The sensation still lingered on her lips, even a few moments later.
It continued to longer, even as she had long pulled away, desperately trying to act as if nothing had happened, only to realize she was failing miserably, and that her mind couldn't do anything but replay those few seconds over and over again.
Well, she wasn't going to forget them anytime soon. Though she couldn't help but wonder – was this ever going to happen again?
It didn't help that she and the very same person responsible for her racing heart and reddened cheeks remained completely silent, at first pausing just so they could catch their breath, only to forget to ever utter another word.
Atsuhi didn't have the confidence to even look back at Katsuki. Instead, she thought about the stupidest things that her mind had ever managed to come up with. And that said a lot.
Ah, we... we just... we just kissed, didn't we!?
Oh my gosh, this.. this was my first... my first kiss...
Woah, was it Katsuki-kun's first kiss too!? W-what if he gets mad he wasted it on me?? What if he didn't enjoy it!? What if he didn't want to kiss me in the first place!? Did I act without permission!?
But... but he did kiss back... So then, what does that mean? Is it possible he didn't enjoy it but still kissed back anyway? Was there something I was supposed to do, and I didn't-
Katsuki cleared his throat. A simple act, albeit one that was more than enough to break Atsuhi out of the ridiculous thoughts that only had her descending further and further down that rabbit hole.
She flinched a little, but took it as a sign that he had something to say, and finally turned to look at the boy, relieved to realize she wasn't the only one fighting her blush, as his cheeks were also tinted a light pink.
Katsuki looked at her too, but the moment their eyes met, his crimson orbs immediately darted away, not ignoring her completely, yet choosing to focus on anything but her. Meanwhile, Atsuhi gulped, and dug around to find the courage to actually face him now.
Quickly concluding that, despite trying to get her attention at first, Katsuki had opted out of actually saying anything, she was now left to fill the silence.
"So. Um... Can I... consider this to be my answer...?" she asked quietly, while intertwining her hands behind her back, and letting her eyes wander off of Katsuki's frame too. Though with her peripheral vision she noticed the quick note of surprise that took over the boy's features, only for him to shake his head and take a deep breath.
"I... don't know..."
If Atsuhi had gotten her hopes high, they were sure to crash down painfully right now. Fortunately, she had never hoped for anything. Or at least not all that much anyway. Instead, she was joyous that the response was not a hard 'no'.
Noticing that she had gone quiet, Katsuki continued.
"I think... maybe I need some time..." he sighed.
"It's fine – I'm in no rush anyway." Atsuhi smiled back.
"Hmm..." He went quiet for a moment. "How 'bout this? I'll tell you my answer once the Provisional License Exam is over. I'll get plenty of time to think about it."
"And you won't have anything distracting you! Sounds good to me!" Atsuhi felt a wave of relief wash over her, knowing that in a couple of days, she would hear a response.
A response to her confession. (Little did she know, she'd already gotten one, albeit while she was barely conscious and unable to actually remember anything...)
"After the exam it is, then!" she exclaimed, as she looked at Katsuki, waiting for his confirmation.
That's what I thought but...
It's really hard to focus on anything right now!!
Atsuhi grumbled (a little more audibly than she would've liked) under her breath, hands massaging her temples as she let out a deep sigh and did her best to set her priorities straight.
Upon opening her eyes though, a hint of red tinted her cheeks when she looked around to find the bus was almost empty. The only exceptions being: her, still sitting in her seat, as if she hadn't noticed that she was supposed to get off in the first place (truth be told, she hadn't), a deadpan Katsuki, already long used to her air-headed at times nature, who patiently waited for her as he stood beside his seat (let's not mention that they sat beside each other, 'kay?), and a snickering pair, consisting of Kirishima and Kaminari, who looked as if they had been about to leave the bus, but had stopped themselves to glance and see what was happening with their two dear friends. If she had to guess, Atsuhi was fairly certain Mina was jumping up and down beside a window somewhere, trying to just catch a glimpse of everything as well.
Well, guess the 'hint of red' had officially been promoted to an actual 'blush'. Here is hoping that it never went much further.
Why. Am. I. Like. This.
Clearing her throat to break the awkward atmosphere (and to hopefully give the other two boys the signal that they should just get out of there before she died of embarrassment), praying that it was enough to make the flush on her cheeks go away with it too, Atsuhi finally got up, briefly apologizing to Katsuki for making him wait for her.
Instead of giving her an actual response though, he just waved her off, muttering a small 'Come on' as both made their way outside.
Jeez, what is it with me and buses... I always embarrass myself like this...
Good thing Aizawa-sensei wasn't around to see this-
A glimpse of unruly black hair at the far end of the bus, its owner watching her and waiting for any lingering students to just make their way outside. You know, doing his job as a teacher.
Needless to say, Atsuhi was mortified.
Great start to a great day... No doubt about it...
She sighed again.
If things keep going like this, I might just fail the exam as well...
Speaking of which, now that everyone had been so kind as to leave the bus, it was time for Aizawa to join his students, and do his best to motivate them.
Today was quite the fateful day, after all.
As far as their education at UA was concerned, this might just have been the most significant event since their entrance exam.
It was time for everyone to acquire their Provisional Hero Licenses – something which allowed them to more or less act as heroes, even while they were still at school, without unnecessary consequences, and most importantly – without breaking the law.
Now, back on the topic at hand (aka the thing Atsuhi really shouldn't have been thinking about, yet she could do nothing but dwell on it) – she feared it might be hard to focus on the exam without derailing back into thoughts of the answer she was going to receive tonight.
Worst of all – she couldn't even tell which mattered more.
She had always thought being a hero was her first and only priority, the one thing that she strove for.
So then, how come something threatened to replace it now...
Fortunately for her, a very loud exclamation of UA's signature 'Plus Ultra', though coming from an unfamiliar voice that chimed in simultaneously with the rest of Atsuhi's classmates, had broken her out of her thoughts.
The source of said exclamation wasn't all that hard to spot either – especially considering how he towered above all other students, not to mention his strong build and wide shoulders. In other words, he was pretty noticeable.
But it wasn't his gigantic stature, nor his overly-enthusiastic and seemingly friendly behavior that caught Atsuhi's attention.
Instead, her eyes were fixated upon the black hat with the letter 'S' on it, that rested above his head (even as he practically slammed that head of his against the pavement in an overboard apology... This guy was kinda weird...). Any hero geek could recognize it in a heartbeat.
"UA's in the east..." Atsuhi mumbled.
"And Shiketsu is in the west," Katsuki finished.
He... did he just finish my sentence?
Wait, he has done this before too, right? Huh, guess it took me by surprise.
It was kinda cool though...We should do that more often...
Good thing Atsuhi didn't feel the small blush this time around, otherwise she might've just lost it there and then.
Once the rest of the class was finally clued in on what Shiketsu High was (namely, one of the few hero schools out there that could rival UA), and once the UA-enthusiast boy from earlier had walked off with his classmates, Aizawa offered an unexpected explanation.
"Yoarashi Inasa," he muttered, looking at said boy from a distance. "This year, with his top grades and excellent performance, he got placed into your grade at UA under special recommendation." Atsuhi's eyes widened. "But for some reason, he declined."
H-he was a first-year!?
I thought we were the only first-years here...
Special recommendations too... So basically – if we run into him, we're screwed. Is that what all this is supposed to mean!?
It felt like things were happening too quickly.
While Atsuhi was still trying to jog up her memories and maybe recall something about Inasa (which she did not), another school by the name of Ketsubutsu, alongside their homeroom teacher – Ms. Joke, appeared.
And while Ms. Joke was busy trying (and failing) to get a reaction out of Aizawa, who, according to what she was saying, used to work close-by so the two actually knew each other, one of her students approached 1A.
What's up with all these overly-enthusiastic people today... Can't a girl have her exam in peace, please.
The boy introduced himself as Shindo, only to immediately go around and shake everybody's hand with this big bright smile on his face. Before long, he was standing in front of Atsuhi and Katsuki.
"Ah, and of course! We've got here Bakugo and Saeki – the two who stood right at the center of the Kamino Incident!" Shindo said, still keeping up this cheerfulness of his. Atsuhi did mentally grunt at the topic he chose though. It really felt awful to know that this might be somebody's first impression of her. She imagined it could only have been twice as bad for Katsuki.
"You two have got some iron will, alright!" Shindo tilted his head a little downwards, and reached out his hand in front of Atsuhi, waiting for her to shake it. "To face people of your caliber today – I'm so glad we'll get this chance!"
Atsuhi eyed the boy up and down.
He seems nice enough... But there's something kinda unsettling about that smile of his.
Well, I'd like to think of myself as a nice person, so...
Deciding to leave all the suspicions for once the test actually started, Atsuhi turned a blind eye to Shindo's unnaturally cheerful act, and reached to shake his hand.
Except, there was now no hand outstretched for her to shake.
She could only gape in surprise (in the process also forgetting to even retreat her own hand, which remained halfway up in the air in front of her), as half of her vision was now obscured by Katsuki's back. The boy had stepped in front of her, forcing Shindo to back off, as the two now glared at each other.
"Yeah, yeah, cut the crap. What you're saying doesn't match that shitty look on your face," Katsuki said, as if managing to put into words the unsettling feeling Atsuhi had gotten.
Well, what can I say... Katsuki-kun's got an amazing intuition.
I'm... not sure what messes I would've gotten myself into, if it weren't for him looking out for me.
Unknowingly, Atsuhi let a small fond smile slip, as her eyes remained glued to the back of Katsuki's head.
Well, they would have, had Katsuki not suddenly turned around, crimson irises meeting a pair of green ones, as both blinked a couple of times in surprise, before Katsuki's mouth changed to a frown.
"The hell!?" he asked, making Atsuhi realize that staring was... stupid.
"N-nothing! Let's just move along, okay?" she pleaded, already going off without even waiting for him to follow. She knew he was going to anyway.
Look at it this way, Atsuhi.
You're getting your response tonight.
Which means, right now, everything is the same as it's always been. For now, we're simply friends.
For now, we're both heroes that desperately need to get their licenses.
Okay, one more time couldn't hurt.
We'll all be competing together, each equipped with six balls and three targets, which we need to attach somewhere on our bodies. I've already chosen where mine will be – one on my waist, one above my wrist, and-
Atsuhi moved to attach the final target, pushing her braid behind her shoulder.
One above my collarbone. That will do.
Next, we're supposed to hit people's targets with those balls, and once a target is hit, it lights up. If all three of your targets light up, that means you've been ‘defeated’. In other words, you've failed the test.
The person to light up your final target is the one who 'defeated' you. And in order to pass, we need to ‘defeat’ two people each.
Which would be difficult enough on its own.
But... Only the first one hundred people are going to pass. And this is just the first part of the exam...
"So the strategy here's pretty simple. Since people are going to group together regardless, it's probably best we stay together. It's way less likely we'll get ambushed, and we might help each other pass," Atsuhi muttered to herself (had she been spending too much time with Midoriya lately...?), going over a simple strategy that was, in all likelihood, already on everybody's minds.
Well, everybody, except for apparently one person.
You see, they were all already on the humongous site where the exam was going to be held, and any moment now, the starting signal was going to go off. It was a prime time for coming up with strategies and grouping up together.
But Katsuki didn't think so.
It took Atsuhi a solid couple of seconds to notice that she was currently being dragged away by a certain ash blond.
"Yeah, as if. This ain't some class picnic," he called, leaving Midoriya, who had just been in the process of explaining why staying together was such a crucial strategy, to stare at him dumbfounded, as he ran off on his own.
Well, ran off on his own, and dragged Atsuhi along with him. She still had a stupid look on her face, as she failed to realize what was happening. (Not to mention that Kirishima ran off after the two of them immediately as well.)
"W-wait, Katsuki-kun!" Her brain finally began to work again. "We shouldn't be going off on our own, it's- Ah!! I forgot!!"
Though he briefly stopped in surprise (giving Kirishima and, not surprisingly, Kaminari too, enough time to catch up to the two), soon enough he was on his way again, forcing Atsuhi to grip his arm and try to stop him from going any further. Naturally, it didn't work.
"Wait, Katsuki-kun, please stop for a second!!" she continued pleading, as she watched his barely contained annoyance finally spill.
"What!?" he snapped a little, at last complying with the girl.
"We- we have to warn them!!
“Warn them… about what? Atsuhi-chan...?" Kirishima, upon noticing that Katsuki had gone quiet in contemplation of the meaning behind Atsuhi's words, chimed in, a sinking feeling already settling between the four, as Kaminari too gulped loudly.
In her panic, Atsuhi had completely missed the countdown – she hadn't heard the three, she hadn't heard the two, she hadn't heard the one.
All she had heard, was the 'start'.
She knew it. In the blink of an eye, the four UA students, easily recognizable from both their faces, which had been broadcast among the whole country thanks to UA's famous sports festival, and their fairly outstanding and obvious costumes, were surrounded. Students from every other school had gathered all around them, eyes looking as if they were watching their helpless prey.
UA st u dents' Quirks are widely-known thanks to the Sports Festival... So, other schools think they have the advantage over them, and every year, without fail, they gather together, and try to take down UA...
Thanks for war n ing me about that, Dad...
But I'm afraid I didn't manage to warn anybody else. To warn them about...
"The Crushing of UA."
Not that saying it was going to be any help. Not now, at least.
Their only choice? To just push through it. Like they always did.
Come to think of it, maybe I shouldn't have been so worried...
I know everyone will be okay. I trust in them.
Now, time to fight some people.