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Explosive Touch [Bakugo Katsuki x OC] – Book 2

Chapter Text

“Easy for you to say. You believe you’re strong enough to win. But I and many others trained really hard these past few weeks, hoping to defeat those like you.” Atsuhi responded and started fanning her hands in front of her face to reduce the heat building up in it. Man, who knew stress caused you to overheat like that.

***

The pros were watching. Atsuhi couldn’t allow herself to fall behind any further. Not wasting any more time, she mindlessly rushed ahead, a not-quite-fully-thought-out-yet plan on mind, only crossing her fingers in hopes it would succeed. What was that rushed plan, you may ask? Oh, well, you know, just climbing big frozen robots. That surely wouldn’t be dangerous, right? Well, Atsuhi hoped so.

***

“How I melted the ice…? Oh, right!” Atsuhi was still looking at him bewildered, but was slowly starting to grasp what Bakugo meant. Plus, with his hand not resting on her shoulder anymore, there was one less thought frantically running through her head.

“You’re so stupid… Anyway, can you do it again? And quick?”

***

Peeking around the dark corner, where she and Bakugo were standing, just about to begin their own conversation, the female was surprised to spot Midoriya and Todoroki facing each other in the shady hallway. Before turning around to tell the boy they probably shouldn’t intrude on their personal matters, Atsuhi felt a hand covering her mouth and pulling her back, denying her the ability to move away from her current position.

***

Atsuhi’s voice suddenly became even more quiet than before, barely above a whisper. She felt the sobs coming at the back of her throat and choking her words. But she didn’t stop.

“A scream. It echoed around the street. It kept echoing, again and again. It was immediately followed by a loud splash. I… I was too scared to turn around but… my body – it moved on its own and before I knew it I-I…

I was staring at her. She was lying in a pool of blood. I wanted to look away but I just couldn’t. And suddenly, he appeared right in front of me, in the blink of an eye. I was left trembling and staring wide-eyed at him while his horrifying and disgusting face was the only thing in my sight.”

Chapter Text

“What’s going on!?” Ochaco’s cry echoed throughout UA’s hallways, attracting the attention of just about anyone within earshot – that of the unfamiliar students in front of her, and of her own classmates standing behind her alike. It was moments like these Atsuhi wished she could have been a little taller as in order to actually see the cause for concern, she had to stand up on her tip toes, glancing past her taller friends’ shoulders.

For it still being their first day back to school after the attack at USJ, things sure kicked off immediately. Guess they really had no time to rest, after all. What with the upcoming sports festival and now this. Now, what exactly was this, you may ask. And it would be a very valid question. One Atsuhi had no answer to yet, unfortunately. All she knew was that at the present moment there were at least a few dozen of students from all the different courses, gathered in front of 1A’s classroom and blocking her only exit. Well, unless you count the windows that is. But surely no one would consider using those. Hopefully.

“Why are they all gathered here…?” Asked Atsuhi as she walked up to Ochaco, surveying the crowd in bewilderment. The class was really getting treated as some sort of animal attraction at the zoo. There were even people not-so-secretly taking pictures with their phones! The female squinted suspiciously. Come on, this was getting ridiculous.

“Surveying the competition, duh.” The boy’s voice made Atsuhi turn to look at him, only for her eyes to widen in shock as he just walked towards the crowd confidently. When he wound up standing directly in front of some people, he stopped and glared at them, all the while continuing his little speech, unbothered be anything around him. “’Cuz we’re the kids who survived a villain attack. It’s only natural they’d wanna see us before the sports festival. Though it’s pointless. Move, extras.

Oh no.

This might have been Bakugo on a good day but to anyone else even his good days would look bad. The faces of the students gathered around the classroom had already scrunched up in either disbelief or annoyance so in order to avoid the situation escalating any further, Atsuhi ran up to the male and pulled his hand along to make him walk as far away from here as possible. Preferably before he deals any more damage.

He doesn’t mean harm. I think. But the way he acts is going to be more trouble than it’s worth.

However, Bakugo wasn’t budging. The female was trying to push him aside with all her might but to no avail. Instead, he just stood his ground, as if heavily rooted to the floor, except his roots were his deadly glare, scaring away the fainter of heart nearby. As she looked up to see the cause for the male’s intense staring and refusal to move, she glimpsed a few strands of deep purple hair swaying between the crowd.

“It’s true. We did come here to look but you turned out to be quite humble, huh. Is everyone in the hero course like that?” Stopping right in front of Bakugo and Atsuhi, the boy stared down the blond, matching his intensity with ease. Lifting a hand up to the back of his neck, he continued. “I have to admit I’m a little disappointed if that’s all you have to offer. Those of us who didn’t make it into the Hero Course are stuck in General Education and the other courses. There’s quite a few of us, you know?”

UA does offer very few spots in the Hero Course so the rest have to settle for UA’s other paths… It’s a way to find the best of the best though, isn’t it? So what does that have to do with everything?

“Depending on the results from the Sports Festival, they might consider transferring us to the Hero Course.” The purple-haired boy’s eyes weren’t just intense anymore. They were now glinting with a threatening spark. “I take it the opposite is possible for you too… For someone from General Education, like me, this will be the perfect chance to knock you off of your pedestal.” He slowly met the eyes of every single person behind 1A’s door, making sure to get his point across perfectly clear. No one was safe. They were all his enemies. “Consider it a declaration of war.”

Then came a sudden heavy silence, as Bakugo glared in the purple-haired boy’s direction, silently communicating to him that none of this bothered him. It took Atsuhi a moment or two to compose herself but soon enough she had gone back to her previous attempts at convincing the boy to go before any further damage has been done. Not that it would really matter anymore since at this point he had earned 1A the hate of just about everyone currently standing in the hallway and potentially a few more dozen people who were bound to hear about these events.

“Bakugo-kun, I think we should get ou-” And just when the boy was about to turn to her, maybe even following her advice for once, yet another voice broke the silence, making Atsuhi sigh desperately. It felt like those guys were just looking for trouble. She tuned the boy out though – all she noticed was his metallic-looking hair and his declaration that 1A was full of “arrogant bastards”. Well, she had tried. And she had failed. Bakugo might act like this all the time, but if you didn’t know him, who could blame you for getting offended. And unfortunately, no one else aside from 1A here knew Bakugo so no one understood the true intention behind his words.

“Oi, you’re gonna stand here all day?” Looking up, broken away from her thoughts by a sharp voice cutting through the chatter of the crowd, Atsuhi noticed Bakugo in the middle of pushing people away as he called out to her. With yet another sigh, she caught up to him, pouting at his inconsiderate behavior.

“Why’d you have to do that? Now we have a whole crowd of haters...” He surely could’ve thought things through. I mean, it was Bakugo, but he wasn’t all that bad, really.

“I’m headed for the top. Why should I care?” As Kirishima’s shouts sounded somewhere behind the two’s backs, Atsuhi mulled over the blond’s words.

The top… I guess he’s right, we’re all trying to get there. But STILL!!


***


As she closed her eyes and furrowed her eyebrows, the female tried to empty out her head completely, focusing only on the task at hand. If she wanted to do it, she had to banish all other thoughts away. She had to. And yet she couldn’t. Sure, the tiny ice block in front of her still melted but it took a few seconds, and that was way too long. After all, if she had to do this at the Sports Festival too, she couldn’t let herself be slowed down by anything. Especially untimely memories.

Holding out her hand just above the small puddle on the table, she froze it again, its shape this time however remaining irregular. Then the female let out a loud sigh, leaning back on her couch as she opened her eyes to stare blankly at the bland ceiling while she rested.

Saeki Atsuhi had been repeating this exact same exercise for more than an hour now, making little to no progress. She would take an ice cube, melt it, then freeze it once again, all in the span of just a few seconds. And then she would repeat it again, and again, and again. It was boring, it was tiring and apparently not very productive either. She had only reduced her total time by a second or so and yet her energy was already at its limit.

Compared to anything else she was used to doing, these sudden shifts in temperature in short intervals of time wore Atsuhi out a lot more. But then she would think back to the Battle Trial and how her classmate froze an entire building in seconds. That would make her suddenly realize how important her current activity was. And then she would get tired again. Cue the same cycle repeating, just like the ice cube repeatedly turning to water and then back to ice. Mundane. Annoying. But necessary.

UA’s sports festival was in less than a week and everyone knew they had to improve at something. Not everyone did it, but hey, at least they thought about it. Well, Atsuhi knew that with where she was at right now, she’d never make it through even the least challenging obstacles, let alone her crazy strong classmates. Ah yes, her classmates. If she was worried about this year’s events and all the other classes competing, she couldn’t even begin to describe how much the thought of having to face off against two people in particular bothered her.

First was, naturally, Todoroki, the son of Endeavor, the number two pro right after All Might. (It didn’t help that the few times her father had worked with him, Endeavor hadn’t exactly left the brightest of impressions.) The boy’s Quirk was something of a dream – he could create ice with his right half and fire with his left. She hadn’t seen him fight much, but in the few fights she had witnessed, he had no apparent weaknesses whatsoever. That was never a good sign.

On the other hand, those who seemed the most perfect were often the most flawed, right? Well, in this case, the only downfall Todoroki might have is that he had never used his fire side in front of his classmates. Perhaps it was too dangerous. Or maybe he considered them too weak to even have to use it. For all she knew, he could’ve also been hiding it so that it could become his special trump card at the sports festival. Not that he needed any, with how strong he already was. Well, whatever the reason, Atsuhi had no plans to write it off quite yet.

But even with just his ice, Todoroki’s ability was still going to be a big challenge to overcome. Which is why the next, and last few days leading up to the festival, the female planned to spend developing tactics directly related to evadinghis bothersome Quirk. Which led us to her current ice cube melting. Judging by the start of this training, it was going to be a very slow process. Hopefully one that was going to be worth it though.

Now, moving onto problem number two. Bakugo Katsuki – her new, um… friend? Yeah, sure, let’s call it that. If the Ennichi Festival was anything to go by, he really did seem to care about others more than he let on. So calling him a friend might not be jumping the ball too far. She had worked with him quite a few times already. The problem was, at the sports festival, she was probably going to have to fight against him. You see, Bakugo was a surprisingly great partner. But he was also an even greater opponent. Greater – in the sense that he could kick your butt before you even realized you two were fighting. Yeah, that was going to be troublesome.

Well, winning a fight against him would’ve been easy enough, just as long as Atsuhi touched him once. But even once might be too much to ask for. After all, with his crazy reflexes, quick thinking, and well-trained Quirk he was a formidable foe alright. Sure, Atsuhi was quick. Probably quicker than him, even if just by a hair. But he had so much more over her that it really didn’t matter.

So, she had dedicated the previous week to training her body – moving faster than before, dodging blows more effectively, and sneaking by unnoticed. There wasn’t much she could do in a week but improving even if only a little was surely going to help. Well, here’s hoping she didn’t have to fight him.

Of course, the nature of the sports festival presented one more challenge. All remaining classes – the hero course’s class B and all the other departments were all going to compete together. In other words, many Quirks, people, tactics, and teams she had never witnessed before, were going to be blocking her path to victory. And she would have to break through them all.

This… is going to be much more difficult than I expected, isn’t it?

It felt like all this mulling over things she already knew too well tired her even further, causing her to lose any motivation she had left to continue… melting ice… With a deep sigh, she lifted her head up and leaned forward, staring intensely at her hands, intertwined between her knees.

No matter how difficult it may be, I have to try my best! No matter who I have to defeat and how far beyond my limit I’ll have to go, I need to succeed... I have to show everyone my power, so that I could keep the memories of Mom and Dad alive. At this festival everyone will learn how strong Lava Floor and Hiyamiku can be with their strength combined.

Atsuhi lifted one hand up, holding it in front of her face with a determined look in her eyes.

“Because their powers are one as my Quirk. And I’ll use it to win!” Suddenly jumping up from her seat in her burst of inspiration, she looked around the room for a moment, her mood falling once again as a tired look crossed her features.

“Now to clean up all this ice...”


***


You know that feeling when you have a deadline coming up and no matter how carefully you planned your preparations the days just pass by in a weird blur and you always end up feeling like you haven’t done anywhere near enough? Funny how accurately that described Atsuhi’s state of mind right now. After all, the two weeks had felt like 2 days, whizzing by, leaving the female to only blink in confusion as she was suddenly sitting in the waiting room alongside all her classmates, nervously awaiting the beginning of UA’s sports festival.

And oh, were the nerves having a party over there in her throbbing head. It was one thing to be worried about a sports festival and it was a whole other thing to be worried about a sports festival where you’ll be seen by hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions. Out on the ring, under the eyes of the entire population of Japan, and more importantly – all the different pros scouting for sidekicks. Yeah, it was just a little concerning.

“Oi, stop fiddling around, for fuck’s sake. You’re annoying.” Bakugo grumbled to her through narrowed eyes. He didn’t look worried at all. And as petty as it was, it made Atsuhi jealous. Which triggered a very uncharacteristic answer.

“Easy for you to say. You believe you’re strong enough to win. But I and many others trained really hard these past few weeks, hoping to defeat those like you.” Atsuhi responded and started fanning her hands in front of her face to reduce the heat building up in it. Man, who knew stress caused you to overheat like that.

“That’s not my problem though.”

“Hey, cut her some slack. Atsuhi-chan’s right – a lot of us are worried.” Kaminari, who was sitting on the same table as the arguing pair, chimed in in support of the female since he himself was nervously smiling and tapping his fingers on the table. Come to think of it, it was probably a matter of time before Bakugo snapped at him to stop with that too. Perhaps he was about to do exactly that, only to be interrupted when he saw something with his peripheral vision. Atsuhi also turned to find a surprising scene unfolding right in the middle of the room, rendering all witnesses speechless.

“Midoriya. Practically speaking, I’m stronger than you. More capable.” It was Todoroki, who randomly started speaking to the paling green-haired boy. What was he trying to say though – no one knew. He just started laying out facts, albeit painful ones.

“Huh?! Y-yeah...”

“All Might’s got his eye on you, right? I won’t ask why but… I’ll defeat you.” The dual-haired boy’s face remained cold and unchanging while Midoriya was looking more and more scared with every new word spilling out of Todoroki’s mouth.

Who could blame him though… The strongest in class to declare war on you out of the blue like that… What does he even mean by “All Might’s got his eye on you”…? This makes no sense. What’s wrong with this guy?!

“Hey, man, why’d you have to get into an argument now?! We’re just about to-” Kirishima did try to stop the two, but Todoroki only cut him off rudely. Seriously, this guy seemed rather aloof to begin with but now he was just being a douchebag.

“I don’t care. I’m not going to pretend I’m anyone’s friend here.” The female could hear Bakugo’s angry growl from beside her and she could only hope he wasn’t going to jump in the argument and mess things up further right before the start of the festival. No matter how strong Bakugo was, no one wanted to be personally attacked by Todoroki.

I don’t know what he’s thinking or why he seems to have a bone to pick with Midoriya-kun but… he must not have been paying attention lately. Because Midoriya-kun’s not weak.

“Todoroki-kun. I’m not sure why you felt the need to tell me you’ll defeat me… You’re obviously stronger and I can’t measure up to most people here anyway...” The freckled boy slowly lifted up his head, an intense and determined expression overtaking his features. “Everyone’s aiming for the top. And I won’t fall behind either. I’m trying to get there too. With all my might!” It was rather inspiring. Hearing someone like Midoriya, who still struggles to fully grasp his powers, stand up to Todoroki out of all people. It gave Atsuhi an unexpected boost of confidence, that’s for sure.

“Bastard. Don’t go declaring war on the wrong person...” Bakugo mumbled and made Atsuhi smile.

That’s right. We’re all strong. And we’re all aiming for the top. Well, Todoroki-kun, this might’ve really been a mistake on your part. Because I won’t let you defeat me. No, I’ll fight with everything I’ve got!

As Ida called the class, Atsuhi smiled, for the first time since stepping into the waiting room getting a hold of her raging nerves. She wasn’t yet aware how her world was going to come crashing down once the festival actually began.


***


Soon enough the twenty students were already walking through the dark tunnel headed for the ring. Before they even reached its end, they could already hear the cries of a big crowd, impatiently waiting for their arrival. Little by little, the bright light at the end became bigger until Atsuhi finally stepped outside, under the blinding rays of the sun. After a few blinks to adjust to the sudden shift, she also noticed them. The eyes of tens, maybe even hundreds of thousands of people. It really felt like they were all looking at her.

Those were the people she was going to show her abilities to. Show them she had what it takes to win. That was it. The beginning. The official start of UA’s Sports Festival.

Chapter Text

“The miraculous rising stars who survived a villain attack just with their iron will!! The first years of the hero course!! It’s class A!!” The arrival of Atsuhi and her classmates, who were just barely poking their heads out through the dark tunnel, was loudly announced by an overly enthusiastic Present Mic – the commentator of the first year’s events. Atsuhi couldn’t focus her sight on anything in particular for there were thousands of pairs of eyes looking her way. Her ears weren’t doing much better as they couldn’t distinguish anything from the deafening roars and cheers erupting from the stands.

“Wow… That’s a lot of people!” Try as she might, she still couldn’t keep her amazement completely to herself and let a quiet exclamation slip from her lips. An exclamation that didn’t go unheard as a smiling Ida started talking to her.

“Pros have to act under the constant attention of the cameras and the media! So it’s something we have to get used to, too.” As always, Ida’s composed and rational way of thinking amazed her. Was he freaking out on the inside too? Well, regardless, Atsuhi wondered if once the festival actually started things were going to change. After all, in the heat of the battle, no number of eyes or spotlights could distract you. Maybe it was wishful thinking but oh, did she hope the constant attention was going to stop bothering her eventually. Otherwise, the only training she would need was one that focused on her anxiety.

Present Mic quickly called the other classes too, among which the female had missed the arrival of the other class from the hero course – 1B. She watched as all sorts of people made their way on the stadium – from General Education, through the Support Course and finally, the Business Course. It was weird to think that they all studied in the same school, on the same floor even. They all had something common in between them – their elite status of first years at UA. And yet, the first time 1A had ever had a real encounter with anyone else was that little incident from two weeks ago when Bakugo had single-handedly pissed off pretty much everyone. Perhaps they had gotten off on the wrong foot… And there was no fixing that now. Great.

Atsuhi’s feelings of respect and wanting to get along didn’t seem to be mutual. A quick glance at the other classes lined up on the stadium showed the different degrees of resentment, hate, and anger on their faces. It made sense, sure. After all, as unfair as it might sound, the hero course was always UA’s star. That’s what the school was known for.

And this year, it was even more apparent what with 1A who were attacked by villains and survived. In other words, Atsuhi’s class was on bad terms not only with the other courses, as things probably went for every year, but also with 1B, their only potential comrades who were now against them too. In the end, they could only rely on their classmates. And even then, thinking back to the earlier declaration of war by Todoroki in the waiting room, Atsuhi wasn’t sure if that was true either.

“Now, it’s time for the athlete’s oath!!” A rather young woman with long, dark blue hair, red glasses and a costume that left very little to the imagination, had climbed up on the small podium. While it didn’t click to her immediately, a few seconds later Atsuhi realized who that was – the pro hero Midnight. She hadn’t seen very much of her for some reason. Though she had caught a few interviews but her dad always seemed to immediately change the channel whenever she was on. Huh, why was that again?

Oh, I remember. Wasn’t she R-rated? Then what is she doing at a first year festival?! Well, she’s even prettier up close…

Needless to say, Atsuhi wasn’t the only one worrying about the appropriateness of it all but Midnight quickly shook the noise away and continued doing her job, regardless of how unsuited her appearance might have been for said job.

“Now, your representative is, from 1A, Bakugo Katsuki!!” Que his classmates’ eyes nervously darting to the boy. Well, that was about to get real ugly, real quick. Atsuhi didn’t want to get her hopes up too high but she still had some faith in the blond.

He doesn’t look particularly angry right now… So maybe he won’t say something stupid and make everyone hate us even more…? I hope…

“Maybe because he placed first in the entrance exam?” Sero had offered an explanation at Midoriya’s bewilderment, only to be rudely interrupted, despite his accurate guess.

“The Hero course’s entrance exam, you mean.” A girl from the crowd of the other first years mumbled in an upset tone, glaring at 1A. Well, that did it. Atsuhi didn’t want to make any enemies. In fact, anyone that knew her would tell you as much. And yet, she couldn’t help the vicious glare she shot in the girl’s direction, which made her turn away briskly, unbeknownst to Atsuhi in fear. Another thing she didn’t notice was the nervous eyes of some of her classmates, who never knew she could even make expressions like that. Oh, Bakugo was definitely rubbing off on her. But perhaps that wasn’t all that bad. Granted, she knew she was being petty. But still.

Yeah, the Hero Course’s entrance exam. Which just so happens to be the most difficult out of all of UA’s courses. What’s her deal?!

Going from a mad glare to an innocent smile in the blink of an eye, Atsuhi looked up at the podium where Bakugo was about to begin speaking. Anticipation overtook her, as she crossed her fingers he was actually as smart as she made him out to be.

“The athlete’s oath...” A pause in his speech to build up excitement and then it all suddenly came crashing down. “Don’t be fooled. I’ll take first place!!”

What was I even expecting.

Well, first came the booing. Then more angry glares and even some inappropriate words being thrown around. Good thing Bakugo wasn’t paying too much attention, otherwise he would’ve responded too and then it wouldn’t have been pretty. Most of the dissatisfaction came from the other classes as the public was too shocked to do anything. Let’s face it though – they were probably rooting for the hero course too. Heh, take that General Education girl.

Atsuhi watched Bakugo the entire time as he made his way down the steps and back among his class, completely unaffected by it all. If only Atsuhi could be like him. In a lot of regards really. Maybe safe for the foul mouth and anger issues. Wait, what was she even thinking!?

Well, on the other hand, he screwed himself over too – saying he’s going to place first like that… Putting himself between a rock and a hard place. Almost as if… for him losing is not an option – that’s what he’s telling himself with this. Huh, so not as dumb as it looks. Though it would’ve been nice if he had been a bit more considerate…

“Now, time for the first event.” Atsuhi was violently torn away from her weird little daydream, only to be harshly brought back to reality with the sudden realization that UA really wasn’t wasting any time. Oh no, quite the opposite. The first challenge was actually about to begin any second now. Turning to the holographic screen behind her, Midnight prepared to announce it. “These are the qualifiers! The faze where many of you would be sent home crying just like every year!! And the fateful first event this year is…!”

Wow, she’s really stalling, isn’t she…

This!!” The screen lit up and there stood the name of their first competition. A Racing Course.

“A race between the members of all 4 classes! The course is a four-kilometer lap around the stadium itself!” As the hero explained the rules, the large gate blocking a path between the stands opened up, revealing the beginning of the track.

All classes, huh? It would be a vicious race, I guess. I have no way of knowing how many will be let to continue so I can only aim to be as far ahead as possible.

“Our school preaches freedom in everything! So as long as you stay on the track, anything is fair game!” Finding a decent spot facing the gate, Atsuhi put her left leg back, prepared to dash any second now. Just had to wait for the signal.

“Competitors, take place...” The first light above the gate lit up. Then the second. And then-

START!!”

One of the things Atsuhi took pride in, was her speed. After all, with a Quirk that relied on physically touching somebody, it was a must. She had also been training her body even further the past two weeks, preparing precisely for an event like this. And oh, was she thankful for that. Being somewhat in the lead right from the start was a privilege not many had. Just the amount of people stuck trying to push their way through the narrow gate proved that. That must’ve been the first filter then.

Okay, not a bad start, Atsuhi!

Except, she wasn’t the only one who made it through. Of course. If anything, her classmates were right beside her, among a few unfamiliar faces too. As someone in her peripheral vision suddenly shot ahead though, she was forced to a stop as her feet froze. Literally. The ground was covered by a thin layer of ice, enveloping her shoes and essentially gluing them to the ground. Had this happened two weeks ago, she would’ve panicked. But now? Well, she had trained for cases precisely like this one. Bending down to touch the ice on her feet, Atsuhi quickly melted it and continued running behind the male at the same rate as before.

“Good try, Todoroki-kun. But that’s exactly what I expected!” The female mumbled under her nose. Finally, all that ice cube melting was paying off. She would’ve jumped up in excitement, had it not been for the fact that she was currently in the middle of a race and every second counted. When she heard Bakugo’s typical angry shouts, she turned around and saw him, Kirishima, Momo, and Aoyama, who had all successfully escaped the ice trap as well.

But they’re still behind me. Oh my God, that is amazing!

They weren’t the only ones either but the rest were even further behind. Atsuhi was smirking in satisfaction. From somewhere in the back, a furious Mineta jumped out but just before he could slam a purple ball in Todoroki’s direction, he was swatted away by a humongous mechanical arm. The female was also forced to stop as something blocked her path.

The faux villains… from the entrance exam?!

The one in front of her was rather small though. It looked a lot like the one-pointers, minus the number on its shoulders. But a quick glance to where Todoroki was standing showed that those weren’t the only ones.

The gimmick…

There were about a dozen of them, all looming threateningly over the students with Todoroki at the front.

“An obstacle race needs obstacles!! Starting with...” Present Mic’s voice, wherever it was coming from, boomed loudly. “The first barrier. Robo Inferno!!”

“So those are the faux villains they used for everyone else’s exams?” Todoroki’s unimpressed statement, coupled with a bemused question on Momo’s part, suddenly made Atsuhi realize something.

That’s right. Those two got in on recommendations so that’s their first time seeing these robots. And if that’s how it is, then Todoroki-kun shouldn’t know how to-

And then her froze them all. And he ran past them, leaving everyone to gape at him in shock. Recommended students really were something else alright.

It… only took him seconds…

“He stopped them!! We can pass through that hole!” Someone around Atsuhi exclaimed excitedly but something didn’t look quite right to the female.

Todoroki-kun wouldn’t make things easier on us… Which means…

“Bad idea.” The boy called out, never once halting his run. “I froze them in rather unstable positions so that they’d fall.” At that moment one of the robots fell over, just a few meters away from Atsuhi, leaving the female to stare at it terrified at the thought that it had almost crushed her.

I get that he wants to get ahead… But that’s a bit too dangerous isn’t it?!

There was no time to waste on that though. Instead, Atsuhi’s eyes were darting around looking for an opening. She had to get through. Somehow. She couldn’t run past them though. Some were already blocking her path. Unfreezing them was also a big no-no. So what was left then? A faint rumbling came from one of the fallen gimmicks. And it was followed by someone literally bursting out from the pile of metal on the ground.

Kirishima-kun?!” Atsuhi shouted in surprise. Yet again, she would’ve run up to check up on him if this hadn’t been a race. “So this thing did crush somebody. What the hell, Todoroki-kun!” Kirishima’s appearance was followed by the resurfacing of yet another boy, some Tetsutetsu from 1B. Actually, thinking back to it, he was one of the people who came to look at 1A two weeks ago.

“Let’s work together for now to make a path!” An unfamiliar voice called out from somewhere, undoubtedly giving good advice. But Atsuhi couldn’t let herself move with everyone else. No, she had to be ahead. If she wanted to succeed she couldn’t stop now. The sounding explosions, coupled with the sight of Bakugo, Sero, and Tokoyami flying over the crumbled robots only confirmed it.

There must be a way to pass through here. The question’s how… Come on, no time to waste. What happened with that great start?

The pros were watching. Atsuhi couldn’t allow herself to fall behind any further. Not wasting any more time, she mindlessly rushed ahead, a not-quite-fully-thought-out-yet plan on mind, only crossing her fingers in hopes it would succeed. What was that rushed plan, you may ask? Oh, well, you know, just climbing big frozen robots. That surely wouldn’t be dangerous, right? Well, Atsuhi hoped so.

Alright, it’s now or never.

The ice covering the fallen robots made climbing them impossible for most. But the female latched her hands on to the small crevices she could find and melted the ice little by little until she could firmly grip the metal. It was as stable as it was going to get. And, surprisingly enough, it worked. God, if her father was watching her right now, he must’ve been scared to death. And oh boy, was it going to get worse.

Having crossed the heap of fallen robots, she was now faced with the working gimmicks who quickly noticed her and started clumsily trotting her way. She gulped, praying none of them were going to step on her, and ran between their legs, melting their feet to the ground whenever one got too close. But unlike Todoroki, once she moved far away, she reversed the effect of her Quirk to avoid any of the gimmicks falling over.

Okay. Very well, alright. I actually got through the first obstacle!!

Though she couldn’t celebrate too early. Just like a single wrong move could’ve led to her death at USJ, a mistake here could easily lead to her loss. And she couldn’t let that happen. She had to show them she can win! Maybe that villain attack really had changed the class. It had made everyone more than just famous – it had given them precious experience, one which proved very useful right now. With full speed ahead, the female soon reached the next obstacle. A large pit, so deep that its bottom wasn’t visible, only shrouded by darkness, leaving everyone to ponder just how far down it went. If the first obstacle was dangerous then this one was straight up deadly!!

The only way to get through it was by using the few columns, connected to each other via ropes.

“The first barrier was a piece of cake, huh?! Well, what about the second?! Fall and you’re out!! You’ll have to crawl if you want to get through it!! This is The Fall!

Todoroki had already almost reached the other side, Bakugo was following him closely too, there were even a few more people trailing the ash blond!

Heat Touch isn’t going to help me with this one. So I’ll just have to be careful… I haven’t lost my lead yet, come on!!


***


A few minutes of rope crawling later, Atsuhi finally felt her feet touch solid ground and not even giving herself enough time to breathe out a sigh of relief, she continued on. Her feet were starting to ache and her breathing was getting more rapid with every few steps, both due to the constant running and the frequent use of her Quirk. But that was nothing. There was just a little left and she had to hold on until then. She was still among the lead. And that was good. She just had to keep this lead after the next obstacle too. Speaking of, further ahead Atsuhi could see Todoroki, Bakugo and a few more people who had all stopped in front of a large empty field.

“And our leaders have finally reached the last barrier! This mine field!

Okay, maybe it’s not empty.

“A quick glance is enough to reveal the mines’ locations!! So just keep your eyes peeled and watch your feet!! I should also mention… the mines aren’t deadly but they’re loud and might make someone wet their pants.”

After this last obstacle, the qualifiers would be over. Atsuhi had to keep her spot at the front for just a few more minutes and everything was going to be alright. Just a little left.

Get a hold of yourself, Atsuhi, now’s not the time to be nervous!

Chapter Text

That’s a mine… And another one. Left’s clear. Now to the right-

BOOOM!

Just as she turned her head back, the female spotted someone flying up into the air. Not because of their Quirk or anything, no. They were just casually flung off the ground by a mine, as a light pink gas spread underneath them. Well, that was one less mine to worry about.

Turning her attention back to her own feet, as she was wary not to meet the same fate as that person just now, Atsuhi sighed impatiently. This obstacle had really slowed her down. She couldn’t risk stepping on a mine as that was surely going to push her quite a few positions back. She couldn’t easily avoid them either so the only option she was left with was to carefully scout out their locations and slowly make her way through. Fortunately, she wasn’t the only one facing similar struggles. Most of the leads were, in fact, just as stuck, cautiously stepping around, eyes frantically darting in all directions to find the next safe spot as quickly as possible. It was a slow game which required a lot of patience. And when you could clearly see the finish line right in front of you, patience wasn’t really something you had a lot of. But almost everyone had to find some if they wanted to continue being in the lead as opposed to flying up in the sky.

Well, almost everyone…

Somewhere up ahead a bunch of smaller explosions sounded off, this time not coming from a mine though. Instead, their source was Atsuhi’s own classmate. Even this obstacle couldn’t stop Bakugo who flew forward, propelled by his Quirk, and caught up to Todoroki in the blink of an eye. It had been like that since the start. The male’s explosions could always be heard a few meters ahead, as he and the dual-haired boy were constantly racing for the lead. As Present Mic loudly announced the appearance of a new leader, Atsuhi couldn’t help but smile.

Maybe Bakugo-kun will be able to keep that oath, huh.

But then she shook her head. Worrying about a probably-friend was great and all but now really wasn’t the time for it. Bakugo was going to be just fine. No, the one she had to worry about was herself. It was her success over everyone else’s. As things were right now, no one other than the ash blond had changed their positions drastically and if things stayed that way the female should’ve been guaranteed a spot in the next event.

But fate seemed to have other plans, yet again throwing those unexpected twists her way. One day she was going to get used to it. Especially if they kept up at the same rate. Yet another explosion went off behind the female, and though it sounded a lot like that of her classmate, it couldn’t have been as he was well ahead. So then why was it so much louder than the ones the mines made? She might’ve turned around to check it out but she suddenly felt something blocking the sun’s rays above her. As she looked up, her eyes widened in disbelief.

Midoriya-kun?!

It sounded ridiculous. It looked ridiculous. The green-haired boy was flying on top of a metal panel, one that probably came from the robots of the first barrier. He soared over a dozen people but he hadn’t yet reached his goal. He was aiming for the two leads who had no time to even turn around and see who was coming for them before Midoriya barely slid past their heads.

Actually I think he hit Bakugo-kun. Ouch.

The struggle between the three became vicious. Quirks, fists, feet, anything they could use to push the others back. Atsuhi grit her teeth in frustration and picked up her pace, taking an irresponsible risk as her eyes weren’t quite able to keep up with her feet anymore.

That’s bad. Bad, bad, bad. I can’t lose my lead now!!

Her eyes were frantically darting back and forth between the ground and the three boys in front of her. At the last moment, Midoriya slammed the metal panel down, activating a few mines which sent him flying up ahead, leaving the other two to bite his dust. Some stopped to let the pink smoke clear but Atsuhi did not. She was getting desperate. And she could only pray she was going to reach the end. She wasn’t cautious anymore. She wasn’t careful. Just desperate. Maybe it was dumb. Actually, it probably was.

“And the one to reach the stadium first is… Midoriya Izuku!!”

I see it, I see the tunnel!!

Everything went dark for a second. And then the light came back, shining down on the stadium full of people. Kirishima, Ojiro, and two other boys from class B had come out at almost the same time as her. Atsuhi didn’t even give herself time to catch her breath, instead counting the number of students who were on the stadium before her.

Six, seven… eight!! Which means I’m ninth! I can’t believe it – I did it!

Only now did she lean forward, resting her hands on her knees as she breathed heavily. The buzzing in her ears and the pounding in her head didn’t disappear completely but were becoming less and less noticeable. Her rapid breathing was starting to slow down and because her legs felt like they were about to give away, the girl sat down on the cold ground, which was actually quite refreshing, and closed her eyes to clear any remaining spots in her vision.

I think I pushed myself quite a lot here… But it was worth it!

“The competitors are crossing the finish line one after another!! We’ll take a look at the scores later so catch your breath for now!”

Thanks for the advice – that’s exactly what I was planning to do…


***


A few minutes later, after all the participants had completed the course and just as Atsuhi was looking around in anticipation for the next challenge, Midnight’s voice broke the students’ chatter.

“It’s finally over. Let’s check the scores!” As she announced the names of the first 42 people (with Atsuhi placing ninth, just like she had counted earlier), the hero congratulated them for moving onto the next event, before announcing what it was. “And now the main part begins!! The second competition… I already know what it is, of course… Are you dying from anticipation?! Next is...

Atsuhi held her breath. Even though she had complained at Midnight’s stalling the first time around, it really was working on her now. Just as the screen behind the woman lit up with the words Cavalry Battle, Atsuhi tilted her head in confusion.

Cavalry Battle…? Isn’t that something you play in PE in middle school?

“The participants are going to form teams of two to four people by themselves and get into a horse-rider formation. The rules are pretty much the same as a normal cavalry battle – steal your opponent’s headband while protecting your own. With one exception – each of you is awarded points based on your placement in the last event. So the person in 42nd place has 5 points, the one in 41st gets 10 and so on...”

If I’m ninth that means I have… Let’s see… 180 points… It’s not too far – this means Midoriya-kun’s only 40 points ahead.

“But first place’s worth… 10 million points!!

The female’s eyes immediately locked on the boy who had placed first and her face darkened.

Ten million points, huh…?

However, she quickly tried to shake these sinister thoughts away.

Everyone’s eyes will be on the ten million. So there might be no point in going after Midoriya-kun.

“The game will continue for 15 minutes.” Midnight resumed her explanations after she had given the students some time to greedily dream about the ten million. And target the poor freckled boy. “Every team’s points depend on its members. The rider will be wearing a headband with the total points on it. Until the match is over, you’ll all be racing to grab other’s points and keep the ones you already have. You have to wear your headbands from the neck up so that the more you have, the harder it will be to carry them.”

Still, whoever gets the ten millions will be set while the others will be left to desperately calculate the total of their points.

“But most importantly, even if your headband gets stolen or your formation’s broken, you aren’t out.”

Which means that with 42 people, there will be at least 11 teams on the field at all times. On one hand, it will be difficult to keep your points with so many people, but on the other – even if you lose your headband, you’ve still got a chance.

“Quirks are allowed which means that it’s going to be a brutal fight. However, this is still a cavalry battle so attacks with the intention of making somebody fall will earn you a red signal which means you’re out. You have 15 minutes – it’s time to form your teams.” And so the students were left to wander the stadium in search of partners. Atsuhi looked around trying to come up with something.

My Quirk’s not very good for long-range attacks so unless I get close to someone to take their headband, I won’t be of much help. That means I can’t hope that everyone’s going to want to team up with me. Then I’ll have to find someone who wants me in particular. But how am I going to do that now…

As the female’s eyes wandered around, they randomly fell on a few strands of spiky blond hair, peeking through the crowd surrounding their owner. For a brief moment her eyes met the boy’s crimson irises and the female turned to the side, avoiding making eye contact again and instead looking over the rest of the people.

Everyone wants to team up with Bakugo-kun and he probably wants to form a strong team to get the ten millions. Friends or not, that isn’t a factor here. Todoroki-kun’s likely doing the same.

When she heard someone’s footsteps nearing close behind her, the girl lifted up her head but before she could even see who they belonged to, she felt a surprisingly warm hand being placed on her shoulder. In a rather familiar manner too. When she turned around, she saw Bakugo looking at her with a serious gaze.

“Oi, thermo-hands, I need you on my team!” His crimson eyes were staring deep into her green ones, as his hand still rested on her shoulder. But that’s not what occupied the female’s thoughts right now. Okay, maybe a little bit. But that wasn’t important!!

“Me… in your team… W-why me…?” It was an unexpected turn of events for her so she struggled to even form coherent words right now. (While also choosing to ignore the ridiculous nickname she had just been given.) She should’ve felt happy that he considered her strong enough to join his team, so then why was she freaking out like this? And why was she getting all these warm feelings? She wasn’t getting sick, was she? I mean, what else could it have been?

“Yeah, you, idiot! You deaf or something?” One annoyed sigh due to the girl’s slow catching on later, Bakugo removed his hand from her shoulder, causing the warm feeling to go away much to Atsuhi’s disappointment and then continued. “I saw how you melted half-and-half’s ice. I plan to take the ten million from Deku and then crush that bastard for declaring war on the wrong person.”

“How I melted the ice…? Oh, right!” Atsuhi was still looking at him bewildered, but she was slowly starting to grasp what he meant. Plus, with his hand not resting on her shoulder anymore, there was one less thought frantically running through her head. Though she had to admit she was kind of starting to miss that warm feeling… W-what was wrong with her lately?!

“You’re such a dumbass… Anyway, can you do it again? And quick?”

“Well, I’ll need a few seconds, but sure, I can!” Her face was now bright with excitement. So she was useful. Awesome. Bakugo smirked satisfied as well but before he could say anything, an energetic voice interrupted him.

“This Todoroki already formed his team so team up with me, Bakugo!” Kirishima called out as he was running up to them. Wow, the dream team was assembling, huh?

“Ah, weird hair.”

“The name’s Kirishima! Remember it!! I know you want to be the rider. So your front horse has to be someone who can take all those explosions, right? And who could that be?”

“That’s right! Kirishima-kun with his Hardening!” Atsuhi exclaimed with a smile towards the red-head and turned to Bakugo for confirmation. As he stood glancing back and forth between Atsuhi and Kirishima, the ash blond’s mouth stretched in an unsettling grin.

“Let’s take the fucking ten million!”


***


Fifteen minutes had gone by in a flash and Atsuhi, alongside her teammates and all other students on the field, was waiting for the starting signal. She was thankful that not only had they managed to form a strong team but she was on it too. Definitely boosted her ego, that’s for sure. With Kirishima at the front, Atsuhi to the right, Sero, who they had recruited later, to the left and of course, Bakugo as the rider, they surely would’ve been able to take on even Todoroki’s team. Not to mention the headband the ash blond was wearing with the number 725.

Even if we only manage to keep our own headband, we’ll probably still pass. Bakugo-kun sure managed to get together an awesome team. But knowing him…

“Our goal is… the ten million!” Well, his words weren’t really surprising. If you were to ask Atsuhi, she would’ve gone for the other teams, focusing on getting more headbands instead. But she trusted him. She had trusted him before too and in the end things had worked out. He knew what he was doing. There was no way he would let this festival slip past him. And with a grin, she got ready as the countdown began.

“Three… Two… One. Start!!

Right off the bat, everyone was headed for Midoriya. But no one could find an opening as his team soared up in the air with the help of the support items an unfamiliar girl with pink hair and high-tech goggles had provided. This was going to prove a problem as they had no way of knowing what those items could do. Regardless, when the team flew up a second time, the four suddenly panicked as one of Ochaco’s boots was broken. Well, that was exactly what she was waiting for.

Now!!” Atsuhi called over to Bakugo.

“No need to tell me!” Propelling himself with an explosion, the blond headed for Midoriya with a vicious grin. Though right when he was about to grab the headband, he was stopped by Tokoyami’s Dark Shadow. Sero’s tape brought him back to the formation where Atsuhi and the other two boys caught him. Speaking of problems, Tokoyami’s Quirk was also going to be one. He was their classmate and yet they hadn’t seen him use it much, thus they didn’t know his limits or abilities.

“Ooooh! Is it allowed to leave your formation?!”

“As long as his feet don’t touch the ground, yeah – it’s allowed!

“Well, glad we’re playing by the rules then.” Then the female looked up at Bakugo, awaiting his next command. Not that she couldn’t think of a plan herself. She just knew he was, for one, smarter, and two, probably unwilling to follow anyone else’s idea. “So what do we do now?” Bakugo only grumbled and glared at Midoriya. If looks could kill… well, Midoriya would’ve been dead years ago but regardless!

“Let’s take a look at the current rankings...” And just as Present Mic started talking again, Atsuhi felt a few pairs of footsteps on the ground… right next to them?!

“Bakugo-kun, look ou-” Too late. Before she could even finish, a boy with parted blond hair stole the only headband from Bakugo’s head.

“Too simple, really, class A” He began, clearly taunting them with his tone. Oh, this was not going to be pretty. He still looked unaffected despite the ash blond’s cries that he was going to kill him. Almost like he was looking at a wild animal behind a cage. “When Midnight announced the first event you didn’t have to be a genius to realize they weren’t going to thin our numbers that much. They were clearly going to leave a considerable number of us to move onto the next round. Let’s say, forty, for example. It was the perfect moment to stand back and watch the Quirks and tendencies of our opponents. So we placed rather humbly.”

So that was class B’s strategy… It certainly did work out in the end. But it feels like it depended on too many uncertainties…

As Bakugo’s face became angrier and angrier and he continued to glare in the boy’s direction, the rider of class B’s team only made things worse. He clearly didn’t realize what he was about to unleash.

“Oh, but your team’s full of celebrities, isn’t it?” The annoying male’s face suddenly became unsettling as he lowered his voice. Atsuhi didn’t like where this was going. At all. She had a majorly bad feeling. “The victim of that sludge villain incident. And the daughter of a pro hero who couldn’t even fight off one simple villain. You have to tell me what it’s like sometime. To be constantly attacked by villains that is.”

That did it. It was the last. Goddamn. Straw. Not just for Bakugo. Atsuhi lowered her head, clenching her fists in a desperate attempt to remind herself that she shouldn’t throw herself right on to the other team’s rider and choke the life our of him. At least not yet. Provoking them by calling them stupid was one thing. She might’ve let it slide even with him bringing up the villain attacks. But that. Oh no, it was too much. Bringing up what happened to her mother in a stupid, meaningless argument like this one? Oh, he was practically begging for it at this point.

Kirishima could feel Atsuhi’s fingers, unbeknownst to her though, painfully digging into his shoulder, and he turned to face her.

“Atsuhi-chan…?” The red-head asked with a tone which was a mix between concern and fear due to her sudden silence. The fact that her face was hidden from view didn’t help either.

“Kirishima… Before we go to Deku… I have to crush these guys here...” Bakugo growled through his teeth. That’s when Atsuhi finally lifted up her head.

“Every. Last. One.” With furrowed brows and an angry glare boring holes into the boy from class B, Atsuhi’s dark expression scared the rest of her teammates. A lot.

“A-Atsuhi-chan, what’s wrong with you?!

Chapter Text

“Bakugo-kun!!” A worried wail escaped Atsuhi’s lips as she saw the blond male being blown back by an explosion to the face. Team Bakugo’s attempts at chasing down class B’s team, which had stolen their headband and taunted them to booth, weren’t going very well. In fact, Bakugo was losing. To… his own Quirk? Well, no, that was impossible. But then, what were the odds of the two having such similar abilities?

“That’s cool! Such a nice Quirk...” The blond leader of the team – Monoma, as his classmates had called him a few times already, only continued with his daunting tone. He really did not know when to stop. And it was going to be his downfall. After he had shaken off the momentary shock of the unexpected explosion, Bakugo hit back with one of his own, more powerful than what had hit him. That was bound to have done it. Except, when the smoke finally cleared, the other rider had but a scratch on him. Actually, him being unharmed wasn’t the only peculiar thing Atsuhi noticed.

“Huh? My Quirk too?!” It was the red-haired boy’s turn to exclaim as he was met with a carbon copy of his own power. But Atsuhi had something else in mind.

“No. He’s just a copycat.” With a dangerous glint in her eyes, the female glared in Monoma’s direction. The festival was really bringing out an interesting part of her. The boy only smirked snarkily.

“Ding, ding! Though any idiot would be able to figure out as much.” Well, if Bakugo had been angry beforehand, he was now raging. The only thing stopping him from blowing Monoma to bits right there and then, was the giant puddle of glue that somehow appeared at his team’s feet. In mere seconds the liquid became solid and the three carrying the boy couldn’t move anymore.

“Quick, Atsuhi, melt this damn thing! This asshole’s getting away!” As Kirishima and Sero were doing their best to break their feet away, Bakugo shouted impatiently. If they hadn’t been in the middle of a cavalry battle, Atsuhi might’ve registered that he hadn’t called her some made-up nickname. Nope. He actually said her name. Not just any name either. Her first too! Perhaps he had listened when she had told him to call her Atsuhi. And she definitely wasn’t going to miss thermo-hands.

“I’ve already started!” The female was, fortunately, one step ahead as she had already freed one of her feet, her arm stretched so she could touch the solidified glue to accelerate the melting process.

I can feel Bakugo-kun’s anger… And that’s no good. I have to hurry!

In just over a minute the girl had already melted enough for her teammates to free themselves but Bakugo gave them no time to catch up to Monoma, instead jumping away by himself, glaring daggers at the boy. As Kirishima called out to him in annoyance, Atsuhi tried to be the rational one and think ahead.

“Quick, we have to catch him when he lands!” With a nod, the two boys followed her advice and moved closer to the ash blond, who was just about to grab the stolen headband and more, only to be stopped in midair by the Quirk of one of the boys on the opposing team which made the air solid. That, however, didn’t hold him off for very long because just when they had thought they’d managed to get away, Bakugo broke through the clear pane, separating him from them, and threw himself onto Monoma, successfully snatching two of the headbands. Right before he hit the ground, Sero caught him with his tape and brought him back. Atsuhi glanced at the scoreboard.

Third place with 685 points. Not enough…

“I’m still not done yet!! We’ll get our points back and then the ten million!!”

That’s the Bakugo-kun I know!

“Well, what’s the plan?” The female looked to the ash blond, confident that he knew what they had to do. After all, he had proven himself time and again. He only returned her gaze and smirked.

 

***

The plan was already in motion. And, oh Atsuhi was glad to be able to finally get back at them.

Soy sauce! You’ll get us closer with your tape!” As Sero shot out some of that tape, he stuck it on the ground right next to Monoma’s team, and pulled everybody there. In mere seconds the four went from the other side of the ring to right next to class B’s students.

“Atsuhi, you’re going to stop the guy with the solid air!” Now right next to the boy with the short brown hair who was just about to create yet another barrier, the female stretched out her hand to touch his shoulder and used her Quirk on him to distract him with the sudden abnormal warmth enveloping his entire body.

“And then he’s yours!” As Bakugo’s final command echoed in her mind, Atsuhi felt her arm being pulled up with the help of Sero’s tape. Next, a big warm hand grasped her shoulder, as another one settled on her waist and hoisted her up in the air, face to face with the blond leader of the other team, who was left to only stare dumbfounded at the unnecessary display class A was making. As Bakugo was grinning behind her while holding her up, Atsuhi gripped Monoma’s wrist and looked at him with eyes that could kill but yet a sickeningly sweet smile on her face.

“W-well, thanks for the Quirk!” Monoma had quickly composed himself though and went back to his condescending tone, not realizing yet what the team had in store for him. At least not until his wrist, captured by the green-eyed girl in front of him, started burning. Not enough to leave any scars but just enough to teach him a certain lesson.

“Do not mess with class A.” Atsuhi growled through gritted teeth, still smiling in that unsettling manner, and just as Monoma threw his hand out, creating an explosion in a last desperate attempt to get her off of him, she ducked, the blast barely missing her by a hair but not before she snatched the remaining headbands from his neck.

With Bakugo’s help, her feet touched the ground once again, and as the boy adjusted the new headbands, Atsuhi couldn’t help the grin that overtook her face. If he was going to mess with them like that, that’s what he was going to get. In fact, right now, she was thankful to Bakugo. He could’ve done all that by himself, yet he chose to let her have this moment. Did he realize how her face darkened when Monoma was taunting them? Or perhaps he knew something she hadn’t mentioned to anyone yet? Well, she couldn’t blame him – the news about the incident had been everywhere. Whatever it was, she would have to thank him later. Bakugo was also showing some unexpected sides of himself this festival too!

“And after we get out points back, we go straight through the ice, to get the ten million!” At Bakugo’s command the team ran over to the giant ice wall and with some combination of his own explosions, Kirishima’s punches, and Atsuhi’s melting, the four broke through in less than a minute. Which was crucial as there wasn’t much time left.

With a momentary glance at Midoriya and Todoroki, the ash blond realized the headband wasn’t in the green-haired boy’s possession anymore, and as Atsuhi and her two other teammates stood back and watched, crossing their fingers, Bakugo made for the dual-haired boy. Just when Present Mic suddenly started counting down.

“Six! Five!”

Come on, Bakugo-kun!

“Four! Three!”

Almost there!

“Two!”

Panic had ensued. Everyone was trying to get points with the last of their strength. And Bakugo-

“One! Time’s up!

Well, he did not succeed. If him slamming face-first into the ground was anything to go by, that is. Atsuhi turned to the scoreboard hastily.

“Now let’s see our first four teams! First place, team Todoroki! Second place, team Bakugo! Third-”

Present Mic continued but the female didn’t need to hear any more. What mattered now is that they had moved on. But glancing at Bakugo, still laying on the ground a few meters ahead of her and angrily slamming his fist, she supposed that maybe he didn’t feel the same. As she came up to him, she decided that she had to try and encourage him. Or something. Now how does one go about encouraging Bakugo? That… was still a mystery to her… Well, you learn best from experience!

“Hey, Bakugo-kun, second place isn’t bad either. Plus, you can always take first in the next event!” The blond male stopped his little tantrum and looked at Atsuhi, who was smiling at him expectedly. He looked like such a child, it was actually funny. But maybe laughing at his face right now wasn’t the best idea. With one last raging glare at Todoroki, he got up and opened his mouth to say something, his expression suddenly becoming much more serious. But he was interrupted by the commentator’s obnoxiously loud announcement.

“We’ll continue with the afternoon portion after an hour-long lunch break!!”

As everyone on the stadium started complaining or congratulating others, the students all headed to the canteen to have lunch and regain their strength before the festival continued. Atsuhi was going to ask Bakugo to come with her there too, but stopped when she turned around to see him looking at her intensely, the serious expression from earlier still present on his face.

“W-what’s wrong, Bakugo-kun…?” The female questioned nervously, not used to the way Bakugo was looking at her right now. So she couldn’t help but wonder just what had made him this way.

“I have to ask you something.” Looking around, Bakugo saw some classmates still standing on the stadium and conversing with each other, then added. “Alone.”

Ah, o-of course!” Even though she was still dumbfounded at whatever was going on with her friend, she let him drag her off to a more secluded space to ask her whatever weighed on his mind. And as the two passed by the queue for the canteen and walked down the almost empty hallways, the female couldn’t not wonder.

The last time Bakugo-kun was so serious to talk to me was when I told him about my Quirk. But this time it had to be in private…? What could possibly be so important that no one else could hear it? I mean, if he wanted to tell me something, sure, I see why he wouldn’t want other people to find out. Agh, this is all just too confusing!

The boy in front of her stopped for a moment, looked around, and turned to face Atsuhi again.

“Here’s good.”

“So, what did you want to talk ab-” But then a voice came from somewhere behind the wall they were standing in front of.

“You know, my father’s Endeavor.

Huh? That can’t be...

Peeking around from behind the dark corner, where she and Bakugo were standing, just about to begin their own conversation, the female was surprised to spot Midoriya and Todoroki facing each other in the shady hallway. Before turning around to tell the boy they probably shouldn’t intrude on their personal matters like that, Atsuhi felt a hand covering her mouth and pulling her back, denying her the ability to move away from her current position.

That did scare her for a brief second, but she quickly realized it was only Bakugo, who was still standing behind her. In fact, she could feel the spikes of his hair tickling her face, as he had pulled her back and closer to himself, resting his head above hers. Shooting him a disapproving look, Atsuhi tried to tell him that this wasn’t a good idea. The male only lowered his head and whispered to her, sending a few shivers down her spine. Something was seriously wrong with her lately and whatever it was, she was certain it had to do with Bakugo.

“If we move now, they’ll hear us.”

Ha, nice try, but you’re wrong.

Atsuhi was sure that if they quietly snuck away neither of the two would even know they had ever been there. But Bakugo was clearly unwilling to move. Oh no, on fact, it looked like he wanted to listen. And if she were to start struggling against him, then they would surely be found out. He was sly alright. And his plan worked as Atsuhi couldn’t do much but relax beside the blond and listen reluctantly. She did shoot him a quick glare though.

“Yeah, he tried to build himself the image of a hero but for him All Might has always been an obstacle in his way. My father never managed to beat All Might so he came up with a different plan.”

Todoroki-kun’s father, Endeavor… Dad has had to work with him a few times and he always says that despite his ridiculous strength, his character doesn’t exactly go along with his spot as the number two hero… Though I’ve never seen him in person, he does look intimidating. Todoroki-kun’s a little like him in this regard…

“What are you talking about, Todoroki-kun? Why are you telling me this?” Midoriya spoke up for the first time since Atsuhi and Bakugo has stumbled upon the two by accident.

“A Quirk marriage. You’ve heard of those, right?”

No way…

“They became a problem during the second and third generation after the appearance of Quirks. Strong individuals choose a partner and force them to marry them, their only goal being to pass down a stronger version of their Quirk. These early generations had no ethics.”

Forget her earlier reluctance. Atsuhi’s eyes were wide and she was listening to her classmate’s words in shock. Even if she wanted to, she couldn’t turn away anymore. She was too scared to hear where this was going though.

“With his fortune and fame, my father made my mother’s family agree to the marriage. All of this, just to get his hands on her Quirk. Raising me as a hero who’d be able to surpass All Might, all to fulfill his ambitions! I hate being nothing more than a tool for this piece of trash!

From what I remember, my mother would always cry… “I can’t stand to see this left side of yours” she said before she threw boiling water at my face.”

At some point Bakugo had removed his hand from Atsuhi’s mouth but now she had to lift up her own to muffle the shocked cries making their way through her teeth. It was all… too terrifying.

“In short, not using my left side against you was my revenge against him. By climbing to the top without using it… I will have denied him everything.” As Todoroki stopped talking, a short pause fell over everyone, before a pair of retreating footsteps could be heard, shortly followed by another. Soon the two boys were too far away for their conversation to be clearly audible from where the female stood. And yet she couldn’t help it. She still stood there, looking down at her feet with wide eyes and tears threatening to fall away from her eyes. But she wouldn’t let them. Her entire life her parents had showed her nothing but love and care and although she had heard many tales on TV, in books, online and wherever else, this was the first time she felt truly close to one such story.

Only now did she realize how much truth these tales held and how real this problem was. People’s lives were different and everyone struggled with their own fights. While villains roamed everywhere, sometimes people forgot that the real villains might turn out to be those closest to you. And Atsuhi was definitely guilty of that.

A few blinks in an attempt to clear away the last remaining tears at the corners of her eyes, Atsuhi turned around to check how Bakugo was fairing with the whole situation. He was just looking down with an unreadable expression on his face and seemed to be mulling over everything he had just heard. Feeling the green eyes looking at him intently, the male lifted up his head and glanced at the girl.

“It’s been a while already. Come on, let’s go to the canteen before lunch break’s over.” He said, as he turned around and walked back the way the two had come from. Atsuhi was glad he spoke up as had the silence continued, she would’ve gone crazy. For now, it was better to forget about everything she had heard.

“And the thing you were going to ask me about? I don’t mind waiting a little longer.” She didn’t want to leave it hanging after all. But the blond just shook his head.

“Doesn’t matter now. We’ll talk later.”

“Um, okay, whatever you say.”

***

 

“This is still a Sports Festival so we’ve prepared Recreational Games for all participants! We even brought cheerleaders from America to hype you up… Hmm? But what’s this? Class A?! Why?” Atsuhi stared in shock at the 6 girls from her class who were all wearing cheerleader uniforms with UA’s logo. They also looked ashamed and mad at something.

I think I know who might’ve made them do that…

“Whatever happened, you’re lucky you weren’t a part of it, huh, Atsuhi-chan?” Kirishima said as he came up beside the female, looking at their classmates just as shocked. Atsuhi should probably ask him to give Mineta a good scolding in her stead later.

Yup, you’re right...” She walked up to Momo, who looked utterly crushed for getting fooled by such a stupid prank, and tried her best to cheer her up, as Present Mic continued explaining the last event.

“After these games, we’re moving onto the final competition. Between the 16 members of the first four teams we’re going to hold a formal tournament!! A series of one-on-one fights!”

Tournament… So we’re going to be fighting on that arena they show on TV every year!!

“The matchups will be decided by drawing lots.” Said Midnight as she appeared on the podium, holding a box. “Then we’ll move onto the festivities! You 16 finalists can decide whether you want to participate in the fun. Some of you might want time to rest.”

Mhm. Better conserve my energy. In one-on-one fights I can count mostly on my Quirk and the more energy I waste now, the worse it’ll be later.

“So, let’s start with the first place team-”

“Um… Excuse me. I’d like to withdraw.” All heads sharply turned to look at the source of the meek voice – Ojiro, who stood with his hand raised nervously.

Withdraw?! W-why…

“The cavalry battle… I don’t remember anything that happened until the very end. It was probably his Quirk...”

His Quirk? Let’s see, Ojiro was in a team with… oh, that boy from General Education who came to our room before the festival! So his power must be bad news…

A few people tried to convince him otherwise, but Ojiro wouldn’t back down, mumbling something about his pride. Another boy from class B, who was io his team too, did the same, and so, as Midnight approved based solely on her own tastes, two participants from one of class B’s teams who had almost moved on, were chosen to replace the two. Well, at least it wasn’t Monoma. Ha, take that. Wow, guess Atsuhi really was up for holding grudges today. Oh well. Shaking these thoughts away, the female looked up to see the matchups, holding her breath in anticipation. She could even be faced with a strong foe like Bakugo or Todoroki from the first round. Actually, everyone was probably a formidable opponent but still!

My first fight is against… Aoyama?! Is that… is that a good thing? His Quirk has a rather unfortunate drawback and if I could use that against him, I can definitely win. But if I do, then it’s very likely my next match would be against Ida-kun… Which means that I can consider myself defeated already. No, no, no! Stop thinking like that, Atsuhi!! I’ll just have to give it my all and win – that’s it!

Also, Midoriya-kun’s up against some Shinso guy? Is that the one from General Education? Well, he’s gotten this far, his Quirk might be dangerous… And, oh no… Bakugo-kun versus… Ochaco-chan… I feel bad for her but on the other hand I believe she has a chance! Oh my God, this tournament’s going to be a catastrophe

“Now, let’s forget about the festival for a bit and continue with the recreational games!” Well, that’s what the female was waiting to hear. As all other participants spread about, some preparing for the games, others going to a secluded place to rest, she looked around, finding a certain blond standing there, rather closely to a freaked out Ochaco. As she walked up to him, she tapped his shoulder and asked.

“So, Bakugo-kun, can we talk now?

Chapter Text

Atsuhi was walking down the hall, right by Bakugo’s side, and studying the walls and floors to occupy her mind. The two classmates were walking in silence, looking for an empty waiting room where they could talk, while also trying to avoid accidentally listening in on someone else’s conversation, like they had done the previous time.

The girl hadn’t forgotten about his eagerness to ask her something earlier and that’s why she had suggested finding a quiet place to talk now, during the recreational games which neither of the two were going to participate in. However, what she hadn’t given much thought to was what the blond wanted to talk about. He looked really serious about it and the fact that he insisted the two had to talk in private only confused Atsuhi.

Whatever Bakugo had on his mind, he really wasn’t acting like his usual self. Whether that was a good or a bad thing, she could only wait to figure out.

Does it have something to do with what has been happening during the Sports Festival… Or is it about something else entirely? C’mon, Bakugo-kun, I don’t like to be kept in the dark like that.

But the boy just kept walking with a serious expression on his face, only checking if any of the doors they were passing by were open. If he didn’t want to tell her now, Atsuhi was going to respect his wish and wait for him to ask her when he thinks it’s appropriate.

Peeking into one of the few open rooms, Bakugo saw that it was empty and holding open the door, waited for Atsuhi to walk in, before following after her and closing the door. There were a few seconds of awkward silence during which the female sat on one of the chairs and looked at her classmate, who was standing in front of the door and looking down. When he finally met her gaze, Bakugo took a seat next to her and looking straight into her eyes told her what had been on his mind for some time now.

“What… happened to your mother?” The girl’s eyes widened. Bakugo’s expression was serious – he wasn’t joking around, he wasn’t taking this lightly. He was just trying to get straight to the point.

“My… mother…?” Atsuhi could barely find the words to respond and so she kept staring at the blond’s furrowed brows and his crimson eyes, which were looking straight back at her.

He didn’t answer, nor did he repeat his question. It felt as if the temperature in the room had suddenly fallen by a few degrees and chills ran down Atsuhi’s spine. Right now, she wanted to confirm one thing.

“You… act as if you already know…?” It was a statement but it came out sounding like a question. She never really wanted to tell anybody about this, so maybe if he didn’t know she could-

“I do. I think.” Bakugo stopped talking for a moment, looking down and then lifting his head back up with a less intense expression this time. “But… I want you to confirm it. After what that blond copycat said, it really made me wonder what exactly happened.” As he was speaking, his voice was quiet, in contrast to the usual volume of his words. Atsuhi continued looking him in the eyes for a few more seconds, trying to decide if he really wanted to hear the story. She finally sighed and leaned back in her chair.

“It’s quite the long story, though… Not one with a happy ending either. Are you really sure you want to hear it…?” If anything, the blonde female’s words were more to convince herself, rather than to warn her classmate. After Bakugo nodded in confirmation, the girl folded her hands on the table in front of her and hesitantly began.

“Well, my mother was Hiyamiku – a pro hero working in Fukua in a shared agency with my dad. Because of the constant villain attacks in the area though, neither her, nor my father really had days off. Sometimes one of them would take charge of the agency for a day, while the other one got to rest a bit. I really treasured those days, because I could spend time with my parents. I’ve always admired everything they did as heroes but even I have to admit that sometimes it was upsetting – I barely got to see them in the evening because of how late they would be working and then by the time I get up in the morning they have to leave already.

This all happened on one of those few days, when I could be with my parents...” Atsuhi clenched her hands tighter and took a deep breath before continuing, while Bakugo was just listening quietly.

“It was when my mom had decided to take a day off and had left Dad to deal with the agency. She wanted us to spend an entire day together, just having some mother-daughter time and enjoying ourselves. And we did – we had so much fun! Despite what happened afterwards, this is still one of my favorite days in my life for this very reason.

We had been having such a good time together, that it was evening before we knew it. The sun was going to go down soon and we decided that it was best to go home. It was a twenty-minute walk to our place, so we would’ve gotten home before it even got completely dark. Except, as sad as it may be, the reality is that a hero can never run away from their job...”

Atsuhi stopped. This was the part she wanted to forget. This was the part she wished had never happened. She started hesitating – she wasn’t sure if she wanted to tell the boy anymore. She wanted to pretend like it had never happened but if she said it, it would became real all over again. The scene would start replaying in front of her eyes and, just like when it first happened, there would be no running away from it.

But the sound of shuffling broke her out of her thoughts. That’s when she realized that her breathing had become more frequent and little beads of sweat were starting to roll down the side of her forehead and yet, her hands and feet remained as cold as ice. Looking up, Atsuhi saw that the blond had leaned further ahead in his spot on the table and was now staring at her.

“Oi, somethin’ wrong with you?” What he said sounded rude, but his eyes were telling a different story. He looked like he wanted to hear more but was… concerned...? Perhaps.

Concerned about what, though?

Since the girl kept looking at him questionably, Bakugo’s eyes narrowed further and he repeated his question.

“Oi, I asked if something’s wrong with you.”

“A-ah, no, I’m… I’m fine… I just...” Sucking in a sharp breath, Atsuhi decided to continue – maybe telling someone was going to help her get over it. It was just a maybe, but that was enough for her to try.

“We were… walking home, passing by all sorts of dark and sketchy alleyways but it was still light out and my mom was a pro her after all. Plus, there was no one in them so we just kept on walking. When we were passing by a particularly wider alley though, we heard a weird sound coming from it. My mother was way too caring for her own good because she decided to take a look – it was probably some kids with drugs or a small gang for all we knew. We both knew that she could deal with a few people like those, so when she told me to wait for her in front of the alleyway, while she went to check what was happening, I complied without questioning it and watched her back as she retrieved further and further into the narrow street.

That was probably my first mistake – being confident that everything was going to be alright. That’s something you can never be sure of and I didn’t know that back then. Thinking back on it, there were no people around us either and there would’ve been no way to call for backup anyway. And that’s when… he appeared...”

The images were already starting to flash through her mind, but Atsuhi shook her head in an attempt to clear them away. Not that it helped anyway.

He just attacked her out of nothing. He was super fast, too – I was staring at the scene unfolding in front of me and my eyes could barely follow his movements. My mother, however, was actually holding him back – despite his insane speed, she was somehow blocking all of his attacks and even trying to land some blows of her own.

At the time, I remember thinking how brave and confident her expression was. But now I know that it was all a facade. She was probably just as scared as I was and what I saw back then was an act she put up so I don’t worry about her and so she could deceive her opponent.

At one point, she turned back to me and told me to call for help. I was still staring at the attacker terrified but after a few seconds I finally found the strength to move my feet and just when I turned around to run to someone, anyone, I heard it.”

Atsuhi’s voice suddenly became even more quiet than before, barely above a whisper. She felt the sobs coming at the back of her throat and choking her words. But she didn’t stop.

“A scream. It echoed around the street. It kept echoing, again and again. It was immediately followed by a loud splash. I… I was scared to turn around but… my body – it moved on its own and before I knew it I-I…

I was... staring at her. She was lying in a pool of blood. I wanted to look away but I just couldn’t. And suddenly, he appeared right in front of me, in the blink of an eye. I was left trembling and staring wide-eyed at him while his horrifying and disfigured face was the only thing in my sight.”

Atsuhi lowered her head, her bangs covering her eyes and her voice much more monotonous and devoid of cheerfulness compared to usual.

“You know what his exact words were? “You’re still a child. You can change. You don’t have to become a false hero like her.” Those words just… never left my memory. I’ve always remembered them. Even though I want to forget them because what he said it… it wasn’t true!

Right after he said this, the police arrived. Seems like some policemen nearby had heard the scream and along two heroes patrolling the area and some backup, had come to check out what was happening. He disappeared and I was left there, staring straight ahead, not daring to shift my eyes any further down because I knew what I was going to find there.

After that it’s all a blur. There were sirens, an ambulance, many people asking me all kinds of questions but I just… couldn’t answer any of them. There were no sentences forming in my mind. Only this scene constantly replaying. I also remember my dad was really concerned. He didn’t want to show his grief in front of me but I knew how hard it must’ve been on him…

Eventually, my tears just kind of… dried up. It was inevitable – I couldn’t just keep being sad forever. I decided to take the best of all of it – I started working even harder to become a hero and tried to be even kinder to everyone. I don’t really get bothered by it when it crosses my thoughts anymore but lately it’s been… a bit too much...”

Atsuhi kept staring at her knees because she was too afraid to lift up her head. She didn’t want to see Bakugo’s expression after hearing everything but even more than that, she didn’t want him to see her own face. Because despite what she had said just now, telling this story brought back all the feelings of grief she had buried alongside it. That was evidenced by the tears streaming form her eyes and refusing to cease. She hadn’t cried about this in so long…

But… it feels nice in a way…

A few silent seconds later, the female was starting to worry – Bakugo hadn’t said anything, hadn’t even moved an inch. Wiping away some of the tears form her eyes, she looked up and found him sitting right where he had been with his eyes wide open and his mouth slightly agape. When the girl looked at him, he quickly pursed his lips into a thin line and looked down, before speaking up.

“Before out battle training, I heard Deku ask you about your parents. I didn’t really care about what he had to say, but when the name Hiyamiku came up, I just couldn’t help but think it sounded familiar. And when I thought about it a little further, I remembered hearing about her and what happened on the news. Everything was really vague though – I never even knew you were there at the time...” Bakugo wasn’t speaking very loudly either, almost matching the girl’s quiet words. From the side, it probably sounded like the two were whispering to each other, not that they realized.

“Mhm… We- no, my dad was the one who asked the media to keep it vague. I was still a mess and if people kept asking me about everything that had happened, I wouldn’t have ever gotten over it. In fact, I don’t think it was ever mentioned she had a daughter…

Later, this same person killed many other heroes. He’s now dubbed the Hero Killer, I believe. And he still hasn’t been caught… but… that’s something that I really try not to think about. Otherwise, I will be living in constant fear.”

“It’s… unbelievable though.” Atsuhi, whose tears had already dried a bit, looked at the boy questionably, not understanding what he meant quite yet. “You’re always smiling, laughing, and being all positive and shit. So to think that your reason for this is the polar opposite of it… You could say that that’s strength in its own way, too.”

The female’s eyes widened. She had never stopped to think about it like that. Her entire life, Atsuhi had been looking at everything that happened that day as a sign of her weakness and inability to help. Maybe all that was really needed for her to stop being so scared of those memories was a different way of looking at them. Now that Bakugo said it, it sounded really simple, like an obvious solution, but one that never crossed her mind nonetheless. Closing her eyes, she tried to think about it.

Strength, huh? That… doesn’t sound impossible now, does it?

A smile had appeared on Atsuhi’s face and when she finally opened her eyes again, she stood up from her chair and looked at the blond male in front of her, blinking away the last teardrops resting in her eyes.

“Bakugo-kun… I… I don’t know what to say… Truth be told, I was scared of telling you, I almost didn’t, but now… Thank you! Thank you so much! With everything happening and all those memories coming back to haunt me, I was too overwhelmed to deal with it all. But now, sharing all of this with someone, it honestly feels like I’m now only carrying half the burden and what you said – about it being a strength – you can’t imagine how important that is for me.

So thank you – for listening to me, for being nice to me about all of this, and, most importantly, for helping me!” Atsuhi wasn’t entirely sure how to express her gratitude in the current moment. Words just didn’t feel enough though and so she bowed down, the same way she would if she were talking to an adult or one of her favorite heroes.

“Tch, there you go again, smiling and laughing. That’s exactly what I meant. And stop bowing like that, for fuck’s sake, it’s dumb.” The male walked up to her and put his hands on her shoulders, making her stand up straight again, only to see her smiling even wider than before. Dropping his hands form her shoulders, Bakugo walked out of the waiting room and called to her without turning around.

Hurry up. Tournament’s gonna start soon. You wouldn’t wanna be late for that, right?”

“Coming!” After running up to him, Atsuhi matched his pace and the two began walking down the halls, back the same way they came and towards the stadium for the final event of the sports festival.

“Hey, Bakugo-kun?”

“What is it?”

“Did you actually… know who my parents were?”

“Of course I did.”

Really?!

“Well, I didn’t know they were your parents. I just knew them as Hiyamiku and Lava Floor. They’re fucking awesome, too.”

“Well, just so you know, that makes me really happy.”

“Whatever.”

“So you’re actually just a big fanboy, huh?”

Hah!?

Atsuhi started laughing as Bakugo got angry over being called out on how much of a fanboy he actually was. The two kept chatting about different things but the entire time there was one thing on Atsuhi’s mind. And for the first time in what felt like forever, it wasn’t a bad memory.

Bakugo-kun, truly, thank you.

Chapter Text

The anticipation’s killing me.

Atsuhi was bopping her foot and tapping on her chin with one of her fingers, trying to distract herself from her impatience. The Tournament was about to begin, with the first match being between Midoriya and the boy form General Studies who had miraculously gotten this far (Shin-something, right?).

And even though it wasn’t her fight yet, the female was already feeling nervous.

Nervous about what though?

Perhaps she was anxious about her own match and now that it was nearing close, she was really starting to freak out. Or maybe she was just hoping her classmates will do well. Like the green-haired boy, for example, who was facing off against an opponent he didn’t know and thus was at a disadvantage against.

That’s not the way to go. I should have a bit more faith in them.

She was so aware of the quick beats of her frantic heart, that the girl was starting to slowly bring her hands to her mouth to start biting her nails. Not that it was a good thing but it helped when feeling nervous. Present Mic’s voice, however, saved her fingernails from the fate they had been about to meet.

“Alright! Are you ready!! It’s time to begin!” The crowds started cheering and the first pair of students stepped out on the stadium, looking ahead with determination.

“The first match! Over here, making a weird face despite his performance in the first event – Midoriya Izuku, from the Hero Course. Versus – I’m sorry but this guy hasn’t really done anything to stand out yet, it’s Shinso Hitoshi, from General Studies.”

Atsuhi was staring intently at the two boys, waiting to see what they were going to do. The sound of shuffling to her side, however, caught her attention. Looking to the source of it, the girl saw her classmate Ojiro, the same boy who had given up his chance to be a part of this Tournament in favor of his pride, leaning forward nervously and staring hard at the stadium.

That’s right – he was on this Shinso guy’s team. He probably knows his Quirk and that’s why he’s so worried about Midoriya-kun.

Before she could ask the boy with the tail anything though, Atsuhi was interrupted by her teacher’s/commentator’s deafening yell.

START!!”

Not even a second after, Midoriya dashed towards his opponent, shouting something with an angry face.

Huh? They must’ve been talking before the match began…

And then he just… stopped. The curly-haired boy suddenly stood still, as if rooted to the ground, and stared ahead blankly. Shinso hadn’t even moved a finger yet, so why? Atsuhi started to panic.

W-what…

“Dammit, Midoriya! That’s why I warned you!!” Ojiro shouted, hands clutching at his hair in frustration. Atsuhi tilted her head in confusion.

“Warned him? About what?” She asked curiously, constantly glancing back to the stadium to see if Midoriya had, by any chance, returned back to normal. Ojiro looked at Atsuhi and sighed, explaining what had happened.

“This guy’s Quirk lets him brainwash people. And it activates when you answer him. I told Midoriya to keep his mouth shut...” The blond boy looked down sadly, clutching his fists, as if it were his fault his classmate hadn’t listened to him.

“H-hey now, I’m sure Midoriya-kun must’ve had a good reason… So is there any way for the brainwashing to be undone?” Atsuhi had turned her body to the male, and had stopped looking at the actual match, relying on Present Mic’s commentary to learn if something new was happening.

“Yeah, with some force being applied to your body. But right now on the stadium it’s just the two of them… Midoriya’s already-”

“Wait, what? Midoriya has just started walking out of the ring?!”

Both Atsuhi’s and Ojiro’s eyes shot back to the scene of the match, where, true enough, Midoriya was casually stepping closer and closer to the edge of the ring with that distraught look still on his face. The girl was unconsciously biting her lip and clutching her fists in hopes that the green-haired boy would be able to break out of his opponent’s control. Somehow.

Come on, Midoriya-kun! There’s no way you’re going to let yourself be defeated in the first round, right?

The female was looking carefully at him, trying to see if he had any sort of control over his body. And suddenly, even from such a big distance, she managed to catch the light glow that started to emit from one of his arms.

His Quirk…?

That’s when a gust of wind surged around the boy, the same way it usually did when he was using his Quirk, and Midoriya turned around, glaring at Shinso, yet his face had a somehow pained expression on it.

“Ah, he broke his finger again!” Atsuhi exclaimed out loud when she noticed the dark bruising around one of Midoriya’s fingers, catching the attention of her classmates.

“To go that far...” Sighed Ojiro, though he looked relieved that the green-haired boy had broken out from the brainwashing after all.

Back on the ring, the two had started arguing and shouting at each other, but Midoriya took the initiative to run up to his opponent and started pushing him back, reaching dangerously close to the lines.

Just a little bit more, come on…

He couldn’t go through with his plan though, because Shinso started fighting back and punched his face. However, Midoriya seemed to be one step ahead – he grabbed the purple-haired boy’s shirt and lifted him up and over his shoulder, slamming him onto the ground and although it was merely his heel that touched the area beyond the line, it still counted as Shinso’s loss. And Midoriya’s win. But Atsuhi was fixated on something else instead.

The way he threw him just now…

“Bakugo-kun, doesn’t that look a bit familiar to you…?” The female turned to her left, looking at the ash blond, who was glaring at the scene unfolding in front of him.

“Tch. Fucking Deku.” Bakugo mumbled under his breath, not denying the similarity between Midoriya’s attack just now and the way he fought him during their Battle Training.

“Midoriya moves on to the second round!!”

Atsuhi let out a sigh of relief, leaning back in her seat and closing her eyes for a bit…

Wow, that was just the first match too. So intense! I can’t even imagine what it’s like to be there, in the center of attention… Guess I’ll learn pretty soon though.

I’m glad Midoriya-kun managed to pull through, even though I have no idea how he did it. Still, that Shinso – to get so far with such a… villain-like Quirk and yet still have the motivation to become a hero. That’s pretty admirable, I’m curious to know if he’ll be transferred like he said he might be…

“Now a short break before we start with the second match!”

Atsuhi’s eyes suddenly shot open and she stood up sharply.

Oh crap, I’m third! Gotta head to the waiting rooms…

After apologizing for startling her classmates, she shuffled out of her class’ area and turned to walk to the waiting rooms. With a last glance back, she met Bakugo’s eyes, which were looking at her encouragingly. Smiling, she turned ahead and kept walking.

It’s just like nothing happened… But I feel as though that’s not the case…

***

Todoroki’s attack during his match with Sero had been a bit overkill. A giant ice structure, which loomed over the stadium and was mere centimeters away from the audience – just to immobilize his opponent who was but a tiny person, compared to his gigantic cold prison.

The dual-haired boy had apologized but he had looked very distraught the entire time – as if his mind was somewhere completely different. Atsuhi didn’t get to see the fight up close but even the small TV in the waiting room was enough for her to deduce that there was absolutely no way she would ever be able to melt this much ice. She already struggled with just a few blocks of it.

Not that she needed anything else to worry about. Her first match was coming up and despite the fact that she was fighting Aoyama of all people, she couldn’t help but feel her heart drop every time she thought about actually going out there and fighting.

Even now, as she was walking through the tunnel leading up to the ring, which had taken a while to be rid of all the ice, she could feel the cold sweat running down the side of her face. With each step she took, she was getting closer to her first fight and also more worried about its outcome.

No one took Aoyama seriously most of the time but then again, who knows? What if he was actually hiding some secret aspect of his Quirk that would make him stronger, like Ida’s Recipro Burst which he had revealed during the Cavalry Battle. He could actually be a very decent fighter and Atsuhi would have no way of knowing.

All she did know was that she had to try her best to get close to him in order to use her Quirk.

There’s nothing on the ring that I can use to reach him from a long distance and since I can’t use the small grenades from my costume, I’m left to rely on touching my opponent as my only way of winning. Which will prove to be difficult in the case of an opponent who has long-range attacks. Like Aoyama does. I just have to try to use his setback against him then.

Taking a determined deep breath, Atsuhi walked out onto the ring, under the eyes of the thousands of people in the audience. Their cheers and applause were almost deafening and yet they were so loud that it all kind of blended together and sounded like background noise. The sun was a lot brighter down here compared to where the class had been sitting. And she was painfully aware of its blinding light in her eyes right now.

The people were all around her peripheral vision and yet the female didn’t dare to actually look at them. If she did, the panic and the realization that pros were watching her and evaluating her skills would truly settle in. And then she would just start getting distracted, making her movements and actions sloppy. She couldn’t afford to lose this match, so she couldn’t afford to let her worries get the best of her either.

Instead, the blonde girl focused on her opponent. He was standing at the opposite tunnel and looking straight at her with his usual curved smile and a “fabulous” pose. Right now his weird antics were only making the girl all the more nervous.

I can’t underestimate him – that’s no way to think about your opponent. Instead I should assume that he can defeat me and try to prevent that from happening.

“Alright, everybody! Now that the ring has been all cleaned up, it’s time for the third match!!”

Oh no, I forgot he was going to be commenting throughout the entire match! Crap! That’s another thing to distract me! It looked so effortless when everyone else was fighting here… Like they didn’t care about all the attention on them… Although Aoyama doesn’t look very fazed by it all. Maybe I’m just overreacting?

“The one standing here – the fabulous and sparkling Aoyama Yuga from the Hero Course!! Versus – over here, the daughter of two pro heroes who devoted themselves to saving people – also from the Hero Course, Saeki Atsuhi!!

Ah, he mentioned my parents. Wait, now’s not the time to be thinking about this!!

Atsuhi shook her thoughts away, focusing solely on the fight and her opponent. With her mind now clear, all that was left was for her to wait.

START!!”

Go!

The girl immediately started running in Aoyama’s direction, cautiously awaiting his attack. She was quickly nearing him but, just as she expected, the boy suddenly shot out a laser from his belt.

Just gotta dodge it!

The laser was fast but Atsuhi was too. Plus, she had already tried to predict where Aoyama was going to fire off his attack. The male kept shooting with small intervals between individual attacks.

Just as I thought. He still can’t shoot his laser for more than a second. Which seems to be very fortunate for me.

Every time the boy took a break, Atsuhi had an opportunity to get even closer to him. While she had been worried about all the distractions earlier, now that she was in the moment she had completely forgotten about anyone who might’ve been watching her and had also tuned out Present Mic’s commentary. That allowed her to focus entirely on the task at hand – mainly, getting Aoyama out of bounds.

Her opponent’s face was slowly becoming more and more distorted and pained from the constant stomachaches he was getting. But his pain was going to end very soon – Atsuhi was rather close and the male was starting to panic, getting sloppy with his shots. Sloppy enough that the girl finally got close enough to him and as she reached out her hand, her palm managed to glide briefly right above his belt, before she had to duck to avoid another shot sent in her direction.

It’s done.

Still crouched on the ground, she willed her Quirk to heat up the area she had touched, making Aoyama groan before clutching his stomach which was already hurting enough as it had been. Now with the heat added on top, the poor boy couldn’t bare it anymore.

Now all that’s left is to actually push him out.

Moving behind the male, Atsuhi used all her strength to push him ahead and despite being caught by surprise, Aoyama still resisted. In the end though he finally budged, and not only that but he stumbled forward, not managing to catch himself before one of his feet stepped barely outside of the line.

The sudden eruption of cheers from the crowd was the first thing that suddenly became a lot louder in Atsuhi’s ears. With the match now over, she finally remembered where she was and her senses started working properly again

“And Saeki moves onto the second round!!”

That was the second thing her ears registered. She smiled widely, breathing in deeply once before closing her eyes for a moment.

Well, guess it was over before I knew it.

While the audience was still cheering and some robots appeared on the ring to take care of any injuries, Atsuhi walked up to the boy she had defeated, who was currently sitting on the ground with a solemn expression. Flashing him an encouraging grin, she reached out her hand to him.

“Hey, Aoyama! Thank you! It was a good match!

Chapter Text

After her quick win, Atsuhi headed back to the rest of her classmates, who immediately started congratulating her and gushing about how cool she had been. The female couldn’t help the little bit of redness that had rushed to her cheeks at the sound of such kind compliments. Thanking everybody for their words, she had shuffled back to her seat, only to see Bakugo nodding to her in approval with a quick “Not bad”. She suddenly felt even more embarrassed but also grateful.

Her conflicting feelings had been washed away rather quickly, since just a few short minutes later, the fourth match’s start had been announced. Ida and some Hatsume Mei from the Support department. It was surprising that yet another student outside the Hero Course had made it to the final round, and it was even more surprising how much trouble she ended up being. The match had been a disaster from start to finish – Hatsume had taken advantage of Ida’s gullible nature and instead of treating the match like an actual fight, she had simply used Ida to promote her support items. While it was a smart move, it had left the blue-haired boy feeling devastated at being used shamelessly like that.

Next, it had been Kaminari’s turn to fight a girl from Class 1B, called Shiozaki. The match had become weird before it had even started due to Shiozaki’s insistence that she should not be called an assassin by the poor Present Mic, who could only apologize after her intense speech about merely seeking victory. The girl certainly had a weird aura to her. Kaminari’s first thought when approaching hadn’t been very smart – he had attempted to flirt with her, only to lose in mere minutes. The poor boy never got a response…

Nearing the end of the first round, the next two to face off against each other were Tokoyami and Momo. Everyone had expected Momo to win, but then again, they had only had but a glimpse of Tokoyami’s true power, so no one could say for certain. Momo did look determined, but once the fight had started her creations just couldn’t keep up with Tokoyami’s fierce attacks, not to mention that she seemed to lack the decisiveness to act in the spur of the moment. For someone who looked so authoritative, she sure faced some unexpected struggles and Atsuhi felt bad for her – failing when you’ve had such high expectations placed on you must’ve been really difficult.

She had no time to think about this long and hard though, as the second to last match of the round had soon begun. Somewhere in between all the fights Ochaco had slipped away, no doubt to prepare for her own fight which was quickly creeping close. It was definitely not going to be an easy one. Atsuhi hadn’t noticed her walking away, but then again, if she hadn’t called for her, the girl assumed Ochaco just wanted some alone time to gather her thoughts.

And she still had some, as Kirishima and Tetsutetsu’s fight had just begun. It sure was an interesting one – both boys had nearly identical Quirks and fighting styles to boot. They just took turns hitting each other and getting hit back – it was almost like the whole match was one big choreography they had practiced and mastered so well they were both moving in perfect sync. If they didn’t have to fight against each other like this, Atsuhi was sure they were going to make a great team.

The same thing kept going on and on until one of Atsuhi’s classmates had finally decided he was fed up with watching. Looking at him, the female saw Bakugo getting up from his seat and after stretching once, he turned away to go to the waiting rooms. However, he stopped when the girl called out to him.

“Good luck, Bakugo-kun! Not that you’ll need it but Ochaco-chan’s stronger than she looks. May the better one win!” Atsuhi felt bad for Ochaco already, so she just wanted to make sure Bakugo wasn’t going to mock her once the fight starts. He didn’t look like that kind of person but then again, Atsuhi hadn’t seen him fight a classmate since the Battle Training and that had been… an exceptional situation. Bakugo turned his head back to her, showing the serious expression on his face.

“I ain’t underestimating her, don’t worry.” He said simply and walked away, leaving Atsuhi to stare at his retrieving back.

Well, that’s a relief… Kind of…

Shaking these thoughts away (she was going to have plenty of time to think about these things in just a few more minutes), the blonde female turned her attention back to the fight unfolding at the stadium just in time to see Kirishima and Tetsutetsu simultaneously charge at each other, punching their opponent only to also be punched by him. Right after that they both fell on the ground, prompting Midnight to announce the result as a draw.

So what now?

After it was decided that the fight was going to be resolved through an arm wrestling competition at the end of the round, the two boys were taken away by some robots with stretches, probably going to Recovery Girl’s office to rest and heal their injuries enough for their later rematch.

So if they’re done, that means… it’s time for that now.

The match everyone kind of dreaded. The final one of the first round of the tournament and undoubtedly the most unfortunate match-up out of all so far. Ochaco versus Bakugo. Both were strong and could stand their ground in a fight but against each other… it might prove to be a bit too brutal.

Ochaco was far from weak and her Quirk was strong, only made stronger by how versatile her use of it was. She wasn’t scared to take initiative and could come up with a good plan on the spot if she needed too. By all means, she was a formidable opponent, especially when she could easily push you out of bounds, just with the touch of a hand.

But Bakugo was… in a league of his own. Not only was his Quirk very offensive and virtually ideal for a one on one match like the one coming up, but he was just too good at using it. He had mastered the control over his explosions so well he made his Quirk so much more practical than if it had been in anyone else’s hands. On top of that, his reflexes were ridiculously fast and when it came to analyzing a situation and deciding on the best course of action under pressure, he could rival Midoriya’s resourcefulness. So both his Quirk, as well as his own body and mind were strong. If Ochaco was a formidable opponent, Bakugo might’ve been an unbeatable one.

Plus, from the way he talked, it seemed like he had learned a thing or two from the Battle Training. After underestimating Midoriya’s strength and not utilizing his full abilities only to lose to him in the end, he had been taught not to take an opponent lightly anymore. No matter the strength of the person he was fighting, no matter Bakugo’s own strength, he had decided to approach any fight with caution and not let his opponent see any cracks. And while this was generally a good thing, it would probably only prove to be more trouble for Ochaco.

However, ultimately, I’m sure she’ll be glad. She knows the difference in their strength and yet she wouldn’t want to be treated as a weakling.

Atsuhi let out a deep sigh, rubbing her eyes, as if to rid them of the bad images flashing through them at the thought of how the fight might go. Shaking the rest of her worries away, the girl straightened her back and crossed her fingers tightly.

Nothing I can do about it now. I don’t know who I’m cheering for here, but I just hope everything will turn out alright. I just have to believe in them – in Ochaco-chan to give it her all, and in Bakugo-kun not to treat her lightly. That’s right! I’ll just have faith!!

Not long after, the two stepped out on the ring, looking ahead with serious expressions adorning their features. The crowd erupted in cheers once more, only fueled further by Present Mic’s hyped commentary.

“Alright, everybody! Now, for the final match of the first round, we have – a celebrity since he was in Middle School, it’s Bakugo Katsuki from the Hero Course! Versus – my personal pick, Uraraka Ochaco, also from the Hero Course!”

If I’m so nervous, I can’t even begin to imagine what Ochaco-chan might be feeling like right now… Well, it’s almost time, any moment now.

START!!”

Immediately at the signal, Ochaco charged at the blond boy, who only stood there waiting for her to come closer. He was pulling his hand back, so he was probably preparing to launch an attack of his own once the girl comes close enough.

As long as Ochaco-chan touches him, even just once, she’s got it in the bag. There’s nothing Bakugo-kun can do once Zero Gravity takes effect on him. However, if she can’t do that, then she’s as good as dead. She can’t keep evading his attacks forever, and she’ll start getting tired quickly. So it’s all about how soon she can touch him… With Bakugo-kun’s speed though…

Ochaco was close enough to be able to see the sparks flying in Bakugo’s palm so she knew he was about to create an explosion. Perhaps she was hoping that she could reach him before that or maybe even defend herself against it and touch him quickly in the aftermath of this first attack.

Whatever her plan had been though, she couldn’t go through with it. Bakugo blasted her away with his explosion and Ochaco seemed to not have reacted in time, as she didn’t manage to get close enough to even graze him with her fingers. The crowds’ cheers had quieted down a little, turning into quiet muttering and looks of disapproval.

What are they unhappy with…?

The fight continued on, with Bakugo looking around, trying to catch a glimpse of something in the smoke the explosion raised. When his eyes finally spotted what he was looking for, he wasted no time in jumping on top of it, pinning something to the ground. Except it wasn’t Ochaco, it was just the jacket of the sports uniform she had been wearing. Instead, the girl was creeping behind Bakugo from the now clearing smoke, reaching a hand out to touch his back.

That’s right, Ochaco-chan! You’re doing amazing!!

But just before she could actually touch him, thus securing her win, Bakugo turned around, sending her flying back with yet another explosion. The brown-haired girl rolled along the ground a few times before she came to a stop and immediately pushed her already scratched and beaten body back up.

That didn’t work. He attacked after he saw her… A crazy reaction time, alright. If her only hope of winning is to touch him but in the end she’s slower than him… Does that mean it’s impossible…

Atsuhi bit her lip anxiously and continued looking at the fight through the eyebrows she had furrowed in worry. She didn’t realize how hard she was clutching her fists in her lap, watching such a painful scene unfold in front of her eyes. Ochaco kept charging and charging at Bakugo, only to be sent back where she had started by yet another explosion. The female watching was starting to get very worried her friend was just pushing herself without having any clue how she might be able to win. Until something moving up in the air in her peripheral vision made her look away from the fight. That’s when she saw it.

Up in the sky, above the ring where the two were fighting, something crazy was happening. A whole bunch of chunks from the ground were floating up in the air, but not falling. Which could only mean one thing.

That’s her strategy! She keeps charging low to keep Bakugo-kun’s focus on the ground. That way he’s never going to notice this! Once she releases these, even if he’s able to destroy them, there has to be an opening somewhere, right? Ochaco-chan… that might be an incredible idea but… I still think it might be a bit too dangerous...

However, not everyone in the audience seemed to have noticed the female’s plan. One by one, people started shouting their complaints, saying how Bakugo was just toying with the girl, some were demanding the fight be stopped immediately. A lot of people started booing the blond male, disappointed in his actions, even going as far as to call him a villain. Atsuhi felt a pang of sadness in her heart and looked down to her clenched fists.

To call Bakugo-kun a villain… Just for not underestimating his opponent. That’s too cruel...

“The one who just said he was toying with her – are you a pro? How many years of experience? Because if that’s what you’re taking from this, then there’s no point in watching any further. You can leave.” Aizawa spoke up, for the first time since the festival began saying more than just a sentence or two. “She has come this far and he recognizes her strength which is why he’s being cautious. There’s no room for carelessness or holding back here.”

The whole crowd shut up, many being ashamed of themselves for ever saying anything after being scolded by Aizawa like that. Atsuhi looked back up and smiled.

Thank you, Aizawa-sensei! This was starting to become unbearable.

Even some of her own classmates, her own friends, had started expressing their concerns in terms of Bakugo’s approach to this fight. But they had also stopped talking and tried to look at the fight from a different perspective after what the teacher had said. Just in time, as Ochaco’s attacks had started getting sloppier and sloppier, she had decided it was now or never. After a few words exchanged with Bakugo, the brown-haired female released all the rocks in the air, shouting as she started running towards the boy, who was looking up in shock. Atsuhi was standing on the edge of her seat, nervously awaiting to see what was going to happen now. And her eyes widened when she saw it.

Bakugo raised a hand and with a single gigantic explosion blew up every last chunk in the air, leaving only some tiny rocks raining down on the ring. The whole stadium went completely silent. Everyone was just staring in shock at what had been dozens of big rocks, now only reduced to dust. Present Mic’s shouts were what broke the silence and time suddenly started moving again.

Just… a single attack… And they’re all gone…

Atsuhi was just gaping at the scene in front of her, eyes shifting back and forth between the two who were fighting, mind not comprehending what was happening anymore. Ochaco somehow got up from the ground with shaky limbs and a pained expression, tears threatening to fall from her eyes. Bakugo, on the other hand, had grinned widely, finally finding someone who was a worthy opponent, and he was now ready to begin fighting for real. The two ran towards each other but… it didn’t last long.

Ochaco-chan!!!” Atsuhi exclaimed in worry, when her friend collapsed on the ground, unable to get up anymore. The rest happened pretty quickly. Midnight ran over to the ring to check on the girl and after a sigh, announced the result.

“Uraraka… cannot continue. Bakugo moves on to the second round.

This time, there were no cheers. Just more silence. Not like anyone expected a different outcome. It was just a disheartening sight is all. And yet, despite it all, Atsuhi was glad. Glad Ochaco hadn’t given up until the very end.

Even against him, she didn’t back down! That’s what strength is all about! You’re amazing, Ochaco-chan!

Chapter Text

I should probably go to her but…

Atsuhi was pacing back and forth in the hallway leading to the waiting rooms and Recovery Girl’s office, playing with her hands nervously, and lifting up her head to glance down the way she had come every once in a while. Ochaco’s fight against Bakugo had ended a few minutes ago and by this point the girl had probably been all healed up and brought back to one of the rooms Atsuhi was eyeing up.

She kept taking a step towards the girl’s most likely resting place, yet always turning around, ready to bolt right back to the class’s viewing space. And then she would reluctantly glance back at the door labeled Waiting Room 1, deciding that maybe she should, after all, go talk to Ochaco. That had been going on for a few minutes, which felt like an eternity to Atsuhi.

She really did want to go talk to her friend and help her and yet… she didn’t think she could say anything to make her feel better. Sure, she tried to encourage others but that didn’t mean she was any good at it. In fact, she was the one who needed encouraging most of the time. What could she say to someone who had just lost a match they were so determined to win? A match against one of Atsuhi’s best friend nonetheless… Probably just the sight of the blonde girl would make Ochaco’s regrets resurface.

In the end, I’m really no good at this… Will she be okay though? Hm, wait, isn’t that…?

The female caught a glimpse of a head of curly green hair at the opposite end of the hallway. Breathing out a sigh of relief, she turned around, realizing that there was no need to worry in the first place. After all, Ochaco had someone else who was sure to do a much better job at this than Atsuhi could ever hope to. Hearing the door opening and closing, she smiled and walked away.

Quickly sprinting up the stairs, going two at a time to get to her seat before the next match started, she met up with the other participant of the last fight. Bakugo was just about to walk up to the rest of his classmates and the two locked eyes, sitting unmoving for a few seconds, before Atsuhi grinned and patted him on the back.

“You were really cool out there, Bakugo-kun!! Thanks for taking the fight seriously!” The boy just stared at her dumbfounded, before muttering a quick “yeah” and going to his seat, followed closely by the girl.

Hm, did I say something wrong? Or is he upset about something else…?

“Hey, Bakugo! Rough match-up, eh?”

“But still, you’re good at playing the villain!”

Bakugo ignored his classmates’ thoughtless comments and, clearly not in a very good mood, plopped himself down in his seat forcefully. Atsuhi watched all of this from behind him and decided that she had to speak up.

“Villain? What are you guys talking about?” All eyes turned to the girl, making her way past her classmates to get to her own seat next to Bakugo, glancing at him in concern only to see he hadn’t even lifted up his head.

“Well, you have to admit, it was quite the brutal fight. He didn’t go easy on her at all.” Laughed Sero awkwardly and somehow still obviously, earning himself a rare glare from Atsuhi. That made his shut up rather quickly.

“I don’t know, I think Ochaco-chan would’ve felt bad if anyone decided to “go easy on her”. I mean, wouldn’t that mean they think she’s just… fragile? Isn’t that right, Bakugo-kun?” This time, the boy wasn’t looking down anymore, instead he was facing forward and spoke up without tearing his eyes away from whatever faraway object he had been staring at.

“Nothing fragile about her...”

***

It had only taken Kirishima and Tetsutetsu a few short minutes to finish their arm-wrestling match, leaving the red-haired boy from class A as the winner that gets to move onto the second round. After a practically non-existent break, the next pair, or rather the first one of the second round, came up onto the stadium.

Midoriya-kun versus Todoroki-kun… At a first glance, it might seem like the winner is quite obvious, however, Midoriya-kun has shown time and time again that he’s much stronger than he looks. Not to mention how crazy smart he is. I would honestly be surprised if he doesn’t have every single aspect and detail of Todoroki-kun’s Quirk written down in that notebook of his.

And speaking of Todoroki-kun, he’s an even stranger opponent. He’s got this ridiculously strong Quirk and yet he absolutely refuses to use half of it. Though I can’t really blame him. I’m not supposed to know why… But I do anyway… However, even with just half of his strength he could easily be considered the strongest in class (Sorry, Bakugo-kun!). Does Midoriya-kun actually stand a chance? Or will he be crushed by Todoroki-kun’s brute force? Wait, I’m starting to sound like Present Mic…

START!!!” The teacher in question shouted at the top of his lungs, prompting the start of what turned out to be, without a doubt, the wildest fight of the entire sports festival. But perhaps it was also the most meaningful one too…

***

The boys hadn’t been fighting for very long but things had quickly started becoming rather brutal. Midoriya’s ingenious strategy had been to stop Todoroki’s ice blasts by flicking his fingers and causing a great force with his Quirk. However, as it usually tended to be when it came to the green-haired boy and his powers, his fingers ended up getting broken one by one. So really, he only had a very limited number of attacks he could stop with such a reckless method. Not to mention the pain he must’ve been in.

One of his hands had quickly become useless, as he had already stopped four of Todoroki’s blasts and when the freckled boy had accidentally been a fraction of a second too late in his dodging and had gotten caught in the ice, he had no choice but to use his entire other arm to escape. Thus, he was left with no more fingers to break early on in the fight, which should’ve meant he was done for.

Well, not if Midoriya himself had a say in the matter. He just kept pushing through the pain and not only that – he started making things worse for himself because he started attacking using his already broken fingers, thus breaking them… even further…

Atsuhi could only look on in shock, and she couldn’t even begin to imagine the amount of pain the boy was putting himself in at the moment. Whatever motivated him to do all this, it had to be very important to him. The female didn’t think she would ever be willing to subject herself to such torture. No matter the reason.

The fight had quickly transitioned from long-range attacks to the two boys on the stadium exchanging punches and furious words. Why the fight hadn’t ended yet, Atsuhi had no idea.

At some point, the two actually stopped even fighting, instead Midoriya was emotionally shouting something Todoroki’s way. At first, the dual-haired male didn’t look like he wanted to listen but after a particularly heartfelt cry from Midoriya (or at least, that’s what it looked like since Atsuhi couldn’t exactly hear what the two were saying to each other), Todoroki’s face scrunched up, in an expression that made it look like he was barely holding in tears.

There were no thoughts running through the female’s head, as the fight happening on the stadium was just so enticing. No one in the audience could mutter a word either. Everyone was just looking on with wide eyes. They were baring witness to something much more than a simple event at a sports festival. And while they didn’t know what that was, they sure couldn’t stop looking at it.

And that’s when it happened. Maybe it didn’t look like much to the regular people watching the fight. But to Atsuhi and her classmates it was so much more. The flames which suddenly appeared out of Todoroki’s body were something they had never seen before. And never thought they would.

Actually, there were three people currently among the class which weren’t quite so clueless about the circumstances behind Todoroki’s refusal to use his fire side. The first two were Bakugo and Atsuhi who had unintentionally listened in on the male’s tale about his family. Atsuhi really couldn’t blame him for what he had decided to do and that’s exactly why she couldn’t believe her eyes right now.

Because the third person who knew about all of this, Midoriya, was currently down there on the ring and had somehow managed to inspire Todoroki to forget about this all. To use his fire. To show his father that he wouldn’t let himself be controlled by him anymore.

Midoriya-kun… I don’t know what it is you did but… I never thought I would get to see this…

Todoroki’s fire looked a lot more… beautiful, for lack of a better word, than the blonde girl could’ve ever imagined. The way the flames radiated off of his body and danced in the air, dying out and then coming back to life, glowing with bright shades of red, orange and yellow, and distorting the image around them. Something about all of this was just so… beautiful. Or perhaps it wasn’t the actual flames that were beautiful – maybe the real beauty was what they actually meant.

They were almost like the embodiment of Todoroki’s emotions – he kept them hidden away up until now and yet suddenly, when he finally lets them show, they burn so bright, maybe rivaling only Midoriya’s own feelings.

Realizing how creepy and ridiculous her thoughts had suddenly become, Atsuhi laughed awkwardly and turned back to the fight in front of her.

Now the real thing begins!

***

Well, the “real thing” didn’t really last very long. At all. The two boys had went hard at each other, both unleashing what had probably been their strongest attack since the beginning of the match. In fact, their strength was so crazy, they destroyed the walls Cementoss had put up in a desperate attempt to stop them from destroying each other.

In the end, once the smoke had finally cleared up, the real winner had been revealed. And it looks like Todoroki’s fire had, after all, turned out to be way too strong for the green-haired boy to handle, as he had collapsed to the ground, leaving only his exhausted opponent to stare at him, breathing heavily.

It was only after Midnight had officially announced that Todoroki will be the one to move onto the third round, that it hit Atsuhi.

I’m up next!!

Jolting up from her seat suddenly for the second time that day (and also startling her classmates for the second time that day with her sudden actions, making them slightly weary and worried that she’s going to keep doing this every single time), she hastily slipped past everyone and when she was about to start down the stairs, she was stopped by the sound of someone calling her name from back where she had just been minutes prior. Turning to the source of the voice she knew all too well, she met crimson eyes, looking at her seriously.

“What is it, Bakugo-kun?” The female was a bit impatient, but seeing as the male had decided he wanted to tell her something important (and the last time he wanted to talk to her about something, it had proven to actually help her more than she could have ever imagined), she was more than willing to listen to him.

“Don’t go losing now. I’ll be waiting for you at the finals. Otherwise, I doubt anyone else here would give it their all. But if I’m fighting you I know the battle will be fair and square.” He made a tch sound and put his hands in his pockets, looking down (is he embarrassed?). “Plus, I don’t want to fight some weakling...”

Atsuhi was on the verge of blushing furiously, but she somehow managed to stop all the blood in her body from flowing to her face. Instead, it was just her ears that heated up a little bit. Okay, maybe a lot. But the important thing is that Bakugo didn’t realize how his words made her feel.

Wait. How did his words make her feel?

Huh. T-that’s strange…

However, she didn’t really have much time to just stand around there, she needed to prepare for her match and come up with the plan she had been dreading up until now. With a cheerful “Thank you!” and a smile in the boy’s direction, she hurried down the stairs. Now that was a good time to consider the weird tingly feeling his words had brought.

It’s not like I’m really excited to talk to him – I do it all the time. I mean, why now of all times? I literally had a deep and very personal conversation with him just an hour or so ago. So it can’t be embarrassment, right? But if it’s not, then what else could it be!?

Come on, Atsuhi, your next match is in just a few minutes and that’s what you’re thinking about? Ugh, I’m so dumb… Still, maybe… I got it! It must be because he complimented me! I mean, it’s one thing to talk to Bakugo-kun and a whole other thing to be told that you’re strong by him! Phew, I’m glad I figured it out. It would’ve been weighing on my mind this entire time otherwise! In reality, I was just flattered! Ahaha, silly me, of course that’s what it was!...

..right?

And as she was walking down the hallway to one of the waiting rooms, a different thought struck her.

Wait. The whole class heard what he said.

Well, if she had somehow managed to keep her blush at bay, this was the point of no return. Her entire face flushed a bright red. She could only be thankful that none of her classmates were currently around to see it…

What’s wrong with me…

***

It turned out that Atsuhi had a lot more time than she had expected to come up with her plan. Since the previous fight had been so damaging to the ring, it took Cementoss a good half an hour or so to completely rebuild it. Not that the girl complained. On the contrary, she appreciated every second she could get. She had gotten so caught up in watching the fight between Midoriya and Todoroki that she had entirely forgotten the opponent she was facing off against.

He was no Todoroki but, man, was Ida strong. Atsuhi usually claimed that she was quite swift, rivaling the speed of most of her classmates. However, Ida was a whole other story. I mean, that was more or less his Quirk. So one of Atsuhi’s advantages was now practically a disadvantage. Great.

Not to mention that if she couldn’t touch him, she had no way of winning. Unless she fooled him into running out of bounds. But he wasn’t stupid, there was no way this was going to work. That’s why she had thought long and hard about an even slightly possible plan.

Now, as she was walking out on the stadium, back in the spotlight and under the eyes of the thousands of spectators, she could only cross her fingers and hope the plan was actually going to work out. She looked at Ida with a serious expression adorning her face, the two locking gazes which both said I’m not going down without a fight and instead of letting herself get absorbed in her worries again, she just emptied her head, awaiting Present Mic’s signal.

START!!”

And so everything slowed down as she was about to make her first move which was ultimately going to decide whether her plan was going to succeed or fail miserably. But… wait a second… If everything was supposed to slow down, then why did the ground look like it was moving at a normal speed? She couldn’t have been running this fast.

Oh. Wait. Crap. She wasn’t running. In fact, her legs weren’t moving at all. That wasn’t her at all. But why did the ground keep moving!?

That’s when she realized what was happening. Things really had slowed down, she really wasn’t moving by herself. Ida, however, wasn’t staying still either. He had moved before she could even realize it and was currently carrying her closer and closer to the bounds, her face and legs hanging limply, while Ida had an arm wrapped around her waist. Any second now and he was going to win.

W-why…!? That’s… that’s not according to plan at all!!

And yet the ground just kept rushing past.

Chapter Text

Here are the brackets for the Sports Festival!

It was a simple plan, albeit a rather reliable one. All she had to do was make sure her opponent is exhausted enough to push him out of bounds. Sure, that was going to take some time and perhaps she would’ve had to use her Quirk on him but aside from that, it was pretty clear cut. As long as she was quick enough to avoid his attacks, she should be set. Saying that it was a solid plan was probably a bit too optimistic but, hey, it had worked once. Not to mention that Aoyama used long-range attacks and those were the female’s arch enemies.

Well, as it turns out, you can never be too sure. Important note – if something works on Aoyama that does not, in any way, shape, or form mean that it’s also going to work on Ida. Now, why did that matter? Because that’s something that Atsuhi hadn’t quite taken into consideration. Yeah, she didn’t think her plan was foul-proof and she knew that it all relied very heavily on the success of her first move but she had ended up being a little too confident. After all, she had never once thought about what she was supposed to do was her first attack to fail. Which it did.

So now the female was stuck in a very unfortunate situation. She had no idea what to do and yet she was quickly being carried away to the end of the ring, arms and legs flailing around helplessly, while an arm was wrapped around her waist, preventing her from even twisting around to look up. If it weren’t for the slow-motion effect that had suddenly been applied to reality and for the wild racing of her thoughts through her head due to the unexpected dose of adrenaline, Atsuhi was sure she wouldn’t have even realized what was happening before she was thrown out of bounds.

Okay, well, if there was something she knew for certain, it was that she was not going to admit defeat just yet. No, no, it was still too early for that. It wasn’t a very solid one, but even that was a start nonetheless. Now all that was left was to figure out how she was going to stop Ida who looked like he had no intentions of going easy on the girl. Not that she wanted it any other way – after all, losing was better than an unfair fight. But she didn’t plan on losing so she shook her head and cleared her thoughts away.

The dark-haired boy was moving very quickly so it must’ve been his Recipro Burst he had been using. Which meant that in just a few seconds his Quirk was going to be practically useless. So she had to stall for time, just until his move runs out. As he was carrying her away at an alarming rate, one of Atsuhi’s uselessly flailing arms brushed past the boy’s lower leg. And an idea suddenly formed in her head, making her grin in satisfaction.

Fighting against the wind rushing past her, the female successfully moved her arms, purposely reaching out in an attempt to graze her opponent’s leg. Or, more specifically, the calves of his legs where his mutant-type Quirk resided. That proved to be more difficult than expected as the wind continued being a thorn in her side by constantly making her hands sway, until they finally landed on their destination. Sure, it was only for a fraction of a second but that was more than enough. The rest was pretty simple, really.

Atsuhi helped the consequences of Recipro Burst take effect a bit more quickly by heating up Ida’s engines. Mere moments after that, the male stopped dead in his tracks, his engines puffing out a concerning amount of smoke, as he was looking at them in bewilderment. Thankfully, he had stopped just in time, as only a leap or two away were the white lines Atsuhi had no intention of crossing today.

Ida’s surprise was to be expected but it also looked like it was going to turn into the reason for his downfall as, taking advantage of his distraught look, the female wriggled out of his grasp, landing on her feet on the ground and running a few steps away from him to avoid being captured for the second time. As they were now, Ida was standing shocked facing the edge of the ring, while Atsuhi was behind him, looking at his back, and catching her breath. And she hadn’t even been the one who did all the running.

It was only once her feet were back on the ground and her head wasn’t mercilessly swaying from the wind that the female realized just how little time had passed. Literal seconds. The crowd was silent because they had yet to comprehend the scene while Present Mic also had nothing to say quite yet as he hadn’t had time to come up with a clever commentary. So the two opponents were left standing in silence.

Ida soon tuned to face the female and the two locked eyes yet again. They were basically starting all over. Just a few meters closer to the edge. And with one Quirk less.

Atsuhi certainly felt better. There was no time to come up with a new plan, let alone a solid one unlike the first, but it was her who had the advantage now. Huh, that was a first. With Ida’s Quirk now useless, the two’s speed was more or less the same, except the girl could now get close to her opponent and finally have a chance at pushing him back. Even just a few steps would be enough. Well, it was time to win.

Quickly using her Quirk on Ida again to make him take his eyes off her for a second, which was all the time she was going to need. Slamming her body into his in an attempt to push him a bit further back. Him realizing her plan but being too late as he had already lost his balance and wobbling a bit, before finally stepping back on the ground. Except, with one of his feet still in the ring and the other… Well…

“Ida is out of bounds! Saeki moves onto the next round!”

Okay, that was the plan, now just to put it in mo- wait. As it turns out, time was now moving at such a fast rate that Atsuhi couldn’t even process her own actions. She had no time to simply recite the steps of her plan in her head. Instead, her body had subconsciously started following them. Which led us to the present situation with the female showing a confused face as she was looking at her opponent who had bent down in shame and was clutching his hands into fists at his sides. The spectators, on the other hand, had erupted into deafening cheers, showing more enthusiasm about the girl’s own win than she did herself. But why was that?

Well, aside from taking a while to realize that she had in fact won, there was another pretty simple reason actually. And it was the faint words the defeated boy was muttering with a solemn expression.

“Brother...” Huh? So he was fighting for someone too…? As he lost, Ida seemed to have thought that he had failed his brother, breaking some kind of promise he had surely made before the festival. Atsuhi definitely knew what he was feeling right now – going into this event, she had decided that she was fighting as a way to show how strong her parents were. She knew that if she were to lose, she was going to think that she had failed them, setting herself expectations no one forced onto her.

So she couldn’t blame him. But neither could she do anything about it. As it turns out, either way one of the two was going to come out of this with regrets, so whatever it may have been that decided who that was, she was now thankful as she could continue on.

***

“Ah, Atsuhi-san! Good work out there!” Midoriya was smiling in encouragement, as he turned around to face the female walking into the seating area of her class after the match. He had been looking over the railing with one of his hands still up in a sling and some smaller wounds around the rest of his body that hadn’t healed quite yet.

“Thanks, Midoriya-kun! I’m glad you’re alright too...” A few seconds of silence fell over the two as their eyes focused on the match unfolding on the ring down below. The second round was quickly coming to its end as Bakugo and Kirishima were ducking it out in what seemed like an evenly-matched fight so far. The gears in Atsuhi’s mind were turning rapidly as a question weighed on her.

Do I say anything about his match with Todoroki-kun? I mean, he did amazing. But what if he’s sad he lost? He did help Todoroki-kun get over his grudge against his father, or so it looked like. But I can’t just say that. I wasn’t supposed to have listened in on them in the first place. Ugh, why does this have to be so difficult…!?

In the end, she couldn’t stand the awkward silence any longer so she forced herself to croak out a few even more awkward words.

“So, um, you fought really well, Midoriya-kun.” It sounded so forced, the female felt like facepalming but only cringed visibly. Midoriya, on the other hand, didn’t seem to notice as he looked at her questioningly and then laughed in that timid way of his.

“Yeah, top eight still isn’t bad, I guess. But I did something better than winning...”

“You really did.” When the boy turned to her in surprise, Atsuhi quickly tried to cover her slip-up and waved her hands nervously as a few beads of sweat rolled down the side of her head. “I-I mean, I have no clue what you were talking about but I’d never seen Todoroki-kun’s fire before so it was really cool, you know!” The female continued laughing awkwardly when Midoriya’s eyes suddenly widened.

“Ah, speaking of Todoroki-kun’s fire, I’m sorry...” Now it was his turn to laugh nervously, perhaps not buying Atsuhi’s little act though he was too nice to show it.

“You’re sorry for what...?” Maybe she was in denial but never once had it occurred to the female. At least not until the green-haired boy brought it up.

“Well, you know, the brackets...” He pointed up towards the screen and as Atsuhi scanned it over she realized that she hadn’t been paying attention to the order of the matches, nor to their winners. She was watching them unfold without ever paying attention to the fact that she would have to fight those people later on. And as her eyes fell on her name, she learned two things. One, she was in the first match of the next round so she should probably make her way over to the waiting room already. And two, well, she was doomed.

“M-my opponent’s… TODOROKI-KUN!?

***

“Well, it was fun while it lasted but I’ll be joining you guys in here permanently in just a few minutes.” As she said goodbye to her classmates for now, Atsuhi moved to leave their seating area.

“Oh, come on, Atsuhi-chan, you might defeat him, who knows. You said you were training to hold your own against him in a fight, didn’t you?” Kaminari was trying to encourage her but it was obvious he didn’t think she could win either. The odds were simply stacked against her.

“Sure, but not in a one-on-one fight. He’s just… too strong.” With a sigh, she ignored the following comments and left the stands, walking through the long echoey hallways with just her anxious thoughts for company. But as fate would have it, she developed a habit of randomly encountering her classmates in these hallways and now was no different.

Oi.” Bakugo’s rough voice made her halt her steps. “Remember what I told you. I’m waiting for you in the finals.”

“Um, yeah. Thanks...” She wanted to feel motivated and get pumped to win but… she knew it was highly unlikely. Not noticing the male’s surprised look she walked past him and as her head hung low she tried not to think about it too much. But in the end she couldn’t keep her worries at bay. They were slowly eating away at her, starting with the cheerful optimism and working their way down to the last bits of hope she had left.

After all, everyone came here to win. But only a single person can. So this was already a setup for disappointment. She shouldn’t have expected anything more. She shouldn’t have ever gotten her hopes up. And yet she did. So it hurt that much more when it all crashed down and burned. She knew Todoroki was stronger than her. But so was Ida. So then what was different this time?

She couldn’t do virtually anything to Todoroki. That’s what was wrong. With anyone else, no matter how strong they were, she felt like she had a chance. But in this match she was surely cornered. Everyone gets insecure about the strength and versatility of their Quirk at some point. And when you’re faced with an opponent whose power is more or less the same, just stronger, well, those insecurities tend to skyrocket.

Atsuhi could cool something off. Todoroki could freeze it. Atsuhi could heat it up. Todoroki could burn it. And the “best” part? Atsuhi relied on contact. Todoroki, on the other hand, had an array of long distance attacks at his disposal. This meant that he could keep his distance as long as possible and throw her out of the ring without ever going within an arm’s reach of her. And if he never did, she could never touch him, leading to her inevitable loss.

She had practiced melting ice for this very occasion. But just how was she supposed to deal with his fire?! She didn’t blame Midoriya for it. In fact, knowing Todoroki’s side of the story, she was actually kind of happy for him. But now that she had to fight him she almost wished he had never gotten over it, at least not yet.

Show everyone how strong my parents’ powers are? Hmph, as if. I’ll just be crushed within seconds. Maybe I’m not as strong as I thought I was…

She had long reached the waiting room by this point and slumped her head on the table, a defeated sigh escaping her lips. She knew she couldn’t win. But she had to try. For the goal she had set herself. Even for Bakugo, who wanted her to fight him in the finals. A smile grazed Atsuhi’s lips.

Heh, even now I’m thinking about what he said. What’s wrong with me today…

***

“Alright, everybody, time for the second to last round!! These are the matches that will decide who our finalists are!!” Present Mic was shouting, the crowds were cheering but it was all going to fade into background noise very soon.

“This time around we’ll witness a truly spectacular fight! Both the children of great pros, both fighting for that first prize. Even their Quirks are very similar!!”

Even he had to go and say it.

“It’s Todoroki Shoto!! Versus!! Saeki Atsuhi!!”

As the two stepped out onto the ring, the female took note of her opponent’s expression. It looked far less cold than it had up until his fight with Midoriya but he was still as aloof as ever. There was something different this time around though. He had this… uncertainty to him. He looked lost perhaps.

Can’t dwell on his mental state. I just have to fight. Maybe I really can’t win. But I won’t know unless I try it. This is it. This is the moment where I really have to give it my all!

Instead of moping around the entire time, the female had resorted to psyching herself up in the last moment. Taking a fighting stance, she once again focused on the boy across from her.

STAAART!!”

Atsuhi took pride in her speed. And while she didn’t think she had a definitive plan for defeating the male, she did consider a few possible moves. And number one was, tediously enough, getting to touch him just once and seeing where things would go from there. Repetitive but proven to sometimes work. The key word here being, of course, sometimes. Because just like her previous match, her speed just wasn’t enough.

Yes, she took off running as soon as Present Mic announced the beginning of the match, but no sooner was she forced to go off course as a big ice structure was headed her way. Well, if her speed wasn’t enough for her to land in a touch, it at least helped her with reacting quickly enough to nearly avoid the ice which was surely meant to push her out of bounds as soon as the fight had begun. Well, nearly because she couldn’t avoid it completely.

As she dodged to the left, her right arm and foot were caught in the male’s attack and she was immobilized. That was his chance to strike. And her cue to put her training to the ultimate test. The fight couldn’t end this soon – she had to keep going. So she frantically melted just enough of the ice to easily tear her limbs away all the while her eyes were darting back and forth between the ice wall and Todoroki, making sure he wasn’t going to attack her unexpectedly.

Escaping her trap, she continued running towards the boy who looked rather surprised, perhaps not expecting his ice to be ridden of this quickly. But then he fired off yet another attack. It was the same as before and thus it all repeated – Atsuhi almost avoided only to have just a little bit of her body get frozen but opting to quickly melt the ice and free herself, running at the boy once again.

And so on. He kept attacking. She kept dodging. Sometimes completely getting out of the way of the ice, others – still being caught by it. Throughout the entire time she aimed to get closer to him. And true enough, with every attack she closed the distance between them if only by a few steps.

It was his actions that baffled her though. He never once made a move to use his fire, relying solely on his ice. He kept up his attacks, but didn’t change them up. He essentially let her get close to him. All in all, he was acting very… unlike himself. He was distraught and his mind might’ve been somewhere else. But Atsuhi was going to take all she could get and if her opponent getting uncharacteristically distracted gave her a chance to win, then she was happy.

So far, contrary to expectations, the two were rather evenly matched. And they were both heavily panting too. They had been wasting a lot of energy with the repeated use of their Quirks and by this point it might’ve been better to decide things with a simple fist fight but neither was about to admit it.

Atsuhi could see how tired Todoroki was but unfortunately she could also feel her own exhaustion. Her head was spinning and her vision shifted between being blurry and between everything being doubled. She couldn’t feel her legs anymore and all her muscles were one by one starting to ache. Her breathing had already been heavy for a while and the background noise had faded into nothing more than a piercing buzzing. She wasn’t sure how long they had been fighting but she was nearing her limits. Actually, more accurately, she was quickly exceeding her limits. If that’s what it meant to go Plus Ultra she really didn’t like it.

With a tired gasp, she tore her arm away from yet another ice trap and ran towards the boy. She was right in front of him. All she had to do was reach out her hand and she could touch him, maybe even push him back and out of the ring. He was just a step away from that white line, after all.

It all happened way too quickly after that. She grasped a hold of his shoulder and was about to do something, anything, but fate had decided otherwise. As the black spots quickly overtook her vision, she lost her ability to even stand up anymore and just as Todoroki moved to the side, tearing his arm away from her hold, she plummeted forward, closing her eyes in anticipation of the dull pain she felt when she hit the ground hard.

And while she lay there too tired to move a muscle, she opened her eyes to see the white line just underneath her motionless hand while a voice boomed.

Saeki is out of bounds! Todoroki moves on without using his fire powers!!”

Huh, so that’s how it is… Then… it’s all over, isn’t it?

The female let herself close her eyes as a few medical robots hoisted her up on a stretcher. She couldn’t think anymore. She didn’t want to think anymore. She just needed some rest. Some rest and silence.

Chapter Text

You know this weird tugging pain you feel in your face when you cry? Almost like your body’s telling you to cut it out already. Even when you’ve already started feeling better and the tears are no longer streaming down your cheeks, there is still a dull sensation of this pain, as if to remind you that you did indeed just bawl your eyes out.

Atsuhi hated it. Because it was never for a good reason. How many days had she cried after the incident with her mother? Too many. She had just thought she had gotten used to this weird sensation. But then, after USJ, when she had finally let her fear show and cried her eyes out after returning home, she came to realize that she still loathed it. And what did those two events have in common?

She had felt weak. Two times she could only watch on as she realized that she was not strong. She wanted to be strong. But she wasn’t. She was weak. It was stupid – such a childish mindset. Wanting something and being upset when you can’t have it. But come to think of it, it shouldn’t come as a surprise. She was a child. And yet she still hated it.

By this point, she was at a loss for what to do. She had long stopped crying and her face wasn’t even red anymore. Perhaps except for the tip of her nose. She wasn’t even thinking about it anymore. In fact, she had accepted her defeat a long time ago. Actually, she had thought she had accepted it before the match had even begun, though she had later come to learn that this was not the case.

So then why? Why was this weird pulling sensation still lingering in the bridge of her nose? And why could she still feel the sobs choking her breaths? It made no sense. And it wasn’t fair, dammit. Because she wanted to get over it already. She wanted to but she just couldn’t.

A deep sigh escaped the female’s lips, as she slumped over the table and hid her face between her arms as a way to escape from the world for a bit. Though her escape didn’t last very long because soon enough the door to the waiting room was roughly slammed open and someone stomped in, growling almost inaudibly.

“That damned bastard with his stupid cold shoulder… I’ll crush ‘im and then we’ll see if he’ll keep acting like this, that-” As the mumbling stopped, Atsuhi just wanted to crawl in a hole and disappear. If Todoroki were to walk into the room, she will be crushed as there was no way she could face him after what had happened. So she was kind of glad it wasn’t him, but then again she had make sure to go to the unoccupied waiting room. Now, there was someone else she couldn’t really face right now. So she buried her face deeper in her arms and tensed up, hoping he would leave her alone.

“Oi, what are you doing here…?” She should’ve known. Bakugo was persistent. There was no way he was going to leave her alone. Maybe that’s what she wanted though. After all, did she really come to the waiting room not expecting him to barge in. Of course not. She knew he was going to come here eventually. In fact, if she had to be honest, she was hoping he would come.

She jumped when a hand was placed on her back, and quickly lifted up her face, eyes meeting Bakugo’s crimson ones. They stayed like this for a few seconds, until Atsuhi shook her head and got up from the chair sharply, causing Bakugo to retreat his warm hand in surprise. She had hoped he would come here. And yet she still couldn’t face him. She felt ashamed.

I’ll be waiting for you in the finals.” He had said. And yet here she was, having already lost. With an awkward and forced laugh, she moved away and turned towards the door.

“Um, h-hey, Bakugo-kun! Good luck on your match! I-I’ll be making my way out of here so-” Fun fact – Atsuhi wasn’t supposed to be here. In fact, she should’ve currently been resting at Recovery Girl’s office but she had pleaded with her to come here, promising to be very careful and not move around much as her energy hadn’t really returned yet. And guess what. Getting up from a chair so quickly and then rushing to the door wasn’t exactly… being careful.

Atsuhi realized that as one of her legs gave out, right before she could reach out a hand to open the door. So she felt herself falling, the ground coming ever closer.

Great. Not only did I make things awkward, now I’m about to make a fool of myself too. Good job, Atsuhi. Way to go.

She did not, however, hit the ground. Because the same hand which had rested on her back earlier, now grasped her arm tightly, keeping her upright. And then they both sighed.

“Come on, sit back down.” Bakugo helped her find her footing again and led her back to the chair she had occupied earlier, keeping his firm grip on her arm, as if she was an unruly child that might run away if he let go. Usually the silence between the two was a rather comfortable one. But as the male sat down across from her, she wanted it to just end already. She didn’t have the courage to say anything. Surprisingly, it was Bakugo that spoke up this time.

“You did well.” She hadn’t expected to hear those words, but yet she still didn’t look up, only clutching her hands tighter. Perhaps she did, but…

“I still lost.” She thought. Well, at least she had meant to keep this to herself but hearing her voice speak those words made her realize that she had, in fact, said them out loud. Great. Way to make things worse. Thankfully, Bakugo didn’t look especially affected by it. Maybe he was thinking the same thing. When they had talked earlier, she had come to appreciate something about him. She felt like she could say so much to him and he wouldn’t judge. He was a good listener, at least in her experience. But right now she felt she didn’t have the right to pour her heart out in front of him.

When she sneaked a glimpse at his face, she realized he was looking at her intently, waiting for her to continue. With her eyes pointed down in shame and a timid voice she decided to go along with it for now.
“Our Quirks are alike. It’s uncanny. And yet he still won. And that’s because he’s better than me. Stronger.

“That’s… not necessarily true.”

“W-what do you mean?” He was probably trying to make her feel better. And she appreciated it, she really did. But she doubted such a thing was possible right now. She knew exactly why she lost.

“It was because your Quirks were so different that the match was unfair.” Now Atsuhi was confused. He was talking nonsense.

“Bakugo-kun, I think I know what you’re trying to do and I hate to say it but it’s not working…” The male only scratched his head in frustration.

“Yeah, you think, but you’re wrong. Just like you think you and icy-hot have similar Quirks. Which is also wrong.” By this point he had caught her gaze and looked at her seriously as he continued explaining. “At a glance they may look very similar. But the more you think about it, the more different they appear to be. Have you thought about it like this? You can cool something off. He can freeze it. You can heat it up. He can burn it.”

Atsuhi almost laughed. But in this unironic, bitter way. She had said the same thing to herself before the match. And now Bakugo was repeating it in her face. It was cruel.

“I know this already. But… I still don’t see what you are trying to say.” She hated that she was acting so cold but she couldn’t help it. She was exhausted and sad and upset and… well, defeated.

“What I’m saying is that your Quirks are different for this very reason. Can he do what you can? No. No, he can’t. Just like you can’t do the things he can do. It’s like your Quirks are both a different part of the same power.”

Atsuhi remained silent. Her mind was becoming clearer with every new thing the blond said and she started realizing what he meant.

“The thing is, his strengths are long-range attacks. And you’re the exact opposite. Had the setup been any different, perhaps you would’ve had the advantage. But with the way the tournament is, the odds were just stacked against you.” Thus came the time for an important decision.

Is he saying all this just to make me feel better? Or does he actually mean it…?

Atsuhi held Bakugo’s gaze for a few seconds, trying to decide for herself. But the male’s face was indecipherable.

Who am I kidding…

As she slumped down her shoulders, she let out a deep sigh. Why did she ever doubt him anyway. And, more importantly…

“I never would have even imagined you’d be this good at cheering people up, Bakugo-kun. Or, um, at least me, I guess. I want to say thank you. But… I’ve already said it so many times today… What about I’m sorry instead, huh? You know, for having you always feel the need to do something?” As Atsuhi said those words without looking at him, she could hear Bakugo gasp, though it was barely audible. Glancing at him from the corner of her eye, she saw how he shook his head and if she didn’t know him any better, she would’ve even thought she had heard a faint chuckle. But not one with ill intentions, just… a pure hey, that was funny kind of chuckle. However, that was Bakugo we were talking about so of course there was no way that was the case.

“You’re such an idiot...” He mumbled under his nose as he got up.

Wah, what’s this on his face?! No, that’s impossible. Come on, Atsuhi, you’re going crazy! There’s… there’s no way…

Because she didn’t believe Bakugo smiled like that. And yet it melted her heart.

***

After much pleading with Recovery Girl, Atsuhi had convinced her to let her watch the match with the rest of her class. There was no way she was missing this. If she couldn’t be there to fight Bakugo like she had promised, then she sure as hell was going to cheer him on.

She had exchanged quick greetings with her classmates and assured them all she was perfectly fine, just a little tired still. They all looked relieved. She caught a few glimpses of pity but they were all quickly wiped away when they saw her genuine smile.

Now, onto the match everyone expected. Because. let’s face it. Who else could’ve made it to the finals but those two?

Todoroki Shoto and Bakugo Katsuki. This match might be the biggest disaster so far.

Todoroki had been acting a little strange ever since his match with Midoriya and had stopped using his fire powers again. Though this time he looked to at least be contemplating it.

Bakugo, on the other hand, made it painfully clear that he was here to win. And he didn’t like to be taken lightly. He knew of Todoroki’s struggles with his father. But he wasn’t going to be all sympathetic about it either.

The more she thought about it, the less confident Atsuhi was feeling. Did she really want to watch this match?

Well, her question was promptly answered. The match looked to be pretty much even from the start. However, it had soon become apparent that Bakugo had more than one motive. Instead of just aiming to win, like every normal person would, he was deliberately trying to get Todoroki to use his fire against him. He wasn’t satisfied with just any first place. He wanted an absolute, indisputable first place.

It was actually… a little painful to watch. Todoroki was fighting the blond male off, yet Bakugo was becoming increasingly frustrated and his tactics were getting desperate.

Come on, Bakugo-kun, you can do it!!” What was she doing? Why did she have to shout something like this out? Was he even going to hear it? It didn’t matter. If there was just a tiny chance her words would reach him, she’d take it. If she could somehow help him even if just a little after all he had done for her today, she would be glad.

She had been getting these… weird feeling all day today. She still wondered what they meant. But right now, she just let them all burst out in a desperate cry. Her eyes were watering again and she remained standing, too invested in the fight to look away even for a second.

Well, almost. Because, funny thing, as she had shouted her lungs out, another voice had chimed in with something similar, only geared towards the other student fighting down on the ring right now.

Midoriya turned to stare at Atsuhi dumbfounded, as the two registered what had just happened. And then with a silent nod of agreement (or maybe disagreement – they were rooting for different people, after all) they turned their eyes to the ring.

Things… only went downhill from here. The match looked to be ending. Both opponents were setting up their final attacks. Bakugo, as usual, charging in with a massive and powerful explosion. But more than that, even Todoroki seemed to have ignited some of his flames, aiming to use them for the first time since he fought Midoriya. Atsuhi smiled – in the end, Bakugo might just get what he wanted. And then the two clashed.

But… no flames. Not even a spark. Just a massive explosion. And lots of smoke. Atsuhi’s smile fell. The smoke was quickly clearing but she couldn’t see any ice. No fire, no ice… That could only mean one thing… As the female’s heart started beating faster and faster, she just hoped she was wrong. Because she couldn’t bear to look at Bakugo’s broken expression otherwise.

And yet, when she saw Todoroki lying unconscious, thrown back from the powerful attack that had hit him head-first, she already knew. Next, her eyes searched for the ash blond. He wasted no time in running over to his unconscious opponent and proceeded to roughly shake his whole body in a futile attempt to wake him up. Of course, that didn’t work. As Midnight decided now was more than appropriate to intervene, she finally made use of her Quirk, putting Bakugo to sleep.

“Todoroki is out of bounds, so...” So, remember how much Atsuhi hated that feeling which inevitably came with crying? She still did. But, for the first time ever, it wasn’t because she was weak. As she looked on at her friend, she couldn’t help but shed tears for him. He had been about to do the same, only he was knocked out before he had the chance to.

“The first-year winner of UA’s Sports Festival is...” People’s faces are supposed to look peaceful when they sleep. Even his, surprisingly enough, was usually this way. But now? Now, it was one of worry, regret, frustration. To put it simply, it encapsulated a mix of emotions Atsuhi never thought could be portrayed on the face of someone who’s asleep.

Bakugo Katsuki from class 1A!!” Yup, no doubt about it. Regardless of the reason, this feeling inseparable from crying? She still loathed it.

Chapter Text

Well, that’s awkward.

You see, everyone dreams of something. Alright, that’s pretty obvious, isn’t it? Okay then, moving on. The thing is, you need one big dream to chase after all your life. It can give you a purpose, a goal, and you can always look back at it when you’re feeling lost. However, such dreams are typically things that take years, maybe even a lifetime, to achieve. Thus, you can never be too sure it will come true.

So, you set yourself other, smaller goals along the way. They all will ultimately lead you there, but they’re a lot like checkpoints. They’re there just to make sure you’re still chasing after your big dream and making progress.

So, not too complicated, right? Now that we’ve got the basics out of the way, let’s move onto something more specific. Becoming a pro hero is a difficult task. Becoming a powerful and well-known pro hero is an even more difficult task. So, naturally, you’d need a few of those so-called checkpoints. For example, getting into UA (or any prestigious hero school for that matter) would be one. Getting good grades is an obvious choice too. Something a little more difficult to achieve would be to place high in the public’s eye. But how does one do that, you may wonder?

By doing well in UA’s sports festival, of course. Simple. In theory. But in practice, nothing is ever as easy as it sounds. After all, you’d have to be among the top four students spanning all of UA’s classes and courses. That’s a pretty tiny margin there.

But just imagine for a second, what a magnificent feeling it would be – to stand there, to be showered with attention and applause from the public, all eyes on you, people praising you for your achievement. Yup, an amazing feeling indeed. Something you’d never forget…

Is what Atsuhi had always hoped it would be. But then she was forced back down to reality. Let’s see how it was going, shall we? Majestic podium? Check. Loud applause? Check. An overwhelmingly enthusiastic public? Check. Impressed pro heroes? Check.

A furious, restrained first-place winner who was forced to wear a muzzle because he had been crazy mad ever since he woke up? Um, that wasn’t exactly on the list…

I never would’ve imagined I’d be standing here… Let alone with Bakugo-kun looking… like that

She felt sorry for him. He probably wouldn’t want this – he hated being pitied. But this was just cruel. First, they go and accuse him of being a villain when all he did was show respect to his opponent. Then, they treat him like some animal that might just bite people’s heads off.

She would’ve pleaded with him to stop acting like this, would’ve tried to find a way to encourage him and tell him it was okay. But no. The awarding ceremony was set to begin the moment he opened his eyes. Thus, she was left glancing at him every so often, doing her best to calm him with her eyes. Of course, there was no way that was going to work if Bakugo never looked at her. He was furious, his eyes were darting across the whole stadium. But Atsuhi could only sigh and watch on. Never in her life would she have thought that she would be standing on the podium of UA’s Sports Festival and just impatiently awaiting for it to be over.

“Now, let’s move onto the awards ceremony!!” Midnight appeared with a sweet smile and so the crowd began to cheer yet again. “It’s time for the medals! Presenting them this year is, well – you know who!!

Oh, we know alright!

As All Might landed triumphantly on the ring (not without an awkward pause when Midnight accidentally cut him off) the cheers became even louder. He soon grabbed the bronze medal and headed towards the podium.

“In third place, we have two winners. Tokoyami and Saeki.” Her heart was beating so fast. There it was. The hero just announced it. Atsuhi had placed third. Third! How amazing was this! Sure, she was all down and gloomy earlier. But now? Now she bet anyone within ten feet of her could feel the happiness radiating from her excited face.

All Might stood in front of Tokoyami, saying something to him, then he gave him a tight and powerful hug. Atsuhi almost jumped in excitement.

Oh my God, is he going to hug me like that too!?

And then he turned to her. The Symbol of Piece was smiling, as he handed her the medal and spoke up.

“Congratulations, young Saeki! You surely know that placing amongst the top three in UA’s Sports Festival is a feat few can achieve. I’ve never had the pleasure of working together with Lava Floor and Hiyamiku but I’ve heard only good things. And you are already on the path to becoming a magnificent pro like them! I’m sure they will be proud. Both of them. Please give your father my heartfelt congratulations for raising such a strong child like yourself!

But of course, enough about them! This is your achievement!! And I’m sure this is just the beginning of your bright journey to the top!”

The entire time Atsuhi was forced to bite her lip discreetly to prevent the escape of the high-pitched squeals forming at the back of her throat. There was a reason much deeper than pure strength that made All Might the Symbol of Peace. He was, in every definition of the word, a hero. The words he spoke, as rehearsed and flat as they may have sounded were they to be said by anyone else, radiated with a true and passionate feeling.

As the hero leaned down to hug the much shorter girl, her heart began thumping as if it were going to break free from her chest any moment now. All Might’s arms wrapped around her small frame and after a tight and reassuring squeeze (one very reminiscent of that of a parent proud of their child) he let go and moved away to the second place winner – Todoroki.

At this point, the female lost track of what was happening for a minute or so, as the hero’s words were replaying in her head. Funnily enough, she hadn’t even realized when he had slipped the heavy bronze medal on her neck.

Heavy, huh…?

It was a hero’s duty to protect everybody. And it was the sports festival’s winners who were best suited to become heroes. Today, anyone could’ve been standing here. But, be it by sheer luck or due to actual abilities and skill, it was Atsuhi that occupied one of the four spots.

When I go home, I’m literally going to spend the entire rest of the day staring at this medal.

It was such a ridiculous thought, the girl couldn’t help but giggle. That didn’t mean she wasn’t going to do exactly that though.

I want to put it somewhere where I can easily see it all the time. I’ll have to make some space for it…

It was the greatest achievement of her life – of course she wanted to put it somewhere nice and visible to boost her own ego! But, more than that, it was a reminder. A reminder that she didn’t become a hero because of flashy medals or fame and money. With her passion, she would have to carry the burden of so many people’s lives on her small shoulders.

Huh, so that’s why the medal is so heavy, isn’t it?

It was such a tranquil moment, blissful and reserved only for her own self-reflection. A way for her to cleanse herself of all she felt today, to take the new lessons to heart, but also look past the struggles, grasping at the light at the end of the tunnel. A catharsis of sorts, if you will.

But, like all things nice, it didn’t last long. A certain someone’s furious screams sharply cut through the dull background noise and thus, the day returned back to its hectic nature.

Atsuhi, however, smiled. Such a short festival. Yet so much had happened. And for that, she was thankful.

***

How.

Why.

This couldn’t-

Such a thing should not be happening!

Not now!

No.

Why.

How.

Why is-

He can’t be here!

Stop!

No.

No way!

Please…

It was a small apartment so it was usually very quiet. The rooms were packed with furniture so sounds never echoed around the room for long. It was the evening after UA’s sports festival. The news on the TV were, for once, exciting, as the reporters gushed about the event that had just transpired a few hours prior. It was always quiet in the girl’s cozy living space, where she typically spent her days alone.

Always is a word that shouldn’t exist. Nothing is ever as consistent. Today was an exception to that always. In the typical silence, a muffled sound resonated.

***

Somewhere nearby, a person was also “enjoying” the news on the TV. Of course, that is if you’d consider his constant complaints and mumbling of inappropriate words under his nose a sign of enjoyment. In fact, the young boy was “enjoying” the images of the sports festival’s awards ceremony ceremony so much that he had to turn off the TV, because he would’ve exploded otherwise. Or perhaps, saying that he would’ve exploded something would’ve been more accurate.

Bakugo Katsuki was fuming after the unfair fight he unfairly won today. The TV was nothing more than background noise, just there to fill the space left in the room with him quietly sitting in his bed. But then the TV reminded him of the match he wanted to forget. So, he was forced to sit in silence, not possessing the energy to flip through other channels in search of something half-decent.

He wanted some piece of mind but he kept remembering that damn half-and-half, his expression darkening. His futile attempts at resting were interrupted by the loud ringing of his phone.

Who the hell’s callin’…

All he wanted was a little bit of silence. He finally slipped away from his parents too! Just a few minutes, is that really too much to ask!? Well, a guy can dream, can’t he…? Initially, Katsuki did not consider even moving a muscle. Doesn’t matter who was calling. He didn’t plan to pick up.

But the stupid ringing was too much. Such an annoying sound. And it was definitely not stopping. In the end, he had to at least hang up, mute the device, anything to shut it up for good. Throwing it out the window included. So, with a deep, over-dramatic sigh, he forced himself to get up and reach over to his phone, which was still vibrating vigorously on his bedside table.

He decided that it was worth getting a glimpse of the caller, just so he knew who to murder next time at school for ruining his non-existent peace. And he was surprised to say the least.

Atsuhi…? The hell does she want now?

Technically speaking, this was more or less the best-case scenario as, had it been anyone else, Katsuki’s mood would have only dropped further. Although an overly-enthusiastic cheerful girl like the blonde might only infuriate him more. After some reasoning with himself, he came to the conclusion that he had enough respect towards her to at least pick up. He did consider cutting her off if she started annoying him too much though.

Tapping the green button, he held the phone close to his ear and greeted sluggishly.

“What is it…?”

“Um, hello, Bakugo-kun...” And suddenly the droopiness of his face disappeared, quickly replaced by a wary expression, eyes narrowing suspiciously. The voice that came from the other side was far less energetic and hyper than he had expected. Ironically, it sounded a lot like the female had been earlier that same day during a certain very personal conversation.

“Oi, you sound terrible. Is something the matter?”

“W-what!? No, of course not, I’m perfectly fine! Just a little tired is all!!”

“You’re not convincing anybody.”

“...”

“Hey, cat got your tongue or what?”

“I… I just want to talk about something...”

“Alright, what is it?”

“No, no, I mean, I just want to talk. Dunno about what though?”

“Is that so?” Something was wrong with the female and Katsuki knew it. But he didn’t press further. She had already told him plenty today. Whatever was on her mind, he decided to wait for her to reveal it herself.

“Bakugo-kun? You still there? I’m sorry, I guess that’s pretty random, isn’t it? I’m being stupid, I should just hang up-”

“Where do you plan to intern?”

“P-pardon me?”

“Aizawa-sensei said that the scouting reports will be here when we return to school. You’ve got any plans?”

“W-well, I don’t know if anyone reached out to me in the first place. But when you put it like that, I guess I can always go to my father’s place?”

“How so?”

“Well, I’m sure he will send an invitation anyway. Plus, I barely get to see him nowadays, so it will be the perfect opportunity. We just talked earlier and I suddenly miss him even more now...”

“Mhm...”

“And what about you?”

“I don’t know.”

“Then what’d you ask me for!?”

“Just because.”

“Okay, try to think of something!”

“I guess whoever’s ranked highest. Aiming for the top, right?”

“Ah, that’s the Bakugo-kun I know!!”

A short silence followed as Katsuki waited for the female to say something else. And she did.

“That was really random, wasn’t it? I’m sorry, I just desperately needed to talk to somebody. And you’ve been my go-to buddy today, huh. I think I’m better now, so thank you!”

“Yeah, no problem, I guess. I don’t know what happened but I’m bored anyway so if you need me you can call. Just don’t be too annoying...”

Ahaha, got it! Bye, bye!!”

As the other line went silent, Katsuki lowered the phone from his ear and remained laying on his back, facing the ceiling with a troubled face. He didn’t bring it up but it was pretty obvious by the shakiness of her voice and the occasional quivers in her words. Atsuhi had been crying.

***

She was always here alone, sure. But she never felt truly lonely. At least not to such an excruciating extent. She didn’t dare turn the TV on again. Her face was still a little red. In fact, she was almost certain Bakugo could tell. Though he did not mention it, for which she could only thank him internally.

Atsuhi was pressed up against the side of the small couch in her tiny apartment, hugging her knees as she buried her face in her arms, as if to try and hide from the world. From the impending reality she lived in. But the world never left her alone. Reality always caught up to her. She was so happy earlier. And now her world was falling apart. Again.

Why… did this have to happen…? What have I done to deserve all this… I wanted to live peacefully here. Peacefully? I guess that word never really goes along with my life, huh...

She was smiling. But it was a bitter smile. A smile that was soon soaked in streaming tears. She was scared. And lonely. And scared. And tired. And scared.

Scared.

Scared.

Scared.

Just like that day.

That won’t do. I have to get a hold of myself! I should go wash my face first…

As she got up from her seat and headed to the bathroom, Atsuhi left her phone on the couch. Its screen was still lit and on it, the last page the female had been looking at was still displayed. A news article, published just an hour ago. A news article which had sent her in an endless spiral of worry and fear. And its title?

Pro hero Ingenium viciously attacked by a villain! No chance for recovery? The return of the Hero Killer!?

It was supposed to be a peaceful afternoon. So then why did everything have to go so wrong…


Chapter Text

Hmph, why is everything already going wrong…?

An exhausted sigh escaped the blonde female’s lips as she slipped off her soaking wet shoes in exchange for the warm indoor pair waiting for her in her locker. Thankfully, when she found out it was going to be a rainy morning, she remembered to bring some spare socks in the very likely case that hers were in the same condition as her shoes by the time she arrived at school. And oh, was she glad right now.

It was such a… moody morning. The sky was this unpleasantly dark shade of gray that just sucked the life out of everything, the sound of the pouring rain muffled the surroundings and left only a feeling of isolation from the business of the city, while everyone passing by was just a body, largely obscured by a looming umbrella. And this was not the kind of morning Atsuhi needed right now.

It’s not that she hated rain. Nothing of the sorts. But she wasn’t feeling exactly great right now and could desperately use some cheering up. And what did the weather decide to do? Well, but of course, it decided to accurately reflect her current feelings!!

Highlight of the morning, however, was without a doubt the random conversation she had had in the train before arriving to school. Whether that’d be considered a perk or a downside, it was a fact that participants of the sports festival were easily recognized by anyone who had watched the event and had a working pair of eyes.

So, she was traveling timidly, head in her own world, completely unaware of her surroundings, when a small group of a few men and women in business suits, who looked to be traveling together somewhere, had spoken up to her, asking her to confirm if she really was the Saeki Atsuhi from the festival. After her shy nod of agreement, the group proceeded to excitedly exclaim how well she had done and praise her skills. In the process, their conversation also attracted other unsuspecting passengers and by the time she got off the train, everyone within hearing distance from where she had been sitting bid her goodbye and wished her good luck.

Is that what heroes go through every day? I mean, it was kinda cool but I don’t think I can handle being this exhausted every morning before school even begins.

And then two seconds later.

Wait, I don’t think heroes travel by public train, do they…

There was also one more notable thing Atsuhi decided to forget about. Anyone who saw it would’ve probably arrived to the same conclusion. In the end, it might’ve been only Atsuhi herself that didn’t realize it. Thus, the older woman who had commented about there being a little something more between the girl and her spiky-haired friend was swiftly forgotten.

In the end, the dreary weather had caused something in Atsuhi to snap, but in the sense that her mind drifted off far away and she was kind of just… floating along. Following muscle memory to get her from her home to school, except her system was as if shut down and she was moving a lot slower than usual. Instead of arriving a few minutes early and chatting with some friends until Aizawa’s inevitable arrival, she walked into the classroom just as the bell rang, missing out on all the fun. As things were, it was a miracle she hadn’t missed her train in the first place.

Now, school was typically exhausting. No surprise there. But today, it was likely worse than ever. She had picked herself up to an extent, though it took multiple calls with her dad and actually sleeping it off to feel even a little better. But she still wasn’t alright. The Hero Killer returning was still scary. She was still scared.

She knew she was safe here. But that didn’t change a thing. Just the thought alone was enough to keep her up at night. However, she also didn’t want anyone to worry. She was sure they all had plenty to deal with already. Thus, she was forced to plaster a fake smile on her face, adhering to her normal expression. A person or two would likely see through it but they’d also know the reason behind it. The rest were going to be fooled. She hoped, at least.

As she walked to her seat, she spared a passing glance at Ida. He was present which was already surprising – it meant he found it in him to get out of bed and actually come this morning. Just a day later too. Atsuhi knew she’d never be that strong. But he looked weary. And tired. And, naturally, sad. But he was hiding it all behind a pained smile. In a sense, right now she and him were two of a kind.

She wanted to go and tell him something right now – it’ll be alright, you’ll get through this, he’ll be fine, have hope – you know, all those cheesy things but… It wouldn’t be right. Not right now anyway. It would juts looked like she pitied him and didn’t mean it. And if there’s anyone here who wanted to avoid making Ida feel like that, it was Atsuhi. She felt bad for not reaching out and doing something. But all she could do was wait for an appropriate moment. Until then, what Ida needed was just to know that his friends always had his back.

***

As things usually went when you’re not feeling right, you tend to space out and thus time passes in a blur of voices and noise. And so, Atsuhi wasn’t entirely sure how she got to the point of staring at the white board with a black marker in hand but she did know that at the very least she was feeling excited. And anything that wasn’t… well, nothing, was great!!

Hero names, huh… Well, have I got the perfect one, hehe.

One by one, her classmates took turns presenting their ideas. (She had to physically restrain herself from bursting out in a laughing fit when Bakugo showed his. A clever pun? Sure. Still though – how could she not have seen King Explosion Murder coming?) As the blond boy stomped back to his seat, Atsuhi found her courage to step up next and proudly presented her chosen name.

At the smiles she faced, her own face lit up too, for real this time.

“I’ve been set on becoming a hero for quite a while now. So this name’s been in my head for years.”

Well, no going back now.

Thermo Hero: Atsuheat!

***

I feel like… there’s too much happening today…

Time was either passing by at an agonizingly slow rate or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, it was flying by without a moment to spare.

Atsuhi didn’t really have the time to process everything as the class went from presenting their newly-chosen hero names to receiving the list of heroes they’d been drafted by. Except, as their next activity was quickly closing in and also in part due to the female’s bad mood, she didn’t have it in her to even look at the names. It was probably going to be an easy pick anyway. Sure, it was important to work with others but she really just needed to see her father right now.

“Yeah, but we’ve also got Atsuhi-chan!!” Mina’s cheerful words, spoken loudly next to the unsuspecting female’s ear, coupled with the pink hand slamming on her shoulder, brought Atsuhi back to the present, where a discussion she had entirely missed was taking place. Noting the blonde’s confused expression, her pink-haired friend sighed in disappointment.

Well, I screwed up...

“Aw, come ooon, weren’t you even listening!?”

“Ah, umm, no… I’m sorry?” A sheepish smile was all she could return. Soon enough though, Mina’s expression softened and was then immediately replaced by a devilish look.

I don’t like where this is going…

“Oh, I know! I bet you were fantasizing about him or something!! Just like what I was telling everyone!”

“Him…?”

Crap. Did I seriously space off just when she was saying some ridiculous stuff about me!? Come on, Atsuhi, why’d you have to do this!?!?

Fortunately, Atsuhi was quickly saved when a calm-looking female with long white hair and a pair of glasses adorning her features stepped forward to talk to her.

Ah, that’s right! We were supposed to do this weird exercise with those Isami High School students!

The name of the girl was Sekigai Kashiko. She was the class president of today’s guest hero students. As such, she wasn’t really keen on teasing Atsuhi, and instead stepped in to explain to her what they’d been discussing while she was busy spacing off.

“I was saying how troublesome it was to have to deal with problem students like our Fujimi and the blond boy with the spiky hair from your class.”

Ah, so that’s who this ‘him’ is…

As the seconds ticked by and Atsuhi took in the new information, her face suddenly lit up in a shade of bright red.

“I was NOT fantasizing about Bakugo-kun, Mina!!!” Said girl, however, only smirked in satisfaction.

“I don’t know, your face’s telling a different story...” Thus, all she could do, was protect her bright red cheeks from curious eyes by covering them with her trembling hands.

Why am I so embarrassed… Mina’s always like this. Of course I wasn’t doing anything like that! Come on!!

“Ah, um, anyway...” Isami’s Sekigai cleared her throat in an attempt to revert back to the original topic at hand and asked Atsuhi with eyes gleaming with hope and curiosity. “Ashido-san here said that you have a way of stopping him and keeping him under control. If I may ask, how do you that?”

Though her face was still more pink than normal, the blonde had no choice but to lower her hands in order to continue her conversation. The question, however, made her stop.

The way she put it sounds kinda… weird…

Shaking off any unnecessary thoughts, she opened her mouth and let the words flow out without mulling over them too much.

“Um, it’s not like I’m actually controlling him or anything… I can’t do that! I guess it’s more that he just… listens to me sometimes? I… try to keep as cool as I can even when he’s really mad about something so that I can tell him to stop. Though he hates being told what to do and so he almost never actually does it and- W-why are you all looking at me like that!?” Atsuhi suddenly panicked as all pairs of eyes in the room were pointed at her, taking in every word. First to break away was Jiro.

“Ah, it’s just… the way you were talking, maybe Mina was right, after all...” Then she snickered to the side, followed by said pink-haired girl’s triumphant expression.

Soon enough, all girls in the room joined in on the teasing and Atsuhi was only left begging them to stop.

Seriously – why do they all have to gang up on me like this!?!?

***

“Oi, why’s your face all red?”

“H-ha!? W-what’re you talking about!?”

It’s not fair. Don’t ask me thing like this when you’re the reason! Of course, I can’t exactly say that…

It was time for Survival Training! The rules were quickly explained, everyone was split into teams of four, and so it was now time for Bakugo to make things awkward.

“You look like you’ve got a fever or something.”

If only he knew that I look like this because of all the weird things that the girls said in the changing rooms… Wait – I can work with that!

“Well, Mina was talking about some pretty embarrassing things while we were changing… I can’t seem to get them out of my head, haha!” You know that fake smile when you’re desperately trying to pretend something’s funny and you’re totally not hiding anything? Yeah, Atsuhi was sure that’s exactly what her face looked like right now. Bakugo seemed to have noticed too as he glanced at her skeptically, before sighing, having decided to buy her excuse for now.

Phew, thanks, Bakugo-kun.

“Whatever, just focus on the exercise for now.” As he turned his back to her, the female wondered.

Yeah, Mina was just making things up. All that stuff she was saying about crushes and whatnot…

***

“Oh, come on!!! Bakugo-kun!!!”

“Why’d he have to run off on his own like that!?”

“We have to work as a team here!”

Let’s see what’s happened so far. The training began and all was quiet as the teams involved must’ve decided that, when you’re trying to outlast everyone, it was best to lie low. Well, one person seemed to have disagreed. And thus, Bakugo was currently somewhere up ahead, where he had already found an enemy team, if the powerful blasts audible in the distance were anything to go by.

In the meantime, the remainder of his team, consisting of Atsuhi, Kirishima, and Momo, were chasing after him, expressing their frustrations through their desperate calls for the blond.

The problem now is, is he going to be defeated? Or is he going to be the one doing the defeating? I mean, it is Bakugo-kun we’re talking about here but…

Thankfully, Atsuhi wasn’t left hanging for long. As the three soon caught up to the blond, he casually pointed them to the two teams he had long immobilized with the capture tape, smirking proudly.

“Now, where are those Isami guys?” A red light went off in the green-eyed girl’s head.

“Woah, woah, woah, no need to do that now, Bakugo-kun! Survival training’s all about… well, survival!!

“Yeah, but I’ll still be the last one standing when I defeat everyone else, right?”

“Um, that’s not really what I meant!!

“H-hey, guys, that’s great and all, but I don’t think now’s the time!” Kirishima frantically interrupted the two. “Something’s coming!”

M-missiles!” As Momo exclaimed in horror, Atsuhi looked up, eyes widening.

We’re done for-

Except, as Bakugo shouted out something she didn’t have time to process, she was roughly pulled aside, her vision suddenly obscured by a large fabric-like material.

What’s happening now?!

Thanks to the little light seeping in through the fibers, she was able to make out her other three teammates, all hiding underneath what she could only assume to be Momo’s last-second creation.

Did… Bakugo-kun think quickly enough to tell her to do this…?

The missiles soon hit the ground and went off with a deafening sound, bringing back unpleasant memories from the sports festival’s mine field. Then, came voices.

“That’s strange. I’m not detecting any life-forms...”

“There’s no way they could’ve escaped, is there?”

“You covered the area pretty well. Even though it was just flash-bangs, I’m sure you got them!”

“Yeah, they should’ve been laying unconscious somewhere around here...”

“Hm, you could’ve just used real missiles!”

Oh, I get what we’re doing now!

“Hey!” As Bakugo called out, the fabric fell to the ground and the two teams prepared for a fight. “You’re really irritating, you know that?”

Well, no going back now!

“Leave it to me!” The snake-like girl, Tsuyu’s old friend, called out.

Wait, Tsuyu-chan mentioned something about her Quirk!

With no time to warn her teammates, Atsuhi shut her eyes tight, as their opponent used her paralyzing look. When she opened them again, she saw two people lying on the ground unmoving.

Bakugo-kun’s already in the air!? He’s crazy smart sometimes… Can’t have him doing all the work by himself, though!

With a run, Atsuhi moved to attack the unsuspecting Isami students, goggles covering her eyes in case another flash grenade was used. Placing a hand on both the large timid boy and the snake-like girl on the team, she used her Quirk on them, while behind her she could hear Bakugo’s explosions restarting.

Guess that paralyzing Quirk didn’t last very long.

With two of the Isami students temporarily down, she drowned out the boys’ battle cries and turned towards the white-haired female of the group. But before she could move any closer, she was caught off guard by said female’s sudden desperate cry.

“Fujimi, no!!!

The next few seconds all happened too quickly, yet felt like they were going by in slow motion. Some pink gas shot out in the air, quickly filling the entire forest. Before she even had the time to take a breath, or perhaps realize she wasn’t supposed to breathe it in at all, Atsuhi’s arm was roughly gripped by the nearby blond’s warm hand, and just when she was about to exclaim loudly in surprise, she was flung high into the air.

Eyes widening, she struggled to find her footing, only to realize it was completely gone, and she had definitely just been tossed up in the air. Panic set in as she found nothing to grab onto, instead looking down to see the pink gas completely covering the ground, her friends’ faces already lost within it. That was when it finally occurred to her that being attacked by any sort of gas was never a good thing.

Okay, guess I gotta try and avoid this one.

And then it got worse. How, you may wonder? Simple. You see, if you throw something in the air, it is physically impossible for it not to fall back down. Unfortunately, that applied to people just as much as it did to objects. In other words, Atsuhi was currently falling. Fast. And this time, there was no one to break the fall, to catch her before the dirt did.

And so, she tumbled down, hitting the ground hard, and rolling away a few meters before her body finally came to a halt.

“Ugh… Ouch...” The female could feel the soon-to-be bruises all over her body but fortunately for her, Bakugo hadn’t thrown her too far. Any higher, and she could’ve broken a limb or two. Speaking of…

Why’d he have to throw me like this!? What’s his problem, huh!?!? Who in- umm, wait a second…

It was eerie. Atsuhi had put a hand over her mouth and nose in an attempt to shield herself from the mysterious gas but it was… abnormal. She looked around but she couldn’t find a trace of her classmates. Sure, that was some sort of weird attack but they weren’t that weak! At least one or two would’ve been left standing!! Not to mention that the Isami students seemed to be missing too…

Something’s fishy here…

A quiet rustling made Atsuhi turn around sharply. She was prepared to attack in the case that it was an enemy team making their move, but breathed a sigh of relief when a few rays of light shone down on the familiar costume of her own friend.

“Bakugo-kun!! I’m so glad you’re all okay! You had me worried there for a second! Furthermore, what was up with you!? Why’d you have to throw me into the air!? You know how much that fall hurt?” Words were spilling out of her mouth in rapid succession but no answer came.

“Um, Bakugo-kun, you sure you’re okay…?”

In an agonizingly slow manner, the male made his way into the fully lit path, where Atsuhi was standing, and the moment the light landed on his face, the female’s eyes widened.

A sickeningly pale, almost white face. Dead-looking eyes. A groaning mouth. A slumped posture.

This wasn’t Bakugo anymore.

And as she stood there, eyes wide in fear and desperation, it suddenly dawned on her. She should’ve known. She should’ve realized it from the start. It couldn’t have gone any other way. Because from the very start, this exercise, this survival training, this whole idea, had been nothing short of a recipe for disaster.

And, the zombie standing in front of her right now, only confirmed her fears.

Chapter Text

No, no, no, no!!!

How!? Why!?

Zombies!!

Zombies!? ZOMBIES!?

Z O M B I E S!?

Zombies, zombies, zombies, zombies, zombies.

What is happening!?!?!?

Was it really that difficult? Just a normal day. Just a single day where everything went according to plan, no complications, no unforeseen conditions.

But no. It always had to go wrong. If everything was going right, something had to go left. It wasn’t a matter of if. It was a matter of when.

And so today was, naturally, no different. One day, Atsuhi was sure there was going to be an exception. Not today though. Nope. Because zombies weren’t any good. In any context. Any place. Any time.

Let’s go back to the present situation. Yeah, sure, everything was happening at UA’s training grounds. There were teachers looking over them. Well, okay, that last part wasn’t entirely certain anymore. None of it made the situation any less scary though.

You know, when the people around you have all sorts of different Quirks, nothing really seems that out of the ordinary anymore. The kinds of stuff you see in real life will likely be stranger and less believable than anything you’ll ever find in fiction. You’re kind of just desensitized to a lot of things. So then why was it so shocking right now!?

Atsuhi’s day really wasn’t going as expected. It had been a blur ever since she woke up, mood all over the place and all. But this moment right now, she was very sure she would remember vividly, for a long, long time.

She was panting heavily, legs barely able to carry her own weight anymore. The only thing keeping her still going was the mixed sound of multiple Quirks randomly going off at once behind her and the impending fear of what would happen to her, were these Quirks’ owners to finally catch up to her.

Those weren’t her classmates anymore. Those were just a hoard of zombies. A bunch of them, too. The two teams Bakugo had defeated, three of Isami’s students, and, of course, Atsuhi’s own teammates. Miraculously, or to be more exact – thanks to Bakugo’s quick thinking of all things, the blonde female had avoided meeting the same fate as them.

So, instead, she was faced with a fate that was perhaps even worse. Because she was currently being chased by the 14 or so mindless, uncontrollable zombies, all subconsciously firing off their Quirks, and advancing towards any non-zombified living being they could spot. Which made it all the more creepy. Their brain activity seemed to have completely ceased. And yet there was still some primal instinct kicking inside them that drew them to keep chasing after the female. They had no regards of stamina, as if they never actually got tired.

The only one getting tired right now is me!!

This had been going on for a few minutes. Atsuhi would run, the zombies chasing after her, and every time she even as much as stumbled a little, she felt they were suddenly even closer than before. Any moment now, they would’ve been breathing down her neck.

Well, at least they don’t eat brains like in the movies… I think…?

Actually, she’d be lying if she said she hadn’t thought about just halting her running and letting herself get bitten. It couldn’t hurt that badly. And then she wouldn’t have had to deal with all this!! But every time she shook her head and scolded herself for even thinking about giving up with the words “that’s not hero-like at all!!

Naturally, time also felt like it passed by a lot slower while she was running. It had felt like hours to her when, in reality, it had only been about two or three minutes since the gas was first released.

“I’m…way too tired...” Just as these words barely slipped out her mouth, said aloud for reasons unknown, Atsuhi made a fatal mistake. A single moment of weakness, a misstep that could’ve cost her much more than another meter of the small distance between her pursuers and herself.

It was a sort of chain reaction. She stepped a little wrong, her foot bending at an unpleasant angle. Then, due to the unnatural distribution of her weight all of a sudden, one of her knees gave out, her entire body quickly tumbling towards the ground.

Welp, that was it for me.

It wasn’t as extreme as her entire life flashing before her eyes. But she sure did wonder about a few things. Will it be quick? Will it hurt? Who’s gonna bite her? Will she remember everything after she went back to normal? Actually, scratch that. Was she even going to go back to normal!?

Just as the approaching footsteps were close enough to halt and Atsuhi’s panic was quickly settling in as she was about to hit the ground any moment now, a miracle occurred.

Just before one of her elbows scraped the ground beneath her in a desperate attempt to take on her entire weight and shield her head, Atsuhi’s body was lifted up and she was quickly nestled into someone’s arms. Whoever that was though, they gave themselves no time to rest, only running forward. Actually, now that she thought about it, that person was quite strong. Almost unnaturally so.

Oh!

“Midoriya-kun!!” The female exclaimed in relief as she looked up to see the green-head’s worried expression as he kept glancing back to make sure no one had caught up to them yet. They sure were moving a lot quicker than Atsuhi could’ve ever hoped to run.

The plus side of strength-enhancing Quirks I guess…

“Glad you’re okay, Sae- I mean, Atsuhi-san!”

“It’s good to know not everyone’s been turned into a zombie yet...”

“Yeah, we were thinking it might be because of this weird gas. Do you know anything?”

“You’re right...” The blonde confirmed with a nod of her head and clarified the uncertainties of Midoriya’s assumptions. “It’s that Fujimi’s Quirk… So far about four teams have been affected by it...” A defeated expression took shape on both their faces.

“Ah, Atsuhi-chan’s fine!!”

“Oh, yeah, you’re right!”

As Midoriya, still carrying the girl in his arms, slowed down, Atsuhi realized the two had landed in the middle of a rocky raised area, where the remaining “survivors” were gathered. Mina, Ochaco, Tsuyu, Toru, Ojiro, Todoroki and, of course, her savior – Midoriya.

“Is this… everyone!?”

“Unfortunately...” It was Todoroki that replied, which made the girl stiffen a little. She was really awkward around him ever since her match against him in the Sports Festival and she hated it. He didn’t seem to have a problem though. If anything, she dared say he wasn’t as quiet and aloof as he used to be. But now wasn’t the time for mulling over personal problems. Not with the beginning of the zombie apocalypse as a highly plausible outcome.

“For now, we have to get away as quickly as we can!” While Midoriya’s words were more than reasonable, what the group failed to realize was that it was already far too late for this. A moaning sound from somewhere behind the green-haired boy was what caused everyone to take a look around and notice that they were already surrounded.

“Hahahaha!!” And then the cause of it all appeared. “What do you think of my Quirk, hm?” Fujimi praised his very unheroic achievement as he came ever closer to Midoriya and Atsuhi, who were standing protectively in front of everyone else, ready to go on the offensive. It seemed he, as Bakugo’s newfound personal enemy, had a bone to pick with the female in particular.

No one moved, for if they were to anger him, for all they knew he might release another attack with this dangerous gas which would’ve then proceeded to turn even the last left standing into mindless zombies. Instead, Atsuhi had to grit her teeth, as Fujimi leaned down, too close to her face for comfort

“Looks like UA’s not all that-”

WAH-

A looming silhouette behind the gray-haired male alerted him to the oncoming danger and as he ducked to avoid a certain blond’s vicious attack, he did the next best thing he could think of to protect himself. He grabbed a hold of Atsuhi’s arms and spun around so that he held her in place in front of himself and she was stuck between a rock and a hard place. Or in this case – between a zombie-creating freaked out Fujimi and a very much zombified and practically unconscious Bakugo.

I am about to die, huh.

Her classmates might’ve been screaming their throats off, but for Atsuhi the loud thumping of her heart drowned out any other sounds. Instead, she felt like she was silently staring deep into Bakugo’s eyes. Except, they weren’t crimson anymore. Or glinting with any sort of emotion. Or life for that matter.

And then it got worse. Fujimi’s grip had long disappeared from her arms and the only reason why she didn’t bolt right there and then was because she was frozen in fear. Even when Bakugo started walking closer and closer towards her, she only gulped loudly, not even once thinking to step back or something.

W-why hasn’t he bitten me yet!?

He wasn’t moving. The problem was, nor was Atsuhi. You know who was moving though? All the other zombies. Atsuhi was closest in proximity so all others turned towards her too. At this point, she wouldn’t have been surprised if the reason no one had come to her rescue yet was because they had long deemed her case hopeless.

A few heads joined Bakugo’s in looming over her and as the tears were threatening to spill from her eyes, some of them opened their mouths in preparation for the finishing move.

Atsuhi closed her eyes. This was it for her. Or so she thought. Until she heard a loud explosion and then the sound of bodies hitting the ground.

W-what…

Barely cracking one eye open, she gaped in shock. Bakugo was standing in front of her protectively, his back facing her, as he was threateningly turning away any zombies who attempted to get close to him. Or perhaps, it wasn’t himself he was protecting.

Is he… driving them away from me…?

Yet again, a perfectly sound opportunity for an escape, almost utterly wasted by Atsuhi’s complete lack of self-preservation reflexes. Almost.

Because a hand unexpectedly wrapped itself around her wrist from behind, dragging her away from Bakugo and in the opposite direction to where all the zombies had gathered, currently in the process of being mercilessly slaughtered by said boy.

“C’mon, don’t just stand there!!” It was Mina who dragged the female away from a situation where she would’ve inevitably been turned into a mindless creature too. A quick glance, however, was all it took for Atsuhi to notice a concerning detail about the size of her group.

“Where’s everyone else!?” Previously consisting of nine people, Atsuhi included, the number of survivors had, unnoticed by her, shrunk down to a measly five. Whatever the group was up to while the blonde was having a staring contest with her friend in the face of immediate danger, she had no clue.

“Don’t think about them!! Save yourself!” Was Ochaco’s overly dramatic response, as if they were really in a movie where a single bite would be all it takes for them to be killed by the hands of these mindless monsters, formerly known as their classmates and friends.

They were the only ones left. Todoroki, Midoriya, Ochaco, Mina, and herself. They were the only hope left. No teachers had showed up yet. That meant one of two things. Either for reasons unknown they hadn’t come to their rescue at all and had no plans to do so. Or they were already infected. Atsuhi didn’t even want to consider the latter. But, as it currently stood, that seemed to be the more viable option. In other words, they were alone. The only five survivors versus the twenty or so wild zombies. Truly, a situation right out of the apocalypse.

The female hadn’t even realized when she’d gotten dragged inside a small cave to escape their pursuers. Todoroki had quickly put up a wall of ice in front of its entrance, giving them time to think of a strategy, an escape plan, or, in a worst case scenario, say their prayers and hope for a painless end. Whatever time they had thought they would have, however, turned out to be way less than expected, as the zombies began hitting, scraping and even using their Quirks, albeit sporadically and unconsciously at the ice keeping them away.

“We have to get out of this somehow...” Atsuhi’s obvious statement was met with a unanimous wave of nods, before being followed by Ochaco’s naively hopeful question.

“Well, how do the characters in zombie movies usually escape?” A brief pause followed.

“I don’t think we want this to end like a typical zombie movie...” Thus Atsuhi crushed those hopes with a single sentence.

“What do you mean by that…?”

“Usually they don’t end very well...” Midoriya’s words were what delivered the final blow to the other two females. And so, the only ones really left with the task of thinking things through were now the two boys and Atsuhi.

Now what….!?

“So we just have to get past them somehow, right?” A sudden idea popped up in the blonde’s mind, making its way to the surface through her jumbled thoughts. “Midoriya-kun, can’t you use your Quirk to blast them away or something!?” Glancing towards said green-haired boy, Atsuhi could tell he was thinking along the same lines.

“The zombies can’t be damaged, so they’ll be fine… Todoroki-kun, get ready to use your flames! Everyone else, get back!”

“I’m right behind you in case any of them get away!” Atsuhi couldn’t do much in the current situation but she still wanted to be helpful.

The plan was quickly set into motion as Todoroki melted the ice wall and Midoriya charged towards the incoming hoard of zombies. It was looking bright – no enemies left behind, a clear escape route up ahead and five survivors to carry on the will of humanity amidst this zombie-ridden world.

But then it all came crashing down. And so did the zombies formerly known as their classmates. Or rather.

So did their classmates, formerly known as the zombies chasing them. It’s funny what a convenient time Fujimi’s Quirk chose to wear out and turn everyone back to normal.

That day, poor Midoriya was brought to the infirmary immediately after the exercise, covered in bandages from head to toe.

***

“C’mon, Bakugo-kun, it’s not that hard! Just an apology!!”

After the disaster that had been the shared survival training, it was time for the Isami High School students to go. A few of the less injured from class 1A came to send them off with one last apology. In fact, surprisingly, Atsuhi was one of the least beaten up in the aftermath of the class, if you looked past her bruised knees and elbows.

Completely ignoring Atsuhi’s pleas, Bakugo kept growling at Fujimi, the two butting heads for the last time.

I have no idea what Mina was even talking about earlier today… I can’t even get him to say a simple sorry, let alone order him what to do.

As the two schools parted ways, Atsuhi felt a chill run up her spine as the silver-haired boy glared at her again before turning his back and finally walking away.

What’s his problem… He caused enough trouble today already…

Soon enough, she and Bakugo were walking home again, a comfortable silence filing the air. It had been a long day and they both desperately needed all the peace and quiet they could get. A question was weighing in Atsuhi’s mind but she was biting her lip, uncertain if she should even ask about it. For all she knew, it could just give her even more to think about.

Ah, whatever, I’m feeling daring today!!

“So, Bakugo-kun...” A quiet hum was all the acknowledgment she received. “Do you… remember any of what happened…?”

“Of course. I wasn’t drunk or anything.”

“No, no, I meant when you were, um… a zombie?” Bakugo paused in his step.

“Not really, no.”

“Ah, is that so...” And so, the walk continued as previously.

“Why, did something happen?” Or not.

“Um, no-no, I was just curious is all!!”

It’s not like I’m good at lying or anything… But whenever I’m around Bakugo-kun, I just feel like he can see right through me…

And thus, she did not receive the answers she was looking for…

Did that Quirk really made them act that different from normal? Would he have done it even if he was fully conscious…?

After all, would Bakugo really have gone out of his way to protect her like that in a real fight? Atsuhi was certainly starting to have some doubts about it…

***

Back to he quiet and lonely apartment, she decided it was finally time to plan out her internship. Worried about the news she might otherwise hear on the TV, the female just sat in silence, deciding she might be able to get a better grasp of her thoughts like this.

The pile of a few sheets of paper lined from top to bottom with potential heroes she could intern under sat in her hands as she prepared to take a closer look at them.

Things were pretty much as expected – she had found Lava Floor’s name on the first page, then had later stumbled upon the names of some of his closest and most trusted colleagues. Skimming the remainder of potential agencies, she found a bunch of heroes she’d heard mostly good things about, although they weren’t exactly very well-known. There were a handful of people she’d never heard of and, looking further into it, she guessed it was because of the location of their agencies – all relatively far from where either of her parents had ever worked.

All in all, it was a pretty clear choice. It had been for the past few days, in fact. With the Hero Killer back in town, she really needed the support right now. She hadn’t seen her father since the beginning of the school year. Just as she picked up her pen to write down Lava Floor’s agency as her first pick, her eyes caught onto something.

She had to do a double take. And then a triple. And then a dozen more. And then check to make sure it wasn’t some sort of spelling mistake. And only then let herself maybe consider it true for a bit.

There aren’t any other heroes called that by any chance, right? No, the location matches and everything…

Aaaah, I don’t get it!!! H-how…!?

Needless to say, Atsuhi chose to spend the rest of the evening mulling over the best possibility and, like she always did whenever she couldn’t quite figure things out for herself, talking to her father.

Meanwhile, the second page of names lay on the small coffee table, a few familiar names highlighted with a bright yellow. However, underneath them all, circled multiple times with a blue pen and underlined with unsteady hands, an unexpected name stood out. A familiar name indeed.

[Endeavor Hero Agency]

Chapter Text

 

Apr 20 at 00.03

Omg, Bakugo-kun, it’s your birthday!!

Happy birthday!!

What the hell

It’s 12 am

Who the hell texts people at 12 am!?

You’d be surprised

Plus, I think it was kinda neat

Was I the first one to wish you happy birthday? (*^.^*)

Probably

What do you mean probably

Come on, it’s only been a few minutes!!

Yeah, yeah, okay, you were the first

Happy?

Ecstatic.

Oh crap, I forgot you liked to go to bed early!!

Did I wake you up?

I’m soooo sorry

Nah, I wasn’t asleep

Oh, is that so

Why?

I don’t know, guess I wasn’t tired enough yet

Aha

Well, wanna go to bed yet?

Not really

Oh, then can I keep you company until then?

Don’t you have better things to do?

No...

I’m kinda in the same boat as you

I gotta train like crazy tomorrow

You know, with the Sports Festival coming up and everything

So I think I just don’t want to go to bed

Cuz I know that when I wake up I gotta train…

You’re really pushing yourself for this festival, huh

Of course I am!!

It’s so that I can beat strong people like you!!

Pf, in your dreams

That’s so mean tho…

So, when’s yours?

???

Dumbass

Birthday

When is your birthday?

Oh, Bakugo-kun’s curious, hm?

I’m suddenly considering going to bed right about now

OMG PLEASE DON’T!!

Okay, okay, I’m sorry…

My birthday’s on August 14th

That’s during summer break

I am very well aware

But I mean, it’s kind of nice

Cuz I usually just go over to my dad’s place

And we celebrate there together

Don’t school trips usually take place around that time?

Yeah, that has also happened before

Though, it’s still nice

I get to celebrate with my whole class

And we eat this big cake together

Maybe we can do it this year too!!

Wouldn’t having the whole class be really annoying though

It doesn’t have to be!

I think you’ll really like it!

Speaking of

I know that you’ll probably be busy tomorrow

If being forced to go to some stupid family gathering with some people I don’t even know can be considered busy, then yeah, I kinda am

When’s that?

Are you a stalker or something?

Oh, come on

I don’t know, around noon

Well, perfect

What do you say

After that’s done

We can go out somewhere to celebrate

Ah, I don’t mean to pressure you!!

And I’m not saying you have to!!

I mean, there are probably other people you’d rather spend your time with!!

It’s just a suggestion is all!!

You really are a dumbass

Again!?!

Sure

Um

Oh

Ah, great then!!

Woah, I didn’t think you’d actually agree…

So? Around 4pm works for you?

Yeah, sure

Let’s say…

On the crossing where we typically part?

Ok

Alright! It’s getting pretty late

So, have a good night!
You shouldn’t stay up too late tonight anyway

Gotta save your energy!!

Whatever

Good night

Sweet dreams!!

And see you later!!

Apr 20 at 15.47

Oops, I’m a little early

Just saying

In case you get ready early or something

I would ask you how the meeting with your family went

But you should be coming here soon

So I guess I can just ask you in person, can’t I

I’m leaving

Oh!

I should be there in about 10 mins

Why the hell did you have to go there so early!?

Well, I don’t know, you seem like the kind of person who wouldn’t tolerate anyone being late

Plus, didn’t want to make you wait on your birthday!

Stop treating me like some pampered little brat

Fine, fine

Well, I’ll be here

Yeah

See you in a few minutes

Apr 20 at 17.39

Where the hell are you

That’s… a pretty good question

Oh no you did not

Did you get lost!?!

Dumbass

Third time!?!

How do you even get lost inside a store

In my defense, it’s a pretty big store

That doesn’t mean you can get lost in it!!

Ugh, which aisle are you close to?

Hm, let’s see

I’m right in front of the sports equipment aisle

Okay, I’m coming

Wait

When we first walked in here

You were the one that lead me there

Ah, did I…?

You know where the sports aisle is

Um

Well, guess I’ve been busted

What are you doing then

Agh, don’t ruin the surprise like that!!

Just come here

It’s your birthday

I kinda have to get you a present, you know?

Apr 20 at 20.53

You home yet?

Yeah

I got home forever ago

Why are you even asking

I don’t know, I felt kinda guilty

If anything, I should’ve been the one walking you home ‘cuz it’s your birthday

Not the other way around

Yeah, but it’s dark outside

And there are creeps walking around the streets

I guess

Thank you though!

I really appreciate it!

Ah, I hope you had a good time today!!

I tried my best to find places you’d like

Not quite sure if I succeeded

It wasn’t terrible

I’m not sure if that was a compliment or not

Take it however you want

A compliment it is then!! Success!!

I’m glad

Ah, don’t forget to tell me if the t-shirt’s any good!

I’m but a poor student so I can’t afford much

But hey, it’s the thought that counts!

Seriously though, that was so stupid

So what if it’s my birthday

That doesn’t mean people have to throw money at me

Oh, come on, it’s not like that

Think of it as

A way for you to remember me?

No, wait, crap

That sounded super cheesy

Forget it

Sure, sure

And it should be good

I know my brands

Wouldn’t have picked it up if it wasn’t good

Hmm, I guess you’re right

I had fun too!

I’m having fun right now too!

But I’m pretty tired

Training sure did wear me out in the morning

And now that I’m thinking about it I shouldn’t have stayed up this late

So I think I’m gonna go to bed

Or at least try to

Thank you for today! It was great!

Shouldn’t I be the one thanking you?

I didn’t think you would

Fair enough

So yeah

I hope you had fun today

And good night!!

I’ll see you tomorrow at school!

Bye, bye!

Apr 20 at 22.32

You asleep yet…?

No response

Good.

Today wasn’t half-bad

Definitely better than the lunch with my family

So

Thank you

But don’t let it get to your head

For the present too

Even though I’d rather you didn’t get one to begin with

Good night to you too

Dumbass

Apr 21 at 06.14

Fourth time!?!

 

Chapter Text

“I’m going for Mt. Lady!” Says one.

“I haven’t really decided yet...” Mumbles another.

“I’m going for major crimes in big cities!!” Exclaims someone.

“I’m looking for a place with floods.” Speaks a girl.

“Battle Hero Gunhead!!” Happily announces another.

And who could blame them? Those who had been drafted by some real pros were beyond themselves with joy, feeling overwhelmed at their number of choices, knowing each and every single one of these people personally chose to send them an invitation. Even the ones who’d received no such opportunities were trying to make the best out of this internship, be it by doing their research, or going for an agency that was most to their liking.

In other words, the classroom was noisy. Almost more so than usual. Perhaps more excitement meant more noise. Some quietly endured the loud voices of their classmates, like Tokoyami, for example, who only sat in his seat, carefully examining his own list of pros he could intern under. Others, however, had to grit their teeth in a desperate attempt not to kill anybody.

I’m looking at you, Bakugo-kun…

Atsuhi was… lost, for lack of a better word. With how crazy the previous day had been, today felt rather anticlimactic, as the only thing she’d done so far was stare hard at a single name on the list.

Maybe if I do this long enough, it’ll disappear, proving that it was fake all along…

But of course, things were never as simple as that. It came as a surprise. She expected to be more excited about it, over the moon, freaking out, shouting it to any passerby, whether they were willing to listen or not. Yet her face hadn’t once looked anything other than troubled ever since she made this discovery.

And to think I almost didn’t notice it too… I really wasn’t thinking straight yesterday, was I…?

It wasn’t everyday you get drafted by the number two hero. Personally invited to intern under Endeavor? This sounded like some elaborate joke. She was but a measly high-school girl with an average Quirk. This shouldn’t have ever happened. There was no reason for it.

“Why are you glaring at the list? Calm down a little, will ya...” A gruff voice stopped her train of thoughts just before it derailed into a flaming mess. Her classmate was clutching his own set of heroes, albeit the names he had to choose from were times and times more than Atsuhi’s. Who wouldn’t want to invite the winner of the sports festival, after all?

“Ah, no, no, it’s nothing, Bakugo-kun. I’m just wondering who to pick is all…”

“Didn’t you tell me you were going with your dad?”

Ah, crap.

“Well, I didn’t expect to get so many drafts so I’m feeling a little overwhelmed! And confused...”

Bakugo kept his eyes on her for a few more seconds, a curious look in them, as if he wanted to see for himself, but he didn’t make an attempt to ask her for her list, so the two returned to their previous silence.

It’s not that I have too many to choose from. For all it’s worth, I don’t even think there’s any competition right now. It’s just that… I can’t really intern under Endeavor without knowing why he drafted me… Because if there’s something I know for certain, it’s that it wasn’t purely because of my abilities.

It didn’t help that Atsuhi had a pretty good insight into his personality, motives, and… means of achieving his goals. In fact, she kind of wanted to erase Todoroki’s conversation with Midoriya from her memories. Because it was only making her decision harder.

Do I really want to intern under a person like that…? Or should I just stick with my father and not have to worry about anything…?

Ugh!!

Her thoughts were refusing to cooperate in her plan to come up with a sound decision. So what better thing to do than slam her head face-first into the desk? At least this way her sighs will be less audible. The subsequent lack of oxygen made her turn her head to the side, a dejected look on her features as her gaze swept the entire classroom full of overly-excited people.

And amongst them, one person stood out. As his white and red locks fell over his forehead in a loose manner, Todoroki’s eyes were glued to the papers in his hand, unmoving, almost boring a hole in the sheet. He looked conflicted too. Confused. Unsure.

Oh, I feel you…

Huh… Is there a chance… Todoroki-kun knows…? I mean, if anyone does, it has to be him, right?

Then… should I go ask him about it? What’s there to lose anyway…

With weary steps, she stood up from her desk, and carefully approached the silent male, whose eyes never once lifted to look at anything other than the list before him.

This is going to be so awkward… Like, Todoroki-kun’s not bad or anything but… how do you talk to someone who brutally defeated you a few days ago!?

On the other hand… he doesn’t seem to mind. Maybe I’m making it out to be a much bigger deal than it actually is? Let’s go with that for now… “If I can’t grit my teeth through some embarrassing conversation, how can I call myself a hero!!” or something…

Now awkwardly standing next to Todoroki’s desk, hands tightly and nervously clutching the page with the name in question circled, highlighted, and underlined, Atsuhi cleared her throat to get the boy’s attention. When the two differently-colored eyes lifted up and fell upon her, she suddenly felt even more embarrassed than before.

I’m like some high-school girl crushing on her senpai…

“Um, Todoroki-kun, I have something I want to ask you...”

God, please don’t get the wrong idea…

“Sure, go ahead.” He was impossibly calm, in full contrast to the jumpy, stuttering mess that was Atsuhi right now. Gulping in anticipation, the female put forward the sheet of paper, setting it down on the desk the two were standing in front of and needlessly pointing with her finger to the already attention-grabbing name.

“Do you… know anything about this…?” As she looked at the boy hopefully, he scanned over the contents of the paper, probably deducing that it was a part of her list of potential internships, and silently mulled over it for a second before looking up at her with a question of his own.

“Is this yours?” Atsuhi nodded in response.

“Yeah, so it’s pretty surprising… I thought maybe you’d have an idea why.” A short silence ensued and the female’s heart dropped.

I shouldn’t know about his relationship with his father… But I can’t help it – I feel like I’m going to say something I shouldn’t…

Shortly after, a sigh escaped Todoroki’s lips, and he muttered apologetically.

“I’m sorry, he hasn’t told me anything…” After the disappointed look that crossed Atsuhi’s face, the boy added. “However, I can only say that perhaps interning under my old man might not be the best option… For your own good, that is. But I can’t stop anyone...”

“Alright… Still, thank you, Todoroki-kun… I’ll be off now!” As she turned around and walked off, back to her blond friend who shot her a curious glance as she sat back down on her desk, twisting in her seat so that she was facing him instead.

Well, that was an utter failure… So even Todoroki-kun doesn’t know, huh… But I still have to make a decision.

“What was that all about?” Bakugo wasted no time in questioning the girl’s random trip.

“Hey, where do you think Todoroki-kun’s going to intern?” She, however, didn’t answer and instead posed a question herself, mind wandering as words spilled from her mouth without much thought. Though Bakugo looked at her strangely, he chose to ignore her untypical behavior.

“How the hell should I know!? He’s probably been invited by a ton of pros, right? All I know is that now that he’s shown his left side, Endeavor will probably insist on training him some more. Though there’s no way he’s going to willingly go with that bastard… The hell are you asking for?”

“Endeavor will want to train his left side, huh...”

Yeah, but that doesn’t explain why Endeavor would also-

“Oh my God…!! That’s it!!”

“What’s up with you!?”

“Ah, don’t mind me, Bakugo-kun! But I do think I just made my decision...”

Train him, you say… I got it!

***

No matter how enthusiastic Atsuhi had been when she decided to write down the Endeavor Hero Agency as her first choice for the upcoming internships, there comes a point in every decision when you suddenly start to second-guess yourself, wondering if this really was the way to go.

There’s no going back now, though. Not anymore.

Plus, where else would I learn as much as I will by the side of the number two hero in the country!!

Was she excited? Weirdly enough, yes. Endeavor didn’t exactly have the reputation of a very kind and gentle person. But one thing was for certain – he was strong. And that is exactly what Atsuhi needed right now. She could put up with some bad attitude if it meant she could get experience she expected to come out with at the end of these two weeks.

Plus, if I’m right about the reason…

She glanced at Todoroki, standing a little ways away, clutching his own suitcase and looking around for the right train. In the end, he had somehow found it in himself to go to his own father’s agency. Which was all the better for if he had opted out, Atsuhi’s own decision will have suddenly become pointless.

If Endeavor wants to train Todoroki-kun’s left side, he can always show him how to use it. But both of his sides is something Endeavor shouldn’t be too familiar with as a person who can only control fire. So what better way to show him how, than finding someone with a similar Quirk…

Was she happy with this? Not really – being invited purely because you had a similar Quirk to the hero’s son, who desperately needed to get used to his own powers, felt a little like cheating. But that didn’t matter. Atsuhi was going to take whatever she could. If being there as no more than an example was what it took for her to be able to spend two weeks under the number two hero’s guidance, then she didn’t mind one bit.

“Ahh, this is going to be so excitiiing!!” Atsuhi turned to look at the cheerful girl who’d loudly exclaimed what pretty much everyone was thinking.

“Calm down a little, Mina...”

“But she’s right, you know? This is our first time doing something like this too!!” Toru chimed in just as hyper, and the three were soon joined by all other girls, expect for Ochaco.

Some talking and a few laughs later, the girls all bid each other goodbye as a bunch of hugs were exchanged, and most went their separate ways. (With a few suddenly running back in the opposite direction after heading to the wrong trains at first.)

Atsuhi smiled at them as she walked over to where Bakugo was standing, glaring at his surroundings as his expression clearly conveyed that he’d much rather have left by now.

“Hey, Bakugo-kun, good luck on your internship too! See ya in two weeks!!”

“Yeah, same to you...” As the blonde female turned around and headed off with a jump to her step, he muttered one more thing to her. “And be careful...” This made Atsuhi freeze in her tracks. Of course he knew. He had probably heard about it a dozen times by now. And then there was the fact that he also knew Atsuhi’s story…

“Thank you… You too!!” She turned to him, replying with a soft smile, before Bakugo left to find his own train. And with that, Atsuhi was almost ready to leave. Almost.

Just one thing left…

Quickly scanning over the train station buzzing with all kinds of people (many of whom had stopped to admire the group after noticing they were “those UA kids”), she spotted the trio she was looking for. Approaching the first two, she noticed the concerned look on their faces and turned towards the brown-haired female with a worried question.

“Hey, Ochaco-chan, is he alright…?” Said girl and the green-haired boy beside her turned to Atsuhi and shrugged their shoulders in a weary manner, as Atsuhi looked at the retrieving back of the boy in question.

Oh, I’m not leaving things like that!

***

“Hey, what’s up, Ochaco-chan, you look pretty concerned?”

“It’s just that… Ida-kun’s internship...”

“Hm?”

“He’s going to Hosu… But I think it’s because…”

***

“Ida-san!!” As she called out his name, the blue-haired male stopped and turned to look at the female rushing to catch up to him before he leaves.

“...”

Their eyes met and she looked at him with a serious gaze for a few seconds, then she spoke up.

“I don’t want this to come out sounding harsh but… you should know something – in moments like this, you shouldn’t let yourself be consumed by irrational thoughts.” Was he listening to her? Was he even going to take her advice to heart? She sincerely hoped he would. “There are people who will always be there for you-” The female gestured to the two standing a little further behind her. “You should let yourself lean on them. Right now more than ever.

You are strong. And I know you can get through this. So please, I beg of you – do not do anything rash.” She really meant every word she said. Because she knew. Ida looked to the side, unconvinced. Atsuhi’s heart dropped.

“Thank you for the concern, Saeki-kun… But right now, no one really knows how I feel… No one know what it’s like. So I do not believe there’s anyone who can really give me the advice I need.”

She knew.

She knew exactly what he felt like.

She had felt the same.

She had felt worse.

She had.

She really, truly had.

And now she was mad. Soothing his pain? Screw that. This was cruel.

“No one knows, you say...” Ida looked surprised at the quiver in the female’s voice but she did not lift her head, her face remaining hidden. “Perhaps it isn’t everyone else that’s ignorant...” At this point, a tear or two were threatening to fall from her watery eyes. Not that she cared. Instead she raised her voice – something she rarely did. But something she couldn’t help right now. “Perhaps... you’re the one that has to take a good look around yourself!!! And then maybe… maybe you’ll realize that you aren’t the only one who has ever had to face problems in his life!!”

With that, she turned around and walked off, furiously wiping away at the liquid in her eyes before anyone else noticed it. Meanwhile, she received three different looks from anyone who had witnessed her sudden burst of emotion.

There was Ida, who looked at her surprised but never once stopped to reconsider her words. Then there was Ochaco who eyed the female with concern, having never before seen her mad quite like this. What she couldn’t figure out was why she was so emotional about it. After all, unlike the third and final person, she didn’t have the full story.

Midoriya, on the other hand, knew. He had known for a while now. As a huge hero fanboy, he was, without fail, up to date with all the latest hero news. He was well aware of what had happened with Hiyamiku four years ago. Midoriya didn’t understand what Ida was going through. But he knew that Atsuhi was one of few people who did. The scene that had unfolded before him had truly broken his heart. And he could only hope. Hope that both of them would be alright.

He had no idea what was coming. No one did.

***

And even after returning to Todoroki and finding a comfortable seat in the train that was to take them to the place of their upcoming internship, Atsuhi couldn’t stop thinking about it.

Even as she slowly succumbed to the sleepy sensation that had suddenly overcome her after such an emotionally exhausting outburst, she felt bad.

Was this too harsh?

Should I have been nicer?

Did I make things worse?

All kinds of questions weighed on her mind. She felt terrible. She regretted so much. She regretted it so much. She desperately wanted to go back. To change what she’d said. To change how she’d acted. And yet, she couldn’t. It was too late. For all left for her to do now was close her eyes and let sleep wash away the remainder of her tears.

Chapter Text

hero costume yup!!!

With a quiet thud, a small metal case was thrown on the floor of the previously quiet room. The sound of a pair of shoes carelessly falling to the ground soon followed, and a few tapping noises later, the couch emitted a rustling noise, as Atsuhi threw herself on it, falling forward and face-first onto the soft cushions, arms flailing from the side and feet dangling past the arm rest.

She didn’t mind falling asleep right there and then.

No one told me internships were going to be this exhausting…

With a deep sigh and the need for oxygen surfacing soon after, the female turned her head to the side, where her nose was no longer tightly squashed against the fabric of the couch.

Though I might be the only one feeling this tired on the first day…

Sore muscles. Aching feet. Bruised hands. Scraped arms and elbows. Quickened breaths. All those were things one would expect a person moving so sluggishly in their lack of energy to be dealing with.

But Atsuhi’s problem was anything but physical. No, her day had been emotionally taxing more than anything.

Then again, what was I expecting… Guess I only have myself to blame…

And then, at the sudden realization that this was but the first day, the girl sighed yet again, each exhausted breath deeper than the last.

I think I’ll just lay here for a little longer…

But had she ever had a peaceful rest like that? Well, she wasn’t going to have one today, that’s for certain. As her phone vibrated in her pocket, the screen coming to life displaying the caller’s name and number, Atsuhi groaned and took it out, well aware who the person disturbing her momentary peace like that was.

“Hello…”

“Ouch, you sure do sound exhausted.”

“That’s ‘cuz I am…“

“Woah, isn’t that crazy! I mean, can you imagine how hard it must be for all the heroes who have to work like this every single day.

“Please stop bragging, Dad… I’m too tired for this…”

“Sure, sure, sorry. Don’t worry, you’ll get used to it soon enough. So, say – how did day one go?”

“Hmm, how much time do you have?”

“I’m home early today. So – plenty.”

“Cool. Long story it is then.”

***

This place is massive!!

Having heroes as parents was already quite the privilege. For one, Atsuhi had had many a chances to set foot into actual hero agencies and interact with dozens of sidekicks or budding heroes interning under her mom and dad.

But this is on a whole other scale!!

Endeavor’s hero agency was like something out of this world. Multiple floors, bustling with people, some wearing business suits and likely dealing with stuff like accounting, documents, media, and the likes. Others, naturally, clad in their colorful and unique hero costumes, running about and instilling this sense in the female that she really was someplace grand.

Beside her, Todoroki was surprisingly… well, surprised.

I would’ve thought he has been here lots of times… But I guess considering his relationship with his father… maybe he’s been avoiding this place altogether?

He also had this curious look in his eyes, although it was much more mild than the clear excitement on Atsuhi’s face. Well, no worries, that was probably going to go away pretty soon, anyway.

Because as the two came ever closer to the main office, the female’s heart began thumping not with curiosity and wonder, but a dreadful feeling instead.

I sure did come here on impulse, didn’t I…? And here I am paying the price for that.

As the two stepped inside, a large and mostly empty room was what awaited them.

Woah!! Such a typical important guy office!!

Endeavor was standing in front of the desk at the opposite end to where the two students were, and was looking at them intently, eyes shifting from a satisfied feeling at the look of Todoroki’s serious expression, to indiscriminate scrutiny as they scanned Atsuhi’s quivering frame.

Why does he have to act so scary!!!

***

“Yeah, I guess he’d be pretty intimidating for a kid!”

Dad.

“I know, I know – you’re not a kid… Can you blame me, though?”

“Well, you were right for one thing – he sure was intimidating. It didn’t help that he treated me like some burden he’s been forced to take care of...”

“What’d he say?”

“That’s what I’m trying to get to...”

***

Just to make things clear.” Endeavor’s sharp voice cut through the silence, causing the girl to flinch in place, only to grit her teeth and look at him just as seriously as his glare was piercing her right now. “You’re not here because of your abilities. There were a number of people at the sports festival and even outside it who were miles above you in terms of strength and technique.” Atsuhi’s heart clenched at the words. No one liked to be reminded of their faults. “You are here for one and one reason only – I have a particular interest in your Quirk.

Just like you had a particular interest in forcing a woman to marry you because of her Quirk…

But of course, saying that out loud would result in… some very troubling circumstances, to put it lightly. So instead, hardening her voice to hide the tremble in it, she spat back, yet keeping a respectful expression and choosing her words wisely.

Yes, sir!”

With another measuring look, Endeavor turned back to Todoroki and began a conversation with him instead. Although, as the boy in front of him looked to be rather weary of his father’s words, it was mostly one-sided.

I feel like I just stuck my nose in the middle of something I shouldn’t have…

***

“And then?”

“Patrol.”

“The entire day?”

“Pretty much, yes.”

“Weird. You’d think the number two hero has something better to do.”

“As scary as he might’ve acted, I think he wanted to be easy on us on the first day. On Todoroki-kun, at least.”

“You keep saying this but… why would he be this attached to his son? He doesn’t seem like the type.”

Sometimes I forget me and Bakugo-kun where the only ones who listened in on Todoroki-kun’s conversation… Sorry, Dad, can’t go telling you other people’s secrets…

“No, no, I think it’s just that he wants to help him train his fire Quirk is all…”

“Yeah, you did say he probably chose you for that. “Watch her use her Quirk and learn” was it?”

“That’s right. He said that before we went on patrol. In case we had to fight a villain or something.”

“Now what?”

“I just want to go to bed… And I just hope tomorrow won’t be more of the same…”

***

Of course, when’s the last time hoping got me anywhere…

Day two of Atsuhi’s internship under Endeavor and nothing had changed. They were back to mindlessly patrolling the streets. As she and Todoroki walked side by side with the pro striding ahead of them and carefully scouting the area for potential evildoers, the hours just ticked on by.

Maybe there just isn’t that much crime around here ‘cuz everyone knows Endeavor will come if they do something…?

This was a sound argument. However, she had been repeating it to herself since the previous day. So by this point it was old news. But, what else was she supposed to focus on? Todoroki, whom she was scared to even talk to because she still wasn’t sure how to feel after losing to him? Or Endeavor with his unpleasant attitude towards her?

Soon enough though, she was forced into a conversation. The number two hero had spotted a pair of policemen standing near a roughed up portion of the street.

Looks like a fight happened here recently… But someone probably defeated the villain already…

“Atsuhi.” At the sound of her own name being spoken aloud, the female flinched visibly and turned to see her stone-faced classmate looking at her, before his own eyes widened and he asked with a hint of worry in his voice.

“That’s what you said you wanted people to call you, right…?” After staring at him blankly until she finally comprehended his words, Atsuhi shook her head and assured him with a smile.

“Yeah, sorry!! You just surprised me!!”

“Well, I didn’t expect you to decide to intern under my father either… But that’s not what I was going to talk about…” Glancing past the girl to make sure Endeavor was still busy discussing some matters with the police, Todoroki continued, an expression much softer than anything she had seen previously on his face. “About the sports festival-”

“Woah, woah, hold it right there!!” Before the male had the chance to even utter another word, Atsuhi interrupted him sharply and waved her arms around to signal him to stop. “I-I mean… Look, I’m a little awkward about it too but… It was just a normal fight. You won fair and square. So, um, there’s no need to apologize!!” She looked to the side, a little ashamed of her own words to look into his differently colored eyes.

Ah, what if he wasn’t even going to apologize!! Did I just make a fool out of myself!? Ah, how am I even going to live this down!? Wait, screw that, how am I going to survive the rest of this internship!? What did I just do-

Oh. Okay then.”

Oh.

“I mean, if you say so.” Suddenly, it felt like a weight had been lifted from the female’s shoulders. “In that case, thank you for understanding. And… it was a pretty good fight.”

A warm smile made its way on Atsuhi’s face as a thought crossed her mind.

Hm, maybe this won’t be so bad, after all…

***

Yet another day, yet another uneventful patrolling session.

But the female would’ve been glad if things had stayed that way.

Everything had seemed completely normal since the very beginning of the day. Getting up, getting ready, the train ride to the agency, walking in. If anything, today had been going better than the previous two, as, even after such a simple conversation with Todoroki, Atsuhi felt stupid for worrying for days. It had been so simple. All they had to do was talk it out. She was thankful to the male for speaking up first, for she presumed she never would’ve mustered up the courage to do so, leaving her stuck in an endless loop of concern and anxious thoughts.

As Endeavor walked in though, she was surprised to receive no scrutinizing glares today.

Did he have enough already?

He wasn’t much different than usual. But he was more serious. Whatever that may have been caused by, she didn’t know. But she soon found out.

“We’re going to Hosu City to look for the Hero Killer.

And just like that, it felt like all went quiet in the blink of an eye.

W-we…

We’re doing… what…

Whether the quickening of her breathing was audible or not, Atsuhi did not know. However, her wide eyes and panicked expression must’ve been a dead giveaway as a hand was placed on her shoulder and a concerned face soon stood in front of her.

“Hey, what’s wrong…?” Todoroki asked, eyebrows furrowed, while Endeavor just stood back and watched the two, waiting for the right time to speak up.

But what was she supposed to tell him?

“I… um, I’m not sure how-”

“Won’t this be a great opportunity though?” Both heads sharply turned around to face the hero. One’s expression was still that of fear and concern, while the other held a sharp glare, clearly sensing something wasn’t right here.

Question one – how much does Endeavor know? Question two – how much does Todoroki-kun know?

This wasn’t done on purpose.

He’s the number two hero. If he doesn’t chase after criminals like that, then who will…

For all I know, he probably hasn’t even heard of my parents…

“Won’t a situation like this be perfect for one to fight their fears? Heroes have to learn to deal even with that which they fear most.”

Question one – answered. And by the sudden realization that had just dawned on Todoroki judging by his surprised expression, question two might’ve just received an answer too.

“It’s okay. We’ll be fine.” The boy spoke as Atsuhi clenched her fists, mumbling through gritted teeth.

I hope you’re right, Todoroki-kun. I really hope you are.”

But, as she was about to be reminded once again, when was the last time hoping got her anywhere.

Chapter Text

Every bump along the road, every time the train jumped even if only a little, every second ticking by. It was all a painful reminder of how close they were. In next to no time the vehicle’s movements were going to come to a halt, passengers were going to be told to get off, and there they would be. In Hosu City. Ever closer to the Hero Killer. Ever closer to those memories. Ever closer to that day.

It wasn’t a long ride. So, while it lasted quite little, Atsuhi had spent the entire time trying to push all her fears and anxieties to the back of her mind. Fooling herself, she kept repeating lies she did not believe. But what was she even supposed to do at a time like this?

Had she left her worries unattended, she was sure to freeze up in the face of danger, whatever it may be. Her mind was threatening to shut down just at the thought of what might happen. She did not want to imagine what may ensue if any of the dozens of scenarios unfolding in her head were to come true.

I have to think about it logically.

Firstly, no one’s to say he will be out to kill anybody tonight. For all we know, he might not even be here anymore. Maybe Hosu is just a really good city with great and selfless heroes.

Not that he actually cares about that…

And even then, Hosu isn’t some tiny city. We probably won’t even have a chance of running into him. Although… if Endeavor’s looking for him… How many secluded dark alleys can there be…

Endeavor…?

Shouldn’t… that be a good thing too…? He is the number two hero for a reason!! I’m sure if we actually find him, he’ll take care of everything in a few minutes…

He has to…

Right…?

This was as close as she ever got to reassuring herself. In other words, no matter what she tried, it wasn’t very effective. Logic and odds were not enough to calm down her thumping heart. One moment she almost convinced herself, and then the next, another ten reasons to worry suddenly came up.

Time wasn’t about to wait for a mere teenage girl to sort out her thoughts though. Soon enough, the train had stopped moving and, standing up on shaky legs, Atsuhi followed behind the two Todoroki’s, finding herself on the sidewalk of a bustling street. Endeavor had brought along two sidekicks from his agency, who walked a little further behind the interns and scanned the area.

We’re… we’re really doing this…

It was silent. Well, not really, since they were out in the big city. But none of the five uttered even a single word. The pros were probably focused on looking around. You know, what they were supposed to be doing if they had any hopes of finding the Hero Killer. But oh, how Atsuhi hoped they did not.

Any time one of them as much as glanced aside with a suspicious look, she nearly had a heart attack, only to realize there was nothing to worry about quite yet.

Wouldn’t it be better if I speak up? Say I can’t do this or something… It would be pretty embarrassing and I might get scolded… But I don’t know if I can keep up with this…

Okay, I know. I’m going to give it a few more minutes. If it doesn’t get better, I’ll suck it up and ask.

And so she waited. For a while. It had been only about ten minutes when she had suddenly remembered Ida was interning somewhere nearby. Then she had recalled their earlier ‘conversation’ and all the feelings of regret it had later brought upon her.

He should be around here somewhere… Doing the same thing we are…

I can’t believe he could do something like this… I never thought he was that kind of person. I tried to warn him but in the end I might’ve just made things worse…

Why am I always the one being comforted and never the one able to comfort others?

Glancing at Todoroki, Atsuhi recalled how, despite not knowing anything, he had still rushed in to try and help her calm down after noticing how abnormally troubled she had been at the mention of looking for the Hero Killer.

Perhaps the question now is… who’d get to him first? We, or Ida-san? I… wish neither did… But I have a feeling one will eventually… I should try to do something.

The female bit her lip. She had to apologize. She couldn’t go to him right now though. Instead, she had another idea.

I’m so stupid!! I could just text him. I have to talk to him somehow! Can’t go making excuses now!

Pulling out her phone, she visibly jumped yet again at the voice of one of the sidekicks behind her.

“Yeah, I don’t think this is getting us anywhere...”

Atsuhi sighed.

What am I being so on edge for!? Not getting anywhere should be a good thing for me… Yet I still got scared. No, that’s it – after I text Ida-san I’m telling them I can’t go on with this. It’s not that difficult to understand. It’s trauma – I can’t help that stuff!! It’s better to just quit now before anything bad happens…

That’s it…

That’s… the spirit

“What’s… that?” Todoroki’s concerned voice made Atsuhi break her gaze away from her phone, leaving only a half-finished message adorning the screen. As her eyes fell upon what the male had referred to, they, too, widened.

“Smoke…?” Not a second after her quiet question, an explosion, followed by yet more smoke bursting up in the sky, came from the very place they were looking at.

“Something’s happening. Come. Guess you’ll get to fight today.”

Before she even realized it, Atsuhi was running alongside Todoroki, following Endeavor’s commands, as all five were headed towards the source of the explosion. Everything was happening too quickly, and she only had time to process very little of it.

What is happening!? If it’s an explosion, it can’t be the Hero Killer, right? He doesn’t make scenes like that! Right!? But then what is it? If it’s just a normal thug, they sure are strong…

I can’t make sense of any of this!!!

The closer they came, the more terrifying the scene looked. People were frantically running in the opposite direction, fire and smoke were mixing and tainting the sky. What made it all the scarier, was said sky slowly turning darker as the sun set behind the clouds and beyond the horizon, the afternoon switching with the evening. When they were within hearing distance of the place of the fight, an inhuman screeching reached their ears. While it seemed familiar, Atsuhi wasn’t entirely sure what it meant.

And, at last arriving, they stopped to take in the scenery. And the villains? Well...

Are those… Nomus…?

Like the ones at USJ… Is the League of Villains here too…?

How are the heroes even supposed to defeat those things?! It took All Might all his strength to just take down one of them…

No, no, no…

This isn’t… Today was supposed to be just another day of mindless patrol…

Atsuhi was freaking out, to put it lightly. She had been for a while now. But this was the breaking point. No doubt about it. Endeavor was preparing to go into battle, the two interns left to watch him from aside, before the they were bound to join in at some point too. However, Atsuhi’s phone with the forgotten text message still waiting to be finished, made a sound, effectively scaring the female, until she took it out to read it. What was she thinking, reading texts in the middle of a fight? Well…

Midoriya-kun…? What’s up with this?

It was a simple message. Too simple. To the point where it was confusing. The boy had sent just his location – no title, no description, nothing. More than that, it was a group text.

Which means…

A quick glance to the side was enough for the female to confirm that Todoroki too was looking at his phone with a dumbfounded expression, his confused eyes soon turning towards her, as the two nodded at each other and took off running. The boy warned his father were they were going and told him to send a few pros there when he finished up with the Nomus. And then the two just ran, headed straight for the location in the message.

“Midoriya-kun must be in trouble...” Atsuhi mumbled out loud, receiving a nod from the male beside her, followed by an actual answer.

“He wouldn’t have done this otherwise… Whatever may be happening for him to be in danger though… It’s best we don’t think about it too much for now...”

“You say that but...”

It’s too late.

What else can it be…

If there’s anyone here hoping Midoriya-kun didn’t run into him, it’s me…

And what’s more… Endeavor isn’t with us anymore. Even if it’s the three of us, can we really do anything…

...

Huh, that’s strange. I thought I would be freaking out right now. But I’m abnormally calm. Can’t tell if this is a good or a bad sign though… The calm before the storm, they say…

The best way to describe how she was feeling right now was that looming sense of dread right before an exam or something. Where you’ve been really scared for days leading up to it, and then when it’s finally time, you are surprised with yourself because you don’t feel quite as terrified anymore. You embrace that you probably haven’t done enough to prepare but you also realize that it’s too late for regrets now and all you can do is suck it up and let fate decide.

But, the worst part of it all was what came after. You know, when you finally see the questions and your heart drops because no one could’ve prepared you for this. Of course, there was a small difference here. Mainly, rather than a good or bad grade, right now it was a matter of life and death.

Whatever it may be, I have to take advantage of this. I won’t be this calm for long so I have to do all I can for now…

Closer and closer. That’s all today seemed to be. Getting closer to the Hero Agency. To Hosu. To the site of the explosions. And then, finally, to the Hero Killer.

She heard them. Soon enough, she saw them too. All withing a matter of seconds, she spotted four people. An unknown hero and a badly wounded Ida lying on the ground. Then Midoriya, kneeling down, unmoving. And, finally, the Hero Killer, approaching Ida with a dangerous glint in his eyes. Their shouts and voices were blending in together.

As Todoroki stopped and waved his arm, Atsuhi knew what was happening. Her heart still oddly calm, she rushed past him, eyes focused on a frantically screaming Midoriya.

When Todoroki-kun stops him to protect Ida-san, I’ll go help Midoriya-kun. I don’t know if he’s hurt or it’s something else. But I’ll find out soon enough.

Rushing past, a wave of ice and fire followed close behind the female. She did not look back. However, she could tell he had jumped away to avoid the attack, as she listened to her friends’ surprised exclamations.

“Ah, Atsuhi-san!” Midoriya finally noticed the approaching blonde and shot her an even more bewildered look.

I’m sure he’s just as surprised about me being here as I am.

Kneeling down, Atsuhi gave him no more time for wonder, helping him up as she asked.

“Are you hurt?”

“A little but that’s not it.” Then he spoke louder for Todoroki to hear too. “I believe he paralyzes his opponents by ingesting their blood!! So don’t let him draw any!!”

“Ingesting their blood, huh…” Atsuhi muttered quietly to herself.

I never knew about that…

“Atsuhi-san, are you sure you’re-”

“Please, Midoriya-kun, do not. I… I’m okay... For now.”

It was pretty obvious. She was keeping her gaze low. She didn’t dare look around. Not when by doing so she risked seeing him again. Up close. What if she suddenly started remembering everything!? Better not get to that at all then.

And, were nothing else to show how she felt, her trembling hands were a dead giveaway all along.

Meanwhile, Todoroki seemed to have been struggling.

So I have to help him… Somehow…

“Midoriya-kun, I gotta go so-”

“Wait. Do you… do you think you can get close to him?”

“Wah- No, I can’t do that!! He’s too quick!!”

“No, no, I mean – I think the effects are wearing off. Do you think if I got you close, you’d be able to...”

I get it… He’s wondering if I can handle it…

“I… don’t know… I just have to reach out my hand, right…?”

“It should be enough…”

Should be, huh…

The female looked up, a reluctant expression on her face.

“Let’s go.”

It made sense and Midoriya knew it. If they could get Atsuhi close enough to where she could use her Quirk on him, then they might even be able to defeat him. Or, at the very least, immobilize him until the pros arrived. The green-haired boy had already managed to get close to the Hero Killer once, chances are, he’d be able to do it again. He himself used close-range attacks too, after all.

As he lifted up the girl on his back, he braced himself and took off with his brand new ability, jumping high up in the air, ever closer to the enemy.

That word again, huh. “Closer.”

And again, Atsuhi was scared. But she had to. She couldn’t be scared. Not again. Not if she wanted it to turn out any different from last time.

She was looking. But she refused to think about what she was looking at. That way, perhaps she wouldn’t be as scared. And the closer they got, the further she reached out her arm.

Midoriya swept in, kicked the Hero Killer and jumped back, now a safe distance away, standing beside Todoroki.

“Did you get him, Atsuhi-san?”

“No. Sorry.

“It’s fine. We’ll get a few more chances anyway.” Then he looked at the boy beside him and spoke up again. “You’ve got a lot of exposed blood, Todoroki-kun. I’m going to draw his attention and you’re going to provide support. I’ll try to get Atsuhi-san close enough to touch him.”

“Risky plan but… It’s fine. The three of us will protect them.”

Atsuhi glanced back at Ida, eyebrows furrowing.

I wish I could do more… Perhaps it would’ve been better if I hadn’t even come here…

“Here we go again.” With no other warning, the freckled boy jumped up once more, Atsuhi still clinging to his back as they neared the enemy, both ready for another try.

We have to do this. Todoroki-kun was saying something to Ida-san earlier… We have to save him. We have to get him out of this. That’s what friends do. That’s what I should do if I want to apologize for the way I acted the other day.

That’s right! Once we get out of this mess, I’ll apologize to Ida-san for real! I’ll apologize to Midoriya-kun and Todoroki-kun for just being a burden too! I’ll sort all this out. So all I have to do right now is get all of us out of it alive!!

“Atsuhi-san!” Midoriya called out as he delivered another kick to the villain, the girl reaching out a hand, fingers almost grazing the Hero Killer’s clothes.

A sharp pain. Not a victorious cheer or an exciting moment. The sharp pain of a blade cutting through skin is what came after.

The sharp pain was followed by a dull one as Atsuhi hit the ground, rolling a few meters away after landing before her body came to a stop as it hit the wall. Blood was seeping out of a rather big gash on her arm, staining the gloves of her costume.

She lay there, unmoving, still not entirely sure what just happened, eyes facing towards the opposite wall, as her blurry sight slowly cleared up.

Atsuhi-san!!!” She located a green blob in her vision she quickly recognized as Midoriya. Despite his frantic shout, he did not move, laying on the ground in an unnatural manner.

Hmm, what happened to him…?

Why’s he not moving…?

As a brown spot appeared in her vision, she squinted trying to make out what it was. Then it started moving and she soon made it out to be a boot. As said boot (which appeared to have a double moving in sync with it) got close enough to the point where it stepped in the small puddle of blood that had formed beside the female’s arm, her heart suddenly dropped.

No.

No.

n o

n o

n o

Help

Please

someone

She could still move her body. So that was all that was left for her to do. Turning on her stomach, she began crawling on her elbows. Though she wasn’t paralyzed yet, fear made her feel as though she was.

She didn’t get far. A katana pierced the ground beside her head and she turned around in fear.

Eyes wide and trembling, heart beating rapidly, arms shaking, legs unmoving.

The person in front of her knelt down, leaning on the blade, as he loomed over Atsuhi, eyes boring holes into her own.

There it was.

Again.

It was the same.

It was repeating.

She remembered it.

Everything.

Those eyes.

That feeling.

Dread. Fear.

She was facing it again.

Death.

Staring at it.

Not doing anything.

Frozen.

In fear.

Terrified.

Scared.

Crying.

Shaking.

Helpless.

Useless.

The calm before the storm” - that’s all it had been. Some fluke. Some stupid luck.

And oh, was it a storm that followed. A deadly, raging storm.

It felt like forever. Like she spent an eternity, sobbing her breaths out as she was, quite literally, faced with her fears.

Well now, you look familiar.

S-someone…

help me


please.

Chapter Text

"Why, you ask?" An adult woman with dirty blond hair, tied in a braid which rested on her shoulder, asked, caught off guard by the question of the small child beside her.

"Mhm. I wanna know!! You always seem so happy when you save people! I wonder why you wanted to become a hero." Said child exclaimed in this innocent cheerfulness that little kids seemed to lose as the years went by. As the woman blinked in surprise once more, she remained quiet, collecting her thoughts and browsing through them in search of a satisfactory answer.

"I got it!" Finding just the right words, she put on a big grin and explained back to the child just as excitedly. "It's just really cool! Every time I do something nice I always feel so awesome when I remember that I've helped someone! So one day I just thought – hey, I can make this my job, can't I? How cool would that be!! And bam – here I am today."

The child's eyes sparked all throughout her mother's explanation, captivated by her cheerful face and energetic words. But as soon as silence set in once again, a glint of confusion appeared in the big green orbs.

"That's it...?"

"Did you expect something fancier? Sorry, Atsuhi. It's just that simple!" The woman kneeled down in front of the little girl and gently reached out her hand to pat her blonde head. "But it doesn't have to be complicated! In the end, all that matters is that you save people!!"

The spark of fascination returned to the child's eyes, as she balled her hands into little fists and excitedly waved them around in front of her tiny body.

"Well, I wanna be a hero too!! And my reason is simple too!" The woman let out a tender laugh and curiously inquired.

"Oh, and what is it?"

"It's 'cuz of you and Dad!" As she accentuated with a small jump, the little girl leaned in closer towards the woman, barely enveloping her in a hug with her short arms. "You two are heroes and you're really cool! I wanna be cool like you too!!"

***

A young teenage girl sat still, her watery green eyes unmoving, as her shoulders were tense by her side, hands tightly clutching her dirty skirt. Everything around her was a blur. Both literally, as the tears welling up in her reddening eyes blurred her vision, but also figuratively.

People were dashing around all over the place, their bodies nothing more than hazy shapes in the eyes of the girl. Shouts and calls filled the air, all of them blending together in an indistinguishable mess of noise.

Lights. People. Alarms. More people. Questions. Even more people. Tears.

Did she even realize what happened? What was happening? What was going to happen?

She was crying. Or was she now? She didn't even know anymore.

All alone. No one approached her. Not yet at least. Though what good was it going to be anyway? Not like she'd be able to say anything.

She was sobbing. Quietly. Sniffing too. Hiccuping. Whimpering.

She wasn't thinking. Her mind was blank. A white canvas. A white canvas that was soon going to be tainted. With tears. With blood. Both painting pictures. Pictures of memories.

But for now she was lost.

One person finally approached her. Someone must've rememebred the lost puppy whimpering in the corner, while everyone else was busy storming around, disturbing its piece. Oh, how that puppy wished to just stop all the noise.

A hand was placed on the girl's shoulder. One more on her other shoulder. As she lifted up her head, her solitude interupted, she met familiar eyes. Perhaps it'd been just her imagination but they seemed watery too.

"It's okay, Atsuhi. I'm here." The face quickly disappeared from view as the girl was pressed up against the body of the familiar person. "Dad's finally here. You're okay. It'll be fine. You're safe."

Words were spilling out of his mouth. They didn't make sense. They didn't have to make sense. What was she safe from? Why wouldn't she be okay? He only kept mindlessly rubbing cirles along her back, more words reaching the girl's ears. She didn't understand.

She felt safe now. At ease. She was okay. Maybe she could finally close her eyes?

Come to think of it, why hadn't she done so earlier? Weird...

As the warmth of her father and his soothing words helped her relax, she let her eyelids obscure her vision, the black helping her mind relax from all the business.

But then...

The black was replaced. A terrifying face. It was so close. And coming ever closer. Like a nightmare. One she couldn't run away from. The closer it was, the scarier it looked. She started trembling. Crying. Rememebring.

Ah, so that's why she hadn't closed her eyes earlier...

***

A terryfying face. Again. It was so close. Again. And coming ever closer. Again. Like a nightmare. Again. One she couldn't run away from. Again. The closer it was, the scarier it looked. Again. She started trembling. Again. Cying. Again. Remembering. Again.

And she wanted to close her eyes. Oh, how badly she wanted it.

Her heart was thumping, any moment now and it might just start beating too fast and stop altogether. Her arms were shaking. So bad. If it weren't for the wall she was leaning against, she would be a motionless mess on the ground.

A hint of something warm came from her almost numb arm, as the red liquid dripped slowly from the long gash. In contrast, something cold was tightly pressed up against her throat. If she were to move even just the slightest, the red liquid would surely start to flow from there as well.

She wanted to scream. To beg. To shout. Even just whimper. Or cry. Or sob.

But her voice was lost. Maybe it, too, was scared. So instead, it chose to shield itself within.

And finally, her eyes. They were wide. Tears streamed down from them. Worst of all though, she couldn't close them, look away, nothing. No matter how hard she tried. She could only stare ahead.

At the face of a ruthless killer. At the face that had haunted her nightmares for years. The face that still occasionally appeared in her dreams.

"I remember you. Even your costume looks like that fake hero's."

And then it spoke. The monster. The killer. That merciless murderer. She wished to spit such words at his ugly face. Wished. Her face told a different story though...

"I thought I'd give you a chance. I have no business killing innocent kids." His terrifying expression suddenly turned even more sinister. "But it was in vain, it looks. You've become no more than a false hero like that woman. Like everyone else. You've come to interrupt me today. You wasted your second chance." As he stopped, he took in a loud breath through his mouth, making him even more akin to a monster, a ghoul, a creature. Anything but human.

 

 

"AAAAAAAAAGH!" She screamed. Loud. Loud. And louder, as a blade was plunged right through her leg. "Aaagh..." A quieter scream, which came off rather as a grunt, followed, as said blade was swiftly taken out, a few droplets of the bright red blood splattering around, some even landing on her face.

Before she knew it, the presence in front of her had disappeared, chased away by an attack. The blade he had been holding, covered in her blood, falling to the ground beside her with a klang, carelessly dropped by its owner.

Finally alone.

Atsuhi couldn't move, her fear taking control of her body and mind. Her vision began blurring further, as the blood flowing out of her wounds carried the remainder of her energy and sanity with it. Soon enough, she'd probably have none left.

The blood was mixing, the darker dried up puddle from her arm suddenly dancing together with the newly shed liquid from her thigh, creating beautiful swirly shapes.

With her blurry vision, the female soon lost her balance too and slumped along the wall, landing on her uninjured arm, hair hanging in front of her eyes and partially obscuring her vision. Her heart wasn't beating nearly as rapidly anymore. She didn't even have the strength to tremble or shake. She lay on the ground, unmoving. If anyone were to pass her by, they might falsely assume they've stumbled upon a corpse.

Or would it really be as false as it seems? Her mind was familiarly blank.Only a single train of thought was slowly lazing around in it, never bothering to actually take off, never getting anywhere.

...

Ah, I feel so light-headed... Have I ever felt like this before...?

I wonder...

I went and did it, huh... Just being a burden to everyone...

Maybe this will all be over soon. At this rate, I think a few more minutes... No, I'm not bleeding so much. It might take hours. That's no good. It'll be really slow then. At least I'd have time to think back. On a lot of things.

I can kind of hear them fighting. Guess Midoriya-kun got paralyzed. Ah, I feel so bad. We left Todoroki-kun all alone.

I don't feel sleepy. Shouldn't I feel sleepy?

Maybe I'm just a crybaby. Maybe my wounds aren't really that bad. And I'm not actually losing that much blood.

...

...

...

Am I really giving up? I can't do much. Not as it is.

I might not be sleepy. But I'm tired. I don't want to get up. I want to stay here.

Ah, but it hurts. It hurts so bad. I don't think I can even stand up. Maybe I can... But I don't want to feel any more pain. And if I get up, I probably will...

Nah, I'm good here... Maybe I'll black out soon enough and I won't have to feel any more of this. Mhm, that sure sounds nice.

If I'm lucky, they will do it and I'll even be saved... Will it really matter though...?

If I have to live with pain and shame, why should I even live...

...

...

...

But you know, it’s not quite so easy to be a hero...”

Hm? Why am I hearing voices all of a sudden?

Is it that bad…? Ah, I might actually be dying. If I’m hearing Mom’s voice…

The thing is, heroes carry a lot of burdens… All the lives, dangers, fights, deaths… They all haunt them wherever they go...”

“I know that” – that’s what I want to say but it’s not like she’s going to hear me… How I wish she could though. How I wish we could talk like this again…

It’s not easy. But what matters is – in the end, when all is said and done, you have to be able to stand up again and smile. Go on. Show them that they didn’t defeat you. That it’d take more than that to knock you down. Use your feet. That’s all there is to it!! If you can do that, I’m sure you’ll be a brilliant hero!!”

Can I? It hurts though. I don’t want to.

Maybe I’m just not fit to be a hero. The Hero Killer said it too. Is he right then…?

But then… that would mean he was also right about Mom, wouldn’t it…

You’re always smiling, laughing, and being all positive and shit.”

Eh, I though I was only hearing dead people. So why…?

What do you want to tell me, Bakugo-kun…

So to think that your reason for this is the polar opposite of it… You could say that that’s strength in its own way, too.”

Strength, you say…

Is it really…

Am I really strong…

Tch, there you go again, smiling and laughing. That’s exactly what I meant. And stop bowing like that, for fuck’s sake, it’s dumb.”

Hehe, he can be so vulgar.

But he’s right, isn’t he...

Not the Hero Killer.

It’s Bakugo-kun that’s right.

I’m strong! I can get up!!

Ah, thank you!! Both of you!! Mom, Bakugo-kun. Oops, forgot you can’t actually hear me.

Look at me, I’m having conversations in my mind. Seems like I’m going crazy, haha.

No, I’m gonna thank him in person.

And them apologize to everyone.

Talk to Ida-san too.

After we get out of here. Alive.

No one’s dying here. I’m not dying here.

Thank you… Mom, Bakugo-kun – I’ll put your advice to good use.

I promise.

...

The first thing Atsuhi did was attempt to clear her blurry vision. It was almost to no avail, but even just a little bit of clarity was enough. She slowly tested her leg and arm, which were nearly numb. They did move though. Painfully, slowly, unprecise. But they moved nonetheless. Using her scraped elbow, she slowly turned her body up and leaned sideways onto the cold and rough wall beside her.

With a short pause, she took a deep breath, and pushed her good leg, forcing it to carry the weight of her entire exhausted body. Supporting herself with her hand tightly pressed up against the wall, she carefully tried to stand up.

The further up she moved, she dizzier she felt. Her body ached. Her head begged her stop.

Instead, she ignored their pleads and soon found herself standing up, the world around her spinning.

But it was a victory, albeit a small one. She was up. She was ready. She was going to fight. As if falling from the sky, Todoroki suddenly appeared beside her, a concerned expression on his face, his eyes darting around in an attempt to predict his opponent’s next attack. Until they spotted the trembling figure of the injured girl behind him. He panicked and exclaimed in an unusually loud voice.

“Atsuhi, are you okay!?” Said girl looked up and noticed her classmate covered in cuts and bruises, many more than her own. She tried to give him a reassuring smile, though the dried tracks left by the tears earlier might’ve ruined her desperate attempt.

“I’m fine. He didn’t get me. I think your attack made him drop the knife.” She tilted her head towards the ground where she had been lying earlier, her own eyes not daring to look there, for if she realized how much blood she had really lost, she just might lose consciousness out of pure shock.

Todoroki did not look too convinced. But it was better than being by himself again. He nodded, and turned back towards the Hero Killer. No sooner than he did so, the villain appeared in front of him, only to be swiftly struck down by a person clad in something akin to a white armor.

Ida-san!!” It was Atsuhi’s turn to exclaim, though with her meek and tired voice it didn’t come off as shocked and energetic as she had imagined.

“So this guy’s Quirk isn’t so great after all...” Another wave of relief washed over Todoroki, now that he had two people to fight beside him.

“I’m sorry… None of you three had anything to do with this… And yet you got dragged into it because of me...” Though with much difficulty, Atsuhi was trying her best to make out Ida’s words, as emotional and heartfelt as they sounded. “So… I’m not going to let you lose any more blood over this!!”

The blonde smiled, lifting up her head to look at the boys standing in front of her, as she still needed the support of the wall to keep her body from tumbling back to the ground. More words were exchanged, heroes speaking to the villain, and then Todoroki fired off a blast of fire, while Atsuhi clumsily let go of her support and stumbled a few steps forward, assuring herself that she can still walk, albeit with a limp and sharp pain shooting up her leg any time she moved it even barely.

“Atsuhi-kun!!” The girl’s head shot up as Ida called out to her, turning around to face her as he spoke. “Can you cool off my leg for me!?” There was no time for thinking, for specifics, for anything.

“Of course!” With no hesitation, she shot back, and just after Ida nodded his head, his eyes darted behind him and he suddenly jumped back, outstretching his arm, only for a blade to nestle itself deep within it. Atsuhi could only look on in shock as another knife brought Ida to the ground, where he grit his teeth through the pain and called out.

“Just do it, Atsuhi-kun!!”

“Got it!!”

“I’ve got your back!” Todoroki reassured as the female bent down beside her dark-haired classmate, and, while trying to steady herself and stop everything around her from spinning yet again, she reached out and lay her scratched up and scraped hands on his leg, doing as told.

I can be of use! I can help!!

And help she did. In the blink of an eye, Ida shot forward, Quirk faster than ever. Atsuhi made an attempt to get up, wincing through the sharp pain, though just as she finally straightened herself, she fell back, balance completely lost, as her legs gave out, the exhaustion and the sudden strain of her movements becoming too much to bear.

Hm, this seems a little like the Sports Festival, doesn’t it… Even Todoroki-kun’s here and all…

Fortunately, this time someone reached out and helped steady her, as the person took one of her arms and draped it over his shoulder, supporting her when her legs couldn’t do so anymore.

As Atsuhi glanced over at Todoroki, she smiled.

Almost like our fightAlmost

The two then only looked on in anticipation. Their friends had both simultaneously charged in and attacked the Hero Killer. A heavy blow. Two heavy blows, in fact. Not something many can withstand.

Go.” were the words that slipped from the mouth of the male Atsuhi was leaning against.

It was Ida who delivered the final blow. Then, as the two injured boys began falling towards the ground, Todoroki lifted up his free right hand and created a slide out of ice that the two slipped down, until they landed safely. And what followed was the unconscious body of the villain.

Atsuhi’s eyelids suddenly became heavier.

Ah, that’s when the sleepy part comes in.

Sorry, I’d like to have stayed awake longer. Guess I used up all my strength though.

Maybe I should actually say this out loud. Not that I have the energy for it…

Hm, well, seems like we will live. And I’ll get to apologize to everyone. And thank them.

It really is cool to be a hero, isn’t it!!

Thanks for reminding me how strong I actually am, Bakugo-kun… I should remember to say this when we next see each other, huh.

Mom. I can’t tell you this in person. Not anymore.

But maybe you can actually hear my thoughts, hm? If that’s the case, where do I even begin.

Well, I don’t have much time, I wanna sleep a little.

So for now – thank you! I miss you!!

You’re right – it feels really cool to save people.

I hope you’re proud. And happy.

It was all lies. I proved that he was lying.

You were strong. You were amazing.

I hope I can be too!

Thank you, Mom. Really, thank you!!

I hope I made you happy…

Ahaha, I’m so silly. As if she can actually hear me…

Those were her last thoughts before the world around her faded to black, the sleep she’d been calling for so long finally freeing her of the pain she felt.

And she slept. She slept with a smile on her lips.

Chapter Text

Step. Click. Step. Click. Step. Click.

And so on, and so on. The halls of the Hosu General Hospital were surprisingly empty. Most likely due to one of the following reasons.

Number one – it was a bright and sunny day so any patients who had the ability to actually leave their rooms were likely enjoying the beautiful weather of the approaching summer.

Or, number two – visits weren’t really allowed at the present time. Thus, no one who wasn’t a patient or an employee was bustling around the hospital.

Well, almost no one…

You see, being a hero came with quite a few nice privileges. Which apparently included permission to enter the hospital outside of visitor times. Not that Atsuhi was complaining.

Step. Click. Step. Click. Step. Click.

With one thigh sporting a big and ugly gash, which would no doubt take a week or two to heal completely, the female had to make use of a clutch, if she wanted to get around without audibly wincing any time the muscles in her injured leg tensed up. Now, thing is – she hadn’t really used clutches before. So to suddenly lose the use of your leg, albeit temporarily, came with a learning curve on how to move around without it.

Step. Step. Shuffle. Step. Step. Shuffle.

Thankfully, a certain hero was there to help her, keeping her upright whenever she couldn’t, lending her a helpful hand so that she can successfully reach her destination. The female had insisted on trying to go there by herself, so the man had to settle for only occasionally steadying her frame.

The two walked in silence. Any words between them were either already said, or they had yet to find the strength to even utter them. The events from just the previous night had left their impact. But, if it weren’t for the media talking about that villain non-stop ever since he had been defeated, those events might’ve even slipped to the back of their minds already.

Fortunately for the blonde, her destination was rather close-by and soon enough she was standing in front of a closed door. She lifted up her free hand and gently knocked, so as not to disturb anyone inside, had they decided to make use of the warm afternoon by resting.

“Come in!” A familiar voice answered and before the girl even tried to open door (which, in retrospect, she realized she couldn’t have done by herself anyway) the man behind her reached out from above her head and pushed the door.

Hesitantly peeking inside, Atsuhi looked around and quickly spotted the three faces she’d been looking for, each sitting on a bed of their own, with an empty one to spare. Noticing their guest, said faces lit up and the female turned around, smiling at the man behind her.

“I’m good from here. Thanks! You can go back and get some rest or something, I’ll ask a nurse to help me back!” The man didn’t look convinced but, with a quick glance at the boys around the room, whom he knew he could trust, and a final look towards the only girl in the bunch, sighed and gave in, turning around to walk out the door.

“Okay, okay. Have a good time! And no more breaking the law!!” And thus, he walked away, carefully pulling the door closed behind him.

“You say that as if it’s a joke but...” Atsuhi quietly muttered to herself, expression falling in a comical manner, before she turned around to properly greet the boys. As she took in a breath to begin, she noticed that a pair of dark green eyes were staring hard at the space behind her, where the man who had escorted her here had been standing moments prior.

Ah, Midoriya-kun, ever the fanboy…

“I can tell him to swing by later if you’d like?” Hearing the words undoubtedly addressed to him, the green-haired boy shook his head and smiled nervously, but before he could decline, Atsuhi insisted. “Come on, it’s fine! Dad’s here to see me but he ended up having to work night patrol so he could be allowed to stay. He said he’s kinda bored throughout the day anyway.”

“U-um, I guess it’d be pretty cool...”

Well, I found him something to do, I guess!

“Um, anyway-” As Midoriya cleared his throat, he attempted to change the subject to a more pressing matter, as all four were currently thinking. “Are you okay, Atsuhi-san? You and Ida-kun got the worst of it. We kinda freaked out when you lost consciousness...”

Mhm, I’m okay. Thanks to you three, that is. But don’t put yourself down like that, I saw you all were pretty hurt, not to mention that I heard what happened right before Endeavor showed up. If anything, I’m surprised you all did stay awake, haha...”

A short silence followed.

Ah, here comes the hard part. As banal as it’s gonna be…

“So, um, I kinda promised myself I’d say this if- no, when we get out of there so...” From the corner of her eye, she could see Ida’s shoulders tensing up, as if he was preparing to interrupt her. Before he could though, she looked to the side, and held up her hands, signaling him to keep quiet until she finished.

“No, please, let me say this! Then I’ll let you say what you will too.” Atsuhi took a deep breath and began. “Obviously, I’m sorry you all got hurt. I can say it’s all my fault or something but that wouldn’t make a difference anyway. Instead, I want to apologize for something else – I came with the intention of helping, but all I did was get in the way and give you guys one more thing to worry about.

“And that it my fault. I probably should’ve realized there was no way I could stand up to him in a fight. But, stupidly enough, I tried to, and became only but a burden the entire time. That is what I am apologizing for.” Looking up, she saw all three pairs of eyes locked on her, until the boys sighed and looked aside.

“I’m sorry too.” Next was Todoroki. “You said you should’ve realized it was best not to come but… I never did anything to stop you.”

“Plus...” It was Midoriya that continued. “It wasn’t your fault you got hurt. Actually, you were injured because the Hero Killer struck me and I caused us both to fall. Not only that, I let myself get paralyzed so I I couldn’t come to help you either...”

At the moment, all three of them were occupied with such hypocritical and conflicting thoughts – they knew they had to apologize, they all thought it was their fault and yet, they refused to believe anyone else might be guilty as well. So, realizing this was something which was never even worth arguing over, not after what had happened and the fortune that had befallen them to let them escape this encounter with their lives, they instead silently acknowledged each other’s apologies, all while giving some of their own.

One person, however, had remained quiet all the while since Atsuhi had asked him to let her finish speaking first. Slowly but surely, all eyes turned towards the boy, everyone expecting him to say something, and by doing so, unknowingly putting pressure on him.

Finally, after collecting his thoughts, and clutching his hands into fists in his lap, Ida lifted up his head, emotional and passionate eyes staring right at Atsuhi, a troubled expression easily giving away his struggles and worries. Even if he might’ve wanted to cry, he did nothing to show it, instead putting on a brave face.

“Saeki-kun…” he began, a cautious and solemn note to his voice. “Before the internships started Midoriya-kun, Uraraka-kun, and you – you all told me to be careful. To not let my emotions take control of my actions. I did not listen to you, despite knowing you only had my best interests in mind. Instead, I went and almost got myself killed. Almost got three of my friends killed.” Ida looked down, an ashamed expression crossing his features. Midoriya and Todoroki had probably heard him say this already anyway. But before any one of them could answer, Ida’s head shot up once again and he continued, this time speaking to Atsuhi in particular.

“But… more than that! That day, I said some very hurtful things. You were right all along – I was so blind in my rage, I really did not realize my pain might not be as unique as I thought it was. And when I learned what you truly meant by those words, it was too late.” Next, he did something that truly surprised the female. Ida stood up, straightening his arms besides his body, as he bowed down, as if talking to a person with a much higher standing than his own.

Ah, no need-”

“No, I need to do this. I sincerely apologize, Saeki-kun. Both for putting you through all this, but also for all the hurtful things I said the other day. I hope you can forgive me...”

The room suddenly fell in complete silence, as the female wasn’t quite sure how to respond to all this. She was feeling overwhelmed, never having received an apology as formal as this.

Ah, is that why Bakugo-kun told me not to bow like that at the Sports Festival…? Guess he felt just as awkward…

“Hey, Ida-kun…” The female began, a warm smile spreading on her face. “It’s okay. You can stop bowing, it is a little awkward, after all. It’s okay. Trust me. There was no way for you to know- Ah, wait!!! I was actually going to apologize about that too!!” As the female’s tone suddenly shifted from calm and assuring to frantic and loud, she was met with three surprised pairs of eye. Scrambling to explain what she meant, she began waving her hands around like a madwoman.

“I-I mean, that day – I also said some pretty nasty things!! I just got really upset and did exactly what I told you not to do – I let my emotions take the better of me. It was very thoughtless of me and I really, really regretted everything I had said. I was worried I might’ve only made things worse… So yeah – I’m sorry too...”

As she said that, Atsuhi too looked down, only to then fail to stop the light chuckle escaping her lips at such an awkward time. Before anyone got the wrong idea, she tried to clarify.

“Ah, don’t mind me, it’s just… We’re all apologizing and stuff… But it’d be like none of this happened the moment we get out of this hospital so it feels… weird…”

“But you’re right, aren’t you?” Midoriya quickly picked up on what she was trying to say, and he himself smiled too. “We’re just teenagers. It’s easy to forget sometimes, huh? If anyone were listening to us now, what would they even take us for…”

“Oh, and speaking of being teenagers and all that-” Remembering what she was about to say, Atsuhi looked to the side with a crooked smile. “I assume you guys got scolded too…” As Todoroki’s face darkened, Midoriya laughed out loud.

“Sure did! Ah, you should’ve heard how just Todoroki-kun was being!!”

“They could’ve easily started with something else and I never would’ve gotten so upset...” Said boy retorted in embarrassment. Suddenly, the laughing green-haired boy remembered something else.

“Oh, wait, weren’t you also the Hand Crusher, Todoroki-kun!?”

“Hand Cru- what!?!

“Yeah, I’m sorry guys...” The boy replied in a serious tone, not at all matching that of his other two classmates, who were laughing so hard it brought tears to their eyes.

And soon enough, they were joined by the blonde girl too.

***

“Hello?”

“Um, hi, Bakugo-kun, I saw you had tried to ca-”

“Why the hell didn’t you pick up this morning!?!”

“Eh, ah, please don’t get upset – I was a little busy is all...”

“So, you really were…”

“Well, I guess you can say that, yeah…”

“...”

“It’s fine though!! I mean, I’m fine. Well, I am a little hurt and in a hospital and all, but I’m alive and awake and feeling quite great actually!! Not to mention, Endeavor showed up right on time – he saved us before anything too serious could happen!”

“Mhm...”

“You don’t sound very convinced…”

“You don’t sound very convincing either. What were you doing there in the first place!? Don’t tell me you actually followed Deku’s goddamn message.”

“We couldn’t help it! I know you two don’t get along very well but I believe you’d have done the same in my position! So don’t go blaming me…”

“It could’ve been worse, you know…”

“But it’s not!!”

“Oh yeah? And who’s to say it won’t be next time you recklessly do something like that again…?”

Well, I… I…”

“You…?”

“Hm… Frankly, after what happened, I doubt I’ll ever do something like this again…”

“Hmph, good. You don’t seem to have any regards for your own safety, do you?”

“Well, I have you so I think that evens things out.”

“The hell!?”

“Sorry, sorry. It’s just funny how worried you seem to be...”

“I’m just going to ignore what you said.”

“Please do.”

“…”

“Ah, by the way, um, I know this is going to sound really stupid but um… how do I put this – please don’t dwell on it too much but during the fight I was kinda ready to give up and uh… I um, I remembered a little something you told me once and that really helped me… Thanks to you, I found my strength to continue on and all...”

“…”

“Bakugo-kun…?”

“W-what… What the hell are you-”

Aaaaanyway, hehe. ‘Nuff about me – how are things going on your end?”

“Wait, A-”

“You were with Best Jeanist, right? Ah, must be so cool – he looks like such an awesome guy...”

“You say all that shit but just wait until you hear...”

“Eh? How come?”

“It’s freaking hell on earth here!! He’s making me do all this stupid crap and- Ah shit!!

“Eh, Bakugo-kun? What’s wrong?”

Ugh, he’s calling me over. Guess we’ve been talking for a while. I gotta go.”

“It’s cool. Duty comes first!! We’ll talk more another day! Have a great time!!”

“Highly doubt it...”

“Aw, come on, at least try to.”

“Yeah, whatever. Bye.”

“Bye!!”

With a happy sigh, Atsuhi hung up on the boy, and set her phone down beside her pillow as she stretched her arms above her head, feeling stiff from all the sitting and laying all day. Before she could plop down on her bed again though, a quiet knock and the sound of someone clearing their throat made her look up towards the door.

There stood a man in his late thirties, with fair warm brown hair cut short and parted down the side, tired dark green eyes, and unfortunately dark bags underneath them. He wore a fairly casual outfit, consisting of some dark pants and a t-shirt which let his toned and bruised arms show. Atsuhi smiled again and asked him quietly.

“What is it, Dad?”

“Ah no, just wondering.” The man entered the room, heading towards the bed where Atsuhi was, and sat down at the edge of it, turning to look at the girl as he spoke. “You were talking with that Bakugo boy again, weren’t you?” As Atsuhi confirmed with a nod, he continued. “Quite nice then, isn’t he? Even worried about how you were doing.”

“Ahaha, I guess so. I know he doesn’t look the part though.”

“So far, I approve.”

“Approve? Of what?”

“Oh come on, Atsuhi. You’re at that age, it’s natural. But if it’s him, I think I’d be okay with you dati-”
“Woah, woah, hold on!!! We’ve known each other for a few months only!”

“That doesn’t stop most people...”

“Well, yeah, but…. But…

“Haha, it’s fine. If you think you don’t like him, I’ll listen. Just saying though. In case you ever start feeling things for him…”

“Let’s just move on to a different topic. Please.

As Saeki Ryuu chuckled one last time, he finally admitted defeat and stopped. And after a short pause, the sound of shuffling sheets filled the silence, as the father leaned over to tightly hug his daughter.

Atsuhi was savoring every second she could get. Sure, she was only with her father right now because of what happened at Hosu City. But she was happy. He was there both to help her get through it, and to give himself some peace of mind too.

He had to make sure she was alright, work and heroics be damned. In the end, things did work out though – in the aftermath of the Hero Killer’s defeat and the Nomus’ attack, there was much to be done in Hosu. After speaking with a few people, he secured himself a position in helping with the hero affairs in the city during the night, while throughout the day he mostly remained in the hospital with his daughter or at his hotel room nearby, getting some much needed sleep.

“You know, Atsuhi… I’m really proud of you...” Ryuu began in a quiet voice. “Not for getting yourself in danger again, of course...”

Of course.” Atsuhi laughed along with him.

“But… for pulling through like this… You are strong. You’ve always been.” He squeezed the girl tighter. “Remember after the incident at USJ, when you were so scared but you didn’t wanna say anything about it at first…?” The girl nodded against her father’s shoulder. “This isn’t like that time, is it…?”

“Hmm… I don’t think so…”

“See? If I were you, I don’t think I could’ve acted this brave. Maybe the hero here isn’t me, after all, haha.”

“Don’t say that! Me? Acting brave? Come on, I was practically crying the entire time and pretty much gave up at one point too…”

“But you did not.”

But I did not. You’re right.”

And then, a short silence overcame them, only to be interrupted by Atsuhi’s simple request.

“Hey, Dad?”

“Yeah?”

“We can stay like this for a while, right?”

Haha, of course.”

And as the two, father and daughter, continued sitting at the edge of the bed, tightly hugging each other, Atsuhi’s mind wandered.

Strong…

Dad said it too…

Am I really strong…?

Ah, but it’s not really that I’m strong…

No, no, it’s something else.

The only reason I’m strong is because of other people.

I’ve never thought about all this until now. What would I even do without all of them? My family, my friends – everyone.

***

Dear Mom,

I know I haven’t seen you in a while. I almost thought I will. But in the end, I pulled through.

I wonder what you can see from up there? Were you able to hear me the other day? That would be pretty embarrassing, wouldn’t it?

Anyway, I kind of want to keep this short. It’s not like I can really send it anywhere anyway, haha. I wanted to say a few things.

I found some great friends. They’ve helped me overcome so much. I never would’ve gotten over my fears if it weren’t for them. They’ve been with me through so much already. And I have no doubt there’s so much more to come too.

One more thing – I fought him. I did it. And now he’s no longer a threat. I wasn’t alone, naturally. But in the end, we proved it – the Hero Killer was lying all along. I am sorry we were too late. But I hope you were happy. I hope it made you smile. I hope it made you proud.

As you can see, I’m still as silly as I’ve always been. Some things never change, I guess.

I miss you. Both me and Dad miss you. But it’s okay. I think. We’ve moved on. We love you, we really do. And that’s why, I believe it is our duty to live life to the fullest, just like you would’ve wanted us to.

Thank you. For everything. For the love. For the fun. For the joy. For the smiles. For the life.

For the strength you gave me. It will not go to waste. I promise.

I think this is my official way of parting. I never got to say goodbye that day four years ago. So this will be it. And who knows, whenever I feel sad again, I might write another letter. Perhaps you can actually see them.

Thank you, Mom! I love you! And goodbye!

Atsuhi (at 15 years old)

Chapter Text

That sure could've been a disaster...

What a funny thing it would've been – being late on the first day of school right after the internships ended.

Well, technically, for Atsuhi said internships had barely begun, before they had abruptly come to an end as well. While everyone else was doing actual training – you know, what they were supposed to be doing, the female was lazing her days away in a hospital.

Yup, no better way to spend the week... Ha...

Not to say nothing good had come out of it – it was a rare occasion for Atsuhi to get to spend an entire week with her father! Not to mention that the whole not-going-to-school thing was a nice added bonus.

Plus, she got to do some thinking. Some serious thinking.

In the end, she could tell that she came out of all of this with a different mindset. But let's leave all that thinking in the past for now, shall we?

After all, there was no more time left for thinking. Back to school it is.

And what had Atsuhi done on the very first day of school since her little break (which wasn't even supposed to be a break to begin with)? She was almost late.

Not having to get up early for a week straight sure does mess with you...

Thankfully, though omitting breakfast in the process, she managed to rush her morning routine enough to still catch her train, even if barely.

So now, she was hungry and tired but at least she wasn't facing the danger of being late anymore. Deciding that she ought to make up for the lost energy from running earlier (and, mind you, running while her leg still hadn't fully healed was not cool), she slowed down to a leisurely pace as she walked down the school corridors and curiously observed everyone around her.

There were a few bruised and beaten people who'd undoubtedly faced internships quite a bit rougher than most. There were those who were excitingly chatting about everything they got to experience over the past week. A few seemed to be regretting their choices too. All in all, a bunch of unfamiliar faces, talking about a bunch of unfamiliar people and a bunch of unfamiliar places.

But it felt really nice. Knowing that everyone got to experience something special (in one way or another) brought this feeling of unison and connection. Sure, it was different for everyone. But they all made a memory they sure weren't going to forget for quite a while.

Some of us longer than others, I guess...

When the 1A classroom door came into view, Atsuhi shook her head and cleared away any lingering thoughts that seemed a little too philosophical. Class was going to start soon so it was about time she took her seat. And, she did want a minute or two to greet her classmates.

Everyone had been so worried after they'd heard what had happened to the four students with the Hero Killer and while she only actually talked with one or two people over the phone, she received a dozen concerned texts, making her stay at the hospital feel just a little less lonely.

Upon sliding the door open with a timid smile on her face, she was met with the surprised stares of her classmates, almost as if she'd just walked in on them just as they were discussing something about her.

"Woooah!! Speak of the devil!!" Ochaco exclaimed as she ran up to the female and gave her a tight hug, jumping in her arms so suddenly, she almost knocked her down to the ground. Atsuhi giggled and hugged her back, before a few other girls joined in, mixing muffled greetings with a monstrous group hug.

Wait, were they seriously talking about me...?

As the girls pulled away, Mina grabbed Atsuhi's hands and held them tightly in her own, inquiring with a concerned expression, all while firing off too many questions all at once.

"Hey, you okay!? Well, I know you said you were but are you sure!? You can walk, right!? Tell me you haven't been left a cripple!!" The pink-haired female's childish antics and ridiculous questions only made Atsuhi laugh briefly, as she patted her back in a mix of reassurance and amusement.

"There, there, I'm fine! No need to get so concerned, I told you."

While not as nonsensical and funny, the other girls expressed their worries too and one by one they all shared quick explanations about each other's internships, before Ida made a show of loudly announcing that everyone was to take their seats.

There's still three minutes left... But sure.

On the way to her desk, Atsuhi waved at everyone else who said hello to her too, before sitting down, finally able to relax. But then, upon remembering the person who never made an effort to greet others anyway, she turned towards Bakugo and gave him a smile. She didn't even realize she had barely missed the blessed image that had been his ridiculous hairstyle earlier. (Of course, Kirishima and Sero were going to make sure to let her know first chance they got. And with that, they might as well have decided to sign their own death sentences.)

While the blond eyed her suspiciously, the female only beamed back and spoke up quietly, so as not to disturb the nearly silent atmosphere that had ensued with the approaching arrival of the teacher.

"Hey, Bakugo-kun! Nice to see you again!!" The male only huffed in return.

"Yeah, sure, not like we spoke the other day or something."

"Oh come on, it's different seeing someone in person!"

"Guess so..." he muttered quietly, eyeing Atsuhi's thigh with a distraught look on his face. You see, in any other instance, this might've been considered an act of perversion or a daring attempt. But the female had a better idea.

I'm even wearing tights but the bandage's still visible. It looks like it's not attracting everyone's attention. But Bakugo-kun sure is observant...

"Soo, how were the final days at Best Jeanist's? Just as awesome as before?"

"Ha. Not funny."

"You laughed."

"I was being sarcastic."

"A laugh is a laugh."

"Is it just me, or have you suddenly become more annoying..."

"Nah, I bet you just forgot what it was like to actually talk to people."

"..."

"I mean, what kind of hero makes little kids cry when they even went as far as to compliment h-"

"Okay, stop right there."

"Pfft."

"Don't laugh."

"Can't help it! I can absolutely imagine it – Bakugo-kun, wearing jeans mind you, insulting a little kid-"

And just as Bakugo inhaled sharply, ready to cut the female off before she said something to blow off his final fuse, they were interrupted by the loud ringing of the bell.

Not that Atsuhi stopped giggling anytime soon though.

***

"So, you sittin' this one out?" As she heard the question undoubtedly directed towards her, Atsuhi looked up (as she was currently sitting on the ground) to see Bakugo standing beside her, eyes glued at the screen up ahead, where he was watching the first group of five preparing for today's exercise. He glanced back at her once, reminding her that he was still waiting for an answer.

"Ah, well yeah, I guess. Everyone else's been getting better and better. We're gonna see how everyone's mobility has improved. Meanwhile, here I am, with moving being more difficult than ever. Even Ida-kun's gritting his teeth through the pain." Bakugo scrunched his nose, producing a weird sound of disagreement, before he crossed his arms, as if about to scold the girl.

"Come on, you said it yourself – it's not like your internship was for nothing."

"Yeah, yeah... Doesn't change the fact that I can barely run though." The bandage from earlier wasn't visible anymore, hidden away behind the fabric which covered her legs completely. (Though it had been easily noticed by the girls in the changing rooms earlier, leading to yet another series of worried questions, which the female shot down with a smile and the statement that she was fine, it just needed a little more time to heal was all.)

"And you're not wearing your costume either?"

"Yeah, it's out for repairs. You know, a few tears in the fabric, dirt, bloodstains..." Realizing her mistake a little too late, Atsuhi had no time to fully retract her last word, instead only muttering it more quietly. Which only made it look more suspicious.

"You never told me."

"Told you what?"

"How bad it was."

"You never asked."

"Oh, I sure did."

"Umm... Haha, oops, guess I forgot, didn't I...?"

"You know, you have this habit."

"Huh...?"

"Of trying to make it look like it's not a big deal. You've been doing that since day one. For all I know, even if someone were to cut off all your limbs or somethin' you'd still smile and say you're fine."

"Well that was just unnecessarily brutal. What's your point?"

"I don't know, I just noticed. You should cut it out altogether though. In the end, it's only gonna make people more worried, you know?"

He didn't say anything else. Instead, he went ahead, walking closer to the screen to get a better view. Or at least that's what he was trying to make it look like. In reality though, Atsuhi thought he might've just wanted to give his statement some finality.

What was all that about?

You know, Bakugo-kun, you keep confusing me.

It's like you're acting more and more different with every passing day. And each time, you're further and further away from what I thought you were like when we first met.

Am I just getting to know you?

Or are you actually changing?

...

"It's only gonna make people more worried", huh...

Ah, wait...

Was he...

Was he perhaps referring to himself!?

***

At the current moment, Atsuhi was in the middle of performing a very complicated task.

You see, she was sitting on her chair, hands gripping the table tightly, while her face wore a serious expression with her eyebrows tightly scrunched up and her eyes concentrated on one and one thing only.

At the current moment, Atsuhi was in the middle of trying to balance a pencil on her face.

Yep, that's about it.

After about three minutes of failed attempts and a fascinating 30 seconds of successfully keeping said pencil at bay without dropping it, she sighed, already bored of yet another way of procrastinating.

With final exams right around the corner, she should've been studying hard. But, in the end, she couldn't concentrate. She had a decent ratio of lessons she'd remembered in class, among ones she hadn't even begun to understand.

All in all, she thought keeping her pretty good spot of 6th out of her twenty classmates in terms of grades from their midterms wouldn't be too difficult. If she could actually bring herself to study that is. She'd managed to do some revising here and there but for the most part, she lacked the energy and motivation to do it. You know, like just about any student before an exam.

The practical? She felt she'd pull though on that one. Maybe not with a full score but after what she'd gone through when they fought the Hero Killer, she doubted they could come up with anything worse than that. Moreover, her leg had been healing very well – it didn't hurt anymore, even when she ran, and it should be as good as new right in time for the exam.

She didn't exactly have it in the bag quite yet. But she was sure to do fairly well either way.

But I'd still feel guilty if I didn't study at all...

I wonder if those who got themselves tutors are as bored right now...

She thought back to the group heading over to Momo's place and the image of their awe-struck expressions at the sight that was the girl's undoubtedly luxurious place (from Atsuhi had heard anyway) made her giggle a little.

Next, her mind wandered to another set of study partners. Thus, her giggles erupted into a full-blown laughter fit, brought upon by the image of Bakugo angrily screaming at the poor Kirishima.

He's smart but I can't help but wonder whether he can really make a good tutor...

And then she got an idea.

I wonder if it's studying alone that's causing all my problems.

Maybe I should just...

And that's how, with a short, two-minute long text exchange, Atsuhi wound up in a nearby library, sitting beside Bakugo as he was doing his best not to get the three kicked out, all the while viciously criticizing the red-head in front of him.

Seems like it's just as I imagined, huh.

"Oi, Atsuhi, don't just stare – you said you could help, right!? Then do something before I beat up this dumbass right here!"

"Woah, woah, calm down, Bakugo-kun, it's cool!"

"Ah, thank God you're here, Atsuhi-chan. Dunno if I would've survived this without your help..."

"What'd you say, you-"

"Ah, Kirishima-kun, that's not helping!!"

In the end, they did get kicked out of the library.

It was worth it though. Atsuhi had forgotten how much fun it really was to just hang out with someone, talk about anything and everything, lose track of time, and take it easy for once.

Did she end up learning anything today? Probably not.

But this was exactly what she had needed – a sense of regularity, a glimpse of what her life used to be, of what it should’ve been.

There were no tricks this time. It wasn't another 'calm before the storm'. It wasn't fate's cruel irony. None of that. At least not yet.

But what did that yet matter anyway? She didn't worry about tomorrow, next week, next month. She had spent years worrying about the past. She wasn't about to waste the reminder of her time worrying about her future.

Today was all about living in the moment, whatever it may be.

Now that everything was finally back to normal.

And that's just how she liked it.

Chapter Text

For a brief moment, everything was enveloped in an opaque shade of white.

A targeted attack which was sure to leave its unsuspecting victim blinded and frantically trying to get a hold of their senses even after said white had long cleared from their vision.

For the attacker, however, it was but a short hindrance, one which could be easily avoided.

"Let's go, Ida-kun!!" With that, it was over. And the third pair had finally passed their practical exam.

To say that the news that the students were to fight their teachers in order to pass this final was a shock would be a colossal understatement. It was almost unfair – how up until now it had always been robots that were used by the school for the exam, only to suddenly switch to first-years facing off against professionals!!

In the end, things looked to be turning out better than expected. For some, that is.

When the pairings had been announced, Atsuhi had immediately realized they aren't quite as random as they normally should’ve been. She could only assume she had been paired up with Ida either because of the incident with a certain villain from a few weeks ago or, more likely than that, because they had both recently suffered some bad injuries that might've put them at a disadvantage otherwise. (She did not, however, dwell on that as she realized she might start feeling a little insulted at being underestimated like that.)

Some of the pairings she saw had immediately made sense, while others – not so much. One, however, stood out to her.

Not for its particularly clever combination of students, nor for its lack of reason.

Rather, because of its disastrous nature.

No one could just... pair those two up like that. Not if they wanted either of them to have a chance.

Because she had an inching suspicion Bakugo and Midoriya were not going to get along.

Well, one of them might make an attempt. But the other? No matter how long Atsuhi had spent with the ash blond or how many times she'd tried to casually suggest the two make up, Bakugo Katsuki was still on very, very bad terms with his childhood friend.

She wanted to stop and think about it. Try to talk some sense into him. Anything.

But it was an exam we were talking about here – and she had to pass it too.

Instead of wasting any more time thinking about it, she had shot Bakugo one last pleading look – her best attempt to communicate to him that he should at least try, before going off to discuss any strategy ideas with Ida.

Soon enough, she stopped worrying about the others. She completely forgot about them. Instead, her heart was thumping with anxiety purely at the thought of her own battle. What did they even know about Power Loader anyway? What were they supposed to do?

Before she knew it, she was in the middle of the exam and struggling to get any closer to the gate in fear of falling into one of her teacher's traps.

She was thankful about one thing though – her partner was someone she knew she could trust and fight beside. They had pulled through worse. So they were going to make it through this one too.

Finally, they had come to a decent conclusion. And with a time limit looming threateningly over them, decent was the best they could do.

Ida's Recipro Burst was enough to bypass the traps along the way to the gate, as he ran while carrying the female on his back – after all, you couldn't fall inside if you were moving fast enough.

The next problem, however, was their opponent himself. They had no idea where he was going to attack from. And with Ida busy moving towards the gate, if he were to attack, they'd have no way to stop him before he got too close.

In short – they had to stop him from attacking altogether. And that was fine.

Just a few seconds were enough. Atsuhi had been anticipating his appearance, wearily scanning her surroundings until she spotted him. Now it was her turn to help – a flash grenade soon headed the teacher's way, and as the two waited for the smoke to clear, victory was already theirs.

In the short moment it took Power Loader to regain his sight and shake off the shock, Atsuhi had made it past the gate. (Albeit barely since Ida had fallen victim to a trap right as his Recipro Burst had run out of power and he had desperately pushed the female forward, hoping at least she'd be able to reach the finish line.)

"Saeki and Ida have passed the exam!!" a voice announced through speakers stationed who knows where in the now nearly-destroyed thanks to the teacher's Quirk grounds where the two's exam had taken place.

As the students finally breathed out a sight of relief (although, truth be told, their fight had been one of the shortest to take place throughout the course of the entire exam of class 1A), Power Loader made a sharp turn and returned to his more hero-like personality.

Woah, the teachers acting like villains sure was jarring.

"You chose to run and one person escaped successfully with neither seriously harmed. Moreover, you dealt virtually no damage to the surroundings, although your plan did have too many variables. In the end, however, you definitely passed!"

Well, that was all I wanted to hear...

Next, should've come the best part – sitting back and simply watching, knowing she had already done her part. And yet, the thought did nothing to calm the girl's racing heart.

Although it wasn't her fight anymore, she almost felt like it was her own. Only she got to watch it through a screen. And she was absolutely helpless.

That is why, Atsuhi seriously dreaded the upcoming final fight.

***

"You think I can look now-" The screaming which soon came from the TVs cut off the female's question but also gave her her answer.

"I doubt it..." Kirishima mumbled solemnly from beside the girl.

Atsuhi knew she did not want to see this fight. But she never thought it was going to be this literal. She could barely even take hearing Bakugo and Midoriya's screams, let alone see them suffering through such hard blows and conflicts.

That's why she was sitting on the ground, in a perfect position to observe, only to cover her eyes with her hands in fear of what she might see otherwise. Next to her, Kirishima looked just as concerned and, noticing Atsuhi's troubles, had kept his own hands on top of hers to make sure she didn't open her eyes at a particularly bad time.

The two were fighting. Bad.

They were fighting All Might. But they were also fighting each other.

It was only after a few serious blows and some emotional reconsidering that they had kind of begun to work together. So, things were finally looking bright.

Thus, Atsuhi reluctantly uncovered her teary eyes and took back to observing the fight on the screen in front of her. It didn't go very well for the remainder either. But it was certainly much better than it had been at the start.

She was eternally grateful to All Might for knocking Bakugo out before he could attempt any further attacks that were inevitably going to do him more harm than good.

She didn't even realize when the fight had ended. Nor that she had been anxiously biting her lip for the past few minutes, soon even drawing some blood that finally made her get a hold of herself and unclench her gritted teeth.

This was the moment when everything was truly over. Most passed, though the few exceptions were sure to be feeling terrible right about now. With the end of the finals here, everyone began celebrating all excitedly, without a care in the world.

I wish I could too but... I can't help but be worried.

...

You idiot...

You tell me I'm going to get people all worried about me.

And then you go and make me worry. About you. That's just low...

A few clumsy steps and an awkward laugh broke Atsuhi away from her thoughts and as she looked up, she saw her green-haired classmate from just the last fight enter the room with slow and painful movements. Atsuhi felt dumb just standing there but all her emotional strength was long gone. So instead, she listened as the others questioned him on how he was, where he had been, and, the question that actually got her attention-

"Ah, well, Kacchan's still resting at the infirmary. He was knocked out so Recovery Girl said it might still be a little while until he wakes up."

Infirmary, you say...

"Hey, Atsuhi-chan...?"

"Hm? What is it, Ochaco-chan?"

"You know, you look very worried..."

Is it really that obvious...

"Yeah, you really look concerned!" Kirishima piped in, once he too noticed the blonde's downcast expression. "I'm sure Recovery Girl would let you in for a little bit. You can go see him if you'd like! Give him a 'Congratulations' from me too!!"

"Eh, what...?"

Come on, you guys, why did you just assume I wanted to see him like that!?

"Well, you've got that look on your face and-"

"Okay, okay, enough!" Atsuhi hurriedly interrupted the red head before he could say anything that might give others to wrong idea or, even worse, actually make her seriously consider his words for a change. And her father's too.

Why does everyone seem to think something's up with me...

With a sigh, she made a show of giving in, although she'd be lying if she said she hadn't been on board with the idea from the start.

"Alright, you've got it. I'll go. So please – just don't say anything else!!" As the blonde turned around and walked away, she heard her friend's quiet laughter.

I would love to turn around and tell him to cut it out or something...

But I feel like I won't be able to keep a straight face.

Something's definitely up. I just haven't figured out what that is yet...

Or have I...?

***

"Oh, you want some time alone, dear?"

"No, no – it's fine!!"

"Ah, it's quite okay! My job here is done anyway! That boy is still unconscious but I'm sure he will wake up soon enough. You can just keep him company until then!"

"Wait, there's no need, really-"

No one seemed to be listening to Atsuhi today. Even as Recovery Girl turned her back to the girl and walked out of the infirmary, supposedly to give her some 'time alone'. Which she had actively refused, mind you.

With a sigh, all the blonde could now, however, was to accept the world's unwillingness to hear her out and make use of this opportunity.

With quiet and faint steps she slowly entered the almost empty room and carefully made her way to the bed where her friend was resting. Conveniently, there was a small chair left beside it which she took as a timely sign to sit next to him and sort out her thoughts.

Atsuhi hesitated but soon enough realized that she didn't really have anything better to do and so, she moved her eyes towards the boy laying on the infirmary bed with a peaceful expression she had only seen on his face once before – after his final fight at the Sports Festival.

His features were relaxed, quite unlike his typically furrowed brows and frowning mouth. His face and just body in general were covered in bruises, cuts, and scratches – the visible cost of his win.

The majority of his major injuries had been healed by Recovery Girl. All that was left now was for him to gather back his lost energy and wake up to heal his more minor injuries by himself.

As Atsuhi relaxed back in her chair, she kept her gaze on his features. Her mind, however, seemed to stir in a different direction.

I don't get it.

I mean, I know something's wrong with me lately. I can see that I've been acting rather strange at times. I get that people would start thinking weird things...

But why does everyone seem to always default to the same thing!?

They all essentially say 'You seem to have a thing for him!'...

But... why...?

Am I actually acting like some love-struck school girl?

Yeah, okay, I talk to him a lot – but that's just a thing friends do!!

...

Well, to be fair, he doesn't really have that many friends...

But that still doesn't mean anything!

So why, why, why is everyone saying the same thing!?

Atsuhi didn't even realize that, as she kept listing off potential reasons and answers in her head, she began frowning in an odd manner that would've looked pretty funny were anyone else to see her. This is why, when Bakugo's eye lightly twitched, she jumped in her seat, and immediately went to cover her face with her hands, only to shake her head in embarrassment when she realized Bakugo wasn't even awake yet.

Okay, I gotta hand it to them – I did just react in a pretty unnatural way...

Why did I react like that though...?

Lately I've been feeling so self-conscious around Bakugo-kun...

I feel like he can see right through me... Not that I mind – it's nice having someone who understands you. And he has been unexpectedly understanding!! But at the same time, I don't want to make him think ill of me for some reason...

I guess I do act pretty nervous when I'm trying to say something that might sound a little stupid... Well, that's because he doesn't have a filter – I just feel like he'd say I'm an idiot or something like that!!

And then there's that last thing... I hate being weak... I mean, who doesn't!?

But Bakugo-kun's is strong!! And, for some reason I'll never be able to understand, he seems to believe that I can be too!! To believe in me! I just... don't want to disappoint him... So I give it my all. Whether it be for myself, or for him.

...

So what!? I can admit it – yes, I wanna talk to him a lot, I get quite self-conscious that he might start thinking less of me, and I want to show him that I'm strong like he believes!!

...

...

...

Wait...

Oh.

Oh crap.

No, no, no, no.

There's no way I'm actually that stupid, is there!?!

...

Was I the one who was wrong?

I... I actually...

Everyone else was right...

And... I was just blind!?

So I really...

I... Bakugo-kun...

I... like him...?

...

...

I do, don't I...?

Funny how Bakugo chose right this moment, when Atsuhi's cheeks were flaming hot and she was desperately trying to talk some sense into herself, to wake up, and catch the female off guard.

It took her a good few minutes of baseless excuses to kind of convince the boy that nothing was wrong and that she was not, in fact, acting as weird as it looked.

Not to mention, this new revelation of hers did not help in the least.

Chapter Text

How hard can it be to find a backpack...

A question of upmost importance, really. But let's just rephrase it real quick.

How hard can it be to find a huge yet reliable and convenient backpack in a ridiculously large shopping center with enough floors to lose count of and then promptly get lost...?

Ah yes, suddenly everything makes sense.

It was supposed to be a fun chance for everyone to get together for some bonding while also conveniently checking off a bunch of items from the long list of necessary equipment for their upcoming training camp.

That week-long summer trip was such an exciting thought. Forget the training part – think about all the late-night get-togethers, tests of courage, bonding time, gossip, girl talk-

You get the point. It was going to be great. So there was no need to ruin such positive feelings with the painful reminder that they were going to do some serious training that was the aforementioned list.

Atsuhi had eyed it quickly once and then taken a careful and slow read through it later, realizing she was very well-off for the most part. There were a few pesky items she was missing though.

And hey, not like there was any reason for complaint – as per Toru's suggestion, nearly the entire class had decided to go shopping together!

The nearly part is a crucial detail though because two people had refused to come along. Todoroki, who stated he had someone to visit. And Bakugo. Atsuhi was feeling quite torn on this one. At first, she was a little upset as time was sure to pass by quicker if she had someone to talk to. But then she remembered a certain revelation. Then her face became bright red.

And she decided that perhaps this was all for the best – maybe she needed some time to properly sort out her thoughts. There was a big difference between realizing something and then coming to terms with. Atsuhi wasn't ready to make such a big jump quite yet. One step at a time sounded much better.

But now, while walking around, hopelessly looking for a place that even remotely looked like it might offer what she needed, she was suddenly second-guessing that conclusion. Was walking out here all alone and aimlessly musing over such things really better than having Bakugo here to talk to, even if it was bound to be a little more awkward for her?

Speaking of, being left alone like that really sucked. Well, it's not like she was deliberately left alone. More like, everyone else had decided what they were doing in next to no time and split off into smaller groups to go to the appropriate stores. Meanwhile, she just kind of sat there.

In the end, I can't complain... It was my fault after all...

I guess I could've tagged along with Midoriya-kun and Ochaco-chan since they were the last ones left but...

It just wouldn't be right. I almost feel like I would just be third-wheeling. That's a weird way to put it. It's just the vibe I'm getting. Wonder why.

...

Why do I have a sneaking suspicion I am yet again not noticing something really, really obvious...

Oh well. We can't all be observant.

Instead, the female sighed, finally accepting her fate, to put it more dramatically. As she reached up to fix her ponytail (she had thought it would be cool to change things up a little today) she walked on, eyeing up more stores. But not for long.

A shopping center is quite busy and noisy. Nonetheless, it's always just a little jarring to hear the quick thuds of someone running at a public place. And it always makes you turn to see.

Huh...? Ochaco-chan!? I thought...

Sure enough, it was Atsuhi's short-haired friend that was standing in the middle of the path, a conflicted expression on her face as she took a break to catch her breath.

"Hey, Ochaco-chan, what happened...? Weren't you with Midoriya-kun just now?" All sorts of concerning scenarios that had begun running through the blonde's head had quickly made her heart drop as she ran over to the brunette and inquired about what could've transpired. Although Ochaco looked a little startled at first, once she realized who it was that had spoken up to her she visibly relaxed, only for her face to suddenly go even redder than it had been when she had first come running over (and Atsuhi was beginning to think it might not have been the running that had caused it).

"W-well no, it's just-" The short-haired girl began to wave her arms around in a nervous manner – a scenario all too familiar to her friend, who couldn't help but get distracted at the thought of how often she'd made this same gesture around a certain hot-headed blond boy. "I ah, um... I kinda remembered something all of a sudden and rushed here to get it – yeah, that's it!! Ahaha."

Excessive hand gestures. Nervous stuttering. Forced laughter.

Even I'm not that blind.

"Ochaco-chan. What's wrong?" Atsuhi's 'don't give me that crap' expression made the girl look down in shame, whether from being found out or from what her real reasoning for this odd behavior was though, wasn't very clear yet.

"It's fine, I just... got a little embarrassed..."

"Embarrassed? Why...?"

The brown-haired female gulped, only to carefully look around, as if scanning the area for something. As she confirmed whatever was bothering her was not anywhere in sight, she lowered her voice (bad decision in a crowded place like this) and spoke just as nervously.

"W-well, okay, don't start assuming things too – I'm telling you because I trust you and- agh, okay!! The other day – you know, during the exam, Aoyama-kun said something ridiculous..." Then, for some reason, she went quiet.

"Well? Go on."

"He... Um, how do I say this, eh... So, you know how I've been hanging around-"

"Ochaco-chan."

"Y-yes...?"

"Why are you beating around the bush like this?"
"..."

"..."

"Okay, okay!!" Finally giving in, the brunette exclaimed before lowering her voice again. "He said that I... like Deku-kun..."

Ah.

...

...

...

E....

E-eh!?!?

C'mon, did I really just miss that too!?!?

Aaaaah, how blind can I even be!?

"A-Atsuhi-chan, are you okay!?!"

"Yeah, yeah, don't mind me..." Now, however, was not the time for beating herself over her own obliviousness. As Atsuhi realized this, she went back to her priority – and right now that was helping out Ochaco. "So... you ran from him?"

"I suddenly remembered it and... well, yeah, I guess that's one way to put it... I should go back and apologize though!! I mean, even though I, you know, probably don't like like him, I still wanna be friends!! He probably feels offended or something!! But..."

"Of course. There's a 'but'..."

"I don't know, I don't think I'll be able to talk to him right now... Especially if we're alone!! I'd just remember stuff and I'll go all red and then I'll start stuttering and I'll be a mess and-"

"Okay, okay, I get it!" Shaking Ochaco's shoulders, Atsuhi brought her friend back to earth. After letting go of her, she began thinking – there had to be a way to help those two out. "How about this – I'll go find Midoriya-kun and I'll try to convince him you didn't mean to make him feel bad or anything. I'll see if I can get him to come here so you two can actually talk. Meanwhile, you can sort out your thoughts or something. If you want me to, I can even stay with you later too – so you're not all alone with him?"

Ochaco looked up, eyes sparkling, only to unexpectedly envelop the blonde in a big tight hug, smiling against her shoulders.

"Oh my God, thank you SO MUCH, Atsuhi-chan!! You're so amazing!! Thank you, thank you, thank youuu!!" Said blonde only laughed and patted her friend's back in reassurance.

"It's fine, Ochaco-chan. You're my friend – it's the least I can do!"

And with that, it was parting time. Admittedly, Atsuhi would've loved to sit and chat with the girl a little longer but hey – she had made a promise. Plus, finding Midoriya should've been a pretty easy task – and if bad came to worse, she could always text him and actually ask him where he is.

Look at me, trying to help people with their love problems...

Thing is, sometimes I have to listen to my own advice...

Yup, now that I'm alone again I can just start worrying about everything once more. Yay.

But nah, that's no good. I gotta get it together!! I can't be thinking about this every waking moment. I'll figure everything out eventually. In the meantime, all I can do is go on with my life as normal.

And now – there are more pressing matters to deal with.

Where is Midoriya-kun?

Let's see, let's see... Maybe I should just start from the entrance?

For all I know, he's still shocked at the fact that Ochaco-chan just ran away from him, he's probably standing there all dazed and concerned.

Haha, poor soul.

That was more like it. That was how it was supposed to be. Why should one small revelation plague her thoughts non-stop? There was a right time for everything. It just so happened that the time for sorting out her feeling was not now.

Making her way through the crowds (and getting just a little jealous because practically no one was here by themselves), Atsuhi reached the entrance, where a quick sweep of her surroundings made her realize the boy had already disappeared. After all, finding a green-haired boy walking all by himself with a nervous expression and a ridiculous t-shirt should not have been hard.

The female was just about to give up and move onto a different spot before she realized her first mistake.

A green-haired boy walking all by himself. That's what she'd been looking for. Not once had she realized he could've encountered someone he knew along the way.

"Hey, Midoriya-kun, can you-"

Encountered someone he knew along the way. That's what she had assumed. That had been her second mistake. As common sense went, friends weren't supposed to be choking you while laughing in an unhinged manner.

"Who... what… are you doing...!?" Atsuhi's eyes were wide. She was frozen still in shock. She could only stare ahead. Fists clenched. Gritting her teeth. Only a disjointed sentence slipped through them. Could everyone else see her legs trembling...?

Two pairs of eyes had shot towards her.

One was green, scared, panicked, frantic.

The other was red, calm, cold, malicious. Familiar.

"I-it's fine, Atsuhi-san!! It's nothing so please just go-"

Where had she seen it before…?

"Ah, oops, didn't realize you'd come here with someone else."

The person stood up. Atsuhi still couldn't move. Something was wrong.

Very, very wrong.

But what...

The person then began walking away. Coincidentally, he walked right past the female.

It only took him a few seconds. But in that short time, Atsuhi had noted a few too many things.

Judging by their build, the person was clearly a man. His voice was rather young-sounding. His hair was a light shade of blue, wavy, falling around and over his face. Those were all the clues she got.

Everything was odd. Oddly familiar. And yet she couldn't quite place it. Not yet anyway.

"I'm going. You know what happens if you follow me." Still walking off. Atsuhi was still frozen. His eyes were pointed up ahead. He seemed to still be talking to Midoriya.

And then. He walked right past the female. The closer he got, the faster her heart began thumping. Still looking ahead. Not even sparing a glance at her.

As he neared, the female's breathing hitched. She was too scared. That if she were to even simply take a breath, move the wrong way, upset him just in the slightest this oddly familiar man would do something to her.

One, two, three, four, five. Five steps. Five steps later she couldn't see him anymore.

She finally resumed breathing. And she was just about to let out a sight of relief.

Thomp.

Something was placed on her head.

A hand.

A chill ran down her spine. Down her entire body. Cold sweat fell down her face. Eyes widened again. Her heart's thumping was so loud it made everything else around her sound muffled.

She could now feel it. He hadn't left. Not yet. He was standing right beside her.

Rustle.

Judging by the way his hair in her peripheral vision shifted, Atsuhi assumed the man had turned to look at her. She, however, was too frightened to look back.

It was a nerve-racking silence. Only in her mind that is. The crowds moving around didn't seem to notice.

Why weren't they noticing!?

"We'll see each other very soon."

And with that, the pressure from her head disappeared.

Three things happened one after another following that.

One, her hair did something very unusual. It had been tied in a high ponytail with a sturdy hair tie. Yet now, the female’s hair was resting limply on her shoulders, hair tie nowhere in sight.

Two, not even realizing the implication of number one yet, the girl frantically turned around in a desperate attempt to get one last look at the mysterious person and put her worries to rest. However, all she saw before she was faced with the person's black-clad back, was a glimpse of his retrieving hand.

A hand sporting a faint burn mark.

Three, it all clicked together. As images came flooding back, Atsuhi realized how close she'd just been.

If her breath had hitched earlier, she was now breathing at an alarming rate, as the realization dawned on her.

Everything made sense now.

Sturdy hair ties didn't tend to snap all by themselves. They were, however, powerless against a Quirk that could easily disintegrate anything it touched.

Burn marks didn't tend to come out of nowhere. They were, however, a possible result of being touched by a Quirk that allows its user to change the temperature of objects.

Shigaraki Tomura.

Leader of the League of Villains.

The attack at USJ.

Atsuhi would've crumbled to the ground as her legs had nearly given out.

It was only after hearing Midoriya's painful coughs that she found the strength to go and help him.

***

"I knew I should've stayed with you a little longer."

"Yeah..."

"Well, technically it's been a few weeks... So maybe I couldn't have actually stayed."

"Yeah..."

"Still, I can't believe they just let him slip by like that!!"

"Yeah..."

"You... don't sound alright… Of course you wouldn't. My bad. I'm just rambling. I should be a little more considerate."

"No, no... It's fine, Dad. In the end, I'm not hurt. Judging by what Midoriya-kun said, this really was all a coincidence. I don't think hurting anyone was part of the plan to begin with..."

"..."

"I'm just shaken up... Kind of like at USJ. But... it's different... Back then, we were physically fighting for our lives. All Might saved me and Bakugo-kun from an attack we couldn't have dodged. This time, we were in an open space. Full of people. And... that's what made it all the more terrifying. Suppose he had been out to kill us. He could've. Easily. And I stood there like an idiot. Didn't even move."

"I... really don't know what to say right now, Atsuhi, I am so sorry... In times like these, the best you can do is be happy that you did come out of it unscathed..."

"Mhm."

"Did you talk to that Bakugo boy...?"

"Um, why did you even think of this...?"

"Well, you did say he wasn't coming with you all. If he heard, he'd probably be very worried."

"I really hate that you're asking me this... But yes, yes I did. Let's just leave it that."
"Alright, I get it. I'm sure you must be tired."

"You have no idea."

"One last question!"

"Sure..."

"Sorry for the abrupt change in topic but... did you decide if you're going...?"

"..."

"Well...?"

"Sure... Yeah, I'll go."

"Great! I'm sorry I won't be able to come with you but trust me – I-Expo's an event you wouldn't wanna miss! Plus, who knows, some of your classmates might've been invited too!"

"Okay, okay, I get it. Sorry for cutting you off like this but I think I really need my sleep. Today ended up being too tiring."

"Alright, got you. Good night, Atsuhi. I'll call you again tomorrow!"

"G'night, Dad. Bye!"

She wasn't hurt. But she was scared. It was times like these that she really hated living by herself.

She was afraid she'd be tormented by nightmares all night. To her surprise though, she had none. A dreamless night. The perfect opportunity to forget.

But forgetting wasn't always bliss.

She wanted to forget.

But she shouldn't have forgotten.

She had no way of knowing yet.

'We'll see each other very soon,’ he had said.

But she should've known better.

Chapter Text

"33 seconds!! Congratulations!!" As the excitement of the timed attraction died down, the blonde girl walked off, leaving behind a trail of smoking robots, whose electrical parts produced concerning sparks every once in a while – a sure sign they weren't working correctly anymore.

She walked towards a grinning red-haired boy, who was giving her a big thumbs-up. As she neared him, the two exchanged an enthusiastic high-five, the female's face now mirroring that of her friend.

"That was awesome, Atsuhi-chan!! We tied!" He exclaimed as his eyes darted to the enormous screens displaying the girl's results.

"Thanks, Kirishima-kun! Guess we're both just that awesome, huh?" Atsuhi laughed in return, following the redhead's gaze to the screens as well.

They could've talked a little longer but both of them were waiting. And that patience was swiftly rewarded as a series of powerful explosions followed after their short exchange. Moving almost too fast for his friends' eyes to follow his movements, a blond boy with spiky hair cleared the challenge in next to no time, landing back where he had started with a proud smirk, as the announcer failed to hide her shock while declaring his impressive score of 15 seconds.

"Woah, nice, Bakugo-kun!!" Atsuhi called out, followed by Kirishima.

"You showed 'em, Bakugo!!" The two were a perfect visualization of that image of the embarrassing relatives cheering their family on for even the smallest thing they do in a room full of people who would then turn to look at them in shock and annoyance. The only difference was, those two were doing it deliberately. Prior to Bakugo's start at UA, it was a little-known fact that teasing him was a very fun activity.

The blond only cast an annoyed look at them, likely already regretting allowing them to tag along with him in the first place, but made no attempt to walk towards them. The teasing seems to have achieved its desired effect.

Noting that she and Kirishima successfully embarrassed their grumpy classmate, Atsuhi giggled victoriously and looked around, deciding that she wanted to bask in the beauty of the pitiful glances people must've been sending in Bakugo's direction right about now. As her eyes swept the crowds though, they widened at the unexpected sight.

Woah, didn't think we'd run into all of them here!!

"Hey, Midoriya-kun, Ochaco-chan!!" The green-eyed girl called out to the group watching from the platforms above her. Aside from the two she had named in particular, the faces of Momo, Jiro, Ida, and an unfamiliar blonde girl turned towards her too.

They were standing up there, so they surely must've seen me and Kirishima-kun already. Well, I guess they know Bakugo-kun's here too...

Speak of the devil, Bakugo took no time lunging right at the poor freckled boy, who was forced to lean back to even hope to avoid his anger and deafening shouting. Atsuhi felt a little guilty for putting him on the spot like that as she and Kirishima exchanged tired glances.

"Were you three also invited to I-expo?" Momo, ignoring the embarrassing display that were Bakugo and Midoriya's typical antics, called out to Atsuhi and Kirishima.

"Ah, no, I just tagged along with Bakugo – he got to go 'cuz he won first place at the Sports Festival and said he could bring someone along..." Kirishima responded, nervously rubbing the back of his head, as he still felt a little embarrassed that he was here despite apparently not having done anything worthy of receiving an invitation for himself quite yet.

"Well, I'm here on behalf of my dad!! He couldn't come here this year so I'm kind of representing the Saeki line of heroes, hehe!" In contrast, Atsuhi smiled back, proudly gushing about her parents – something she loved to do any chance she got.

While she and the redhead walked over to greet the rest of their classmates, Midoriya had somehow been coaxed into trying out the attraction too and Atsuhi could only give him her best reassuring smile as he walked off looking as if he were heading towards his death. And depending on his results and Bakugo's mood, that might not have been very far from the truth either.

True enough, not too long after, as Midoriya was dangerously close to getting his head chewed off by said blond, he was miraculously saved by the announcer's shaking voice that squeaked out something even more shocking.

"F-fourteen seconds!! We've got a new leader at the top!!"

As Bakugo materialized by Todoroki's side in the blink of an eye, Atsuhi sighed wearily, not really prepared to listen to the blond's angry ranting for another hour...

***

I can't believe I actually agreed to Kirishima-kun dragging me here...

The female stared nervously at her swinging legs, as she sat uncomfortably at the edge of the bed. The same bed Bakugo was currently laying on, as his red-haired roommate paced around the room, talking to him.

Atsuhi had learned Bakugo would be coming to I-Expo at I-Island a few days after her unfortunate encounter at the shopping mall – and it was exiting news to her, really!! How much better would these few days be with a friend beside her! (She was trying to ignore the fact that she was still a little nervous around him. Although lately she was doing a much better job at keeping her feelings at bay.)

He had actually offered her his plus-one at first – she had been incredibly flattered and her heart had begun thumping so hard she was sure he could hear it too. But as she had gotten a grip on the blood rushing to her cheeks, she had had to shake her head and explain to him that she had already been invited because of her parents.

The male had only nodded in understanding and mumbled that he should ask Kirishima in that case, earning an excited pat on the back from the female, who made a show of acting all proud that he actually had at least two friends. Needless to say, Atsuhi was promptly teased back and ended up losing – after all, with how easy it was for Bakugo to make her feel embarrassed lately, she should've known better than to try her luck at something she knew she couldn't win.

In the end, whether for good or bad, she had been assigned the same hotel as the two boys. (And a room on the same floor, mind you! She was beginning to think this might've been some conspiracy by the staff at the hotel...) Learning of this, Kirishima had taken it upon himself to convince the girl to come along with them to their room so the three can kill some time together.

If this were a few months ago, she'd have gladly obliged, giddy just at the thought. But now, she was still struggling to properly hide her uncertainties and awkward behavior around the blond at times.

It's a good thing Kirishima-kun's here though – I feel like just his presence is enough to make me feel less awkward... So in the end, I can't be mad at him. Plus, it's not like he could have any way of knowing. I think...?

"Nah, I'm not going to some stupid party." Atsuhi tuned into the conversation, only to hear Bakugo's firm refusal to join them for one of the parts of I-Expo she'd been looking forward to the most.

"Aw, come on, Bakugo-kun – it's not going to be the same without you!!" She whined, hoping that she could somehow convince him.

"Yeah, it won't be that bad!! Plus, me and Atsuhi-chan are going too..."

I swear what Kirishima-kun just said had some hidden implications...

And true enough, Bakugo's eye twitched in annoyance, a glare shot at the redhead's direction, as the blond sat up, looking between his two classmates in the room.

"You two are going? Together?"

"Sure are! You could've come along... But since you're so adamant on staying here, I guess it's just me and Atsuhi-chan then-"

"Shut the hell up, shitty hair!! I'll come with you – happy!?!?"

As Kirishima burst out laughing, Atsuhi was only left to stare at the two in confusion. She leaned in towards the redhead and mumbled quietly.

"I'm not sure what you just did, Kirishima-kun... But it worked?" The boy only laughed in return.

"No need to concern yourself with it, Atsuhi-chan!" As he gave her a pat on the shoulder, as if to tell her that she still had so much to learn, he turned around, reaching into his suitcase as he continued. "Oh, Bakugo, since I'm guessing you didn't bring any formal clothes..."

"I didn't."

"Well, I..." He found what he had been looking for and turned around, his face visibly brighter. "Brought some for you too!!"

As Bakugo grumbled under his nose, Atsuhi gazed at the suits Kirishima held up – one closer to him and the other held out towards Bakugo, as a way of telling him which one's whose. Out of the blue, something clicked.

***

"I can't believe the three of us are going to I-Expo!! I can't believe I'm going there!!"

"Calm down, Kirishima-kun, please. It's probably not that big of a deal anyway."

"Yeah but, I mean – just imagine it!! All the attractions, inventions, banquet, and – oh, the party!! How awesome would that be!"

"Ah, don't forget to bring some formal clothes for that!"
"Woah, I did almost forget. Thanks, Atsuhi-chan – you're such a lifesaver."

"Ha, don't mention it."

"Say, what're you wearing to the party?"
"Where'd
that come from?!"

"Eh, just curious is all."

"I would've expected that out of Kaminari-kun or God forbid, Mineta-kun. But you? That's a surprise. Let's see now – nothing that fancy, if that's what you're expecting. It's a short purplish dress with some small heels and gloves. Ah, and there's flowers. A lot of flowers. Pretty sure it's themed around flowers. They look like gardenias or something."

"Is that so..."

***

At the time, Atsuhi had had no idea. She genuinely believed Kirishima was curious. But one look at the vest he was handing to Bakugo told her everything she needed to know.

It was a simple suit. With a certain accent pattern on the side of the vest.

White flowers. They were stylized. But one could maybe assume them to be gardenias.

She could hear Kirishima's laughter as he noticed her shocked expression, causing Bakugo to turn to look at her too. Thus, the blood frantically rushed to her cheeks, coloring them a shade of red comparable to that of Bakugo's formal shirt he would have to wear later that night.

I never thought you'd betray me like this, Kirishima-kun... What am I going to do now!?!?

***

"Um, Kirishima-kun, you sure we aren't lost...?" Atsuhi was eyeing up her surroundings suspiciously, as she was quickly beginning to think they've already passed by this place. Twice.

"I don't think we are..." He answered nervously.

"Think!?" Bakugo growled, prompting Atsuhi to put a hand on his shoulder, in an attempt to stop him from jumping at the redhead this soon.

"Well, thing is, I forgot my phone at the hotel..." Kirishima mumbled and Atsuhi sighed, already fed up with those two's seeming inability to do things right.

Honestly, I can't begin to imagine what would've happened if it were just the two of them.

"It's fine. Here." The female stuck her hand in the incredibly convenient pocket of her dress and took out her smartphone, ready to give Midoriya or Ida a call, since one of them was sure to know how they were supposed to get to the decided meet-up spot. However, she was soon met with an unexpected surprise. "Huh... That's... weird – it says there's no signal here..."

"Maybe we're just in a bad part of the building?" Kirishima tried to offer a sensible explanation, without somehow jumping to the worst possible conclusion right off the bat.

"Yeah, I guess so..." Atsuhi had no choice but to agree – after all, an inconvenience as simple as this could've had dozens of explanations. Yet, the sinking feeling in her gut was desperately trying to tell her this was more than any of them assumed. Gulping anxiously though, she moved forward, still just as lost.

After a few more minutes of aimless walking around (which by this point was pretty much sure to lead them even farther away from their desired destination, but hey – they were lost already, might as well explore the building some more while they were at it!), the three somehow found themselves in a room much more peculiar than the identical hallways they'd been repeating for a while now.

The ceiling was incredibly high, the room was much better-lit than where they'd been earlier, but more note-worthy were the hundreds of plants growing around – some small, some big, some new, some old. But all were aligned in an orderly manner.

The room seemed like some kind of research lab, only with a few too many plants. The three exchanged bewildered looks, the idea that they had no clue where they were or where they were going long cemented in their minds. It was a quiet ding that made them turn towards the opening doors of the elevator in the center of the room.

Wha....?

Bad, bad, bad.

This is really bad.

Two people, one short and with a wide build, and the other – tall and skinny with a look that closely mimicked that of a praying mantis, exited the elevator, both clad in clothes that made them look like some kind of security. While she had panicked at first, Atsuhi realized this was rather normal – when three kids randomly wandered off into a room they weren't supposed to be in, the logical course of action would've been to send security there.

Something is still wrong though. Very, very wrong.

I can't place it. I don't know what it is. I just know it's there.

A quick look at her phone told the female there was still no signal – something suspicious for a state-of-the-art building such as the ones at I-Island. Moreover, if security had seen a group of lost kids, they would surely try to calmly escort them out of there. It's not like they could've gotten the wrong idea either – the three definitely looked lost.

The guards that had come here however, sported hostile expressions and weapons. A concerning sight. Even for a security guard.

"Hey, what are you three doing here?" One of the men finally spotted the kids and asked, his tone doing nothing to subdue the anxious thoughts running through the female's mind.

"I should be asking you tha-"

"Woah, woah, please let us handle this, Bakugo-kun!!" Atsuhi stepped in front of her friend, a futile attempt to prevent disaster from ensuing, as if she didn't already know it was bound to happen.

"Yeah, you see, we got a little lost..." Kirishima spoke up, an innocent expression on his face as he walked off towards the supposed security. In just a few seconds, however, the female's worst fears were confirmed – one of the men cried out and attacked the boy.

"Kirishima-kun!!" Both she and Bakugo had called out after him, running over in futile hopes to push him out of the way in time, yet both knowing there was no way they could make it.

Fortunately, a wall of ice blocked off the assault, as a new person entered the fray.

Ice... And this attack looks familiar...

"Todoroki-kun!?" Atsuhi exclaimed, shocked to find out that it really was said boy who had come in to save the day. He, however, turned his head back and called out to someone. The female followed his eyes and her own widened as she spotted the group they were supposed to meet up with before any of this had happened – Midoriya, Ochaco, Ida, Jiro, Momo, Kaminari, Mineta, and the older girl she'd learned was named Melissa.

"E-everyone else is here too!?" The blonde looked on as the eight were sent away via a big ice structure courtesy of Todoroki, while he called out that he'd be right behind them right after these guys here were taken care of. "Todoroki-kun, what is happening?!" The boy glanced at her, although only briefly as he was forced to keep his eyes on his opponents instead.

"There's no time for explanations now! The tower has been taken over by villains – that's the gist of it! So we need to deal with them first." He motioned towards their pair of attackers. Everything was happening too quickly. Just now, Atsuhi and the two boys had been walking to the party where they were supposed to simply have some fun, make some memories and whatnot. Instead, they had now been dragged into a villain attack.

If anything, we're lucky to not have gotten caught until now. I can't believe this happened... Why can we never just have a good time...

There was no point dwelling on this kind of stuff right now though. There was sure to be plenty of time for that later anyway. Now, however, there was a pair of overly-confident villains that had to be defeated.

And so, we fight again...

The four students prepared to begin, the first move made by Bakugo who went to attack the shorter guy that had transformed into some purple humanoid monster. His attack seemed to be enough, almost making Atsuhi breathe a sigh of relief too early, only for her to sharply inhale once again when, as the smoke cleared, the villain emerged again, about to catch Bakugo off guard.

She dashed over to help him but Kirishima had been quicker, successfully shielding Bakugo from the attack with his own Quirk. He did, however, get launched ways back, until he hit a wall hard.

"Kirishima!"

"Kirishima-kun!"

As both exclaimed in worry, they realized neither could go and make sure he was alright – the two villains continued fighting, not letting them move even an inch past them. For now, they had to simply trust he was alright. For their fight was just beginning.

***

Those two were just simple low-grade villains, posing as security guards. So then how come!?

How come it's taking us so long!?!
They sure had some pesky Quirks alright. And with the group of students down to three now, things were not looking bright.

Atsuhi was taking turns with Todoroki, jumping in to try and land a touch on the villain whose Quirk let him create holes in space, while the boy was looking for a better place to hit him with his ice from. Their opponent, however, only destroyed the ice fired at his direction and avoided the female as many times as she had jumped at him.

In a sudden twist, Todoroki seemed to have realized the true nature of that villain's Quirk and just as he loudly exclaimed that he was instead hollowing out said holes, Atsuhi managed to catch him by surprise and land her whole hand on his back, causing her to smirk in satisfaction with herself. A close-by explosion made her avert her eyes, as Bakugo's Howitzer Impact finished off their first attacker.

Finally, I think we can do it-

Useful advice – do not take your eyes off your opponent during a fight. Especially if you're really close to them. Or touching them, for example.

"Atsuhi!!" Though Todoroki tried to warn her, it was already too late. Everything seemed to slow down, as the villain turned towards her, arm reaching up for yet another display of his Quirk. Atsuhi began to wander – would his Quirk work on a human body? What would happen if it hit her? Was she going to lose like this-

With three budding heroes in the room with her though, she was of course whisked away in the nick of time. A strong arm wrapped around her waist and the person changed direction in mid-air, swiftly avoiding the incoming blast and carrying her off to safety, where they finally let go of her.

As Atsuhi's feet touched the ground, she already knew who had saved her – if the familiar floral print and the explosion that had propelled them in the opposite direction was anything to go by. Upon regaining her footing however, Atsuhi noticed that he hadn't quite avoided the attack fully.

"Bakugo-kun, are you okay!? Your sleeve is..." The blond only smirked though, looking back towards the villain who had been staring at the torn pieces of fabric in his hand in confusion.

"That's my sweat." And so the female realized what he was getting at. "It's a lot like... nitroglycerin."

Now's my turn.

It took only a second or so after Atsuhi had activated the effects of her Quirk on the villain for the liquid covering his hands to detonate in a massive explosion, surely rendering him defeated as well. She smiled, while Bakugo smirked triumphantly beside her.

There was no time for relief quite yet though – the three ran up to check on Kirishima, quickly finding that he was just fine, only to then proceed towards the door.

"So, Todoroki-kun, any details we have to know?" Atsuhi inquired again, as this time, with no villains present, he surely could've told them.

It was far from over though. Before the male could have enough time to even utter a word, the exit the four were heading to was filled with small, cylindrical robots, which kept spilling from it, all heading towards the students in the center of the room. Perhaps it was the looming danger of them being sent here by the enemy, but said robots also looked unexpectedly threatening.

Robots... Huh, guess they underestimated us a little.

Perhaps this wasn't exactly normal. It was still an attack. It was still dangerous.

But that's just the thing – UA students had seen so much 'dangerous' already.

What could be scarier than a rampaging villain on the street? Than an entire hoard of villains with a deadly monster at their disposal? Than a cold-blooded killer who despised hero society as it was today? Than a villain with a deadly Quirk standing right beside you?

What were a bunch of small robots in comparison to all this?

Something like a joke, kid's play.

It had been a while.

No, rather, had it ever even happened before?

Atsuhi was not afraid. She was finally excited. She didn't care if she was facing villains anymore. There was no way her life was in danger – not against something like this anyway.

She knew she could do this. And she knew she would. That's why, she smirked, as the four assumed battle stances once again.

"This might just be fun..."

And so, the fight resumed.

Chapter Text

A timely explosion had saved the brown-haired girl in the nick of time.

"Ochaco-chan, you alright!?" Atsuhi exclaimed as she, Todoroki, and Kirishima ran over to help said girl out, while Bakugo landed beside her, looking on at the approaching hoard of robots.

Jeez, we were just fighting those things up until now, and now there's even more of them!?

With no room for complaint though, the former group of four, which was now up to five, began plowing their way through even more of the security machines as they tried to buy time for Midoriya and Melissa. Fortunately, according to Ochaco, the two successfully landed on the top floor. And now it was up to them to fix the security system and finally stop this madness.

Atsuhi, however, was facing a big problem. She was quickly becoming sloppier and sloppier with her movements, her attacks, her dodging. The female had dubbed the robots simple to beat. And she had been entirely correct. However, as simple as one robot might've been to put out of comssion, a couple dozen, maybe even hundred of them, had proven to be too much.

Now couple that with the earlier fight against actual villains and the many, many flights of stairs the four had had to climb up to reach this floor.

Atsuhi had long discarded her heels, however small they might've been, for if she hadn't, she would've surely already broken something by this point. That, however, was far from enough to make up for all her lost stamina. Not only was she getting sloppy due to lack of energy from the continuos use of her Quirk, her vision was slowly becoming blurrier, dark spots, which shouldn't have been there to begin with, obscuring the majority of it. Her breathing was heavy and her heartbeat was echoing off in her head.

A whirring sound from behind her alerted her to an approaching robot and she turned around to hit it. A movement a little too sharp for her exhausted state. With no time to react, her knees finally gave out, too tired to support the weight of her body any longer, and she neared the ground at an alrming rate, closing her eyes at the anxious anticipation of the impact – a feeling all too familiar to her by this point.

No sooner however, the robots around her were blown away, as someone grabbed a hold of her arms before she fell, steadying her in place, then helping her wrap her arms around their neck as they hoisted her up on their back.

I can't believe this is happening again...

As the spiky blond hair of her savior (for the second time that day) tickled her cheek, Atsuhi gripped Bakugo's shoulders tighter when he launched up with yet another explosion.

"You holdin' on tight?"

"Y-Yeah!"

"Good."

He landed swiftly, blasting away more of those robots that seemed to have no end to them. Atsuhi only looked on in both confusion and shock, while some guilt surged up within her. She had failed to even do something as basic as protecting herself twice already, both times having to rely on Bakugo's timely help.

"Bakugo-kun, you can just let me down, I'm alright, I'll-"

"Just tumble to the ground again? No need to lie about it. We've been fighting for a while-" He paused, grumbling as he fired off another explosion at a few more of the pesky machines. "It's only natural you're tired. I thought I told you to stop pretending you're alright when you clearly aren't." As he went quiet, Atsuhi looked down, realizing that he could still see right through her.

And yet, she was thankful – he was right. She probably couldn't fight anymore. At least for a few more minutes. If she were to try, she was sure to quickly need someone's help again. And who was to say that Bakugo would be conveniently close this time too.

"Moreover, I'd say I owe you."

"Huh...?"

"Next time you're using your Quirk on me in secret, at least try to remember that I can easily tell."

"E...Eh!?!? W-what do you mean, haha... When did I even-"

"The whole time."

"I-I..."

"Oh yeah? Looks like I was right."

Bakugo smirked and the fight continued.

You were, Bakugo-kun. You were right.

Of course you were. Why did I even think I can do something like this unnoticed, haha...

***

"You sure you're alright, Bakugo-kun?" Atsuhi cried, worry lacing her voice when the male landed back beside the rest of his classmates, after he had jumped up to help All Might. She had seen how his hand had twitched while he was still up in the air, and how his face had looked rather pained in that moment.

He only shrugged it off, already prepared to go off and hold back more of the chunks of metal flying about in the air. In the end, although the security system had been successfully restored, the fight had come down to a heated one-on-one battle between All Might and the villain that had taken over the building.

The students had arrived just on time to help the hero when he had needed it most. And now, he was preparing for his final punch – a powerful hit, reminiscent of the one he'd used to defeat that Nomu at USJ.

However, as the villain immobilized All might, Atsuhi could feel the dread quickly building up, heart sinking at the thought of where this was all going. Suddenly, it seemed like the students too were swiftly being overpowered and hope was quickly dwindling.

It's only after a quick blur of green whizzed past the students that Atsuhi realized maybe they hadn't lost quite yet. It was a sight to behold, that much was for certain.

As Midoriya and All Might, movements in sync as if they'd practiced this very attack dozens of times before, lunged at the villain, directing at him two powerful hits, which were then followed by a bright, even blinding, flash of light.

Perhaps she should've waited until after the smoke had cleared. In the end, however, Atsuhi knew before she even saw it, that they'd won the fight. She doubted anyone could've withstood a hit like that anyway.

As a pleasant mix of relief and happiness surged within her chest, her excitement couldn't remain hidden any longer.

They'd done it. Yet another unexpected attack. Yet another fight.

And they'd won!

She turned towards Bakugo, still standing beside her and letting her lean against him until she regained enough energy to stand up on her own. With a small giggle, she smiled victoriously, and as she opened her eyes she saw that he was grinning too.

***

"This is absolutely delicious!!!" Atsuhi practically squealed, the product of the group barbecue the class had organized, after they couldn't attend the banquet at the party, proving to be one of the best things she'd ever tasted in her entire life. She couldn't help but excitedly wave her hands around, a little embarrassed that she might even start crying over food.

"Why are you this excited about... barbecue!?" Bakugo couldn't even believe what he was seeing. And he had thought she was a normal person too. Oh, how wrong he had been...

"W-well!!" Atsuhi suddenly felt a little awkward, not wanting to come off as weird as she thought she might. "I mean, I live alone so I don't eat fancy stuff all that often!! Not only – this is so gooood!! Where has barbecue been my entire life!? Plus, it's-" She never got the chance to finish though, as Bakugo took her hand that she was still energetically waving about and brought it back down by her side (although, in the process he also 'forgot' to retract his own hand from on top of hers).

He grumbled and turned away, quite done with hearing about barbecue for the day. Atsuhi only laughed, finding his annoyed face more and more adorable with every passing day.

I'm glad I've got my awkwardness (somewhat) under control. If not, I'm sure yesterday would've been a total disaster.

When she had first realized her feelings, she had been too anxious to even speak properly in front of Bakugo. As time went on though, she kept thinking about it all. It had taken her a while. But in the end, she had realized there was no reason to feel any different than she had before.

Neither her, nor Bakugo had changed all that much. If anything, they've been slowly becoming ever closer since then.

Remembering the Ennichi Festival from a few months ago, she couldn't help but be envious of how oblivious she had been back then. If the same thing were to happen today, she wasn't sure her heart could even take it. Things were still the same as then. And yet they were very different.

That's just how love tended to be – very, very confusing. So she simply needed some time to figure out how this whole thing worked.

And in the meantime, she had realized one thing – right now, they were closer than they ever had been before. But if she really did like him, didn't that mean that she wanted them to be even closer?

Perhaps it did. And she knew exactly what was standing between them. It was a simple sentence. Just a handful of words. And a whole lot of braveness.

Maybe he didn't reciprocate her feelings? Maybe he only saw her as a friend, if even that at all? But how could she find out if she didn't try?

She was willing to take that risk.

For she knew, all that stood between them now was a confession.

Her confession.

***

She doesn't seem to have noticed yet...

Katsuki mused, realizing that Atsuhi had never once made a move to shake his hand off from on top of hers. Such an uncharacteristic move on his part. Had it been anyone else, he surely would've been screaming his lungs off, telling them to get their hands off him before he does anything to them.

And yet, here he was – doing something he never would've imagined in his life he would do. He still didn't know why he felt the need to leave his hand to linger there just a little longer. He felt better – it was reassuring, warm, pleasant. And that's all he wanted. It was enough for him to forget his grumpy nature for a second and just let it be.

Katsuki couldn't remember ever feeling this drawn to someone before. Sure, he'd had some friends – some better, some not. Hell, he even had a handful now. Just look at Kirishima!

And even still... it wasn't the same. Atsuhi was his friend. That was for certain. But he felt a little more than that. He wasn't stupid. He knew what 'love' was.

And he would've been lying if he said that he hadn't considered it even once.

But then, he could never understand. For a second, let's assume that Katsuki really did feel something for the blonde girl beside him. He certainly knew there would be many reasons why that might've happened. But it still sounded so impossible to him.

Beside, what even was the point? He was earnestly surprised to find people here who tolerated his presence, who enjoyed his company, who willingly spent their time around him.

But how lucky did he have to be to find among those people someone who could even come to like him. It was a scenario Katsuki could never imagine.

And although he knew what 'love' was, that was about as far as his knowledge in the matter went. He didn't know how to recognize it – neither in himself, nor in others.

He wasn't blind (unlike the girl that currently occupied his thoughts). He could see that Atsuhi was acting weirder and weirder around him. She had become more jumpy, anxious, awkward – for a while there he had been worried he's scared her off, made her afraid of him, despite having noticed himself that he had been on his best behavior (which, granted, still wasn't all that peaceful) around her lately.

It's only after catching sight of her red cheeks a couple of those times that he realized there was something else. And now he thought he might even know what that was.

Then again, what did he know? He had never had a queue of girls waiting just to swoon over him. For all he knew, he might've been completely misinterpreting the female's behavior. In any case, the way she'd been acting could've meant a dozen things before it had to be 'love'.

Just the thought made Katsuki snort. He wasn't the kind of person who envisioned himself in some happy and easy relationship. If that really had been the case, it would've been too good to be true.

He felt he didn't deserve it. He was rude, grumpy, angry – he knew. Not exactly the brightest flower in the bunch. He didn't even consider himself strong enough, not yet.

And yet here she was – cheerful, kind, patient. (And although he wouldn't quite admit it yet, he had thrown adjectives such as beautiful and cute around a few times.) She had been through so much, and yet she was always beaming with that bright smile of hers. Sometimes he thought she might be stronger than him.

In a way, they were complete opposites with one common goal – becoming heroes.

He knew he didn't deserve someone like that. That she deserved better.

He was certain she wanted someone better.

And despite all that – he still didn't know. Did he really feel something? Was he just deluding himself, imagining happiness that had never been there to begin with?

Bakugo Katsuki had no idea.

But he had already decided what to do.

If it were meant to be, it was going to happen. If he truly felt something, he'd realize it soon enough.

If she truly felt something back... Well, he didn't want to get his hopes up quite yet.

So for now, he could only wait. Let fate decide. Let it deal his hand. And let the game play out.

And only then would Katsuki truly know whether he could ever hope to win.

***

If it were up to her, Atsuhi knew she could wait years. She did not have years. She couldn't possibly waste so long worrying about something so simple, feeding empty hopes, only to have them die upon impact when they inevitably hit the ground.

It had to be sooner rather than later. Sometimes there was only one way to find out – and that was to just bite the bullet.

Of course, she knew she couldn't do it yet. Especially right now. But that was fine too. Because she knew exactly when she would.

It seemed like the perfect time. She was willing to risk ruining the day when the other possibility was for it to become the best day of her life.

If the only thing standing between the two of them was a confession, then she just had to confess.

She knew it might prove to be a failure. But she did not plan on letting that failure keep her down. She was going to do it, no matter what. She didn't think about what came afterwards, because that would surely be the easier part.

What more perfect time was there?

Saeki Atsuhi decided – on August 14th this year, her 16th birthday, during Training Camp, she was going to confess her feelings to Bakugo Katsuki.

And so – let the countdown begin.

•23 days remaining•

 

...

Link to Book Three!!

Chapter Text

Hey, everyone, just wanted to remind you all that the first chapter of book three is officially up and, as usual, I will be updating it weekly! You can easily find it on my profile (or by typing Explosive Touch Book 3, I guess) so I hope to see you there!