It was kinda scary how quickly the days could fly by. It felt like the End of Term Exams were only yesterday, yet more than a month had already gone by.
Needless to say, Atsuhi knew she was going to start panicking any moment now.
It was the last day before her birthday and, according to the little promise she had made to herself, also the last day before her confession. In the morning, she had been delighted to discover that even a single day of training later, she could already use her Quirk a meter or two farther than before. It wasn't much but it was worth all the running from the previous day.
Time continued ticking by and while she wasn't freaking out quite yet, she knew it was only a matter of time. Was it going to be during dinner? The test of courage they were supposed to have later that day? Or perhaps only once all was set and done and it was time to go to bed was she actually going to be consumed by all these anxieties?
Whenever it were to happen, Atsuhi knew that this crashing wave of worries and restlessness was going to leave her wishing she could just get it over with as soon as possible. She'd already made up her mind to ask the girls what they thought about organizing some fun activities for her birthday before they went to sleep that night too.
It was kinda funny – she was getting worried about when she was going to start getting worried. A little paradoxical, no?
Any time these thoughts found their way to the front of her mind again, she just shook her head and continued on, refusing to let herself be overcome by them so early. After all, when surrounded by so many people, it was easy enough to find someone to distract her long enough.
Which brings us to her current activity.
"Wow, Bakugo – you're like some pro with that knife!" Ochaco exclaimed, capturing the blonde girl's attention as she turned around to witness her classmate mercilessly chopping that poor carrot into pieces. Granted, chopping the carrot was what he was supposed to be doing.
But it looks so brutal...
Even still, she smiled.
"It was time for that side of him that’s good at everything to finally show up," she called back to the brunette, giggling at the glare sent her way by Bakugo himself. In the end though, she wasn't complaining – she'd forgotten what a perfectionist he was. Seeing him be surprisingly good at something much unlike the impression he often left was without fail a funny sight to behold.
Everything is so calm and peaceful... I'm sure that, if I had the courage, I could ask him to come over with me for a second and confess right here and now.
I know I can do it but... I...
It's no use... I'm already starting to get worried. I don't think I'd be able to properly put my thoughts into words yet anyway. I'll just screw everything up and never live it down.
I kinda doubt I'll get much sleep tonight anyway so might as well take that time to figure out what I'm even gonna say, huh? See, I never thought that’s something I’ll need to do until now.
Well, one thing's for certain – I don't care how worried I'm going to be – I will do it tomorrow.
Oh God, it's tomorrow.
That’s… too soon...
Some more cooking, the consumption of the world's greatest stew, and a little bit of dish-washing later, it was time for the first actually fun activity of Summer Camp (though you could argue that to be the Hot Springs, as long as you ignored Mineta's attempt to peep in on the girls...)
That's right – a test of courage!
Atsuhi waved the Remedial Group goodbye with a pitiful smile, well aware that those five might just have been the most enthusiastic bunch about this activity. Too bad they hadn’t even been allowed to participate, being dragged away to their Remedial Lessons instead.
Once Aizawa had finally taken all of them away, the girl turned to the blonde cat-inspired pro hero, who began explaining all the rules.
All in all, it sounded pretty simple – class B were scattered around the forest to scare first, class A was separated into groups of two, a new group going in every three minutes. The objective was for everyone to get their name cards and come out the other end.
There were also some technical points, like no touching on class B's side and Quirks allowed, but that was standard fare anyway.
"Atsuhi-chan!" exclaimed Toru, running up to Atsuhi and grabbing onto her arm as she began jumping up and down in her excitement. Which was the only real indication of what she was feeling beside her chipper voice, as she was kind of literally invisible. "Ah, I'm gonna feel so much safer with you here with me!" Atsuhi smiled back, though she was just about to argue that she didn't do all that well with horror either. Before she could though, she was interrupted.
"Atsuhi! Switch with half-'n-half," grumbled Bakugo from somewhere nearby, making Atsuhi turn to him only for her to realize he had been paired with the very person he couldn't stand.
Well... admittedly, there were a lot of people he couldn't stand. But Todoroki was quite high up on that list. In reality though, Atsuhi wasn't sure which one to pity more – one had to deal with a person he hated, and the other had to deal with a person that hated him. Tough situation.
"Come on, Bakugo-kun..." she began, hands up as if she were nearing a wild animal. Because Bakugo happened to act a lot like one sometimes. But if he were to be compared to a wild animal, then Atsuhi was surely that one and only human whom said animal trusted with its life. Ah, how cheesy. "We drew lots – you know we can't switch. But you'll just make it outta there in no time ad be done! If it helps, me and Toru-chan and going in right after you!"
Actually, if anything, Atsuhi hoped that Bakugo and Todoroki would somehow be able to scare the people trying to scare them, maybe giving Atsuhi an easier time walking through the dark and unfortunately not-so-empty forest. Of course, this all just wishful thinking on her part.
Wait, does Bakugo-kun even get scared at all!?
I'll... have to ask Todoroki-kun about it later, hehe!
Although it had taken some convincing, in the end no changes had been made to any of the groups (or poor Midoriya who had been left all by himself due to the odd number of students present) and one by one, the pairs proceeded into the forest.
Unfortunately for the two, Atsuhi and Toru were the first pair of girls to walk in, right after Shoji and Tokoyami, and Bakugo and Todoroki. The boys didn’t have a tendency to vocalize their fear all that much. Which meant they’d have no clue what to expect.
Well, I guess we'll give those after us a heads up on what's coming... Though at the cost of our own screams.
Before they knew it, six minutes had gone by and it was the two girls' turn to begin upon the dreaded route. Atsuhi quickly realized what a mistake this all was.
The two were trembling, looking around like crazy, jumping at the smallest noise or movement. It was kinda funny how easily scared they were, considering that they were heroes who had fought off villains more than once. Yet their biggest enemy yet was just a big dark forest.
"Kyaaaaaaaaahh!" Scare number one. And scream number one. Great.
G-gotta admit though, that girl from class B – I don't even know what her Quirk was, but that was terrifying! I didn't expect someone was going to pop up from the ground like that!!
I don't do well with horror! Why was I ever excited about this Test of Courage thing!?
"You think if we listen closely and look around… we'd be able to notice them before they scare us...?"
"God, I hope so. Good plan, Toru-chan. Let's try it out…"
And so, Atsuhi went quiet, eyes nervously darting back and forth, scanning every shadow, focusing on every tree, squinting at every leaf that swayed in the wind. She sharpened her hearing too, trying to listen for any suspicious sounds that were not their own footsteps. It didn't help that everything was dark and the girl's mind was playing tricks on her, making her believe every tree was a villain out to get her.
Training her Quirk? Screw that, she had to train to not get so damn scared all of the time!
They said we should be able to make the course within a few minutes... But we've been walking for a while and we aren't even at the halfway point yet. I guess we're just moving so slow because we're paranoid. We should try to speed it up a li-
....huh? Is it just me or... does the air seem kinda… wierd around here?
"Hey, Toru-chan, do you smell something burning...?" Atsuhi muttered, eyebrows furrowed in suspicion as her eyes scanned around once more, in search of any obvious signs of fire or smoke.
There were none though. No smoke, no fire and, most notably – no response.
"Toru-chan...?" Now Atsuhi was just straight-up panicking. She turned around, frantically looking for the girl she could swear had been right beside her just a second ago.
"Crap... Toru-chan!! Where are you!?" she called out, voice raising more and more with every following call, a sense of dread overcoming her as her heartbeat that echoed in her ears soon became as loud as her own voice.
"Come on, Toru-chan – where ar- brgh-" This time her desperate calls were cut short when a sharp burning feeling spread across her throat, causing her to let out multiple painful coughs, tears forming in the corners of her eyes at the stinging sensation that barely let her breathe. Only then did she notice the colored gas quickly spreading all around her.
Crap, what is this... It hurts...
If she had learned anything about weird gases those past few months, it was not to breathe them in at any cost. Atsuhi put a hand up in front of her mouth and nose, already knowing where the stinging sensation had come from. She was ready to book it. To go. To run. But-
I still don't know where Toru-chan is! If she's somewhere here, if she's already been affected by the gas- I can't just leave her here! What about everyone else!? Are they okay? I can't just-
It was then she got the push she needed. As her vision sharply blurred, the gas becoming thicker by the second, the girl knew she couldn't stay. She wanted to find everybody else. But she knew that if she did, she'd be the one who'd need finding when she inevitably blacked out no more than a minute later.
Instead, she grit her teeth, praying they would be okay.
I'm so, so, so sorry...
I... can't save anyone if I don't save myself here first...
God, I'm so sorry...
Toru-chan, everyone else – please be okay!!
With that, Atsuhi ran ahead. She didn't look back, not even once.
She knew that she had to get out of there as soon as possible. She didn't want to imagine what might happen otherwise.
Right now, there was no time to think about the questions. Why, when, who, and what.
Right now, there was only time to get away. And who knew if that time was even going to be enough.
She knew she might not make it. With every step she took, Atsuhi knew she had to take a breath any moment now.
But the gas just never ended. She might've been hallucinating, but she thought it was becoming thinner. Though that was not enough.
She'd been running for a while now, yet she was terrified upon realizing she hadn't run into anybody yet. Those three minutes between her and the two boys who'd gone before her? She was sure she must've made up for them long ago. Yet where were they!?
I... can't do this anymore...
Atsuhi didn't even feel her legs becoming jelly, movement slowing down, her "running" now akin to the speed of walking. Even worse, her hand had slipped away, her mind too oxygen-deprived to think before she soon began inhaling small and ragged breaths.
Soon enough, the stinging in her throat returned, alongside all the painful coughing and she knew she'd crumble to the ground any moment now. Yet even though she was so tired, ready to succumb to sleep, something quickly woke her up.
Before she could give up completely, a different hand took it upon itself to cover over her mouth and nose, and then an arm was placed around her waist, gripping her body tightly as its owner lifted her up in the air, never uttering a single word. Then again, perhaps that was because that person too was trying to hold in their breath, unlike the girl herself.
Upon realizing what was happening, Atsuhi began to struggle, waving her legs around, though they never actually connected with her captor's body. Instead the grip around her only tightened.
She needed to inhale. She needed to so bad. It hurt. She knew she might just lose consciousness any second now. Was that the person's goal? Why didn't they just leave her to the gas then...?
With her last remaining energy and consciousness, she raised a hand towards her face, desperately moving to remove the one covering her mouth. She heard a grumble, yet her attempts all remained futile, as the person didn’t budge and kept dragging her away.
It's... too late... Any second now and I'll...
The gas cleared.
Sure, it wasn’t completely gone. Even through her blurring vision, Atsuhi could still make out some of it hovering around. But she was sure she could breathe now. If only she had made it this far by herself, then maybe she could’ve-
As if on cue, the hand clamped tightly on her face was lifted, the person holding the girl quickly kneeling to the ground with her.
"Ah-" was all she could exclaim, her surprise soon forgotten as she dropped onto her knees and elbows, coughing hoarsely, regaining all the air that she'd needed. Beside her, her former captor took in a few deep breaths as well.
"It's clearer here. Still – try not to breathe in too much," the person spoke, as Atsuhi's eyes widened.
Taking in a few more deep breaths until her lungs stopped aching and the dark spots in her vision finally cleared, Atsuhi sat up again, looking to the side, only to confirm her realization.
"B-Bakugo-kun...!?" She looked at him wide-eyed. The boy only sighed, motioning for her to cover up her mouth again. As Atsuhi noticed Todoroki standing nearby as well, though he was carrying a boy from class B on his back, the ash blond spoke again.
"Sorry for scaring you like that, but God knows what would've happened if you'd breathed in any more of that shit. You already looked about ready to pass out." Atsuhi only nodded.
"Yeah... T-thank you. And… you're right – I almost did..." Then, upon recalling something else, she lowered her voice, hands clutching into fists atop her knees. "I... I also left Toru-chan behind. She just... disappeared at some point... I hope she's alright-"
"Look," Bakugo interrupted, placing a hand on the girl's shoulder. "We found you. Someone will probably find her too. Don't fret about it now." He gripped her arm, helping Atsuhi stand up until her shaky legs got used to it again, after which he let her go. The girl sighed, agreeing with the blond. Just as she was going to ask them what they were supposed to do now however, Mandalay's voice sounded in her head.
Huh? Is that her Telepathy Quirk…?
A quick glance at the two boys seemed to confirm, as they too furrowed their brows waiting for any further instructions.
We're under attack by two villains! There might be more out there! All those who can make it back to camp, go there immediately! If you encounter an enemy, do not engage! I repeat – do not engage, and retreat instead!
Atsuhi couldn't process what she was hearing
Attack...? Enemies...? Retreat?
Her shoulders slumped, eyes wide as the realization hit her, heart pounding loudly in her ears.
No way. This is... impossible. We... we should have been safe here.
This was supposed to be summer training camp.
It was supposed to be fun.
They shouldn't have been able to find us...
Not...not like this.
This wasn't how this was supposed to go.
None of this... Not so wrong...
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