother probably wouldn’t freak seeing what it was traded for. With the necklace packaged neatly and safely, he stuffed it in the pocket of his jacket and fid the clerk farewell before returning to the sea of people he’d momentarily forgotten about.

Geez, the winter break’s almost here, but you’d think the crowd would be lower at this time of day. Izuku sweat-dropped and looked around the crowd, still arguing in his head if he should buy something for his friends. That necklace nearly put a quarter of a dent in my allowance, but if it was a real jewel it probably would have taken everything, so that’s more in my favor than I thought it would be. What could I get everyone though? His finger drilled on the bat grip in his pocket. Ojiro did mention he was into the Genkoya comic series; I could probably check to see if there’s something similar being sold around here. Iida…what does he like? He just talks about his family and hero work and training all the time, yeah…maybe there’s some Ingenium merch here I could get him. I doubt he wears much already, but I still need to see him in a tee—does he have regular tees? Yeah I’m definitely buying him one—a rising figure caught his eyes, and Izuku looked over his left to the man standing above the crowd, probably on a bench—probably looking for their friends or something. Mei would build herself anything, so I can’t buy her something like that. I’ll have to buy her something that isn’t buildable, maybe something woodwork or knitted—let’s go with something woodwork. Izuku shook out the thought of buying Mei clothing and looked around again. Maybe a little sign for her workshop when she graduates or that she could put on the door of whatever room she has at home. Would she even like—wait.

Izuku looked over the sea of people and noticed a fin sticking out of a collared shirt and a crowd. Oh my god, is that Gang Orca? Oh my god that’s Gang Orca. He’s actually here. I’ve never gotten to meet him before. I wonder what he’s like as a civilian in person

BANG!!

Izuku stuttered with the crowd and turned to the origin of the gunshot as they did, looking at the man standing above the rest with some pistol in his hands. A few reactions and cries were ringing out over his voice, so whatever he was saying was inaudible to Izuku but not to the few resounding gunshots and shouts that must have been some sort of goddamned war cry because everyone was now running okay Izuku time to move. Only problem was the crowd around him was reacting faster, already bolting past and against him. He found himself shoved back into the jewelry store as the sea of people kept running by.

“H-hey!” Izuku snapped his head around and to the clerk who’d helped him in his hunt for the necklace – he checked his pocket just to make sure it hadn’t fallen out, and eased his shoulders feeling it still there – shouting above the screams before them. “Wh-what’s going on out there? Was that a gunshot?”

Izuku nodded feverishly. “I-I couldn’t hear what they’re saying, but I think they’re villains!” He looked back to the crowd still running past, and flinched with them as a roar went out and the ground shook. The bat below his arm became unwrapped, hanging in front of his legs. There’s no way we’re getting through this safely; it’d probably be worse to try and run with this. “Is-we can’t go this way. Is there a different way out we could take instead?”

A different clerk nodded her head, turned and pointed at the door to their back room. “There’s an outside entrance this way we can take!” She led the small group within the store towards it, Izuku taking one last look at the dwindling number of people before taking long strides in his steps to follow, the voice in his head urging to help lead them out to safety. But when the door opened, bright orange light beamed through the crack, and an explosion blew him back before he had the chance to shout out.


 

Yaoyorozu Momo was grateful to her tutors and teachers for helping her excel as well as she did in school; she probably wouldn’t have the free time to go out if she wasn’t so confident in the exams. Given, she was actually homeschooled, her parents had the connections to link her with the exact same course work as any girl her age in the Aichi prefecture, with less of the “bothersome interaction” of rich preppy girls schools were supposed to be riddled with in her area. She didn’t believe it for a second, but she could at least make more interactions outside of school too. It didn’t hurt her to go out every once in a while. It’s why she decided to visit Tokyo for the day.

The district of Tokyo was farther from her home than her parents would probably like her to be without a chaperone or guide to take her around, but going along had a good benefit to it, and that was avoiding everyone who surrounded her. The business partners of her parents, their children, or any other kid around her age who knew half the talk about her family were far from the ideal populous to interact with. A lot less of their talk had to actually do about her and not her 11family name, and it so got bothersome after a while that going out without any big indicator of her family’s power or presence was the most relieving feeling in the world for Momo.

Tokyu Plaza wasn’t a bad place to visit, if not a tad too crowded for her liking. The hectic and unorganized sea of individuals was a heavy change of pace for her to be around, but it did feel more freeing than walking in a set pact in sync. And little to no one recognized her, so she could at least get away with window shopping and traveling up the many floors the building had.

Realistically, according to those around her growing up, Momo didn’t need to shop; her family could either order and ship whatever she needed to their doorstep or their delivery entrance, or she could make the smallest of tool with her quirk. She’d practiced with it enough to memorize the elements and materials of thirty-two different common- and work-place utensils and objects, and among the list of greater tools, devices and objects she was memorizing for her Yuei entrance exam, she considered it a victory to still remember the little things in the midst of it.

Momo had educated herself on the inner workings of the economy – and her own health and physical limits – to know she couldn’t just make everything she needed with her quirk, however. She wasn’t going to try to, either. The idea was but a flimsy business model that would end in more demand than she could supply. Her family, and herself when she was old enough to take care of herself legally, would have to let the world provide her with the essentials and the entertainment and whatever else she could get her hands on. There were many stores in the mall Momo was unfamiliar with but had one or two somethings that caught her eye, and could probably convince her family to buy. She took notes of their names, designs, offers, locations, and the order of importance to pass on to her parents another time, always stuffed the notebook back in her bag, and continued on from shop to shop until she was satisfied.

Her aimless strolling and genuine interest led her to a jewelry store on the first floor. Momo didn’t consider herself a big fan of accessories or jewelry; she owned many that her parents had gifted her, but she really only wore the earrings every day. She didn’t hate jewelry, but she didn’t see it a necessity the way her mother did. Her mother wasn’t a pro-hero, just like the father of the family, so Momo’s viewpoint of accessories wasn’t a judgement of her mothers, just oriented by a different point of view. That didn’t mean she was going to turn away from the shop; maybe they had a design of earrings she could get, or maybe something for her own mother’s collection.

Momo knew the store wasn’t anything high end or upper-class oriented, but that didn’t deter her. She cared more about the designs being offered over the material they were made from. She knew her mother would too. A few caught her eye: several numerical designs, others of birthstones and zodiacs that symbolized all the members of their family, a few of natural objects and imagery that could play off her mother’s quirk. She would have to note the store on her way out, just so she could give another look over its selections and make her final judgements.

She turned down the assistance of one of the clerks, stating she was still looking around and taking everything in, and that’s when she noticed him walk in. A boy, probably somewhere in his early teens given his height and softer features, dressed in rough and wrinkly clothing and with a baseball bat tucked under his arm. His hair was disheveled and his eyes looked vacant and space, almost uncaring for his surroundings. In layman terms, he looked like a delinquent; and with the weapon in his arms, a dangerous one at that.

Momo did her best to hide the rolling up of her sleeves, leaving more room of her skin to generate a weapon if needed. She knew that she couldn’t use her quirk legally in public, but she knew of the self-defense laws that had followed the heroic laws and knew well enough she could make something to fit that bill in time. At best, she knew how to catch people off guard and tie them down long enough for someone else to intervene and arrest him for the ruckus he was about to make. And at a small store too. Momo was still trying to understand why he chose to take into a small store in a heavily populated mall, but she gave the benefit of the doubt that he was just that desperate.

She continued to watch the boy as he circled the center table of the store. While one hand stayed stuffed in his pocket holding onto the bat, his other darted in front of him, leaving only a finger out to point and move from necklace to earring to ring to bracelet, counting what goods he could probably get away with once that bat came flying out into his hands. His eyes moved faster than his finger, taking note of what he didn’t point at. After a whole lap his hand came up to cup his chin, and Momo noted he looked a mix between confused and frustrated, most likely not finding what he had hoped to in the collection the store offered.

He looked ready to move, either out the store to take something with him as quickly as possible, and Momo only held herself back from stepping up when one of the store’s employees approached him as she had Yaoyorozu minutes ago. The black ponytail-haired girl could notice a level of comfort on her face, probably for the same reason Momo did about the green-haired boy, but she kept quiet on the side as the boy and the clerk chatted.

Apparently he was looking for a specific necklace, and for his mother too – just like she was – so Momo now knew why he had even entered the store. Her shoulders eased as the clerk’s did, promising the green boy to look in the back for a design that met his expectations, and the boy stayed in place when she left to the back room. Any stress he entered the store with had evaporated, making the boy more jittery and aware of his surroundings instead of attentive to only what was in front of him. His emotions and expression had done a 180, and his body had too until his eyes met Momo’s.

For a brief moment the worry was back in her head, and her hand hovered over her forearm ready to act, but the boy didn’t move and only continued to face her. Tension was in the air the several following seconds their eyes locked on. Only the tension was only around Momo as she noticed the boy’s eyes dart away and to her several time within the passing minute. He looked more trouble than aggressive, more concerned that battle-ready, and that gave pause for Momo to think.

The boy’s showing no signs of aggression other than in his appearance, but he looks more disheveled than anything, Momo noted, taking a second to look over his form again. His eyes are wide open; not to attention, though. He looks like he’s barely able to stay up on his own two feet, but there isn’t any other sign of physical exhaustion. Or maybe he isn’t tired. His other hands moving plenty by his side, so he could just have ADD or ADHD, or he’s just in a rush to get the necklace he’s looking for and go. She took another look at his face. Now he looks inquisitive, meaning something’s confusing him, but what? Is he overheating? He looks to be burning up, but it’s fairly cold in this store. Why—Momo stopped her thoughts short as her mind did an overview of the situation—have I been staring at him for ten minutes thinking he’s a threat and why am I still knowing he probably isn’t?

Momo’s head snapped away from him, and from the corner of her eye she could see him to the same. Both hands came up to her face, one to unroll her sleeve and the other to pat down the red forming on her own face.  She could understand if the green-haired teen was but weirded out and embarrassed having seen someone do nothing but stare at him – she’d felt the same before from other people, though over time she learned a glare back would deter most everyone – and could only hope he didn’t approach to question her about it and make the situation worse. She’s just on edge, being somewhere new and alone thinking because of her status as a member of a famous and wealthy family in the hero marketing business someone would be out to get her, she told herself.

That train of thought brought down her blush with the shame that followed. Someone who was most likely just some civilian teen, she’d just gone and assume them as a threat because of how they looked. She knew heroics was all about being aware to her surroundings, but it was a meek excuse for what could have dissolved into an unnecessary fight. Not something becoming of a recommended student to Yuei’s heroics program, but she vowed to work on that attitude and that mindset then and there before the new school year came to be.

When she looked again to the boy, he was already choosing a necklace from the small selection the store clerk returned with, making his own way to the register and parting ways with the employee as she went back to return the necklace. He paid for the jewelry and walked out of the store with it packaged and in his pocket, not giving the store or Momo another look as he headed back into the crowd bustling through the mall.

Momo gave a sigh of relief, holding herself back from following to apologize, thinking it would only worsen the awkwardness of the scenario more than it already was. She could only hope that if they met again, there wouldn’t be any problem in explaining herself and clearing her name of any unease she left him with. But with him gone, she chose not to dwell on the matter any further, and moved on to her original task at hand of finding her own mother a present.

That was, until a shot rang out through the building.

Momo didn’t move a muscle, acting as a stopping point as one of the clerks backed into her, watching the crowd outside the store book it like a heard running from the following gunshots. No one else within the store decided to follow the crowd, and Momo had to agree it looked to hectic to run into. And the green boy with the baseball bat was a fine example of its problems, spitting him back into the store with a stumble.

The clerk beside Momo stepped forward, but the boy had already caught his footing before he could collapse on the tile. Instead the woman called out for his attention. “H-hey! Wh-what’s going on out there? Was that a gunshot?”

The green-haired boy nodded feverishly, his left hand patting at his pockets. “I-I couldn’t hear what they’re saying, but I think they’re villains!” He looked back to the crowd still running past, and Momo looked with him. The bat below his arm became unwrapped, and the Yaoyorozu child wondered if he had brought the bat for something like this. It was highly unlikely to be the case, but given the situation, her own presence, and the usual bodyguard her parents liked to send her with, she wouldn’t be completely surprised if the boy was just another hired muscle in disguise. “Is-we can’t go this way. Is there a different way out we could take instead?”

A different clerk towards the opposite end of the room spoke up; “There’s an outside entrance this way we can take!” Momo looked back to her and the back room door she was pointing at, and the people in the store began swarming after her. The clerk to her side took ahead of Momo, and said girl gave one last look to the green boy speed up to the door himself, leaving her with little time to react as an explosion followed the opening of the door.

For her own part Momo got off lucky, being the furthest from the door as it blew open and barely being knocked off her feet. The clerk in front of her only stumbled back against her, sending the ponytailed girl down to the floor just to keep the employee from cracking her head on the floor. And being the furthest back, Momo got to see the clerk closest to the door get blown back into the woman and gentleman following behind her and sending all three of them to the wall opposite the back entrance; she saw the two couples and the third clerk opposite the room from her collide with each other and slide away from the blast; and she saw the green haired teen fly back, sliding across the center table and through all the accessories on it, and the roll on the floor back to the store’s entrance.

Momo flinched at the scrape she felt on her elbow, but she knew she could produce the bandages to get that covered up and not have to worry badly about it. Same could be said for the ringing in her ears, but that would go away eventually enough. The clerk on top of her swayed, dazed by the blast, and Momo chose to attend to keeping her awake and making sure she was physically stable.

“Next time I tell you to put in ear plugs, put in your fucking earplugs.” Momo flinched back and slid away an inch as three men sauntered through the busted doorway. The one in front of the three sneered over his shoulder and the bags piling on his arms to the man behind him. “We don’t need to hear you bitching over your hearing problems if you start them yourself.”

The man the first was complaining about was slapping a gloved hand over his ears in quick succession. “Yeah well the blast to get inside the building wasn’t this loud,” he snapped back. “Next time tell me your quirk is louder on the smaller objects, Plode.”

The third man with steam rising from his palms snickered at his companion’s complaints, flicking small cones out of his ears. “It’s ‘cause we were in a smaller space, Marker,” he chided his colleague. “Sound just had more to bounce off of. Not my fault you weren’t listening to us.”

“Just shut up and grab more shit, you two.” The man in front shifted the bags over his left shoulder to his hands, tossing the empty sacks to his partners as they began shuffling the store’s jewelry into them.

Momo watched with baited breath, keeping her hands on the clerk to keep her from running forward as the man with steam at his hands stepping over and sneering at her coworker closest to the back door. He didn’t do anything to the unconscious woman or the people with her, but the shifting look he continued to give them didn’t settle Momo’s stomach. She looked back over her shoulder to the boy with the bat, lying face down on the floor right beside the entrance and on top of his bat. He was struggling to stay conscious, probably having hit his head against the metal bat in his tumble.

The man suffering from his hearing came towards her and the clerk, barely giving them a second glance as he shoved stacks of accessories into his bag until the shelves were bare. Once full, the man zipped it closed and turned away, and then did he look over the clerk and the Yaoyorozu child, flinching both girls back. Instead of advancing on them, he turned back to the man who led them into the store. “You think the boss would mind if we took any hostages?”

The man in the green jacket looked over to his partner and the two woman he was standing over. “Don’t bother with it. Boss doesn’t want any civilians in our hands to have police prioritize us more.” An explosion off in the distance rattle the building, sending the criminal’s gazes out the door and leaving Momo to wonder just how many more of them were present in the mall. “Just leave ‘em. Got another store to hit, then we go.”

The man in the blue jacket looked back down at the two ladies below him before shrugging and stepping to the store’s entrance. The man in the red jacket laughed and leaped over one of the store’s overturned tables. “It’s not like any of these people would fight back anyways. They’re civilians, not heroes. Most can’t even legally fight with their quirks.” He tilted his head towards the store’s entrance. “Taibok is dealing with the only one present. You sure we can’t take a few to get a few more money out of this?”

“If you know any human trafficking rings, tell the boss,” the man in green replied. “Maybe he’ll give you a promotion. We have our own shit to do right now. Come on.” Green and blue walked out the store’s entrance, and Momo watched them walk right past the green boy now lying still on his side, the bat barely an inch in front of him. Her eyes furrowed a moment, wondering when he had moved his position, and noticed as the man in red slowed down in front of the boy, the crunching of beads under his boots ringing out in the silence between the explosions.

He sneered a grin down at the teen and snarked, “Useless lot,” before shooting his foot to the boy’s stomach. Only instead of hitting his target, the boy’s hands shot out to the foot and slammed the handle of the bat against his shin. Momo could see the boy’s eyes snap wide in action.

The red criminal swore in pain, swinging his right foot back, but the teen took the moment of the man’s one foot in the air to swing the bat handle against his other ankle, tripping him up and flipping him backwards. Momo winced at the crack that sounded as his head hit the floor first, but she felt little sympathy his way. She watched the boy move quick, spinning on his hip to sit up and push himself onto his feet before turning to the entrance and the two criminals who stopped leaving as their companion fell.

The man in the green jacket scoffed as he let his bags drag off his arms to the floor, but the man in blue gave a twisted smile as he took small steps forward. The green teen raised his bat in his direction, but the man continued his slow trek. “Calm down, kiddo,” were the words that slid out his smirk. “No need to get so feisty. You’ll get someone hurt, and if you aren’t lucky, that someone’ll be you.” The hand by his side slid up, pulling a jagged knife out from his pocket. “You really think your quirk and a baseball bat’s gonna help you in an outnumbered situation?”

Momo could see the look of the teen from the side of his face. He blanched by the end of sentence, probably given the train of thought that he probably was outmatched by two adults with their own quirks at their disposal, not holding anything back, against a kid who most likely doesn’t want to hurt them as bad as they want to hurt him. But he didn’t back down, look away or lower his bat; he stayed right where he was standing, only ever changing his expression into doubt and then into determination. The criminals saw it, the blue jacket man’s smile becoming challenging as the knife twirled in his fingers and the green jacket man stalking forward as he let the last of his bags drop to the floor. Momo saw it too, helping the clerk beside her lean against the wall without drawing the criminals’ attention before letting her hand glow and thrusting it to the men, launching a short but thick steel pipe from her palm in their direction.

The man with the knife had caught sight of the flying metal object heading his way and leaned his head back just in time to miss it clocking him in the jaw. The boy with green hair flinched back as well, though he was a good few feet away from it actually hitting him. But the man in the green jacket didn’t fare as well as his companion, surprised as the steel cylinder slammed into his throat, sending him stumbling against the wall gasping from the new bruise.

While the criminal took a second to snap his eyes between Momo and his falling partner, the green boy took a look towards her only. Staring at the man with a knife looking down at her with surprise, Momo could see the teen turn his head towards her, and she turned hers just enough to lock both eyes with his. She saw only a second of surprise on his face as their eyes met, and a second later he steeled his expression back to the same fire he had thrown the first man down with. A smirk flickered on his lips, but Momo could barely process it before his head snapped back to the criminal and his bat shot at his stomach.

A little too late, however, as the criminal was quick enough to respond to catch the head of the bat in his other hand, still having his knuckles pressed into his stomach. With a grunt he thrusted his blade – Momo took a split second to notice it was longer than it was when he took it out of his pockets – towards the teen’s chest, only for the bat and his hand to come flying up in the boy’s defense. Just as quickly, the teen stepped forward, his hold on the bat flipping and cracking the steel tool down on the man’s nose without a moment’s hesitation. The man stumbled back a step, face scrunched in pain, and one step was all he got to take as the teen wrapped his bat behind the man’s head and flipped him on the ground back into the store. Though clearly in pain and sporting a possibly broken nose, the man slashed at the teen again, nicking him across the shin and only getting another hit in the face as a response.

Momo pushed herself to her feet, easing her shoulders at the sight of the three downed criminals around them. She could hear the clerk beside her sigh audibly and push herself up to help her drowsy coworkers and customers. The teen with the bat stayed standing over the same criminal, heaving his body with each breath. The cut on his leg barely seemed to bother him, probably only having gotten a shallow cut from the man’s knife. He looked over to Momo, giving her probably the best and longest look at his emerald eyes, and in the corner of her own she saw the criminal in green snarling forward, the wall where he touched coming apart and wrapping stone around his arms. “Look out!”

Both teen and criminal reacted on the spot to her callout, the former snapping his head around and the latter cocking his hand back for a punch at the boy’s face. Before it could make contact the teen flew his bat out to it, holding it at either end and holding the brunt of the stone punch while skidding back only an inch from the impact. The follow up punch he didn’t get to block, the criminal’s left fist colliding with his side, sending him spiraling over the store register and into the wall behind it.

Momo had completed generating a staff from her wrist by the time the teen boy collapsed behind the counter, and by then the criminal turned his attention to her. “I’ve been having a rough day, you little bitch,” he growled out between coughs, “and you’ve made it worse. And just for this”—the man pointed a rocky finger at the bruise on his throat—“I’ll return the favor in kind.”

Momo knew the odds weren’t stacked in her favor. Whilst versatile, her quirk was only powerful if given more time and she simply didn’t have that for this fight. While strong, her own physical strength was nowhere on par with the criminal’s quirk manipulating stones the way he did, nor as strong as the boy’s quirk able to hold back a punch while barely flinching in response. She could hear the instincts deep within her telling her to step down from such an uneven fight, but she pushed it down. She had already hesitated when the men first arrived and made their threats, and she hesitated to step up and help the teen who’d just thrown his life on the line to stop them even when they weren’t a threat to people. These men were just wrong in their actions and the boy had stepped up so they couldn’t get away with it. He was being a hero, and if she was going to be one too, it wouldn’t have been right to just sit by and do nothing when she clearly could.

She swung the staff with all her might at the criminal’s head, expecting nothing less when he caught it and yanked it out of her hands. The pull had sent her lunging forward, and she was already forming a shield from the forearm closest to the criminal, ready to parry his next punch and keep on fight. The man didn’t seem to care in the slightest, rising his fist up to his head to crash it down on her.

GRAAH!” Then a bat came flying into the scene. At the last second the criminal brought his hand down just enough to block the strike, but the hit sent him flying across the room and embedding him into the wall across from them. Momo watched his body go limp where he hung, and turned her head slowly down the bat to the standing and highly-aggravated green-haired teen watching the criminal with her. His body rose and fell with each breath, and she could see blood trickling down the back of his neck from where he must have hit a corner, but he kept his eyes wide open and showed no signs of relaxing even with all three criminals unconscious.

As the three robbers showed no signs of getting up, the teen conceded victory, easing his shoulders and straightening his back in relief. It took him a few seconds to notice the eyes on him, slowly moving down to the couples just under where the green jacket criminal was stuck, to the eyes of the clerks and customers in the back rising over the table in front of them to check if the coast was clear, to the onyx eyes right beside and above him.

He blinked rapidly and nodded his head shakily. “H-hey,” he greeted Momo, voice expressing the only side of exhaustion in the situation.

Momo nodded back slowly. “Hello.”

The teen blinked at her again, red dusting his cheeks from all he had done. “Are…you okay?”  His words came out in gasps in an attempt to find his breath. Momo nodded again, eyes flickering to the back of his head.

“I could be asking you the same thing.” Her eyes dropped back down to his. “You’re bleeding.”

If it were possible, he straightened up more at those words, the highest of his height reaching about the level of Momo’s lips. His head tilted back, and she could see some red start to trail down his messy hair probably from right where the wound was, and then he looked down at his ankle and hummed. “I don’t think it’s bleeding,” he commented with confusion, sticking his foot out to see where his pant leg was slashed open. “It’s just a shallow cut. Huh. Guess he missed with the knife more than I thought.”

That rung alarms in Momo’s head, staring down at the teen boy with nothing but concern and worry. Blood was streaming down the back of his head and neck, and was probably staining down his back too. Not at a rate alarming of sever blood loss, but enough to show he was losing more blood from one wound than anyone conceivably should. Did he really not feel the wound? Did his quirk not only make him strong, but also desensitize him from pain? That would be troublesome if it eliminated the feeling of near any wound, probably counteracting the brain’s fight or flight response to know to keep himself alive and tend to his wounds before his body started to become numb and unresponsive. He would run himself dry before he even realized he was losing anything to being with.

Fearing the worst, Momo bridged the gap between them and fumbled through her bag for a mini first-aid kit. Thank you mom and dad for those lessons. “No, I mean you’re bleeding from your head. You must have cut your head against something either time you went flying.” She winced internally at her lack of formality saying that to his face. “I don’t think it’s too big, seeing as how you’re still standing, but I should at least cover the wound so you don’t bleed out any more than you have.”

The teen beneath her hands and gaze practically froze up in compliance as she tilted his head down more and parted his hair to get a good look at where the blood was coming from. Her fingers traced around the inch or two long cut on the back of his head, and the teen barely even flinched at the touch on his wound. Has to be some sort of “power-through” quirk, effecting him in strength and pain, Momo theorized as she covered the wound with a sterile cloth and holding it down with small strips of surgical tape. “We need to get you out of here so we can get it treated properly,” she told the teen as she stepped back, allowing him to rise his face covered in red.

His lips floundered as a hand came up to tap on the bandage. “Is-is it that bad?” he asked, running a hand down the back of his neck below the bandage. When his hand pulled back, the two teens looked at his fingers coated in blood. “O-Oh that is bad.” The teen looked down at himself, his hand rising and falling as though contemplating what to wipe the blood off on, but instead found a towel dropped in his hand courtesy of Yaoyorozu. “Thanks.”

Momo only nodded to his gratitude, her mind still elsewhere as she continued looking him over for any other wounds or bruises from his fights. “You shouldn’t have stepped in like that,” she informed him, holding back her tone from being as scolding as her parents had given her in the past, but the boy still flinched at the words alone. “It was brave of you, but they were going to leave everyone alone anyways. Fighting them wasn’t necessary.”

“Neither was letting them get away with it,” the boy countered, but his voice sounded weak in his response. His eyes looked over the room to the other civilians struggling to get up from their own wounds, and Momo was doing her own part to look them over and help how she could. “Gang Orca’s the only hero on the scene – you heard him. If he’s the only one fighting right now, they would have gotten away with…all this, the hurting and the theft. I know I shouldn’t have, but I didn’t think it’d be right not to step in.”

“That’s kind of you but that doesn’t excuse it.” Momo took pause in her words as both teens looked to the back of the store, listening in as one of the clerks told everyone to follow the way the criminals had come in, theorizing there’s probably police on scene outside through their shorter route to safety than through the main halls. One gentleman was holding the steaming door open with a blue hand, contrasting from the rest of his exposed red skin, but little other civilians cared to noticed as they shuffled out the store together. Momo took steps to follow, and the boy followed behind her, lifting the bat up to his chest in precaution. “Even if your quirk help to dilute the pain you feel and weaken their blows, you shouldn’t have put yourself in danger like that in the first place.” The boy made no response to that, and Momo looked back to his flat and confused expression directed to her. Was he surprised she was able to guess his quirk, because Momo knew it wasn’t that hard to analyze someone’s quirk with such blatant presentation within a fight to act as though he was walking away unscathed.

“Wait what?” The teen’s response paused Momo’s train of thought, staring down at the boy wondering if he was just unable to follow along or what knowledge he had of his quirk didn’t include his ability to negate his reactions and feelings to pain and wounds. Did…did his quirk not cover pain tolerance?

“Daddy?” Both teens stopped before they even went through the back door, turning their heads with one last clerk and the man holding the door open to the store’s entrance. Before their eyes was a child, who knows how old, gingerly walking through the abandoned and littered mall’s hall, hands cupped at her chest as she looked at her surroundings.

“Shit,” the boy in front of her muttered, and though slightly vulgar Momo had to agree with the sentiment. The two teens power-walked their way back towards the store’s entrance, catching the eyes of the little girl who looked frozen in place. Before either could make it out the door, a figure walked into frame, right beside the little girl and both teens and the adults behind them bolted into cover and hiding. Momo ducked behind the short end of the clerk’s counter, looking back at the two worried faces from the adults attempting to hide behind the far back table without letting the door close. She presumed they saw the assault rifles the man was carrying, too.

“Hey little fella.” Momo cursed under her breath as she look around the corner of the counter, seeing the teen boy hiding stiff behind the pillar of the store’s front entrance, and beyond that a criminal with two automatic weapons seemingly taped to his arms and hands looming over the child in the hallway. The little girl looked up to him and began backing away, slowly but surely. “Calm down, kid. I ain’t gonna hurt you. These are just for show, I promise.” Momo didn’t believe the smile under his eye band for a second, even as he rose his arms and kept the guns pointed away from the child.

Another explosion rang the building, turning the criminal’s head the other way to look at the explosion and commotion at the other end of the mall. The young girl’s body shook as she fell off her feet, and Momo could hear the small whimpers she made in response to the violence. God, how Momo wished she could rush over and get her out now. The villain looked back down to her, the same fake smile still plastered on his face as he spoke. “Usually kids are crying right about now about stuff like this, but you look like you’re trying to hold it together. Pretty brave kid.” The little girl looked up to him as he acted like the gun was able to cup his chin thought. “Tell ya what, girlie. I thought I heard somethin’ go down over here, and if you can help me find out where, I’ll get ‘cha right outta this mess. How’s that sound?”

The kid made no motion or sound of agreement, instead looking back over in the direction of the jewelry store and locking her eyes on Momo’s. The teen girl could see the worry and fear and the cry for help written on the child’s face, and she hated herself for not being able to run forward and provide that. Only she had little idea of how to fight someone with firearms equipped with only herself and her quirk, and if she approached the situation wrong she could end up getting them both hurt. If she was going to save the kid, she had to think about the situation a lot more calmly than she was at the moment.

Momo’s eyes darted up to the other teen facing her way and looking right at her. She could see the same conflict in his own eyes, along with the white knuckles around the handle of his bat. He looked more indecisive than she felt, and she worried he would still choose to run forward, even with his wounds. She did her best with her expressions to try to tell him off from the idea, but with his continued struggling expression, she couldn’t tell if it was working or not.

She turned her attention back to the gunman to find him gazing in surprise at the man stuck in the wall and the two unconscious on the ground, and Momo hoped she was fast enough when she turned away behind the counter not to be spotted as well. She could hear the movement of his guns, and she wondered a moment if it was a part of his quirk to control them so freely. “Thanks, kid. Wait right here for me will ya?” Momo cursed internally again, already using her quirk to generate a shield from her other arm to give to the teen with her. If she couldn’t handle the gunner alone, maybe with this boy and his quirk – whatever it was – would be able to take him down together.

When another explosion shook the room around them, Momo turned round the corner of the counter to face the other teen. To her surprise and horror, she got to see the other teen as he turned ‘round the pillar and bolted for the gunman and the girl.


 

Izuku would’ve liked to say his actions were specifically reactionary.

He was surprised when the explosion sent him careening over the table, more than he was hurt. That wasn’t to say it didn’t hurt, crashing his back against the wooden surface and the various edged objects decorating it, and then sliding off to roll across the floor; it just didn’t hurt as much as he thought it would have. Hitting his head against his own bat instead of the floor hurt more, and he only hoped it didn’t leave a bruise. What hurt more than that was watching the people around him, innocent people, get knocked about and knocked out and bleed by people who had little regard for the wellbeing of others. As cliché as a motive it was – and Izuku had read plenty of comics that used it for their characters – that didn’t make it sting any less to see happen right before his eyes.

He used that reasoning as justification for attacking the three criminals responsible, for working as fast as he could to respond and knock them out, avoiding having to draw out a fight he probably couldn’t win if it went on any longer. And it went that way for all of about two minutes until he was sent flying into a wall and the villain went after someone else. He didn’t register anything beyond “move” as he saw the tall girl’s first attack fail right in front of him, shoving himself off the floor and forward to take a swing before the criminal could land his stone-infused punch.

Seeing that same villain stuck in the wall hadn’t really helped to settle anything within Izuku, but it didn’t hurt more than seeing the civilians around him hurt as well. It was a weight off his shoulders – of which the girl beside him all but told him was his own fault for having to begin with – to see the criminals down for the count, but the last one was with more excessive force than he would have liked to use on another human being. If that man was harmed in any way deemed fatal, Izuku knew he’d be to blame for that, on a criminal or not, in self-defense or not. The police and the heroes would metaphorically have his head for inciting violence on anyone, probably more so because he was quirkless and shouldn’t be stepping into a fight at all if the sludge villain incident left anything in the back of his head since.

Plenty problems were left with Izuku since that day and he hated thinking about each and every one of them.

The wounds he had didn’t hurt that much either. The cut his leg received from the guy with a knife hadn’t reached bone, and it didn’t look like it cut too deep beneath his skin, but it stung a bit to walk on when he wasn’t on an adrenaline high. The cut on the back of his head stung a bit more than that, and the blood staining his shirt and jacket and then his hand told him he probably should worry about it more than he was, or about the amount the tall girl who patched him up was.

Izuku was happy she didn’t bring up his blush when she saw it. Even with Mei he’d never really gotten close to any other girl, and being shorter than them and so close to their chest without them bothering to notice or think about it didn’t help any embarrassment of the situation on his end.

It was reassuring to be patched up by the tall girl he assumed was glaring at him earlier, and it set his suspicions of her at ease knowing he had someone on his side – for all of a minute. It hurt to hear how right she was about his involvement in the fight and how reckless his actions were. He knew it already, but hearing someone reinforce that viewpoint only helped it to settle in. It hurt more than his physical wounds, maybe even more watching everyone around him struggle to move from their wounds, but it found itself topped as the tall girl put all of the responsibility and power on the quirk he didn’t have.

Izuku had to bite back his tongue from making a snide comment in response to that; the blood loss was probably effecting him more than he realized, but that didn’t matter as much. He had done nothing spectacular in the fight that he could think of that could have been explained by a quirk. All he had done was fight with his own strength and pushed through with his own power – and yes, it was a bit surprising to see that last guy get knocked back so easily, but Izuku credited that to his own strength and all the training he had put in at the dojo, at the beach and more recently the past two weeks with Hunter stopping by the beach to spar with and teach him. And despite doing his quirkless best, all the credit is given to the thought that he has a quirk, and not himself. The reminder of that worldview made his blood boil, but for the sake of not making an enemy out of someone who had tried to help them fight and stay healthy afterwards despite their opinions, he held himself back.

Then a child with white hair appeared in the middle of the ruin and rubble and, of course, Izuku moved to grab her and run – leaving a child at a time like that would’ve been a heartless act Izuku wouldn’t approve of from himself. At least the tall girl had the same mindset while following behind him, until a man with guns at the end of his arms appeared and he and the tall girl rushed to hide before the gunman could fully see them. Izuku stood right at the store’s entrance, listening to the one-sided conversation out in the hall as the gunman tried to comfort the little girl without really doing anything to calm her down.

He took one look at the scene in the middle of their talk, watching the criminal – he was teetering on the border between criminal and villain with every second – tower over the little girl just trembling at the sight of him. Izuku only looked away to tell himself not to shout or step out from hiding. He hated the building in his throat, angry at the situation before him being anything but good for anyone and at himself for being unable to do anything about it. He stepped up to fight three guys who weren’t being a threat to anyone, he stepped up before when the guy he respected/hated the most was being suffocated in front of a crowd, and yet his first instinct at seeing a child threatened was to step back. Not approach in their defense, not work something out to keep them safe, but abandon them in the face of danger, simply because the other guy had a gun.

What else was he to do? Get shot, standing over the bodies of the gunman’s companions out cold from their fight? Get the kid shot or taken hostage as a knee jerk reaction from the criminal seeing a challenge approach? Get taken hostage himself, or the girl behind him instead, if the villain had any plan or idea of what to use a civilian as in their endeavors? Everything wrong Izuku could think of reasoned that hiding was better than fighting, that in the end it spared less, but there shouldn’t have been anyone to spare in the first place.

Then his eyes caught the tall girl’s, and he could see it – the anger, the self-deprecation, the conflict of reason, the want to just be a hero unrestricted – in her too. He wasn’t alone in his desire to step up and help, despite the situation at hand being stacked against them. As much as he wanted to be a hero, so did this girl. Izuku could respect that despite the one flaw he saw, because nothing could overshadow someone’s heroism even in spite of situations. Not to him.

So when the building shook from Gang Orca’s fight, Izuku hoped the gunman was distracted by it as he was the first time in the criminal’s selfish attempt to make sure his work wasn’t going to be halted by the fight, and wasted no time in spinning on the ball of his foot and bolting it towards the girl.

To his luck, the gunman was distracted, just long enough for Izuku to step right on in before he was noticed. With the bat in an underhand hold, he swung it forward, whacking the gunman across the stomach and sending him stumbling back. But Izuku wasn’t there to fight; he was there to get the girl out, because that mattered first and most. So as the criminal was coming out from the shock and sting of the hit, Izuku scooped the young girl in his other arm, brought her to his chest, and kept running forward into the department store right across from the jewelry store.

The gunman grunted and spat on the floor before turning after Izuku and the girl with a snarl. “You little shit!” he roared, and the last thing Izuku saw over his shoulder was the man aiming both guns in their direction. Izuku swerved to the side and hit the floor, shielding the girl with his body just in time as the bullets went flying over them. Izuku winced as he crawled forward, the young girl fumbling against his chest with her cries and her flailing limbs below him, and bullets ripping through shirts and jackets above him, as he did his best to keep himself and the child from being hit by a single one. He pressed his bat into the ground as an extra limb, helping to lunge him forward and further away from the line of fire, until he was hiding behind a wall and the gunfire stopped.

He would have liked to say his troubles stopped there, but the young girl in his hands was still putting up the struggle. She was still flailing and crying and beating against his chest for him to let go. “Hey…hey, calm down,” he tired reasoning with her, dropping his bat on his side as quietly as he could to meet with her own screams having gone silent as the gunfire passed. Izuku could hear the clicking of the man’s guns, probably getting ready for a second run. “Calm down, calm down, I’m not gonna hurt you.” The young girl blatantly ignored him, growling and crying with each punch that made contact with his palms and each knee and kick that hit his sides and the horn on her head that swung about as she shook, but Izuku only grunted them off. “Calm down, I promise I’m not going to hurt you.” He winced internally as she continued to struggle against him. He really didn’t know how he was supposed to calm down a kid, how his own mom had handled him or how heroes handled them in situations like this. So he decided to go with the option he wanted to do least.

When she swung at his chest again, Izuku chose to catch her hand and then do the same when the other hand came following. It panicked her a moment, something Izuku knew was going to happen if it did, but he restrained himself from caving in and letting go in favor of getting them both out of this safely. He rose both fists in his clutches to his face, telling the girl, “Look at me. Please. Look at me.” She continued to struggle at first, her eyes only flickering to his face every few seconds as her attempts continuously failed, until fatigue caught up to her and she went slack in his hold. He could hear her sniffling start back up, and Izuku straightened where he sat looking down at her. “I won’t hurt you. I promise I’m not going to hurt you.” Her head tilted back so she could look up at him, and Izuku heard his voice crack seeing her ruby eyes glisten with tears.

“I am going to get you out of here,” he vowed, internally pressing down his emotions to try and keep himself calm for her sake. “I am going to get you out, and I will keep you safe. I promise you. I will not let him hurt you.”

“I”—she sniffled back a whimper, eyes falling back down away from his—“I want my daddy…”

“I’ll get you back to your dad.” He brought his hands together, lapping one over the other and keeping both of hers still in his grasp, though softer now. “I will get you out of here, I will help you find your dad, and I will take you back to him. But to do that I need you to calm down, and I need you to trust me and let me help you.” He took a deep breath as he finished, held back his own tears, and got her to look up at him once more. “Please. Let me help you.”

After several moments of vocal silence between them, only broken up as the little girl tried to compose herself, she nodded her head and agreed. Izuku let out his breath and eased back down the wall, lowering their hands with him. Good, he told himself, one hurdle passed. “Either of you kids still there?” Another one to get over.

Izuku turned his head towards the gunman’s voice, his arms wrapping protectively around the girl as she shot against his shirt to hide. He didn’t dare peek around the wall or get closer to the corner, hearing the cracking of glass under the man’s boots. “I ain’t sure if I hit ya enough. Wanna make sure I get the job done, keeping my partner focused only on his fight. Come on out and make my job easier, will ya?”

Izuku could feel his arms shaking at just how lax the man was about what he was doing. He turned his head back to the kid in his arms, finding her looking right up at him in her own fear, and he worked to keep his emotions in check again. He was hoping a bat across the stomach would have sent the man puking out his lunch, but it seems he didn’t hit hard enough for that. Now the guns were aimed at him; how was he supposed to fight that with a baseball bat? Izuku doubted he could reason with the man to let him close enough to strike, or if he could even sneak around for a second surprise attack. He’d probably get shot the instant he looked at the man just because of what he did. But he needed to do something, and he had to get this girl to her dad. There wasn’t any other option—

Izuku rolled his head to the baseball bat at his side, and he was happy he decided against smacking himself in the face for his thinking, or lack thereof. It’s a baseball bat, and what do people usually do with them? Hit things and send them flying. Izuku chided himself for nothing thinking of that sooner, and briefly for not even thinking of it as useful practice material to be a hero. There was probably going to be some day in the future he’d have to work from a long range, and apparently today was that day.

He turned his body away from where the gunman was approaching from, if slowly enough to be threatening and tried to put the little girl on the ground. The instant she felt his body distancing from hers, she panicked and clutched tighter on his shirt with a whimper. Izuku looked down at her with his own worry. “Hey, hey. It’s okay. It’s okay.” He kept his voice low to a whisper, hoping the man’s own movements and sounds would keep him from hearing. “I’m not going anywhere. I have an idea, but I need to put you down. I can’t carry you into harm’s way, okay?” He stayed crouched in front of her, doing his best to softly sit her down against the wall even with her holding onto his so tight. “I’ll stay right where you can see me. And when I’m done, we’re getting out of here. Okay?” He held onto her hands again, not trying to pry them off but holding them close despite his words. He wasn’t going to try and force this part.

She let go of him, albeit reluctantly, and her wide and glistening eyes stayed on him the moment he let go of her. He reached over and picked his bat up slowly, making sure not to clack it against the floor and wall. “Cry out if ‘yer bleedin’ out, kiddos. I’ll make sure to finish the job.” Izuku ignored the gunman, looking over in the opposite direction for anything he could use as a ball, and to his luck found an aptly sized chunk of the ceiling lying close by. Gang Orca’s fight was helping him out quite a bit against this guy, and Izuku noted to thank the hero extensively if he got to see him by the end of this. He crawled over and swooped the stone into his hand, and rose up against the wall looking back towards the approaching gunman.

He only had one shot at this. Dash out, toss the rock into the air, hit it at the man and hope it hits him where it counts to by him more time to knock him out. Just don’t get shot, Izuku. He took one deep breath, looked down at the little girl beside him again, nodded to her – he hoped the action calmed her down enough so they both felt he had this – and took one big step forward into the open. Immediately the gunman was in his sights, and Izuku in his. The smirk on the man’s face seemed to dip with aggression, and Izuku turned at the hip to toss up the stone and whack it at him the same time the man rose his guns to shoot him, and a bang rang out in his ears.

The gunman cried out in pain and dropped to one knee, and Izuku froze a second time in the middle of a fight that day, surprised to see the man’s leg bleeding out on the floor. That surprise went away as the man shot his head up with a snarl, looking back over his shoulder where the bullet came from before looking back at Izuku. As fast as he could, the green-haired teen let the rock fly out his hand and he clocked it in the man’s direction. And Izuku saw one of the man’s guns rise in his direction, and he responded immediately by dropping, twisting, and slamming into the wall in front of the little girl before bullets were fired again and a crack and a scream sounded off in the middle of it all.

The gunfire was short this time around, though, barely lasting over a second. Izuku still took several more seconds after it had all gone silent to crack open his eyes and look at the terrified child in front of him. His eyes flickered up a moment, looking at the cracks in the wall feet in front of him where bullets had dug themselves before turning his attention back to the girl. “Are you okay?” he gasped out, sighing in relief as she nodded her head in silence. The girl only made a sound of worry as Izuku winced pushing himself up. He looked back over his shoulder and saw the gunman unconscious on the floor. He sighed again as he crouched down and wrapped an arm around the girl, giving her a moment to hold on tight as he picked her up and staring moving out the store. She flinched as they approached the sleeping and bleeding gunner, and Izuku made sure to swerve around him as they passed.

Izuku looked both way down the mall’s hall for any signs of more criminals before speed walking across and back into the jewelry store greeted by the sight of the tall girl, the clerk, and the red-skinned man still present. He was surprised to see the gun the tall girl was clutching in her hands, both cupped over the trigger so it couldn’t be fired off, and sent a small nod her way as he passed and kept head on to the back door, leading the last of them out of the store and out of the mall without pause.


 

Izuku sighed as he leaned back on the bench, shifting his arms as the little girl moved to a better seating position on his lap and giving a brief look to his side at the tall girl sitting with him.

When they exited the mall, Izuku and the others were greeted to the sight of a crowd of other civilians and several officers and heroes coming over to their aid, helping to escort them further away from the mall as the latter group pushed on into the store as backup. The tall girl handed her gun over to one of the officers, letting them confiscate it without struggle, giving only a brief explanation that it was used against one of the villains in their leg. With how out-of-it she looked, Izuku wondered if it was her first time ever holding a gun, much less using one.

One of the officers had tried to help the girl in Izuku’s arm down, but the girl refused to be let go and threw her legs around Izuku in retaliation. Izuku explained to him briefly what had happened with her, leaving out the details of him fighting at all, and told the policeman that she was separated from her father, probably when everyone was panicking and that he might be somewhere in the crowd instead of the store – Izuku didn’t remember actually seeing anyone on the floor outside of the jewelry store, and prayed that he was right in his guess.

In the meantime, as the officer went looking for anyone who had been separated from their daughter, Izuku was guided to the side with the tall girl to a bench not within the crowd of people watching on the sidelines. The two, excluding the child from the equation, were told to wait by the side for someone to come by and ask them some questions before they could leave. Apparently some of the people who had gotten out first had mentioned them stepping up to fight the criminals who came in through the back door. Despite not being told in trouble, Izuku feared the worst with his flashbacks of the sludge villain playing in his head.

The darting yet silent looks from the tall girl beside him wasn’t helping any. Izuku couldn’t tell if she was as worried as him about the detective coming to question them or if she was choosing to comment on his actions again. He wasn’t sure if he could deal with the latter any more than he could the former, but he’d rather something be said over the silence he was given. That said, he was grateful when the little girl hummed and poked his finger, at least bringing his attention out of his musings and worries to let her to make invisible drawings on the palm of his hand. His eyes were drawn to the stub of a horn on the top of her head wondering if it was a mutation or had anything to do with her quirk. She looked old enough that it must have appeared by now.

The prolonged waiting they had been in ate at Izuku by the fifth minute, the back of his head worrying for the rest of him. They should have found the girl’s father by now, he was sure of that. They’d been inside the mall for quite some time, enough for police and heroes to arrive on the scene and definitely long enough for any parents or children to mention of those they were separated from. Her father was probably waiting by the side since he was force out and told to stay back to see his daughter again, so where was he? Fear gnawed at his thoughts, the worst outcomes coming to mind, and the last thing he wanted to think about was seeing another child be without a father.

“Eri!?”

All three heads shot up at the loud voice, and Izuku could feel the young child on his leg vibrate as she looked towards the source. “Daddy?”

Izuku felt his body slack into his smile as a man with a ponytail of hair as white as the young girl’s came rushing over, the police man who went looking for him following right behind. The little girl scrambled off his lap, climbing down his leg before running off towards the approaching man, and Izuku pushed himself up to follow behind at a slow pace. He winced slightly as he cradled his left arm against his stomach – he must have swung wrong there at the end of all the fighting or, hitting the guy with a stone are plus that was starting to fatigue on his body. He could put up with it for now.

Izuku watched on silently with a smile as the girl’s father scooped her up in a hug, letting her sob against his shoulder as he teared up against her hair. It was comforting to watch, until the man composed himself and stepped forward, taking a hand to rest on Izuku’s shoulder. “I was told you got my daughter out safely. Is that true?”

Izuku tensed at the sudden proximity of the tall man, but flushed and fumbled with the hilt of his bat anyways. “Ah, y-yes sir,” he responded, pointing a finger over his shoulder to the girl on the bench startled to be acknowledged. “Sh-she and I were able to get her out.” He wasn’t able to get any more words out as the man roped him into the small family hug, and Izuku could feel the young girl lean against his head to welcome him.

“Thank you,” the man vocally cried into his shoulder, not actually dropping tears onto his jacket. “Thank you so much. I don’t know what I would have done had I lost her in there.” Izuku barely had the time to lift a hand and pat the man on the back before he backed away and held the green-teen at arm’s length. “Actually, I – uh – do know what I would have done, but I can’t say I would have been happy with myself for it.” He laughed weakly and Izuku offered a reassuring smile, though it too felt weak, still feeling frazzled and somewhat sore from the sudden hug. “If there is any way I can repay you for this, please, let me know. There has to be something I can do for you.”

“O-oh! No, no, it’s-it’s fine.” Izuku waved the promise away and tried to hide his blush by lowering his chin. “You don’t have to do that. I-I couldn’t ask for something like that.” His mind still listed items of value to Izuku despite turning down the offer, and paused as one item in particular came up. He flinched without warning, darting his hand to his pocket and pulling out the white packaging of the necklace he had bought. He opened it and with a sigh of relief found it still intact despite being thrown around with him. With a small smile, he showed it to the man and capped the box again. “I already got what I need. Thank you, though, for the offer.”

The man only nodded, seemingly a bit confused as to the context of the object but not persisting on the topic. “Still, thank you so much for saving her. Can I at least have your name?”

There was a small buzzing in his ear as Izuku realized he’d gone through a few conversations with different people having never really introduced himself. Seemed he finally had the chance to do so. “Midoriya Izuku, sir.” He brought the bat up to be caught resting across his stomach with his arm. “Forgot to introduce myself sooner. My apologies.”

“I wouldn’t worry about it, son,” the man responded, and Izuku held his shoulders down from flinching too high at the nickname. “It’s not like you were really given the time. Again, thank you, Midoriya. I’m sorry you had to go through something like that so soon.”

“I’d relive it again in a heartbeat,” Izuku didn’t hesitate to say, catching himself off guard for saying it so quickly.

“I’d hope you at least wait a couple more years to get a hero license to do that, then.” Izuku and the girl’s father looked over to the side at the man in the overcoat approaching them. “Detective Tsukauchi. I’m here to speak with the two kids the officers told me got out a couple minutes ago. I assume they mean you two?” The detective waved a finger between Izuku and the tall girl rising to her feet.

“Yes sir,” she answered, speaking up for the first time in a while, and sounding a lot calmer than she was with the officers earlier.

“Is there anything I can do for you officer?” the father of the girl offered himself, drawing the man’s eyes over to him. Izuku noticed the brief look he gave the man before he shook his head.

“I assume she’s the girl they got out, and you’re her father?” The man nodded. “I suggest you go home and rest then, sir. I’m sure these two can give me everything I need. Your daughter doesn’t need to be here any longer. It’d probably help to be home.”

The man nodded as he looked at the girl resting on his arms. Izuku assumed she passed out from exhaustion, especially if the grown man didn’t seem worried to see her asleep. He felt the same. “I’ll do just that, then. Thank you, detective.” He turned again to Izuku, and then a bit more so face the tall girl too, before bowing without dropping his daughter. “Thank you, again, for saving Eri. I’m in your debt if we ever meet again, and I wish you a good New Year.” With those parting words, he turned away and left. For a brief moment, Izuku thought he saw the little girl open her eyes and waved bye to him, and he returned the gesture just in case until the two were lost in the sea of people.

“Seriously, though,” he detective interjected, bringing the attention back to him, “I ask you keep safe until you get yourselves some hero licenses, alright?” The two teens nodded, and he responded with a smile and pointed back to the bench. “If it’s alright with you two, I can take your statements here instead of back at the station. Make it faster for all of us. That okay?” They nodded again, and Tsukauchi lead Izuku back to the bench, letting the two kids sit on it as he stood before them with a notebook. “Let’s start with names, shall we? Who wants to go first?”

Izuku kept himself quiet as he saw the taller girl straighten up beside him. “Yaoyorozu Momo,” she introduced herself. The detective wrote her name down and looked over to Izuku.

“And yours? You introduced yourself to the man earlier, but I didn’t quite catch it.”

“Midoriya Izuku, sir,” he responded, looking briefly to the girl beside him. The name sounded familiar but he couldn’t quite put his finger on where from. He’d look into it later.

“Let’s start from the top, if that’s alright with you both,” he began, pen scratching along the paper. “Working on a profile for the men currently being arrested in the mall. I’ve been told that the three criminals found in the jewelry store came in through the back door. I was told you were all planning on going through the door when the attack happened, but I haven’t really gotten any information as to how they got in and caused the explosion I’ve been told about. Would either of you happen to know what happened?”

“It was one of their quirks, I believe,” Yaoyorozu answered, turning the detective’s eyes on her. “One of them had steam coming from their hands, and one of the men commented on the other’s quirk being the cause, so I assume it was because of him.”

Izuku fiddled with the bat in his lap more aggressively than before. An explosion quirk used by a criminal minutes after he saw the one person he knows with an explosion quirk trying to become a hero. Poetic coincidence, he thought snidely. They didn’t look alike, though, not physically; he remembered that. None of them looked like Katsuki, and he wasn’t sure whether or not that relieved him more than it scared him.

The detective wrote down in his book what the tall girl had told him. “Alright, that will make it easier to identify him. And I was told the two of you had a hand in taking them down, is that correct?” Both teens squirmed where they sat at the mention of their involvement, and the detective smiled a bit wider. “It’s fine, you two. Despite being kids, what you did can be classified as self-defense given how the men had entered the building. Had you approached them on the street minding their own business, even knowing they were criminals, that would be harder to work around legally. And from what we’ve found, any injuries they were given don’t seem to be too major, and that includes the one you put in the wall.” He chuckled a bit as an attempt to lighten the mood, but Izuku couldn’t help the nervousness in his own laugh following.

“I just have a few things to ask about that and we can move right along,” he continued, flipping another page in his book. “Did either of you use your quirks?”

“Yes sir/No sir.”

Tsukauchi’s pen paused over the notebook as he looked up to Izuku, a small amount of surprise on his face unmatched by the shock on Yaoyorozu’s. His eyebrow rose, but Izuku kept his face steeled, waiting for him to make a comment regarding his denial of using a quirk where he assumed one must have been even though he’d find nothing. However, the detective said nothing to him, turning himself to look at Yaoyorozu. “And what is it you used your quirk for?”

The tall girl didn’t respond immediately, turning to face the detective as she tried to process the revelation that Izuku never used the quirk he didn’t have – the latter of that part still omitted from saying, because Izuku wasn’t keen dealing with an officer having that knowledge front and center – before she told Tsukauchi anything. “I created a few things to defend myself and help…Midoriya”—he didn’t blame her for struggling to remember his name—“when he was fighting them. I made two poles, one short that I threw at one of the men, and another I used to fight when one of them approached me, along with a shield to block when he was going to hit me.”

“Is that all?”

“From fighting them? Yes.” Izuku noted how she phrased that, leaving out the gunman they dealt with right after. He was intrigued by her phrasing of her quirk, though. Creating – an object-generating quirk sounded very useful and versatile for heroics. Maybe he could ask her more about it later, if there was a later.

The detective nodded, probably knowing the meaning of her words from the testimonies of the other people in the store at the time. “That would explain the two men unconscious on the ground, because of you two. So how did the third man get into the wall?”

Izuku coughed into his knuckles, looking down at his feet in embarrassment while raising a hand. “That…that was me,” he admitted.

The detective looked him over, the smile on his face not dropping an inch. “We found him trapped in the wall by the stone used to make it, almost like it was trying to build around him. You have any idea what that was about?”

Izuku coughed again as he looked up to the detective. “Um, I-uh-think it was his quirk? He had the wall break apart and form around his arm like gauntlets when he attacked us, and I-I hit him back when he was trying to hit her.” He pointed to Yaoyorozu, not daring to look over at her for that. “That’s why he was against the wall.”

Tsukauchi looked him over in a moment of silence, somewhat worryingly for Izuku, but he turned his head to the mall with a hum. “A surface manipulation quirk, huh? Yeah, that would explain it. I’ll make sure we cuff him once he’s out, if he hasn’t been removed already. That’s two of the three then. Any idea about the third man’s quirk?”

“Elongation, I think,” Izuku piped up, though he could see the girl beside him move to answer as well, only cut off by him. “He had a knife with him, one that was longer when he was using it than when he took it out. I think it was a part of his quirk?”

The detective nodded. “I’ll make sure to look into that then. Thank you both.” The scratching of pen on paper took up the break between his words. “Finally, the gunman. We know who he is already. He’s a villain that appeared in China a few months ago before vanishing from the grid. Can’t say we were expected to see him here, but that’s beside the point.” He look down at Yaoyorozu. “The gun you handed my partner earlier? I was told by one of the store’s clerks you made that from your hand and used it to shoot the gunman, is that correct?”

The tall girl nodded, lowering her head in shame. “I only shot him in the leg. I hadn’t really used a gun before, but I knew how to make one, and I didn’t think I’d have to resort to it until he ran forward and grabbed the little girl.” She pointed at Izuku as he had to her earlier.

“’Ran forward’ to grab her?” The detective looks surprised to hear that as he looked back at Izuku. “Care to explain that?”

Izuku nodded with a gulp. Please let me live just to see mom again. “We were going to leave after knocking out the three men, but then right as we were about to, the little girl – Eri, I think – walked out into the hall. I don’t know where she came from or where she was hiding. She was just there, and we went to grab her, but then the gunman showed up so we had to step back or else that could have put her in more trouble, but Gang Orca and whoever he was fighting was distracting him from really focusing on us or her so I ran and grabbed her away from him when he was distracted and ran into the store across and tried to calm her down cause she was panicking from me suddenly grabbing her and then the gunman shooting at us and—”

“Midoriya.” The detective cut Izuku’s ranting short. “Breathe. It might help you.” Izuku did just that, taking deep breaths to calm his chest. “So you grabbed her and ran, correct? That was smart of you, though also really reckless. One wrong step and you could have gotten yourself hurt.”

“I know,” Izuku hurried out his reply. “I know. I…I did hit him across the stomach, hoping it could have knocked him off his feet”—he gestured to the bat in his lap—“but it really only bought me a few extra seconds.”

“And where’d you get the bat from?”

“I brought it.” Izuku felt his face flush again as he rubbed his cheek. “I was training this morning, and I kinda wanted to come here last second before I went home. I’m happy I did.”

“Alright.” Tsukauchi nodded as he looked between the teens. “So let’s keep going. You both see the child. You approach, then the gunman appears. Gang Orca causes a distraction so you charge forward, grab the kid, hit the villain and keep running. Then—you said he shot at you, correct?” Izuku nodded in confirmation. “Are you hurt anywhere? I should have asked this sooner myself, and I hope my colleagues did as well. Are either of you hurt?”

Momo shook her head and Izuku only pointed at his. “She already patched this up from fighting the other guys. I’ll clean it when I get home, I promise.” He hoped he’d get to go home right away once this was all done.

The detective sighed in relief. “That’s good. Alright then. What happened next?”

Yaoyorozu picked up where they left off. “The gunman—he followed after them when his guns ran empty, and with him not looking my way, I decided to risk it and make a gun—just to shoot him in the leg, I promise!” The tall girl waved her arms in defense and worry.

“I believe you,” the detective told her. “Thank you for complying so easily to hand it over. This would be a different conversation if you didn’t. Is that all?”

“And…then I knocked him out,” Izuku finished, slowing the speed of his sentence as the attention turned back to him. “Gang Orca’s fight broke off part of the ceiling in the room we were in, so I hit him in the head with it hoping to knock him out, and I did. Then we came out here, and now we’re here.” Great, Izuku. Not at all awkward in the slightest. Stellar job. Izuku humph-ed at his inner sarcasm.

Tsukauchi wrote down more in his notebook before looking it over and closing it with a satisfied nod. “Alright. I assume you were both there to get some shopping done?” Both teens nodded, and the detective returned the gesture. “Then I guess we’re done here. Thank you both for your help in apprehending the criminals and villains and save the lives of a few innocent people and a child, and though I hate repeating myself, I do ask you try to stay out of trouble until you get a hero license; then I welcome you both on the field. Are either of you studying to be heroes?” He waved a finger between the two.

“Yes sir,” the replied in unison, and then turned to one another with their own surprised looks. The detective only looked pleased to hear it.

“I wish you both the best of luck at getting your licenses then. Will either of you be needing a ride home? I can have an officer escort you if you need it.”

Both teens turned down the offer respectfully, the taller of the two saying she could phone her family to send a ride over for her and the other saying he’d be fine taking the railway system back, and the detective left them with one last parting, urging them to start heading home. Both teens listened, picking themselves up from the benches and moving away from the mall, though neither walked away from each other.

Izuku didn’t know her reasoning for sticking by his side, but he did want to talk with her a bit more. If she was a potential future classmate, it’d be best to at least leave this event having made a friend of her instead of an enemy or a stranger; he’d make sure to do that even if she wasn’t aiming for Yuei too, or was already attending one given she looked a year or two older than him. He kept quiet as she talked on her phone, discussing with her parents about the incident and her state of health before planning on where she could be picked up. When all was said and done, she tucked the phone back in her pocket and ended up waiting at the side of the road, and Izuku decided to stand by her.

He coughed into his hand, urging him to get out of his introversion and speak up. “So, um,” he trailed off, giving the tall girl enough time to look over at him. At least she wasn’t glaring, Izuku took that as a point in his favor. “You’re aiming to be a hero too?”

She seemed surprised at the question for a moment, but quickly caught her composure as she responded, “Yes, I am, actually. I hear you are too.” Izuku nodded. “Where do you plan on studying?”

“Uh, Yuei.” He patted his bat softly. “I plan on going to Yuei.”

“Oh?” The surprise returned to her face. “Really? I am as well. Funny how small the world is.”

Izuku gave a light chuckle to that. “Yeah, well, it’s not like a couple hundred people try out for the entrance exam every year. Probably more surprising to see someone get in than it is to find them hoping to.” It clicked a few seconds after he said it for him to realize his words sounded a bit snarkier than he wanted them to, but the tall girl didn’t seem to mind that and was softly laughing at his comment.

“Yes, I guess you’re correct. The acceptance rate is quite low, but it is to be expected of the leading school of heroics in the world. Not everyone can just be enrolled because they want to.” She seemed to get lost in thought a moment before continuing. “The entrance exam is late in February next year, correct?”

Izuku nodded. “Yeah. I’ve been trying my best to prepare for it, but I can’t really say I even know what it is. I hear it changes every year through a few different ideas. Guess I just gotta hope for the best.”

“It will be hard for anyone, wouldn’t it?” Yaoyorozu commented to herself before looking down at Izuku. “I wish you good luck with the entrance exam, then, Midoriya.”

“Thanks. I wish you luck too.” Izuku caught the falter in her smile when she looked away. “What’s wrong?”

Momo didn’t look to happy when she turned to him again, though only a second before looking forward again. “Actually…I’m aiming to get in through recommendation. I’ve sent in my application already, and I’m supposed to be hearing back from the next month if they accept it or not. If they do, I don’t think I’ll be seeing you at the entrance exam.”

Izuku stilled in surprise. She was going in through recommendations? Izuku knew a bit more about that than he did the common entrance exam he was going to be taking, only because he knew how hard it was for students to get in the other way. They had to do quite a lot to prove themselves, and he knew it put them in a position akin to having a spotlight thrusted upon them, so there was quite the pressure from it that wasn’t in the typical means. But their exam was also a few weeks ago, meaning this girl had already gone in to prove herself.

“I think they’ll accept you,” he told her, snapping them both out of their dazed states to stare each other in the eyes. “I-With what I saw today, I don’t doubt it. It’d be wrong of them not to, considering what you did for me. I think you’re already very heroic for them to not even consider turning you down.”

Izuku could see the surprise through her red cheeks, and Izuku could feel his own light up as he finished his short speech. “Uh, thank you, Midoriya. That…that means a lot to hear.” She gave him a warm smile, and Izuku returned it, hoping it was helping to tone down his blush. “I don’t doubt you’ll make it through the entrance exam yourself. I think you’d make a fine hero too.” His blush didn’t go down, but his smile did go up.

“U-uh, t-thank you, Yaoyorozu.” He shrugged his shoulders to start composing himself and winced at the spike of pain on his right one. His hand came up to rub it as Momo turned her body to face him more.

“Is something wrong, Midoriya?”

“No, sorry, just-uh-sore.” He lifted his right arm the first time in a few minutes and waved his hand to brush away her concerns. “I think I just swung wrong earlier in the fights. I’ll make sure to let it rest when I-when I-I-I…” Izuku stuttered away as Momo caught his hand in her own, surprised by her sudden action.

“Midoriya, you’re bleeding.” Her statement only piled on confusion, washing away his blush as he turned his hand in hers to see a trail of red from his fingertips down to his wrist and beyond beneath his sleeve. He burrowed his brows in confusion and looked down at his feet, noticing the small pools of blood on the pavement between his shoes. Then the dizziness started to kick in. Izuku looked back over his hand, still visibly confused by the blood as Yaoyorozu started feeling down his arm for any wounds. He gave a small cry of pain as her hand ended up at his shoulder and she bridged the distance between them to get a closer look before gasping. “Midoriya, you’ve been shot!”

“Wha—” Izuku tried to look back over his shoulder with her, but the swift movement he had made with his head immediately rendered him dizzy, sending stumbling as he stood and leaving Momo to catch him as he dropped to the floor. He blinked his eyes hard as he tried to make the world one image instead of four, and the sounds in his ears became overshadowed by the sound of waves, but he had no luck doing so until everything just went black.

Chapter Text

January


 

When the news feed ended, Izuku replayed the clip. It was grainy, still in black and white, and had microwave scratches instead of audio that the media dialed down for an audience to view interrupted, and watched himself get shot. Despite the low quality, no doubt due to the tremors the mall went through during the attack, he could point out the trail of bursts of smoke and stone where the villain shot his bullets towards him and the little girl. Halfway through the trail, he could point out the second a plume of smoke popped from the back of his shoulder before disappearing the rest out of the frame. Izuku still could not believe he had not felt the bullet dig into his shoulder.

He considered himself lucky to be in fine condition, pace the fact. The bullet had dug into the bone; not in his arm, but in his torso. Had the bullet strayed further, it probably could have made his right arm completely inoperative. Keeping an open wound would not have fared him any better. Lucky for him, one of Japan’s top renowned surgeons were on the case of his wound, and Izuku felt bad he had not thanked Dr. Koresh more. The doctor’s quirk was capable of stitching almost anything back together, inanimate and organic. He decided to put his powers to use in the operating room, and had spent a good hour piecing the bone and muscle and other tissue back together until Izuku was left with only a soft patch of skin; the mark of a scar only slightly wider than the bullet that pierced him.

Izuku replayed the footage again. If anything, he felt he gave too little thanks to Yaoyorozu and her family for helping as well. Not even a minute after he had collapsed on the side of the road had her ride appeared, and instead of taking her home or trying to call one of the ambulances already leaving the mall in the opposite direction, they drove him to the mall instead. Yaoyorozu had done her best to cover the wound and keep him from bleeding out any further than he already was, and it was enough to get him to the hospital and in more trained hands to go from there.

Izuku felt more in debt than he already was, given she had acted once to help him and twice - maybe thrice - to save his life. He didn’t think he even did one of those yet. Most of the thanks to her and her family came from his own mom having met them while he was still bed-ridden after the surgery. He agreed with his mother that they had to do something in return for saving his life, but the adults seemed more than fine with the notion that Izuku had already saved their daughter while they were still inside the mall, and his help in apprehending the four criminals that they encountered.

(Izuku thought his actions were more indirect than direct in saving her life, but he wasn’t exactly given room to argue and instead had to settle with being praised as a promising future hero. He’d live.)

Izuku played the footage again. He’d been watching it since he found it, time and time again whenever he and his attention weren’t needed elsewhere; which, over the winter break, was almost all the time. Given his injury and the time he was recommended to spend recovering, his mother hadn’t given any leeway to try and go back to training any time soon, and since he didn’t want to test her and knew the necklace wasn’t enough of an apology, he agreed to keep his head down and spend a week or two just with her and school until her worried died down enough to allow him freedom again. She wasn’t restricting everything though, and Izuku had yet to know if that was a good thing or not. It felt more like a bad thing, as Hatsume and Iida and Ojiro texted him about the story on the news and all he had replied with was to not talk about it; for Mei, that went a lot more aggressively to make her move on, but she seemed to get the message after the third day.

Izuku ignored the whispers of his classmates as they entered homeroom and played the clip again. Probably the only benefit of having been hospitalized was getting to meet Gang Orca in person. He had arrived with detective Naomasa on the day of his release and Izuku was grateful his joy overshadowed his worry. Gang Orca had all but reiterated the detective’s words from the meeting outside the mall, with a thanks or lightening the load on his shoulders tacked on at the end. He had also given the same treatment to the Yaoyorozu daughter, and after learning of her future, had offered to give Izuku a late recommendation into Yuei, just in time for him to test for the chance. Gang Orca had noted Izuku’s actions and quick willing to act instead of letting criminals get away with their work, and how he had thrown himself in the line of fire to save the life of a child. Sloppy in a few place, the pro had noted, but he’d be going to a school that would help to buff those kinks out and help him become a proper hero. The pro was more than willing to help Izuku get into Japan’s most prestigious school for heroics.

Izuku turned down the offer.

He did give it some thought, of course, but in the end he had declined. He wanted to prove himself to the school that he could be accepted, and Izuku didn’t believe rushing the test early was going to do his performance any good, especially while he had to recover and rest from his “reckless actions” as his mother put it. He kept to himself that the entrance exam as it was served enough stress for him to feed off of until it was over and he knew of the results; no use piling more stress on top of that. He’d rather wait the extra two months for his test along with the thousands of other students trying out for admittance into the hero school. That was less stressful to think about.

Izuku played the video again, watching the three minute clip as he worked to calm down the young girl he saved and then his small standoff with the gunman. Most of his class had arrived, and he ignored the stares he saw out of the corner of his eyes. It was over a week since the news surfaced of the attack on the mall, and everyone was bound to have recognized him on the news as the boy who saved a kid’s life and then was rushed to the hospital for a bullet wound and small concussion on the back of his head. Izuku didn’t think the hit he took was that bad, but he wasn’t going to argue with the news or his mother. No need for that.

“Deku…” Izuku bristled at the growl a ways behind him, letting the video come to a full stop before he closed his phone. His eyes rolled to the side, looking over his shoulder to the blonde teen standing in the doorway of the class, beady red eyes glaring his way over the other students. He didn’t ignore the hushed voices of his classmates having dropped lower in volume as Katsuki made his entrance to the room. Then the teacher entered from his side of the room.

“Alright, everyone. In your seats.” He sounded as bored as usual; Izuku was at least semi-pleased to hear him act like nothing was out of place. “That includes you, Bakugou.” Izuku turned back forward in his desk, soaking in the look of Katsuki scoffing his way as he stomped around the back of the class to his own desk by the window. Izuku didn’t turn to acknowledge the glare he felt on the back of his neck.

“Now I know you’re all excited to get your last semester over and done with,” the teacher drawled on, rolling his hand in the air with just as little enthusiasm, “graduate and go on to high school. So I expect you all to try your…best…” Izuku blinked as the teacher’s eyes finally landed on him, and said man’s expression dropped from tired to wide-eyed with surprise. “Midoriya, I…didn’t expect to see you back so soon.”

Izuku blinked as several more eyes turned to look at him, his fingers fidgeting with one another as he kept his own stare forward to the teacher’s. He didn’t say a thing in response to being acknowledged. He would have preferred the teacher not have said anything at all. Luckily for him, the teacher somehow got the memo, and cleared his throat before looking over the rest of his class. “Alright, everyone. Let’s get ready for the first of your last lessons.”

Izuku sighed and sagged his shoulders as, one by one, pairs of eyes turned away from him and back to the front of the class, or were at least looking back at him over the shoulder. Better than their faces fully turned to his. A quick glance to the side confirmed Katsuki’s eyes were the only eyes still straight on him, but he wasn’t going to grace the other boy with any real acknowledgement. He hoped class would go by faster, sooner.


 

God those classes felt like forever.

Izuku groaned as he swayed in his steps. Somehow sitting around the house all day for a week was less taxing on his mental health than sitting in that classroom again. He was taxed out for the day by the time second period started and was more than sure he fell asleep during fourth. That or the information the teacher was relaying was something he already knew that he tuned out the conversation willingly. Izuku couldn’t exactly remember, but he was willing to bet what money he had left that it was just a class of rehashing information. Wasn’t the most uncommon for so late in the semester.

The light of the afternoon wasn’t helping to collect his bearings, burning his retina any time he looked up even slightly higher than the cars he passed. A piece of him wished the subway wasn’t so out of the way that he could take it to school and back to the apartment. Guess life was looking down on him in more ways than one. At least he was close to home, and his day could finally end—

“Oi! Deku!”

That wasn’t a challenge, universe, Izuku groaned in his head.

He paused in his walk and turned on his heels to find the blonde boy he knew oh-so-well stalking up to him, with an expression conveying something less than pleased. Whatever could it be, Izuku pondered dryly.

Izuku made the first audible sound to the other teen, a visible sigh that sagged his shoulders and dropped his head with it. “Yeah, Katsuki?”

Izuku could see the other boy’s feet stop feet away from him, and his eyes rolled up the teen’s body to find him stiff in posture and shocked in expression. He spent a couple seconds looking at the blonde in confusion until the lax and dismissive acknowledgement he gave him finally registered in his own ears. The next sound he heard was the explosion that went off in his face.

He stood in place and took the blow, too slow to react fast enough. Surprising him, however, was that the blast didn’t knock him over, nor did he trip and fall on his step back in recoil. He wasn’t given a long enough time to think about how Katsuki was using less strength in his blasts given the street they were on wasn’t exactly the most isolated, as said explosive teen had grabbed him by the collar of his uniform when the smoke between them was clear enough.

Katsuki snarled in his face, leaving Izuku to recoil his neck slightly as the blonde spoke again. “The hell did you think you were doing, Deku?” he hissed and let another pop of sparks sound off from his other hand.

Izuku’s body shook and he thanked above that he was still flat on his feet. “W-What do you mean, Kats—Kacchan?” Trying to hide his name behind the nickname didn’t seem to calm the blonde any.

“The mall, dumbass! You got yourself shot and hospitalized! The fuck is wrong with you?”

The shaking Izuku felt slowed down as his gaze turned baffled towards Katsuki. “Wait, what?”

“The old hag was worrying over your sorry ass over the break since auntie wasn’t letting her come over to see you. Do you know how goddamn annoying that was?!”

Izuku stared at the red eyes and the barring teeth with a blank expression. He…why was Katsuki talking about this? Izuku knew Mitsuki was worried about him, and had even gotten to talk over the phone one day when he had the chance to let her know he was going to be fine, given his mother wasn’t able to stay as flat faced as he was about the whole “getting shot” thing. He understood well enough why she was worried, why both women were worried, but Izuku liked to think he was recovering well from it. The only saving grace of getting to tell Mitsuki was that she was alone on the phone call and Izuku didn’t have to listen to Katsuki yelling in the background or taking the phone to yell at him directly.

Was…was Katsuki trying to say he was worried about him too? Could be a bit more direct about it, if that was the case, Izuku noted to himself, and decided to actually contribute to the conversation.

“I’m-I’m doing fine, I promise.” Izuku smiled and chuckled nervously, waving his hands between them. “It doesn’t hurt to do anything with my arm anymore. They closed the wound quickly and I’ve been recovering—”

“I don’t give a shit about your wound!” Katsuki interrupted him with a shout. “Why the fuck were you still trying to play hero?!”

Simultaneously did Izuku’s hands, smile and attempt at playful demeanor dropped, albeit slowly within the vocal silence that followed between the two boys. Izuku didn’t talk again until his hands were hanging by his sides. “…What?”

“You know what I fucking mean! I saw the news too, dipshit! The hell was a liability like you doing trying to fight people and be a hero?!”

Izuku didn’t give him a response, maintaining the same lost look after each sentence he shouted. So the blonde continued.

“I thought I told you to stay out of my way! Not get on the news trying to convince the world you can be something you’re not! The hell’s a quirkless hero gonna be to the world if all he does is get himself hospitalized?! Do you even get that through the thick-fucking-skull of yours?!” Katsuki didn’t actually wait for an answer as he shoved Izuku back by the collar and sneered again. “You’re never gonna be a fucking hero, Deku. Don’t let this little shit try to convince you otherwise. No one’s gonna want to work with a quirkless hero, and fighting real villains all by yourself is only gonna get you killed. So do as you’re fucking told and give up. I don’t wanna hear any more shit about you trying to get yourself killed playing as a hero.” With a final look with his glare, Katsuki turned back around and stomped away from the green teen, staring frozen at him.

That…that was…Katsuki came to him to tell him that. To tell him to give up, again. To tell him he couldn’t be a hero, again. To tell him to stand back and stop being in his way, again. To mock Izuku for getting shot and hurt putting his life on the line to save the life of a child. To use his quirkless status as reason enough that he still wasn’t good enough

“Fuck you.”

Izuku could hear the stomp Katsuki used as his last step, and the sound of his teeth clenching together was akin to metal scraping against metal as he turned. “What was that?”

“It was a ‘Fuck you,’” Izuku repeated, furrowing his eyebrows to the other teen and almost pulling off a glare. “Was that literally all you came to tell me? That it’s my fault for getting shot and I can’t be a hero? Really?”

“Of course it fucking is, Deku,” Katsuki growled back. “You threw yourself in front of the goddamn bullet.”

“It was gonna hit a fucking kid!” Izuku shouted back in retaliation. “What, was I supposed to allow a kid to be shot? Would you consider me a hero then?”

“Of course not—”

“No, of course you wouldn’t. Then you’d just blame me for letting the kid get shot, even if I took the guy down without getting harmed, wouldn’t you? So what, you’re blaming me for the gunman being there at all? Something I didn’t have a lick of control or decision over? Really?”

“If you hadn’t decided to step up and try to be a fucking hero, then he wouldn’t have shot anyone at all!”

“He would have shot her anyways! They weren’t taking witnesses to begin with!”

“How the hell would you know that? Because they left your worthless body on the ground?!”

“Because I heard them say it in front of me!”

Izuku took a long inhale in his standoff with Katsuki, the other blonde boy holding his ground and crouching further and further on his own two feet, ready to pounce at a moment’s notice. Izuku was feeling up to that challenge. He coughed through his teeth. God, when was the last time he shouted like this?

Katsuki shook his head violently, eyes scrunched in what Izuku could have mistaken for pain, like a thought he wasn’t proud of had passed through his head. “God, what the hell were you even thinking standing up to those fucking goons?! What, were you hoping they’d kill you?!”

A quiet growl bubbled up in Izuku’s throat and he gulped it right back down. “Oh, and you would have stayed down and let them go about their day?! I thought you wanted to be a fucking hero!”

“At least with my quirk I can be a hero!”

“With an explosion quirk like yours, you’ll be just as good a villain as the two in prison!”

Izuku was aware that Katsuki launched himself forward the instant he heard the word villain, an explosion from one hand propelling him forward and the other outstretched and shining with light. And Izuku was prepared to take him head on, fist clenched and chambered by his side, teeth barred to mirror Katsuki. But the blonde was faster, and before Izuku could throw a punch an explosion stronger than those before hit him in the face and sent him backwards into the pavement, cracking the back of his head on the earth.

He cried out and cradled his head, the feeling of blood tricking through his fingers felt through the pain of the impact. Through the corner of his clenched eyes he could see Katsuki snarling down at him, another pop of an explosion sounding off from his palm. “Stay down, Deku. Or else you’ll end up like your old man.” And suddenly the pain in his head meant nothing.

Izuku spent no time hesitating to let go and push off the street with his bleeding hands, surging to his feet without struggle and catching the corner of Katsuki’s eyes as the blonde made to turn and leave him bleeding on the ground. He moved a palm back out towards Izuku but the latter was more than ready for it, swinging an arm across to grab and shove it away from him, and send his other fist clocking in Katsuki’s nose.

The explosive teen stumbled back with a surprised and pained shout, clutching his now bleeding nose in his hands. But Izuku didn’t give him time to rest like Katsuki did, surging forward with a punch aimed at his chest, and only nicked the blonde on the side as he sent one hand with a backswing and an explosion against Izuku’s cheek. The blast sent him stumbling to the side, and before he could gather his bearings a second explosion connected with his stomach and sent him flying into a brick wall lining the sidewalk.

Pain erupted on either side of him, in the ribs that took the brunt of the explosion and the ribs that smacked against the wall that stopped his momentum. The crushing they performed on his insides sent him curling to his knees and gasping to breathe. Fuck. Every sharp inhale he took was followed by a rough and cough-filled exhale, and each press of his fingers was but a searing jab of the bruises he probably had under his shirt. And with each of the explosions he had taken, his hearing had gone fuzzy, the only sound making it to his ears being the scraping of his hands against his uniform and the ground.

But Izuku had to push through, because Katsuki was still standing and there was little chance in hell that he would just back off after a comment like that was made his way. He looked over to the taller teen, still standing tall while blood dripped from his nose, but to Izuku’s surprise the boy’s gaze wasn’t upon him, and the side profile he had of it, Katsuki looked petrified where he stood. So he followed the blonde’s gaze, and there, standing at the end of the street, looking as terrified as Katsuki did and probably as empty-gutted as Izuku felt, was his mother.

Izuku shot to his feet and nearly feel right back down from the pounding in his ears and the pressure of his ribs, but he stayed standing in spite. Only problem was that he didn’t know who exactly to look at, wanting to look at his mother to reassure her but wanting to stare down Katsuki unknowing if the blonde would still launch himself back into attacking him. He settled for the latter, forcing his eyes wide and zeroing his gaze to the other boy’s eyes, waiting for him to turn over and notice. And Katsuki did, ripping his gaze away from the Midoriya mother to look at the Midoriya son. Izuku found a snarl sent his way, and in response he hardened his glare and rose his shoulders to challenge Katsuki’s attempts to be intimidating. And it seemed to do the trick enough, as Katsuki not only turned away from the family of two but took off down the street. Izuku could see his mouth move as he left, but the ringing in his ears didn’t subside enough for him to make it out at all, though the shouting of the blonde’s name from his mother was loud enough to be faint in his ears.

Even as his mother rushed over to his side and hovered over the wounds she could see, Izuku kept his eyes watching Katsuki all but run with his tail between his legs. It was a mock victory, in Izuku’s favor. Just seeing the explosive teen run away was enough to make him feel like he had actually won something over the other boy.

And Izuku loved that feeling as much as he wanted to throw it up.


 

“Izuku, we need to take you to the hospital!”

“Mom, I promise I’ll be fine—”

“There’s blood all over your back!”

“Then I’ll patch it up with the first aid kit. I’m fine.”

“A patch isn’t going to clean that all up!”

“It’ll cover the wound.”

Izuku didn’t mean to sound as exasperated to his mother as he did, but his body felt too sluggish to support any other tone of voice without dipping into a slurred and incoherent mess. What little energy Izuku did have left, he managed to use sparingly; opening the bathroom door, swinging open the overhead cabinet to the sink, and easing out the first aid kit onto said sink. All while his mother hovered behind him and watched from the bathroom door.

“Izuku, baby.” His mother’s tone had dropped audibly enough for Izuku to notice she was holding herself back from shouting again. “You’ve lost a lot of blood. That wound is probably really big. We should have a doctor seal it closed for you.”

“It can heal on its own, too. I’m fine with that.” He didn’t even open the kit before he grabbed a towel and dowsed it in cold water. “We don’t need to take me to the hospital.”

“But what if you broke something?” Izuku did his best not to react to her wording of that. If he broke something. Not if Katsuki was the one to do it. “Izuku, please, we should take you to a hospital—”

The hell’s a quirkless hero gonna be to the world if all he does is get himself hospitalized?!

I’ll be fine.” Izuku watched as the sternness to his voice forced his mother a step back, and the pain in his sides moved deeper into his chest. He dropped his head back down and turned off the running water. “I don’t want to go back so soon. I’ll be alright with this.” He winced as quietly as he could – to say barely at all – as he rose the towel and pulled on the definite bruise on his side to tap against where the blood was probably leaking from. His heavy breathing alone carried the vocal silence between mother and son following, and did so for a minute until his mom stepped forward and eased a hand over his holding the towel.

“At least let me do it for you,” she calmly demanded more than she asked, prying the towel from his fingers and placing a hand on his back. “You shouldn’t be hurting yourself more.” Holding back another hiss of stressing the bruise on his side, Izuku obliged and moved when the hand pushed him to sit down on the toilet for his mother’s reach. He could feel her brush aside his hair to clear a path to the cut and dabbing it with the towel. “…I’ve never seen you throw a punch like that, Izuku.”

He heavily flinched at her words, boring his eyes down to the tile between his feet and clutching his hands together. “You…saw that?”

“And everything following…” She sounded as uncomfortable to talk about it as he was. He listened as she went silent and eased on the pressure she was applying to the wound as the kit on the sink shuffled around her hand. With the pressure returned, it wasn’t as cold as the cloth was. “And I heard what he said right before that.” Izuku sighed, bringing up the hand on his other side that wasn’t pulling on a bruise like the other and scratched a finger along the edge of the bandage patch on his head. “Izuku, are…you and Katsuki…”

“Still friends?” Izuku filled in where his mother stuttered for something better. “…No. We’re not.” Haven’t been for a long time. The hands that fell on his shoulders landed gently, and Izuku was happy his mother stayed behind him instead of looking him in the eyes.

“How long has this been going on?”

“How long has what been going on?”

“Izuku, I know you and Katsuki wouldn’t be fighting like this if it’s your first fight. And he wouldn’t say those things about your father either.” Wouldn’t be the first time he had, just the first in a long while. “How long?”

Izuku bristled at the soft tone of her voice. Ten years, give or take. “It’s recent,” he told her instead. “Past couple months.” Since I saved him from the sludge villain and told me to jump from the roof.

“A couple months? Izuku why didn’t you tell me?”

“It’s not like anything has actually been happening.” Izuku responded quickly to the worry in his mother’s voice, waving a hand towards her. “This is the first time in a while he’s even talked to me.” Wish it could’ve stayed that way.

“You two did a lot more than talking. I heard you both shouting before I turned the corner. What did Katsuki want?”

For the briefest of moments, Izuku felt like telling her the truth. The whole truth. He decided against it. “Just something stupid. It doesn’t matter.”

“Izuku, ‘something stupid’ doesn’t end up with you two hurting each other.”

He openly scoffed at that. “You’d be surprised how low Katsuki’s standards are.” It was the deafening silence that followed his words that informed him where he fucked up.

“You’re hiding something from me, Izuku.” The green teen lowered his head into his hand as naturally as he could, tensing as the hands on his shoulders did too. “You and Katsuki are fighting; you’re calling him by his name now; you keep coming home sore whenever you go out training; you’re not as talkative anymore; you barely even talk about the mall or the hospital…Izuku.” He turned his head just enough to look at his mother’s hand, but not enough to see her face. “What aren’t you telling me?”

“…What do you think I’m not telling you?”

“Baby, please, I’m not doing this with you.” He was amazed at the lack of jab and anger in her voice, and equally displeased to hear it replaced with exhaustion. “You can tell me anything, you know that, right?”

Guilt ate away at his stomach. “Yeah. I know, mom.” He sighed and turned his head back to forward. “I don’t wanna talk about it.”

“Izuku, please. You don’t have to keep doing this. If your friends are forcing you to be a hero and pushing you to hurt yourself to be one, you could have told me and I would—”

“‘Forcing me to’—What? No!” Izuku shot to his feet and spun towards his mother, though he leaned back from her with a hardened stare. She looked as surprised as he felt, but that was probably the only emotion that overlapped. “No! No one is forcing me to be a hero! This is all my choice!”

She sputtered a moment. “I-Izuku, you keep getting hurt! What—”

“It’s not like I asked to be hurt! What, you think I asked Katsuki to bash my head into the ground? You think I asked his to practice his quirk on me all the time? Do you think I asked to be shot?!” Izuku spun on his heels again, whining against the hand that dragged down his face.  “Why is everything my fault? How is it every bad thing is because of me and anything good is because of literally anything else?!”

“Izuku…”

“Oh, you weren’t born with a quirk? Shame you drew the short straw in life! Guess you don’t get anything, but it’s not like it’s a loss to watch you suffer! Oh, you risk your life to help fucking Katsuki of all people from losing his? Well let’s just praise him for doing absolutely nothing and tell you off for it!”

“I-Izuku!...”

“Saved a couple people and stopped a few criminals in the act? How about we give all the credit to the quirk you don’t have but we’ll act like you do so we can’t thank you as a person any?”

“…Izuku.”

“What’s that? You took a bullet for a kid? How pathetic, but what were we to expect from someone who can’t do anything? Maybe if the bullet had killed you then and there, then maybe something good would have finally come from you!”

“Izuku!”

What?!” Izuku twisted, and shouted from his gut, coming again face-to-face with his mother. His body shook from the heat inside him, and his shoulders bounced and his nose flared with each heavy breath he took. Only when he fully register the look of fright and terror on his mother’s face did every feeling within him die out and turn cold. “M-mom, I—”

“I-I had no idea you felt that way, Izuku.” Her voice stayed true to her expression; just as soft and small as she looked in the moment. “I’ll-I’ll give you some space. I’m sorry…” Whatever else she had to say was lost and jumbled together, and she left the bathroom before Izuku could get out another word.

“I—Wait, mom—” Izuku reached out for her already-gone form and before he could get even a step did his side explode with pain. He jolted forward and bit back a scream, dropping one hand to catch him on the counter top and the other clawing around the bruise still untreated on his side. “…Fuck.”

He collapsed onto the toilet again, hissing as he slid in his seat and faced the ceiling. Everything he had let out, both in emotion and in words – the complaints he vocalized and the yell he directed at his mother – played back in his mind. His breath hitched from the growing tightness in his chest. Fuck.

Izuku did his best to wipe the water building in his eyes onto his sleeve and move his attention to the bruise he was sporting. And it was a big one, he noted after removing his no-longer-useable uniform jacket and somewhat-torn-but-could-survive-another-day-or-two undershirt. He applied a cool patch –because the last thing he wanted to feel was more heat – to the colorful skin and wrapped it against himself messily. Better than nothing, he decided.

Even when all was said and done, he didn’t move. He sank further towards the floor, nearly lying on the lid of the toilet as he stared dead at the ceiling. His body ached like all hell, his breath was wavering with each inhale, and the only other sounds in his ears were the soft buzzing of the fan in the drywall above him and his mother down the hall, held up in her own room and not fairing any better, by the sound of it.

Izuku stood with a wince a minute later, bundled his torn shirt and jacket, and held himself back from tossing the pair into the hamper before limping them along to his bedroom. He ignored the small crack of light coming from his mother’s bedroom door as he crept into his own room, tossing the jacket and shirt into the chair of his desk. With a sharp exhale he stumbled to his bed, and threw himself down on the mattress, rolling onto his non-bruised back and tried to rest.

Emphasis on tried, as his eyes found it impossible to shut with the poster tacked to the ceiling above him. It was an older poster of All-Might, fitted in his Silver Age uniform, drawn and posed in action, his signature look plastered on his face, his fist cocked back and clenched tight as he rushed towards Izuku, the faint blue glow of his iris shining from one eye, recognizing the boy in front of him, sobering his expression and tightening the lips of his smile, curling down the arcs at the edges of his lips, his fist turning and straightening at his side, knowing the boy in front of him wouldn’t give up his dream without a fight, and if that was the case then why couldn’t he give him one—

Izuku shot into the wall against his bed, throwing his limbs out to grab on and stabilize him. No punch ever came his way. All-Might never left the frame; never dipped his smile; never moved his fist. Ready he stood, posed to fight he stayed, strong his smile kept. He wasn’t attacking. He wasn’t there. Izuku moved to sit and look away, taking big breaths to even his chest and think about anything else but found All-Might’s gaze boring down on him from every angle in his room. Every poster of his, every figurine Izuku could collect, every personal drawing the green teen made of the hero covered the rest of his room; a presence that overshadowed him and backed the rest of his collections of heroes. Of the other top ranking, good looking, recent and present heroes that caught his eye decorated the rest of his room, all weighing down on his shoulders with physical and mental stress, holding him in place as his friends decorated his shelves; as Iida lived to his family name; as Ojiro made a household name for himself teaching martial arts; as Mei headed the heroic’s support industry; and as Katsuki rose to become the number one hero, smirking all the way as the rest of the world held the quirkless kid back from feeling that same sense of accomplishment because who were they to let a kid with nothing finally have anything—

A pillow flew into his desk, smashing across the shelves of hero and heroine figurines, sending the lot of them toppling onto the desk and floor below. Izuku but stared at the mess, easing his swung hand over the bruise he stretched in the process. He looked away again, away from the heroes he’d let down to the hero at the foot of his bed. Of the poster he loved to look at in the morning to motivate him into the next day. Of All-Might standing tall with his signature slogan lining the bottom of the poster. But the hero no longer stood high with might, nor bulky with power; but gaunt and thin and skeletal, filled with two visible blue eyes dim and a toothy frown stretching along his face, no longer telling Izuku he was here, but to Give up. Think realistically.

Izuku didn’t want to think at all.

He jumped from his bed, walked over to his desk and around the fallen heroes scattered about the carpet, and swiped his torn and dirty clothes, shuffling into his uniform without such as a second thought of the holes or the smell. He bristled as they reconnected with his skin, but brushed it aside as he swiped his bat from beside his bed and rushed out of his room. He stopped a moment, noticing his mother’s door wide open but the room dark, and his ears registered the clacking of metal and utensils down the other end of the hall. Light steps carried him down the hall, the bat twiddling and twisting between his hands.

Izuku peeked around the corner to find his mother at the kitchen counter, food floating after her hands and to the cutting board in front of her. She chopped away in silence, and he kept mute as he watched her cook, weighing the bat between his thoughts; weighing his thoughts between his ears. The bat ended grasped in his left hand, and stepped forward to make noise before he spoke. “Hey, I’m just…gonna go out…for a walk, yeah, ya know, get some fresh air.”

His mother jolted when he spoke, despite her best efforts to brush the sudden actions afterwards. That included not turning around to face him when she talked. “O-Oh, okay. I was, just, starting to make dinner, though. It…should be ready in half an hour.”

Izuku blinked and shifted weight from one foot to the other. “Oh, you are? But it—” He looked over to the clock over the door that read 4:13. “That’s sounds great,” he gulped out. “I’ll, uh—I’ll make sure to be home before then. I’ll…keep my eye on the time.”

“A-are you sure—”

“Yes.” Izuku winced in the back of his throat as his intrusion made his mother jolt again. “I’ll be back. I promise.”

She still did not turn to look at him as she responded with an “Alright” and a slow nod of her head before she returned to cooking. Even with her ‘approval,’ Izuku didn’t make for the door immediately. He stayed in place as he watched her cook, breathing silently as the bat came to rest between both his hands. The lack of any door opening must have been what turned his mother’s head to the side, the action jolting Izuku into his own and pace walk to the door and swing it open. Once more he hesitated in his step, stopping his momentum completely as he swung the door open and held it by his side. His fingers drummed on the door and the hilt of his bat, and his grip settled on the bat over the door. He turned his head quick over his shoulder – not caring to see if his mother had even looked to him at last or not – and muttered out a quick, “I’m sorry,” before he paced out the door and swung it shut behind him.


 

He huffed a breath as he sauntered down the street and wiped down his knuckles absentmindedly. The setting sun heated his back and warmed him as his mind wandered from his physical place. Another day, another hunt, he mused as his fingers ticked as he wrote without pen or paper. Another to add to the list. His ears tuned to the atmosphere around him; to the birds chirping and flapping past him and the houses; to the cars and the city limits far behind him echoing off the walls of the neighborhood he strolled through; to the clashing of metal on metal ringing out and shaking the leaves on the trees—

He paused in his step and honed his senses on the banging that rang through the air. He recognized the sound of a fight, and how to differ the sound of a hero from a working man; this was, with no debate, the work of the former. The clangs that echoed in the distance brought a smile to his face, one that tugged sharp at the corners of his lips. A fight taking place out in the open, and with what could only be such ferocity, meant without a doubt that a brawl between a hero and a villain was taking place. And that meant another hunt was on the horizon.

The stride towards the sounds of the fight offered him the time to roll his shoulders and stretch his muscles ready for combat. A few people passed him on his way, all heading opposite the loud noises that grew louder as he approached. He could feel his teeth bare wide in his smile, the energy in his veins roll his fingers into fist, his posture straighten and stiffen for the added effect of intimidation.

By the time he reached the source, however, all hope he had for another fight dwindled by the second. The sight of the beach before him was bleak to put lightly, the possible hot-spot of a tourist attraction fairly covered in trash with one large pile sitting in front of him, and little pieces of metal and rubble sprawled about the sand only adding to his distaste of the place. The sounds that had drawn him in continued to sound off from out of his sight, and he tip-toed around the large garbage pile to find the source of it all: the green haired kid with the baseball bat.

The kid was in the middle of some sort of training, throwing his body after each swing but working hard enough to keep himself from ever losing his balance. With some swings did he grunt and exhale loudly, and with others did he let out a shout of power. He noted the fridge close to the boy, who had decided to use it as his main target for his training, colliding his weapon of choice into the side of the appliance every now and again, but not with enough power to topple it over. It stayed standing, despite some obvious signs of blunt force making contact with its sides.

The kid was putting in quite the work to his training, he noted, but it seemed he upped his game in that department. His attacks were more vicious, his steps more like stomps, his teeth barred in a growl and a grimace. The kid was almost nothing like he was a month ago, training at the beach as though trying to emulate the elegance of a dancer. Wouldn’t do him much good in a fight. But now…now he seemed hyper-prepared to take on anyone who stood in front of him.

He vaulted over the railing and landed on the sand below with ease, and the boy didn’t seem to notice him as he continued to train on. It wasn’t until he called out to him with a, “Hey brat,” did the young teen nearly trip in his step and take notice of him. “Can’t say I was expecting to run into you here again.”

The teen lowered his guard and allowed the bat to hang freely by his side, though he winced and pressed his arm close to his body. “H-Hey Hunter. I…I can’t say I was either. What are-uh-why are you out this late?”

“Late?” He looked back over his shoulder to the sun still fairly about the city skyline. “It’s barely even in the evening, kid. I’m pretty sure most everyone else who isn’t old and rotting is still up and about.”

“Oh.” The kid looked genuinely surprised to hear that and blinked several times as he looked down at the ground between them. “Right. I-I keep forgetting it’s still not that late. Sorry, I’m…kinda just outta it right now.”

Hunter rose an eyebrow in his own surprise, swaying in his steps as he approached the green teen. “The kid who takes notes on his notes, and who I’ve seen write with air when taking more notes because his bag is too far away for him to reach after a fight? Something rare has to be going on for that head of yours to be anywhere else but here.”

The kid blushed and coughed into his shoulder. He wiped his mouth and his blush on the sleeve of his jacket – Hunter took note of the whole singed into the side of it. “It…It’s been a long day.” The boy’s tone shifted with his weight, and with the turn of his head to look out towards the sea. “I’m just trying not to think about it.”

Hunter gave the refrigerator a look over with crossed arms. “How well is that working for you?”

“It’s not.”

He spared another look down at the kid and took note of the glare he gave to the ocean’s horizon. The younger teen didn’t elaborate any more on the subject than that, and after several beats of silence did he return the gaze to the gold eyes upon him. He sighed as he rolled his shoulders and unwrapped his arms, dropping his hands by his sides as he turned to face his body towards the shorter teen. The kid was something else this time around, just as closed off verbally as the first day they met but even more so physically unlike every other meeting. Something had to be done, and he had just the plan.

“How about you fight me then?” Hunter offered the teen, earing himself a more calmed look of surprise from the shorter boy. “A little…match usually helps clear my mind. What’cha say?”

Izuku swayed where he stood, both gaze and body uneasy. “I’ve already been in one today,” he replied weakly. “Can’t say I’m keen on getting into another.”

“Oh-ho? You already got into a fight by yourself?” Hunter gave a swat to the boy’s shoulder, nearly toppling the younger teen. “I saw your fight on the news, or at least what they would let me see. I can’t say I was expecting you to go out and be a hero again so soon.”

To Hunter’s surprise, the green teen scoffed a chuckle and hobbled distance between them. “Yeah, no. ‘S not one of those fights.” When he was a good few feet away from the taller boy, Izuku straightened his back and dug his heels into the sand and rose his bat into both his hands, wincing until he settled into the stance. “Wasn’t heroic at all.” Without another word, the kid went back into his training, stomping the balls of his shoes into the sand, throwing his bat in rough swings only broken up by a few blocks and jabs, and grunting each time with little as much as a loud huff to break his streak.

Hunter hummed to himself, eyes following the kid’s movements; the sweeping of his feet from stance to stance; the swinging of his arms that then would lock and chamber for the next; the speed of his bat and himself overall as he went on, each chamber lessening in length, and the bat blurring into a grey smudge as it flew around his body. The kid was aggressive, but his actions were still clean and sharp enough. Vicious, even. Struck a chord. “Someone else fight you, then?” A deeper growl was all he got in response, with another swing making contact with the fridge and denting it enough to force the doors open.

Hunter’s fingers drummed on the side of his leg. The game he found was different from the one he was expecting to find, but it was one he still knew how to play. If he couldn’t hunt down someone, then he could hunt for something, especially if it was what he thought it was. “I’m guessing it was one of those other brats you know?” Another grunt, another powerful swing that cut through the sand and send a cloud of it towards the shoreline. Check. He could see Izuku mutter something to himself, but it wasn’t something he could pick up. Not yet. “And I’m guessing they weren’t too keen seeing you, the kid they belittle, make his ‘heroic debut’ the headline of the news?” Izuku swung his bat down in front of him, parting the sand where his bat would have hit slightly, just from the swing alone. Check. Hunter let some time pass without another question, waiting for the younger teen to build himself back into his training from the pause he took with his downward strike. The boy’s breathing picked up again, his grunts and seethes turning into growls and huffs. Then he spoke again. “And…I’m guessing, for trying to steal the limelight, they wanted to paint you as the villain?”

Hunter had to sidestep as the fridge barreled his way, crashing along the sand and tumbling to a stop several yards from him. The ringing in his ears eased by the second, but the sensation in his chest burned brighter in its place. Slowly, his head turned back around, rolling his eyes along the path the fridge took until they landed on the boy posed where it last stood. Izuku stood hunched over, his breath rigid and his shoulders slouched when they didn’t rise with his deep breaths. The rabid nature of his throat had reached his eyes, both glaring in the taller boy’s direction and even landing on him. A dead silence stood between them, one that drew longer than it probably was until Izuku struggled himself upright and swiped his sleeve across his jaw again.

“No, he didn’t think I should be a villain…he doesn’t think I can become anything…” In opposite of his words, Izuku let out a flat laugh. “Suchīrubōn probably still thinks I can become a villain. Least he actually thinks I can become something at all.” His laugh was followed by airless chuckles as he stumbled about on both feet. “Probably the first person at school who thinks anything about my future. God, what a fucking asshole.”

He continued to mutter other insults as his breath paced out even, but Hunter tuned him out over time. His eyes continued to dart between the boy, the fridge and the dents he made in it and the sand. The kid – the quirkless kid – had nearly clotheslined him with a fridge. He sent something a foot taller than him flying over a dozen or two yards with his own strength alone. His lips curled into a hungry grin and his body lowered to the ground, his feet digging into the sand and his fingers flexing away from one another.

“Oi, kid.” The call to Izuku turned his attention back over, and Hunter watched as the smile on his face dropped when he took notice of the taller boy’s pose. “Let’s fight.”

Hunter launched himself forward, drawing a hand back into a knife hand and jabbing towards the kid’s head. Instead of making contact with flesh, however, his fingers connected with the bat Izuku rose up at the last second, sending the younger teen’s body leaning back with shock, both in his arms and on his face. Hunter landed quickly as the younger boy stumbled back, and Izuku acted quickly to swing his bat out to block another swing at his face, only for another jab to dig into his stomach and send him back again.

But Hunter didn’t stop there, sending a flurry of other punches and strikes at the boy, and for each one Izuku was able to block, another two made contact with his body. His sides seemed the most vulnerable, given every hit he took to either had him seething harder than any his chest and stomach took, so Hunter kept the pressure there most so. And in return, the kid would block and try to dodge the attacks, not go on the offensive.

With a grunt, Hunter was able to shoot both his arms at Izuku, one grabbing his shoulder and the other his side, and before the younger teen could react to knock him off Hunter spun his arms and flipped the kid. He spun once in the air before he collapsed on his back, gasping for air as it shot out his lungs. Hunter just bore down on him with disappointment. “You were more aggressive with the villains on the news than this. Heroes do have to fight, you know.”

“I-I know that,” Izuku gasped as he shuffled onto his elbows, only to force himself out of the way of a strike that sunk into the sand. “H-Hunter, wait—”

“Is this how you were fighting your bully earlier? Running away and letting him hit you?” The taller boy yanked his hand out the ground, flexing his fingers and turning to face Izuku. “The kid’s just another prick; some other dumb kid who could probably do having sense physically beaten into him. Did you even hitting him back?”

“Y-yes, I did.” Despite stumbling on his feet, the green teen had hardened his face. His body faltered where his expression challenged. “He-He hit me, so I hit him back. But I-I can’t just—”

“Hurt him? Yeah you can. Watch.” Hunter lunged at Izuku again with the jab of his fingers, only for the boy to parry his strike and slide out of the way. Hunter’s hands followed, jabbing and swinging out to strike, but Izuku moved fast enough to respond and shove his hands out of the way until they got close to one another and he tried jabbing the butt of his bat into the taller boy’s side. And he did make contact; with Hunter’s hand, that is. The silver haired teen threw the boy off his balance with a shove in the right direction and let his elbow make contact across Izuku’s face and send him down again.

“You can’t half ass it against real villains,” Hunter spoke down on Izuku as he struggled to push himself up. Hunter walked past his body and down the beach. “Against criminals like those, you barely made it out alive. You have to fight your fullest against real villains, against the people who stand in your way and try to tear you down. If not, then I guess you really are a quirkless kid with no strength and no promise to be anyone at all. You’re probably better off giving up now before someone really tries to kill you.” The verbal jab was a low blow, but if all went according to plan then they were the perfect words to say. Without looking over his shoulder could he hear the younger teen breathe heavy and shove himself off the sand. Hunter’s smile merged back into a twisted grin, and he spun back around ready for the kid to fight—

It was the split second his vision was covered by nothing but grey that had him lean back almost parallel to the ground, just to dodge the boy’s swing of his bat. Almost as quickly did Izuku push again, swinging his bat back around, and Hunter leaped just in time to dodge it. He twisted his body in the air and connected a hook kick across the younger boy’s cheek, but said boy only followed the strike and spun around to deliver another swing that missed the taller boy and kicked up an explosion of dust between them. Full sight of the boy was lost in the cloud but his rough outline was still clear enough to make out. And out of the cloud did the kid dash, bellowing out his lungs as he threw his body into another swing.

Hunter kept himself on the defensive, sidestepping and dodging the boy’s strikes that sped by the second. Between each strike was he fast enough to respond with another quick jab or two, but the boy just pushed past the hits and kept swinging. When the boy finally took a longer pause in his swing, Hunter leaped back with a flip, dodging by a hair another strike that blew a plume of sand towards the sea, while he landed atop the fallen and battered fridge. The setting sun to their side accented the younger boy’s emerald eyes with a dim shine before he shot forward, throwing the bat over his head to strike. Waiting again for the strike to close in, Hunter leaped right past it, vaulting over the boy and his bat and looked back in his flip just in time to catch sight of the sand that shot in the sky back where he was.

He rolled across the sand and stopped in a low crouched stance, watching as the sand settled back down from being a dozen feet in the air. Slowly did the boy’s figure become clearer to see where he last was, and more directly in his last spot was the fridge, now bent down the middle and folded into a V-shaped mess of broken metal. The green hair kid yanked his bat from where it was stuck against the destroyed appliance and turned slowly on his heels until he found the taller teen waiting for him.

Hunter let out a laugh that matched his crazed smile, one that stuttered Izuku from following up with another attack. The taller teen threw his arms out to the side as his gesture. “Just like that kid! That’s some strength you got on you! You’re a quirkless kid, and look at where you are now! Put that into a fight and you’ll kick their ass! Prove to them you’re not the weakling they think you are and bash their heads down for them to remember!”

Then Izuku dropped into the sand.


 

God, he was tired.

He wasn’t unconscious; he hadn’t passed out. But hell, lying on the sand felt better than standing back up. Maybe he could just spend a night at the beach. Yeah, that sounded nice. It was a long day, and taking a nap with the sun on his back sounded really relaxing. That sounded really nice.

When a black shoe entered his line of sight, Izuku groaned and did his best to follow up the leg connected, rubbing his face against the sand until his neck had turned enough to see the beady golden eyes of the taller teen staring down at him. Izuku was tempted to push himself up, to take another swing at the guy who had so aggressively challenged him to a fight and spewed insults he knew so well, but Hunter acted first, backing away slowly towards the shore before plopping down to sit in the sand several feet away from him. The distance between them didn’t settle Izuku’s stomach any, recalling the times he’d just had launching himself across long spaces, so he still tried all the same to push himself up.

He succeed in rolling himself over.

A more-than-likely insulting chuckle came from the man seated away from him, and Izuku glared out of the corner of his eye at the man. “You still have some fight in you, kid. Guess my assumptions about you were true.”

“Fuck you,” Izuku muttered towards him.

Hunter only shrugged in response. “Seeing you fight on the news got me excited. You took out a few villains by yourself, that chick with you barely stepping in at all. I wasn’t aware you were holding out on me so much when I was sparing with you last month.”

Izuku spat sand and saliva to his side. “Last month…I thought you were…helping to improve my self-defense.”

“Yeah, well, if you told me you were that strong with the bat, I would have actually sparred with you.” The tall guy pointed to the metal object in Izuku’s hand. “Had I put my guard down you could have actually hit me with that thing. If you fought like that more, you could easily deck those little shits from your school and get them off your ass—”

“No.” Izuku had no qualms interrupting Hunter, and the silver-haired man seemed shocked by his sudden statement.

“No? Kid,” – Hunter jumped back up to his feet and stalked back over to Izuku – “are you really going to let those other brats just keep pushing you around? It’s been what, three months since I saw them deck you across the face, and you really aren’t going to fight them back? I thought you were in training to be a hero.”

“I am training to be a hero,” Izuku growled as he pushed his elbows into the ground to start pushing himself up.

“The last hero I came across wasn’t someone who let others push him around,” the taller man snapped at him. “A villain got in his way, and he’d at least try to fight them and bring them down.”

“They aren’t villains.”

“They might as well be. Pathetic bottom-of-the-barrel villains.” Hunter’s insults to the boys he had met, and probably to Katsuki too if he even knew about him, only made Izuku scoff as he was able to sit himself up. The tall man beside him had leaned down his face probably a foot away from the green teen. “But since you don’t see them that way, you’re not going to fight them?”

“No.” Izuku moved the bat in his hand to press down into the sand and let him lean against it for support. His legs still felt like jelly, so they weren’t holding him up any time soon.

“So you’re just going to let them keep beating you up?”

“No.” Having to repeat himself was equally as tiring as the rest of his body felt, but with that said, it wasn’t like he was able to walk away any more than he was able to crawl.

Hunter looked just as done with the back and forth, his fingers dancing in a nervous tick Izuku had noticed him doing before and during their little fight. It was a light way of stretching, but it was a signal enough that he was raring to go. The sneer on his face looked like a struggle to keep up, though, so Izuku wondered if Hunter was trying to hold himself back from punching the green-haired kid again. Izuku almost wished he would. “Look, kid, I’m trying to help you stand up to those shits—”

“By being like them?” Izuku snapped with his counter, jolting his body towards Hunter’s before rocking back to how he sat. “Beating the shit out of people I don’t like? Telling people to kill themselves and give up their dreams and to just fuck off? Having fun watching the people I hit bleed out on the ground?” He turned himself where he sat, struggling his legs over to better face the taller man. “I had the chance today to beat the shit out of Katsuki, with my bare-fucking-hands. I was ready to go at him and punch his teeth out of his goddamn mouth and enjoy it. I wanted that to happen. I wanted to beat him up and watch him bleed and cry because I was the one who did it to him.” The sting in his voice died as he paused to breathe, though hiccups were breaking through his throat. “And if I had done that, I would have been exactly like him. I would have acted as he would, not any better. And-and thank you for trying to help me, but that just isn’t it. I-I-I can’t do that. Not like that.”

“So you came here to scream and beat the shit out of some trash to let off some steam?” The bite to Hunter’s tongue sounded gone. “Sounds like something I’d do, but on something different.” His eyes darted to the sides for a second before piercing on Izuku again. “Not like being aggressive is completely frowned upon, though, so I guess you’re making some ground work.”

“Yeah, good shit it’s doing me,” Izuku responded with sarcasm. “All I’ve heard from my friends over the phone is how ‘improper my attitude is,’ and how ‘scary I looked.’ And all I’ve done is told them to shut up about it. I…god, I yelled at my mom’s face for it. It-it wasn’t even about her. What the fuck is wrong with me?” His head shook into his hand and his thumb pressed into his cheek to push out a sigh he was building up. Hunter had at least made some reason out of being quiet to that and standing up straight again as his eyes kept locked with Izuku’s. It was harder to tell the taller man’s expression through the water building in his eyes, but Izuku wiped those away before they could start breaking through and falling. He could hear Hunter hum to himself as he crouched down to be more evenly leveled with Izuku’s head and better look him in the eyes, but the man’s eyes darted away to the side. Izuku followed them, and stared with Hunter at the fridge bent and wedged into the sand.

“You almost hit me with that bat of yours,” Hunter told him, gaze kept on the broken appliance. “Got a tough swing on ya, kid.” Izuku blinked at the sight of the wreckage and then looked over to the bat under his hand. He’d done that? Huh, guess his training was doing something right. “I didn’t mean what I said when I called you weak. Show that strength of yours to any hero school and they’ll probably let you in automatically. I just needed something to get you to actually fight.”

Izuku gulped, lowered his head, and all but breezed over his final comment. “Just because I hit hard doesn’t mean my actions are anything they can let slide.”

Hunter sighed and shook his head. “Kid, take one look at the heroes out there and you can see no one really gives a shit about how any of them act, so long as they save lives doing it.” He rose back to stand up tall and looked down at the green teen. “You gotta problem with the way you do things? Fine, work it out somehow. Probably got somebody you can talk to about it other than me. I ain’t exactly that good at this. But next time you stand your ground to prove a point, a shove back at the start would only help reinforce it.” He waved a hand at the kid. “You think you can stand? I tried going easy on ya; didn’t want to break any of your bones, just get ya heated enough to fight.”

The boy in question shot Hunter a short look, somewhat off put by his choice of words. But he was trying something to help him. Izuku wondered if it was his first time trying to help something like this. He looked down at his legs as he bent them and push them and the bat into the ground to struggle lifting himself up. “Y-yeah, I think I can. Just…kinda tired. And, please, don’t ever do that again.” He meant both Hunter’s actions and the argument he was trying to make, but hopefully the tall guy understood that. Izuku was also slow in getting the sentence out, so any snap and power to his words were minimal, but Hunter nodded nonetheless. He also had to catch Izuku when he nearly slipped back down again.

“Next time I kick your ass so you can get better, you can start the fight,” he told Izuku as he helped him find his footing. “Least when you get home to show your new bruises, you can say you won the fight and I won’t be there to prove you wrong.”

Izuku nodded with a small scoff and the action alone almost took his whole breath away. “Don’t expect it any time soon. And yeah, this probably won’t fly when I get home. Mom’s probably gonna…freak. Oh shit!” He nearly tripped over his own two feet in his panic, only he shot his bat back into the sand and had that prop himself up – and some thanks was to be given to the Hunter holding onto the back of his jacket – as he fished through his pocket and yanked out his phone. The unease in his stomach didn’t settle as he scrolled past the missed call notifications and text messages left over by the same person. Least now he was trudging forward on adrenaline alone, stumbling into a fast walking speed even up the stairs with little as a goodbye wave to Hunter, who stayed back on the beach and waved once.

“Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.” Izuku became a broken record as he hobbled down the road and punched the buttons on his phone to call his mother. The bat rose in front of him, blocking out the light of the sun in front of him. He put it up to his ear as it rang and waited for her to pick up. And she did. Loudly.

“IZUKU!” The named teen jolted at her shout, shooting the phone away from his ear and knocking it out of his hand. He fumbled a moment to catch it before yanking it back to his head.

“Mom! It’s me! Hey!”

“I have been trying to call you for the past hour! Are you alright?! Where are you?!”

“I’m” – Izuku read the street sign as he sped across the road and groaned in his throat – “uh, kinda far.”

“You fa…d-define far.”

“I’m, uh, leaving the Takoba Municipal Beach Park right now.”

“Tako—Izuku, that’s a whole two kilometers from home! You said you’d be gone for thirty minutes; that would have been your whole walk!”

He winced out the corner of his mouth. “Yeah, well I kinda sorta maybe ran most of the way over, so it felt shorter, really, and I might have lost track of time trying to train and clear my mind, and I wasn’t really paying attention to my phone so I didn’t see any of your messages until just now – I’m really sorry about that – but I’m heading over to the rails right now so I’ll be home in a couple of minutes, I promise. I’m sorry I’ve been out for so long and missed dinner and didn’t respond to you sooner or pay attention to my phone—”

“No, Izuku, I” – the sigh she let out sounded static through the microphone – “what street are you on? I’ll come and pick you up myself.”

“What? No! Mom, you don’t have to do that. I’ll be fine taking the subway home—”

“Izuku, you don’t sound like you can keep walking,” his mother countered, and slowed Izuku in his rush down the road. Was he breathing that hard? “Just stay where you are and I’ll come and get you.”

“Mom, really, you don’t have to do that—”

“But I will, and that’s final.” The sharp statement stopped Izuku at the next crosswalk. “Just tell me where you are and I’ll be there as soon as I can. Okay?”

Izuku leaned against the street sign, rolling his eyes to the city limits and the closest railway stop he could get to. Still well out of reach. He sighed and leaned his head back. “Fine. I’ll wait right here.” He blinked up at the signs above him. “I’m at the corner of Jedaih and Veers. I’ll stay where I am.”

“Alright,” his mother responded over the sound of slams and clicks. “I’m heading to the car right now. I’ll be there soon. Stay where I can see you. And be safe.”

He slid down the pole, collapsed onto the sidewalk and let out a breath of fresh air. He felt warmer hearing that. “Alright. See you soon.” His thumb hovered over the end button a second after, and found itself flicked away as he brought the phone against his ear again. “Love you.”

A short repetition of beeps sounded from the other line before his mother responded warmly, “I love you too, Izuku,” and she hung up from there.

Izuku smiled softly as the sun continued to set.


 

Izuku hissed at the bag of ice his mother pressed against his cheek, but he took it from her grasp and held onto it himself as she cleaned off the sink.

To say his mother had freaked finding her son in a worse condition from when he left would be about accurate, given she veered onto the sidewalk to park. With a quick explanation that it was just one of his friends he met on the beach who had given him that – a little “spar” that got out of hand, he called it – and not someone trying to mug him, he was able to ease his mother back into the car and drove home with her in near silence, par the thanks he gave and the apology he repeated from their call earlier. Her accepting his apology was but off-handed on the drive, but she proved caring enough by helping him out of his dirty uniform and into some new bandages to cover the small bruises Hunter had left on his torso and arms. How many he made and how many Izuku said he made were interchangeable.

“We’ll get you checked out by the doctors tomorrow, but it will be after school, so I want you to stay out of any straining activities for the day, okay?” His mother looked at him through the mirror as she packed up the first aid. “I don’t want you pulling on any of those and making them worse. Sit out of P.E. if they’re making you do anything more than running, and sit out of that too if you feel like you aren’t breathing properly.”

Izuku sighed and scrunched up his nose as the hospital was mentioned, but he nodded when she finished. “Alright. I’ll do my best.” His words were somewhat jumbled by the ice over his lips but his mother seemed to understand his answer when she nodded. “Should I come home after classes or will you pick me up at school?”

“Home. I won’t be off work until an hour after you’re out, so I’ll take you then.” The mirror swung out with a wave of her hand, giving her an ample place to hide the kit. “Hopefully they’ll have someone on the clock who can heal those right up. You’ve been resting enough over the break; you can’t afford to lose more time training for Yuei.”

He blinked at his mother, who in turn kept her eyes on the laundry and his torn school uniform. The furrow of her eyebrows were still clear in the reflective glass. “Y-yeah, I hope so too. That’d be nice.” His fingers drummed mindlessly against his leg as he watched his mother sort through the dirty clothing, piling what was still salvageable into the washing machine opposite the sink. It was a better time than ever to get to it, Izuku thought. “Hey, mom, about what I said earlier, I’m sorry about that. I didn’t mean to snap at you like that; I was—I was just angry and it’s just been building up in me today for things and it-it was all meant for someone else, not you. I shouldn’t have brought that out on you. You shouldn’t have had to hear that.”

His mother sighed. “I think I should have figured it out myself first,” she responded, turning slowly to face her son. “I’m your mother. I should have known what was wrong before you did.”

“I shouldn’t have been hiding it from you all this time,” he admitted back. “I should have just been honest with you from the start. Better than troubling you all the time with excuses.”

“Izuku, I’m your mother. It’s my job to be troubled and worried about you.” She crouched down in front of him, easing a hand around his new bruise and pressing down on the skin around it. Izuku didn’t hiss at that contact, and his mother looked content hearing only his breathing in response. “I should have pressed you about it sooner and got this conversation out of the way years ago. It…sounded like you’ve been holding in a lot.”

Izuku’s hands fumbled with each other in his lap. “We don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want.”

“I do want to talk about it. Izuku” – she cupped the other side of his face and eased him to look down at her crouched form – “you’re my son. I’ll listen to everything you have to say, okay? Just because you didn’t tell me then doesn’t mean I’ll turn down the chance to hear it now. And I really should have asked you to tell me then. I’m sorry I didn’t try harder. So please, let’s talk about it.”

With his head kilted down, the room around him felt darker. The tile beneath his feet reflected the light ahead and illuminated his face and his mother’s. The light was warm but her touch was warmer, and her apology ringing in his ears was the final reminder of the last.

It was better this time.

“Alright,” Izuku nodded and sighed, easing his chin into his mother’s hands. “Where should we start?”

“With Katsuki.” His mother’s first choice isn’t exactly where he would have liked to go, but he sighed only to agree. “I called Mitsuki a little while after you went out for your…‘walk,’ and I know she’s already questioned him about this, and she should be doing something about it already, but I want to hear about it from you. Why were you and Katsuki fighting?”

His thumbs rolled, one over the other, and blew out a plume of air as he nodded slowly. “He, uh—he wasn’t happy with what happened at the mall. With what I did at the mall?”

His mother smiled, but Izuku saw no real humor behind it stretching her face. “I’m going to guess he wasn’t talking about you being hurt and masking his worry well enough?”

“He explicitly told me he didn’t care about that.” Her smile became even more strained. “I mean, yeah, it was kinda about me putting my life on the line, but he thinks I’m more of a liability than someone who could actually do something out there. Honestly, I” – a cracked chuckle broke past his lips – “I don’t really know what he was trying to get at. He just still doesn’t think I can become a hero. He still thinks I’m worthless.”

“Oh, Izuku.” The green teen found himself pulled into a hug, one he didn’t return but that he did lean into and accept. “You’re not worthless, honey. That couldn’t be further from the truth. You don’t believe him, do you?”

Izuku felt his phone buzz in his pocket, and a finger itched against the fabric. “No…no. I don’t. I promise. He—”

“Has he said something like that to you before?”

“Yeah, but I don’t listen to what he says. None of it has really hurt me—”

“But that doesn’t make it okay.” She broke the hug but kept the contact, he hands cupping either side of his head yet again to keep him looking at her. “Izuku, you can tell me anything and everything. You don’t have to shy around it anymore. You are not in trouble, and what Katsuki and any other bully told you is not your fault, okay? Tell me and I promise you I will listen and do what I can to help you with whatever is troubling you still. Okay?”

His breath hitched to keep his composure between her hands, fighting against the struggle to break down. To be honest about everything he had been told by his classmates and his peers, that which became more and more abundant as his dreams continued to shine through near every day? And his mother wouldn’t get mad at him? “So-so you’re not mad at me for-for not telling you any of this sooner?”

“For that? Yes, I am,” she told him honestly, though followed it with a heave of a sigh. “But I know I can’t be. You wouldn’t tell me what was going on, and I was too oblivious to try and push any further about it. I shut down your dream so soon and almost shut you out completely. Of course you weren’t going to tell me any of that—”

“But mom, that’s on me!” Izuku shot to his feet, breaking apart the hold his mother had on him and replacing it with his own hands easing around her shoulders. She was thinking of that day too? “I shouldn’t have been so cold to you after that. I was four; you were just worried about me getting hurt and I should have realized that sooner than I did and I should have been honest with you about…all of that stuff. And I will be. I promise.” He licked his lips and caught his breath as he paused, and flinched as he continued. “Can I…can I ask you to be honest about something with me, first?” His mother tilted her head back to look up at him, a small amount of surprise gracing her features, and she nodded wordlessly for him to ask. “After…everything that’s happened, after everything you’ve seen me do” – his knuckles ached at the thought of his fight outside their home earlier in the day – “do you think I can be a hero?”

The surprise on her face broke away into one of silent worry as she kept her face on his and darted her eyes between both of his. Whatever she was looking for, she didn’t find, as her body and expression eased away the fear and fell into something more somber. “A-after watching you on the news, rushing past people and heroes to save Katsuki all those months ago, and-and then seeing you come home with a baseball bat in your hands and one of the biggest smiles I’ve ever seen on your face, I thought the adrenaline was getting to you. That your mind wasn’t taking into account the danger you would be putting yourself in, and that you would be rushing in to fight villains without thinking.” She struggled to get through her words, her head having lowered as she went on, and all Izuku could do was hold in his breath as he waited for the moment of truth. “But then you asked to learn self-defense, not how to throw a punch. And you asked for the time and a wagon so you could go and clean up that beach on your free time, not go out hunting down bounties of villains when you still had school and other things to do. You weren’t being aggressive and you weren’t looking for a fight, you were just looking to do something good, and I was so proud of you.

“And then…then I saw you on the news almost a week, now.” With her words did her head shoot back up, her expression wider and her eyes shining wet under the light, and Izuku struggled more to keep him expression from doing the same. “I heard about what you did in the mall, what other people said you had done, standing up to those criminals and taking them down even when they weren’t looking for a fight. And you chose to fight them, not because you wanted a fight but because you didn’t want them to get away with their actions – you told me that. And I saw you throw yourself to save a child’s life, and you did, and you escaped and you got hurt and you were rushed to the hospital and I-I was so worried about you, but here you are; still standing up to someone acting out of line and telling them off for the bad things they say and do, even if not always with your words.” Her fingers grazed over the bruise on his side, the one that ached with his muscles at the memory, but with them died down in pain as his mother continued to spill out her words to him.

And she smiled a smile that wavered with her tears.

“And I watched the video of you carrying that little girl in your arms to safety…I wouldn’t be surprised if it gets as many views that All-Might video you love so much has, and I’d be a fool to look at you now and not see you as anything but a hero.”

And in return did Izuku smile the same smile and break into tears with her as they clashed into a hug. Izuku sobbed and laughed into his mother’s hair, a soft echo of her voice from a memory long ago fading out and dying, leaving in its place the space for the moment now to cement itself. She wasn’t hugging him as tightly as he was her, but the soothing rubbing of her hands on his back was more than enough contact and comfort in return. “T-thank you,” he choked out, keeping his arms locked around her. “Thank you.”

“Anything for you, Izuku,” she responded softly, her own voice cracking slightly as she spoke. “And…about what Katsuki had said…your father would be just as proud to see you now, too.”

“I-I know, mom.” Izuku sniffled and nodded as he moved his head down to her shoulder to continue the embrace. And quietly did the two fall into the silence and the comfort of one another’s arms. “I know.”

“I love you, Izuku.”

“I love you too, mom.”

Chapter Text

30 days until the Yuei Entrance Exam

Izuku winced at the crack that sounded when his bat made contact with the small metal ball and sent it flying off into the air. His eyes squinted after it in an attempt to follow its arch through the open sky, but found it gone not too long later. He sighed, popped his ears from the grating sound his swing made, and heaved another metal ball from the short pile beside him.

“Hatsume,” he called out towards the towering pile of trash by his other side. “I’m running low on the baseballs. Have you made any more yet?”

A television halfway up the pile shuffled over and toppled down the side of the makeshift hill, and Izuku watched its tumble and the trash it kicked out on the way down. “I’ll start making some!” His eyes snapped back up to the television’s original spot and to the pink-haired mechanic popping out from the pile in its place. “How many do you have left?”

He looked back down at his pile. “Si” – he stopped short, and took into account the ball in his hand – “seven.”

“I’ll get right on it then! I’ve gathered enough materials to make thrice as many balls as before, and I can make them thrice the size of the original pile! Give you some real training! Be right back!”

“Wait, no, don’t—” His plea fell on deaf ears as Hatsume disappeared back into the pile like a mole, leaving only the shuffling of garbage and appliances to follow his words. “Why do I even bother? I know she’s not going to listen.” He sighed and bore down on the ball of metal still in his hand. “I can barely lift you as it is. What, am I supposed to play golf with a bat for the things I can’t lift?” Cutting his own self-directed banter short, Izuku huffed and pivoted his feet again, threw the ball up in front of him, and followed after its descent with a hard swing of his bat.

Two weeks had gone by since his scuffle with Katsuki and his talks with Hunter and his mother, culminating in almost nothing other than removing those who breathed down his neck by a few feet. Katsuki’s mother had listened to Izuku’s about the news of the former’s son’s actions, equally emotionally but more vocally displeased with the blonde boy’s attitude and violent nature toward his peers. Some details were twisted, under his own pleas to his mother, but it carried enough weight that Mitsuki’s voice carried through the phone that even Izuku could hear her from the other room. What she had done on the other side of the phone to work on remedying the problem, Izuku had no idea. But little fallout was something Izuku more than expected in the end.

It was the middle of January; only a month’s time was left before Yuei would conduct their entrance exams for a new wave of freshmen, and under four more months left in Izuku’s middle school education. It was the latter that had the most play in what happened after all the talking and explaining of Izuku and Katsuki’s fight. An idea came up between the mothers to transfer one of the kids to another school for the rest of their education, but the timeframe left was too short, and removing Katsuki would only leave Izuku with the rest of his classmates who were like the explosive boy but on a lower scale, while removing Izuku had little chance of payoff with another school and other classmates being as accepting of his status as quirkless as anyone else was, and most other options were just too stressful to even think about for Izuku, so the parents agreed to let both boys stay where they were for the next few months.

Within that agreement, though, Mitsuki Bakugou must have found a way to ‘convince’ her son to leave Izuku alone, because the two weeks following the fight the blonde boy had barely even looked/sneered in his general direction on campus and had vanished from sight outside of school. (Izuku knew mother and son in the Bakugou household could be mistaken for parallels of the other, but he also knew Mitsuki was a world away from being as harmful as Katsuki, so he didn’t humor the idea something was going on behind closed doors to keep the Bakugou son off his back.) Everyone else at the school went with the cold shoulder between the two boys too, taking quick notice of Katsuki’s silent and seething attitude and Izuku’s beaten body and his attempt at a stoic expression and opting to stay out of whatever was going on between them.

First best choice they ever made, Izuku joked.

“Crafting’s all done, Metal Bat!”

Izuku whipped his head around to Mei’s voice, finding the girl trudging around the trash pile, and with her a bin of metal balls dragging behind. Izuku looked down at his own pile a second before his before his sight whiplashed back to me and then to the empty sand by his feet. When had he run out?

He stayed staring the sand down as Hatsume approached and tossed the rope in her hands down between them. “There you are! 45 large baseballs made from scraps, ready and set for batting practice!” Her presentation went unnoticed as Izuku’s head rolled from shoulder to shoulder, and his look of confusion only spiraled further with his mind.

“Wait, you actually made them that big and that quickly? I don’t remember you device being that quick.”

“The process goes by way faster when you use an interior mold to keep the design and shape hollow, and when you only make them half complete so you can screw them together afterwards! Just had to tweak that and the circumference changes into the machine and it was raring to go! It actually took me 10 minutes to get that all done this time, which is much better for production line value if I’m going to use it as an armor reinforcement! Which reminds me” – Mei dashed away to the shoreline, turned down its south stretch, and cupped her hands around her mouth –“you need to send me the designs of your armor so I can start the attachment and update prototypes for our first semester!”

“So they’re actually hollow?” Izuku had asked the mechanic-in-training as she zoomed back over to him. “Do they weigh less?”

“Yep! Still a bit more than your average baseball, but that’s to be given with the material and the thickness of the shell.” She tapped a knuckle on the top ball, a ring echoing out from each hit. “I can probably make a ball the same weight and size of a normal baseball, but that would take me making a few more calculations to get right and you still need to get the batting process down so you don’t flatten your toes. The bigger babies here will be good practice in making sure your hand-eye coordination is up to par with the task.”

Izuku winced behind his lips and curled his feet in memory of the first few metal balls he tried hitting out to sea. “I-I see where you’re coming from. Thank you, for thinking of that.”

“No trouble at all! You can repay me with sponsorships and working on your costume designs once you finally give me the blueprints to work off of!”

“I’ll…have to get back to you on that.” Izuku appreciated Hatsume for how quickly she agreed to help him with “batting practice,” an idea that came to mind after his experience with it during his excursion at the mall; it probably wouldn’t become something he did too often, but maybe it could prove as situationally useful as it did then. But the experience helped him none in decided his hero costume, and Mei’s baseball attire pitch wasn’t exactly something to run home about.

“Send your idea to me before you send it to the Hero Association and the school so I can start working on upgrades to give it before you first wear it! The support industry thrives on punctuality!”

“There’s a difference between punctuality and persistence,” Izuku muttered to himself, silently glad Mei’s quirk only affected her eyesight. A crack rung in his ears as he knocked another ball out into sea. He raised his voice as he turned to Hatsume, the girl digging through the side of the giant pile. “You sure your drone can withstand the water pressure too far out? I don’t want to throw the litter back if it can’t go any further than the first few.”

“My baby is still receiving my orders and acting on them, so she’ll be back any time now without failure!” Hatsume checked the box attached to her hip, clicked it open and punched down on the buttons decorating the interior. “There’s still a few from the first batch she has yet to pick up, so I’ll have her wash up later so we can reuse those first balls for another round of practice.” Izuku had parted his lips to respond, but snapped them shut as sand kicked up from behind him with a heave of air.

“I was going to ask you two what this was all about.” Iida passed by the shorter teens to a bag by the staircase, yanking from it a squeeze bottle and pouring it down his throat. “I could hear some of them down at the end of the shoreline. A part of me was worried you two were acting off impulse, but it reassures me knowing you two put more thought into this practice than that. I assume this was all preplanned?”

Izuku nodded. “Yeah, I asked her if she could help me come up with something for hitting things at people with the bat—”

“And I was planning on using my Deep Sea baby anyways!” Mei interjected, nearly jumping on Izuku to get Iida to look at her. “There’s still a lot of trash littering the sea floor, and I always see more and more little pieces wash up over the months, so I was gonna send it down to find me some more scrap to clean and reuse for future projects, and this makes for really good practice runs to test just how much water pressure it can handle before it begins to crack down there! And, what’s even better, is that I’ve found enough material for the attachments to your uniform, Specs!”

Izuku had yet to vocalize his thoughts, but watching Iida jolt from a loose stature to something stiff and robotic in a millisecond was mildly entertaining.

“Hatsume, I’ve told you before that my name is Iida! And while I appreciate the gesture you are making in improving my gear for class and the field, I have told you before that I do not need engines on my arms! My quirk only applies to my legs!”

Izuku also had yet to vocalize that Iida’s hand gestures did nothing to prove his latter statement.

“Nonsense! Even if the engines won’t be powered by your quirk, having the same kind of mobility in your arms can only improve your actions on the field in helping civilians and getting more work done on time!”

“But the engines you are suggesting will only push my arms in one direction! Arms have a wider list of mobility options and functions compared to our legs, and they require more precision to use safely and effectively in every activity!”

“Then I should build engines on all four corners of your arms!”

No!”

Izuku opted to tune out of their debate and focus back on his batting practice. Maybe getting the two to meet wasn’t the best idea, but he would let that come back to bite him later.

As he continued to practice over their shouts, his mind lingered on the topic of a hero uniform. In all honesty, Izuku hadn’t put thought into what he could wear. Aside from scrapping his older idea that took too much inspiration from Japan’s number one hero, he had procrastinated on designing a proper hero uniform, simply because he didn’t know what to wear. He needed something that didn’t only scream “Him” physically, but would work with himself mentally. And all his mental reflection had only jumbled together into a mess he still needed to sort through for the right message.

Izuku had seen Iida’s designs for his uniform, one his family’s companies and ties would be designing for him once he was accepted into Yuei, or any heroics school if he wasn’t admitted there. It was less than helpful, given how much of it was designed with his quirk in mind. The armor that became an icon in his bloodline was designed with enough aerodynamic angles and break padding beneath the plating to coincide with the engines in his legs. It drew attention to what made him “Him,” and Izuku calling attention to his lack of a quirk was an idea that quickly found itself thrown in the bin.

Ojiro had a slightly more appealing uniform; a simple martial arts gi tailored for his body’s appendages and emphasizing his knowledge of martial arts. A couple of extra details were tacked on, with a tuff matching his tail hung over one shoulder and a few designs scattered throughout looked culturally inspired, though Izuku wasn’t told the story behind them. And as much as Izuku avoided pestering his judo buddy with questions and inquiries, he did too avoid copying the look for his own uniform. He wanted something unique, and that meant creating a design unlike those around him.

Izuku rolled his shoulder and sighed. The repetitious action was running him sore, but at least he wasn’t missing his swings. He swiped down to pick another ball and whiffed his hand through the air with nothing between his fingers. His head snapped down in surprise and confusion, the latter only growing as he found the plate that Mei dragged along now vacant, and the pile depleted. How did he keep doing that?

“Hatsu—” Izuku turned back to his friends; only to find one of them standing there, and it not being the one he was calling for. He and Iida locked eyes for a second before Izuku’s head snapped around and found no pink hair in sight. “Hatsume!”

“YEAH?” The green teen jolted with his friend as the girl’s voice blasted from the other side of the pile. Why did she bring her speakers to the beach?

“I may have, uh, completely run out of the pile of makeshift baseballs you gave me. Do you know when the next pile will be ready?”

“Gonna be a while!” With her microphone off, Izuku sighed in relief. “I found a couple of computer screens with their internal wiring intact! I can repurpose these pieces for several projects on the backburner, and I need to test them and make sure they can still work at their best capacity!”

“…We’re at the beach. How are—you know what? Never mind. I don’t want to question it. Just do whatever. I’ll be resting here.” He dropped into the sand with his bat and collapsed on his back with a groan. “Don’t mind me.”

“I still believe you should be resting altogether.” Iida dropped like an anvil to sit beside Izuku, jolting the shorter teen only slightly. “It’s been two weeks since you’ve been released from the hospital. Are you sure you’ve had enough time to recover?”

“Oh, yeah, I feel fine.” Izuku patted the front of his other shoulder and gave his friend a smile. “They patched me up great. I can barely feel the wound anymore – barely even have one to show for it – and it doesn’t feel like I’m stretching it when I move my arm, so I think I’m in the clear.”

“That’s not what I meant, Midoriya.” The lack of a smile on Iida’s face moved Izuku’s to drop and match the other’s expression. “I wasn’t talking about your wounds—not your physical wounds. I mean to ask, mentally and emotionally, how are you fairing after all that?”

Izuku propped himself up on his elbows. “‘All that?’ What do you mean?”

He took note of the shifting expressions Iida made before he responded. “My family runs multiple hero agencies in Japan, and my brother is one of the only ones that allows trainees and sidekicks that aren’t licensed as a hero like himself. While my brother and those who work with him don’t always run into villains and aren’t always locked in battle with them, there have been occasions where they do, and that includes those who haven’t tested for a license or who failed to earn one. And there have been occasion where those who make it out of those battles don’t find themselves returning to my brother’s agency, those who find their lives put on the line and come out of the battle stressed and harmed mentally more than they were physically. My brothers and parents have had to assist and, sometimes, even force apprentices and sidekicks into therapy before they could even return to the office.

“In that same vain, I would like to be like my family and assist those I work with in making sure that they are okay in their mental, physical and emotional health. And I want to extend that same courtesy to you, Midoriya.” Iida’s hand brushed against Izuku’s arm and rested against it as the two boys locked eyes. “Please, be honest with me. Are you feeling okay?”

A beat of silence passed before Izuku curled in a wheeze. His hand clapped over Iida’s as he laughed and earned himself a mixed look of concern and confusion from his bespectacled friend. “I-I was worried you were gonna ask something else entirely. I thought—I’m sorry for laughing, but that just caught me off guard. I—god, I don’t even know what I was expecting, and I almost had a heart attack over it.” His laughter only doubled down as he tried to explain himself to his still baffled friend beside him.

Iida’s grip on Izuku weakened as he watched but his hand went nowhere as Izuku’s own shot out to grab it and hold it against his arm. The green teen’s laughter died by the second, but his smile held strong along his grip. “Iida, I…thank you for worrying about me. It means a lot to me that you do, believe me. But I promise you, I’m fine. You’ll know when I’m not.” His eyes held the unspoken apology when they locked with his friend’s, and he threw his hand in the air to let Iida’s go. “Here, how about this? The next I’m not doing okay – when I’m actually not fine – I’ll come to you. You’ll be the first person I turn to if I need help, okay? How does that sound?”

Another beat of silence passed before Iida puffed his chest and the sun glistened off his glasses. “Then I shall not let you down! When that day comes, I promise to be there for you and help you recover however I can.” His free hand slapped against his chest in a salute, helping to adjust his back upright in the accompanying pose.

Izuku’s smile only grew, until it took a second to falter. “You know, I think I’d rather it be an ‘if’ than a ‘when,’ if it’s all the same to you,” he joked.

“Of course, Midoriya! I would never wish harm upon a friend, you included! Let me, if you will, rectify my oath to you; I promise to be there for you, if the day comes that you need the help I have extended towards you and informed you of!”

“That’s actually a bit of a mouthful, now that I think about it,” Izuku told his friend from the side of his mouth, tapping his elbow against the taller boy’s side. It wasn’t much better, trying to tease Iida’s ‘formal’ attitude at such a time, but it lightened his mood and the heaviness of his shoulders immensely. “But I’ll just say you got my back…and I got yours. Friend for a friend. Sound fair?”

Iida didn’t take even a moment to think before his hand clasped Izuku again, gently atop his shoulder. He shared Izuku a smile, and the green teen kept his up to meet it. “Of course!”


 

The living room couch was a stressful place to be for Izuku, sitting directly beside his mother, All things considered, Izuku’s mother took in everything he told her better than he thought she was going to. Given, the worst case scenario was bringing all the evidence he gave her to a court to charge illegal use of a quirk out in public (the outcomes of which varied in his head, from nothing changing given his quirkless status holding more precedence in the eyes of others as unworthy to defend, to using that same status as a means of garnering pity and turning a ruling in his favor, to just getting shot in court so he didn’t have to deal with the attention of people taking pity or putting blame upon him (crime dramas of the past decade really were trying to push boundaries that Izuku couldn’t understand being aired on national television)), so it wasn’t supposed to be hard for his mom to break his expectations. But that didn’t mean she was at the other end of the spectrum, shrugging off the accounts of physical and verbal bullying Katsuki had focused on him near a decade long; no, she acted as terrified and worried and overprotective as Izuku thought she would.

A tissue box sat empty between their legs. “I-I thought Mitsuki was able to keep her son from developing an attitude worse than her own,” his mother had muttered by the end of his recounting. It was a miracle she had run herself through the tears.

Izuku licked his own lips, wiping away the salty taste. He’d done the same. “I…don’t think Aunt Mitsuki knows about it,” he admitted. “I never thought of her as someone who would allow Katsuki to do that willingly.”

“Well, she could be pushy herself, too, but she was trying more to tease people than harm them.” She hummed to herself, a hand gently squeezing her son’s. “That’s actually how she got Masaru to marry her. I don’t see that working out for Katsuki with the way he’s been acting.”

Izuku would have loved to add his own two cents into that conversation, but he relented. It wasn’t worth being that petty, not now.

His mother took the hint when he didn’t respond. “So…is that really everything?”

He nodded in return. “I promise you, that’s all he’s done. It’s all anyone’s done.” Any humor in his mother vanished after her failed attempts, setting in stone the revelations. Of Bakugou’s bullying, of their classmates’ encouragement of the blonde, of their teachers’ ignorance, of strangers’ cold shoulders, and of Katsuki’s urging of Izuku’s demise. Everything he had told her – and he made sure he told her everything – was all true to the core.

His mother shook her head as she looked at him. “I can’t send you back to that school. I just can’t allow that.” It was an urgent call with a dead serious tone that jolted Izuku’s back upright.

“Wha-mom, I can’t just drop out of school in the last trimester of the last year!”

“We can transfer you.” She pivoted in her seat, bringing her other hand around to meet the pile they had started. “There are plenty of schools that would love to take in someone with your tests scores and say they graduated into Yuei’s education.”

“They’d accept someone four months before they would enter high school?”

“If they don’t, we can always enroll you in online classes to complete your education.”

“Mom, you don’t have to pull me from the school!”

“But I can’t just leave you in it either!” Any attempt she was making to look calm in front of him wilted away as her voice rose. “Not now! Not when I know you’re in danger! Not when I know no one there will help you when Katsuki or those other boys try to hurt you again!”

“They can’t do anything to me on campus, and other than Katsuki, no one’s done anything to me in months!”

“It’s been two months, Izuku! Two! And you still have four more until the school year is over!”

“And just one and a half months until Yuei’s entrance exam!” Izuku clasped his other hand on the pile between them, topping it off and shaking their hands as he turned to face her directly. “Mom, please, you don’t have to do any of that. Katsuki and I are the only two people in our entire school who send admissions to Yuei, and if I’m accepted then I won’t see any of them again. And then I’ll be surrounded by heroes, all working as Yuei’s staff, and I have more than enough faith in them to at least not let Katsuki do anything to me if he gets in too.”

His breathing punctured the silence between them. He could feel their hands continued to shake after he stopped forcing them too; whether it was his own nerves carrying on the action or his mother’s, he didn’t know. He didn’t know when his height had eclipsed hers, either. He just knew what he had to do.

“Okay, mom, how about this? If I get accepted into Yuei, for the two months after until I graduate I’ll come straight home and not go anywhere else. I will come right here where you know none of them can reach me. Then I’ll be in Yuei and I’ll be safe.” He gulped and darted his eyes down to their overlapping hands. “And if I don’t get into Yuei, then you can choose what I do next and where I go next, if only to make sure I’m safe and you know it. And I won’t argue or fight with you on whatever you choose. I promise.” He forced his gaze back to hers, softening when he saw the distraught that had washed away her fierce concern. “I will do whatever you ask then. Okay?”

Izuku knew he was forfeiting some free will over his future with his promise, and he could see his mother struggle knowing it too. But he knew he had to make it – or at least any – after promising to be forward and honest with her. And he knew nothing would convince her better than letting her help and control instead of hoping or forcing her to confide in his own decisions.

His mother seemed to understand that, as she nodded slowly. “Alright. You can stay in the school until you graduate – of course. But” – her finger shot up between them – “I’m still calling Mitsuki to tell her to keep you and Katsuki apart. If you don’t want me to tell her everything you told me, fine, I can tell her the two of you are “having a fall out” and he’s being aggressive about it and to have as small a leash on him she can. And I want you to text me every time you get out of school, and where you’re going and when you get there while I’m at work, okay? I-I’m sorry if I sound like a helicopter parent, or I’m being overbearing on you—”

“It’s fine, I’ll do that. I promise.” Izuku initiated the hug his mother returned. “I’ll make sure to be safe, and I’ll be sure to let you know. I love you.”

“I love you too Izuku,” his mother whispered as the hug tightened. Her volume stayed as she pulled away. “I should let you get to bed; you’ve had a long day. I’ll deal with the doctor’s appointment and Mitsuki. You, rest.”

“Alright,” Izuku submitted, lifting them both off the couch. “Thanks, mom. Have a good night.”

“You too.” Mother and son shared another soft smile as they parted ways, one to the kitchen, and the other down the hall to his room. But his door only opened an inch before his mother spoke again. “Izuku?”

The green teen looked back down the hall, finding her peeking around the corner with the dining light illuminating another worried expression.

“Yeah?” He called back.

“Your friends” – her fingers flinched in hesitation – “I’m sorry if it feels like I’m pressing you about all this – I just want to make sure you’re okay – but…you trust Ojiro and your friends at the beach, right?”

Izuku’s eyelids flickered. Do I trust them? “Yeah…I do. I trust them. They’re nothing like Katsuki. You don’t have to worry about that.”

“And they all know you’re…”

“Yes. They do.”

“Okay, I’ll trust you on that, just…be careful, please, when you try to make more?”

“…I will.”


20 days until the Yuei Entrance Exam

Sitting in a public space, doing absolutely nothing other than waiting, was something Izuku just did not do often. He loved jumping around from place to place, following the news and the heroes it covered in real time, trying to follow along on foot when he could. Running from was something he was used to, too, growing up around dangers and “dangerous” people (if he felt like lumping Katsuki under that label). After finding a (albeit late) training regimen to increase his chance of getting into Yuei months ago, being on the move or lounging in more isolated and empty places became the new norm, subjecting his hero notes to only gather from news feeds. Sitting on a beach far from most wanderers, hiding on the ends of the trains to get from place to place, and running home to the confines of his room; they were what made sitting on a bench in the middle of the day waiting for Yaoyorozu to come by feel awkward.

The music blasting in his ears was a quick way to tune all that out, for the most part. He didn’t think he’d have to use his headphones beyond the train ride into Tokyo, but he was happy he brought them all the same. That gratitude extended through the rest of his phone, scrolling through the news of heroes he missed quadruple-checking the map during the ride over and sending his mother a message of his arrival with a forced smile in his selfie to prove the claim. His uneasy was only punctuated by the supportive response to be good on his “date” with the girl. He was happy she was comfortable enough to make the joke with him, but the last thing he wanted was anyone believing it was anything like that. All he wanted was to finally spend a day getting to know the girl he texted with so little over the phone, and hopefully the universe would go easy on him and allow that.

The limo parking across the street was only conspiring against him.

“Please don’t,” Izuku groaned out, slumping into the bench and popping an earbud out. He could see the small crowds of people pointing out the vehicle as they passed or stopped, and he only wished they recognized it better than he did. But didn’t seem the case, and the driver nodding in his direction as he left the vehicle didn’t help his case either. Izuku only whined a little as the chauffeur circled around the limousine and helped out the tall girl with the ponytail that Midoriya was expecting to see. He waved weakly when she waved to him brightly. “You dug yourself this grave, Izuku. You wouldn’t have reached the surface vertically anyways.”

At least the time it took Yaoyorozu to cross the street was spent picking himself up to greet her proper. He was patting his wrinkles down by the time she arrived, and he pushed a smile to match the life of her own. “Good afternoon, Midoriya,” the tall girl greeted him.

“A-afternoon, Yaoyorozu. I wasn’t aware you were taking a ride to get here.”

A sigh dipped away the cheer across her face as she watched the vehicle turn the corner down the road. “Yes, well, after the incident at the mall, my parents have been less keen on allowing me to travel outside of our home and into the city without a chaperone, but they were at least kind enough to only restrain how I get around and not getting to be.”

Izuku’s light chuckle fought to keep up the spirit. “Yeah, I’d rather not have someone breathing down the back of my neck when getting to know someone.” He itched the back of his neck and looked around the street. “Sorry I haven’t texted you much, by the way. Not really used to talking to people outside of face to face.”

“You don’t have to worry about that, Midoriya.” Yaoyorozu waved a hand towards the green teen. “I understand any unease with online interaction, especially in conversing with new friends.”

She sounds a lot like Iida, Izuku noted, before gazing down the mono-colored knee high dress she wore. She does come from a family like his though.

“So” – Izuku patted a balled fist and looked down to the other end of the street – “walk and talk?” The look of confusion that crossed Yaoyorozu’s face mildly concerned him, but it washed away quickly with a smile and a nod.

“I’d be delighted. Let’s.” With the tall girl’s approval in hand, Izuku stuffed both of his in his pockets, spun on his heel, and walked past the small sects of people still taking note of the girl who came from the limousine taking step by his side.

The conversations of others and the passing traffic of people and vehicles provided as the only source of sound as the two walked along. Izuku looked anywhere other than the girl by his side as they made their way down the second street. That conviction only lasted him so long, every now and again stealing a glance over to the tall girl as she inspected and muttered to herself about the shops and stores and signs that caught her eye along the road. Or she was, if he was reading her lips right. It was still more conversing than he was managing. At least he had the walking part down.

He was an idiot, he told himself as they passed several more shops and another two streets, for not even knowing how to start a conversation with her. Where we they supposed to? Should he have asked how her day has been, something that felt way too mundane after the last time they had even seen each other? Should he even bring up the mall or the hospital as a starting point for a conversation? The last time he talked to her was telling her he was discharged from the hospital after recovering from a bullet wound; how could he pick up a conversation from that? Fuck, how did I make my friends?

Similar interests. Yeah, okay, yeah. I can start from there.

Once they reached the next crosswalk and waited for the light to change, Izuku finally broke the silence between them. “So” – he opened, flapping his elbows and lifting to the ball of his feet as though to fly, all of which worked in tandem to get the tall girl to look down at him – “last I remember, you were trying to get into Yuei through recommendations, right?”

The first expression that crossed Yaoyorozu’s face was confusion, of which Izuku was prepped to berate himself for still not finding the option that worked, until that expression eased into a small smile and a nod. “Right, I had told you about that when we first met.” She bowed slightly in his direction. “Apologies; I forgot I had shared that with you already. And, actually” – the onyx-haired girl turned forward again, her head tilted into her cupped hand – “the school’s final verdicts came in about a week ago. And I’ve been accepted.”

A bell went off in Izuku’s head as his neck snapped in the tall girl’s direction, the words of her already taken test and her now announced acceptance ringing in his head. The people around him crossed the street as the bell sounded for them too, and it took a few seconds for Izuku to notice Yaoyorozu making her way with the crowd before he snapped back to reality and hurried after her.

“Holy shit,” was the first thing he said once by her said, startling and jumping the girl who seemed to have been lost in thought before his return. “Congrats. I had completely forgot you had already applied and taken the test already. You made it in. That’s amazing.”

Yaoyorozu caught her breath as they made it across, side-eyeing Izuku and flattening out her skirt. “T-thank you, Midoriya. My apologies I did not inform you over text when I had gotten my acceptance letter. I did not know if you would have wanted to hear it, or if it would have felt like gloating after Gang Orca’s offer to you.”

“No, it’s fine. I turned that down intentionally. I don’t think I could have convinced them, not with someone like you applying for it too.” He brushed a hand along his cheeks, ignoring the heat he felt building. “And, besides, I think a late application would have only marked me down at the start. It’s probably better for someone like me just to take the normal entrance exam.”

“I-I’m positive you would have given many other examinees a challenge to over perform—wait, Midoriya.” The tall girl collected herself once again, turning body to face the shorter teen. “I do not mean to be insensitive by asking this, but what do you mean by ‘someone like you’?”

Izuku caught a yelp before it could rise past his throat, but only succeeded in starting a coughing fit in its place. He was grateful Yaoyorozu wasn’t as caught up in their words as he was, as she guided him out of the moving crowds of people and into the entrance of a nearby alley. He rested on the wall opposite of Yaoyorozu, who only swayed towards the other wall without touching it. “I’m sorry,” he coughed into his shoulder. “I didn’t—I think I might have swallowed something I shouldn’t have.”

“It’s alright, Midoriya,” she consoled him. She flinched a moment before her hand glowed and passed a tissue over to the green teen. “Just try to get it out of your throat for now.”

He took the offered item and threw it into the trash bin beside them once his throat was cleared. “Thank you for that. Sorry for worrying you with that…and for startling you.  Didn’t mean to do that, just wanted to congratulate you.”

“Midoriya, it’s okay. You don’t need to apologize for any of that, and…thank you for your kind words.” The smile she sent him didn’t look all too real. “But you don’t need to say anything like that to me. It’s not all that necessary.”

“I think it is,” he countered. He winced softly to see her startled again by him. “Sorry, it’s just, I think not praising you for getting in would kind of be rude. It’s Yuei; the acceptance rate into that school is like a gacha game’s. Hell, getting into recommendations and then through it is even harder. You did both. I can’t think of a reason you shouldn’t be celebrated for that.” The blush on Yaoyorozu’s face was bright enough to see, even under the alley’s shade. Izuku could feel his own building up, realizing how his sentence sounded.

“I-uh-thank you, Midoriya,” Yaoyorozu stuttered out before Izuku could muster another apology. “That’s very kind of you to see it that way. I…I was initially worried I’d offend you if I made it sound like I got in easy.”

“I’m pretty sure you got in the hardest way. I’ve heard they’re probably more stressful than they are challenging, and I know stress makes everything worse, believe me. I’m happy you got in, I swear.” Izuku gave a small smile back to the taller girl. “I’m pretty sure I’m the one taking the easy way out and going with the regular entrance exam. I would not have passed that recommendation exam if I took it.”

Yaoyorozu’s sigh was loud, sounding a mix between tired and exasperated. “Is…does that have something to do with the comment you made about yourself earlier?” Her question had Izuku hitch his breath, holding the gaze with her despite the voice in his head telling him to turn away. “I don’t want to force you to talk about something you don’t want to, so you don’t have to answer that question—”

“No, it’s…it is fine. I can answer it.” Izuku’s hands folded over his stomach as he settled himself against the wall enough to hold himself up with more control. “I…what I mean, when I say ‘someone like me,’ it’s…I’m a normal kid. I live in an apartment with me mom. I attend a public junior high school in Musutafu. I barely do anything in my free time other than study and train and relax. There isn’t anything special to me, nothing like what you have.”

“I…I think you’re greatly undermining yourself, Midoriya. As plain and normal as you might be, I think your actions and words make you a far greater person than many others. I think you’ll pass the entrance exam with ease. With the control and flexibility you have of your quirk, and what I remember about you from the mall, Yuei would be hard pressed to find someone else like you.”

There’s probably a billion other people in the world missing what I am, they just have to spend the time actually looking for them. Izuku let out an audible sigh as his head bounced down. But you still think I have one…“’With ease’ might be a stretch. But thanks. I’ll try my best.” He returned the real smile she gave him as she straightened her posture. Izuku patted his knees as he stood up too. “This…is actually something I’ve been wanting to talk with you about since…we first met, actually, but would you be alright telling me a bit about your quirk? I’ve been meaning to learn about it since I saw you use it.”

She pondered the question a moment, or at least Izuku hoped she did as she turned back to the crowds passing them by on the sidewalk, before she turned to him again with a brighter smile than before. “I have no problem talking about my quirk with you, if you’re alright with returning the favor.”

Izuku puffed up his chest as he pushed off the wall, and let it fall back down as he turned to the street with her. He could only hope his smile bought her off. “Fine by me.” He stood by her side and gestured to the moving packs. “Walk and talk?”

She nodded, and he only hiccuped in his chest when a faint giggled reached his lips. “I’d be delighted.”

Maybe it’s better you do.


 

Izuku didn’t know if it was good or bad that no one at school decided to bring up his new bandages, the bruise Katsuki sported over the bridge of his nose, or even send either of them to the school nurse when the teacher laid eyes on both, but with the day over it at least meant he was a few hours away from getting them off. No physical activities had him pull any of his bruises, and no more were added on to his body, so he considered his day better than the norm for the occasion.

Even better was the quiet and vacant walk home, as the constant chatter of his school mates disappearing behind him and overtaken by the rustling leaves and the every so often passing car. The near emptiness of a week day’s middle hours never surprised him, and he remembered the days he thanked they existed in his younger school years, growing up with Katsuki.

He remembered the tree he was once small enough to hide behind, one he used several times to trick the chasing Katsuki and his friends when they weren’t done picking and beating on him. It was beginning to wither with age. He heard it was to be pulled and replaced soon. He was gonna miss it.

He remembered the empty shop he made his second escape, vacant and open enough for him to enter but littered to the brim for him to hide and lose Katsuki’s pursuit, probably more than it should have worked. A year after relying on it was the structure bought out and filled in with a family-run café owned by a gentleman who didn’t allow loitering or children hiding for their safety. Izuku found another route to take home after figuring all that out, but he decided to be a gentleman and pass by again just to wave at the owner through the window while probably being cursed at on the other side. They hadn’t gotten a penny out of him yet.

He remembered the park he tried running through, once, until Katsuki had his quirkless identity outed around other kids who laughed and picked on him for it and adults who either did nothing or pulled their own kids away to leave Izuku to the clutches of his bully. He had only ever visited it one other time, and it still looked as worn and rusty as he remembered it. He’d rather it evicted and raised than the tree.

Yeah, the more he thought on it, the less his stroll down memory lane excited and pleased him.

“Hey Deku!”

God damnit.

Who else to follow him home the day after he was probably warned and more than likely threatened so he wouldn’t again than Katsuki. Izuku couldn’t say he was totally surprised to see the blonde hunched over and sparking from his palm, nor was he at all happy to know his guess that it would happen was right.

“What?” Izuku asked him dryly. Reliving their past had already killed his upbeat.

It didn’t seem to please Katsuki any to hear. “The hell you mean, what?” he seethed. “I know you’re the reason my old hag yelled at me last night about leaving you alone! Did you really think you can run away crying to try and stop me?”

“I don’t remember being the one that ran away yesterday,” Izuku reminded him. “Definitely not from you. I do remember watching you run, though.”

Katsuki’s arms shook violently, steam bellowing from his palms as he stalked forward. “So the coward finally grew a spine?”

“Least I don’t look like I’m going to shit mine out.”

Had the day been anything normal, Katsuki would have launched himself then and there, tackled Izuku to the ground and beat the shit out of him ruthlessly. No amount of self-defense Izuku learned would have worked against explosions and first degree burns and still be capable to fight back against someone whose quirk helped him deliver backhands like bullets. The short-tempered blonde would have wrung his neck for his back talking, and behind offended by a few short words were nothing new to Katsuki, and seeing it in action was nothing new to Izuku either.

But today wasn’t any normal day, and it seemed last night had an effect in some way, and those facts were only cemented when the smoke blew away in the wind and Katsuki corrected his posture. He could do nothing to save face, or decontort his vile expression, but he put what power he had in dragging his feet around and stomping away from Izuku instead of jumping him.

“Don’t think this changes shit, Deku,” Katsuki shouted out over his shoulder. His face was turned just enough for Izuku to see even half the glare sent his way. “If I can’t stop you from this childish dream of yours, you can bet your ass Yuei would never let some quirkless shit who can’t even protect himself correctly ruin their reputation as the best. Don’t think for a second anyone is on your side.”

Izuku chose not to reply as Katsuki stomped off in the distance, keeping straight down the road and never taking a turn until the street made him. Izuku didn’t even wait for Katsuki to disappear from his eyes before he turned his own way and continued on the path he was before, started by as sigh.

“Even I know that’s a load of shit, Katsuki,” Izuku grumbled to himself. “I got mom, and Iida, and Hatsume, and Ojiro, and…even Hunter. I know they believe in me.” He threw his bag from his shoulders and let it hang just barely over the ground in the grip of one of his hands. “I know they’re on my side. They like me. They support me.” His other hand hovered over the bandage beneath his shirt. “…In their own ways.”

But would anyone at Yuei support me? Yaoyorozu assumes I have a quirk – or I think she still does – and Gang Orca and some news sites think I do. How many would still care about me if they knew the truth, though? He hesitated at a crosswalk, and allowed a car to pass the road before him. That doesn’t exactly have the best track record so far

Two blocks later and his apartment complex was right around the corner. He waved to the one neighbor he saw on the way, an old man on the first floor who was probably the only one who knew who he was, if anyone else in the complex even knew he existed. The gentleman watched him walk away with a hard stare, of which Izuku only weakly smiled at in his passing.

“Who am I kidding; barely anyone cares,” he groaned as the elevator doors closed on him. “Either no one knows who I am, or anyone who does – most anyone – wishes they didn’t have to know me. Even those that come from Yuei treat me like shit. How is it supposed to be any different being there?” He wiped the frustration off his face as the doors opened to his floor.

“…Maybe I make it different, then.”


 

10 days until the Yuei Entrance Exam

“You want me to lie?”

“It’s not that you have to lie; I just need you not to talk about it. And it’s not like we’re going to be doing it our whole time at Yuei, just for now, until I know it’s safe.”

Ojiro sighed heavily, the towel draped over his head weighing down one side more prominently until it fell off completely. The tailed martial artists didn’t bother to pick it off the seat, preoccupying his hands with massaging his face, and Izuku couldn’t relate more. The idea was stupid, no question about it. The green teen just couldn’t find a better alternative.

“Midoriya, that’s not going to work,” Mashirao whined into his hands. The bell to the dojo’s door rung as a father walked out with his two daughters behind him, ranting aimlessly about their day of class. “I can see maybe three flaws with this already.”

“Yeah, and I gave them thought,” Izuku countered. He wiped the towel off his shoulders and threw it onto his bag. “Katsuki knows already, and he can still get into Yuei. But he’s not going to say shit, because his mom has told me she’s going to keep a tight leash on him, which means anything he starts that causes problems, he gets in trouble for, and I’m pretty sure the looming threat for that is expulsion from Yuei. It’s not exactly a win-win scenario for him.”

“They’re still letting him apply for Yuei?” Ojiro asked in bafflement. “Last I checked, he attacked you and you defended yourself.”

“Yeah, and that’s about where my story ends, with a handful of people that can vouch for my innocence and a school of others who would have no problem framing me as the problem. There isn’t much evidence other than word against word for me to take this any farther in getting him pulled from Yuei’s applications. He probably has a mark on his “perfect record” courtesy of Aunty Mitsuki, but I don’t know what that’ll cause for his application, if it even is there. He doesn’t exactly have anything to gain trying to ‘expose’ me at school.

“And the Yuei staff know I’m quirkless,” Izuku continued. “They’ve seen my enrollment application. So they know a quirkless kid is applying for the heroics department at their school. And they haven’t publicized anything about it? This is the school that brags about it students to the public. A majority of their students make up the top ten heroes of the world, make up the majority of examinees for heroic licenses, hold showcases for their students in the Spring and just this last year bragged about opening the door for people like me to enroll for the programs. And then it got drowned in the news. No one cared about it. And Yuei hasn’t done anything since to talk about their offer. They’re radio silent on the whole ordeal, because no one cares or believes it would happen. If I don’t only get into Yuei, but also make it to the heroic’s course, people will only doubt my ability to stay in the class. No one’s going to talk about me otherwise, and why would they?”

“Because you’re a quirkless kid who got into the best high school for aspiring heroes all around the world by swinging a baseball bat and saying the word ‘fuck.’”

Izuku gave his friend an unamused look. “I do not say fuck all that often.”

“Midoriya, the amount of times I’ve heard you mutter swear words here the past few weeks tells me otherwise.”

“Hitting the floor isn’t exactly like jumping on the bed—okay look, you’re missing my point. They don’t exactly have any headlines to sell if I get in. I pass the written exam, fine. I pass the physical exam, fine. Most applicants pass the written tests, that’s nothing special. And somehow I outperform the majority in, what, a normal endurance test or whatever their physical exam is going to be this year? Maybe someone looks over, but it isn’t like there’s anything beyond me to sell papers or drawn attention to. It proves nothing about me being capable enough to make it through even the first semester.”

“But you do think you’ll make it through, right?” Ojiro interrupted. “Asking as a friend, here. You’re not doubting yourself because, hypothetically, people might not be interested in making you a headline, right?”

Izuku shook his head as he plopped down on a seat along the side of the dojo. “No, I don’t think I won’t get in, I just…I accept the fact I’m not going to be paraded around for doing so. I know it probably won’t matter, despite all this other stuff around it.” He slumped against the wall behind him. “Still gonna try my hardest though.”

Ojiro’s tail swung at Izuku’s arm, the tuff at the end lightly smacking against his shoulder. “You better. I don’t want to hear your internal debates and whatever else your brain does somehow turned you away from trying to get in like you promised.” He plopped down in the seat beside Izuku. “Okay, fine. Bakugou probably won’t blabber it out to anyone and ‘expose’ you day one, and the teachers at Yuei probably don’t think it’s a big enough story to draw attention to no matter what you do. So what does that leave?”

The greenette sighed and bumped his head against the wall. “Literally everyone else at the school.”

“Yeah, that’s what I thought.” The snide to Ojiro’s words was playful, Izuku could tell, enough to get him to chuckle despite the gnawing in his stomach. “And your idea is that we just lie about you having a quirk and hoping they believe you?”

“What else can they do? It’s a hero school, the best in the world, and they know how to uphold the laws. That includes unpermitted usage of quirks. I don’t have to show anyone anything if they asked me to. I’d just have to act like I have one helping me in the sparring matches and whatever other training we go through. They believe it, then it’s their fault.” Izuku sent a frown his friend’s way. “I’d rather not have to go through another year of school being outed out the gate.”

Mashirao sighed with a dip of his head. “Yeah…fine, I get that. Not really something I can argue with.” He bit his lip and drummed his fingers on his arms, leaving Izuku in a minute of silence and worry. Two more students from their class walked out the door, tailing their father and gushing about their matches as the door closed behind them. “I don’t like this, I hope you know that. My parents would not approve of me acting like this behind people’s backs. But I’ll do it. As long as” – he threw a hand at Izuku, his finger outstretched and pointed at Izuku’s nose before the boy could share his thanks – “when they find out, because you know they will, you have to explain it. When you’re ready for people to know, that’s for you to tell. I’ll only step in if someone has a problem with it or you, but I’m not letting you put any more responsibility on my shoulders for this. Alright?”

Izuku gulped before he nodded. “Yeah, yeah I can do that. And I know I’ll have to tell them eventually, but…I’d rather they care about me first before they care about what I have.” Izuku stared a moment at the ceiling, blinking at the florescent lights flickering above, before a chuckle escaped his lips. “That sounds…so wrong, and I don’t know why I said it that way.”

“I wasn’t going to say anything. I really wish you didn’t.”

Izuku cracked another laugh, hearing the light tone to Mashirao’s words. “So…you’ll keep it a secret?”

“As long as everyone else does,” Ojiro answered.

“Thank you. Iida and Hatsume agreed to it too, already. Iida’s in the same boat as you, by the way, if it makes you feel any better. You two can bond over disapproving of my questionable opinions. And Mei won’t even be in our class, so she’s not gonna do anything about this either. She’s more focused on making things for people to use than the quirks or people behind them, but if she makes anything for me that I can actually use, she’s promised not to use me as a selling material too.”

“Good. The only one I don’t have faith in for this is Bakugou.” The two teens nodded in unison over Ojiro’s statement. Another kid left the dojo, while the only students other than Izuku and Mashirao joined their mother in their sensei’s office across the room from the two boys.

Ojiro snapped over to Izuku with a quizzical glance. “Wait, what about your new friend? The, uh, tall girl you said was going to Yuei too.”

“Yaoyorozu?” Izuku clarified, eliciting a nod of a response. “Yeah—actually, she already got accepted. Recommendation applications and all that. Yeah.” Fuck. Izuku could feel the sweat building up on his brow again under his friend’s stare. “Yeah, about that—”

“…What?”

Instead of meeting his friend’s eyes, Izuku kept his head tilted back and stared at the ceiling. “Yaoyorozu thinks I have a quirk.” He could almost feel the heavy sigh that escaped Ojiro.

“Guess we had to start somewhere…” the tailed teen huffed. “You already told her you have a quirk?”

“No, I just…went along with the idea that I did. She was the one who assumed I had one; I just thought it was safer to play along.”

“What about it would have gone wrong?”

“What do you think?” Izuku didn’t mean the snap in his voice, and took a moment to breathe and collet himself. “I got lucky with you and Iida and Hatsume. You three don’t give a shit about me not having a quirk, and finding people like you is harder than you think. And even having you three, it isn’t exactly like things have changed.” His point was only proven as their sensei walked out of her office with the family in tow, sending the mother and her son and daughter out the door with a kind parting. The daughter of the family caught Ojiro and Izuku’s eyes, and the quick finger she gave in their direction before flipping back to a smile and running after her family caught theirs.

Izuku gestured after her and looked at Ojiro. “And I don’t know if Yaoyorozu is going to be anything like that when she finds out. I’ve talked with her twice since I met her, and one of those times was over the phone. I don’t know if I can trust her, if she’s so quick to think what I do is because of a quirk. I don’t know if I can consider her a friend yet.”

“That doesn’t mean you should be treating them like the enemy.”

“I’m not going to treat any of them like the enemy.” Izuku curled his legs up to the chair and rested his arms over his knees. “Just because I have you guys watching my back doesn’t mean I shouldn’t too.”

Mashirao sighed heavily, turning his gaze away from Izuku and through the glass walls of the dojo. Izuku could tell his own “reasonability” for his arguments had flaws; so much of what he was building framed by assumptions. Maybe Yuei wanted to dance him around for being the first quirkless student to attend. Maybe Katsuki had no restraints and he would announce to the whole student body that a kid with no quirk was attending their prestigious school. Maybe Izuku wouldn’t even pass the test and be admitted; he had thought that too, that his preplanning wouldn’t be necessary in the end, and he was probably putting pressure and worry on his friends’ shoulders that they could shrug off in a few weeks.

Izuku’s hope was strung between him being right or wrong, or maybe even both.

The two boys blinked as headlights passed over their eyes, and the car they emitted from parked outside the building. Ojiro rose to his feet with another heavy breath. “Either this goes how we want it to or it blows up in our face. I don’t see us getting a middle option.”

Izuku wished there was, too.


 

30 days until the Yuei Entrance Exam

Izuku waved back as he ran off and Hatsume and Iida returned the gesture, the latter squinting to watch his friend disappear in the sunset.

“Metal Bat sure works fast,” Hatsume commented, and Iida looked to find her marveling at the shorter pile of rubbish beside them. “If my machines worked more like a production line, I’d be able to keep up with his batting practice requests. Guess I get to spend another all-nighter catching up to him!”

“Hatsume, I highly doubt that would be healthy for you,” Iida deadpanned. “Unless you were able to pick up a mutation from your parents that allows your body to function normally on a minimalistic amount of nutrients and sleep, missing out on more is only going to be unhealthy. How you’re even standing now has me questioning what you do to keep yourself upright.”

“Caffeine and quick naps!”

“I still don’t believe that.”

“Eh, believe what you want, Nitro,” Hatsume shrugged with a smile. She jumped onto the pile and scaled it halfway. “All I care about is the outcome of my labor. How I get there doesn’t bother me at all, and you shouldn’t have to worry yourself about it either!”

“It would be wrong of me not to worry!” Iida interjected. “Worrying about the mental and physical health of you and Midoriya is exactly what a friend would do!”

“I’m sure Metal Bat’s fine in both of those departments!” Hatsume had to shout over the rubble clashing together as she dug through the pile, and Iida had to dance around not to get steamrolled by tumbling trash. “All he needs are enhancements! I could make him an exoskeleton he could wear under his uniform – once he gets around to sending me the drafts of his ideas – to help put some power and speed behind his swings, and I could structure it to assist his mobility for running and dodging too! If he let me, I could just design him a whole suit of armor to perform those functions for and with him! What am I saying; I don’t need his permission! I can totally make that!”

Iida sighed at the hyperactive girl’s attitude. “I would rather make sure he’s reinforced before you make his costume that too.” Dusting off any kicked up sand, Iida made his own trek up the stairs before he looked again at Hatsume. “I’m heading home as well. My family will be expecting me for dinner. I suggest you head home as well, Hatsume. Good night.”

“See ya next week, Pietro!” Hatsume ignored Iida’s comment about his name and continued to dig through the pile as he gave up his explanation and headed home. “Gotta make sure I pull the last of what’s valuable in here so Midoriya can remove the rest of it and leave us with more space to run our tests. With how poorly managed this beach is, I doubt it’s privately owned by anyone, so there should be no problem in me buying it out and using it as a playground for my babies—huh?”

Mei put her digging on hold as her belt beeped, sending her bouncing out the pile and rushing down the hill to the shore. “My baby is back! I can start putting the scraps together again and make a new collection for his practice!” She skipped over to her rover, the small box on wheels clattering as its bounty fumbled in its container, before the machine poured it loot onto the sand. “Guess my babies can wait a mo—oh?” Hatsume fell to her knees as she picked one of the metals balls she had crafted earlier. “What do we have here?”

What had once been a near perfect orb of metal had been dented, and violently so, nearly recreating the shape of a crescent moon when she looked at it from the right angle. And the closer she looked, the more she found each of the balls it collected had found a similar fate of destruction.

“Huh. Wonder how that happened.”


 

20 days until the Yuei Entrance Exam

Momo groaned as she sank into her seat, slapping her hands over her face. “I messed that up, didn’t I?”

“What seems to be troubling you, young miss?” Yaoyorozu looked over to the small opening connecting her to the driver up front, staring back at her through the review mirror.

“It’s nothing, Batorā,” Momo sighed and tried to recollect herself and her dignity. “I’m just…reflecting on the time I had spent with Midoriya.”

“Did something go wrong?”

Momo shook her head and looked to the heavily tinted windows across from her. “Nothing other than a small moment of miscommunication at the start. After that, I believe everything was going well, I just feel…uncertain, I believe. It’s harder to talk with people than I remember it being.”

Her chauffer gave her a confused look. “You talk with quite a lot of people, my lady. Not a month goes by where I don’t see you joining in on the conversations with the visitors and families your parents bring inside.”

“But those are focused conversations,” she countered. “They only ever talk about one thing at a time, and I’m made aware of the topic beforehand so I may study up on them and be adequately informed to add to the discussions. Mother and father do want me to grow up to be a figurehead for the family too. But with Midoriya” – she let out a longer sigh – “the conversations we had continued to jump around and change. They were nice, and…and I think he had a good time. He’s a very kind person, though a tad bit looser than father would approve of.”

“Oh, looking for your father’s approval of the boy so soon?” Batorā chimed from his seat. “I was under the assumption you wished to spend more times with the boys that are your age before you pursued a relationship like that.”

“Y-you know that isn’t what I meant, Batorā!” Momo crossed her arms with a huff, turning her red face towards the back of the limousine. “And I don’t want you making that sort of joke around father, either. The last thing I need is he or mother thinking we were on a date. And I doubt Midoriya saw it that way, anyways. Or would even want to.”

“I wouldn’t be so sure. With as generous of a young girl as you are, I would be more than surprised to hear a middle-class boy wouldn’t find you attractive or hope to date you.”

“I’m not gracing any of that with an answer.” Momo did little to hide her blush as she glared in the mirror to him. “And I believe Midoriya was more unsettled by the class difference between us. He brought up often the differences in how we’ve been raised and what we have been given, and he never showed he was offended or imitated by me. But he did look less than convinced when he spoke…”

“Maybe he was hoping not to offend you, of downplaying your importance or value.”

“My value, right…I don’t know if I was able to make him see the same of himself. The way he spoke came of as very belittling of what he did, and what he can do. I attempted to share with him the same amount of praise he had given me, but he seemed to avoid talking about it more than anything.” A whimper escaped through another sigh. “I shouldn’t have called him a delinquent. I shouldn’t have brought it up in the first place, that I had initially mistaken him for one when I first saw him at the mall. I should have made my words clearer than that.”

“Should I be concerned that he is, young miss?”

“No, he’s anything but. If you talked with him like I did, I think you would have found him as nice as I did. He’s a wonderful person.” Absently, her hand pulled out her phone, checking it for any sign of a text and only coming face to face with an empty screen. “Maybe a bit shy, but very kind. I do hope I was right about him.”

“Right about what for him?”

“He’ll sweep the competition at Yuei’s entrance exam.”


 

10 days until the Yuei Entrance Exam

- Sorry, forgot to bring this up when we were sparring. Do you have an opinion on what I could wear for a hero uniform?

Do you not have one? -

- No

Ojiro exhaled as he dropped on his bed. “Of course you don’t.”

Why are you bringing this up so late? Thought you of all people would have an idea already. –

- Yeah, no.

- I can’t use any of my old material or designs.

- That’s

- That’s an awful idea.

“I doubt they’re that bad,” Ojiro muttered, typing out his words in another message.

- They are all All-Might themed and I made them when I was three.

“I stand corrected.”

Alright, and you haven’t come up with any ideas since then? –

- It’s not that easy, ya know. I can’t just dress up in a regular Hakama and fight with a baseball bat – that would be disrespectful to the uniform. But I want to keep that style, so I’ve been trying to figure out something that blends it with something else, and I just can’t figure out how to not overdo it.

You mean not look flashy and pompous? –

- Exactly. I don’t want to hide behind layers and a look either. I want to show my face when I’m in uniform.

“I’m pretty sure you’d grab attention either way. That baseball bat doesn’t exactly blend in.”

You could dress like a baseball player. –

- I have turned that idea down like five time. Hatsume brings it up like twice a week. I don’t even watch baseball.

- And no, I’m not going to study and watch baseball just for the uniform.

- How would that even blend with a Hakama?

Baseball cap and a team logo on the back. Could just be your name. –

- Yeah, true.

- Still no

“Mashirao!” The boy in question look up to his door at the sound of his mother’s voice over the rush of running water hitting metal.

“Yeah?”

“Dinner won’t be for a while. Your father is closing the studio late tonight, so we’ll start making it once he’s done.”

“Okay. Thank you.”

The bat is going to stick out if you don’t try to theme your look around it too. –

- I know. I’ve been trying to, but there isn’t much defined by a baseball bat.

Mashirao hummed in agreement and tapped his phone against his chin. He looked around his room, finding it bare for the most part, save his desk, his trophies and his closet of uniforms.

You could dress up like a delinquent. Put on a school uniform, mess it up a bit. The bat would help sell the look. You even got the mouth for it. –

- I’m not dressing up in a school uniform by the time I’m 30.

- I would like for my hero costume to be wearable at all ages, thank you very much

- And I don’t swear that much

You swear more than anyone else I know, and it’s weird watching you talk like that, knowing you. –

- The hell is that supposed to mean?

Yeah, like that. –

- Alright, thanks for the input, Jeff.

Mashirao cracked a grin at the comment, watching Izuku follow up with a reply of departure and wishing the tailed teen a good night. He returned the text before he tossed his phone to the other side of his bed. Though nothing was cooking, he could smell the ingredients his mother was putting out to prepare and changed from his uniform into more relaxed clothes for dinner.

His eyes drew over to his desk, to his own drawings of a hero uniform he designed off of the martial art attire he dropped into the hamper. A bit bland, maybe, but one that expressed well just how much he had been trained in without needing much more for the job. The only extra attention it got was for his tail, to let his extra appendage slide into the uniform like his arms and legs would, making the gi designed specifically to be worn by him.

He wondered a moment if that same thought was going through Izuku’s head, to make a design only he could pull off, designed for his quirkless identity. Least without the baseball attire, he couldn’t make that his team name.

Ojiro made the comment to Izuku in another text as his father entered the house, and was met with the resounding ‘no’ he expected for his joke.

Chapter Text

“I know the support department tests are tomorrow but you should come with us, just up until we get to the school. Ojiro’s been wanting to meet you and Iida. Might as well knock out two birds with one stone.”

“I would, but that would mean delaying my babies from their work and that is an option I cannot allow. If I waste my time meeting with people I’ll never get to build the gear they need.”

Izuku sweat-dropped and leaned over the railing. “You know you could just multitask and make something small while talking to him. You don’t have to do them separately.”

“Cutting corners isn’t going to make great inventions, Metal Bat,” Hatsume retorted over her shoulder. “If I don’t give this my all then it will never be the best. I can’t afford to give anything greater attention than my work.”

“You’re talking with me right now.”

“But my newest baby hasn’t left her spot since I started her. Perfection can’t be rushed and it can’t be done when walking and talking, it demands care and attention.”

Izuku sighed and looked past the girl to the shoreline up ahead. It was a beautiful sight, or at least growing into one with the trash strewn about it lessening. A good majority of it was gone, leaving maybe a quarter of what was there when he had first started his self-proclaimed mission, to put both his body and mind into heroics as his heart was from the start. He was somewhat displeased knowing the beach wouldn’t be fully cleared by the time the new school year came around, but was impressed by the amount of work he and his newfound friends from the last year were able to put in to the task.

Izuku’s bat clanged against the rail as he stood right up. He clung to the action and tapped it against the rail several more times as he focused his attention on it. The metal baseball bat was the only piece of trash on the beach that had ever really found a home. Since meeting Mei, he’d seen a lot of junks and machinery be scrapped, reworked and reused into something she could make functioning for her ‘babies,’ but nothing ever stayed in full tact once she got her hands on it. Everything else she and Izuku pulled from the sand was tossed into a real place for trash; everything but the baseball bat. He was working himself around it and it was working for him.

The morning sun gleamed across it, but Izuku moved it at just the right angle to keep the glare out of his eyes and his warped reflection on the steel surface. He chuckled at the way his head stretched because of the bat and spun the sport’s tool over in his hands to watch it waver ever so slightly as it moved. The dancing of the light off it mellowed him until he stopped the bat in his grip and raised it upright, staring at a cleaner and straighter reflection of himself against its tall surface.

“Still, it wouldn’t hurt to meet him before school starts so you can have an idea of the support gear you can make for him.”

“I’ll start making support gear for him when he comes to my workshop when the year begins. I need his dimensions before I can start designing everything or what I make won’t work for him, and I can’t take measurements or notes or craft anything properly out here. Yuei will have a workshop I can use for all that once we’re accepted.”

“Yeah…once we’re accepted.” Izuku nodded as he looked over the pink-haired girl still tinkering with the box in her lap. “We’ll all make it in.”

“Of course we will. Yuei would be blind not to capitalize on big family names, a first timer for his kind and a genius like myself. They’d fall short if they didn’t focus on what we offer over the competition and what we’re capable of.” Her summarization left a lot to be desired, Izuku would admit, but the general outlook struck home harder than her choice of words. She believed they’d all pass the exam and be accepted. She believed he could pass and be accepted. It was the only hero school across Japan that allowed for quirkless applicants in any department, leaps and bounds beyond even its main rival Shiketsu, and she believed in him. An afterthought to her own focuses and studies, more likely than not, but a gesture he appreciated none the less.

“I’ll make sure I’m giving it my all then,” he told her through his smile. He dug his phone out of his pocket and skewered his mouth at the time. “Need to make sure I’m at least there on time first. Promised Iida I’d meet up with him first before we connect with Ojiro and head on. You sure you don’t want to come along?”

“Tell him if he makes a good enough show at the entrance exam I’ll let him ride front row seats of my showcases with you. All press is good press and having a direct connection to a support studio will only help carry your name into the world of heroics. I’ll let you two and Bifocals parade my babies into the fray for the world to know of my inventions!”

“I’ll put in a word for you.” Izuku choose not to grace the poses Mei gave during her speech with any verbal acknowledgement. He took another look at the beach and the ever shortening piles of trash and the rising sun over the sea. His shoulder rolled from the phantom pain that stung the back of it in memory of the mall and Yaoyorozu and Eri. He had taken his first few steps to being a hero, but both felt like huge leaps up the staircase.

Now it was time to see how many more he’d take.


 

This was it. This was Yuei.

The school towered over Izuku and every other teen who passed him by to enter the gate. The walls of said gate stretched on for seemingly miles, and the green haired teen had half a mind to test his guestimate. He could see less of the stretch of brick from inside the borders, covered either by tree or by building flanking either side of the main building the school chose to shape as the English letter H. The building itself was a sight of its own, walls lined with glass framing and steel outlining, the sunlight glistening and illuminating the monument of a school. Every kid who passed Izuku came in wearing the same awestruck look as they gave the school grounds their attention.

Izuku himself found it intimidating.

“Ya know, I think I can just go home,” Izuku declared. “This is as good as my day’s going to get. No reason for me to go in and watch it crumble before my eyes.” With that, Izuku turned on the ball of his foot, spun his bat onto his shoulder and walked in the other direction of the school.

Only for a tail to swipe in front of him and pull him back in Yuei’s direction.

“No, you’re not,” Ojiro stated, drawing his tail back over his shoulder. “You told me that your thoughts weren’t discouraging you from doing this.”

Izuku groaned. He was grateful for Mashirao and Tenya accepting to join him on the travel over, the three meeting up along the way over the railways and giving Izuku time to introduce the two properly. “Yeah, well, that was before I actually stood outside the place.” Izuku threw a hand towards Yuei’s main building and looked to its peak. “A school building standing 30 times the size of the complex you live in isn’t exactly the most welcoming sight to be greeted to. I was more at peace dreaming of its scale before.”

“Well, for a school of large reputation, one would expect them to live up to it.” Iida adjusted his glasses as he joined his friend in gazing upon the height of the building. “Anything less wouldn’t have garnered them the reputation they have today.”

“I don’t think ‘living up’ meant building to the sky border,” Izuku muttered. He lowered his gaze back upon the pathway leading to its front doors. “That height is probably the same bar they expect their students to reach. Yuei would multitask like that.”

“I was going to say overcompensate but that works too,” Ojiro commented. Silence passed over the boys as Iida and Izuku turned their eyes upon the tailed boy who shrugged back at them. “They don’t exactly have the best acceptance rate for students, and their student body isn’t of the highest count of any hero school. Quality over quantity, I guess.”

Izuku nodded and looked to the school again. “Quality, yeah—”

“If Yuei cares about the quality of their students, they’d know not to humor the thought of letting you attend.”

Izuku pressed his lips together and sighed out his nose as Katsuki passed by Iida’s side. The explosive boy gave a look over his shoulder, giving Izuku a sneer to remember him by and the boys beside him to get a good enough first look of him. “Don’t expect the school to give you any pity points, Deku. You aren’t even worth that.”

“Yeah, and the cost of you is a liability to the school,” Izuku mumbled under his breath, relieved the slightest that the blonde didn’t hear a word as he followed the stream of students into the main building. Izuku knew he was going to see Katsuki at the entrance exam; he was just hoping it be from a further distance so all he could do was glare his way instead of having to talk to him. Hopefully he wouldn’t have to confront him again.

“That’s Bakugou?” Ojiro asked. Izuku nodded. “At least he’s as vile verbally as I expected him to be.”

“I envisioned him taller,” Iida commented, fiddling with the strap of his bag absentmindedly. “With such a vulgar attitude as you’ve mentioned, and even what he showed just now, I assumed multiple factors were playing into his own ego.”

“Just a powerful quirk and a bunch of other kids to scare and threaten into submission,” Izuku summarized. “It’s all he even needed to fill his head. I know Aunt Mitsuki hates that kind of attitude from him, but he at least knows not to act that way around her. It’s more respect than you’d expect him to have, so don’t get your hope up for anything better.” Izuku cocked his head towards his tailed friend and pointed a finger at the building’s doors. “Also, if you want to talk about overcompensation, he is a perfect example.”

Ojiro blinked a moment before his face scrunched in on itself. “Ew, okay, I did not need to envision that.”

“I didn’t tell you to.”

“Midoriya,” Izuku interjected, “while I understand your displeasure and resentment towards Bakugou, I do ask that you not spread or share information or remarks like that. It is an attitude unfit for heroics, and if he does manage to make it into the class, I do hope the school can succeed in remedying that attitude into something more appropriate. Stooping to his level wouldn’t solve anything in the matter.”

“I know, I know.” Izuku turned his head over to his taller friend. “I’m-it’s a shit joke, I’m sorry. I just…wanted to try and lighten the mood a bit, that’s all. Outside of you guys and Hatsume I don’t plan on talking like that with anyone else.” Iida accept the apology with a nod a smile, albeit soured from what Izuku called his joke, and shared between them before all eyes were turned back on the school and silence fell over them.

Izuku drummed along his bat and bit his lip. Stress was eating at him faster than he shoved down his breakfast. It was building in his since he got off the train, and Katsuki’s short confrontation had only piled on to it. He felt like all eyes were on him, even though the quirk remarks the explosive blonde made as he passed hadn’t garnered attention from anyone aside from the three boys standing at the school’s gate. He knew the eyes of teachers would be on him, though, gazing over his shoulder and pinned on the back of his head as he went through whatever tests they were to throw his way. Everyone else taking the test would be under those same eyes, too, but how he was to be viewed compared to everyone else was a question he had yet to answer. He wondered if Iida or Ojiro had similar thoughts plaguing them.

“Well then” – Iida took a glance at his watch and broke the silence – “despite our efforts to arrive earlier than the crowd, I believe our time spent out here will have us struggling through a crowd of other future heroes to fill the auditorium for the opening presentation. I suggest we go in now so we can make sure to secure our seats.”

Ojiro shrugged and agreed, “Yeah I’m fine with that.” He took the first step past the school’s entrance and down the brick road. “It’s been nice getting to stand here and talk, but I’d honestly like to get this test over with.” He turned back to the other teens and pointed to his face. “Do I look overly anxious about this?”

“Not that I am able to tell,” Iida admitted, following over the line behind Mashirao. “If pre-test stress – as my brother calls it – is bothering you, you’ve failed to show it. With all that my family has been telling me about Yuei and its entrance exam, I was worried I would be the only one taking this exam feeling nervous over what such a school is capable of throwing their examinees into.”

“Like you said, ‘school living up to its reputation’ and all that,” Ojiro chimed.

Izuku smiled softly, watching and hearing his two friends’ converse without him. It was a weight off his chest to know their thoughts, and another off his shoulder to know he at least had them by his side in the test. He hoped that would stay true physically as much as it was emotionally.

“Midoriya!” Iida called out to him, breaking the green teen out of his mind. “We really should hurry. A school like this would capitalize on punctuality and it would be in our best efforts to show an interest in maintaining and exceeding their expectations even now.” Ojiro beckoned their friend over with a silent hand wave, turning up an eyebrow towards Iida during the latter half of his sentence.

“Alright, alright,” he forfeited and threw his hand into the air. “I’m coming.” With a deep breath he took one step over the line, just far enough to be on the school’s brick path, feeling no different standing fully within the school lines as he did outside of them. An exhale of relief followed before he continued again behind the two boys towards the main building. “Let’s get this exam up and over with—” Still behind his two friends, Izuku’s foot hit against a brick – sticking out loose from the paved road beneath them – and sent himself falling face-first towards the ground.

He caught himself though, his bat flying down faster than him and landing top first on the ground. Izuku kept himself propped at an angle, stressing to hold himself on his feet with the bat as his other hand corrected to push him back upright. He swayed on his feet as he collected his composure to find both his friends still walking forward as though nothing had happened. He patted himself down, coughed into the back of his hand to act as oblivious as his friends and hurried after them; on the way over, he made sure to bonk his bat on the brick his foot had connected with before someone else got caught by it too.

Izuku stayed oblivious to the girl who paused behind him as he tripped, still stuck in place as he recovered before she could reach him and left before he could acknowledge her, and the brick he had wacked back into its place, albeit cracked at its end.


 

Izuku sighed and pressed his face into his hand. “Of course the seating arrangement is sorted by school districts…”

“The hell you muttering, Deku?”

“Not a single thing you care about.”

If his heart wasn’t already a whirlwind of emotions going into the test, Izuku would have given Katsuki more emotion in his response; joy of disregard or anger of acknowledgement to being beside the blonde, Izuku wasn’t sure which he would have used. The feeling came mutual from the explosive teen by his side, with the blonde leaning back in his chair and Izuku forward in his to help keep what distance they could from one another. Izuku could see, over his shoulder, the glare Katsuki was giving his very existence, but merely gave note to knowing the other boy was as he always was.

Instead, Izuku poured more attention to the room around them. It was one of apparently four lecture halls the school was using for the opening to its entrance exam, and it was near packed to the brim with students all over Japan – and probably the world – filling its seats up and down the rows. He had parted ways with Ojiro, who had his prefecture situated in a different room than his, but got lucky with Iida joining him in the same lecture room – up until the two had to sit in reserved seats designated by the schools the students came from. Izuku knew what that meant for his seating arrangement before he even saw it, or more accurately saw him – Bakugou Fuckin’ Katsuki – glaring daggers into his eyes as he found his place among the crowd of students.

At least Izuku could see his blue-haired pal seated several rows in front of him, sitting attentively for the exam to begin.

“You got two dipshits to follow you around and be your cheerleaders or somethin’?” Katsuki jeered him.

“Unlike yours, my friends actually strive to be something other than mindless,” Izuku retorted, looking back over his shoulder to the other boy.

“Staying around someone as worthless as you doesn’t exactly prove they have any brains of their own.”

“Maybe that’s why Tsubasa left; so he could finally grow his own.”

Katsuki scoffed. “That chicken couldn’t even grow a pair. Coward wasted his quirk wanting to learn medicine like his dad.”

“Do you just hate everyone, generally?” Izuku pivoted in his seat, drawing his bat over his lap with his other hand. “Is there a single person on this planet you could compliment that isn’t yourself?”

The blonde’s shoes kicked off the desktop and left him to fall forward, his face inches away from Izuku’s. “I don’t hate anyone, Deku,” Katsuki hissed. “I just don’t sympathize with weaklings who squander their gifts and potential. Or those who waste their time chasing a fantasy.”

Izuku could feel the finger pressed against his chest with the direction of that last sentence. “Really, I’m the one chasing it?” He kept his voice hushed in comparison to the rest of the room, but he could see Katsuki shift his expression from hearing him. “If being a hero is so far out of my reach, I’m surprised it’s in your line of sight.”

The explosive teen’s single laugh was dry of joy. “Out of the two of us, I was actually trying to be a hero. I’ve been training ever since I got my quirk while you’ve been dawdling away taking notes in your dream journals without putting any real effort outside of the last year. You honestly think your half assed attempt to catch up with the rest of us is going to make you a hero?”

There was a lot more sting to Katsuki’s words there, enough to keep Izuku’s remark hesitant. He wasn’t wrong; Izuku hadn’t done any sort of training, anywhere close to what he had done in the span of a few months, ever since he was diagnosed as quirkless. He had no brawn like the rest of the kids around him, and his brain had taken priority and the notebooks did too. If he could still fathom being a hero, then learning from the greatest in the business was the first step down that road. Had he really been that hesitant to take the next step on that journey?

He was, Izuku hissed at himself. He waited over 10 years before he decided on any proper training to be a hero. By then he was years behind any of his peers, especially Katsuki who had figured out what he wanted to be and focused his effort on being the biggest in the room. Most everyone in the auditorium around him had probably done the same, even those who weren’t aiming for heroics; they had a place in mind to go and put all their heart in their work to apply to Yuei to make their dreams a reality. Izuku was years behind on starting, so how was he supposed to compare?

“I asked you a question, fuckin’ Deku,” Katsuki jeered him. “You gonna respond or did it some common sense finally get through your head?”

Izuku’s knuckles spotted white as he clutched the bat in his lap. He could see All Might’s face; not the bright and powerful smile plastered on his walls, but the skeletal frown he had seen on the rooftop. Being the powerful eruptions that run from Katsuki’s palms, he could hear the crass insults and sneers that colored the blonde’s face.

Izuku didn’t have to compare to their images, not when the men underneath were a swing and a miss.

“Yeah, I guess something finally did,” he responded, turning back towards the podium under the spotlight to hide the smallest of smirks on his face.

“Welcome to today’s live performance!” a voice boomed around the room, drawing all attention towards the spotlight and the lanky blonde man beneath him. Izuku heard Katsuki scoff, most likely in his direction, and turn his own attention to the pro hero, Present Mic, standing before them. Behind him, the screens covering the wall flickered on and showcased the school’s UA logo.  “Everybody say ‘HEY’!”

The room around them was deathly silent in response, and Izuku had to agree that joining in on that cheer would have been awkward.

“Well that’s cool, my little listeners!” The pro hero seemed unaffected by the cold response, striking a pose as he pointed to the crowd of students laid out before him. “I’m here to present the guidelines of your practical! Are you ready?!” Another bout of silence rushed over the room from the students.

“We’re learning about the practical before we get to the written?” Izuku pondered. “A bit out of order.”

“Written exams are tests and the same at every school,” Katsuki commented, surprised Izuku that he would at all. “They have no reason to lecture us about something we already know how to take or wait until afterwards to blindside us with the practical.”

“This is how the test will go, my listeners!” The screens behind Mic snapped into another image, of one box branching into several smaller boxes. “You’ll be experiencing ten-minute-long ‘mock cityscape maneuvers’! Bring along whatever you want! After this presentation, you’ll each head over to your assigned testing location! Outside of the city will be the building you take your written exams in, and once you’ve completed it and the time runs out, you can head on over to the changing rooms to get ready for the practical! O.K.?!”

The bat along his lap gained weight in Izuku’s hand. Not everyone had a quirk their body could or would control, and thus were given equipment growing up to help them manage their powers. Some had to continue using items – even upgrading them – as they grew up. Him using a bat and being quirkless seemed to fall under the same category for the Yuei staff to have approved his use of it. All he had to do was prove it was worth convincing them.

“That’s so kids from the same middle school can’t help each other out, yeah?” Katsuki’s absent question brought back Izuku’s attention, the blonde boy reading off the handout he was given when he entered the auditorium. Izuku looked at his own after he fished it out of his pocket, finding the letter B on his not matching the E on Katsuki’s.

“Guess they don’t want kids who grew up knowing each other so well to work together for the exam,” Izuku guessed. “There are hero groups though. Probably just makes it easier on the teachers to grade people on their individual work here. Not like separating us is going to make much of a difference.”

Katsuki scoffed. “I’ll crush everyone testing in my area. And don’t think you’re safe just because I won’t be around to watch you fail it.”

“Yeah, because everyone here has the intent of sabotaging everyone else. Sure.”

“Each site is filled with three kinds of mechanical faux villains!” Mic continued, seemingly oblivious to any conversations students were holding in front of him over what he was sharing with them. The screens behind him changed again, each of the three showing off a different silhouette. Izuku only recognized them because they were the same ones on the handout he received when entering the lecture room. “Points are rewarded for defeating each according to their respective difficulty levels! Use your quirks to disable these faux villains and earn points! That’s your goal, listeners!”

“You think they’ll hand out points on a technicality?” Katsuki’s remark didn’t elicit much other than unamusement from the green teen.

“Of course,” Present Mic added, “playing the antihero and attacking other examinees is prohibited!”

“And look, there goes half of your points.” Izuku’s comment earned an equally unimpressed expression from the blonde boy. He took a second to smile back dryly before turning to the handout laid on the countertop before him. The pro hero clearly said three faux villains would be what they fought against, but there were clearly four headshots printed out on the paper.

“May I ask a question?!” Izuku’s head shot to the figure that shot out of his seat rows in front of him. It seemed Iida had made a similar notice. “There appear to be four variants of faux villains on the handout we have been given! But you’ve stated that there are only three of us to fight against! Such a blatant error, if it is one, is highly unbecoming of Japan’s top academy!”

“You’d be surprised how many small errors we make at this school,” Present Mic heartily replied, unbothered by Iida’s surprised and almost appalled pose in response. Izuku bit his tongue from looking over his shoulder and following up with a remark to Katsuki, and he knew the blonde teen was doing the same if his silence was anything to go by. “You make a good point, examinee 7111, there are four icons on the handouts! But the fourth faux villain doesn’t reward points upon defeat! He’s more of an obstacle for you listeners to think and work around! Each testing site has one – and only one – ‘gimmick’ villain that rampages through the city, and all you have to do with it is turn tail and move on to something else!”

“I see. Thank you for the clarification!” Iida bowed to the pro hero before dipping back into his seat, letting Mic fall back into his ‘script.’

“If there are no more questions, then that’s all from me!” Present Mic struck another pose, pointing to the screens behind them as the flickered again, each screen showing two of the lettered testing areas and grouped numbers below the boxes. “With the numbers you’ve been given, take yourself to the next step and prepare for your tests! All the while, I’ll leave my listeners with our school’s motto!” The middle screen behind him altered, pushing its two testing areas closer to the top and bottom borders, leaving enough space in the middle for two large words to pop up in between them. “If you’re going to pass, little listeners, you’ll have to try harder than you possibly can! Plus Ultra!”

That was a cheer most of the auditorium joined him in, and Izuku would have to had Katsuki not dropped a hand on his shoulder. As everyone else around them climbed out of their seats to go, the two boys stayed in their place, and the students on either side of them turned away to leave.

“Even with a baseball bat, don’t expect to do anything against robots,” Katsuki sneered and frowned at him in a whisper. “Your dumbass pals aren’t going to help you get through this exam and you and I both know you won’t be able to carry your weight in the practical. You’d be lucky to even get into general studies, and at worst end up in the hospital trying to fight against metal with nothing to help you. Do us both a favor and just walk out of the school now; Yuei doesn’t need an insult like you in its heroics program.”

There was no smoke emitting from his palm or Izuku’s jacket when Katsuki pulled away and stomped off just as soon as he finished talking. He didn’t give Izuku a moment to respond before he was out the aisle and down the stairs. It was quicker and shorter than he remembered any other encounter with the blonde, though it did remind him of the last time they had been in such a position to one another.

“The best heroes out there, well” – Katsuki tossed a singed notebook out the school window absentmindedly, stalking closer to the Izuku he cornered against the back wall of their middle school classroom – “they showed signs of greatness even as students. I’ll be the first and only hero from this crappy public middle school! The first to win the honor of becoming a student at Yuei High. Guess I’m just a perfectionist.”

Katsuki dropped a hand on Izuku’s shoulder, letting his quirk sear against the fabric as he gave the shivering boy a sick smile. “In other words, don’t you dare get into Yuei, nerd!”

The blonde left the green teen shaking against the wall, turning on his heel and heading out the door with his lackeys behind him. Before he took his exit, he turned his head back over his shoulder. “You wanna be a hero so bad?” he sang mockingly. “I’ve got a time-saving idea for you. If you think you’ll have a quirk in your next life…go take a swan dive off the roof!”

“Why the hell do you think I would listen to you?” Izuku grumbled to himself. He swung his bat underneath his arm and locked it there as he got from his seat and turned the opposite way of the explosive teen’s exit, taking his way down the row and the stairs to the taller blue-haired boy who had been waiting for him at the exit.

All the while, his thoughts lingered on Katsuki’s words.


 

To Toshinori Yagi, Yuei was how he remembered it. The school was always massive in scale and position, and every time he returned it felt like he found something new that he never noticed before. Hallways he had never been down, classrooms he never had to go in, offices he didn’t know were occupied; for all the school was worth and all any student could achieve in it, each dream imagined was only a fraction of what the school had to offer. Every other piece was filled by every other dream, and there were probably many more that had yet to take form in the school’s system to make use of what was left.

The problem did occur when the school turned into a labyrinth as he tried to find the observation room for the entrance exam. He had spent the early morning with his prodigy and a short conversation between his old mentor and once sidekick – he’d avoided talking with them so long, he wasn’t surprised they held such short conversations in return. Now, he was running late, in his lanky form no less, trying to follow the list of directions the principle had left him and second guessing every turn he made.

“Nedzu likes his games, but I’d prefer it if he left them for the students,” the hero mumbled to himself. “This isn’t the kind of stress I need today.”

“Hey Yagi!” The lanky blonde nearly tripped over his own two feet as he stopped and backtracked down the hall to the last opening, finding a taller blonde dressed in back and speakers waving him down.

“Ah, Yamada,” he greeted the other hero. “Finally, someone in this forsaken building.”

“Having troubles, number one?” the vocal hero jested, striding down the hall to greet the approaching gentleman.

“More like a nightmare,” Yagi grumbled, waving the list of directions to the other man. “Nedzu gave me these to try and find the camera room so I could watch the exam with you all, but he wrote some of them in riddles that I’m having trouble finding the answers too.” It didn’t help that some of them were also written in cardinal directions; he was inside, how the hell was he supposed to know which way West was?

“Well, have no fear! I was heading that way myself! Just send the listeners off to take their tests, and was hoping to catch some coffee with Nemuri if she hasn’t stolen it all yet.”

“Let me join you in all of that, please.” Yagi tailed beside Present Mic as they made their way down the halls. “I took my time with a small breakfast this morning, and some caffeine would only do me wonders.”

“I thought stuff like that messed with your stomach,” Mic prodded him.

“No, sugar does that.”

“I’ll make sure to overload your cup with it then!” the booming hero sung, earning a sweat drop out of the skeletal man.

“Your teasing is worse than Kageyama’s.”

The walk to the camera room was filled with Mic’s banter, and truthfully he did enjoy listening to the man ramble on about his coworkers. It reminded him of the hero’s radio show, of which Yagi would indulge in during his overseas travels. Over the short year he had been back in Japan and prepping for a position as a teacher and instructor among the staff of Yuei, he hadn’t really chatted up the other heroes he would be working with, and had probably only really gotten to meet most of them over the past two months actually spending time on campus. It helped that his successor was already a student among the rest, and spending the spring semester and the end of the fall had given him time behind closed doors to learn about his job and responsibilities. Most of that was spent with the school’s principal, however, seeing as most teachers were busy either teaching or on the field. The hero courses’ homeroom teachers had some time with him, all apart from one who apparently didn’t have a homeroom class and spent his duties working outside the school as a hero.

It was a strange thing to learn, of a teacher with no classes and skipping school himself, but Yagi could applaud the man for spending his free time as the hero he was instead of showboating it as many young ones to the job would. Maybe he’d finally get to meet the man.

Apparently the watch room was in a watch tower, and not the main building of the school; a fact of which had Yagi more tired than angry as he walked out under the sun to the giant pillar of a structure. The elevator ride was quick, a German song playing above the two pro heroes during it and one the lanky man remembered from his time spent abroad. He was humming the tune of the final chorus as the elevator dinged open and he and the other hero made their entrance into the dark room lit only by the plentiful screens overlaying the front wall.

“Ah, Toshinori,” a squeaking voice chimed up, “I’m glad you could finally join us.” The thin man turned his attention to the voice and the two-foot-tall rodent-like figure that it came from.

“I would have sooner if you gave me normal instructions, but then I’d know they weren’t coming from you, Nedzu,” Yagi told him as he made his way over to where the principal of the school sat. “Can’t say I wouldn’t have preferred normal instructions.”

“Not everything is fun if I can’t keep you on your toes,” Nedzu joked back, gesturing to the chair beside him for the hero to sit down in. Yagi did, and took a moment to survey the room again, finding four chairs behind him and a few more around him still vacant. “Thank you for helping Toshinori find his way here all the same, Yamada. I would rather we all be here ahead of schedule so we can watch our new flock of examinees when the practical begins.”

“Anytime, prince!” Mic saluted, hopping his way over to the back wall and the snack wall that laid against it.

“Seems I still managed to beat part of the crowd,” Yagi mentioned, gesturing over to the various empty seats. “Were any of them called on duty?”

“A few, but I only prepared seats for those who I knew would be joining us today. Besides” – Nedzu scooted forward in his chair, clicking the buttons of his laptop a few times before scooting back – “we have a few guests joining us today, and I have Nemuri showing them around campus while the examinees are still taking their written tests.”

“Seeing as how we still have coffee, I can tell,” Yamada interjected, stepping in between the two and handing Yagi a cup of his own. The lanky blonde thanked the other hero, who nodded back and fell into his own seat further down the front. “You sure she was the best choice as their chaperone? As intimidating as he looks, Nishida would have loved to give anyone a tour of the campus.”

“I have him watching over the written exams,” Nedzu explained. “And he offered the position to Nemuri knowing the fact. They’ve been touring the campus since you, Kan, 13 and Inui gave your opening guidelines, so they should be arriving here in a few minutes. You can keep this appearance up when they arrive too. Better than straining yourself needlessly.”

Yagi took a hesitant sip of his drink. “Are-are you sure? I haven’t been in my big form all that much today. I can keep it for the rest of the exams and then some if they plan on staying over a while afterwards.”

Nedzu only waved him off and scooted back to his computer again. “No need. I’ll be asking you to roam the campus in your current state over the course of the next school year anyways. With your time running lower and the decisions you’ve made playing into that, I think having you ease into a new normal around the students here would be far better on your health than having you push and stress your buff physique whenever a student is nearby.” A ping rang from Nedzu’s computer as Yagi nodded in understanding and the principal leaned back in his chair with a grin. “Speaking of which, here they come now.”

The ding of the doors behind him made Yagi jump and nearly spill his drink before he could place it down on the desk in front of him. Through the doorway sauntered in Nemuri, dressed up in her heroine uniform as Midnight, with four teenagers trailing in behind her. The number one hero cursed the short principal beside him for another one of his games as he collected himself and watched the 18 and up heroine strike a pose and gesture to the room before them.

“And this, lovelies, is where we shall be watching your fellow soon-to-be’s take their exam!” Nemuri sang, near encouraging one of the girl’s to shoot forward and beam at the room around her. The rest lagged behind her, each looking around the room and soaking in the sights for themselves.

“Man, you guys really do go all out in every department,” the front girl gushed, looking from screen to screen and the testing grounds they displayed. “And I thought the gymnasium was decked out for what it was. This place is a streamer’s dream.”

“Well I do enjoy making dreams into realities,” Nedzu chimed in, drawing the attention of the girl and the other three teens over to him and Toshinori. “I do have to say our means of entertainment don’t exactly show your regular programming, but I think what you’ll get to watch will be just as exciting.” The short principal turned his chair to face the four teens collecting themselves together beside Midnight. “I’ll take them from here, Nemuri. Thank you for giving them a tour of the school.”

“My pleasure,” she mock saluted before jumping over to Present Mic below her and diving after his cup of coffee, starting a fight between the two of them over it as Nedzu took the teen’s attention.

“Welcome to my school,” he greeted them and pointed a paw at the four chairs behind his. “Please, take a seat. I’ve been excited to finally welcome our recommendation students join us for an event like this, and I’m hoping the year ahead will please you to find more surprises like this.”

The four students made way to the seats and Yagi took small notes as he watched them. The chattiest of them already had been the only one to move with the same laid back attitude the other teachers around them had, while the other three students kept quiet and to their own varying levels of stiff and formal as they each took a seat. To say he wasn’t surprised Nedzu had brought students along to watch the exam would be a lie, but to say he wasn’t having a minor panic having his civilian look presented to students immediately would have been too. If he had known beforehand, he would have invited Mirio to join him for a bit of comfort in the situation.

“Tokage, Yaoyorozu, Todoroki, Honenuki.” Nedzu nodded to each kid as he said their name, giving Yagi a moment to put each name to a face before the sentient animal gestured to him. “This is one of the staff at Yuei you will be seeing around from time to time, Toshinori. He’ll be a councilor bouncing between the classes of each year’s heroic departments, so you’ll be seeing him more often than most of your school mates will.”

Yagi bowed his head to the four teens as they turned to them. “Pleasure to meet you all,” he greeted them. “Toshinori Yagi. I’m hoping to do what I can in aiding and shaping you all into the world’s next batch of heroes. Apologies if I don’t exactly look the part you were expecting.” He gestured bashfully to his thin body with a chuckle.

“It’s alright sensei,” the girl with green hair told him with a smile. “Looks don’t matter all that much to me. I’m sure someone who’s been around as long as you will be a great teacher. I can’t wait to learn under you.”

Yagi coughed into his hand, hiding what specks of blood he could from the kids in the dimly lit room. “I’m only in my early forties,” he muttered over his knuckles. “I may look like I’ve lived nine generations – and trust me it feels like it sometimes – but I’m probably as old as all of your old men.”

The green girl – Tokage – nearly toppled out of her chair as she bowed to him. “M-my apologies sensei! I didn’t mean to offend you or anything!” Her face was beat red as she shot back upright. “I-I shouldn’t have made a comment like that!”

“It’s fine.” Yagi waved her off and patted the corner of his lips to collect any drips he may have missed. “You’re not the first person to think of me as an old man; I get it quite a lot. Let’s just chop this up to a mistake. I’m not going to judge you because you made one. You are going to a school to learn after all – consider it your first lesson from me.”

“T-thank you sir!” She gave him another quick bow before shrugging her shoulders and collecting herself. “T-Tokage Setsuna. It’s a pleasure to meet you, Toshinori-sensei and Principal Nedzu.”

Yagi nodded back to her, a small thanks for her introduction, before he pivoted ever so slightly to the girl beside her. She was quite taller than Tokage, and from her posture far more out of place. She gave the green girl beside her a quizzical look before she caught Yagi’s eyes and straightened herself for a short, seated bow. “Yaoyorozu Momo. Thank you for accepting me into Yuei, Principal. And it is a pleasure to meet you too, sensei.”

“Likewise. I recognize your family name.” The lanky hero fiddled his hands in his lap. “I’ve never gotten to meet them in person, but I’ve worked beside plenty heroes who have. Your family has been quite the beneficial benefactor to heroes all over the world. Give your parents my thanks for their work.”

“Thank you sensei.” Yaoyorozu smiled kindly to him. “Mother and Father would be happy to hear someone appreciates their work that much.”

“Far and beyond.” While more standard than complex, the Yaoyorozu family was quite the big name in the support industry. Had Yagi never met David, he was certain he would have fallen back on the family for another kind of support in his hero work, if not a close third.

The boy beside her was one vaguely familiar to the hero’s eyes, but not enough for him to guess on the top of his head. The split hair of white and red and the scar over his eye rang a bell—“Todoroki Shouto. It’s a pleasure to meet you, senseis.” Ah, that was it. One of his long time ‘rival’s.’

“Yes, I’ve heard about you,” Yagi told the young Todoroki. “You’re Enji’s son. He’s talked about you quite a lot. His pride and joy, knowing you would get into Yuei before you were old enough to apply.” The prodigal son looked uncomfortable at his words, what Yagi read as embarrassment in front of total strangers. The pro hero bit his tongue knowing he would have to do so again in the future for something like that. “Apologies. It’s a pleasure to finally meet you.”

The last boy of the group bowed his head before Yagi had fully turned over to him. “Honenuki Juzo. It’s an honor to be accepted into Yuei.”

“It’s wonderful enough to know you trust this school with your future. Apologies that I am unfamiliar with your family names.” He bowed his head to Honenuki and Tokage. “Do know that I will treat none of you differently for the families you come from. I’ll make sure to help you and your classmates to the best of my abilities, equally.”

“Thank you, sensei,” the four students accepted, bowing together as he did to them.

The sound of soft claps drew the attention of the five to Nedzu bringing his paws together. “Wonderful. Now that you’ve all been fairly acquitted with one another, let me begin. You four are our first recommended students in Yuei history to be invited into this room, during a freshman practical exam, no less. Understand that I, like Toshinori, will not be treating any of you different from the rest of your classmates, and that a situation like this is no different. You’re here to watch the practical exam with us, but nothing you say about the examinees will be taken into consideration when grading their performances. I wish to treat this instead as a bonding exercise.”

Nedzu spun his chair back around, tapping his fingers against the keys of his computer. “As competitive as the world of heroics may be, much of the profession is built upon companionship and team coordination. No one man or woman is capable of everything, and in a perfect world heroes will be at the stage where they can do everything together. I don’t expect your generation to be the one that gets us there, but I ask that you try to get as close as you can to that perfection.” The screens overhead bounced around other perspectives, locking on to the gates in front of each mock city. “To get there together is to look out for and support each other. Some of these students may become your classmates, and I only ask you four to work together in watching how the act and what you would and could do to help them become even better. Keep in mind, those who do become your classmates will be doing the same as you during your years here, taking note of what each of you are capable of and what they can do to work alongside you – and you alongside them – in real world situations, so you need not worry of bearing the weight of the world on your shoulders. They’ll be there to carry it with you.”

The four students gave a sound-off in unison before they turned in on each other and began their own introductions. Yagi turned his chair like Nedzu’s, giving the teens their time together some privacy as he looked down at the school’s principal. “I can’t help but feel some of that was targeted at me,” he whispered down at him.

“Togata may become a wonderful pillar for society, maybe even stand taller than you do, but no monument stands on one pillar alone.” Nedzu kept his voice equally hushed as he skipped through camera angle after camera angle on his computer. “The world you made is a strong one, but even more so, you’ve laid the groundwork for a world we can make even better. Now to see who else makes for the proper building material.”


 

Izuku wasn’t completely confident that he had passed the written exam. Not too many questions required that much attention to answer or explain, but his thoughts wouldn’t focus on the paper and pencil in front of him. He had spent several minutes of his test time swinging his pencil by the wrist as a stress reliever. Getting to finally see Ectoplasm in person was equally worse on his attention span, and he had almost asked the hero to sign his exam papers when he had finished as left the testing building. He did succeed in smacking himself upside the head for that when he was changing into his tracksuit for the practical.

Waiting for the practical to begin only added more stress to his body. As heartily as he wished he could have ignored Katsuki’s words, they were ringing in his head. The exam they all had to take would have them fighting robots. How was he supposed to counter that with a baseball bat and his wits? How was he supposed to break down machines to get the points he needed to pass? Was there a catch to them, a way to damage them less to earn more points or that he wouldn’t have to break them at all and earning points off them through some other means? Was he being too hopeful? Would throwing off his jacket and swinging his bat around solve any problems?

Izuku opted to give that last question a test, zipping his jacket open instead of ripping it off and taking steps away from the other examinees so he could get some practice in with his bat.

Three minutes of stomping about and slashing and swinging his bat around answered his question with a resounding no. Even in mindless practice would his thoughts wander to those that bugged him. Would all of his training prove to be for naught, or would he actually stand a chance and pass the exam? The longer he had to wait for it to being, the more it gnawed at the back of his mind, and the more hopeless everything began to sound, minus one soft voice.

“H-hi,” a voice stuttered behind Izuku, causing him to stutter and whip his head around before his body followed suit. The girl it came from jolted back a step in surprise, an uneasy smile across her face wavering as he stared her down. She wasn’t someone he recognized, not by the brown bob of her hair or her choice of an almost one-to-one pink version of his own tracksuit.

“Hey,” he drawled out, lowering his bat as he evened out his shoulders. “Hi.” The brunette before him didn’t seem to know how to respond, and with little to go off of, Izuku found himself in the same predicament. He gestured out at her, waving his hand slightly to the side. “Is… did I—can I do something for you?”

The question proved enough to ease a choppy laugh out of her, as she patted the glowing red of her cheeks. “S-sorry, sorry. I spaced out there. I…I saw you at the school’s entrance, when you tripped and stopped yourself from hitting the ground.” Izuku coughed into the back of his hand absently, hiding a growing blush of his own behind his knuckles. “I-I was actually going to try and catch you before you fell, since I-I was right behind you when it happened, but you caught yourself before I could reach you. I thought it w-was pretty cool how you were able to balance yourself like that.”

“O-oh, uh…thanks.” Izuku swayed on the balls of his feet, having to acknowledge being confronted on his little slip up when he had first entered the school. A bit more embarrassing of a situation than he was expecting to experience today. “Sorry I-I didn’t notice you back then. I wasn’t intentionally trying to ignore you, if you were that close. That’s-uh-that was nice of you to try, anyways.”

“T-thanks!” she beamed at him, and he returned the smile, albeit strained between his heated cheekbones. A minute of silence passed between them, and Izuku watched the girl drum her fingers together and sway on the balls of her feet as she looked at the buildings and fields around them.

“Are-uh…nervous?” Izuku’s question was able to draw her attention back to him, and her wide-eyed expression spoke volumes before her voice did.

“Oh…yeah actually.” She gave a nervous giggle and rubbed the back of her head. “I-I’m not from around these parts, actually, so this is the closest I’ve ever been to this school. The ride over here was kinda long, so I spent it trying to prepare myself mentally on the bus. Not sure I did enough…”

“Yeah…you and me both,” Izuku sympathized, tapping the tip of his bat against his toes. “Kinda thinking there wasn’t much I could have done to be ready enough in the department.”

“W-well hopefully we’ve trained enough to be accept i-into the hero department instead.” She gave a weak chuckle at her own joke, and Izuku couldn’t stop himself from joining in.

“Hopefully.”

Izuku rolled his bat in his hand as they fell silent again. The girl’s eyes dropped to the bat twirling beside his hip. In turn, her hands caught his own eyes; more accurately, the pink marks decorating her finger prints were brought to his attention. There were similar to the dots on the girl’s cheeks, though the design to them didn’t match completely. Either a physical mutation from a parent or something tied to her quirk, Izuku guessed.

The brunette gestured to the bat by his side. “Are you…taking that into the exam?”

He hummed in question, his brain lapsing a moment before he remembered what he was carrying. “Oh, yeah. I…uh, I probably wouldn’t pass the test without it.” Izuku bounced words around the tip of his tongue, choosing carefully what came next. “It’s nice Yuei allows its examinees to take supplementary gear into the tests so they can use their quirks more effectively.”

Izuku wasn’t sure who was more shocked; the girl before him who looked at him surprised, or himself seeing the girl be surprised at his words. “T-they do?”

“Ye…yeah. People are still born with quirk their bodies can’t handle, and many of them have to wear or carry something to help maintain and control their quirk. Yuei’s rules balance it out for other examinees so anyone and everyone can bring something in to help better their tests scores, as long as they send in registration forms and the school signs off for those who ask to use them.”

“Oh…” The girl looked down at her shoes and tapped the soles together. Her fingers drummed unevenly. “That-that sounds really useful.”

“I-I’m hoping it is.” Hoping quick to change the topic before it was too late, he pointed to her dancing hands. “You have some nice fingertips—prints! I mean cool—cool fingerprints! Or the um, uh” – Izuku smacked a hand over his face and grumbled into his palm, and between his fingers could see the girl before him didn’t look any better than he felt – “t-those markings on your fingers. Are-are they related any to your quirk?”

The brunette girl nodded her head vigorously, patting her cheeks to filter the steam out of her ears. “Yes! Uh, I-I mean yeah.” She turned her hands to face him better, giving Izuku a clear look at the pink ovals covering the top joints of each digit. “Connecting them to anything or together can activate and deactivate my quirk.” She gave a small giggle and curled her fingers inwards. “I’m not too sure where they came from, since my mom and dad don’t have any of their own. I get these from my mom” – she pointed to the pink dots highlighting the top of her cheeks – “but the ones on my fingers are a first in the family.”

“Huh, guess we both get our dots from our parents,” Izuku joked in his attempt to keep the mood lighter. He scratched a finger around the freckles under his eyes, the ones his mother told him he got from his father. What pictures they had around the house of him only cemented her claim. Happy coincidence it was to find someone with a similar tale, though Izuku doubted the girl or her parents considered what she had as freckles. Close enough, he reasoned.

Closer than he was to this stranger, Izuku realized. “Oh, we um-I don’t know your name. How—we—hi?” Izuku dropped his hands to his sides and gave a small bow. “Midoriya Izuku. Sorry, I just realized we haven’t said our names yet.” The girl before him joined him in the soft laugh that followed.

“You’re right. Sorry, I got caught up in…all that. Uraraka Ochako.” She bowed in return, her fingertips pressed together in front of her stomach.

The two were only given a short moment to relish in each other’s names before a loud buzz sounded around them, both teens jumping in response and turning to see students shuffle out of the written testing building. That must have been the end of the time limit of that, Izuku reasoned and scanned over the crowd looking for Iida. If there was any solace in the tests so far, it was knowing Iida would be in the same testing ground as him. With Ojiro in a different district and Mei scheduled for a different day and department, he was happy to have at least one friend in arm’s reach.

“Guess the practical is starting soon,” the girl beside him muttered, turning her attention to the giant doors of the mock city beside them both. “There are a lot more people testing than I thought there would be. I think there’s enough people around us to make all of Yuei’s classes next year.”

“Yeah, and there’s six more groups like this and we’re all applying for the same two classes,” Izuku added. He wasn’t finding Iida among the crowd shuffling out of the changing halls beside the written test building or the latter. Where was he? “Most classes have a cap of 20 students for admission, and not every class even gets filled completely. I hear the support classes don’t even get 10.” Uraraka looked baffled at that. “Yuei makes the best of the best, but I guess it only accepts them, too. They just have to filter them out for the public to see.”

“It’s kinda intimidating,” Uraraka admitted, shuffling a hand behind her head. “But Yuei is the top school in the nation for a reason, I guess…”

“What a coincidence; I was going to say the same.”

Uraraka and Izuku jumped forward with a yelp, the latter launching a step forward and throwing his bat over his head ready to swing as he finally took notice of Iida in his blue running attire standing behind them. “Jesus…Christ, Iida,” Izuku panted, dropping his arm again. “You nearly gave me a heart attack. I don’t need one more today.”

“Midoriya, I do hope you’re joking,” Iida told him. “You’ve exaggerated this before and you shouldn’t be risking your health if you think you’ll collapse during the test.”

“I-I think I’m having one now,” Uraraka admitted, fallen on her knees and clutching her chest. “Is everything in Tokyo like this?”

“My apologies!” Iida launched forward and helped the girl back on her feet, still shaken and leaning back from the tall boy that had appeared. “I hadn’t meant to startle either of you so badly, but I was having trouble spotting either of you with so many other fellow examinees around us. The only reason I had not called your name was because I wished not to make a scene as everyone else prepares for the exam. I was surprised to find you conversing with someone else instead of taking your time to prepare for the test.”

“That’s what we’re trying to do, to varying success.” Izuku patted his shirt and readjusted his jacket. “You were taking too long on the written test, and I was kinda just getting anxious, and we just kinda started talking. I wish I could say my confidence has gone up, but I’m still just as worried about this whole thing as before. The practical is gonna be one hell of a test.” Iida nodded his head into his hand in agreement, and Uraraka lowered her head in thought a moment before she rose it back up.

“I…I have faith,” she muttered. “I came all this way…and my parents saw me off so I could be here…I have no reason to give up now, w-whether it’s gonna be hell or not.”

“While I am…less inclined to use as little profanity as that, I agree in the sentiment wholeheartedly.” Iida fixed his glasses on his nose so a shine reflected off of them. “My family has done nothing but support me in my efforts to be a hero. As much as I do this for myself, I’m aiming to be a hero for them too.

Izuku saw a similar shine in the brunette’s eyes as she turned her slowly growing smile towards the bluenette. “Y-yeah, exactly.” He tugged at the helm of his jacket and brought the bat to rest beside his hip. His mom was at home cheering him on, he knew she was. Iida and Uraraka had their parents to impress and have support them, and Izuku knew he now had the same too. He had a dream to fight for and a bully to stand up to and friends to support in their own dreams as they supported his own.

He had a reason to keep his spirits up and fight.

“AAAAND…BEGIN!”

Heads shot up all around them, and Izuku joined everyone in looking to the sky. Or more accurately, to the top of the tower behind them and the vague figure shouting from the rooftop.

“WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?” Present Mic shouted back down at them. “THE TEST HAS BEGUN! GO, GO GO!!”

Almost instantly did Izuku’s head snap back down, watching as the colossal doors before his testing group open and watching the examinees in front of him dash on in to the testing area. Iida and Uraraka were quick to join the crowd, their eyes dead-set forward for the fighting they were about to engage in. But he stayed back, just a moment longer; to put both his hand around the grip of his bat, raise the steel pillar close to his head, and look his warped reflection in what little of his eyes he could see.

Then he ran forward too.


 

The first minute of the practical was nothing but nail-biting for Izuku.

Because of his later start, he had avoided being stuffed in the crowd before him, which at least gave him space to roll his shoulders as he ran in. On the flipside, his friend and the girl he just met got to tail that same crowd in, and the empty streets he took not to get caught up in fighting other people for points left him hearing the battles echo in the distance with little sight of the faux villains for him to take on.

He was without friend or foe, a situation concerning on its own given the exam surrounding him, but it at least gave him another moment to breathe and think. The faux villains were robots, he knew that much. All he had was a baseball bat and his own powerless strength to combat them. He had basic human strength at his disposal to take on mechanical foes, and he had no doubt the teachers and staff at Yuei knew he would. But maybe there was a catch for someone like him. Not every hero could punch down a brick wall, not every hero could lift a car over their head, so how could a school expect teenagers to decimate machines with quirks restricted to use under strict supervision? (An image of Katsuki flashed through Izuku’s mind but he waved it away as an exception to the rule, as far as the law would state.)

Maybe there was a catch to the machines, a detail to them that made them fightable for children taking an exam. Yuei was a school, so there would have to be some form of restriction and regulation to their devices, right? A means of letting teenagers fight them without taking the test too far. There would have to be a key to the robotic faux villains that he could abuse too; maybe the material they were made of would be lighter and more easily breakable for him to get points, or they’d even be around his height or an average adult’s to mimic more common criminals heroes had to face.

The lumbering machine barreling through a wall five feet in front of Izuku near squandered those ideas. “Shit.”

In all actuality, just a one-pointer faux villain was thrice his size, shaped like a raptor/scorpion hybrid on wheels. The moss-colored machine took quick notice of Izuku, locking its one red and beady eye on him as its whole body whirled loudly and turned to him. He took notice of what looked to be a machine gun’s turret under one of the robot’s arms, and Izuku had to wonder again if all his speculation was for naught.

Suddenly, the machine sped forward, raising one of its plated arms over its head and swinging it across towards Izuku. Just as quickly did Izuku bring his bat up, shooting it flat at the arm and taking the brunt of the hit for just a split second, and in that split second was Izuku’s courage rising. Another half second later, the rest of the power behind the machine’s fist came into play, forcing his arms to bend and the bat to press against him before the robot sent him tumbling back against the fake city’s sidewalk. As fake as the town was, the cement he connected with was real enough to fool him.

Izuku groaned as he rolled onto his back and gasped for air. Good news was the gun was probably for show, given its first instinct and initiative wasn’t to shoot him. Bad news was fuck that hurt. He struggled to get himself up and when he did, he found the machine still standing there, staring him down ready to charge and strike again. At least Yuei was kind enough to design them without a mode to pummel down the lesser offensive examinees, Izuku would give them that.

In return, Yuei gave him three more robots dashing around the corner behind him and locking onto him as their targets.

His own mind whirled as his eyes darted between the four machines surrounding him. A-three pointer, a pair of two-pointers and that first one-pointer. 9 points he could make for his exam score, as long as he could damage them enough for the points to count, with a few minutes already spent on his fifteen minute clock of a practical exam. How the hell was he going to get them and more before the exam ended? His hands shook the bat held between them as he gulped. “Not like anything’s ever been fair before…”

The one-pointer charged again, lifting its arm to the sky and slamming it down to Izuku. Before it could hit him the greenette had dived out of the way, rolling onto the street into a crouch and turning to the next machine that charged him. A two-pointer shaped vaguely similar to a centaur stomped its way over, and the tail that switched his recognition of the machine to that of a chimera swung across at him, forcing Izuku to roll backwards to avoid it. He didn’t back off too far, as the tail swung back the way it came and Izuku swung his bat to meet it.

The end of its tail cracked off the machine as his bat followed through, and he and the machine both took a second to look at it before they moved again. The bot took a while to turn with its four legs and slam his arm into the street, missing the teen who sidestepped it with ease and slammed his bat into its arm. Recoil surged through Izuku’s arms after the impact, but he saw a worthy enough size dent in the arm’s plating to send a second surge of pride to overtake the pain.

Suddenly did the pain return as the faux villain’s arm shot out of the ground and backhanded Izuku in his side, sending him spiraling and flying down the street. He fell into a tumble a few yards from the machine, and before he could jump to his feet did another machine jump him; a three-pointer swinging its arm from down low to catch Izuku from underneath and chuck him. Izuku barely felt the window he shattered through, but the countertop he slammed on and rolled off us – along with the wall he rolled into – left a jarring impact throughout his body.

“Ow…” Down in a few quick hits. If he wasn’t gasping in pain he would have attempted to laugh; he tried anyways and his chest stung like hell. He almost couldn’t notice it when the rest of his body stung too. It’s what he deserved for taking on Yuei’s entrance exam, he told himself. A school for the best really did try to weed out those worth enough. Of course the faux villains they made wouldn’t hold back in their attacks. He could try to dodge them all he wanted, keep his distance all he wanted to keep from getting hurt but backing up would only pin him against the wall. Not even hit by brick fists or taking the bullet hurt as bad as their hits did.

Was that first time really a fluke? Four men with no real intention to hurt him before he acted compared to four robots with the intention to bash him in before he could act. How did this fight feel more real than back then? He didn’t have Iida’s speed to dodge their strikes consistently; he didn’t have Ojiro’s extra appendage to maneuver around with; he didn’t have Katsuki’s aggressive, pressing nature and battle style. He was here to stand out, but how the hell was he supposed to measure up to the competition?

Hunter sighed and shook his head. “Kid, take one look at the heroes out there and you can see no one really gives a shit about how any of them act, so long as they save lives doing it.” He rose back to stand up tall and looked down at the green teen. “You gotta problem with the way you do things? Fine, work it out somehow. Probably got somebody you can talk to about it other than me. I ain’t exactly that good at this. But next time you stand your ground to prove a point, a shove back at the start would only help reinforce it.” He waved a hand at the kid. “You think you can stand? I tried going easy on ya; didn’t want to break any of your bones, just get ya heated enough to fight.”

“I…I…” Izuku slammed his hand onto the countertop’s edge and pulled himself up with a groan of a roar. His other hand came to hoist him up, using the bat he had yet to let loose of his grip to push off the counter too. By the time he was on his feet he was falling in the opposite direction, but he caught the counter soon enough to keep himself upright. He pressed his hands into fists and pressed his knuckles against the stone surface of the counter and regained his sight out the window, staring at the four mechanical beasts staring back at him. A sneer and a laugh escaped his lips simultaneously. “…am a fucking idiot.”

He stumbled around the bar and through the more open hallway to stumble out the window he came through. All the while the bots stayed motionless, their beady ruby eyes locked on his head and flickering under the light of the sun above. The instant his foot connected with the pavement of the street, Izuku’s mind went racing again. The robots towered over him, obviously so, but they weren’t designed in mind to counteract that detail. The one-pointer’s arms were too long to fold against him, the two-pointer’s body and tail were locked into place and the three-pointer’s cannons didn’t have a hint of firepower in them. Even the latter two were clunky and slow compared to the lowest pointed robot, but the one-pointer only had the mobility and wheel to move forward, no sign of the mechanics required to pivot on the spot or rotate a new direction so easily. Izuku scolded himself for ignoring such wide open targets so easily.

He gripped the bat in his hand and cocked his head towards the first robot that had assaulted him. “Wanna try that again?” Without another word the robot shot forward, its arm chambered behind it to be launched at Izuku’s head. And he counted on it.

With the bat chambered by his side, Izuku ran forward to meet the robot. Instead of colliding or connecting with its brick of a fit he ducked under it, and as its body kept moving Izuku struck his bat forward, slamming it into the lower joint of its mechanical spine and slicing right through it. The joint burst as Izuku followed through with the blow and the one-pointer’s body collapsed while its one wheel dragged on another two blocks before it fell too.

He had thought to dodge them before, but how else was he supposed to get points if he didn’t get in close?

The two-pointer buckled forward, turning its body as it stomped forward and coiling its tail like a snake. With the end of it missing, the connector of its joints was used to stab at Izuku, and only missed when he decided to jump over its strike. Instead of meeting flesh the metal met cement, and the perfect staircase was made for Izuku to run up and close in on its torso. The faux villain swung its hand backwards to swat him off, but the green teen jumped over it too and bashed the head of the machine in on its body.

Izuku rolled off the two-pointer as it collapsed on the street, while he ended up crouched on his own two feet. Before him still stood the duo of three-pointers, standing by shoulder-to-shoulder as they stared at him and he stared back defiantly.

He chuckled and wiped beads of sweat off his chin. “Guess I was right…Yuei did use lighter materials to make you things…” He rolled his shoulders and straightened his back. What was he doing berating himself again, comparing himself to others again, fretting all hope was lost again? “That’s three pointes for me.” He already knew he could never be like Iida, like Ojiro, like Yaoyorozu, Mei or Katsuki. He could never be like All-Might, and frankly the more he thought about it, the less he wanted to be. “I just gotta do that twice more, for twice more, right?” He had his own smile, his own brain, his own body, and his own baseball bat.

“TEN MINUTES REMAINING!!”

Izuku barred his teeth in a smile and brought his bat to stand in front of him. The sun reflected off it, and he could see the smallest of dents near the top of his weapon. “I think I’m heated enough to fight now.”

He was better off making them want to be like him.


 

“I must say, the vast number of students that apply for this exam is nothing short of astounding,” Yaoyorozu commented, glossing over the overhead screens overlooking the entrances of each testing area.

Setsuna acted even more impressed, bouncing in her chair as she looked around too. “I’ve heard there’s more students here than there are people at three Run to Feed the Hungry events,” she chimed in. “If Yuei can bring in this many people, I wonder if other schools have as big an entrance exam.”

“Shiketsu may be a revered hero school but I think less than 75% of the amount of students here apply there too,” Honenuki mentioned, looking over at the teens beside them. “And they’re Yuei’s biggest competitor.”

“That’s Yuei from you,” Todoroki countered. “The attention this school gets is probably greater than the reputation that precedes it.”

Even with his back to them, Yagi felt they could still see his smile. It was pleasant, listening to the future students of Yuei to converse with one another so quickly. They hadn’t done much of introductions following the repetition of their names and a short family history, but they were closer than arm’s length as they chattered on about the exam they got to witness. They had barely acknowledged the slow trickle of teachers from each of the three years of grades the school had employed. The lengths Yuei went to just to hold a single entrance exam never ceased to astound him and while having the honor of joining the other side of Yuei’s population since he graduated was going to have a hard time topping that experience, he didn’t doubt the next year wouldn’t try its hardest to amaze him again.

“AAAAND…BEGIN!”

The heart attack Mic nearly gave him did not count in their favor.

At the sound of his voice did the doors to each exam city open, the sea of students flooding into each becoming surprisingly satisfying for Yagi to watch. So many students eager to pass and enroll in the heroics classes, and while most wouldn’t be accepted into the school at all, he doubted they’d all give up and not test at schools elsewhere across Japan. Most would probably become heroes, and the thought alone was easing on his frail form.

Watching the students fight was another thing entirely. He knew the grading process would be more definitive after the exam was completed, but he also knew to keep watch as a safety protocol now and have some early responses to the actions and performances of the students as they happened in real time. Several students in each of the testing areas were outshining the competition around them, some vehemently so. A girl in City A was melting down every faux villain she came across with the liquid that shot from her hands, an acid of some sort he assumed. City D had two kids that looked like brothers, a boy with stone features and another with steel, charging down different streets and bashing through robots while taking a beating of their own. Horns flew about City C, piercing through the hulls of the machines as a girl raced between them and put her faunas form to good use.

It was a boy in City E that caught his eye in particular; a boy with ashen blonde hair piling more ash atop himself as explosions ruptured from his palms. The boy charged each faux villain he saw with his hands behind his back, launching himself through the air to get in close and blast the bodies of the machines wide open. Slowly, Yagi began to recognize the boy as the one he had seen attacked in the mall alley. The one the slime criminal had taken hostage and abused the quirk of to keep himself protected for as long as he did. He looked as vigorous as the glimpses he caught of him the first time they crossed paths, maybe more so. Maybe a bit too vicious, but if he was applying to be a hero and had that much practice and knowledge with his quirk, a bit of refinement would make him a stellar hero for the public.

Nedzu refused to hand him any student’s profiles before the test began, leaving him to learn the students he saw for the grading portion of his job from their form alone. He knew it was to eliminate a chance of bias stemming from his grading process as he looked over the applicants as they tested, but it would have been helpful to pull up the name of the kids that caught his eye if only to bother him less. Knowing the principal, the names of every student were already in Nedzu’s head – though the heads connected to those names were probably floating around aimlessly in there too – but the short quirked animal had a lot less bias towards certain students, so Yagi knew his ambiguity to favor one examinee over another was real.

That “perfect” image of the principal was only ruined by the screen he was watching on his computer instead of the many above him and the rest of the teachers.

Yagi had noticed it when the exam started, the principal watching the computer placed before him sharing the feed of the same cameras shown above them. He left the matter be, assuming it as nothing more than him overlooking the start of the exam to find any foul play and follow anyone who tried something under the belt for reviewing after the exam was complete. But with every glance Yagi stole, he always found Nedzu watching his computer, not giving any of the screens above him his attention. He wondered: had the principal found someone or something wrong, one to watch attentively and report quickly in case a matter was to go out of hand? There was little else that could have possibly been the truth, and the longer it went on in just a few short minutes, the more his curiosity built. Not too long into the exam did Yagi give in to his wondering, and he turned his full attention to the computer screen just in time to watch a faux villain chuck one of the kids through a window.

“The machines Power Loader has built for the entrance exam can be quite the challenge for the examinees,” Nedzu commented at the hiss of recoil Yagi gave at the sight he witnessed. The principal of Yuei kept his voice, careful not to draw the attention of the teachers or the four students in the room with them. The computer screen before him scrolled through other camera angles, all focused on the same street the robots had assaulted the examinee. “They’re modeled loosely off various prototype designs of machines designated for military use, meant to counter future terrorist allegiances and organizations to assist heroes and the world police. Majima took liberties in merging a few of the designs into the three basic enemies the students have to fight, enough to vary them to give the students a variety of obstacles without having any overlap the original designs he worked off of had.” The screen began scrolling through cameras within the building the boy had been thrown into. “None of these testing robots are invulnerable, but for some the challenge can be far greater than they expect. I’m curious to see how this one reacts to the challenge.”

Nedzu finally settled on a camera across the room from the boy he was watching, said kid lying on his back in the shadows of the building, almost hidden from the camera feed had the color of his clothing and the baseball bat in his hand not stood out. “Please tell me you did not program the machines to target him.”

“No, they’re programmed to assault all students evenly. I made sure a failsafe program was installed to prevent any of them from attacking students who aren’t able to get up, along with a means of reporting any severe injuries so Ectoplasm can rush through the fields and escort the children to the side for Recovery Girl to attend to. These four are currently sending me one now” – Nedzu scrolled his mouse over to the small box that popped up on the corner of his screen and clicked it away – “but I don’t believe we need to be concerned.”

Yagi gave the small principal an incredulous look. He glanced over his shoulders to find the other staff watching the screens overhead attentively and the children behind him still in awe at the same sight before giving Nedzu his full attention. “You can’t be serious—”

“When am I not?”

“He’s not even moving.” He was right; pointing at the screen, Yagi and Nedzu could see the kid was still limp on the floor. “I understand the entrance exam is supposed to be a challenge – I remember taking it myself – but I don’t remember you allowing any students to be put through more than they can handle. They’re here to become heroes, but they are still kids.”

“And we are looking through these students for something more.” Nedzu nodded to the screen and the two watched as the kid struggled to pull himself to his feet, leaning on the counter in front of him and taking a moment to catch his breath and his body and…

Yagi recognized the kid.

He recognized the kid stumbling around the counter and down the main hall of the building he was chucked in. He recognized the kid that climbed out through the window he was thrown through. He recognized the kid with green hair walking into the street facing danger head on, because it was the same kid with green hair who had ran through a burning market place to save the blonde boy from the villain made of slime.

“I know him,” Yagi mumbled and leaned back in his chair. He had no doubt in his mind that this was the same kid he had met near a year ago. He had almost forgotten him and the blonde boy, given his attention was directed elsewhere for almost every month since then. And while the blonde kid was somewhat dimmer a memory, the green kid grew like a beanstalk in the back of his head as he recalled—

“Midoriya?”

Yagi nearly snapped his neck as he spun around, finding the tall teenage girl sitting behind them and looking between their chairs to the computer screen in front of the two Yuei staff. Yaoyorozu jumped as she drew the attention of the lanky man, both taking a moment to correct themselves silently as the latter turned more towards her. “You…you know this young man?” he questioned her.

“Y-yes sir,” she responded with hesitance, stiffening in her chair as Nedzu spun his seat around too. She kept her voice as low as his, keeping from drawing the attention of the room around them still focused on the exam at hand. “Midoriya and I met a few months ago, and I’ve talked with him from time to time since then. I had almost forgotten he was taking this test since you invited me – us – to watch it with you.”

“I had assumed maybe one of you four would know at least one other student participating in our test,” Nedzu commented. “That is good; if the students we accept have connections to one another, they’ll be a step ahead of even our current employed heroes. A strong bond of companionship and teamwork would benefit our nation greatly. It’s not going to change how the students are graded for the test – I would not allow such bias to be the mindset of our school and our actions – but if people like that are accepted in then it will make the year more interesting to work with.”

“I believe Midoriya will pass the exam,” Yaoyorozu stated with far more confidence and composure. “He’s proven himself far more than capable enough to become as great as the rest, and I believe with his quirk he’ll do more than alright against the faux villains everyone has to face in this exam.”

For a moment Yagi’s heartbeat stopped with the rest of his body. Nedzu was still animated where he sat, but there was a lag to his movements. “You believe it is because of his quirk that he will be able to pass our exam?” he questioned her.

“I don’t believe it will be the only reason he does, but I do believe it will help him in a test structured so heavily around one’s physical prowess,” she hastily responded. “I haven’t seen too much of him in action before but I believe I’ve talked with him enough to know he won’t fail the exam by not trying.”

“You know his conviction that well already? You two must be really well acquainted already—”

“What are we talking about?” The green-haired Setsuna rolled her chair shoulder-to-shoulder with Yaoyorozu’s, quietly startling the tall girl seating in it and drawing over the attention of the two boys who had made it in through the acceptance exam. “Is it something we should all be talking about, ya’ know, since we’re here to bounce off one another and bond?”

“We may as well.” Nedzu spun around in his chair and typed madly on his laptop. “I originally had no intention of bringing this about to anyone else’s attention, but I believe any time would be better than no time.” With a few more clicks, the screen above the six of them shifted, showcasing the broadcast from one of the street cameras facing the boy and the four robots.

Yagi looked up just in time with the others to watch a quirkless kid cut seamlessly through a one-pointer with his baseball bat.

Despite the chatter going on from the kids now behind him, Yagi’s ears had tuned out their voices to nothing but ambient. He could hear the slowing beating of his heart better than he could his own breath. The boy on the screen kept fighting, taking not even 15 seconds to bash in the head of the two-pointer and jump off like the back of his jacket hadn’t been cut up by the glass he flew through. He was staggering, sure; he looked to put more energy into catching his breath than he did charging for another fight. But Yagi couldn’t find a single trickle or splatter of blood anywhere on his body.

Yaoyorozu mentioned he had a quirk but Yagi couldn’t come to accept that. The boy had introduced himself as one without any powers beyond basic human limitations, and his effort against the slime criminal had done everything to support that truth. Had he truly had a quirk all along and hid it so well that he himself hadn’t know about it? Had something triggered its first appearance to the boy since they talked? Quirks almost never showed up for people as they entered their teenage years, Yagi knew that well enough. The only way to get a quirk at that point was if someone else handed it over.

The hole in Yagi’s side ached at the thought, and the pain only worsened as his phone buzzed in his pocket and he checked the message on screen.

The plating on the faux villains are their real weaknesses. Everything else is too densely layered to give the majority of the examinees another struggle. He may have known what he was doing attacking the head of the second bot, but the spine he tore through of the first would take more than a single swing from a kid with no quirk. He’s achieved the impossible.

- Nedzu

Yagi gave the short principal a look from the corner of his eyes, finding the small mammal’s phone set beside him on the chair, screen blank and out of the way of the eyes of the student behind them. The latter were still enamored with the screen overhead, converging on the tall ponytailed girl to talk about the boy she knew on screen. He looked back up with them, finding the same kid ducking his way under the fists of the three-pointers and climbing on their bodies to bash in their torsos just enough to disable them and receive the supplementary points.

If the plating on the bodies really were weak enough for the students, than maybe the Midoriya kid had figured it out or taken the assumption and made it work for himself; he had done only that for eight of his points. Had he not cleared two three-pointers in under a minute, not rip a one-pointer in two, and Nedzu not brought up the probability of the situation, Yagi would have given him the benefit of the doubt.

But watching the kid bolt down the street to fight more machines left a familiar, sour taste in his mouth.


 

“That friend of yours is really going to town on those robots,” Setsuna commented, watching the fellow green-haired teen on screen take down the second three-pointer. “Kinda weird to see someone using a baseball bat for a school exam, though. Are people allowed to bring weapons to the exam?”

“If it supplements their quirks, yes,” Honenuki mentioned. “In the case of non-physical quirks, support items and weaponry can better display what one is capable of doing. The pro hero Snipe apparently brought his revolvers to the entrance exam since his quirk complements marksmanship so well. A baseball bat wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibilities for someone to use or bring, but it does seem unconventional for someone who has a strength quirk.”

“According to Midoriya, it’s a power channeling quirk more than it is a simple strength quirk,” Momo corrected. “He’s able to pass the strength in his body to what he touches or holds, so long as he still touches it. He told me he chose a bat since it would stand out more and provide something a bit more defensive than a sword while still applying the same amount of offense.”

Setsuna let out a low whistle as they watched Midoriya turn the corner to a small pack of one-pointers alone on the streets. “That sounds like a really useful quirk. Is he able to do it with people too? Like, pass on strength to them too?”

“Sadly not,” Momo sighed. “The strength he’d give would only sap away the instant his hand left them, so it only lasts in the moment of contact. I haven’t experienced it myself, though, so I don’t know what it feels like.”

“I don’t see why he would hinder himself with a weapon,” Todoroki commented, following the swing of said weapon knocking the head of a one-pointer off its body. “If he has the strength to put out raw power, then why not put it into his own fists?”

Honenuki looked over at the other three students with a shrug. “Would you want to punch steel with your bare hands? Maybe his power output doesn’t change the durability of his body. For all his strength he’s still flesh and bones; maybe there isn’t any overlap, so he makes up for it put putting his power into more dense objects and weapons. Inconvenient, sure, but at least he was able to find a way around getting himself hurt.”

“He never mentioned that with me.” Momo looked down at her lap, counting off her fingers the details Midoriya had given her when she had asked. “I hadn’t even considered it until now.”

“Then this exercise is going wonderfully.” The four teens look before them to the principal leaning around his chair to look at them over his shoulder. “If any of you weren’t learning from each other, I would have considered my efforts in bringing you all here a failure. Do keep at it.” He gave them all a nod as he turned back in his chair and focused on the same broadcast on his computer.

Momo wondered why he was watching Midoriya so directly for the exam. It felt a little uneasy compared to the rest of the teachers and staff in the room assessing the screens above them from camera to camera, their own commentary hushed out either to themselves or one another. The principal had danced around even giving a hint as to why the green boy was who he followed around, and a part of her wondered if it had anything to do with the news he made fighting at the mall. That same part of her wondered if it was also a reason she was accepted, hidden under the proclamation that she and the other recommendation accepted students would attend the exam in the overview room, as though he was needed to watch over the two of them and anyone else from using their quirks without legal supervision or licensed allowance.

The lanky man beside the principal only further concerned her. To be where he was, both in his physical place and his position of oversight on the heroics courses at Yuei, would mean he had some form of power, and Momo was willing to bet it was more political than physical. He was well enough acquainted with her family and Todoroki’s, the latter of whom she hadn’t recognized from the family name until his father was mentioned. Endeavor was far more open about his true name in public than most heroes, the intimidation he emoted playing a large role in letting him be so transparent about details like that. But for Toshinori to know a boy she hadn’t even know about as personally as he let on meant he was closer to the heroes in the rankings than she would have guessed. If she were to assume any further, she wouldn’t be surprised to learn of him actually as a legal representative of the Hero Association checking to oversee all students following the laws that she and Midoriya had tampered with not two months ago.

How stiff he sat in his chair and how his hands fiddled with the legs of his pants set her assumptions into further worries. He was intent on focusing solely on Midoriya as well, his eyes having stuck to the overhead screen since it started tracking him through the exam. Nedzu at least would look back at them from time to time and comment as she or the other students beside her brought something up. Wherever Toshinori’s thoughts were, Midoriya was most definitely at the center of it all.

She only hoped he would pass the exam with flying colors and help kick any of their worries under the rug by the end of it.


 

“FIVE MINUTES REMAINING!!”

“Shit,” Izuku grumbled and rolled his arm in a heavy swing. With trial and error he was able to take down the faux villains that he came across, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t a trail at all. As open and weak as their bodies and heads were, he almost forgot he was dealing with machines until the blowback of his swings set in. Those first three-pointers really sent that home, even if he was able to take them down with only an extra scrape on his calf in the end. His bat was in worse condition than him, and he scoffed at the four dents that littered it on all side and nearly gave it solid edges. If he got in – and it was becoming a greater if every minute – maybe the school could supply him with new bats with his hero costume; hell, what his hero costume would be was still under question, and the new school year would start in less than two months.

The one-pointers he found after were far easier to hit once or twice and move on, since they seemingly deactivated quickly enough, so Izuku just assumed he accumulated points with each bot that fell. Only problem was that left him with half a test to go and only 15 points in hand. If he wanted to get the bare minimum to even be considered for the heroic course, he had to hurry.

And hurry he did – into the vast open street populated with other students and machines fighting left and right of him. Teens were tearing and bashing down faux villains everywhere he looked, bashing them into the street and tallying their points along the way. But with each kid that passed him, the higher their tallies were – from the mid-twenties to the low-forties – and leaving behind not a single bot for him to take on himself.

Dammit, I’m being left behind, he cursed. A boy with a body of steel tore through a two-pointer with a tackle and charged head on into another. How am I supposed to catch up with everyone taking the points? Another boy tore through a faux villain with a beam emanating from his stomach, sending himself shooting back to dodge the swing of a second bot. How am I supposed to become a hero if I can’t get in?!

Iida charged into his view, colliding his foot with a one-pointer and sending it careening into a building. Izuku could barely hear him mutter his point count over the satisfied smile on the taller teen’s face as he gazed over the faux villain he had attacked. Whatever it was, Izuku didn’t doubt that his friend was going to pass the exam. Funnily enough, Izuku had no faith that he could catch up to the speedster now.

“THREE MINUTES REMAIN!!”

DDOOOOMMM!!!

Izuku tripped as the ground shook beneath him and everyone around him, sending him to his knees as he waited for it to pass. Other teens around him either caught themselves or collapsed with him, each and every one of them searching around for the cause of the tremors. And then the culprit rounded the corner, and Izuku’s heart skipped a beat at the giant who bore down upon them.

Holy shit. The giant “gimmick” villain crushed the upper corner of a building as he turned onto the street, his tracks and wheels rumbling the pavement underneath their feet and his hand tossing rubble down towards them. Most students had already turned tail and ran in the opposite direction from the faux villain, avoiding the rubble and the machine easily. Several others lagged behind, dodging the falling rubble just in time to twist down other streets in search of other robots to gain points from or just hide away from the big zero-pointer. But Izuku didn’t move from his kneeling position, watching the behemoth with wide eyes and a dry throat as he processed what he saw. That’s supposed to be an obstacle? It looks like the real challenge of the exam more than anything!

He stumbled to his feet as it made its way down the road and only stopped himself from turning away as well when his eyes fell downwards. Past the shoulders of everyone else booking it from the machine, Izuku could see the one person who wasn’t. Face down on the ground and surrounded by rubble was the brunette he talked with at the entrance of the testing zone, the girl who had attempted to help him when he tripped at the entrance of the school. She was moving and shifting on the ground, but she didn’t make any effort to get up. And the gimmick made no effort in stopping its charge.

Izuku was only aware he was moving forward when bumped shoulders with another teen not taking a second glance behind him, but he had no thought to turn and join the other students fleeing from the giant machine. His eyes were all but locked on the shuddering body of Uraraka as he ran forward to her. Iida caught his eye for a split second, and he could see the bewilderment behind his glasses as he passed before he continued on without a word. He couldn’t think of any to come up with.

The gimmick robot was far too close for comfort in Izuku’s opinion, leaving him barely any time at all when he finally reached Uraraka. He crouched down beside her, taking quick note of the gash in her arm – just below her shoulder – and worked his hands around it as he heaved her off the ground. He draped her other arm over his shoulders and started running back the way he came with her by his side. They only made it three steps before she cried in pain and Izuku was alerted to the way her ankle was turned and the two nearly fell back down. “Fuck, I’m sorry—”

Izuku nearly jumped out his shoes when another hand cupped over the girl’s stomach, and it eased Izuku’s soul back to his soles when Iida helped them both back up. “I came right when I noticed,” the tall teen told him as moved forward again. “My brother told me they have the school nurse situated close by in case any students are badly wounded. We should get her back to the entrance as fast as we can.”

Izuku gulped when he nodded. Iida was right, they should hurry Uraraka away with a bleeding arm and a sprained ankle, but he knew it meant sacrificing his points. There was barely any time left in the exam, and rushing her to safety would take up what was left of it. He’d fail his application for the heroics course as a result; he barely had the faith he would pass as is, anyways. If he was lucky the school would consider him for the general department, but there were more than enough students around him who would probably be considered over him.

It was a split second of luck that Izuku noticed what was over them when a shadow casted over them, and he tilted his head to find chuck of buildings break off from the gimmick machine’s hand and tumble down towards them.

“Run!!” Izuku shouted, loud enough to get Iida to notice the rubble heading their way. In a panic the tall teen heaved the girl into his arms, moving the weight off of Izuku and taking off with him as the building came tumbling down. Several large chunks of stone and steel crashed behind them, and Izuku watched over his shoulder as the stream continued to follow and a chunk aimed for them as they ran.

Against better judgement did Izuku jump, spinning in the air with his bat drawn behind him as the stone chunk neared. Once it was close, he twisted his body and swung, and to his hopes he had somehow managed the strength to bash a block as big as himself off course from falling on him and his friend.

Just as the building’s piece moved did Izuku notice the smaller one behind it. With no momentum to treat it like the one before, the stone block cracked Izuku across the head and sent him crashing into the pavement face first.


 

Watching the young Midoriya actually take down robot after robot left mixed feelings in Yagi’s stomach. On one hand, he was witnessing the quirkless boy he had thought he had ruined the dreams of fight on for them, and was somewhat successful in doing so. On the other, too many factors of the situation – Nedzu believing him to be quirkless, the tall girl behind him convinced he had a quirk as she explained it to the other students, the boy more and more easily brushing off every shove and backhand the faux villains gave him – clashed with his perception of the boy that he had no way of knowing what was true about him or what he did.

The best case scenario was that the boy was actually quirkless, and his feats in the entrance exam were possible simply through his sheer will and thinking. He was exactly the kid Yagi remembered him being, thought grown up more than before and far more mindful in his actions. As rough as he was, Yagi could see the makings of a hero in him, one that could be shaped into a far better and more capable hero to match with some of the best in heart, even if he couldn’t meet them in their capabilities. He could humor the idea of the kid being outfitted with support equipment, though; even since meeting Melissa, he wondered if a quirkless hero relying on tools manufactured well enough to replace the need of a quirk could possibly make it as a hero, and he would like to argue in favor of the idea.

But the worst case scenario rang heavier in his heart. He was showing signs of durability and strength Yagi would only believe came from a quirk. Yaoyorozu’s rough but detailed explanation of the boy’s “quirk” didn’t help his case, and there could probably be more to it than she knew about. With how little concern he had for his own wounds and the bruises most likely under his clothes, the drawbacks she shared could have been a complete lie from the boy, and if they weren’t, Trigger was still a thing. There were probably a couple people taking the exam using it, and he knew the signs of when it wore of well enough that the rest of the staff most likely did too. There wasn’t a single member of Yuei’s staff that would be tricked by it.

Yagi had enough of All For One’s games to let another one slip in when he least expected it.

“The kids are really rushing it with only six minutes to spare,” Midnight commented, watching a kid with wing-like arms wrap around the back of and crush the torso of a one-pointer.

“A limited pool of points does that to a crowd,” Nedzu remarked. “While the students aren’t directly fighting each other, it’s all about how fast they are to act. Others will fail because they lag behind, and those who march ahead strong will make it in just fine.”

“Minus a few scrapes, you mean,” Honenuki added from behind the principal.

“A few wounds are to be expected with this job. Minimizing what we can is always helpful, though. As long as the students stay in one piece, we have nothing to worry about.”

Yagi joined the students behind him in side-eyeing the principal, though the kids were a lot more uneased by his words. He was used to Nedzu making comments like that – his way of humor, he supposed – but he could agree it was more than a little uncomfortable to hear with his dry tone.

“The robots can’t hurt anyone that badly, right?” Setsuna questioned, leaning back in her seat from the short head honcho of the school.

“In many cases of hero versus villain situations, it’s the surrounding areas that hurt the heroes more than their opponent’s do. The faux villains will fling contestants around and hit the students, sure, but all punches are pulled and we have safety mechanisms in place keeping the students from being pressed into the ground or a wall to trap them.”

“That’s a pulled punch?”

Yagi looked up to the screen showing Midoriya’s fights as one of the faux villains backhanded the boy and sent him skidding across the pavement. The lanky hero clenched at the knees of his pants as the kid shook off the hit and charged the robot again.

“Yes. Had Midoriya not brought his bat up in time to block, the villain would have stopped his arm once it had made contact and leave him to fall and roll away.”

That was bullshit and Yagi knew it. Most of what Nedzu said was, and he could tell from the side glances of other teachers that they knew it too. The faux villains were outfitted to prevent maiming or decapitation, but leaving a chair sized bruise was all in the programming. Every hit would be followed through. If the kids behind him even remembered Midoriya’s first fight with the robots, they wouldn’t believe the principal for a second. One of had chucked the boy through a window, for god’s sake.

Most students were supposed to dodge the punches and swings. Countless other students on screen were jumping and diving out of the way of strikes, attacking before they could be hit or diverting away leaving the machine’s to chase after. Midoriya was the only kid he could see taking contact from the faux villains, and even then ever following hit was shrugged off faster than the last one. If he really was quirkless then he was doing the impossible, as Nedzu had commented. It was the only text he had sent, the only notion he was watching the boy as Yagi was, but it was more than enough to bug him from the rest of the test, and if worse came to worse, the rest of the day and beyond.

“Four minutes to spare,” Mic called down from the hatch above them. “Are you going to send the gimmick in at the third?”

“It’s what I was planning on,” Nedzu responded, pushing his laptop forward to unveil the glass lid covering a bright red button. “We can’t let it roam around for too long, but too short a time and it would mean nothing for the applicants.”

“Wait, there’s another kind of robot in the exam?” Yaoyorozu questioned, leaning over in her chair to better see the principal in front of her.

Yagi looked back up at the screen above, finding Midoriya standing still among the crowd of other students fighting off machines. The green teen made no notion to join them or take any points before they could, and Yagi doubted he had the speed to in the first place. He knew the kid had less than the points he needed to even be considered for the support course, and he had done little enough to garner any hero points to supplement his battle points. The number one hero only hoped the kid would be fast enough to get out of the way when the gimmick villain appeared.

“The final robot marks the cooldown period for the examinees,” Nedzu informed the students. “Assaulting it won’t garner the students any hero points for their score, but it will give them the time to reassess the battlefield and make what points they can in the rest of their time here. This is where we’ll truly find our heroes in the making.” As Present Mic called out the three-minute marker to the end of the exam, Nedzu flipped over the glass covering the button and pushed down on the red trigger.

Yagi watched as near every screen above them altered to show the titan of a robot roll into frame, making their way into the wide open and most populated street in every testing ground and shocking every student that saw it. Even the ones sitting behind him.

“That’s, uh, a pretty big robot, ya know,” Setsuna muttered. “I thought you said this was the cooldown period.”

“Yes I did,” Nedzu responded cheerily. “As massive as our gimmick villain is, it has nothing in speed. The students will easily avoid it, but its size and ruckus will undoubtedly unsettle the students some. Reaction and timing are everything, now.”

Students left and right were running away from the robot the instant they saw it, others taking a moment to fully register it before they turned tail too. It seemed they all understood exactly what the giant was and not to waste their time with it. Reasonable enough of a response, given the sheer size of the villain and that on its own it wouldn’t give any points to defeat.

Which is why Yagi nearly threw up what was left of his stomach as he saw Midoriya run at it.

“Seems one of the kid’s got spunk,” a white-haired man further down the rows vocalized, watching the same footage on a screen closer to himself. “That or an ego. Or a death wish. Ectoplasm should stop him.”

“No need for that,” Nedzu responded. “He’s been head strong so far in this exam but he’s still shown a reliable mind and a sense of judgement. I doubt he is attempting to fight the zero-pointer to get what it can’t give.”

The number one hero looked down at the principal of Yuei with wide eyes. Was he really going to shrug off everything the boy was doing for later? Did he just want to watch the kid get hurt by more than he should be capable of handling? Nedzu was one to put students through the wringer, but he never humored a kid getting killed!

“He’s not fighting it at all anyways,” Midnight followed up. “Seems he’s getting another kid out of the way.” She was right, too; anyone tuned into the conversation turned back to their screens to find Midoriya helping a girl to her feet and limping after the other students. They didn’t make it too far initially, but another boy came into frame to help burden the load and the three kids continued to run from the gimmick villain. “She looks badly hurt. I’ll let Recovery Girl know to be on standby for Testing Ground B.”

“There’s a kid in A who’ll need to see her right after,” a gentleman across the room decked in yellow plating and machinery called out to her. “He’s taken a hit to the head, and Ectoplasm has a clone following him around already if he begins to fall over or faint.”

Yagi shook uncomfortably in his seat in the few short seconds he spent watching the teachers around him gloss over Midoriya and the kids with him to focus their attention again on all the students. Any one of them could pull up his records on the computer if they needed to identify him in case of an emergency, he had no doubt in his mind. He wondered if anyone even knew the kid’s identity already and were willingly ignoring him because of his quirkless status.

When they’d first met, Yagi had seen a small part of himself in the boy when he had asked about the possibility of being a hero without a quirk. He saw it again when the boy has run through fire in a vain effort to save the other kid from the sludge villain Yagi had found minutes earlier trying to do the same to the boy. A heart and mindset of a hero, one that could have been shaped into a perfect one; one he could have shaped into that perfect hero.

But beyond those two instances, the kid had been a far cry from being ideal. For all the promise he had to him, Yagi saw the flaws to him holding him too far back. A kid far too timid and nervous, too thoughtless of his own safety and without a means of saving himself. Maybe in an ideal world, he could have done his best to help the kid grow. Maybe he could have done what was possible to encourage him and made sure he was properly trained to become a future hero. Maybe he could have passed One For All down to him instead of Mirio.

But adding all the responsibilities of his quirk and his position onto the shoulders of a kid weighed down by his attitude and his lack of experience so late in his life compared to other children? And with what little time he had left in the year or so Nighteye predicted would be his last? He couldn’t burden a kid with so much to do in so little time, thinking he would need more than he had to shape the kid into the hero of tomorrow. He needed someone more experienced to take the torch from him, and his own fear had him turn away from the kid as he was rushed to the side by heroes and paramedics the first day they met.

Yagi felt dread and blame course through him as chunks of buildings fell on the kid and his friends.


 

“Gahh…” Izuku cried as he rolled over and cradled his nose in his hands, his bat missing in action. Even the slightest nudge against it with his fingers felt like he was shifting it out of place. He could taste and had to spat out the blood that flowed down into his mouth, gagging at the flavor of iron. His sight wasn’t fairing much better, and no amount of blinking was making the world around him any clearer. The ground still rumbled beneath him, and the creaking and jolting of the giant gimmick villain pounded his ears. Every bone in his body burned beneath his flesh, but all Izuku did was growl at the fire as he fought to stand up.

There was still time in the exam; mere minutes left for him and everyone else participating. He had points he needed to make and an exam to pass. He had a heroics class to get into and a renounced school to attend. He still had a dream to make come true and a world of people to prove wrong. He wasn’t going to give up now!

He couldn’t make it to his feet but his hands and knees would do just fine. He smeared the flowing blood across his face and kept one hand over his nose as he crawled with his dodgy eyesight. The pavement scrapped against his bare palm and his cloth-covered knees but he was going to be fine, he knew it. The world around him was connecting together again and he could see better again, and he could see in front of him the handle of his bat and its silver body glistening under the sunlight. He would have his trusty weapon, Iida would have taken Uraraka away to safety and with any hopes join him again just as he had to save the brunette, and with the crowd of students on the street bringing in faux villain after faux villain he’d be able to accumulate enough points and pass – even if just barely – and take his first step to being a real hero.

With his eyesight clearing out and the blood still dripping from his nose being pushed to coat the other side of his mouth, Izuku grabbed the handle of his weapon and pulled it from the rubble it had landed beside.

He watched as a good third of the bat broke off from beneath the stone that had crushed it.

Izuku’s body temperature dipped from a raging fire into a frigid cold as he stared at the cracked and misshapen end of his bat, where the rest of it had been prior. It was far lighter in his hand now and he had every doubt in his mind that it would still work against the faux villains. It wouldn’t garner him another 15 points if he tried to keep fighting. He wouldn’t meet the requirement to pass the exam, meaning he wouldn’t get in into Yuei, meaning the only heroics course open to someone like him would be closed.

A shift of pink caught his eye and sent his stomach plummeting further as he looked ahead to it. Not too far from him was Iida, slumped unconscious against a piece of the building with his glasses knocked from his face, and Uraraka, shivering and withering and spitting out from her mo not too far from the bluenette. They had been caught by the rubble just like him. Izuku’s effort to keep them safe had failed to even save them.

And beyond them was nothing but a near empty street. Students were specks in the distance; what was left of them anyways. Not a signal or marker of fighting was going on up ahead, and Izuku couldn’t see an inch of any other faux villain. The border wall of the testing ground was visible in the distance, and beyond it a small portion of Yuei’s main building could be seen beyond it; all Izuku could see of it was the upper portion of its H structure. Even then, it was faint and yet again far out of his reach.

“No…” Izuku muttered. His shoulders sagged and his body rested on his legs. The bat shook as his hands did. His breathing hitched while salt water dripped down his blood stained cheeks. “I-I can’t…” The world around him creaked in his ears, the floor beneath his legs shuddering and quaking in tandem with his lips. “I’ve…I’ve got—”

The building beside him cracked and shook, and Izuku followed its broken veins to the huge hand that rested atop it and the colossal giant it belonged to, inching ever so closer behind him, gazing down upon him, boring down on him with a blank slate of a face casting its shadow over him. It crystal glass eyes blinked without cohesion or pattern but its body stood hunched over him with purpose and intent; to ruin Izuku’s chances – of passing the exam, of entering Yuei, of becoming a certified hero without a quirk – more than it already had. “ONE MINUTE REMAINING!!”

The frozen casing in Izuku’s chest erupted and singed his lungs. His grip on his bat steeled and he bared his blood-highlighted teeth. “You motherfucker.”


 

Watching Midoriya charge the giant robot only to grab the girl wounded in its path and hightail from the machine reminded Momo of when she first met him. Almost word for word was his nature the same, both in his actions and in his heart. And watching him crash face-first into the street from chunks of a building reminded her how he had done the same when a bullet had drained him of enough blood.

Most of the room had an equal frown of a reaction, but almost no one reacted to what was on screen. Setsuna winced audibly beside her, muttering her sympathies to Midoriya while Honenuki and Todoroki wore more placid expressions when they leaned back in their seats after watching the screen too. Aside from them, Midnight and the two other pro heroes that had spoken up about Midoriya just before came to the agreement to at least let Recovery Girl attend to the wounded in Area B before the rest of the areas. By the sound of it, Midoriya and the two students nearest to him were the only ones still remotely close to any zero pointer out on the loose.

The only ones any more animated and more reactionary than herself were the two men in front of her, but their words were well hidden under her breath for her to hear. She knew whatever was being passed between them was about Midoriya, though. Whatever had Toshinori slide his chair into the principal’s was most definitely about the boy on screen.

The camera angle had shifted to another angle, giving a closer look at the boy from the building beside him. Momo was relieved when Midoriya had moved after his fall, only to lose the feeling as he rolled onto his back and clutched his face behind his hands to try and hold it in one piece. While the footage wasn’t crisp or very colorful, she doubted the dark color seeping between his fingers was dirt.

She was reminded again of the mall; of when he had played possum and faked unconsciousness in front of the criminals, and of when he was blacking out in the back of her family’s car as she kept the pressure over his wound while the driver hightailed it for the hospital, calling the ambulances previously on the scene to meet them there.

But Midoriya was getting up from this one, flexing his brow through what scrapes he had on his head and smearing the blood from his nose across his jaw. He crawled away from where he had fallen to where his bat had, and though the videos were without audio, Momo could feel the crack of his bat when he had picked only part of it up and she could see a similar shatter ring through Midoriya as froze to stare at it, completely tuning out the approaching zero-pointer behind him.

“Would…his quirk still work even if the item he was using was broken?” Setsuna had brought up from beside her, her voice another hush in the room Momo was barely able to catch.

She kept her eyes on the screen overhead, to Midoriya who sat still on his legs despite the chaos surrounding him, as she responded, “I don’t see why he wouldn’t be able to…But I don’t know if smaller objects can hold and put out as much strength as those bigger…”

There was a vacant look over Midoriya’s face as he looked past where the camera could see, but wherever his thoughts were, nothing was breaking him out of his stupor. The footage they were watching shook, she guessed from the gimmick villain barely on screen, but Midoriya didn’t acknowledge it for a second.

“He’d probably risk breaking it further, and I doubt the end of it now will have as much force in the swing even with his quirk effecting it,” Honenuki chimed in, sounding equally as downtrodden. “If he does make it in, he’d need something sturdier to use and put his power through. I’m surprised alloy got his this far.”

“He’ll have to look for something new if he doesn’t get in, either,” Todoroki added, appearing the least dismayed yet still unhappy watching the green teen on the screen. “He hasn’t made that many points and I don’t think what he’s got so far is more than most others taking the exam with him.”

Midoriya only had 15 points at the least; Momo was counting the giant numbers over their bodies as they fell, reading it as the basic marker the school’s staff would be using for their grading. She hated to agree with Todoroki but he was right, and she’d be surprised to hear the school setting a bar so low for entry students. If he was going to get in, Midoriya had to do something for more points.

And then the shadow of the giant overtook Izuku, stretching past him on the street and leaving him in darkness on the video feed. But he was visible enough still for Momo to see him – to see his eyes change once the light on him was replaced. She could still see him as he turned and rose, as he pivoted on his toes and faced the goliath of a machine still yards away from reaching him. She could still see him as he walked deeper into the gimmick’s shade and approached the beast willingly.

The room around her spiraled into mixed reactions at the sight. Toshinori in front of her all but jolted in his chair as he took the school principal’s laptop and mashed the keyboard, muttering for a way to stop the zero-pointer before it and the 5-something teen came toe-to-toe; she could head Nedzu telling the taller man that he didn’t have a way to stop it, that it would on its own soon enough. A few other pro heroes around the room acted equally as worried as the lanky man – she watched Vlad King rise out of his chair, looking at his computer screen and sparing a second to look over his shoulders to where she and the others sat, before he was attempting the same manual override of the zero-pointer too. A few other heroes looked over at the screens showing Midoriya slowly leaving the frame with an ounce of curiosity, no doubt unenamored by the other students’ displays. The rest of the room leaned forward in their seats in anticipation. Momo admitted to being one of that few.

Some complaints vocalized as Midoriya had soon disappeared from the corner of the frame entirely, but Power Loader was quick to shut down the ruckus as he took control over the camera and directed it up towards the boy. They were all greeted by the sight of Midoriya standing with his feet apart just in front of the massive robot villain, his broken and shattered bat high above his head – before it came swinging down.

Momo knew the tower they were in was reinforced and built to be sturdy for their safety at the height they were at, but she swore even with the audio off that she could hear the rumble of his impact.


 

The first emotion that ran through Ochako was fear.

Her parents told her that she would probably be one of the few “country bumpkins” – she wasn’t particularly fond of the term but the accent her dad added when saying made it sound cute enough – who would be testing for acceptance into Yuei’s heroics program. The heroes more commonly seen on the news or in the papers, at least those making big names for themselves, were born and raised in big cities from all over the world. Most of Yuei’s top dogs, the top two heroes in all the world and the fourth there too, were paraded and captioned as men who grew up in or around the heart of Japan. A small amount of any city of heroes Ochako knew about were raised in more rural areas, and even then the numbers rarely amounted to ten in each. If she got into Yuei and made a name for herself, she’d be surrounded by people similar to All-Might and Endeavor and Best Jeanist and even her favorite, 13, all working and studying to become a pro hero as she would.

That was frightening on its own, but then she got to experience the city surrounding the profound school. Tokyo was massive compared to her home, and far more compact with its buildings than even the trees of her prefecture. The drive to town was simple enough, and she found herself a somewhat quite hotel to stay in before and after the exam before she rode home the next day, but since stepping off the bus Ochako felt like she was suffocating with so many people around her. The train ride to the school felt like all eyes were on her, as though everyone knew she was from out of town and the jittering itself wasn’t catching their attention.

And then there was seeing Yuei for herself, and frankly, she couldn’t believe a school was allowed to be as big as Yuei really was. She thought there was as much square acre to it as her prefecture, but she knew she would be exaggerating even then. Still, the images she’d seen online and the videos she got to watch from news clips and promotional videos had done little to prepare her for the sight of a place so vast.

Midoriya had fluxuated her fears several times before the practical exam was complete. How he had tripped and collected himself was so animated that it felt almost out-of-tune with Yuei’s reputation, but she couldn’t tell if he was loose in just his posture or his personality too. She saw him again during the written test, sitting several seats in front of her in the other column, somewhat jittery as he finished his exam and headed outside the testing center long before she was done too. When she finished changing right after, she had found so many students waiting outside the towering doors of what was undoubtedly their practical exam testing area, and then the green-haired boy far away from them, swinging his bat and stomping his feet like he was a samurai.

At least actually talking to the other teen had reassured her more than it had worried her. Despite his open attire, his messy green hair and the metal baseball bat he was carrying around, he acted anything like a delinquent when he talked to her. She had a hard time holding the conversation – barely had the courage to start it from the get-go – but he acted in a similar ballpark to herself and it was a weight off her shoulder to talk with someone who was just as anxious for the practical as she was. Hearing what he had to share, she wished there was something she could have brought to the test to help fight the nausea from her quirk – and the anxiety, now that she considered it.

The tall blue-haired boy who came from out of nowhere nearly scared her back into her earlier panic, but the short time she got to know and talk with Iida was enough to shoo away any more worries. He had struck a chord in her, mentioning he was taking the exam and aiming for Yuei; a declaration she had made her own of, though probably with a different goal in mind than hers. The familiarity was enough to warm her heart in the moment – finding not one but two other teens she could relate to before the real test had begun.

They hadn’t squashed all her worries, though; she couldn’t help but feel underprepared when the sound off had gone and Present Mic had called out the start of the exam. In a place far bigger than she ever imagined, more densely crowded than she was expecting to see, and herself far less equipped than she could have been had she just known of her opportunities. The pressure in the back of her mind is what sent her barreling forward amidst so many other students once the doors had opened for them. She stuck with a good portion of the crowd until the street opened up into one much wider and filled with faux villains all over, and only when one charged her did she swallow her fears and charge ahead.

They were hulking machines, for sure, but their weight was holding them down more than anything. A few sidesteps and dodges to tap them from behind was all she needed to send them flying before she released them back onto the street with a crash. With each staying down after the fall, it was actually quite easy for her to rack up points; and despite such a crowded and battle-filled street, she was barely having to fight people for the points first. Minutes went by in the practical, and no matter how physically tired she got or how uneasy her stomach felt from the constant use of her quirk, her heart was pumping fast enough to beat the rest of her fears out of her and excite her for the chance of passing the exam and being accepted into the hero’s course.

Then came the gimmick villain, and the first emotion that ran through Ochako was fear.

In mere seconds were her hopes crushed under the size of it and its hands, the latter of which were probably the height of her times twelve. The claw-like appendage clamped down on the building right beside her and pushed down, crushing the upper-half of the fake establishment and sending rubble flying down – towards her, no less. She tried to run away as so many others did, though the effort was futile as a jagged chunk of stone came flying her way and caught her in the arm, ripping through cloth and skin as it came crashing down beside her and sending her down too.

She cried out as pain rippled through her body; from the gash in her arm, the impact of hitting solid pavement and whatever had possibly snapped her ankle as she tried to push herself up. Of all that she could have been prepared for to experience in Yuei’s entrance exam, she predicted losing her lunch before she lost an ounce of blood, and her original thought was scary enough to her then. Now, bleeding and withering on the street watching a titan of a robot inch its way towards her until it could run over her, Ochako wanted nothing more than to spill her stomach willingly.

Then she rose from the ground.

Not of her own accord, however, buy by another pair of hands. Her good arm was thrown over another person’s shoulder, while one of their arms took over cradling her wounded one as she was helped to her feet. She pushed through the nausea in her stomach and the pounding in her head to look up as far as she could, and the green tuffs of the boy’s hair caught her attention before the baseball bat did.

“Midoriya?” Ochako had tried to say, but the urge to vomit instant ramen was far greater than the want to talk; he looked too battered himself to talk either. She was almost thankful her scream in pain came from a different lung as she tried to walk forward and put pressure on her twisted ankle, nearly sending them both to the ground again. Then another pair of arms worked their way around her and brought her up once more. It was the taller boy that she had met, only for a moment, back outside the front doors of the testing area and had been by Midoriya’s side when they had entered the school grounds altogether. She had barely tried to call out his name as she had Midoriya’s, knowing fully well she didn’t have the energy to, but she had enough to spare for a small smile of gratitude as the carried her away from the giant faux villain.

That moment of happiness lasted about 5, maybe 6 seconds before she was thrown off her feet and watching more shards and chunks of building come flying down their way and the urge to throw up had reached the top of her throat. She watched as Midoriya lagged behind them and knocked a sizeable piece of the buildings away from hitting them before column decked him across the head and sent him head-first into the street. She had no time at all to warn Iida of another piece flying their way before it banged him in the back of the head and overtook them, leaving the tall boy to crash into it and crumble to the ground, and her rolling into it stomach first and finally forcing it out her mouth.

She coughed and cried as she let out the side effect of her quirk and the hits she had taken finally taking their toll. It didn’t matter that her mother’s quirk made it turn into a rainbow color effect; the taste of bile was never something that would go away with it. Despite how often she had been advised against it, Ochako moved to rest on her side, turning her head to spit out what continued to rise up in her throat and use the wrist of her bad arm clung to her side to wipe out her eyes and clear her vision.

Iida was out cold, barely twitching other than the rise of his chest as he breathed to show Ochako the blow to his head had only knocked him unconscious. There were a few scrapes over his arms – probably from where he had tumbled from the blow, she assumed – but barely any signs of blood spilling from his body akin to her shoulder. She gave a sigh of relief and another cough of a color palette splatter before she rolled onto her back and saw Midoriya kneeling far behind them in no better a position than them.

His face was covered in dirt and blood, and his nose was a crooked mess from how it hit the ground. His clothing was in tatters, his knuckles were scrapped and the bat in his hands was shattered at the end, broken beyond repair. He was looking her way, and every emotion of loss and disbelief she could find in his eyes, she shared in her own. Her papa would say, “Shit hit the fan,” but she was hesitant to use the same language herself.

The titan continued to close in – its shadow casting over Midoriya – and snapped Ochako and the green boy’s attention to it. The hulking mechanism loomed over even the buildings, its giant red blinkers for eyes glaring down with each blinking light. The damage it had done not only to the street, but to her and Midoriya and Iida, had made the beast of a faux villain terrifying enough.

When Present Mic called out the marker for the last minute of the exam, the first emotion that ran through Ochako was fear. The second that tackled it to the ground was worry. The machine was showing no signs of stopping as it closed it, and whilst Midoriya had turned to look at the robot Iida was stiff as a board lying on the pavement beside her. She wasn’t sure she had the energy to use her quirk on him to pull him out of the way, and the condition she was in guaranteed a painful crash-landing if she tried to go with him. But she would have to do something, and if she could use her quirk on the tall boy to push him out of the way, she was fine crawling the rest if need be.

When Midoriya pushed himself to his feet she followed suit, though only managing to sit up and scoot in front of Iida enough to give her the perfect angle to work. When the green boy took his first step, Ochako grabbed the tall boy with her good hand and activated her quirk. She swallowed down the nausea that hit her in the instant and slowly swung her arm back, shoving Iida through the air and allowing him to float down the street a good few feet. She brought her hands together and winced as Iida slumped down to the ground again, noticing for a moment how his body twitched afterwards. But there were more important things to focus on, namely the giant gimmick villain still making its way forward and Midoriya…

Sauntering towards the machine.

The first emotion that ran through Ochako was fear, as he approached the machine close enough to touch it. The second that tackled it to the ground was worry, as he rose his shattered and tattered bat above his head.

The third that blew them out of the water was amazement, as he swung down at the foot of the machine and shook the ground beneath her.

Despite how the motion made her stomach rumble, Ochako couldn’t help the amazement in her eyes as, even when the first hit had not slowed down the giant, Midoriya backed up as the gimmick approached and gave another downwards swing that sent shudders through and past her. He swung again and the earth beneath the zero-pointer’s tracks cracked. He swung again and the robot began to dig into the pavement. He swung again and the robot’s feet sunk even further. He swung and he shouted and he swung and he shouted and he swung and he shouted and even when Present Mic called out the end of the exam Midoriya kept swinging and shouting until the feet of the gimmick were buried in the street entirely.

Only then did Midoriya end his assault and chuck his bat, bent in half at the top of the handle, into the ground by his feet. Only then did the faux villain shut down, accepting its position stuck in the pavement. Only then did the action around her die out. The exam was over. She was alive; wounded badly and sick to her stomach, but alive. They all were, and the knowledge of that had her sigh out her stress.

Only then were they greeted by Ectoplasm, one copy for each of them dropping down from the sky – or probably the rooftops still intact from above. The hero’s mask was a startling surprise as it came into her sight suddenly, but the hero checked on her wounds and assured her the school’s nurse was on her way to treat her injuries. The hero’s close sat beside her as she rested against the rock of a building, body slumped while she released a sigh of relief.

Midoriya came limping over with another clone of the pro hero supporting him. His face was still covered in blood, now streaking down his chin as a few fresh tears trailed down his cheeks. He hadn’t bothered to pick up the mangled mess of his bat, leaving his hands to hang empty and dead by his side. His breath was ragged, run dry from the effort he had just put in. He looked past her, over in the direction she had shoved Iida in took stare a moment, before her turned his gaze back to her. His eyes were blank of any emotion for her to read but she doubted the sight of his wounded friend was leaving him any form of happiness.

Midoriya crouched down to her – nearly fell on her as he did – and the first emotion that ran through Ochako was fear until he placed his hand over hers, smiled and told her, “Thank you,” with what voice he was able to muster.

She could only return the gesture with tears and a smile of her own as the whirlwind of emotions in her settled for relief and gratitude.

And nausea, as she puked one last stream of the rainbow on his and her shoes.


 

The staff room watching over the practical exam was a mix of emotions; Yagi was filled with none of the positive ones. While a vast majority of the staff, teachers and the students behind him varied from excitement to relief, all Yagi could feel was a sinking dread that was threatening to reopen the hole in his side.

Ever since he had left All For One a bleeding and broken mess, dying in the middle of a street turned to wreckage, Yagi kept on the news and swam through what information he could online to find any quirks or stories that would ever bear resemblance to the monster that took the life of the heroes who held One For All prior to him; who had killed Nana before they had a proper goodbye. Nothing ever showed up when he searched and Naomasa had no stories to report to him that bore similarity either. With each passing month did Yagi’s fear the monster had lived their final fight subside, until a whole year passed with no new information or news that let him settle and rest easy at night. His worry persisted, of course, but the idea All For One lived was an afterthought; nothing more and nothing less.

Then he watched a kid with no quirk beat a robot over 50 times his size into solid pavement with a broken baseball bat.

Watching the green-haired Midoriya pour blood out his nose and the two examinees with him crumble to the ground either unconscious or puking their guts out had set the room in a frenzy over the kids’ safety, but their planning had been Plan B as the kids continued to act. The girl of the group, the brunette in black and pink, had pushed through her sickness and injuries to push the taller, blue-haired boy with her quirk and moved him further down the street than the zero-pointer would reach by the time the exam’s clock ran out. What the girl had planned to free herself from danger, Yagi didn’t know, but he was more than confident that any idea was thrown out the window as Midoriya stalked up to the gimmick villain and began wailing down at the base of it.

The room around him calmed down drastically as they watched Midoriya swing his broken baseball bat down on the foot of the giant, each hit slowly embedding its wheels and tracks into the street. Several staff sighed in relief that the kid was far from down and out and a few even cheered and gushed their excitement at the action; namely Midnight and a few of the students behind him. Ectoplasm was still over the mic, informing the room he would jump in once the test had completed, seeing as how the students were in far less danger than they were a second ago, and Yagi would be hard pressed to say the room wouldn’t agree that everything was fine.

But he could see the stoic and shocked form of Vlad rows in front of him. He could see the screen in front of the pro-hero, displaying Midoriya’s profile to the white-haired teacher of Yuei. The blood-manipulating hero didn’t cheer with the rest of his coworkers, nor did he act in a way to stop their hype; he only looked back over his shoulder with an expression of disbelief and fear the number one hero could relate to. But those eyes weren’t directed to All-Might.

Vlad’s attention was on Nedzu, the principal, now standing on his desk and watching the room around them react to the end of the exam.

“I must say, I’m just as surprised by this outcome.” Nedzu’s voice was overshadowed by the room around him, but his head was turned enough for Yagi to know the words were for him to hear. The principal gestured to the hero of his staff to keep quiet for the time, and Vlad only back in his chair as he looked over Midoriya’s application profile again. “This isn’t going to be kept quiet; I’ll make sure every staff member knows once we are overviewing the examinees individual performances. We’ll work out a plan from there, but until then we’ll have to keep quiet about this from outside these walls. You’ve met him before, I take it?”

Yagi didn’t like the vague explanations he was given but he knew he was in no position to ask for something more detailed than that. But room around him was more than convinced Midoriya had a quirk. Yaoyorozu had enough information to describe it to the other accepted students around her. Vlad, Nedzu and he were the only three that knew he was quirkless, or at least documented as one. And with the boy finishing his assault on the now stuck zero-pointer, Yagi had no reason to believe the document was correct.

“Yes…I have.”

The only question on his mind was how the kid was able to get a quirk in the first place, or, if his fears were true, how All For One had managed to live and find him.


 

1 Week Later

To say Izuku had high hopes would have been both an understatement and an overestimation. Ever since the exam ended and he was free to go home, he had been on edge for the letter the school would sent out to every student who had taken it. As much as Izuku wanted to get in, the belief that he would with only 15 points from the practical better predicted the eventual outcome; he hadn’t made it in. It was the slim chance that he might have that kept him from sending out other applications to high schools around Japan that would take someone in with his test scores despite his quirkless identity.

He hadn’t spent the week since the exam ended doing much other than the studies he had for the rest of his last semester in junior high. He still had a good month and a half until the school year was over, and he couldn’t let Yuei’s entrance exam take precedence over his current academia even if it was to be his next center for such – or could have been. Katsuki was the same, attending school again as he and all their classmates were, though the blonde had stayed silent around him. He had managed to do the same with Teashishi, Suchīrubōn and Yubinaga, leaving Izuku more of an outcast than before in his time outside the classroom.

Part of that feeling was intentional on his own end. After the exam had ended and he, Iida and Uraraka had all been patched up and dismissed by Recovery Girl (a moment of which he wish he had the energy to spend getting an autograph from her and Ectoplasm when his doubts of acceptance were still high), he had all but opted out of his usual training exploits and meeting his friends in person. He had thanked Hatsume for her belief in him over text, and wished her best on her own exam the night before she would take it. Ojiro was in a similar ballpark to Izuku, but the tailed teen was more than confident he had scored enough points in the practical to pass; the only thing he hadn’t done was kept track of the numbers himself during and got lost in the heat of the exam just trying to be faster than the competition around him.

Iida had really been the only person he talked to in person before he got home after the exam and stayed there. Finding his friend out cold had worried him – a worry only diluted when Recovery Girl kissed Iida’s head and healed the wounds he garnered – but waking up to see Izuku half covered in his own blood was probably more startling to Iida than Izuku’s own worries. The pro hero of healing kissed him too, patching his nose back into place and stitching together the scrapes that littered his body while draining him of a good chunk of the fumes he was running on. The heroine let him and Uraraka join the few other students who needed time to rest and clean up before they went home, having Izuku and Iida part ways with a promise that they’ll be fine and that the green teen would text his friend to let him know when he was heading home.

That was the last text he sent Iida all week.

Izuku drummed his chopsticks on the bowl of rice in his lap. He barely ate any of his dinner at the table and had promised his mother he’d eat what else he could before he went to bed. Seven days ago the exam had ended, meaning sooner or later the acceptance or denial letter would be arriving at the Midoriya doorstep. It would be the first thing Izuku took from the school since the exam; he hadn’t gotten an autograph from any of the heroes he saw or passed; he hadn’t swapped numbers with Uraraka in the possibility she was accepted where he wasn’t; he’d even thrown out what was left of his bat before he left the school borders. At least a letter saying he wasn’t accepted would mean he hadn’t left Yuei empty handed.

His head bobbed as his mother’s hand ran through his head. “You better not be getting sick on me now, Izuku,” she chided him jokingly. “Not eating anything isn’t going to help any either.”

Izuku shook his head, pushing the hand out of his hair in the process. “I’m not sick. I promise. I feel healthy, just…not as hungry, right now.”

“Well you did eat lunch later than usual. Dinner just came early, then.” Her hand dropped to his shoulder, resting there as his head tilted to brush his cheek against it. “If you don’t want to eat, we can store it for now and heat it up later.”

“It’s fine, I’ll eat it.” He scooped a chunk of the rice with his utensils and plopped it in his mouth. “I’ll just take it slow. It doesn’t taste bad cold.”

“But it would taste better warm.” She patted his shoulder silently, leaving mother and son in silence for several following moments. Izuku took another bite in between their words. “Izuku?” He hummed as he chewed as his response. “You would tell me if you weren’t feeling okay?”

His chewing slowed down and his chopsticks lowered to the rim of the bowl again. He swallowed even slower. “I would,” he promised. He let his head fall back to look at his mother upside down and smiled to her as best he could. “Thank you.”

His mother smiled back just as softly and left a kiss on the top of his head. “Of course, Izuku. And…for what it’s worth” – her hand brushed back through his hair – “I bet you did wonderfully. I wouldn’t worry about it.”

He shouldn’t be surprised she knew what was on his mind. “Thanks…I hope I did too.” He didn’t bother to act oblivious about it either.

“I have no doubt you did.” Her gaze lifted to the door of their apartment. “Who knows? Maybe it came in today’s mail. I’ll go check to see if it’s a part of the pile.” With a last soft tap to his forehead she headed for the door, and Izuku lifted his head to watch her leave until she was out of sight and left him with a door slightly ajar.

It probably wasn’t doing his mother any favors loafing around doing schoolwork and hiding away in the apartment, Izuku admonished himself. Despite their lack of communication before, she was still his mother and she didn’t shy away from acting like it. Even if there was the chance she still didn’t believe in his dream so quickly, she hadn’t done a lick of work to stop taking care of him. She deserved to know his thoughts on it all, probably more than anyone. He’d open up about it when she came back—

“I-Izuku!”

Though he wasn’t quite expecting her to come scrambling back into the apartment on her hands and knees. Before he could even stand she composed herself enough to flash the letter in her hands to him, and he almost dropped his food then and there.

He placed his small dinner on the coffee table and rushed over to her, plucking the letter from her grasp and examining it for herself. This was it; this was the letter from Yuei, if the stamped insignia and written address were any indicator. This is where he’d know if he was accepted into Yuei or not. If he was going to have a real chance of becoming a hero or not. He looked down the hall to him room, ready to rush in and find out for himself, but his eyes drifted back to the shock written over his mother’s face. This was something on her mind as much as it was his, wasn’t it? She deserved to know the answer when he did.

He paced back to the couch, fumbling with the lip of the envelope and ripping it open with a swipe of his thumb, and pulling from it…a disc. Izuku looked over the small device between his fingers, flipping it around in confusion until the button on the front took center stage of his attention. His mother inched over to his side, and he shared a small look with her before she nodded. He returned the gesture and sat down on the couch her, leaning forward to place the disk on the coffee table and pressing the button on the front. They watched together as the device blinked to life and shone into the air above them.

This is a projection!” Mother and son blinked in unison as a video feed appeared above the disc, greeting them to the sight of a small mammal dressed in a suit greeting them with a smile. “And while that might be stating the obvious, what exactly I am is a mystery for all except my job as principal!”

The Midoriya’s jumped at that announcement, quivering in surprise. “T-the principal is the one sending the letters?” his mother stuttered out. Izuku was in a similar state of disbelief.

Normally I have other teachers present the final scores to the examinees, usually the teachers of who the students would be assigned to,” the projection of Principal Nedzu elaborated. “Of course, I don’t have any classes to teach; I have a school to run. And this year is being run in a different way than last. But seeing as you, Midoriya Izuku, were our only examinee labeled as quirkless in your medical records, I thought it best I take action this time around.”

His heart was beating in his ears. The video recordings were made for students accepted into Yuei? That meant he was accepted, right?

Right?

For starters, you passed the written portion of the exam with flying colors!” Nedzu waved his hands as he cheered and jumped in his seat. “While you did not receive a perfect score – no student in our history ever has – you made your way into the top 3 percentile of all examinees! That alone is a feat in and of itself, something we can only expect from the most promising of students!”

His mother’s hands cupped over his, squeezing his palms at a strength he barely could return. They gulped in unison.

The practical portion of our exam is another matter entirely, and I have no doubt you noticed it yourself,” Nedzu continued. “It can be quite the challenge for most any applicant we get, and I’ve seen plenty of applicants over the years fight their way through the challenge for the opportunity to apply to my school. But I have to admit: I haven’t seen any student before approach my exam the way you did. From someone who went through it without a quirk, I should have expected as such, but I believe your exploits in the news just before the New Year had set presumptions in my head before then. How silly of me to have let that slip by!”

Nedzu knew of his from the mall incident? Izuku was sweating bullets at that revelation. He wondered if it had played any in their final decisions, and worried if his recklessness then was only reinforced by his performance in the exam. Was that why Nedzu himself was the one delivering the video?

Despite the recognition of you when your application had come in and the news revealed, I made sure it had no bearing on your final score. In the end, what you received was because of your performance here, not there. And here during the practical, you had earned yourself a villain score of 15 points! While not the lowest in the exam, it alone would not be enough to secure yourself a passing grade into our heroics programs.”

That’s when his stomach dropped. He hadn’t beaten enough of the faux villains to score himself to safety. It wasn’t enough to get him in the hero classes. The weight of his mother against him grew as she leaned on him, bringing an arm around him for a small hug and a coo of reassurance. The weight of his eyes grew as they watered despite her efforts.

But if our grading program was built only on the points you get for beating robots up, I’d be out of a job!” Nedzu jumped off his chair, and a few seconds were spent as the camera behind the projection lowered to center on him again. “There are three aspects that make all great heroes: the body to act, the will to act, and the heart to act! Most heroes in our day and age are made only from a combination of two – you’d be surprised how many we have that focus so little on the latter. But only the greatest heroes in our world are a combination of all three at equal levels!”

He blinked as the perspective of the projection swung up to a screen behind the principal, one that flickered to a still image of Izuku from the exam. More accurately, it was picture from the latter portion of the test where he was covered in his blood and dirt and wielding a broken baseball bat and glaring off to the side of the screen. He recognized it as the moment before he had wailed on the zero-pointer uselessly, breaking his bat against it further just to vent his frustrations with the exam before it had even ended. His mother gasped beside him and shook; Izuku hadn’t told her he had been bruised that badly during the test. He wasn’t planning on going over that portion of it ever again – hell, he was surprised to see even that clean of a picture from it. Then why…

Nedzu was worked back into the frame as he climbed upon his desk. “I almost forgot this was supposed to be my next spot,” the principal chuckled and gestured to the photo behind him. “To say we were floored by your performance in the exam would be an understatement! To watch you jump into the fight after a small slip up at the start, to acting at a moment’s notice for the safety of other examinees and not only before but also after you had received these wounds; there was a near unanimous agreement that you had acted with your body, will and soul in this exam! An agreement that you had acted as a true hero in the face of uncertainty, danger and the oddest of odds stacked against you!”

Izuku blinked out what tears he could and wiped away the rest with the sleeve of his coat as he leaned forward in the couch with eyes wide. His mother beside him did the same, the grip she had on him tightening in anticipation. The screen behind Nedzu flickered again, showing the number 15 of Izuku’s villain points for a brief moment before it began to flicker.

Alongside the villain-based points in our grading system, we tally another set of points to add to it in the end: rescue points, or heroic points as I like to call them! Your actions to save your fellow examinees when everyone else was running away, and attempting again to take our zero-pointer head on when the cards were stacked against you; these events shined out in the exam more than anyone else could achieve! Our second highest score of 77 in the exam was earned solely off villain-based points, and you received almost as much as he did in rescue points alone!”

In the back of his mind, Izuku had no doubts that those points were earned by none other than Katsuki. But in the front of his mind, he saw a number two digits below that shine on the screen behind Yuei’s principal. And at the top of his throat Izuku choked on the emotions that threatened to burst his windpipe.

With a whopping 75 heroic points added on to your 15 villain points, totaling in an astounding 90 points for your final score” – the big number flashed into place on the screen behind Nedzu, and Izuku couldn’t hold back the gawk that made it out before the principal was finished – “you not only passed our entrance exam! You placed first overall!”

“I passed,” Izuku squeaked out, shaking uncontrollably as he turned to his mother. She did the same, her eyes watering to match his as they built up again. “I passed,” he repeated himself as he moved his arms around, bringing his hands to rest on the sides of his mother’s shoulders as hers landed atop his. His face broke into the biggest of grins as he shouted, “I passed!” and tackled his mother into a hug, nearly knocking them both over on the couch as he laughed. “I passed!”

“You did it!” His mother hugged him back just as tight, sobbing into his shoulder while she yelled as he did on hers, all while they rocked on the couch in their embrace. “My baby got into Yuei!” Izuku sunk further into the hug for a final tight squeeze before he pulled back to face her and smile brightly. She smiled back as best she could, taking a hand of hers back to wipe away her tears. “I-I’m so proud of you, Izuku.” His smile softened as he squeezed her shoulders and gave her a soft thanks through his own tears.

“Midoriya Izuku.” The family of two turned back to the projection of Yuei’s principal stood on his desk as the screen behind him played a flashcard of stars and stripes to rotate. “The top score of our entrance exam. The first quirkless student admitted into this school.” The short principal extended a small paw to the camera and gave a smile bigger than the one he had danced around in the video with. “Welcome to Yuei High. This will be your hero academy!”

Chapter Text

Izuku thought the month building to the new school year was the most stressful time of his life. More than dealing with Katsuki; more than admitting the past decade to his mom; more than taking U.A. High’s general entrance exam, was the pressure in his chest having to wait a whole month and a week to graduate junior high and attend the world’s most renowned high school of heroics. But thanks to his (now, but he wasn’t going to linger on that fact) supportive mother, encouraging friends and the promise of so much to go right for him going forward, he kept himself together and waited through the last of his classes, graduation, and the week of break before the first of three hard but hopeful years began.

He thought that would have kept the position of “most stressful time of his life,” had he not taken an early train from Shizuoka to Tokyo to meet with the principal of U.A. an hour before classes began.

Getting into U.A. was a surprise in and of itself, and scoring highest in the exam overall only added on to his disbelief and his joy, but both revelations were overshadowed when the principal continued on in the acceptance letter and hologram that he wanted to meet the boy personally – he agreed, of course. Nedzu left an email address to reach him, to tell the sentient creature and head of the hero high school if he could come an hour early or not to the school so they could meet and talk. About what, the principal had not elaborated on, and in his responses over email the most he would detail was “what his time at U.A. was going to be for him, unlike any other student.”

It was probably unnecessary to take, but the new baseball bat clenched in his hands – courtesy of his mother as celebration for school and good luck to succeed in his dream – was helping him on a crowded morning bus with everyone else heading to their jobs. A few had given him a look from the corner of their eyes; maybe because he was dressed in his U.A. Uniform, maybe because he was holding his bat upright and shaking in his seat. Whatever the reason, he was at least given space on the bus for breathing room and a clear path out the bus when he reached his final stop. A block of a walk and a turn down one street, and the world he had been waiting for was right before him.

Once more was the towering school of U.A. in front him. Its atmosphere was still suffocating just outside the gates, its height equally intimidating as the morning light rising behind it. It was different under a different shine: the midday light of the entrance exam had given the school and allure of power and stature as any other hero, but the dim light of the sun had dimmed the aura of the campus to the level of any other school he’d seen. For as early it was in the day, there was little anyone else in sight; had Izuku not seen the scuffed man dressed in nothing but black and a gray scarf (in Spring of all season?) standing right at the front entrance. Watching him. Greeting him.

“Midoriya Izuku.” The guff voiced man stated his name more than asked. He nodded timidly in confirmation. Was he supposed to be a security guard for the school? He wasn’t exactly a wall of a man like most bouncers. “Nedzu wanted me to walk you to him. Little rat doesn’t trust Kayama. Come on.” Whoever he was the man wasn’t one to mince words, turning on heel and slouching his way into the school. Izuku took one last look behind him, to the city and world of uniform shops and towers, before he followed the man to the glass colossus boxed in by trees and underbrush.

The inside of U.A. main building was just as barren as the outside, Izuku following the school’s staff member down vacant halls locked between mile high doors and thick walls of glass overlooking the city around the school grounds. Not a student in sight, not a teacher on standby, not a single other soul to greet him. Yeah, he was an hour early, but it’s not like that gave the school the go-ahead to act out a ghost town.

They took the stairs instead of an elevator, only to the fourth floor before the man guiding him decided to trudge down the halls again and leading Izuku to what must have been the dead center of the school decorated by a white door that contrasted with all the tan he had passed on the way. The name card on the door read simply, “Nedzu,” with little else to give away the man/rodent’s identity and position at the school, though Izuku guessed the birch wood door would give enough away on its own. The man gave a look over to Izuku, who returned the gesture in kind with a bit more of a shake in his knees before the man pushed the door open.

In his mind, Izuku envisioned a room decorated with profile shots of every pro hero, past and present, who had graduated from U.A., directly into the world of heroics or after a following college education. He imagined stacks of trophies and awards lining the walls and shelves commemorating the school’s yearly achievements for student satisfaction and ensuring the safety of society in Japan and society worldwide. He pictured a man – or mouse or whatever the principal was – bathing in the glory of what his school had done for the world, in the recognition it had brought him and his practices, in the praise of the people and the wealth of his school’s success.

In reality, Nedzu’s office couldn’t have been bigger than the living room back home, and it was far cozier than his imagination had envisioned. Not much else tha a desk and a few chairs in front of it, two bookshelves flanking either side behind the principal, and then the principal himself. Even boxed in with no windows, the lighting was a warm orange like the rising sun and the wall painted a similar tone of colors. In the center of it all, sitting on his desk rather than a chair behind or around it, was the principal himself.

“Ah, Midoriya,” he greeted with a cheery tone, with what Izuku assumed was a smile from the forward view he had. “You were able to make it, indeed. I take it your journey over was relaxing and safe? No citizens or other staff members had approached you and stalled your journey?”

The principal of U.A. was also…nicer than he was expecting. His emails hadn’t done anything to convince him otherwise, but a man/animal of his position was more commonly infatuated with the status from what he’s experienced. But he wasn’t about to look a gift horse in the mouth. “Uh, yes sir,” Izuku responded. “I – we” – he gestured to the silent man beside him – “hadn’t seen anyone else on campus actually. Am-am I too early?”

“No, not at all. The other teachers are probably just getting ready for classes to start, then. I always like knowing my staff isn’t slaking off from their duties.” Nedzu gestured to the seats in front of him. “Please, take a seat. Our conversation may take up the time until class starts, but if all goes as planned you’ll have time to yourself when all is said and done.”

Izuku took up the principal’s offer, plopping into one the chairs with his bat laid across his lap while the man with him dropped into the other one. The rodent of a man took one look at the lanky man dressed in black and sighed, though the smile he wore did little to drop. “You haven’t even introduced yourself, have you?” he chastised the man playfully. “Still as mute as ever. There’s no reason not to do it now.”

“He’s getting special attention enough as it is,” the man commented. “He can wait until classes begins to get to know me.”

“Nonsense! I need you to spend more time with the boy today more than any other. It’s best you two familiarize yourself just enough.” The rodent-man turned to Izuku with his grin intact. “Midoriya, this is your homeroom teacher, Aizawa Shouta. He’ll be your Class 1-A homeroom teacher for your first year here, of course. Please pardon his silence; getting him to open up has been one of my greatest failures. He’s a tough teacher, but one I trust to help whip the first years into shape for their following two more here. As his student, you and the rest of your class will be in his care.”

Izuku would admit he let the room fall into an uncomfortable silence before his response, looking back and forth between the school’s principal and one if its teachers. A bit of an odd clarity to the man who guided him over, knowing most of the school’s staff were licensed heroes even if inactive. A tired-looking and scruffy man like Aizawa still wasn’t fitting any title given to him, but he wasn’t going to argue the truth of the matter on the first day of classes. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, sensei,” he greeted hesitantly, giving a small bow in his seat. “Please take care of me.”

The man who was to be his teacher only gave a stiff nod, eyes above his scarf to look at the boy. “Had this been my decision, you wouldn’t be here early. You’re a kid without a quirk, not a show pony. No reason to treat you unlike the rest of your class.”

“I’d rather be treated like them, if it means anything,” Izuku noted, locking his eyes onto the principal more than his teacher. “I’m just a kid without a quirk, and that’s about it from anyone else. I don’t see a reason to treat me differently.”

“I see no reason to, either.” Nedzu hopped onto his feet, pacing across his desk and towards Izuku. “You are our school’s first quirkless attendee, and the first of one to attend a heroic’s class worldwide, if my memory serves me correctly. A title worthy of celebration, for sure, but I know it would be wrong of me to parade around any one of my students intentionally. Your being here isn’t to show you off, it’s to make sure you’ll be as comfortable as any other attending student. I understand people without quirks can and have been treated harshly in the past and even modern day on some accounts, and I wish to reassure you that kind of action and opinion will not be tolerated on my campus. If ever you feel targeted for such, please don’t hesitate to report it to me or any other staff member you come across. Physical mutations and animal traits of students before have had similar reports in the years – discrimination is a hard weed to kill – so don’t fear that I’m treating you any differently here. My intentions are to treat you as any other student we’ve had and will get.”

“A-alright. Thank you.” U.A. was blowing more out of the water than Izuku was prepared for it to. A promise from the principal not to be like his schools from the past, and be treated like any other student and classmate? He’d take it over the spotlight. “Is there any other reason I’m here, then?”

Nedzu shook his head as he plopped down on one of his books as a seat. “Not too many, no. My main intention of this early meeting was assurance that you would be treated fairly. Similar to any other student, of course. Be as it may, you do not have a quirk, but I do not wish to give you the impression that any one of my staff would intentionally try to drive you out of this school on the detail alone or decorate you with attention. You’ve proven yourself a promising potential student and hero, and I would be honored to have your skills honed here at my school. And I’ve been meaning to ask you if you plan on being forward about your lack of a quirk with your classmates. U.A. is infamous for making headlines on even the smallest and insignificant of information; I assume drawing unwanted eyes to the attention of your quirkless biology is not high on your list of goals while attending my school.”

Izuku nodded with a huff. “I…don’t plan on being upfront about it with anyone,” he admitted, eyes dropping to the bat turning in his lap. “Anything I can to keep the eyes off me longer, the better. A few people already know, though…”

“I assume Bakugou Katsuki would be one of those few?” Nedzu was on the money with his first guess, one that had Izuku jut his lower lip to the side. “He’s the only other student from your school to enroll here. I would find it quite difficult to hide such a detail of a quirk or none from a prior classmate three years running.”

“15 if you count day care,” Izuku muttered and garnered the quip of Nedzu’s eyebrows. “Known him practically since I was born; mothers are friends. He’s known I’ve been quirkless for a while.”

The principal of U.A. let his head drop in a roll towards his newest student. “Do I have to worry about his mouth running information you don’t want to share, or treating you in ways I would hope you report to me the instant they happen?”

Izuku shook his head, green locks tickling the corners of his eyes. “No sir.” For his worth, Katsuki had become more shut in over the past year than Izuku had seen from him before. He had only cornered the green-haired teen once since the acceptance letters from U.A. were mailed out, and fell silent again after that. Unless it was about his own ego, Katsuki wouldn’t shout a word from the rooftops that didn’t fuel it. Calling him out as quirkless could fit that bill, but Izuku would rather run the gut feeling he wouldn’t. “I doubt he’ll say a thing.”

Nedzu accepted the answer with a nod before he continued, “And you mentioned ‘people,’ as in plural, correct? May I know who else is aware of this information?”

“Uh, Iida Tenya and Ojiro Mashirao both know, and I know they’re supposed to be in my class.” Izuku patted the pocketed phone in his trousers. “They’ve promised not to talk about it at school; agreed to let me reveal it when I’m ready. And Mei knows. Hatsume Mei. She said she was accepted into the support department here. Won’t tell anyone a thing about my lack of a quirk. They’re the only people I’ve told.”

“And if they are, then I assume they are people you trust.” Principal and student shared in a nod. “You’re playing a risky game withholding this sort of information; even with your justifiable reasoning, not everyone may take that into consideration if they are to find out after thinking or being told otherwise. Do you plan on telling a cover-up if you are pressured into talking about it?”

He did; one he’d used before, actually. One he had already told to Momo as compensation for getting to hear about her own quirk. It was scummy, telling her lie after lie about what his “quirk” was capable of, and him through using it. But he did it and he committed to it. It was the story he was going to run with until he knew everyone – bar one guy – around him had no bad blood or ill will towards people without quirks. He hated that. “I would rather not resort to it until the last second, if possible. It doesn’t feel good, lying, especially to people I’m hoping to be around for three years and then some after graduating.”

Nedzu spent a moment longer staring at Izuku than the teen liked. The principal didn’t even hum during the moment, opting to leave the compacted room silent par the creaking of the seat Aizawa was slowly sinking into. The green boy couldn’t tell if the principal was judging him or approving of him, not until the short “man” clapped his paws together. “Alright. You’ve proven yourself on film as someone trustworthy and kindhearted, I believe I can trust your judgement and intentions here too. I’ll make sure the staff are aware and do not speak about your quirklessness to prying ears or unwanted souls, and that concludes my main concerns on your wellbeing here at U.A. Aside from those inquiries, of course, there’s also the matter of the Sports Festival.”

Izuku nodded but kept silent in response. He knew about the festival, a school sport of sorts U.A. and U.A. alone would put its students through. It was a nice show for the general audience, a good example for the heroes to judge them for future hiring, a great opportunity for the students to bond and partner with their class- and schoolmates, and a fantastic event outperforming the Olympics in viewership. He’d watched it more often than the latter option growing up, mesmerized by the display of quirks and the sheer variety he witnessed in use over the years. While he couldn’t offer the same, he had committed himself to the idea of participating.

“You’ll have a month’s time to prepare for the event with the rest of your classmates,” Nedzu continued. “While the third years have me to give an opening speech and the second years their top student to do it for me, your year – this year’s freshmen – will feature you as the player representative giving the declaration and speech; as usual, the top scorer of our entrance exam gets front and center as the opening before the events begin.”

And up until this point that was not a detail he had remembered about the festival. Izuku tried not to widen his eyes too much in the realization that he was given the opportunity to be front in center in front of a crowd; a thought that both please him to have a chance to speak when people would pay attention and terrified him with the chance of being ignored despite the situation, as he had been before. “Oh,” was the simple acknowledgement he made of the situation.

“Now I understand that thought may be intimidating, but if you wish the role can be passed on to another one of your classmates if you do not feel up to the task.” While he couldn’t reach Izuku, Nedzu put out a paw and patted the air towards him. “I do hope you’ll at least consider taking up the role before passing it on. The opportunity to let your voice be heard is one many of my old students in your position have cherished; I would hope it would comfort you more than trouble you. Then there is the matter of your bat.”

Izuku looked down to the tool in question spread across his lap and breathed out a low chuckle. It was the first time he had brought one to a school. “Yeah, my mom got me a new one since the other one broke…and it’s a part of my hero uniform, technically, so I thought I’d bring it.”

“Wise of you, but ultimately unnecessary. I am aware that you considered it a part of your gear – it being your weapon of choice and registering it for the exam – but since it is our school that provides the students with their hero uniforms we’ve already ordered another bat to go alongside your costume. It’s our duty to outfit our students and the companies tied to us are inclined to meet those goals, and it would be better left that way on our campus as to not show favoritism or worry anyone unaware of the situation.”

Oh, Izuku thought to himself, a faint blush brushing his cheeks. Yeah, it makes sense they don’t want a student walking through the halls with a bat.

“If you would rather, I can put that on standby with your uniform when the time comes for you class to participate in a heroic exercise. Or we can leave it in here, where no one will come by and steal it while you are attending classes.”

“Can I” – Izuku fiddled with the hilt – “pick it up after classes? I’m not forfeiting it over?” Nedzu shook his head at his worry. “I’ll leave it here then.” He dropped it leaning against the principal’s desk as he motioned for. “Um…does anyone else know…about me?”

Nedzu nodded. “Only those I can trust with the information,” he elaborated. “All of the first year teachers know you’re quirkless, as they all will – at some point – teach you and your class through physical exercises. Most other teachers were not informed; we’ll get there when we get there. I have no plan on making a public statement on the matter to make into a news article, as those…sharks tend to warp the news and the truth for the attention of the public, and I assumed you wouldn’t take kindly to being demoted to nothing but a headline. It’s a fear many aspiring heroes fear of their future when they graduate; no need to bring the matter during your education.”

Izuku appreciated the thought. It was surprising how little attention the principal wanted to draw in with his quirkless status, and the man who would be his homeroom teacher looked bored out of his mind by the conversation, but he had yet to assume to guess any alternative motives to the principal’s words. Little times before had someone worded sincerity only to mask disgust and demeaning conclusions about it, but even as uninterested as Aizawa Shouta was in this before-school meeting, Izuku saw little directed at himself. Just a man/rodent/sentient-being-thing of a principal greeting him with warm welcomes and a gruff homeless impersonator impatient on getting to teach.

“Then I believe that’s everything I wanted to talk with you about.” Nedzu nodded a smile to Izuku before jumping to his feet and turning to the teacher trying to fall asleep in his chair. “Shouta, I take it your class will be skipping formalities and taking the assessment tests instead of joining the rest of us for the morning assembly?” Wait, Izuku blinked, they could do that? Just skip a session at the school?

The man in black grunted and split an eye half open to the principal. “There’s no reason to waste time there. The formalities are a sugar coating the students shouldn’t need, training to be heroes.”

“Agree to disagree.” It was strange game for Izuku, discerning what was playful banter and a threat behind the combination of a static smile and black, beady eyes. “All the same – since you’re here – why not run Midoriya through them early? Save yourself time when classes begin and use the moment to your advantage? I see no reason for a man as saving of his time as yourself to waste the opportunity before your eyes.”

It was a staring match between the two U.A. staff members Izuku got watch, spending the free time of attention off him to try and dissect their dialogue. It helped to paint a picture of the man who would be his homeroom teacher – much less a better one now that he was actually getting details on the black clad man – but it still left mystery as to who he was supposed to be. His attire was either a good disguise from his uniform as a hero or it was just a costume and hero he didn’t recognize, maybe a new face to the profession given his laziness or an underground hero to fit the unfamiliarity.

“Fine,” Aizawa sighed, rolling to his feet and drawing Izuku out of his musing. “When we’re done I’m heading into the teacher’s lounge until classes begin. I’m not doing anymore tasks for you this morning; get Mic for that.”

“I’ll make sure to call on him if need be,” the principal replied with a pip in his step, seemingly unruffled by his staff’s attitude. “You do a lot of work for us already and I’ll let you get the rest you need. Thank you, Shouta.”

The tall man grunted and looked away from the principal, but not towards Izuku. His hand swiped forward and plucked the bat against the desk, handing it under his arm. “You use this, don’t you?” He pointed his question to the teen but waited not for an answer before turning to the door and stalking away. “You’ll probably need it for a test or two; we’ll see when we get there. Let’s go. I’ll have you change into a uniform for the exercise, so hurry. Wasting time isn’t professional.”

Izuku shot to his feet to follow Aizawa out the door before turning around last second and bowing to the principal of U.A. High. “Thank you for the hospitality, Nedzu,” he directed to the short, sentient mammal. “I’m sorry I hadn’t said it earlier, but it’s an honor to be accepted here.”

“And it’s an honor to have you attend,” the short rodent replied, his smile etched across his cheeks. “I’d argue more so on my end, but we don’t have time to argue semantics. Hurry along and have a splendid first day at our school.”

Izuku thought nothing of the principal’s first use of “our” with “school,” or how his paws bounced on his stiff knees as he waved goodbye. Finally, a principal who listened to him and a teacher – while aggressive – who showed no animosity to him being him. It was hospitality at its finest, and Izuku would take it with a pinching smile.


Shouta thought any and every idea out of Nedzu’s mouth was a waste of time. Even with the principal’s keen eye – thanks to his quirk – and heartfelt resolve to surpass all expectations in the best of ways, the mouse acted more as a showman than a high school principal. Even Kayama’s tendencies of foreplay and teasing were bearable in comparison. Why Nedzu thought the need to tell Midoriya the school wouldn’t parade him around whilst simultaneously singling him out for the exam scoring, first day of classes and a private assessment test was beyond him, and he’d rather not waste the time playing the principal’s pointless mind games.

Midoriya was at least logical enough in that sense, going along with the questions and not wasting time to change and meet him on the training ground. There was a hesitation to his step he would have to work out over the course of his first year. He’d do that when classes actually started; now was the time to test his current abilities.

Aizawa kicked the bat at his feet lightly and Midoriya watched it roll an inch in response. “Your junior high gave you yearly physical tests, correct?” The kid nodded. “Then you should be used to these. Short and long distance running, sidesteps, long jumping, push-ups, sit-ups, the works. All your heroics classes will have you push yourself farther than you’re capable of now, but all that matters here is that same now. It’ll give me the information I need to judge your abilities and how to make you better throughout the year. Let’s get started.”

“Y-yes sir.” A stutter in his tongue as much as in his step. Least it was less offensive.

As it stood, putting Midoriya through test after test (and using his own quirk as little as possible during each test), Shouta had to admit he was disappointed. The young teen was physically average in strength, performing around the same level of competency as anyone his age that didn’t have a quirk that enhanced their physical properties and showing satisfaction with his scores. But Shouta knew the reason Nedzu was running Izuku through the tests early and Midoriya was not meeting the expectations of either adult. He ran as fast as any other kid, could move his weight around with the slim muscles kids his age had, and at least had a lung capacity to keep himself going through it all without fault. Nothing about him was stellar, nothing was showing the prowess he demonstrated at the entrance exam.

“Ball toss.” He did as the title said, passing the ball over to the kid as he stepped up to the plate. “Do you remember how far you could throw last year?”

“No sir,” Midoriya admitted with hesitance. “It’s been a while since then.”

“Then throw away. You’ll be judged on the distance it goes, so don’t hold anything back.” The kid took a moment to situate himself and take up and stance. Once he was ready, Midoriya threw the ball and the instant he did Aizawa snapped his eyes and activated his quirk. In the end, Shouta was just as unimpressed by his display as every other test left him.

72.4 meters wasn’t a bad throw, not for a kid, but it still was far beneath the bar set for him. The boy still wasn’t upturned by his score, looking pleased that it had gone the distance it had. If the kid was hiding a quirk, he was doing well in hiding his surprise at his scores and feigning happiness with the effort he was putting out. Shouta doubted Midoriya was that good at holding a façade, but he could never be too sure. He was undoubtedly the lowest ranking of his class (the rest of his class would most definitely top many of his scores) when he should be ranking in the top ten – hell, top five. What was he hiding now that he didn’t during the exam?

Shouta eyed the bat by his side a moment before looking back to the green haired boy picking up the ball he had just thrown. Shouta moved quick with his capture tape to grab the bat and sling it into his hand before the boy could see him. “Try again,” he told the kid before tossing the bat his way. Midoriya reacted just fast enough to catch the bat before it flew into him, giving the teacher a strong look of confusion. “For someone who was able to score top in the exam and take on several robots without a quirk, you’re scoring painfully average for someone your age. Your classmates will all be using their quirks for this test and the school years going forward, and you’re going to have to show yourself somehow competent enough to match them without one.” He nodded to the bat in his hands. “You’re trying to replace a lack of a quirk with that, and this is the only test where it’ll help. Try it again.”

One of the recommended students assigned to his class had let slip an “explanation” of what the boy’s quirk was to be, one that he frankly found a load of shit and the boy’s performance was only further proof of it. But it was contrasting proof all the same; all bodies were genetically adjusted to handle their quirk to some degree, meaning Midoriya could at least put some minute output into his body to make himself run faster, jump higher, perform more push-ups and sit-ups and probably put more strength into the grip test. Hell, even the ball throw should have gone maybe double what he managed. But with the bat, he was able to do just that and then some.

Shouta remembered the news report of the attack at the mall; the one Midoriya was a part of, the one Nedzu had him read before assigning the boy to his class. A man with a quirk to contort rocks and plaster them over his body was sent flying almost ten meters off his feet and into a wall from one swing of the boy’s bat. A bullet flying at nearly 762 meters in a second that should have ripped through his shoulder was stopped by the bone. The boy held a child in his arms for near ten minutes with a bad arm and walked off a gunshot wound for thrice that time before passing out from shock and blood loss, and managed to survive three hours through surgery while unconscious atop the one hour it took from being shot to get to the hospital and rushed into ER. His actions were noble but reckless, a mirror to his attitude during the entrance exam with maybe just as much of his own blood spilled, and on both accounts he should have died. So why didn’t he?

Midoriya took his time at the plate, bat hanging lazily in one hand whilst the other held the ball before him. With his back turned to Shouta, the man had only the boy’s posture to read his emotion. Slouched, tired and defeated for a whole minute before his shoulders squared and his head lifted. He turned on his heel slightly, giving a peek at his hardened stare out towards the trees. His fingers tightened around the ball a moment before he shifted and tossed the ball into the air. Midoriya readied his bat at his shoulder, and Eraserhead his quirk on the boy as the ball fell back down. The ball was hit with a swift crack, and gone in a second.

There wasn’t any time for Shouta to pick up his goggles when the cloud of dust came bellowing his way. He cursed under his breath and wiped the particle from his eyes. Midoriya was left in his place, posed in a post-swing stance with eyes squinted to the distance above the tree tops. There was a crack of a smile tugging up his lips as his body relaxed and fell into a normal stance. A flash of yellow peaking around the gym building’s corner caught his eye for a second before his attention was drawn elsewhere; the phone in Shouta’s hand dinged, pining the man out of his stupor to read the distance the ball hand gone.

And he just stared at his screen in silence.

He knew he had activated his quirk on the boy. If the kid was hiding a quirk of his own, it would have been unusable. Unless it was a physical mutation they were born with, Shouta could deactivate it and leave the person powerless. The how the hell

“Uh, sensei?” Midoriya’s stuttering voice had Shouta snap his eyes up to the boy. The green teen had a concerned brow raised in the teacher’s direction. “Was that good? Is something wrong?”

Shouta wasn’t sure the question or the lack of spite and snark in its delivery bothered him more.

“If you’re going to stay in my class, you’ll have to put your everything into your actions,” he started and walked up to Midoriya. “I expect to see you working with your all from here on. Any slacking would mean death in situations where it could be avoided. You won’t always have your bat on hand, but seeing as you perform best with it, I’ll make sure there’s always one on standby with your field uniform. The ceiling you are at now will continue to climb through training and experience; maybe you’ll give everyone else a run for their money if you’re lucky enough.” He bounced cupped fingers between himself and the boy, taking back the bat handed over.

“Go back to the lockers and change back into your uniform. You can head to class from there. 1-A is down the northwest hall on the fourth floor. Class is in” – he looked to the time hanging over Midoriya’s last score – “35 minutes. You’ll be out here again with the rest of your class when the bell’s rung. I’m not running you through these tests again so you’ll follow me out when everyone else dresses properly. Now go. I’ll make sure this is back in Nedzu’s office.”

With a moment to scrunch his face before moving past his thoughts, Midoriya bowed and rushes back to the main building. Shouta watched until he had rounded the corner before moving on and strolling to the gym building the opposite way. Around the corner, leaning against the wall with a vacant look in his eyes and a hanging jaw was how Shouta found him.

“Being here in that form isn’t safe,” he stated, getting the lanky blond man to look his wat with a slow turn of his neck.

“Nedzu’s wanting me to keep it up as a guise,” All-Might sighed, and pushed himself weakly off the wall. “The recommended students have already seen me like this, and probably will another time. And Midoriya…met me looking like this. It’s no big deal if he sees me like this a second time.”

“Last I remember, this guise was meant to be a cover up to have time to yourself, not share it with others.”

“We don’t always get what we want.” The number one hero sounded defeated, his eyes darting to the corner Shouta came from. “That was…quite the display on that last test. I’m surprised you didn’t question him about it.”

“Nedzu wants to be indirect about this; for the life of me I don’t know why. I’ll question him when classes are over. Pretty sure if I try to corner him now, he’ll waste another hour trying to explain it. You want to hear any of it, wait till then. I’m not talking about this twice today.” Shouta turned away from the pro hero, stalking across the dirt back to the main building. “You want to corner him about it now, be my guest. Maybe he knows what this kid’s got going on in his head with all this conflicting information.”


Izuku was pretty sure his homeroom teacher hated him as much as the last one did. It was to be expected, he admitted, but that didn’t make it any less disappointing to think about. Maybe it was because the ever present Nedzu in his own office was watching him with a direct eye that Aizawa kept his mouth shut and ignored him. Hell, if that could have just been the norm Izuku would have taken it. Being left to his own devices would have been better than the hawk over his shoulder than was his homeroom teacher.

Izuku could see the dark, ruby glint in his teacher’s eyes during the assessment test from the corner of his own eyes. He saw how Aizawa’s eyes squinted and watched him with hunger, one that reminded him greatly of Katsuki’s. It was unnerving and a little bit distracting, but Aizawa didn’t once approach him or get forceful with him so Izuku thought it no mind. He was going to have to get used to stares and glares if he wanted to be a public, quirkless pro hero, and if U.A. was going to be like every other school in that department then so be it. As long as nothing got physical, he wouldn’t mind it one bit.

The tests themselves, on the opposite end of the spectrum, felt like just that; exercises that once ran Izuku dry and pouring sweat all at once felt rejuvenating to go in and out of. He remembered well what his scores were last year, back when he was effectively a twig, so passing through these tests like a knife through butter was a big morale boost to his head and heart. Even if what he could do was nothing stellar or mind-blowing, it was topping some of his old classmate’s scores back in their last year of junior high.

But Aizawa was unimpressed. Along the tired and piercing glare was a blunt statement that he would be the black sheep of the class in these tests. This wasn’t junior high anymore; this was U.A., a school where his classmates could use their quirks under their teacher’s supervision. A test where they had to show off their physical capabilities would be enhanced when his classmates boosted their scores by using their quirks. He’d be left behind in near every department at the start; even when some quirks couldn’t help in one place, they’d no doubt find stride in another. Anything he could do was average and boring and uninteresting and would leave him eating dust trying to stand out in a crowd. Aizawa was right; if he wanted to match up with his classmates and feel like a part of the crowd, he’d have to do more than average.

Standing at the plate, ball in one hand for a second go and his bat hanging in the other, all that doubt washed away. On his own he would be remised to think himself capable of holding even with most quirks, and he had no doubt his classmates would have a plethora of wonderful abilities at their disposal. But he wasn’t on his own, not with the bat in his hands. It was technically his replacement for the quirk he lacked, but it was more of him than it was an accessory. Every hero used tools on the job in some way or another; even All-Might had to resort to more than just his bare hands to keep people safe and get the job done (Izuku hoped empty cola bottles wasn’t the most of it). Had his hands been all Izuku had in the field, he probably wouldn’t save or defeat anyone; but with near anything, he had a better chance than none to be a hero.

He was just himself and a baseball bat, but it was himself and a baseball bat that kept a kid from getting shot and his friend and Uraraka from being crushed by rocks. The one he had to work with now wasn’t the one he found abandoned on a beach, but Izuku have every intention of putting it through as much work as the last and then some.

With a simple breath and a swing of his bat, he had done seemingly enough for Aizawa not to be rude. Blunt as his words were, Aizawa’s follow up speech to the ball-toss-turned-baseball-whacking gave the impression that the man actually believed in Izuku. Vague and broadly claimed and built of maybes more than certainties, but belief all the same. Izuku took the words to his pride as he handed his bat over and changed back into the school’s normal uniform. It followed him to the classroom he was to be in for the next year, and was his only company when the door opened to a room void of any other life.

Izuku checked the seating arrangement beside the door – familiarizing himself with the names of his classmates, rejoicing to see Ojiro and Iida, a disapproving grunt at the brief glance to Katsuki’s name and smiling softly to see Yaoyorozu and Uraraka present as well – before he took stock in his designated seat. Being as early as he was to any class was not a commonplace for the green teen in his earlier school years, but the time allowed him to take out his phone, notebook and pencil and jot down what notes of the news he could.

The news was riddled with posts of heroes, all in a multitude of cases. A few heroes clearing out small skirmishes of criminals and robbers. Some hero interviews and one presenting a television show to detail the early years of professional and legalized heroics. A report of a hero found beaten in an alleyway, currently making a slow but sure recovery, promising to get back into the fight and let the rest of the world know never to let their guard down or let the enemy get the best of them. Another of a hero pledging to hunt down the perpetrator who had hospitalized the last one. Heroes plastered the pages of his phone’s news, but it wasn’t until the third page that his mind wandered to the man who was now his homeroom teacher whose hero persona was still a mystery to him. Sadly a simple search of Aizawa Shouta’s name came up blank for any related searches to answer the question. Drat.

“Midoriya! Good morning!” The green teen snapped his head up at the call of his name, finding Iida a statue at the door and holding a hand up in a wave. He waved back as the taller teen checked the roster by the door and confirmed his own seat, before dropping into the chair in front of Izuku’s desk. “Apologies I couldn’t have joined you for the ride over earlier. Punctuality is key, especially at this school, but I doubted they would have allowed me to lounge around for an hour as you were meeting with the principal. I’ve only seen one other person on the campus, but I didn’t have the time to talk with them on my way over. A bit rude of myself to have ignored them with the potential to be one of our classmates, but I was anxious to know that you were doing alright first and foremost.”

“Oh, uh, thank you, Iida,” Izuku replied with a growing smile. “That means a lot to hear. And I’m fine; I’m pretty sure I’m staying in this class. The principal didn’t say anything to make me think otherwise and I’m pretty sure our homeroom teacher would have said so by now, so I guess I get to stay.” Iida looked as relieved as he felt at the information. “Also we’re not joining the opening ceremony and commencement. Sensei’s taking us out for a physical assessment test instead.”

It was funny how Iida’s glasses slipped from his nose all on their own in his shock. They were fixed back into place when he gathered his composure to respond. “Skipping the opening formalities? Why would they allow such a thing at a school as prestigious as this? What is our sensei’s reasoning for isolating ourselves from the principal’s greetings and making acquaintance with our schoolmates?”

“I think he said it was pointless,” Izuku muttered his response, squinting his eyes and tapping the pencil against the paper. “He didn’t detail it like that but I think he still doesn’t want to go to it. I can’t tell whether he’s just blunt or plain rude.”

“Who?” Both boys turned their heads to the doorway, and standing in it was the tall girl with the ponytail Izuku remembered.

“Our homeroom teacher,” Izuku answered, before gesturing a hand between the two other teens. “Iida, this is Yaoyorozu, girl from the mall. Yaoyorozu, this is Iida, guy from the beach. Finally get to introduce you two. Let’s hope Ojiro gets here on time.”

Izuku nearly jumped out of his own seat when Iida did, bowing a whole 90 to Yaoyorozu. “My sincerest apologies for having passed you up earlier. It was irrational on my part not to greet a schoolmate of mine and evidently a classmate on top of that. It’s unbecoming of me to have greeted you properly.”

“Ah-!” Yaoyorozu waved her hand through her sweat drop, just as taken aback from his forwardness as Izuku once was. “It’s fine. You seemed in a hurry and I didn’t want to pull you back from that. It seems we share a common friend anyways. Hello Midoriya.”

The green teen greeted her back. “Sorry for not reaching out to you sooner. Didn’t want to take up any of your time for your final exams.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t have minded,” the tall girl brushed away his worry, seating herself in the desk beside his. “My parents don’t have the hardest of tests for me and my studies. I had plenty of free time to get ready and make sure everything was ready for U.A. Time off to talk with you would have been a good pass time.”

“I’ll make sure to ask next time.” He scratched his neck and grinned. He tiptoed around Yaoyorozu for quite a few reasons, but she had done little to present herself as a bad person. It really was just hesitance and nervousness that had him shoulder her in conversation; it wasn’t her, it was him. He was lying to her face, after all, and had her lead the way in spread his lie to feel in place at U.A. It almost felt wrong to interact with her at all, knowing how he was treating her without her knowledge – as far as he knew, unless she was aware he was lying. “We have classes together now, so I guess I’ll know better if I can.” He still wanted to treat her like a friend, though.

“I’ll make sure to let you know,” she smiled back and looked to both boys. “What were you two talking about? It sounded about someone…”

Izuku carried on from where he left off: “Our homeroom teacher. He’s a bit…blunt. And kinda lazy. He didn’t strike me as a guy who wants to be here, or to teach us. I know U.A. is known for having everyone give their Plus Ultra into their work, and I think he’s just being held hostage by the principal. And paid to stay.” Izuku exaggerated a pout with wide eyes to help sell his joke, and he was pleased Yaoyorozu at least saw through it to chuckle.

Iida was not the same case, throwing a hand over his heart as though Izuku’s words had it skip a few beats. “Midoriya, I doubt our principal would ever dabble in holding someone hostage and forcing them into labor against their will. Do you know what news of that would do to a school such as this, to the reputation it has built up over all these years?”

Izuku let the silence hang around them to blink slowly at his friend. “Iida,” he opened, leaning forward slowly, “I don’t know if you’re playing along and being even more overdramatic than I am, or you’re believing me at face value even though I’m being equally overdramatic. Either way, I see this as successful.”

Iida, instead of throwing his hands about in appall, just lowered his head with a sigh. “I thought my delivery was clear that it was a joke,” he muttered in defeat. “My brother, Ojiro and you keep telling me to loosen up but I guess it isn’t quite as convincing coming from me.”

“It’s fine, Iida,” Izuku reassured him with a pat to the shoulder. “We’ll get there eventually. It’s more believable coming from you than from Hatsume. Pretty sure nothing she’s ever said is a joke.”

The three teens were able to fall into a comfortable conversation as the clock ticked on, allowing Izuku’s two separated friends to familiarize themselves with one another better. It was probably helped that they recognized each other’s family name, their dialogue centered on their families and the ties to mutual they’ve met thanks to their families. Izuku was almost subjected to the role of a third wheel as they connected and got to know one another but he pitched in when a name he recognized excited him. It was good to know his separated friends could connect. Being at each other’s throat wouldn’t have been a welcomed repeat of his classmates the past few years.

Izuku spent more of the time while they conversed just counting the heads of everyone who walked into the classroom after them. A pink and red duo walked in – Ashido and Kirishima as they introduced themselves, respectively – and took seats beside his other friends, aptly enough their designated seats for the year. They were nice, opening the conversation over the difficulty of the written and practical portion of the entrance exams, but their eagerness to jump into a conversation over their quirks put him off and left him silent for most of the conversation. When attention turned to him and Yaoyorozu mentioned the strength of his own “quirk,” he sighed and played along, shouldering the solemn look Iida gave from the corner of his eyes.

More and more trickled in overtime, distracting Izuku from his story and getting to recognize everyone else as they fell into their own isolated conversations. Three gentlemen in the front huddled in their own discussions, standing out with their bright yellow hair, circular elbows and towering height and limbs like wings. A tall, buff boy trailed in behind two girls, one with an orange ponytail and the other a long green drape of hairs resembling rose stems. A boy and girl of animalistic features, bird and amphibian respectively, entered together and stood by the front as they conversed. Another pair of opposite genders were locked in a conversation that jumped between Japanese, English and what sounded French with a purple-haired girl between them adopting the role of translator when either broke into the other language, or really when she could. One boy with hair split down the middle entered and was quick to walk to the back – Izuku assumed it was his seat on the chart – greeted briefly by Yaoyorozu with only a short and quiet greeting before isolating himself in silence.

It wasn’t until maybe five minutes until the bell would ring that Ojiro entered the classroom, and to Izuku’s surprise was engaged in conversation with the brunette Izuku had talked with at the entrance exam. Both were quick to pick him out of the crowd of other students and join their circle of conversation, Uraraka diving into her seat behind his and gushing over the school and city around it compared to her hometown, and the group of friends fell into the meet-and-greet they had started with. The pink cheeked girl was quick to consider Izuku a friend despite their little time together prior, but Izuku accepted the notion when her conversation circled around their friendliness to one another instead of attributing his actions to his quirk.

When the door opened for the final time before the bell, Izuku should have seen it as more obvious when the blond boy he grew up with entered the room but seeing him come in last still left him surprised. It took the blood moon eyes a moment to survey the room before they fell on him, the boredom behind their color swapped out with surprise and an aggressive fire as they recognized him. Despite the lively talk in the room didn’t cease for a second, but the world around Izuku was muted as he locked eyes with Katsuki. The blond boy was itching to launch himself at the green teen then and there – Izuku could see his fists shaking by his sides – but he never got the chance before their homeroom teacher appeared behind him, shutting the room in silence and sending everyone to their seats, Katsuki included on the opposite side of the room from Izuku.

Despite having only talked with the principal that morning and shared his intentions of hiding his quirkless nature then, Izuku thought it intentional that he was seated around mostly unfamiliar faces bar the brunette sitting behind him. It had to be intentional that Katsuki was on the full opposite side of the room from him, two rows ahead to boot. It had to be intentional that after Aizawa threw a bag on the floor before them, instructing the class to change into their gym uniforms and meet him on the field outside, the teacher has singled Izuku out to follow him without changing and slapped a notebook in his hands with the instructions to note down his classmates’ performances during the assessment test.

He thought little of the principal’s intentions during their conversation, but Izuku had a growing suspicion there was something amok behind the scenes. Someone was trying to start a game with him, but Izuku had no interest in playing.


He held back the smoke in his ears from bursting as their principal called them into his office. As the bloke congratulated him and the shitty nerd beside him for passing U.A.’s entrance exam. As fucking Deku got praised by the bastard, even hesitant having to say how proud he was in him; in them both. He should’ve just been proud of him. It should have just been him. The first think Katsuki did when he and Izuku were out of sight of any teachers was grab him by the collar of his uniform and shove him against the wall.

“The hell was that all about?” the blond seethed between his teeth to the green teen. Deku blinked to recover from being slammed against a wall, his own hands latching onto Katsuki’s arm to keep himself upright. “I thought I told you to back the fuck off! What fucking tricks did you pull to get your quirkless ass in U.A.? Who’d you pay off to get the title of first place and how the hell did you get points at all?!”

Emerald eyes stared into his rubies with surprise and confusion in their recovery, turning into fire and defiance as the grips on Katsuki’s arm tightened. “I didn’t pay anyone off,” Deku muttered, pushing himself to stand while still stuck with his back to brick. “You know we don’t have that kind of money.”

Katsuki’s free hand popped in his anger. “Bullshit! There’s no way in hell someone without any real power could pass that entrance exam! Quit lying to me!”

“I’m not.” Even as Deku pulled the blond’s arm away, Katsuki refused to let the fabric out of his grip. “I took that test fairly, just like you did. Just like everyone else did. I passed because I did what they wanted us to do.”

“No you didn’t! I saw your score; you only got 15 points!”

Combat points. I got Rescue Points as well. That’s why I passed.” It was an excuse in Katsuki’s ears, grating on his nerves as his teeth did each other.

“Nobody cares about those bullshit points!” He sure as hell didn’t. Underhand tactics like that wouldn’t make for a hero, and why a school meant for them to become heroes wouldn’t act or tell the truth from the start was equally stupid. “We were there to be grading on winning, not picking up after people who couldn’t do shit for themselves! That’s what Present Mic fucking said, none of that secret crap! You and those extras who couldn’t stand up for themselves don’t deserve to be at the top of that scoreboard!”

“Why, because I don’t have my head up my rear?” The nerd’s grip on him was tightening, and Katsuki’s own grip loosened as Deku’s fingers pressed into his sleeve and the arm below. “Beating people up isn’t all a hero does, Katsuki. They’re people for the people, not just themselves.” The green eyes were a fierce burning passion of light, an undertone to the nerd’s darker glare. “There isn’t a hero who fights just for themselves like you. We’re smarter than that.”

There was something fishy about Midoriya “Deku” Izuku, and Katsuki didn’t have a clue as to what. It bothered the ever-living hell out of him, but he was treading thin ice already just to have gotten into U.A. That didn’t mean he wasn’t going to go looking for clues.

He wanted to stop Deku from even entering U.A.’s gates so bad, holding back the urge to jump him at the exam and do just that. But he held himself back and took the exam and aced that fucker better than anyone could – or at least should have. Those rescue points were utter crap; the exam was about beating up robots and tallying up a score, not stepping in the way of others’ work. People stayed out of his way, he’d stay out of theirs. He’d get to shine and stand victorious as he fucking deserved.

And yet there he was, in his room the day the acceptance letter arrived, watching on the projection as his name came up in second place because Deku had gotten more points than him in combat and rescue combined. The bastard hadn’t gathered enough points form fighting the robots to have been considered for either of the heroics classes, so he somehow goes and “rescues” other examinees to make up for it? What kind of half-assed excuse was that, that he couldn’t fight for himself but when there was someone else by his side he could do just fine? That’s not how heroes worked. That’s not how All-Might or Miruko or Endeavor made their names, by sharing the spotlight with someone else; they got their place by carrying their own weight. He deserved to be up there with them, above them the day he was officially a hero, not some quirkless nobody like Deku.

That nerd made it all the more aggravating when he finally got to U.A. and entered the classroom, finding the nerd already present in his seat and surrounded by all these other faceless extras treating him like he was some sort of equal. Like he could step up to the plate and beat the bad guy like any of them could without a quirk. U.A. knew better than to throw someone with no strength into a class made for the strongest, so why the hell did they include him even on their campus?

Katsuki didn’t engage the nerd the instant he saw him in his seat, though. Some homeless guy in a sleeping bag – who was supposed to be their homeroom teacher but Katsuki didn’t believe that for a second – made it just in time to announce his presence and get everyone in their seat, so he followed along and did just that; on the whole opposite side of the room from Deku. Katsuki doubted that placement wasn’t intentional.

Not one to mince words, their “teacher” threw them a bag of gym clothes and had them change for a quirk assessment test, taking his leave out the door just as quickly as he entered. For a moment, Katsuki allowed himself to grin, elation filling his bones hearing the word “quirk” and knowing full well Deku couldn’t apply himself to these test and would flunk each and every one of them.

Then the teacher singled Deku out and had the twerp follow him out to the field alone, no need for a change of attire necessary. Because the nerd had already taken the fucking tests.

He grumbled as he changed faster than the other boys and was out on the field before anyone else, bar the man claiming to be his homeroom teacher and the nerd flanking him. Katsuki didn’t remember seeing it, but Deku had a notebook in his hands as he flipped through the pages with a dumb, confused expression. Guess it wasn’t his.

The extras were quick to follow out, flooding the field behind Katsuki as the muttered and mingled with one another. They were quick to quiet when their teacher looked over, announced the tests they would be taking and quieted Glasses when he brushed aside the notion of joining the freshman assembly with the rest of the classes. Katsuki could respect his no-shit attitude, to push ahead and prepare to be heroes than meddling in pointless crap with people he was just going to leave in the dust on his way to the top.

The pink extra questioned why Deku – now seated in the dirt by their teacher’s legs and scribbling away on the pages of the notebook – wasn’t taking part in the tests, apparently suffering from memory loss when the gruff man explained it from the start. He reiterated his answer, even drawing it on to state, “He came an hour before any of you, so I ran him through the tests already. No point in having him go again and waste my time. Now get to it.”

Katsuki kept his eyes on Deku in between each test, shooting through each and every one to keep his eyes on the nerd longer. He didn’t dare approach, not while the gruff teacher continued to glare away any member of the nerd’s posse when they approached, ringing them back into the crowd of other extras. The man was isolating Deku for a reason – more than just to keep their own attention on the tests and off of social interaction – and Katsuki reasoned it had something to do with his quirklessness.

No doubt the teachers knew about it, including their own, the principal, and All-Might. How the number one hero and the head master of Japan’s greatest school of heroics let a kid with no quirk into the school was baffling. It didn’t matter what little points Deku got from the robots he shouldn’t have been able to defeat, nor his attitude to step up and protect others when they should have been strong enough to protect themselves as heroes; there wasn’t anything close to enough in him that should have put him in the realm of considered. Why were none of them taking action over this?

His posse wasn’t letting anything slip either, barely talking at all about Deku other than his place on the entrance exam and, in the case of Round Cheeks, how he had stepped up to protect others and save them from a deadly scenario. The latter was nothing but an overblown reaction; U.A. was the greatest school for heroics and in general across Japan for a reason and there was no way they would actually put someone in a scenario they would die. Maybe a tough one where they had no hope of winning on the horizon, but the school wouldn’t dare gamble with lives or they’d have been shut down years ago.

Then they let it slip, during the ball toss as the girl with horns sent them flying with the ball attached, that Deku had done the exam with a bat, and suddenly things were starting to click. Deku didn’t pass the exam beating robots for points with his own strength; he had to rely on objects and tools to get himself to the top. He couldn’t do it on his own, needing something other than himself to get the job done. Deku wasn’t actually strong, he was just acting like it. That’s why he was sitting out the assessment tests, because it would show everyone just how weak and inconsequential he actually was, and the teachers were in on it? “Didn’t pay anyone off,” his ass.

Deku didn’t acknowledge a single thing being said, keeping his head tucked down and his eyes on the papers in his lap, but Katsuki could see how his expression shifted when talk about him was loud enough. His lies were coming to light and sooner or later he was going to be exposed for the secrets he was keeping. The front he had would fall, and him with it flat on his face when it did. And yet he was still trying to hold it up, keep his façade strong even when he knew it was never going to work with him – Katsuki, the one who knew Deku for the coward he was – around.

The prick kept up his mask when the tests had ended and everyone headed back to change, all except himself and his small group of paid-off followers. Katsuki could see the strain in his smile, looking back over his shoulder. Deku knew he was in deep, that his scheme would fail and he would suffer the consequences of trying to lie his way into U.A. at all. None of the extras acted like they knew the truth, not even the ones Katsuki remembered from the exam by Deku’s side. He was playing them all for fools, and they were all gullible to fall for the act. But not him, not Katsuki.

Deku wanted to make a game out of his hiding and cowardly tactics? Fine. Katsuki would play his stupid game, and he would kick Deku’s ass and win and beat the nerd fair and square. It was only a matter of time.


Nedzu was enjoying a nice cup of tea with Toshi when Shouta barged into his office. Not barged, really; more so hastily entered had a far more equal tone to how he stoically carried himself. The door was open for less than a second as the underground hero appeared, keeping silent as the two staff present took in his present – one startled whilst the other calm.

Nedzu greeted his staff member with a smile. “Good afternoon, Shouta. Is there something you wanted to talk about?”

“Midoriya.” The hero’s reply was short as he took hostage the free chair and pushed it closer to Nedzu’s desk. “I want to know what your game is with the kid.”

Toshi perked up at the mention of the boy, the cup in his hands falling to rest between his knees. Nedzu only greeted the statement with a nod. “I take it the boy has made some developments. Yagi gave me a brief rundown of what he saw already, and I assume you can go into more detail about his performance on the assessment tests? I’ve got bullet points of my own I want to check off with your provided information—”

“Midoriya doesn’t have a quirk,” Shouta cut in abruptly. “I used mine on him for every test. He showed no signs of discomfort or disappointment. He took every test unbothered and passed them with average scoring for someone his age with no quirk to boost his strength. He runs like normal, has normal strength in his arms and legs, and breathes like every other kid. How many does that cross off?”

“A few.” Midoriya’s quirklessness was already determined, or at least predicted, in Nedzu’s notes. His birth records and hospital reports detailed the genetic trait, and a meeting over the phone with Detective Naomasa solidified that the boy was quirkless when the mall was attacked, despite his impressive feats detailed and showcased on the news suggesting otherwise. An inability to react to having a quirk removed from his body due to Eraserhead’s quirk fed into that story now. “The blood work from the entrance exam I had Shuzenji collect for me tells a similar tale. Four sources all telling me the same thing is far more believable than one alone. Anything more to add?”

The phone slammed on his desk didn’t startle him like it did Toshi, but the principal was surprised nonetheless at the screen displayed before him. Shouta grumbled, “Mind telling me how a quirkless kid is able to hit a ball two thousand, five hundred and thirty-seven meters when my own quirk is active? It took until I put the bat in his hands for him to show anything like he did during the exam.”

That fact only highlighted Nedzu’s focuses more than it did settle them. Another event mirror to all those before it, playing 4D chess within Nedzu’s temple. No quirk, but can stop a bullet with his bones. No quirk, but can rip through robots like butter. No quirk, but can top the farthest knocked baseball in the recorded world before and during the era of quirks. The facts told him the boy had no quirk, and the facts told him he could achieve impossible feats despite his genetic identity. Midoriya was two steps ahead of every play Nedzu made, leaving little leeway to pick up the pieces he’d lost so far.

“I-I hadn’t realized it had gone that far,” Toshinori muttered out, gaze frozen on the phone’s screen. “He kicked up quite a lot of dust, sure, but still…”

“It’s very impressive,” Nedzu commented, shouldering the two question glares of his two staff. “I’m happy you read into the situation and tested that yourself. Sadly” – the principal side-eyed the bat leaning against his desk, the one Midoriya had brought to school and used under Shouta’s instruction – “I’ve had Maijima give it a once over already, and he’s found little mechanical tampering on the bat to suggest it works on its own without a quirk. And I’ve been unsuccessful in finding anyone with the skillset to enchant or purify objects with enhanced super power. A skill set as specific as that is hard to find, and has probably been lost to time or is too far in the future for us to rely on.”

“Meaning we have no real leads on how Midoriya is able to accomplish what he has and what he can, other than he does.” Shouta sagged his shoulder, less in defeat and more in laze. “Of course we don’t.”

“There has to be something we’re missing,” Toshi suggested, and Nedzu agreed. Mystery shrouded a boy who was nothing but straightforward. “Has the boy or his family motioned to register a quirk in his records?”

“No,” Nedzu quickly responded. “His documentation hasn’t been tampered or updated in regards to his quirklessness. Only noting the wounds he’s received; gunshot wound are terribly messy. It seems the boy is almost completely oblivious to his own feats or maybe he is hiding his wealth of self-knowledge under a child-like enthusiasm and determination. His mother hasn’t made even the slightest acknowledgement of the situation or his abilities; she may be just as unaware of his strength or on his side in acting like nothing is out of the ordinary. Quite odd, I must say.”

Nedzu saw how Toshinori’s body tensed and shuffled in place, how his fingers scrunched along his teacup, how his brows furrowed into the smallest of glares sent Nedzu’s way. An exaggerated reaction, but not one completely unwarranted. “And what of his father?”

“Hisashi, yes.” Nedzu turned to his own computer and clicked over one of the files he had open. The boy and his web of puzzles cluttered the principal’s computer. “I had done a background check on him. An out-of-country worker who was last employed by Charter Design and Manufacturing. Used most of his profits to help provide for his family back home.”

“’Was’? Is he no longer working with the company?”

“Deceased,” the principal stated bluntly, cutting the blonde man short of further questions and getting him to sink back into his seat. “Passed away years ago in a work related incident. I found his obituary, scrolling around. The boy has no ties to the underworld or anyone once from it. A clean slate with a clean family. Your theory has come up empty handed.”

Toshi displayed a mix of relief and disappointment as he settled back into his chair, cup resting against his stomach. The possibility of All For One was one they had to consider, but little evidence was available to prove it. The only man of his kind, left dead half a decade ago. Reassuring to know, for sure, but that was still only one of two pieces knocked in the game of Midoriya’s abilities.

“I have no idea what either of you two are trying to hide,” Shouta interrupted them, half-open eyes rolling between the two. “Frankly, I don’t care, because it’s obvious enough that we’re still nowhere on getting the answer we want or one suitable enough to make up for it. The boy showed little sign or signals of snark or vile intentions, mostly respectful if shy in his attitude, so if he’s staying, fine. This class so far has yet to prove themselves as shortcoming and undeserving, so if he keeps his mouth shut on being quirkless he’ll fit in just fine.”

“None of the students gave him trouble?”

“Other than fuel the lie he has for a cover up and giving him more attention when it should have been on the tests, no.” Shouta’s words were reassuring for Nedzu. With no reason to expel Midoriya other than suspicion and all quests ending neatly, the boy had every reason to stay. And he had a heart to justify his place equal to his strength, so it was a win-win for the principal of U.A.

“Good. Make sure Midoriya is treated like the rest of his classmates. His attitude is in line for any other good student, and hopefully that determination of his never falters. While his power may be unconventional, a reason will show itself sooner or later, and we’ll keep our eyes and ears open for one. Wouldn’t be the first strange instance our school has gone through with students before.” Nedzu gave Toshi a quick glance during his speech, recalling the days of a boy once quirkless showing up to the exam with power he could use unrestrained. The blond sported a blush for being called out, but his expression still read somber. “Make sure young Mirio is aware of the situation before Wednesday, Toshi. Can’t have his excitement ruin the fun so soon.”

Toshi nodded his head with a meek agreement, bus Shouta was quick to point at the principal. “What about this is supposed to be exciting?”

Nedzu was already scrolling through his tabs, taking in the headshots of students he passed by in the tabs. “Before we’ve questioned if our students have the attitude and aptitude for the daring and dangerous world of professional heroics. You’ve both put in the energy to put a stop to those unfit to take the challenge head on in the stages you found them in.” Toshi flinched from the corner of his eyes, but Nedzu made no comment. “We’ve always found ways for our students to properly handle their quirks for the task, how they could follow their dreams even through compromise. And yet here we are questioning a student for the exact opposite points; one unwavering in their spirit but theoretically ill-equipped to become a hero. I’m almost unfamiliar with this ground of discussion and theory. Almost.” A daughter to a wealthy family known throughout the heroics industry, the younger brother and son to a consistently successful family of heroes, a son to a professional martial arts and self-defense studio and a daughter of a construction family from the country side; a strange mesh of worlds in the friends Midoriya had chosen to have, as the classroom camera had shown him. “I always enjoy learning about the unfamiliar.”

Midoriya was a key member to the game afoot; the player or a piece, Nedzu could not tell. The mastermind to his competitor or a pawn to the larger scheme of someone who had yet to reveal their face, Nedzu could not tell. Who else was in on the real truth – of his friends who knew him as quirkless and his friends pushing the narrative of his ‘quirk’ – Nedzu could not tell. But he always loved a game with a new set of rules. There was no fun without a challenge.