"Where is Bakugo then?"
Those had been Uraraka's dreadful words that had sent the small group in a fit of panic, upon the untimely realization that the person they were supposed to be protecting was, in fact, now gone.
Gone and taken by a peculiar villain clad in a long orange coat, as black gloves covered his hands, and a mask obscured his face, his whole appearance reminiscent of that of a performer at a low-earning traveling circus.
More important than his attire however, were the three small spheres he held in his hands, twirling them between his fingers, his voice giving the impression he was smirking, even when his mouth was anything but visible.
"You kids have all your values chosen for you... All we want to do is to show him that there are other ways..." the villain spoke, all while dodging Todoroki's ice blast with ease. Meanwhile, Izuku could only stare at him, unable to utter a word through the shock he felt, nor move his body into action due to his numerous wounds.
"It's not just Bakugo... Tokoyami and Saeki are both gone too!" Shoji made the next scary realization, perhaps giving a clue as to what the three spheres in the villain's hand might have been.
"Those three were at the rear... And he took them without a sound," Todoroki mused, a cold bead of sweat running down the side of his head.
The ones at the back...?
No, why would they do that? If they were only after Kacchan...
Tokoyami-kun... and even Atsuhi-san – what do they want with those two!?
"Ah, I apologize but it's a bad habit of mine," the villain spoke again, earning himself five shocked glares. "I'm an entertainer at heart, you see."
He landed on a tree branch further away from the group, twirling the spheres between his gloved fingers a few more times, before hiding them in his closed fist.
"It is true that capturing Bakugo was our priority. Tokoyami on the other hand? That was just improvisation on my part. For him to take down Moonfish – you know, the old 'blade-tooth', a death row inmate, with such ease – that's one impressive Quirk! Ah, and that Saeki girl – just an added bonus! 'Try to capture her too, if you can' – those were Shigaraki's instructions. Among calling her an annoying brat for apparently burning his wrists."
Izuku's eyes were wider than they'd ever been before. No way what he was saying was true... No way they were going to lose them so quickly.
"We’re just taking her to, you know, make 'negotiations' a little easier on our side." Those were the last of the villain’s words Izuku could take before he snapped.
They're taking Atsuhi-san because of Kacchan-
"We won't let you have them!!!" he screamed, as if he could actually do something with his shattered arms and beat up body.
Another ice attack followed, the villain avoiding it yet again. He moved a hand to his ear and spoke in what must've been a communication device, announcing to the rest of the 'Vanguard Action Squad' ,as he had called it, that its mission had been accomplished.
No, no, no!!
There's no way...
There's no way we'll let these jerks get away!!
We're going to save them!!
But alas, fate had other plans.
Not letting them get away? Saving their friends?
Midoriya was the first of the three to fall, his injuries getting the better of him in the worst of times.
Now it was only Todoroki and Shoji reaching out to the three captured students.
Shoji was the first of the two to succeed, his strong hand grasping the sphere closest to him, as he too fell to the ground soon after. Now the captured were down to two.
Next was Todoroki, his goal a mere stretch of his hand away.
Yet, it was as if the two slipped right past his fingertips, instead snatched away by the black-haired and covered in burns Dabi, who smirked victoriously back at the boy.
Moments after this, Atsuhi's senses and awareness began returning at last.
First, she felt the nothingness beneath her feet, as her body materialized in the air, the ground left a little ways below.
Next, she saw the horrified faces looking towards her, eyes full of fear and regret, yet bodies unable to move. Soon enough, she felt a few presences beside and behind her, while her peripheral vision saw nothing but a swirling black mass, ready to swallow her whole.
This all happened in a single short second, which moved in slow motion, along with her wild thoughts, quickly helping her piece together the identity of the presences around her – the villains who'd attacked them, and the black mass that surrounded her, more accurately described as the same teleportation Quirk they'd first witnessed during the incident at USJ.
The very same short second continued with a hard push connecting with her side, as her body moved from the force, now falling not backwards, but towards the ground instead – away from the portal opened behind her.
And then, the slow motion was suddenly cut short.
Instead, everything returned to real time, when a hand locked its tight grip upon her upper arm, long before she could fall.
"Not so fast," the black-haired villain smirked, his smooth voice oozing the satisfaction of victory. The grip around Atsuhi's arm tightened and he pulled her up, holding her with one hand, while his other hand had taken hold of a certain ash blond's throat.
A certain ash blond by the name of Bakugo, who might have sported the most regretful eyes of the entire bunch, and whose arm was raised with his elbow out, as if he'd just tried shoving somebody away. As if he'd just tried shoving Atsuhi away.
Soon enough, the world faded once again, this time enveloped by an ever-encompassing black, as Atsuhi's mind finally managed to form even a single coherent thought.
Yet this time, the dark only lasted for a short while, first shaken away by a dull pain and a thud that echoed around a small and stuffy room.
Atsuhi's body hit the ground, her back pressing up against something warm and soft, the gears in her mind quickly turning and making her conclude she had tumbled down beside Bakugo from the portal up above.
Blinking a few times, she noticed the villains landing in the small room (a lot more gracefully than she had), and moving to surround the two. Her head turned, eyes shooting to look at Bakugo, whose crimson orbs had turned towards her too, their gazes meeting as they nodded at each other.
I think I know what's happening right now...
Why am I here too though...? I... honestly wish I could know.
For now however, this is the best option – if Bakugo-kun isn't by himself, there might be a chance for escape...
I couldn't protect him while we were still in the forest.. I have to make it up to him somehow now!
In the blink of an eye, the two were up on their feet and standing back to back, battle poses at the ready, as the villains looked at them cautiously, though they too remained unmoving.
The small noises of explosions, coming from somewhere behind her, were all Atsuhi needed to know Bakugo was already long prepared to use his Quirk, her own hands rising as she prepared to activate her own ability too.
"What do you think you're doing...?" Those were the first words spoken to break the silence which had befallen the villain's hideout. Their blue-haired leader – Shigaraki Tomura, stood still, his face once again covered by a hand, unlike the last time Atsuhi had had the misfortune of encountering him at the shopping mall.
Only now did she realize the words he had said back then – 'We'll see each other very soon.’ were meant more literally than she'd ever wanted to believe.
"I don't know what the hell it is you want," Bakugo began, his voice making it sound like he was grinning through his nervousness, though Atsuhi knew he must've been just as afraid as she was. "But you can be damn sure you ain't gonna get it!!" he raised his voice – an action more than enough to act as the signal the girl had been waiting for.
Even in a situation like this... I still trust Bakugo-kun's calls, huh...?
As if in sync, the two moved in to attack, Atsuhi's ears soon tuning out the sound of the constant explosions behind her. She made a swift dash towards the two opponents in her field of view, ducking to confuse them, before grabbing the arm of the green-skinned, lizard-like masked villain, and using her Quirk on him until he began squirming.
She shoved his body (much bigger than her own) to the side with all the strength she could muster, just in time to duck and avoid the blade thrust her away by the fellow blonde high-school girl with messy buns and a big grin on her face.
When the villain moved to retrieve her knife, Atsuhi hopped back up and gripped her wrist, keeping both it and the knife away, while her other arm went to grab her shoulder and push her opponent back before she could do any real damage.
She would've used her Quirk on her too, if it weren't for the deranged girl jumping back and keeping her distance upon realizing she didn't want to meet the same fate as her fellow villain, still lying on the ground and only barely lifting up an arm to push himself upright again.
Now's my chance – Bakugo-kun!!
She took her attention off the two villains for only a second, eyes frantically scanning for the ash blond whose explosions still resounded across the room.
While those two are down – I need to help him on his side too! At this rate, we might even be able to really esca-
A situation all too familiar.
Atsuhi's heart began beating faster and faster, her mind running wild, yet no thoughts really forming.
She stood frozen still, a single hand placed upon the top of her head, soon followed by another hand finding its place on her trembling shoulder.
Bakugo must have noticed the sudden lack of movement in his peripheral vision, as his attacks also ceased. His body mirrored that of Atsuhi by freezing in place at first, though only taking a second or so to compose himself and hide his panicked expression.
No, no, no…!!
I... got caught so easily...
I'm... I'm so...
"That's right," Shigaraki spoke, interrupting the silence that had once again settled in, once Bakugo's explosions had come to an end. "It's the end of the tutorial level – now the real game begins."
Atsuhi was sure she would've long crumbled to the ground, her shaking legs refusing to support her body any longer. Yet the adrenaline running through her body gave her the strength she needed to listen to her self-preservation instincts and stay right where she was, in fear that the smallest of movements might cause her captor to harm her in the blink of an eye. An action she knew he was all too capable of.
An action she knew he had every reason to take, if the burn marks in the shape of slender fingers wrapped around his right wrist were anything to go by.
"Now, lower your hands," Shigaraki commanded, and though Bakugo glared at him, he knew he had no choice but to comply, balling his hands into fists by his sides. Shigaraki seemed to smirk in satisfaction, despite the disembodied hand still obscuring his whole expression.
"Ah, looks like we were right," he muttered, as his grip around Atsuhi's shoulder tightened, yet one finger still remained up in the air.
Right... about what?
Does he mean that Bakugo-kun listened to him...?
"Just like that," he began again. "You keep listening to me."
The boy's glare only hardened, yet he made no move to oppose the villain, shooting a brief glance at Atsuhi, as both stood face to face, yet unable to move even to the door just a small leap away from them.
The girl gulped, gritting her teeth, as her brows furrowed in frustration, and she spoke in a small voice.
"Bakugo-kun... I'm... I'm so sorry-"
"Now, now!" Yet the voice beside her started up again, startling her and cutting her words off far too quickly. "You two are our honorable guests!"
He moved a single step forward, his tight grip forcing Atsuhi to move with him, as her heart almost leaped out of her chest any time one of Shigaraki's lifted fingers even so much as barely brushed against her hair or shoulder.
"We have to make sure you settle in accordingly..."
"It seems we can assume the villains occupy more than a single hideout," the black-haired police officer, Tsukauchi, announced in front of the multitude of impressive pro heroes gathered all around him. "That being said, we'll be sending the bulk of our personnel to the location of the abducted students. Retrieving the hostages is our top priority!"
Ryuu Saeki took deep breaths to calm his racing heart, as his dark green eyes scanned around the room and spent a brief second on the face of each and every high-ranked hero and member of the police force that surrounded him.
Why was his heart beating so fast though?
Under any other circumstances, he was absolutely sure it would've been an obvious answer – he was standing in the presence of many heroes he'd admired even through his own career, now breathing the same air as him, and, even more so – about to work on the same operation with him.
Yet today, that was no cause for celebration. Today was not the day that he had dreamed of.
It was a day he never realized might come. A day he wasn't yet prepared for.
Today, his heart beat out of nothing but concern.
A set of heavy footsteps soon approached him, the looming frame of All Might coming into view. Ryuu wanted to do something – to express his gratitude, his admiration, even squeal like a little child meeting its life-long idol. But of course, he couldn't bring himself to do it.
All Might cleared his throat and spoke, his voice much lower and more serious than normal, a dire face concealing his iconic smile.
"Lava Floor, as a fellow hero, I want to thank you – for your understanding and for your decision to take part in this rescue operation," he began, Ryuu's eyes widening in their lack of ability to comprehend that he had just received words of gratitude from the number one hero. "I also want to apologize – from my own name, but from that of Eraser Head and UA, too. What happened is unforgivable. Yet I hope you find it in you to forgive us."
All Might straightened his muscular arms by his side, bending his body down in a deep bow, earning himself and Ryuu the shocked stares of a handful witnesses, yet attracting many more that looked on at his actions in sympathy.
"Thank you, I..." Ryuu began, unsure of what to say. "But… there really is no need to bow, nor tp apologize..." At that, All Might finally lifted up his head, which was then followed by the rest of his torso, as he now towered above Lava Floor once more.
"This is something I would've done regardless if you'd asked me to or not. I simply cannot stay still. It's my daughter and her friend we're talking about here!" Ryuu spoke, a tired smile on his face, one that still expressed the worry he felt, while also giving light to the gleam of hope still shining in his heart. All Might gave a weary chuckle too, putting a hand on the brown-haired man's shoulder.
"Just like Young Saeki, you also smile and try to assure others too! It's good to see where she's picked up that habit from! Like father, like daughter," All Might's voice boomed, lifting up the heavy atmosphere, if only by a little.
They exchanged a few more words, geared closer towards strategy this time, and All Might was once again on his way, moving to talk to a short elderly hero in the room, unknown even to Lava Floor himself, yet enlisted to help with the rescue operation nonetheless.
Then again, I doubt many in this room know who I am either...
They're sending all their top forces here, and somehow I'm a part of it all too.
Ryuu lowered his head, closing his eyes and furrowing his brows, hoping to stop the wild and heart-wrenching scenarios from running through his mind.
Agh, that's just unbearable.
I feel so hopeless.
If it were my call, I'd storm this place right this instant and run to get her and give her a big tight hug right now!
But... I can't do that. I can't do it as things are right now, let alone if I were by myself.
Please... I pray to anyone who'd listen – I would give everything, everything I have!
Just make sure Atsuhi is safe and sound...
That's all I ask for.
Return my daughter to me alive.
Please... I beg of you!
And Atsuhi – I'm so, so sorry.
I wish that there was something I could've done. But in the end, there wasn't.
All I can promise right now, is that I'm not going to lose you too.
I couldn't save your mother. Please, at least allow me to save you.
I cannot live if I lose you as well.
The girl's eyes watched Bakugo, who sat in a big and undoubtedly very uncomfortable chair he was strapped to with all kinds of different restraints. His head hung low, that spiky ash blond hair of his obscuring the view of his face.
But even still, Atsuhi could tell he had his eyes pointed at the floor, glaring at the surface beneath his feet, knowing he was helpless.
And Bakugo Katsuki hated feeling helpless.
Every once in a while, he'd lift his head, either to point his glare at one of the villains all around him, or to take a second to check up on Atsuhi herself. It was in one of those brief moments that the girl caught a proper glimpse of his crimson eyes, only to again take notice that no matter how he tried to give himself the tough appearance and bear it all in silence, he too was afraid.
Of course, that's only normal...
It was supposed to be just Training Camp, some fun, a Test of Courage and whatnot.
How did we end up here in the first place...?
I... I was going to do it today...
I was going to tell him everything...
I don't even know what time it is anymore.
It feels like we've been here for hours, so it surely must be the next day already.
Which means it's... it's my...
No, no, no! Not like that, Atsuhi!
It's fine! You said you were gonna do it and you will!
But not here, not like this. We're both making it out of here as soon as possible.
The moment we're safe, the moment we're out of harm's way – that's when I'll do it.
It... has to be today...
She shook her head, shutting her eyes tight to shake off any more unpleasant thoughts.
Her heart was thumping and her hands were shaking.
So far, it seems like they want to convince Bakugo-kun to join them... But there's no way I'm here for the same reason.
Atsuhi knew something wasn't right. Not only was she never even mentioned as one of the villains' targets, but, unlike Bakugo, she got a slightly different treatment.
She sat on the floor, legs up against her body, as her back leaned on the bar, facing the ash blond himself, with just a few short meters of distance between them.
Her legs were free, but her hands were tied up tightly, her binds sure to leave bruise marks if she ever took them off at all. And though restrained, she was sure that she could use her Quirk if she ever wanted to.
That's when the fellow high-school girl leaning up against her came in. Toga, as Atsuhi had heard the rest referring to her as, hung on the strawberry blonde's back, arms draping around her shoulders, as if she were merely giving her a hug.
Of course, that's not what she's doing.
She's here to make sure that I don't escape or use my Quirk on anyone again.
Even though I can still use my Quirk on two of them, I... I can't....
Because unlike Bakugo-kun, I don't really think they need me alive.
Unlike him, they'll probably kill me if I tried something funny.
I... I have no choice but to comply...
It's so... so frustrating...
"Now that you're all settled in, it's time to get down to business," Shigaraki began, only earning himself a sharp glare from Bakugo. Of course, the villain merely shrugged it off and continued his speech from the bar stool where he sat right between the two abducted students. "Bakugo Katsuki – wanna join me?"
A heavy silence fell upon the room, only broken by the muffled sound of traffic somewhere far outside. Both students knew what it was the villains wanted. And now that it all was out in the open, Bakugo smirked, yet unable to hide the bead of sweat running down the side of his head.
"You can shove that offer up your ass, and go to hell!"
Atsuhi wanted to ask him what he was even thinking saying something like this, she wanted to talk to him, maybe tell him to be cautious, maybe encourage him to mind his words. But the less attention she drew to herself, the better. Instead, she remained sitting on the ground with her concerns unvoiced.
This time around, the room was engulfed in silence very briefly (though the lack of movement or response from Shigaraki was certainly unnerving), before the sound of squeaking from the only occupied bar stool resounded, followed by the dauntingly slow footsteps of the League of Villain's leader.
Bakugo's eyes suddenly widened in concern, following Shigaraki's movements, as he turned his back to him and walked towards the ash blond's fellow classmate. Only now did Atsuhi realize things weren't looking good.
"Oi, oi, oi – what the hell do you think you're-"
"Ah, so now you start to pay attention?" Shigaraki interrupted Bakugo's frustrated words, turning to supposedly look at him (only a single bright red eye peeking through the fingers of the hand covering his face), before motioning for Toga to move out the way, the girl complying with a sour pout.
By this point, Atsuhi's heart had begun beating so loud, it drowned out any other sound around her, and she knew that if she were to try and speak, her racing worries wouldn't let her form a single word.
Shigaraki moved at an agonizingly slow rate, or at least that's how it felt like to the two students trembling in fear of his next move – an effect he seemed to be all too pleased to have on them. He knelt beside Atsuhi, making her head spin in worry when he moved his hands and slowly reached for her restraints.
Bakugo looked ready to jump up and the drag the chair he had been strapped to with him, if only to stop Shigaraki before he made another move. However, he probably knew that was perhaps more dangerous than simply observing his actions – for all he knew, Shigaraki wasn't planning on doing the girl any harm just yet. An intention that might just change as soon as the ash blond tried to make a move. Instead, Bakugo bared his teeth and made an almost inaudible growling noise. He could only hope it was the former.
Atsuhi, on the other hand, was frozen still, wide eyes tracing every movement of the villain's hands. She watched him grasp the rope tightly wrapped and tied around her wrists, closing his grip on it one finger at a time.
"The least you could've done is hear me out," he mumbled, his tone carrying a faked hint of hurt, but also ringing with the authority of someone who knew they'd get what they wanted one way or another. Finally, when all five of Shigaraki's fingers were wrapped around the rope, a quiet cackle sound resounded from it, and it crumbled to dust on the floor.
He... he decayed the rope...?
Atsuhi's heart had quieted down and now she felt much more aware of her surroundings. Though her hands were free, she didn't dare to move them yet, the villain's hand still lingering barely above her own. Instead, she gulped, and sat obediently still.
Is this it?
Was this all he wanted to do?
"I knew it would probably come to this." And with that, the girl's question had received its answer. Shigaraki moved again, four fingers wrapping around Atsuhi's trembling hand. Thus, the girl's frantic heartbeat accelerated once again.
"Oi, you bastard, stop-"
"Good thing we didn't bring you here alone," Shigaraki interrupted once again. Bakugo, on the other hand, didn't sit still anymore, pulling at his own restraints with all his might, though his attempts remained as futile as his calls.
The room wasn't silent anymore. And everything was moving way too quickly for Atsuhi’s mind to process.
Tightening the grip he had on her hand, Shigaraki pulled on it, making the girl raise her hand on his unspoken command, while the villain's other hand had moved to wrap itself around the girl's right wrist too.
Atsuhi could tell that there were tears forming at the corners of her eyes, watching on in ever-increasing horror, as the villain moved his fingers further down her hands, now touching not her wrists, but her palms instead.
Suddenly, the fifth one made a move as well.
The girl had no time to think at all.
Because the moment she had seen his final finger move, it was already far too late.
A second later, he still held her hands, fingers laying on her palms.
"STOP-" But Bakugo had been too late as well.
A piercing scream echoed through the small room.
•2 ̷̶3͘ ͞H͟o̷̶u̶̧͘r̡͠s̷̵͘ ͝͏͏I͏n̷͏•̸̶͠