"Um... Pardon the intrusion, doctor," a small voice said, as the slender frame of a young but unfamiliar nurse peeked through the door of the hospital room. "But it looks like Saeki has some visitors." At the surprised looks she received from the two people in the room, she quickly spoke up again. "I can tell them to wait a little if you haven't finished yet, don't worry!!"
"No, it's alright," responded the middle-aged woman from inside the room. She'd already recognized that this nurse must've still been a little new to the job, as told by her lack of decisiveness and anxious voice. "Rehabilitation's done for the day – we just ended up running a little overtime." The woman turned to Atsuhi, who sat at the edge of her bed and watched the exchange with curious and perhaps a little excited eyes, and smiled at the girl. "I'll see you again tomorrow, yeah?"
Atsuhi finally shook off her confusion, and nodded back with a smile.
"See you tomorrow, doctor!" The girl waved at the woman, until the latter disappeared into the hallway, followed by the young nurse, who likely went to call in the visitors.
Atsuhi thought herself lucky to have such a kind and understanding doctor taking care of her and her rehabilitation. After a surgery when she was first brought in mere hours after the incident at Kamino, and the daily visits and healing sessions with Recovery Girl, she was finally recovering for real.
Of course, that was only the beginning. The amount of care she'd have to take not to damage the wounds any further, the pain that would serve to remind her of that night, even the limits this put on her Quirk. It was all effects she'd have no choice but to confront.
For a few days now, she'd received a visit from her doctor every day for an hour or two, deemed to essentially act as rehabilitation.
It was... a little embarrassing.
She'd had to do so many basic tasks, as if she were a small child learning things for the first time. But it was inevitable.
It had taken her half an hour to even figure out how to clench her fist without whimpering out loud. Not to mention gripping utensils she'd need to eat, or writing with a pen.
Sure, with every day the pain became less and less noticeable but... it was still there.
She was broken out of her thoughts when the muffled sound of talking from somewhere beyond the closed door to her room reached her ears. She could definitely discern the voice of the young nurse, though the words were impossible to understand, along with at least one or two more voices, perhaps (but not definitely) male.
However, she didn't have to wait all that long to figure it out.
Soon enough, the door that had blocked those voices was slowly slid open, and in poked his head a young boy with bright red hair, sticking upwards as if it had taken 20 minutes just to style it that way, and two small red eyes scanned the inside of the room.
Atsuhi was excited to hear she had visitors! Sure, there was her dad, who swung by every day, and all the nurses and doctors taking care of her happened to be especially kind! But... she wanted to see the rest of her friends so badly.
Now, seeing Kirishima, Atsuhi wasn't exactly sure what to expect. But that was certainly not the sight of said boy giving her a toothy grin, and then turning to nod at somebody behind him, before a whopping 17 more people walked into the room. Good thing it was a big hospital with spacious rooms.
Suddenly, the sound of shuffling and overlapping footsteps that had filled the air until everyone had walked in, stopped, and the room was engulfed in silence once again, as nobody seemed to know what to say or how to begin.
Atsuhi stared with her mouth agape for a few seconds, until she forced a small sentence out. Someone had to start, after all.
"H-Hi, everyone..." She then smiled and waved with one of her still bandaged hands. Though it looks like that was enough.
Not even a moment later, two arms wrapped around her and tightened their hold, as if she'd slip away if they were to let go. In the position they were in, Atsuhi could only make out the pink fluff on the person's head, but that was enough of a clue. She immediately hugged back, grip just as tight, and snuggled against Mina's shoulder, croaking open an eye to find a few more of the girls huddled around them too.
"I-I..." Mina began, imitating a sob (at least, Atsuhi hoped she was imitating). "I was so worried, Atsuhi!!!" She raised her voice, probably a little louder than she should've, considering that they were in a hospital, but Atsuhi just laughed a little at her over-exaggerated antics, patting her back, while she also realized how similar this whole scenario was to what had happened upon her walking into the classroom after the fight with the Hero Killer. Of course, the circumstances were a little different this time around.
Mina gave her another tight squeeze, and Atsuhi was about to call out to the girl and warn her that she couldn't quite breathe right now, but she was released just in time, only to follow Mina's swift movements with curious eyes, as she bent down to get something she must've dropped on the ground before giving that bear hug of hers. And before Atsuhi could even assure her that she was alright (and probably receive a few somewhat suspicious looks considering the fact that she hadn't even been released from the hospital yet), a colorful pattern invaded her entire vision.
"E-eh!?" she squeaked out in surprise, leaning back as a reflex. Upon noticing this, Mina pulled the object she'd shoved in the girl's face back a little, only now making her realize it was a gift bag, with a beautiful pastel pattern of birthday cakes, confetti, and neatly packaged presents. "W-what's this...?" Atsuhi asked, a little hesitant at the intense expression on Mina's face.
"Cards. And presents," she said sternly, but she couldn't help the smile that immediately lit up her face right after.
"We didn't really get to celebrate your birthday, you know..." Kirishima let out an awkward laugh, making Atsuhi look at the rest of the class too, as she just now noticed the smiles on everybody's faces.
That day was my birthday...
She slowly took the bag from Mina's hands and peeked inside. Her eyes widened upon noticing the multitude of birthday cards, some put in envelopes, some not, a few looked homemade, and one was even decorated with all sorts of stickers and fun magazine cutouts. A couple were attached to small boxes that certainly didn't look empty, and not to mention all the other presents that were inside the bag, all wrapped in different packaging, with pretty bows on top, and different variations of 'Happy Birthday, Atsuhi!' written on them.
The room was engulfed in silence once again.
While her classmates anxiously awaited her reaction, Atsuhi remained unmoving for a few short moments, before she inhaled sharply and a small tear rolled down her cheek.
"A-Atsuhi-chan...?" Kaminari exclaimed, sounding a little confused and worried, but didn't move, and instead only watched as more and more tears slowly spilled from the girl's eyes.
Noticing her classmates' stares (all varying in emotion), Atsuhi suddenly shook her head and went to wipe her tears, managing to talk with a shaky voice.
"N-no, I'm fine, I'm fine!! I... I just... didn't expect this... Thank you..." At the last two words, her voice cracked, and in the blink of an eye, Mina was back at her side, patting her back between her soft laughs, as Atsuhi let out quiet sobs in her futile attempts to stop her tears.
"You know, Atsuhi-chan! We really ought to celebrate properly!" Mina began, the heavy atmosphere in the room long gone now, as everybody watched on with small smiles on their faces. "How about making a giant belated birthday cake once we move into the dorms, huh?" she proposed, smile stretching so wide, she had to close her eyes. Atsuhi lifted up her head to look at her, and her lips curled in return.
"Mhm!" she nodded, not even speaking proper words, since she knew they'd come out choppy, interrupted by her sobs.
This sudden visit continued for another hour or so, complete with everyone exchanging exaggerated stories on what they had to do to make their parents agree to allow them to move into UA's new dorms, which they implemented now to supposedly help keep and eye out on the students and make sure they stay out of harm's way.
Soon, people had to leave one by one, and when the group was down to less than ten, the young nurse from earlier swung by and announced that visiting time was over, and they had to go too.
A few teary and dramatic goodbyes later (since they were going to see each other again in just a few days, after all), everyone was ready to leave. One by one, they all walked out the door, waving Atsuhi goodbye, and then went their separate ways.
All the while, not one had thought to address the elephant in the room. Or perhaps, they had collectively decided it was something they shouldn't have addressed.
A decision that was thrown out the window when a single person lingered in the room, stopping right at the door, and casting a single guilty look back at Atsuhi. She titled her head in confusion.
"Everything alright, Midoriya-kun...?" Though it was as if the second she asked, she suddenly realized what the answer was.
Ah, that's right. Since Katsuki-kun never came, I guess he has something to say about it...
He was smiling with everybody else earlier too... But now he looks so guilty...
"Hey, look, Midoriya-kun. If you plan to apologize in his stead, there's no need – it's not your fault. At all. You can't control it," she said, but the boy didn't look convinced. Instead, he looked to the ground and sighed.
"Even still. I'm sorry, Atsuhi-san. I'm sorry for not being able to save you on time, but also for the way Kacchan's acting." He didn't give her time to respond, leaving immediately afterwards.
Atsuhi was left to only stare at the closed door.
Perhaps she hoped he was going to open it any moment now. Tell her that he was waiting for all the 'extras' to leave so they could speak alone. Maybe give her an answer, or even pretend her confession had never happened. As long as he was here with her, she didn't mind either way.
So then... why?
But the door never opened. He never walked in. He never came.
Atsuhi sank back in her bed, staring this time at the ceiling. Not long after, the bright white felt too much for her eyes to handle, so she closed them, trying to fight off the anxious thoughts running through her mind.
And in a futile attempt to stop the tears from falling once again, she covered her eyes with her arm.
Not that it was any help.
A few days had passed like no time at all. The sun was high up in the sky, indicating that it was almost noon already. The weather wasn't as hot as one would expect since the summer was quickly coming to an end, and the new semester of school was about to begin in just a couple of days.
Not too long ago, the mood had been hyper, and everyone was excitedly exploring the new building they'd have to start calling home. The Height Alliance, or, in other words, UA's new dorms.
And yet now, as she stood in the middle of the bare room with only some basic furniture and her unopened boxes of belongings, Atsuhi couldn't feel this excitement.
This feels like a dream. We're practically living at UA!
So... why can't I feel as happy as I want to be...?
She frowned and looked at her feet. Of course she knew why. But she didn't want to admit it.
Now's not the time to sulk. I need to get this room ready by tonight.
Atsuhi scanned the room, counting the number of boxes to figure out how long she might need to unpack them all. The thought of starting with the small ones first crossed her mind, and she nodded to herself, moving to lift one of the cardboard boxes with the label 'clothes' up on the dresser, being careful to apply most of the pressure to her fingers, as opposed to the palms of her hands, which were still wrapped in bandages, and were likely going to stay this way for at least a few more days.
Upon opening the box however, she was greeted with the sight of a familiar pattern she recognized as that of one of her yukatas.
It's the one I wore at the Ennichi Festival...
She smiled, remembering the great time they'd had back then. It had been the perfect way to relax and forget about the villain attack at USJ that had taken place a few days prior. Back then, things had been so simple.
No confusing feelings, no plans for confessions, none of that. She wished they could have a fun time like that again soon.
And then her smile slowly turned into a frown, as her brows furrowed with it.
Because... Katsuki-kun seems to be avoiding me...
Before we went in, he'd always look away whenever I glanced at him. He didn't even try and talk to me.
And... I was too worried to approach him either...
I'm... such an idiot...
Without thinking much, she turned her head to look out the door and down the hall.
Sure, it was on the other side of it and there was no way it was going to be visible from here... but she knew his room was on the same floor...
Had she been left like this, she would've sunk deeper and deeper into her depressing thoughts.
Fortunately, not long after she looked back at the box in front of her and returned to sorting through her clothes, there was a knock on her (still open) door.
Jumping in surprise at first, Atsuhi quickly composed herself, and turned around to see Kirishima leaning on the doorway, a headband keeping his spiky red hair out of his face, as he flashed a toothy grin.
"Yo! Thought you wouldn't mind the help!" he said, not walking in quite yet. Atsuhi remained silent for a second, then waved her hand dismissively and smiled back.
"Thanks for the offer, Kirishima-kun! But it's fine – I can do this by myself, and you need to set up your room too anyway!" The boy made an exaggerated pout.
"Aw, come on, it's fine. We'll be done here quickly and I'll fix up my room afterwards. Plus, you're probably still healing – let me help, as a friend, you know?" He smiled again.
When you put it like that...
Atsuhi sighed, aware that she had been won over too easily. At least he wanted to do this of his own accord, and not out of guilt or something. She invited him in, and pointed out the heavier boxes in the bunch, asking him to help her lift those up and put away the stuff in them.
After that, the two got to work and the room was filled only with the sounds of shuffling and moving cardboard. In other words, it was engulfed in silence.
But... it was the kind of silence that indicated someone had a question they were dying to ask.
Sure enough, just a few minutes later, Kirishima spoke.
"So, um... What's... up with Bakugo...?" he asked, though he sounded unsure, as if he'd been debating with himself whether he should even bring up the topic in the first place. Atsuhi hesitated with her response.
"Honestly...? I-I don't know," she said, voice quiet and barely audible, causing Kirishima to stop moving boxes in order to hear her. Good thing they'd closed the door though. Atsuhi sighed. "But I should talk to him and find out. It's driving me crazy."
"Well… I could talk to him for you, if you'd like?" Kirishima offered, looking at her expectedly. But the girl glanced down at her feet, shaking her head.
"Thank you but... it's between me and him. Even though I don't know what it is that's between us. I have to figure this out. And I will."
After that, Kirishima tried to lighten up the atmosphere again, and the two continued their previous work engulfed in small talk and laughs.
Before they knew it, the room was all set (except for a few things Atsuhi was fine with on her own), much like the boy had said. There were still a few hours of the evening left, and Atsuhi had no doubts everyone was going to get together and hang out a little longer. She'd heard the girls mention something about a room contest earlier too.
But she was way too tired for that, likely a combination of her injuries, the long and exciting day, and the physical labor that had been putting this room together. All in all, she had no plans of wasting any more energy.
She knew it was still early (a fact that reminded her how early Katsuki liked to go to bed, which then only served to make her feel even worse upon reminding her of the problem between the two she'd have to deal with soon), but she went to bed anyway.
It felt like the world was against her though. Suddenly, a sharp pain in her hands made her flinch and gasp out loud, as she clutched them beside her chest.
She knew this was supposed to happen from time to time.
Her injuries were still healing and she was the one dumb enough to decide to return to UA despite that. She was simply paying the price for it. She knew she'd get used to the pain soon enough anyway. She just hoped it wasn't going to continue for too long.
Her mind was once again plagued by her anxieties upon the thought that something must've happened for Katsuki to act the way he did.
That night, she had a hard time falling asleep.
"Her Quirk seems to have adapted to the injuries and still works despite them. But applying a lot of pressure or exposing them to abnormal temperatures will surely upset them," the doctor explained, while the three other people in the room – Atsuhi, her father, and Aizawa, listened and nodded along. Despite what the doctor was saying, it almost sounded as if Atsuhi had lost a majority of the use of her Quirk. That's when her father chimed in.
"We have been thinking... Considering the Quirks of me and my wife, Atsuhi has inherited a combination of the two. Because of this, we're inclined to believe that her hands might not be the only way for her to use her Quirk. Mine activates through my feet. Perhaps it's possible for Atsuhi to have inherited that aspect of it too."
Shaking away the memory, Atsuhi continued staring hard at her personally assigned clone of Ectoplasm (he had enough for each of her classmates too), while she focused on her Quirk.
In order to get out Provisional Licenses, we first need to come up with two ultimate moves, which we have ten days to do. It's... manageable, at best.
"You should request some adjustments to your costume, so you don't go around barefoot in a battle," Ectoplasm suggested, looking at Atsuhi's bare feet on the cold cement.
"If this works, I definitely will," she responded, and focused back on the task at hand. Which was simple in theory, and way too difficult in practice.
If what Dad said turns out to be true, I should be able to activate my Quirk with my feet, just like he does.
But... how am I supposed to do this!?
It seems like she couldn't concentrate enough though, since the moment she glimpsed some golden blond hair in the distance, all her attention suddenly turned to All Might. Or, the more skeletal looking version of him that he had revealed during his fight with the black-clad villain with the mask that had wreaked Kamino Ward. Not that she'd been awake to see it. But she had watched a dozen different recordings of it, be it online, or on the TV.
I didn't even notice him come in...! Then again, I probably would've taken a while to recognize him anyway...
Before Atsuhi could return to her training however, All Might headed her away and stopped between her and the Ectoplasm clone.
"Young Saeki, you should try to imagine you're turning the ground beneath your feet into lava, like your father," he advised, pointing to the cement they stood on. "You've watched him in battle numerous times, right? So it shouldn't prove to be too difficult!" The girl nodded at him with a big smile on her face, and the (former) hero set out to advise the next student too.
Alright then, Atsuhi – imagine Dad and how he does things!
While the images were running through her head though, she couldn't help but think about something else too.
The Quirk improvements we worked on during Training Camp will be what I'm going to need for one of my ultimate moves. But the other one depends entirely on this technique...
She glanced at her feet, frowning at the ground as if that were going to make it heat up. But then...
Not by much. Just barely.
In fact, if someone was just standing there, they surely wouldn't have even noticed.
But Atsuhi knew her Quirk had just activated, albeit briefly.
Her face lit up, and she jumped up in the air in celebration. Of course, almost immediately afterwards, that unfortunately familiar sharp pain surged through her hands again, and she was forced to grit her teeth and remain unmoving until said pain had passed away.
"That's... going to take a while..." Atsuhi mumbled, knowing she had a lot of training ahead of her if she wanted to perfect this newly-discovered aspect of her powers.
But... If I want to be a hero, then... I've got no choice.
No matter how long it takes, I have to do it!
Just like that, she went back to training.
She never noticed the two crimson eyes watching her silently.