Ryū resisted as much as he could on the walk to the nurse’s office. Midoriya kept a tight grip on the collar of his uniform, so much so that with one gentle tug Ryū’s feet would be swept far off the ground. It was humiliating, but at least there was no one else around to see it.
“If you’re planning to kill me,” Ryū tried. “Then don’t bother. You’ll be found out straight away seeing as you’re the person who fetched me from my classroom.”
“Shut up,” was the snapped reply and then they walked in silence. Straight past the nurse’s office, where Ryū could see the Pied Piper making a bed further into the room. He barely caught a glimpse, however, as Midoriya dragged him around a corner and opened a plain, nondescript door. The room was dark, an indeterminable size from the limited view of outside and smelt strongly of dust and mildew. What was an unclean place like that doing in a world-famous school like U.A.? Ryū wondered. Surely nothing good.
“About time,” another voice said. Midoriya directed them both into the room and shut and locked the door behind them. The clang of the metal deadbolt sliding into place was like the tolling of a church bell to Ryū’s ears - it sounded prophetic and ominous all at once.
Tezuka Shin, the boy who he’d overheard kissing Midoriya in the bathroom and then by subsequently attacked by. His red eyes seemed to glow in the light from his phone, which he held up dramatically. On the screen was a blurry photograph of a small figure from a considerable distance. Standing beside it was a hunch-over, much larger person with a strange gait. They both had blobs of dark hair atop their heads. Ryū’s gut sunk at the sight.
“Where did you get that?” he asked around his tight throat, which was half nerves and half because the collar of his uniform was cutting into his adam’s apple with how tight Midoriya was gripping it.
“Ah ah ah,” Tezuka scolded, scratching idly at his neck. His eyes still penetrated and Ryū’s he couldn’t help but notice how similar they were - both red, both brimming with a hidden sinister nature they tried to mask. Were his own eyes really that bad? “Leave the questions for me, kid.”
Ryū scoffed to mask his trepidation.
“Oi!” Midoriya shook him like a puppy being held by the scruff in its mother’s jaws. “Do as he says,” he ordered. “We’re not going to hurt ya.”
“Not yet,” added Tezuka gleefully. Scritch scritch scritch went the fingernails on his neck. “I want to draw it out a little beforehand, at least.”
Okay, so this was exactly as it seemed. Ryū struggled against Midoriya’s hold, kicking out at his knees and trying to twist at the fingers entangled in his uniform. Unfortunately, the older student’s grip was firm and true. He even had the nerve to laugh.
“Feisty little shit,” he said. “Don’t bother trying to wiggle out. Even if you could, the door’s locked and you won’t beat us in a fight again without your little pet beast.”
“She’s not my pet,” spat Ryū.
“We know,” Tezuka laughed. He paused his itching and he reached out with bloody fingers. Ryū recoiled but could only stretch to the limit of Midoriya’s grip and that wasn’t very far a all. Tezuka’s wet, sticky fingers rubbed fondly at his cheek. “Dumb brat.”
“That’s some Quirk you’ve got,” Midoriya observed. “Reminds me of Tsukuyomi, but far less fucking approachable. Dunno how Ground Zero and Red Riot popped you out, though.”
“Kiss my ass,” Ryū snarled but Tezuka took the chance to shove two of his fingers into Ryū’s open mouth with considerable force. Ryū gagged and choked, trying to turn his head away, but Midoriya held his chin still. The taste was metallic, copper and something gritty like dirt.
Tezuka poked around in his mouth for several seconds, then drew his hand out to wipe it on his blazer. “Blunt teeth,” he told Midoriya. “Told you.”
“Fuck off,” Midoriya replied casually. “I know what I saw, Shin.”
Ryū spat on the dark floor. “What the fuck is wrong with you?”
“Tell me how this Quirk of yours works.” Tezuka completely ignored him. “Do you manifest your monster when you want to or is it situationally-triggered? I don’t see it lurking around now, so it can’t be with you all the time. Does it mutate your appearance when you use it?”
“I don’t know,” he hoped that would get them off his back, at least. Why were they so damn interested in his Quirk? Sure, Kiyo had kicked their asses but to interest them to the extent that they’d sourced a photo of them...weird shit was going on for sure.
“He doesn’t know,” Midoriya told Tezuka.
Tezuka chuckled. “He doesn’t know,” he repeated to himself. “Well, what a surprise. You know, I’ll tell you what, Kaminari-kun - you tell me what I want to know and I let you live.” His mouth spread in an uncomfortably wide grin, cracked lips peeling back from gleaming teeth.
Ryū stared back at him, frozen.
“Little fox,” Midoriya said. “Thinks he’s so smart.”
“Well, we’re wolves, fox boy,” Tezuka added. “And we don’t play by the woodland rules.”
Oh fuck. These guys were fucking crazy.
“Fine.” And the only way to combat crazy was to play by their rules. “It’s...I’m not too sure on any of the specific details just yet, but she acts as a separate sentient entity. She’s always here but wanders far and can make herself invisible to people that aren’t me. Maybe me too.”
Midoriya frowned and shook him a little more. “She?” he echoed.
“That’s different than what we thought,” Tezuka mused. “Different, but useful. How far can... she venture from you?”
“I have no idea,” Ryū said honestly. “Quite a long way. At least a mile.”
Tezuka and Midoriya looked at each other and shared a deep, meaningful glance. Midoriya’s grip slackened and Ryū pulled away, shoving his back up against the locked door. If he could just get it open then that would be the moment to make a run for freedom...
“Well, well, the little fox has a use after all.”
“Maybe,” Tezuka mused. “So?”
A few seconds past.
“So?” he repeated.
“Are you talking to me?” Ryū asked. “‘So’ what?”
“He means,” Midoriya stressed. “Are you in? Are you willing to join us?”
“Join you? Why the fuck would I want to join you? ”
Tezuka looked at him like he was Japan’s biggest idiot, arms folded. “Duh,” he deadpanned.
“Look here,” Midoriya said and he reached out a long arm and reeled Ryū back in again, this time by his shoulder. His grip was just the wrong side of too-tight. “This is a once in a lifetime offer, kid. It’s not often you get invited to join the big boys and I recommend you don’t turn us down.”
“Or else,” Tezuka added helpfully.
“Or else we might have to rethink our forgiving nature with regards to the bathroom incident.”
Midoriya smiled and it wasn’t a nice one despite his round-cheeked, friendly face. “And you don’t want that, trust me, foxy.”
Ryū could see the situation he was in and it wasn’t good. Midoriya’s fingers flexed on his arm, tight and then loose over and over again. It was a warning and threat wrapped up into one.
“Alright,” he gave in. “Alright. What exactly am I joining?”
Oh fuck; they even had a tacky villain name. Ryū was up shut creek without a paddle, that was for sure.
“We’re anti-hero,” Midoriya said. “And by that, I mean we hate everything that stand for. Every fucking press talk and every dead civilian on their hands.”
“You hate villains,” Ryū repeated. “But you’re students at U.A.! How does that work?”
“It’s expected,” he continued, sour. “My dad - he couldn’t even consider that I didn’t want to come to this place.”
“And fucking up in the entrance exam isn’t even a possibility,” added Tezuka, looking at Midoriya with some unreadable emotion in his red eyes.
“I got in on recommendation,” Midoriya bitterly said.
“So you hate your dad,” Ryū said. “Don’t we all?”
Midoriya stared down at him. Then he tightened his fist and shoved Ryū back against the door with a tremendous push. He loomed over him, and fuck the guy was tall.
“I want Deku gone,” he hissed. “I want every last one of them off the streets for good. Dead, injured, retired, outlawed - I don’t give a fuck how it gets done, frankly.”
“I personally like the sound of ‘dead’,” Tezuka added, smiling that creepy smile.
“And you,” Midoriya went on, “are going to help us, you mouthy little shit.”
“Yeah,” he said. “Yeah, you are.”
Silence fell in the small, cramped room. It was dark without the light from Tezuka’s phone and stiflingly hot. Ryū has no means of escape; he was trapped with these two maniacs and had no choice but to agree to their terms lest he find himself dead in a dumpster before lunchtime.
“Myriad X,” he said. “So you want me to help you get rid of Heroes...how the hell am I meant to do that?”
“My dads are the top two,” Midoriya said, though his face twisted with disgust. “But yours are third, tenth and nineteenth. Not to mention your little friends - Ojiro and Tetsutetsu, right? - their parents are eleventh and fifteenth, with the other two close to ranking on top.”
“We’ve read the cheat guide,” Tezuka smirked. “We know your every move, Kaminari, every acquaintance you’ve ever made. You can’t pull the wool over our eyes.”
“We know your use, brat, and we want it. You use your Quirk, your friends and those Hero dads of yours to help us take the system down.”
“And you get to live at the end of it.”
“You honestly think two teenagers are going to be able to take down the entirety of Hero culture in Japan? Defeat Pros like Deku, like Frostburn?”
“Not us,” Tezuka hissed. “Not us alone.”
“There are others in your gang?”
“Hundreds,” said Midoriya. “Thousands. They lurk in the shadows and bide their time until it’s time to pounce, and you, shitty brat, will be the key to it all. That Quirk of yours is all we need to be successful.”
Ryū swallowed. “How?”
“We’ll be in touch,” Tezuka said abruptly and he reached around Ryū to unlock the door and push it open. Light spilled across them, bright and enough for Ryū to shield his eyes. The next thing he knew, Midoriya was shoving him and he was stumbling back and falling on his ass. The duo looked down at him with identical blank stares.
“See you around, fox boy,” Midoriya said and then the door closed. Ryū stared at it for several seconds and then climbed shakily to his feet. He shuffled off, hands in his pockets and head in the vicinity of the clouds. He couldn’t get the image of Midoriya’s face out of his mind; how disgusted he’d been when speaking about his parents. Ryū hated his own most of the time, but that level of true vitriol...
“Hey, hey,” Michiko said as Ryū dropped his lunch tray down on the table. She was sitting with Iida, Matsumoto, shitty Tokoyami, Shiomi and Kagami in the outside courtyard. There was also a girl with dark green hair pulled back in a long ponytail and startling green eyes set against a black sclera sat with them too. “This is Ashido-kun!”
“How was the nurse’s office, Kaminari-kun?” Iida asked. “Did the Piper have to play to you?”
“No,” he said shortly, shovelling a clump of rice into his mouth.
Michiko rolled her eyes. “That’s all you’ll get from him, Kentarō-kun.”
“Oo~” Kagami sing-songed. “Since when did you use first names, Michi-kun?”
“Since it got confusing with so many siblings around,” she sniffed. “There’s Iida-kun, his dad, his uncle, his auntie, and his three cousins. Besides, I already call Takuya-chan by his given name, so what’s the big deal?”
“Indeed!” Iida said, blushing a little. “It seemed the most sensible option. Please, feel free to all call me Kentarō too!”
“Thank you, Kentarō-san,” Shiomi said, blushing back. “That’s very considerate of you.”
“Well, you can all call me Michiko as well, if you’d like! Maybe not Michi-kun, though...”
“That’s our special friend nickname,” Kagami grinned, hair bubbling a bright navy blue streaked with glittering silver. “Michi-kun, Kagi-kun and Ryū-chan!”
“Poor Kaminari,” Matsumoto snickered. “Why is he stuck with the ‘-chan’ end of the stick?”
Michiko giggled. “Because he’s the youngest! And because when we were in middle school all our classmates thought he was from the elementary next door!” Everyone laughed. Ryū did not. Surely he didn’t look that young. Yes, he was short with a round face, but he had a more mature haircut and swore like a sailor half the time. He didn’t know any ten-year-olds that did that.
The laughter trailed off and Michiko made a strangled sound. Everyone glanced at her then followed her line of sight to see the gaggle of students lingering in the middle of the courtyard, which was empty save for their own table. It was the curly-pink-haired girl with her duo of black-haired twins and a boy Ryū had never seen before. He had side-swept light brown hair and a plain fair half-covered by round, wire-rimmed glasses. He was also huge; at least 182cm and half as broad across, with a nasty scowl curling his lip up.
“Oh,” smirked the pink-haired girl, having the gall to fake real surprise. “Look who it is.”
“What are you doing out here? Gen Ed has third lunch,” Michiko asked suspiciously.
The girl with the long bangs covering her face was just standing there, seemingly not even listening to the conversation, whilst the other, the one with the soft, friendly face was looking from person to person like she was watching a particularly interesting play. The boy was still sneering at them.
“Iida-sensei let us leave early,” the pink-haired girl said snottily. “But what are you Hero Studies idiots doing out here all alone? I thought all you lot like to clump together inside and hog all the tables.”
“Yeah,” said the boy. “It’s not fair that you’re all favoured more than us.”
The girl laughed. “Well, since we’re just weak little Gen Ed students, no one’s going to care if we mess with you anyway.”
“C’mon, that’s not nice,” coaxed Tokoyami. “We’re not idiots - we’re loyal, hard-working and we deserve to be in Hero Studies!”
“How sweet,” cooed the girl. “Hey, I recognise that ugly hair... Tokoyami Jin! Your dad’s the bird Hero, isn’t he? I wonder if your postman has pink hair!”
“Oi, don’t talk to him like that,” snapped Michiko. “What’s your problem?”
“My problem,” said the girl, stomping forward to prod the other girl in the chest. “Is that you 1-A and 1-B students strut around here thinking you’re so great - that you’re above the rest of us, but newsflash: you’re not.”
“We haven’t d-done anything to you,” Ashido said and it was the first time Ryū had heard her speak. She was visibly shaking. “Just l-leave us alone!”
“J-J-Just l-l-leave us al-l-lone,” the pink bitch mimicked in a high-pitched, wobbly voice. “You’re as bad as the rest of them, Ashido. Your brother set such high expectations of first years and you’re letting them all go to waste.”
“You make us sick,” said the giant boy.
“Yeah,” chorused the black-haired girls, one quiet and one loud.
“Please, just move on,” Iida ordered. “You’ve said what you wanted - now leave!”
“Don’t tell us what to do!” the boy snarled.
“Shut it, Deguchi. I want to hear what the losers have to say,” pink bitch said thoughtfully.
Michiko growled. “We’re not losers! You’re the loser, picking on people for no reason!”
“We’ll tell Kobayashi-sensei about this,” warned Tokoyami. “And he’ll tell Principal Shinsou and you’ll get into a fuck load of trouble! Detention every night for the rest of the year!”
“Ha!” said pink bitch. “Ha ha ha! What do you think, Yumi? Will Principal Shinsou do anything to us? What do you think?”
“No,” said Yumi. She was the loud one with the short bangs and actually looked quite bored.
“You know what? I don’t think so either! Go on then! Go tell whoever you like, but no one’s going to do anything about it because Shinsou is a garbage principal - this school went to ruin when Nedzu left last year.”
Michiko stood up abruptly and so did Tokoyami and, surprisingly, Matsumoto. “Why you -”
“Deguchi,” the pink bitch said and the giant boy ambled forward to stand defensively by her side. “Don’t even think about it. Four against seven we may be, but your group is made up of a bunch of second-rate Heroes bound for failure. Defeating you in a fight will be too easy. I’d feel bad about doing it, really - like fighting a group of Quirkless freaks.”
There was a tense stalemate. Iida had to restrain Michiko, but Kagami, at his side, was seething, face bright red and fists flexed so hard Ryū was surprised he didn’t hear his bones crack under the pressure.
“What do you want?” Shiomi asked calmly. “You’ve made your point.”
“Hm,” the pink bitch tapped her chin. “What to do, what to do. Any ideas?” She directed this to her eager lackeys. Ryū had to wonder why they were so intent on pleasing her when she seemed to have this awful of a personality.
“What about this?” Yumi asked and she snatched a bag from the quiet girl that hadn’t spoken yet. A very familiar bag.
“No way!” Tokoyami said even as his bag was handed off to the pink bitch with a delighted smile. “That’s mine! Give it back!”
“Oi, stop!” Kagami yelled as Tokoyami’s stuff was roughly sorted through. “Get the fuck away from - oof!”
He went down heavily on his side as Deguchi punched him square in the face. Ashido cried out and hid behind Shiomi, watching in horror as Kagami dabbed at his own bleeding nose.
“Leave him alone!” Matsumoto demanded and her leafy hair began to twist and flutter.
The General Education lot laughed, pink bitch tossing her head back in amusement as Tokoyami’s bag was tossed aside.
Deguchi sneered. “And what are you going to do about it, huh? Give me that.” He snatched Michiko’s satchel from the floor, seemingly uncaring that her hands had grown in size or that Matsumoto’s hair was getting more and more agitated. Out came a letter, neat kanji on thick blue paper. “What have we got here?”
Ryū stood up.
Pink bitch took it from him, eyes eagerly skimming the page. “‘Love and hugs, the best Daddy in the world,’” she cooed. “Kiss kiss kiss. Isn’t that sweet? Looks like they couldn’t be bothered to give you some advice,” she added with pure venom in her voice. “Why don’t I do it for them?”
“Go on, Kita,” Yumi goaded.
“Alright,” the girl - Kita, Ryū knew her name now - took a sweet step forward. “Tetsutetsu, you’re not powerful enough to be a Hero. Face it, your Quirk is no more special or exciting than any of ours! The only reason you even got into 1-A is because your parents are Pro Heroes. I think it’s sad, frankly, that everyone lets you be so deluded.”
Michiko’s face dropped and Ryū heard her breath hitch.
Deguchi upended her bag on the ground and her snapped pens leaked out across the stone, her textbooks, notebooks and everything else too. “Oops!” he laughed. “Sorry.”
Ryū felt an acid sting of anger burn in his eyes. It was like a fire had ignited within him, a fire he didn’t feel very inclined to extinguish. They punched Kagami and mocked Michiko, unprovoked and thought that this was okay? That because Ryū’s friends were stupidly kind and wouldn’t outright attack General Education students, no one would stand up to them?
“Leave them alone!”
Kita jumped a little and turned her attention to Ryū. “What did you just say to me?”
“Leave. Them. Alone.”
“Ryū-chan,” Michiko warned in a wobbly voice, but Ryū ignored her.
“Oh? And who are you exactly?” She was taunting him, she knew it would rile him up and fuck if it wasn’t working.
“The boy telling you to fuck off,” he snarled. “Get lost, bitch.”
Kita laughed uproariously. “I recognise you - Kaminari Ryū, the weak little shit that thinks with a Quirk like light production, he can make it as a Hero. Don’t make me laugh.”
Ryū stared at her, hatred burning within him. He wanted Kiyo to appear, rip Kita’s head off and devour her like she’d devoured Ariyoshi. He wanted it so badly.
“Go on then,” she goaded, clapping her hands. “Hit me! You won’t do it; I know you won’t. Hit me! Hit me! Hit - urk!” She went flying onto her ass, scraping a few feet back across the courtyard with a hand raised to her red cheek. She stared up at him in shock and Ryū, fist still raised, shrugged off Iida’s clinging hand.
“Kaminari-kun, think this through!” Iida begged, but none of them made any real move to stop him. They knew the bitch deserved it.
Ryū planted a foot on her stomach and shoved down. She coughed. He leaned a little closer. “Don’t fuck with my friends,” he whispered. “Don’t come near us again.”
“Hey!” Deguchi stomped over, but Ryū activated his Quirk (well, Magma, not Kiyo) on his hand and held it out towards the much larger boy. The light and the heat it produced was enough to hold him off for a moment, plus it obscured everyone else’s view of Ryū and Kita.
“Or...what?” she gasped, pink eyes white-rimmed.
“Or I’ll sneak into your room at night and slit your throat,” Ryū said simply.
She looked scared, eyes darting from side to side and mouth opening soundlessly. “You’re a psycho!” she managed eventually.
“Sure am,” he replied in a deadly whisper. “So stay away from my friends.”
He took his foot off and Kita scrambled to her feet, shaking hands dusting off her uniform. Kita’s eyes ticked from Iida’s glare to Kagami’s bloodied face and the protective arm Shiomi had around the hiding Ashido’s shoulders. Michiko looked close to tears, however. Kita seemed to decide that the risk was too big to explain hanging around, especially should they be found by an older student or a teacher, so she shrugged them off. “Come on, let’s leave these freaks to their crybaby party.” She shoved past Ryū with a contemptuous scowl. “You should watch your back, psycho.”
Deguchi, Yumi and the other girl both followed at a fast-paced clip, whispering and laughing. Ryū watched them disappeared around the corner and waited until footsteps could no longer be heard before picking up the letter Kita had dropped on the ground. He flicked off a few piece of dirt and then held it out to Michiko.
She sniffled. “Thanks, Ryū-chan.”
“That was amazing, Kaminari!” Matsumoto said, smiling. “I would have never expected that from the likes of you.”
Iida nodded firmly. “The way you stood up for Michiko-kun...I admire you tremendously, Kaminari!”
Kagami even went a step further and draped an arm around his shoulders, squeezing tightly. Ryū didn’t pull away even as his scab pulled taught at the movement, merely accepting the familiar sensation of his friend being a clingy little shit.
“I bet she won’t be messing with us again after that,” Tokoyami grinned. He punched the air. “Maybe I was wrong about you after all, huh? Maybe you’re not a total weakling!”
Ryū looked at him. “Thanks,” he said flatly.
“We should tell Principal Shinsou,” Iida said. “U.A. has a strict no-bullying policy.”
They all turned to stare at him.
“Uh, no,” Kagami stressed, blotting his bloody nose with the sleeve of his shirt, turning it a bright scarlet colour. He still had his arm around Ryū’s shoulder. “That’s how you get bullied even more, Iida. Besides, Ryū-chan scared her straight. I doubt she’ll ever bother us again.”
“She won’t,” Michiko said as she scrubbed at her red eyes. “I can’t believe I just froze like that...that I let her get to me...”
“Hey,” Kagami said. He reached out to put his other bloody arm around her. “My two best buds. You guys were amazing, and hey, Michi-kun, you didn’t freeze. You were upset! It’s a totally different situation! Anyone of us would have been upset, right guys?”
There was a murmur of agreement.
“I’m just sorry I couldn’t do more,” Shiomi said quietly. “But I thought my shields might have just instigated the situation even further.” Ashido was still hiding behind her and didn’t say a word.
“You did the right thing, Shiomi-kun,” Matsumoto smiled. “I’m just glad you're all okay. Well, except -”
Kagami snorted. “Except me. Don’t worry, it’s okay. I’ve had worse from Ryū-chan!”
“You guys...have a weird friendship,” Tokoyami said.
Michiko beamed a watery smile. “Thanks!”