Stuffing a hundred tired and sweaty kids, who had just completed a labor-intensive exam and were all still catching their breaths, into a single relatively small room was not a good idea.
In next to no time, the air became stuffy, hot. It was getting harder to breathe, not to mention that no amount of high-tech could mask the unpleasant smell setting in. Good thing they were only going to be in here for a mere ten minutes.
Though Atsuhi did wonder, perhaps it was her own thoughts that made everything seem so bad. She wasn't all that tired, not really. But her heart was thumping, she could even feel its pounding in her head, and it was quickly driving her mad.
She glanced around the room, noting what everybody else was doing. And she was not surprised to find that it wasn't much more than sitting around, and goofing off.
If they can actually have fun at a time like this, all the more power to them.
She leaned back against the wall she sat beside, and sighed, only for her eyes to immediately dart to the space on her left upon the sound of quiet shuffling. Glancing to her side, from her position of sitting cross-legged on the ground, her eyes landed on Katsuki's black booths, then trailed up his body, stopping at his eyes, which were already looking at her.
The two remained silent for a few seconds, but Atsuhi cracked first.
"W-what is it...?" Her face heated up, as she was suddenly a tad more self-conscious. Even still, she didn't look away completely, choosing to focus on his spiky hair instead. Meanwhile, Katsuki's eyes also widened briefly, as if he hadn't realized he had been staring.
"Nothing..." His eyes darted behind her, but were lost upon the crowd, as if he wasn't really looking at anything in particular.
Atsuhi mouthed a silent 'oh' and was just about to go back to doing absolutely nothing (or overthink this short-lived exchange – who knows where the tides would've taken her), but a few approaching figures, all wearing the same very recognizable Shiketsu High hat, caught her attention first.
Even more so, at the forefront of the little group was what she could only describe as a student who was completely covered in hair. Head to toe. Like an animal.
Must have something to do with his Quirk... Should I still be taking note of other people's Quirk at all anymore, or is that part of the exam already over?
Just a little earlier, the big TV in the room had shown live footage of the area where the first part of the exam had been held, only for multiple detonations and explosions to suddenly occur throughout it and destroy every last building. Soon enough, the message had sounded that for the final part of the exam, the students would have to carry out rescue operations of a group dubbed the 'Help Us Company', consisting of old people and children alike, all professional rescuees for... situations like this one?
It feels a little too specific to be an actual job... then again, anything goes nowadays, I guess?
Back to the guy covered in hair though, he had already walked over to the both of them and Atsuhi took that as her cue to stand up and dust off her costume, trying to show some respect for her seniors. She had to compensate for Katsuki, after all.
"Excuse me, you two are Bakugo and Saeki, correct?"
He is... so polite...!! Nothing like the guy we fought earlier...
That's the second person who's approached me and Katsuki-kun together like this today... Is it just me, or does the whole world seem to be very aware of what happened at Kamino?
Even though I wasn't actually conscious for like, half of it...
Nonetheless, Atsuhi nodded, while Katsuki just stared blankly, and the Shiketsu student continued.
"Our Shishikura... the one with the squinty eyes... He came after your group, right?" Upon the sound of Katsuki even so much as opening his mouth and inhaling, Atsuhi sharply cut him off, deciding it was best to hold the conversation without unnecessarily offending people.
"Ah, it was fine, really! It was an exam so we kinda had to go up against each other – please don't worry about it!" Despite Katsuki's surprised gasp (how dare she interrupt him), she stepped in front of him, and lightly bowed to the Shiketsu student, who immediately shook his head.
"No, no – you aren't the ones who need to apologize! He was probably very rude to you... He has this bad habit of forcing his values on others and, seeing opponents as notorious as yourselves, he likely couldn't contain himself." As he spoke, a small but kind eye peeked from behind the hair that covered his entire face. "We would like to build a good relationship with UA going forward. It's unfortunate that this was your first impression of our school. Please accept out apology."
"Of course," Atsuhi replied, smiling back. Building a good relationship with the only other school that could ever hope to match UA's fame? She would've loved that just as much.
Soon enough, the group of Shiketsu students walked away (though the one who had allegedly turned down his first place at UA – Inasa, had a brief conversation with Todoroki that, by the looks on both of their faces, did not seem to be going very well), and Atsuhi sighed, watching their retrieving backs.
"It's good to know not all of them are so self-centered," she snickered, finally turning to look at Katsuki, who at the very least seemed to be taking her total disregard for anything he had to say earlier pretty well. And 'pretty well' meaning he was gritting his teeth and she could swear a vein was practically popping out on his forehead, but he did hold back on cursing, so... it was a win then?
She opened her mouth to speak again. However, a loud buzzing, followed by the muffled voice coming from the speakers all around the room, came first.
"A group of terrorists has launched a massive attack! There is wide-scale destruction throughout the city. Buildings are collapsing left and right, and civilians are hurt!"
Though she felt a brief jolt of panic, Atsuhi soon remembered this was not a real emergency, but only the scenario for the upcoming portion of the exam.
But if I do get that license... I would have to deal with situations like this one on a daily basis... It doesn't occur to me how stressful this job is until crucial times like today...
"As most of the roads are out of commission, the rescue and relief squads are having trouble arriving at the scene! It is your job to rescue and take care of the civilians until they get here! Save every life you can, heroes!"
In the blink of an eye, the one hundred examinees ran out to the destroyed exam site. And as of right now, running was the only thing Atsuhi was doing.
Her mind had drawn a blank.
People were whizzing past her (though some were just as baffled as she was), organizing into groups, rescuing people, doing their own thing. Doing what they were supposed to do. She could see Katsuki up ahead of her, having just landed on the ground after covering the initial distance with the help of his explosions. He looked around, as if surprised, and soon spotted her, staring at her with a single question written on his face.
'Why aren't you doing anything?'
I don't know, Katsuki-kun, I really don't...
She took a deep breath, trying to calm her racing heart, and looked at her hands. Though partially covered by her costume, the left-over scars were still there. There to stay. To remind her. Not of the terrible events of that night at Kamino, but of her reason for deciding to become a hero in the first place.
That's when she heard it.
Even among the noise, the booming voices of everyone around her, the sound of her own heartbeat ringing in her ears, she heard it clear as day.
It sounded like it came from a child. Nearby. This was all she needed.
With a determined look at Katsuki, she motioned for him to go on without her, and, though a little reluctant, he complied, while Atsuhi hoped he'd be able to pass the test all by himself, or with Kaminari and Kirishima's help anyway.
Then, she looked around, eyes frantically searching for the source of the cry.
The reason why I became a hero...
Just a few meters to her side, she found it. A small child, sitting beside a big pile of debris, body covered in scrapes, bruises, maybe even some blood, with tears streaming down his cheeks. She ran over in the blink of an eye.
It was so I can go to people who are in trouble, in pain, who are suffering...
Atsuhi reached the child and crouched in front of him, whispering soothing words to stop his crying.
So I can tell them...
When his sobs died down, even if just a little, he rubbed his eyes and sniffed once more, looking at her big green orbs. She breathed a sigh or relief and smiled, reaching out a hand for him to take.
"Everything's alright now. You're safe."
The child sniffed again, as if about to tear up for the second time, but just as Atsuhi opened her mouth to comfort him in return, his tone changed sharply.
"What was that!? Points off for you!! Do you even hope to pass this thing!? Sure, the smiling and reassuring part is important too!! But you have to check for injuries!! That is your priority when saving lives!!"
"E-eh!?!?" Atsuhi barely held herself from shrieking any louder.
I thought I was doing so well too!!
So the 'Help Us Company' is doing the scoring!? Oooh, I'm sooo screwed...!
No, no, no – there's no time for hesitation! Not here anyway! If this kid really was dying, I would've failed as a hero!
Atsuhi looked around feverishly, while also asking the 'child' (which was really just an old man dressed as one, who had absolutely terrified her with harsh criticism moments earlier) questions to assure he was alright. Not too far away, she spotted the makeshift evacuation center, set up by some much better at quick, on-the-spot decisions students than her.
It wasn't very fancy, not at all actually. But there were already a dozen or so examinees gathered there, taking care of an even bigger number of civilians, ranging from distressed and crying but otherwise unharmed, to unconscious and on the verge of the death.
Carrying the boy with her, she ran into another girl, who quickly noticed her and asked to take a look at him.
"Mostly scrapes and bruises, the blood isn't even his," Atsuhi interrupted, having already assessed the situation herself. The girl paused briefly but nodded and pointed in the direction where the ones with few to no severe injuries were being taken care of and, nodding back in gratitude, Atsuhi headed over that way, leaving the child in the care of others, whose only job now was to reassure him and take care of his small wounds.
Instead, she went back to the same girl who had directed her earlier.
"Is there something wrong? Or are you going to stay and help around?" the girl asked, and Atsuhi made a small 'hm' of agreement.
"Yes. I can help with temporarily taking care of the more serious wounds, especially broken bones and even fevers." The girl gasped in delight.
"Perfect! We were running short on people who could actually help with the injuries! They're over on the right, you see that guy and the girl running around a lot? That's them. They could really use the help." Atsuhi followed her line of sight and noticed the two frantic students.
"Three it is then," she mumbled. "Alright, I'll go now. Thank you so much!" The girl waved goodbye and soon returned to her own job as a new group arrived, carrying even more injured civilians with them.
Atsuhi found her rhythm in no time, running back and forth just like the other two, and taking turns with attending the wounded. Which were rapidly increasing in numbers.
With time though, more and more people showed up to help out, while the incoming stream of injured lessened, until things were looking at least somewhat calm over in her area. Calm enough for her to have a moment to think to herself, that's for sure.
I wonder how Katsuki-kun's doing... He might be great at a lot of things, but being kind and reassuring isn't one of them. If he fails, I'll probably feel kinda guilty, to be honest.
Of course, it's hard to imagine myself being saved by his angry face with that scary costume of his. The poor people who will have to live through that…
She chuckled. Things finally seemed to have been going well.
But anyone who had followed her life long enough would surely know what this meant.
Because if things were ever going well, then they were about to go very, very wrong. In a matter of seconds.
A massive explosion suddenly sounded, coming from somewhere at the end of the examination site.
More debris flew off, scattering about everywhere. Good thing none had reached the evacuation center. At least not yet.
From the newly-appeared big hole in the wall, emerged many threatening silhouettes, all lead by...
Atsuhi knew the Top 10 heroes by heart. She followed that ranking every time it changed and absorbed in all the information that came along with it.
So to see a fellow hero, who had even come to their rescue back at Kamino Ward (or so she'd heard – she'd never actually crossed paths with him throughout the whole event which, to be fair, she spent about half of in a state of unconsciousness), now attacking them? It was… terrifying, to put it mildly.
The hero (now playing a villain), whose Quirk made him look like some sort of anthropomorphic killer whale, was quickly approaching.
Worst of all, he was not approaching the general area as a whole. No. He was headed straight for the evacuation center – the place full of injured civilians and heroes whose powers allowed them only to help with the rescue part of the operation. In other words, a place severely lacking in fighters.
Atsuhi took a step forward, realizing that until the ones going around and bringing the injured over realized what was going on, only her and a handful of others were left to protect the place.
Saving... while fighting...
That sounds like quite the pain alright. But it's what heroes do. I really shouldn't be surprised by anything at this point.
Alright then, change of priorities.
We're not just saving civilians anymore. We're protecting them now.
Time to get on with it!