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Hot Forged Steel

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A person’s quirk generally develops around the time they are four years old. Everyone knows that.

Akiho woke up the day of her fourth birthday in a frenzy. She ran over to her mirror, twirling around to see if anything about her had changed. She still had the same red hair, like a fire truck, and she was glad that hadn’t changed because she really liked it. Her eyes were still silver like her mommy’s, and she still had a normal nose. She opened her mouth and saw that she still had normal teeth, and she didn’t get claws either. Spinning around, she checked to see if she had a tail or wings, but nothing was there.

With a pout on her face, Akiho figured that she had inherited her mom’s boring quirk. She looked at the metal tea set her mother had made for her and tried to make the cup float over to her, but nothing happened. She tried again and again, but the cup didn’t move. She walked closer and closer still, until her hand was only a few inches away from the cup, but it still didn’t move. With each failed attempt, the little girl grew more and more upset until she was in tears.

Akiho then ran from her room to the kitchen, where she could smell her mother making her special birthday pancakes. She gripped her mother’s pant leg in her little hands and sobbed out, “Mommy! I’m quirkless!”

Startled by Akiho’s abrupt approach in tears, Aiko dropped the spatula unceremoniously into the pan of half cooked pancakes. She quickly picked it up again and assessed the damage before she turned her focus to her daughter and asked, “What makes you say that sweetie?”

“It’s my birthday and I didn’t get a quirk, not even yours!” Akiho responded with a wail, fisting her fingers further into the fabric of Aiko’s sweatpants and hiding her face in her thigh.

“Sweetie, it doesn’t work like that. Kids get their quirks at the age of four, not the second they turn four. It could happen anytime between now and your next birthday.” Aiko explained gently with a pat to Akiho’s head.

“It did for Ren! He got invisible powers on his birthday!” Akiho argued snottily.

“But did it work like that for any of the other kids?” Aiko asked with the same tone.

There was a pause before Akiho answered petulantly, “No.”

“Then there’s no reason to worry! You’ll get your quirk before you know it sweetie. Now go sit down so I can finish these pancakes.”

With her fears of being quirkless mollified, Akiho happily sat down and waited for her birthday feast to begin.

The rest of Akiho’s birthday was perfect. Her mom surprised her with a birthday party at the arcade, with all her friends from school, and they had presents! They were all superhero toys, mostly All Might themed, with a couple of other high ranked heroes as well. Akiho especially liked one that had big, pretty wings and another one that had fire all over it.

When one of her classmates asked if she had her quirk yet, Akiho shook her head and said, “Not yet! But mommy says it’s gonna happen this year!”

Pacified by Akiho’s confidence, the other kids left it at that, and they went back to playing with all her new toys. It was the best birthday Akiho had.

 

The next morning was a Sunday, and Akiho slept in; exhausted from her birthday activities the day prior. She woke slowly, and groggily sat up in bed with some effort. She noted that her body felt heavy and her back and feet felt weird as she rubbed the sleep from her eyes. Excitement then coursed through her as she tried to run to the mirror in the corner of her room and see the quirk that must be there. As she swung herself out of bed, her feet fell awkwardly onto the ground and she tripped.

Looking down at her feet, Akiho screamed loudly. Instead of her normal feet, there were bird feet. They were much larger than her normal feet had been, covered in metallic looking scales. Instead of her normal toes, she had three long toes in the front and one in the back, all tipped with long, pointy talons made of metal as well.

Akiho flexed and clenched the toes in shock as her mother rolled into the room in her wheelchair, looking as though she threw herself into it as quickly as she could. Aiko panted as she worriedly asked, “What? What’s wrong?”

Akiho lifted a foot, tears streaming down her face as she exclaimed in a distraught tone, “My feet are weird!”

Aiko’s eyes locked on Akiho’s face first and then the foot that Akiho presented to her. She leaned down in her seat, grabbing the appendage and turning it back and forth. Akiho flexed the toes accidentally, and nearly caught her mother’s arm with the talons.

“Don’t do that!” Aiko shouted, her voice tight and obviously upset.

Her shout startled Akiho into clenching her foot and pulling it away. Tears flowed faster down her face as she apologized and then wailed, “Everybody is going to make fun of my feet when they see them.”

There was a long, awkward pause and the strange look never left Aiko’s face. When she finally spoke, the tone didn’t make Akiho feel any better, “Don’t worry sweetie, mommy will get you some new shoes and no one will ever know.”

“But what about my quirk?” Akiho asked in a distraught tone, “I don’t want everyone to think I’m quirkless!”

There was another pause, and Akiho desperately waited for her mother to offer the solution to her problems. A smile forced its way onto Aiko’s face as she spoke in the same detached tone, “You’ve got my quirk sweetie. You’ve got metal teeth, and I bet all your other bones are metal too. Mommy’s going to train you how to use her quirk, and everything will be fine.”

Despite Aiko’s dry tone, Akiho felt immense relief that her quirk wasn’t just the weird bird feet. She crawled into her mother’s lap and tried to take comfort in her mother’s embrace. And even though she didn’t want her mommy’s quirk, it was better than being quirkless.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Ten Years Later

It was the first day of school at U.A.

Akiho stood in front of her mirror and watched her reflection nervously fidget with the tie of her school uniform. She hated it, it was too restricting around her neck and made it feel as though her breathing was limited. Two fingers tugged the tie loose, allowing the knot to hang just below her collar bones. She then unbuttoned the first button on the shirt, completing the look she decided to call ‘roguish’ instead of ‘sloppy’.

Now that her clothing dilemma had been settled, Akiho took another moment to double check her appearance. Her short bright red hair was styled as an undercut with the top just long enough that it hung into her silver eyes if she didn’t brush it to the side. In her opinion, the cut didn’t fit her face particularly well, and it made her round face look even chubbier. But her mother insisted that having long hair was a detriment to female heroes, as it gave villains an easy point of control if they got a hold of it. It also left her many ear piercings on display.

She parted her full lips to make sure that her shiny, metallic teeth had none of her morning breakfast lodged in them; and dislodged the small piece of food that she found wedged in her sharp canine with her pierced tongue.

The rest of Akiho’s body was hidden by the baggy boy’s uniform her mother had intentionally bought a size too large. Akiho preferred it honestly, she was embarrassed about the way her body looked when she wore tighter clothing. Her baggy pants were tucked into almost comically large, black, knee high combat boots that were more functional than they were attractive; especially on a girl as small as Akiho.

‘Well, that’s as good as it gets.’ Akiho thought to herself with a shrug.

She turned away from the mirror, grabbed her backpack, and power walked out of her room. Her mother, Aiko, sat in her wheelchair in the kitchen, picking at the remains of their breakfast. The older woman had short black hair that reached to her chin, and brown eyes that regarded Akiho coldly as she passed by, “You’re going like that?”

Akiho knew her mother was referencing the loose tie by the tone of disdain that she used. She winced slightly but chose to stick her ground as she continued to ironically run away, “Yes mother.”

“You look like a slob. Fix it before you get to school.”

Akiho had the front door’s knob in hand, partially out of the apartment in her haste. ‘Damnit! I almost made it.’ She thought forlornly.

“I’ll fix it on the train, I promise.”

Akiho didn’t wait for her mother’s reply as she shut the door behind her. The sun was shining brightly, and Akiho took a deep breath in to steady herself before starting her walk to the train station.

On the train, Akiho noticed a boy in the U.A. uniform sitting alone at the far end of the car. He had spikey blonde hair, and bright red eyes that were focused out the window. He was scowling, but Akiho hoped that it was a bad case of ‘resting bitch face’ and not that he was in a bad mood. She shouldered her way through the crowd of people and managed to stand near him. Up close, she couldn’t help but notice that he was handsome, despite the angry set of his eyebrows. His red eyes flicked over to her, and then with a huff looked back out the window.

Akiho knew it was a clear dismissal but ignored it doggedly, determined to make friends at her new school, and introduced herself with a small smile, “Hi. I couldn’t help but notice the uniform. I’m Hagane Akiho, it’s a pleasure to meet you.”

He didn’t even look at her when he responded, “Bakugo. Now leave me alone.”

‘Rude!’ Akiho thought to herself as she pouted visibly, crossing her arms in front of her chest childishly.

“Could I sit with you?”

This time he turned to face her, visibly annoyed as he rejected her again, “You had a seat where you were, go back there.”

Akiho turned back to where she had been previously sitting and noticed that the seat was now occupied by a man in a suit. Grinning she replied, “I can’t, the seat’s been taken. Could I sit here please?”

“Tch. Whatever Metal-Mouth. Just don’t touch me.”

‘That was way easier than I thought it’d be… Wait… what?’

Akiho stood there confused as Bakugo made room for her to sit, and dumbly asked, “Did you just call me Metal-Mouth?”

Instead of answering, Bakugo just glared up at where she was standing and asked back, “You gonna sit or what Bolts-for-Brains?”

Akiho’s eye twitched, but she sat beside the blonde regardless. She turned to him to say more, but was cut off with another scathing look, “And shut up. It’s too early in the morning for this shit.”

Akiho couldn’t help but think that despite the time, it was always too early for Bakugo. But beggars couldn’t be choosers when it came to new friends.

Chapter Text

Akiho followed Bakugo into the classroom and watched as he claimed a seat by the windows with such confidence that she couldn’t help but be jealous. It looked like most of the class had already arrived, and there were no open seats next to Bakugo. Nervous silver eyes darted across the room, looking for an empty seat next to someone who looked friendly.

A boy with spikey bright red hair (even brighter than her own) waved her over and pointed at the desk in front of him. His smile was large and charming, and Akiho could see sharp, shark-like teeth, but his face was so earnest it wasn’t even remotely scary. Akiho set her backpack down on the seat, and then turned to face him fully and introduced herself with a bow, “Thank you so much! My name is Hagane Akiho, it’s a pleasure to meet you.”

“Woah hey! No need for that! I’m Kirishima Eijiro. Is that dude you walked in with your friend? It was pretty unmanly of him to just ditch you like that.” Kirishima responded, frowning slightly in Bakugo’s direction.

Akiho panicked slightly at Kirishima’s frown. She didn’t want to ruin Bakugo’s credibility as a good person when they had just met. She turned her head over to the blonde’s direction as well, noting that he had his feet on the desk like he had belonged here his entire life. “Bakugo and I met on the train, he was nice enough to let me sit with him then. I don’t think he’s very social.” Akiho excused.

That statement turned out to be an understatement, when a familiar face stomped over in Bakugo’s direction. He was incredibly tall (almost everyone was to Akiho, who was barely 5 feet tall herself) with dark blue hair and matching eyes. His face was set with a stern expression and he adjusted his square rim glasses before berating her new… friend(?).

“Don’t put your feet on the desk!” Iida shouted fiercely.

Akiho didn’t know that Iida had applied to U.A., though she probably should have expected, given that his brother was Ingenium. They weren’t friends, but throughout middle school, Iida was constantly talking about how great his brother was, and Akiho was inclined to agree that Ingenium was a pretty good superhero. Not on All Might’s level of course, but he was a hero that consistently looked out for the little guy, and Akiho absolutely respected that. It didn’t look like he noticed her yet, but she felt the urge to get between them before their personalities clashed too fiercely.

Bakugo sat up to regard Iida with a confrontational glare and asked, “Huh?”

Akiho didn’t know it was possible to be so antagonizing with just one syllable. It wasn’t even directed at her, and it still made her eyebrow twitch. Kirishima was also watching, though he had an amused smile on his face.

Iida was undeterred by Bakugo’s confrontational behavior and carried on with his speech, “Don’t you think it’s disrespectful to the U.A. upperclassmen and the people who made the desk?”

Bakugo sat up a little straighter and rubbed the heel of his sneaker on the table a little more in the process. Akiho was sure it was an intentional dig, despite only knowing Bakugo for less than an hour. The blonde had a huge, lazy, and undeniably antagonistic smile on his face when he retorted, “Nope! What junior high did you go to, you side character?”

‘Side character? Is that what we are to him?’ Akiho thought sadly, upset that her potential friend obviously didn’t see her the same way.

In affront of the title, Iida put a hand over his chest in mild shock, “I attended Somei Private Academy. My name is Iida Tenya.”

“Somei? So, you’re a damn elite, huh? Looks like I’ll have fun crushing you.”

Iida took a step back, glancing to the rest of the class for support when he asked, “Crushing? That’s cruel. Do you truly aim to be a hero?”

Iida’s blue eyes then connected with Akiho’s, and they widened with surprise, “Hagane-kun? I was not aware that you had applied to U.A., nor did I see you at the entrance exams.”

Akiho could feel the eyes of the entire class bore into her all at once. Bakugo’s eyes in particular were especially fierce as he realized that she too had been a ‘damn elite’ Somei student. She nervously placed a hand behind her head and rubbed the back of her neck as she shakily replied, “Oh, uhm. My grandfather wrote me a recommendation. And please, at least call me -chan instead of -kun, Iida-kun.”

Iida’s eyes lit up with more questions, and Akiho could see them forming in Bakugo’s eyes as well. However, she was saved when a boy with wild green hair and matching eyes and freckles walked into the room with a nervous look on his face. Empathy for the boy coursed through her, and a small, concerned frown appeared on her face as she looked at him shaking slightly. His green eyes were locked onto Iida and Bakugo, and he looked faint.

“You’re…” Iida started in shock, and any eyes that were remaining on her instantly raced to the boy who was stuttering in the doorway.

Iida marched across the room, leaving a forgotten Bakugo behind and greeted the boy, “Good morning!”

The boy cut Iida off before he could introduce himself; apparently he had been standing in the doorway long enough to hear Iida’s conversation with Bakugo, “I’m Midoriya Izuku. Nice to meet you Iida.”

Midoriya’s hands were held up and out, like he was placating the other boy. His fear and nervousness didn’t sit quite well with Akiho, but she knew Iida well enough that he hadn’t done, nor would he do anything to Midoriya to warrant the action. Still, it had Akiho’s quirk stirring and she had to consciously keep it in place by crossing her arms and gripping her forearms tightly with the opposite hands.

“Midoriya, you realized there was something more to the practical exam, didn’t you? I had no idea, and I misjudged you. I hate to admit it, but you are better than me.”

‘Wow, that’s high praise coming from Iida-kun. I wonder if Midoriya even realizes it.’ Akiho wondered.

The sudden appearance of another girl made Akiho jump and grimace to herself. She turned away from the conversation that Midoriya, Iida, and the girl were participating in, realizing it was about the entrance exam. Tension left her as the Midoriya’s posture went from scared to embarrassed, and Akiho finally took her seat in front of Kirishima. She turned around in her seat to face him, and was about to say something when an exhausted, deadpan voice spoke out, “Go somewhere else if you want to play at being friends. This is the hero course.”

A horrendously yellow sleeping bag erected itself behind the three talking in the doorway. A man dressed in all black—save for a long white scarf wrapped repeatedly around his neck and shoulders—stepped out from it. He had long black hair, bloodshot black eyes with equally dark bags under them, and scruffy facial hair that looked like he was just too tired to shave rather than it being a personal statement. “Okay, it took eight seconds before you were quiet. Time is limited. You kids are not rational enough. I’m your homeroom teacher, Aizawa Shota. Nice to meet you.”

Akiho’s hair stood on end, ‘This is our teacher? Shit, he looks scary.’

Aizawa reached into his sleeping bag and pulled out blue uniforms with the U.A. logo on them and instructed, “It’s kind of sudden, but put this on and go out on the field.”

 

After changing, Akiho uncomfortably stood out on the field with all the other students. The uniform that they were required to wear by Aizawa fit her instead of swallowing her like her class uniform; the short sleeves also meant that part of her quirk was on full display. The entirety of both her forearms were made of metal and gleamed brightly in the mid-morning sun. The skin connected to the metal puckered slightly and consisted mostly of red scar tissue.

Aizawa was the last to arrive and explained to the class that they were missing the welcoming ceremony and were going to be participating in a ‘Quirk Assessment’ test instead. A few of the students protested but were quickly shot down by the dour man. He looked at his phone, and then the group of students and asked, “You guys have been doing physical fitness tests in junior high, but you haven’t been allowed to use your quirks. The country still uses averages taken from results from students not using their quirks. It’s not rational. The ministry of education is procrastinating.”

He stepped to the side and called out, “Bakugo, you finished at the top of the practical exam, right? In junior high, what was your best result for the softball throw?”

“Sixty-seven meters.” Bakugo responded, beginning to understand where Aizawa was going with his speech.

“Then, try doing it with your quirk.”

Bakugo walked with his hands in his pockets into the circle that Aizawa indicated. The teacher called out to him, “You can do whatever you want as long as you stay in that circle. Hurry up and give it all you got.”

Bakugo began stretching is arm muscles; his resting bitch-face firmly in place as he got ready for his pitch. Akiho thought he might be muttering to himself, as his lips were moving. ‘Is he psyching himself up?’ She thought curiously, ‘I didn’t think he would be the type to need a pep talk.’

There was no pause between his final stretch and his pitch. The movement was violently fast and incredibly efficient, but the most impressive part was the huge explosion that propelled the ball into the air with Bakugo’s shout of, “DIE!”

Due to her position in the front of the crowd, Akiho felt the heat and slight shockwave from the blast. She watched the ball leave rings of smoke behind it, wondering if that was a sign it was breaking the sound barrier. It certainly seemed like Bakugo had put enough power behind that throw to do so. His exclamation had worried her a little, but Akiho assumed that she had misheard until she heard the rest of the class murmuring about it as well.

Aizawa held up his phone to the class, showing Bakugo’s score of 705.2 meters. It was a far more impressive number than 67 meters for certain. Bakugo rejoined the class, and while the rest of them inched away from the seemingly violent boy, Akiho couldn’t help but walk up and congratulate him with an excited whisper, “That was super impressive! Your quirk is amazing!”

Bakugo turned to her, with a huge smirk on his face, “I know.”

Akiho’s eye twitched in irritation, ‘What an ASS.’

Aizawa had been speaking with the class, but her short conversation with Bakugo meant that she came into the middle of the lecture. What she heard was enough to make her heart beat wildly in her chest, “Whoever comes in last place in all eight tests will be judged to have no potential and will be punished with expulsion.” A collective shriek of worry tore through the class (though Akiho noticed that Bakugo didn’t seem overly worried), and Aizawa continued, “We’re free to do what we want about the circumstances of our students. Welcome to U.A.’s hero course!”

Anxiety ripped through Akiho instantly. Aizawa’s facial expression was downright gleeful as he announced the fate of the worst student in class, and Akiho was convinced it was her. ‘Shit, shit, shit! I knew this was going to be hard, but I thought I’d at least get a chance to be a hero. I’m going to get expelled on day one! Mom was right…’

Aizawa had finished speaking, and Akiho missed the rest of it in her panicked thoughts. The class was shuffling over to a small track and test one was announced.

Test One: 50 Meter Dash!

Iida lined up first, against a girl that was Akiho’s height. She had long, dark green hair that was tied into a bow at her waist, and a long tongue that hung slightly out of her mouth. Her eyes were large and determined as she got into a starting position with Iida. A robot with a camera for a face was placed at the finish line for timing purposes, and it called out in a high pitched, tinny voice, “On your mark, get set…”

A mock gunshot from the robot, and both competitors were off. Akiho knew that Iida was fast but was pleasantly surprised that the girl was fast too, though she hopped like a frog instead of running like Iida had. Akiho was just glad that she hadn’t gone up against either of them. Her quirk made her slow, and to have a race as the first test would be a detriment to her. There were more competitors, the bubbly girl from this morning and a boy with a powerful looking tail. A blonde pretty boy with a bellybutton laser and a pink girl with black eyes and horns.

Bakugo was up next against Midoriya who looked terrified. Akiho empathized once more with him, especially when Bakugo used his explosions to gain speed and nearly hit him with one. When their race was over, Akiho wanted to go over and berate him for nearly hitting a classmate, but she was called up next to go against Kirishima.

As they got into position, Kirishima grinned over at Akiho and wished her luck. Akiho returned it halfheartedly, not sure what Kirishima’s quirk was, but betting that he would have a better score than her regardless. The robot at the finish line began to call out, “On your mark,”

‘There’s got to be a way I can use my quirk to help here. What would mom do with her quirk?’

“Get set…”

Akiho thought of how her mother sometimes used her quirk to lift herself around the house when the wheelchair was too cumbersome, ‘Can I levitate myself?’

The gunshot went off, and Akiho launched herself forward with her legs and her quirk. She propelled herself 15 meters forward before her feet touched the ground and she tried again with less spectacular results. Using her quirk on her legs to lift herself off the ground longer, she appeared to be taking gigantic strides. Kirishima still beat her, but it was a close race instead of a massacre, and that was enough for now. The robot announced her time as 8 seconds flat. In middle school, she had averaged around 15 seconds, so it was a vast improvement.

Test Two: Grip Strength!

Aizawa passed around machines that would record grip strength and allowed the students to scatter around the gym. Akiho didn’t see the point in going very far, so she just stood in front of him and took the test. Her mother had her do similar tests at home, so she was familiar with using her quirk to amplify her grip strength. Holding the machine in her right hand, Akiho squeezed down on the device with the full power of her quirk. The machine read 500 kilograms.

Aizawa looked impressed as she handed the grip test machine back to him. She felt rather proud of herself, until she heard a boy shouting from the center of the room, “Wow! Five-hundred-and-forty kilograms? What are you, a gorilla?”

‘Of course…’ Akiho thought dejectedly.

“Your score was nothing short of impressive Hagane. Especially for someone of your size. Take pride in your quirk.” Aizawa spoke, and Akiho wasn’t sure if it was supposed to be encouraging or a reprimand; the man’s voice was so monotone.

‘He’s right though, I’ve got to use mom’s quirk to the best of my ability, or I won’t be able to be a hero.’

Test Three: Standing Long Jump!

Akiho wanted to go first, not bearing the thought of having to watch all her classmates clear the sandbox while she watched with anxiety. Aizawa allowed it, and Akiho stood on the line, focusing her power on herself. She allowed her control to focus mainly on her feet, and then launched herself into the air. Her bodyweight was more than she was used to lifting at one time using her quirk, so she struggled to keep herself afloat. A bead of sweat trickled down her forehead as she pushed herself but continued to lose more and more forward momentum. Eventually, she touched down just inside of the end of the sandbox. She immediately bent, with her hands on her knees, as she tried to catch her breath.

Her mother made levitating her own body look effortless when she did it; but now Akiho understood why she didn’t do it all the time. While she was used to controlling multiple pieces of metal at once, she had never tried lifting something as heavy as her own bodyweight. She would have to bring up the weakness with her mother, and start weight training with her quirk.

Akiho had been right to go first. Many other students, including Bakugo, the boy with white and red hair, and the blonde pretty boy cleared the box and then some. But Akiho also took solace in the fact that she got further than many of her classmates as well. ‘Maybe I won’t be in last place after all…’

Test Four: Repeated Side Steps!

The goal was to do as many side steps as possible in a 30 second time frame. All the students were blown out of the water by a short boy with purple balls on his head. The balls came off his head and appeared to be bouncy. He used them to launch himself from side to side. Akiho couldn’t help but think that it wasn’t fair that he didn’t pick up his feet.

Akiho’s feet were killing her by this point. After she had her turn at the fourth test, she sat in the dirt out of everyone’s way and flexed her toes in her boots. She wished that she could take them off; stretch her feet out completely for even a second, but knew it was a terrible idea in the long run. A boy with long blonde hair with black lightning bolt designs noticed her sitting and the look of discomfort on her face, and said in a sleezy tone, “I give killer foot rubs baby, just take off your shoes and pants, because I go all the way up.”

Akiho spluttered, but before she could say anything, the boy was pulled into an aggressive neck hold by the all pink girl. She smiled down at Akiho and said, “Ignore Kaminari, he thinks he’s smooth, but he’s not. I’m Ashido by the way. What’s your name?”

Ignoring the slight pain in her feet, Akiho stood to greet them both, “Hi, I’m Hagane Akiho.” She gave Kaminari a suspicious glance before turning back to Ashido, “We’re sure he’s harmless right?”

Kaminari looked playfully affronted, “Hey! I’m right here you know! I was just trying to be helpful!”

Ashido looked less than convinced, and tightened her hold around his neck, “You sure about that? Because all I heard was you trying to get this poor dandere’s pants off.”

“Dandere?” Akiho asked, slightly offended.

“I mean, yeah. You haven’t really spoken to anyone besides that really angry blonde dude, Bakugo. But you two came into class together and everything, so he’s probably a childhood tsundere friend.” Ashido explained with a half shrug; Kaminari’s head still stuck in her grip.

“Ah, uhm no, sorry. Actually, Bakugo and I just met today on the train.” Akiho explained, her hand on the back of her neck and an awkward grin on her face. ‘That’s the second person today who thought that…’

Ashido’s eyes widened dramatically. She dropped Kaminari and instead leapt forward in Akiho’s direction, aiming to grab her hands. Akiho instinctively took two steps back, keeping Ashido at bay with an apology, “Sorry, I do a lot of combat training. Quick movements in my direction set me off.”

A weird look crossed Ashido’s face momentarily before she asked, “How long have you been training for?”

But before Akiho could respond, Aizawa was calling for the next test to start.

Test Five: Ball Throw!

The students all collected themselves around the throwing circle like they had at the beginning of the tests. Bakugo appeared by Akiho’s side, surprising the girl, as she hadn’t spoken to him since the first time he threw the ball.

Aizawa stepped into position by the circle, and called out, “Bakugo is exempt from this test, as he already went before. Who’s first?”

“You should go Metal Mouth, don’t embarrass me.” Bakugo said casually, flicking his wrist at her and then the circle.

Aizawa must have heard him, because he locked eyes with her and then jerked his head to the circle. Akiho was confused by Bakugo’s statement but wasn’t given the time to think about it too deeply, as Aizawa was still staring at her impatiently. She looked at the ball in her hand, and then at her forearm, and nodded to herself. She shifted the ball into her left hand and tossed it straight up into the air as high as she could. As it came down, the metal in her left forearm came alive, and stretched out into her hand as a thick pole. She gripped it with both hands like a bat and swung as hard as she could; sending the ball flying off into the distance. When Aizawa held up the phone, it read 305.7 meters.

When she rejoined her class, Akiho found that they were murmuring about her now, and couldn’t help but try to listen in.

“Oh wow, I wasn’t expecting that.” Kirishima stated with an impressed look on his face.

“Ah yes, it would make sense that Hagane-kun had a metal manipulation quirk.” Iida stated sagely.

“Did you see how high she threw it up though? She’s got a serious arm too.” Ashido ‘whispered’.

Midoriya was muttering to herself, wondering if she had a dual quirk. Akiho felt a visceral urge to correct him, to tell him that she had inherited her mother’s quirk. But then, a voice that was much closer to her asked, “Tch, you done listening to them yet Metal Mouth?”

Akiho startled, and looked over to see that Bakugo had moved to stand near her again. His face betrayed nothing but annoyance and his tone was gruff, but the words were oddly kind, “You didn’t embarrass yourself out there. Your quirk isn’t half bad.”

Akiho looked at Bakugo oddly, not sure if he was trying to compliment her or not, “I mean, it was nowhere near your awesome score.”

Bakugo’s face erupted into a feral grin, “Ha, no it wasn’t. But just wait until you see Deku’s wimpy ass score.”

‘Deku?’ Akiho wondered to herself, ‘One of the classmates I haven’t met yet I guess.’

The bubbly girl went next and threw the ball with a cute yell. The ball didn’t seem to have much forward momentum, but it kept travelling further and further away. Akiho noticed after a while that the ball didn’t travel forward, only straight up, until it was no longer visible. Aizawa’s phone reported an infinity sign and the class erupted into congratulations for the girl.

“That’s amazing! She got infinity!” Kaminari shouted the loudest of them all, his face aghast.

Next up was Midoriya, who stared at the ball in his hand for a long time in contemplation. The class couldn’t help but start gossiping about him, now that the opportunity had presented itself. Bakugo looked especially invested in Midoriya’s performance and stalked over to stand in front of the class with Iida. Akiho followed him, standing on the other side of Bakugo, and watched silently. She tried sending the boy positive vibes, hoping that maybe his quirk could pick up on them and realize that at least one person was in his corner.

Akiho was surprised that Iida seemed to be one of the main people to be talking about the boy’s poor performance, “It doesn’t look good for Midoriya if he continues like this.”

Bakugo turned to Iida with an incredulous look on his face, pointed at Midoriya, and said, “Huh? Of course not. He’s a quirkless small fry, you know.”

‘Quirkless? And he passed the entrance practical exam? Wow, what determination…’ Akiho thought to herself, slightly envious of Midoriya’s resolve. Though she couldn’t help but feel bad for him. She still remembered the real fear of being quirkless when she was four.

Iida interrupted her sad musings when he asked in shock, “Quirkless? Are you not aware of what he did in the entrance exam?”

“Huh?” Bakugo asked, irritated and confused.

Midoriya chose that time to throw the ball. Akiho noticed that his entire arm lit up with power, and a strange sense of joy for him filled her, ‘He’s not quirkless after all. Good for him.’

The light vanished just as quickly as it came however, and Akiho’s eyes were drawn to how Aizawa’s hair stood on end. She didn’t know what her teacher’s quirk was before, but if she had to guess from what just happened, it was a nullifying quirk. He had his back to the rest of the class, but Akiho felt scared for Midoriya when she saw his long black hair and his scarf come to life around him. The monotone statement of, “I erased your quirk,” was Akiho’s confirmation.

“That entrance exam was definitely not rational enough, if even a kid like you was accepted.”

“You erased my quirk?” Midoriya asked. He mumbled to himself for a bit, then exclaimed, “You’re the Erasure Hero: Eraserhead!”

“Eraserhead? I’ve never heard of him.” One student stated.

“I’ve heard of him, he’s an underground hero.” Answered another.

Akiho made eye contact with Bakugo, and asked, “You’re sure he doesn’t have a quirk? Why would Aizawa-sensei waste his time then?”

Bakugo glanced at her out of the corner of his eye, “Tch, as if I know why this guy does anything. Why do you care?”

Rubbing her forearms nervously, Akiho couldn’t make eye contact with him when she quietly replied, “Well, you seem so sure he’s quirkless.”

Something flickered in Bakugo’s face and he turned his face to look at her with an angry expression, “Because he is quirkless. I’ve known Deku forever.”

Movement caught Akiho’s attention and she turned back to Midoriya and Aizawa, only to be horrified that the scarf was wrapped around the student so he couldn’t get away, “Midoriya Izuku. With your power, you can’t become a hero.”

Outrage flowed through Akiho and she took a step forward as Aizawa’s scarf released Midoriya. How dare he speak to one of his students that way? The teacher turned to her, raised an eyebrow and glared in her action. Akiho, who was sufficiently cowed with that one look, grit her teeth and looked away angrily. She gripped her forearms tightly, her knuckles turning white with the strain.

She was so upset with her teacher, Akiho missed the leadup to Midoriya’s throw. She just felt the shockwaves—so similar to what she felt earlier when Bakugo threw his ball—and snapped her head up in time to watch the ball fly. When the ball landed, it just beat Bakugo’s score with 705.3 meters.

The bubbly girl broke out into an exuberant cheer, “Finally! A hero-like record!”

More students were talking, but Akiho was focused on Bakugo, whose jaw had dropped in surprise. Though she had just met him that morning, she didn’t think that his face could emote more than his usual scowl and took this for the rarity that it probably was.

Suddenly, Akiho felt heat and pain on her outer thigh as Bakugo let off explosions from his hand. Her pantleg was burnt, and the skin that was showing was red, but thankfully the burn seemed superficial. She held in a yelp, looking at Bakugo with a hurt expression before noticing that his eyes were locked on Midoriya.

‘He burned me without even noticing?’ Akiho wondered in horror.

“What is the meaning of this? Hey!” Bakugo raised his hands behind him and let off another, larger, explosion to propel himself forward. This time he burned Akiho’s right hip. She held in another pained sound and clutched her side with her left hand defensively. The bubbly girl noticed the second time that Akiho got burnt and shouted wordlessly in dismay in her direction.

Bakugo rushed Midoriya without missing a beat, screaming, “Tell me what’s going on, Deku, you bastard!”

Midoriya seemed frozen in fear, and suddenly Akiho understood the poor boy’s reactions to Iida that morning. Bakugo must have bullied poor Midoriya ruthlessly. Akiho didn’t think that Bakugo was capable of such behavior, but two burns in just as many seconds disagreed with her. She did like to see the best in people, after all.

But there was one thing Akiho did not stand for: Bullies.

Without thinking of the consequences of her actions, Akiho threw her right arm forward. Long, thin strips of steel left her forearm and streaked out in Bakugo’s direction. They wrapped around his legs, effectively stopping his movement. At the same time, Aizawa’s scarf wrapped around his face and shoulders. Despite this, Bakugo still fought to get to Midoriya, who had just now had the sense to cower and protect his head with his arms.

“What the hell?” Bakugo asked through his struggles.

Aizawa ignored him, and instead turned to Akiho, “You did well. Moving quickly to protect someone in need is a sign of a true hero. However, using your quirk against another without permission is not allowed. I’ll forgive it this time, but don’t do it again. I’ve got him from here.”

Akiho blushed from the praise that Aizawa gave her. She recalled her steel ribbons by clenching her fingers and flicking her wrist backwards. The betrayed look Bakugo shot her way gave her conflicting feelings; especially when she saw the thankful look Midoriya was giving her. The bubbly girl ran over to her, the worry she obviously felt for Akiho making her nearly shout, “Are you ok? Those burns aren’t serious, are they?”

“No, no. It’s ok, I’m ok, I’ve gotten hurt worse from training, I swear. This one time I accidentally got a spike through the leg because I didn’t dodge fast enough.” Akiho tried placating the other girl. The burn on her hip was the worse of the two, and it stung and throbbed fiercely, but she wasn’t lying about having worse injuries in the past.

Akiho was so busy with trying to calm down the other girl, she didn’t notice both Bakugo’s and Aizawa’s heads whip suddenly to face her. Bakugo’s face was still set in a scowl, but his eyes were filled with a different emotion as he took in her burns.

Aizawa’s face was openly concerned and seemed to grow more disturbed when she tried to assure Uraraka that she had worse injuries in the past. He called out to her, “Hagane, you’re dismissed.”

Panicked, Akiho questioned, “What about the other tests? I don’t want to be expelled, Aizawa-sensei.”

Aizawa turned to face her; his eyes were even more bloodshot than before and he looked absolutely exhausted, “The point of these tests is to ensure that all of you are hero material. It’s not rational to make you continue while you’re injured, when you already proved yourself with that action. Go to Recovery Girl’s office.”

‘He thinks I’m hero material?’ Akiho thought excitedly.

Her joy was cut short as her side began to throb even more. The initial adrenaline rush was wearing off and left her to feel her wounds freely. With a wince, she nodded to Aizawa and began to make her way to the nurse’s office.

“Wait! Excuse me!” Midoriya’s voice called out to her.

She turned back to face him and watched as he jogged the last few steps to stand in front of her. He then bowed deeply and said, “Thank you so much for stepping in against Kacchan. I know you guys are friends, but it means a lot that you would do that for me. You don’t even know me.”

Akiho blushed at the deep bow and scratched at the back of her neck in embarrassment, “Oh, uh. No don’t do that. I did what I thought was right, that’s all. It’s no big deal, I just don’t like bullies.”

Midoriya straightened, tilted his head down so that he was looking her in the eye, and repeated, “Thank you, Hagane-san.”

“Ah. At least call me -chan. Midoriya.” Akiho immediately replied, out of habit.

“O-ok Hagane-chan, as l-long as you call me Midoriya-kun.” He stammered with a deep blush.

“Ok. Bye Midoriya-kun.” Akiho felt slightly bad for the blatant dismissal, but her side was hurting badly, and her manners were less important to her than getting to the nurse as quickly as possible.

When she reached the infirmary, Akiko was greeted by a short older woman that was using a gigantic syringe as a cane. She took one look at Akiho’s pained face and burnt clothes and then urgently ushered the young girl into a bed, “I swear, Aizawa is getting more reckless with his students every year. You didn’t even make it through the whole test, did you deary?”

“No ma’am, but he said I passed regardless.” The bed creaked as Akiho put her full weight on it. Recovery Girl gave the small girl a strange look but didn’t comment.

“Well at least there’s that dear. I see two burns on you, do you have any other injuries?” Recovery Girl asked kindly.

Akiho couldn’t help but think of the extensive bruising on her back and legs from training but didn’t think that was what Recovery Girl was asking for, “No ma’am.”

Recovery Girl nodded, turning away from Akiho for a second to gather some tools, “Just in case deary!”

The hip injury was treated first, as it was the worse of the two. In the time that it had taken Akiho to get to the office, the burn had started to bubble angrily. Luckily there was no debris in either wound, and Recovery Girl stated that she would be able to heal her with just her quirk.

Recovery Girl’s quirk was somehow both endearing and disturbing at the same time. She took the old, ‘kiss it to make it better’ adage literally, and her lips expended out like a butterfly’s proboscis. The wound on her leg was treated in the same way, and then Akiho was given some candy to help replace the energy her body used to heal. It didn’t seem to help much, and Akiho felt exhausted as she slowly made her way back to the courtyard with the rest of her class.

Before she made it there, she noticed that her classmates were filtering into the classroom. Akiho tried to sneak in with them, but Uraraka noticed her and shouted across the room, “Hagane-chan! Did Recovery Girl fix your burns?”

Akiho laughed awkwardly, her hand behind her head and confirmed, “Yeah, they’re all set. Can’t even tell I was burned. Thanks for asking Uraraka-chan.”

“Oh good! Did you see Midoriya while you were there? He had to go get his finger fixed.”

“Oh, no, sorry. I must’ve just missed him.” Akiho apologized.

“No worries! I was just curious! Aizawa-sensei told us that we were dismissed after we got our syllabi and homework packets, just so you know.” Uraraka informed her helpfully.

Akiho nodded her thanks to the other girl and grabbed the papers from Aizawa’s desk. She put them away in a pink folder that she pulled from her backpack. Just as she finished packing her things, a gruff voice sounded from behind her, “You placed 11th overall.”

Akiho turned slowly to see Bakugo standing with his hands in his pockets. His face was turned away from her, and his eyes were glaring at the ground. He seemed more tense than usual; less ‘incredibly overconfident’ and more ‘uncomfortable’ in his posture. With a tight smile, Akiho nodded her head and blandly replied, “Thanks.”

Though she had approached him first that morning, Akiho wasn’t about to let him act as though he hadn’t hurt her. Unintentional or not, he had been aiming to do even more harm to poor Midoriya-kun. Bakugo would have to apologize to her before she spoke to him kindly again. She wasn’t going to be friends with a bully.

Bakugo didn’t stick around after that. His exit was swift and the whole interaction left Akiho confused. Kirishima, who had been standing nearby and heard the interaction, commented with a grin, “Man, Ashido’s right. He’s definitely a tsundere.”

He moved closer to Akiho so that the distance between them wasn’t so awkward for conversation and then continued, “That move you pulled out in the courtyard was so manly! I wish I would have thought that fast to try and help Midoriya.”

Another voice broke into the conversation and added, “Yeah, that was insane how fast you moved to stop Bakugo like that, Kuudere-chan! You were even faster than Aizawa-sensei!”

It was Ashido, and Kaminari was with her as well. He nodded in agreement with what Ashido was saying.

Akiho blushed and rebuffed the praise, “I was closest to him, that’s all. You guys would’ve done the same.”

“I didn’t even think to move. By the time I would have reacted, Midoriya would’ve been toast.” Kaminari denied with a shrug.

“So, I got to ask, what’s your quirk exactly? Do you control metal?” Ashido asked suddenly; taking Akiho aback by how quickly the subject changed.

“Oh uhm, I control my metal. I prefer steel because it’s what my family is known for, hence the last name.” Akiho explained easily.

Kirishima tilted his head in confusion, looking like an adorable, shark toothed puppy, “Your metal? What’s the difference?”

Akiho lifted her right arm and made the steel extend out until it created a kite shield. The shield stretched from her elbow, and extended down past her hand, ending in a vicious looking point. A grip formed on the inside that her hand slid into easily. There was no design to mar the pure shine of the metal, and Akiho knew that her classmates could see their reflections in it. She then explained verbally, “I have to eat the metal and make it my own by digesting it. I store it in my muscles and can pull it out of my body using the ‘portals’ or ‘ports’ for short in my arms, feet, and back.”

All three students made impressed sounds when Akiho finished explaining. With a flex of her wrist, the shield was reabsorbed into her body. Ashido then asked, “So how much steel do you have stored then?”

“I’m constantly trying to push the limit of how much I can store. The more steel I have, the more useful I am in combat.” Akiho answered vaguely. She didn’t want to give away how much she had stored, as she was embarrassed by the number.

“Constantly pushing yourself to new heights? That’s so manly!” Kirishima praised, biting his lip and looking off into the distance dreamily.

The sound of the campus clock chiming alerted Akiho that she was running late. Her face visibly paled as she grabbed her bag and ran past her new friends and out the door, “Sorry guys! I’m going to be late for training! See you tomorrow!”

“BYE KUUDERE-CHAN!” Ashido shouted back, waving enthusiastically.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Sweat soaked hair stuck to Akiho’s forehead as she struggled to breathe. Her body was splayed out on the ground, her arms burned, her legs were numb, and her back ached fiercely from her rough landing. As she lay supine, a loud metallic screech to her right made her eyes widen with fear. Scrambling to move out of the way, Akiho managed to roll onto her side as a line of metallic spikes impaled where she had just been.

In the same time that it took her to stand, more spikes fired in her direction. Focusing her power into her arm ports, Akiho formed two shields, and braced herself for the impacts. The heavy ringing sound of metal on metal hurt her ears, but she ignored it, pumping more metal and energy into her shields to fix them as they began to fail under the onslaught.

Desperate to end the barrage, Akiho opened her left back port and began to create a barrier so that she could free up her hands. However, before she could achieve anything substantial, her back erupted into searing pain. Her opponent’s power dug into the metal that was flowing through and ripped it forcefully from the port. Akiho dropped to the ground gracelessly, her body paralyzed from the pain she was experiencing. The metal that had been ripped from her back hit the floor loudly, only inches from her face. She could feel a wet heat sticking to her shirt; blood seeping from the now empty port in her back. Tears mixed with the sweat that was already stinging her eyes, and she could do little but pant; her back in so much pain that anything more than a shallow breath caused even more agony to rip through her.

Akiho didn’t hear her opponent approach, only the disapproving tone that was her mother’s usual tone as of late, “How many times do I have to tell you not to use those?”

Akiho knew she had to respond, otherwise her mother would grow even angrier, but her breath was lost to her. Aiko showed no sympathy and asked again, “Well?”

“I… was trying… to make… a… shield.” Akiho panted out desperately.

Aiko rolled her wheelchair so that Akiho could see her face. The girl looked up at her mother desperately and hoped that the older woman would believe her. Aiko pointed at the metal with a disappointed look on her face and asked angrily, “Why do you feel the need to lie to me?” Aiko’s face twisted into rage, “Why does your shield have feathers then?”

Akiho followed her mother’s finger and noted with dread that the bloodied steel was made entirely of metallic feathers. Her face paled further as she tried to defend herself, “I didn’t do it on purpose! I swear!”

A sneer met her with her mother’s sarcastic response, “You can’t make a teaspoon without intense concentration, but you can make a feather subconsciously?”

Akiho realized how absurd it sounded, despite it being the truth. Her family was famous for creating and selling intricate, fancy, decorative metal items and baubles. Akiho however, struggled with the most basic of items; except for feathers. She could create them almost instantly, and without a single thought to their basic layout or design. It frustrated her mother to no end, that the quirk that she passed down to Akiho was being wasted in that respect.

Aiko Hagane was one of the most prolific metal artisans the Hagane family had ever produced; and would have been one of the greatest heroes as well, if her career hadn’t been cut short. The Iron Maiden had been paralyzed shortly after Akiho was born, in a fight against a villain trying to rob a bank. The villain had dropped the entire building on her in his attempt to escape, and Aiko had been lucky to escape with her life. Since then, she dedicated herself to making the most incredible, intricately designed pieces of art that she could. It was inconceivable to her that her daughter didn’t share her talent, when the girl could create life-like feathers in an instant.

Akiho wasn’t sure why her mother’s quirk wouldn’t work for her like it should have. She struggled to make more than just basic shapes and her mother’s intricate filigree eluded her on every attempt. It weighed on her heavily, that she was incapable of using her mother’s quirk to its fullest potential.

‘Failure.’ Akiho berated herself through the pain.

Akiho tried to pull herself up onto her arms, but the pain radiating from her left port made her drop back to the floor with another cry of pain. Seeing this, Aiko made a disappointed sound, then wheeled herself towards the exit of the training room, “We’re done here today. Pick yourself up, clean up, and go to bed.”

The lights were turned off as Aiko left the room; leaving Akiho alone in the dark.

Chapter Text

It had taken Akiho hours to claw herself into her room the night previous. The pain had been intense; showering with a gaping hole in her back was something she was not happy to say she had grown used to. This was not the first time her mother had done this to her, and depressingly, Akiho knew in her heart that it would not be the last either. The back ports were a key difference in Aiko’s and Akiho’s quirks, as Aiko did not have them, nor could she open them. Due to this, Aiko ‘strongly encouraged’ Akiho not to use them, as Aiko could not correctly teach her.

When she had developed her quirk, Akiho only had the ports on her back and feet. Aiko had taught her how to open the ones on her wrists, and how to expand them so that they spanned her entire forearm. Aiko had rushed the process, causing the extensive scar tissue that surrounded Akiho’s wrist ports. Akiho later opened all the tiny ports on her ears and tongue alone, disguising them as piercings so that even her mother was unaware of their true nature.

She had reabsorbed the metal that had been torn from her back last night, but the port needed time to heal before she could use it again. Bandages were wrapped around her torso just in case the wound reopened during hero training that afternoon. Akiho prayed that it would be a light training day.

In the morning, Akiho woke an hour earlier than usual and snuck out of the house before her mother woke. The train to school was nearly empty, the quiet was slightly unsettling. Quietly, she slipped into her homeroom class, not making noise despite being the first person there. Once she was painfully seated, she pulled out the homework Aizawa assigned, and started reading. She hoped that it wouldn’t be a regular occurrence.

The days at U.A. started with normal classes in the morning, and hero classes in the afternoon. Akiho was thankful for the reprieve, as it gave her back more time to heal; though from experience, she knew that her port wouldn’t be fully functional for another two weeks.

Sitting hurt.

Standing hurt more.

Kirishima, who sat behind her, noticed her stiff posture and constant shifting throughout the day and asked twice if she was alright. The second time was in between the last normal class and the beginning of the hero course. Akiho couldn’t turn to face him in her seat, so she stood and turned to him. She tried to smile to reassure him, but it may have come off as more of a grimace, “I’m ok Kirishima-kun, I had a training accident yesterday and my back is a little sore is all. I should be fine in a couple of days.”

Concerned red eyes looked up at her, and Kirishima noted, “It sounds like you get hurt pretty frequently.”

‘Shit,’ Akiho thought nervously, ‘He must’ve heard me talking to Uraraka yesterday.’

A lie, Akiho needed a lie. Her mother’s voice whispered in her mind, letting her know that no one would understand the intensity of their training regimen. It was a conversation that they had plenty of times in the past. She needed the extra training to keep up with the other kids’ quirks. Quirks that weren’t faulty; that didn’t rebel against their users like Akiho’s did. Her mother made it known that she was behind the curve, that she wouldn’t compare to the other students at U.A. The 11th spot she had been ranked yesterday was a fluke; she hadn’t participated in all the events; it wasn’t an accurate measure. But Akiho hated lying, so she went with a half truth instead, “Something pulled in my back yesterday during training.”

Kirishima’s face relaxed slightly, though he still looked a little concerned, “Oh, that sucks. I know how much that can hurt. Did you try heat?”

Feeling awkward standing when all her classmates were sitting and waiting for their teacher to arrive, Akiho sat sideways in her seat, so that she could still face Kirishima. Before she could respond, a loud male voice cut across the classroom, “I am… Coming through the door like a normal person!”

All Might came through the door, slamming it open and entering the room with a dramatic flair. ‘That’s hardly normal… but ok.’ Akiho thought to herself amusedly, a smile on her face for the first time that day.

“All Might!” The entire class chorused in various levels of excitement. Akiho was caught mostly on how large the man was, seeing him on television did not translate how large the man would be in real life. He had to be at least 7 feet tall, dwarfing Akiho’s measly 5 feet. Excitement flooded her as the situation became more real, and her eyes became rounded with anticipation as to what he was doing here at U.A.

“Wow, he really is a teacher!” Kirishima shouted with a huge grin on his face.

Murmurs from the other students about All Might’s costume and appearance were lost on Akiho as she watched the giant of a man walk to the teacher’s podium. He struck a heroic pose behind it and introduced, “I teach Hero Basic Training. It is a subject where you train in different ways to learn the basics of being a hero. You’ll take the most units of this subject!” Another pose was struck, highlighting his huge muscles, “Let’s get right into it! This is what we’ll do today! Combat Training!”

‘Shit!’ Akiho lamented with a grimace, her back aching even more fiercely at the thought.

“Combat Training!” Bakugo started and Midoriya finished, the former with aggressive glee on his face, and the latter worried.

All Might barreled on as if he didn’t hear them, which very well might have been the case, “And to go with that are these!”

The front left corner of the classroom began making a whirring sound as shelving extended out. There were numbered briefcases on each shelf, and All Might explained what they were, “Costumes made based on your Quirk Registrations and requests you sent in before school started. After you change, gather in Ground Beta!”

After that, All Might left the room with just as much flair as he when he had entered. Kirishima looked at Akiho worriedly and asked, “Are you going to be able to do this with your back the way it is?”

Warmth flooded her as she noted the genuine worry on Kirishima’s face. It wasn’t too often that she had someone who cared like that, “Yeah, I should be fine. I’ll just have to be creative.”

“Creative about what?” Ashido broke in curiously.

“Akiho’s got a pulled muscle in her back, so she’s planning how to work around it.” Kirishima told her innocently.

“Kirishima!” Akiho scolded softly with a whisper, “Don’t spread that around! We’re about to do combat training! What if I’m paired up against Ashido-chan?”

Ashido’s giant black and gold eyes lit up with excitement, “Chan? I get a -chan?! Yay! Thanks, Kuudere-chan!”

Ashido then leapt at Akiho for a hug, which the shorter girl dodged with a back step. Akiho felt bad, but before she could apologize, understanding crossed Ashido’s face, “Oh that’s right! You don’t like that. Sorry Kuudere-chan. I was just so excited!”

“Thanks, Ashido-chan.” Akiho stated sincerely, with a large smile on her face. Ashido squealed and squirmed in place, but otherwise didn’t move towards the smaller redhead again.

The girls all grabbed their suitcases and went to the girl’s locker room together, chatting about what they thought the combat training was going to be like. Akiho stuck by Ashido’s side, much to the pink girl’s delight. The girls all oohed and ahhed at each other’s costumes. Akiho felt especially jealous of Yaoyorozu’s design. It made her look sexy and confident, while still being functional for her quirk’s usage. Akiho’s costume, while incredibly functional, wasn’t sexy at all.

Akiho’s costume consisted of ¾ sleeved backless top that was made of scalemail with a thin black lining underneath. The bandages that she had wrapped around her torso covered the skin and back ports that would have otherwise been on display. A quick check in a mirror let Akiho know that there was no blood on them, and she hoped that her classmates would think it was part of her design.

Her legs were covered by black pants with patches of scalemail armor on her front and outer thighs, and knee-high black combat boots. The pants clung tighter than she had asked for, but still weren’t practically painted on like Uraraka’s costume was. She completed the look with a metal mask over her mouth and nose that also functioned as a respirator, without the clunky protrusions; and she also had a pair of dark goggles that covered her eyes. The goggles had night-vision and heat sensing functions.

Akiho had just gotten the goggles in place when Ashido looked over and exclaimed with shock, “Holy shit Kuudere-chan! You look like a total fucking badass!”

That had been what Akiho wanted, but it was still embarrassing to have it shouted at her like that. She brought a hand behind her head, gingerly moving as it stretched her back muscles, and said, “Oh, wow. Thanks, Ashido-chan. I tried to make my costume as cool as I could.”

“You definitely fucking succeeded! Holy shit. Tsu-chan! Come check out Akiho’s costume! It’s amazing!” Ashido shouted, gaining all the girl’s attention in the locker room.

Akiho felt her entire face flush red in embarrassment of being placed at the center of attention. All the girls rushed over, making noises of encouragement and amazement as they did.

“Wow, you look like a high-tech knight!” Uraraka exclaimed, pressing her hands together in front of her in excitement.

“Very cool Hagane.” Came Tsu’s cool compliment.

The other girls murmured in agreement, but the warning bell cut them off before they could continue. The girls all continued to talk to each other as they walked, but the topic had shifted, much to Akiho’s appreciation. She still stuck closer to Ashido than the rest but wasn’t so much hiding behind the other girl anymore.

It was weird but nice to have friends that she could actually talk to. For now, at least.

The boys were waiting at the entrance to the grounds, and Akiho thought it was cute that they waited so that the whole class could walk in together. She noticed them staring at her, Bakugo and Kirishima especially. She couldn’t help but stare back, as their costumes were especially eye-grabbing; especially to a teenaged girl.

Kirishima’s costume consisted of baggy black pants with a red half cape that was secured around his waist with a red ‘R’. He had gear shaped shoulder pads connected by a barely there jagged sash. On his face, there was a guard that made his face vaguely resemble an oni with strategically placed spikes for ‘fangs’. He wore no shirt; his muscular chest and abs on display. Akiho couldn’t help but let her eyes linger for a moment before pulling herself together. If Kirishima noticed, he didn’t let on.

Bakugo’s costume was flashy and dramatic. He had a black mask that extended along the side of his head to look like explosions. His torso was covered (unlike Kirishima’s) by a black tank-top with orange trim. A metal neck brace that looked more stylish than functional rested on his shoulders. The big draw of attention were the two huge grenade shaped gauntlets that were attached to his arms. Akiho wondered if they were functional, or if they were only there for the aesthetic.

It seemed that Bakugo had only been looking at her to figure out who she was, before he scoffed and said loudly, “It looks like the Somei elites dress the same and everything.”

Akiho was confused by his exclamation, until she saw Iida. He was in full armor, in a costume that was incredibly similar to his brother’s. Akiho thought it was cute that Iida idolized his brother so much. She supposed that she and Iida were the only ones that were armored, and had their faces completely covered. Before she could say anything, Iida had already confronted Bakugo, “I am unsure of what you are insinuating Bakugo. Hagane-kun and I designed our costumes separately.”

“Tch.” Bakugo snarled and turned away from the tall boy and faced Akiho, “At least you look like a badass.”

“Thanks.” Akiho replied shortly.

She was still angry at him for the day prior, and he hadn’t even come close to an apology. Tension rose between the two quickly, as both Bakugo’s and Akiho’s eyes narrowed at each other. Kirishima cut between them strategically and addressed the class, “Let’s go!”

Bakugo shouldered his way to the front of the group, determined to enter Ground Beta first. Akiho’s eye twitched angrily, ‘What a dick.’

All Might was standing just outside the gate and addressed the class as a whole as they entered, “They say that the clothes make the man, young men and ladies. Be fully aware, from now on… you are heroes!”

The speech was short but dramatic, and it served as an excellent way to pump the class up for the lesson. Even Akiho (through her pain) felt driven and wondered if All Might was pumping them up intentionally, or if he was just naturally that charismatic. He took them all in, and a huge grin overtook his face as he praised, “That’s great everyone! You all look cool!”

“Now, it’s time for combat training!”

“Sensei!” Iida shouted with a hand in the air, “This is the battle center from the entrance exam, so will we be conducting urban battles again?”

All Might flexed, then posed with two fingers held up, “Nope! We’re going to move ahead two steps! Most of the time villain battles happen outside, but if you look at the numbers, the truly atrocious villains appear indoors at higher rates. Imprisonment, hostages, backroom deals; in this society filled by heroes, truly intelligent villains hide in the shadows!”

Akiho sympathized with what All Might was saying sharply. Her mother’s career had been cut short by an indoor crime. The whole building had caved in on her, and the casualties were great. Akiho had been so incredibly lucky not to have lost her mother young.

“For this class, you’ll be split into villains and heroes and fight 2 on 2 indoor battles!”

“Without basic training?” Tsuyu asked curiously.

“This is a real battle to understand those basics! However, the key this time is that there’s no robot you can just beat up.” All Might explained.

An explosion of questions erupted from the class all at once, creating a dull roar. Akiho kept her own questions to herself, mostly because her nerves made it impossible to voice her own concerns.

How was she to pull her own weight with her injuries?

How would teams be created, and how would they be matched against one another?

Would she get to be a hero? Or be forced to play the villain?

A shiver ran up her spine at the last question. She didn’t think that she would be able to play the part. Her heart certainly wouldn’t be in it, she knew that much.

All Might looked a little overwhelmed with all the questions the class shot at him. Akiho felt bad for him, and it humanized him a little in her mind. All Might was a man, a new teacher at that, and the class was ruthless in their attempts to get answers. From seemingly nowhere, All Might pulled out a booklet and began reading from it, “The situation is that the villains have hidden a nuclear weapon somewhere in their hideout. The heroes are trying to dispose of that. The heroes need to catch the villains or get the nuclear weapon back in the allotted time. The villains need to protect the weapon the whole time or catch the heroes. Teams and opponents will be determined by drawing lots!”

‘Random teams?’ Akiho thought nervously, ‘At least I don’t have to worry about asking someone to team up.’

Everyone lined up and grabbed a slip of paper from the box that All Might held in front of him. Akiho drew the letter ‘I’ and looked around nervously for her partner. She had hoped that Kirishima, Ashido, or Kaminari were on her team, but they all had different letters. Feeling lost, she looked around at the rest of her class pairing up and noticed a boy who hadn’t found his partner yet either. He was tall, with short blonde hair and was wearing what looked like a modified karate Gi. He had a large, powerful looking tail wrapped around his shoulder.

Akiho walked over nervously and asked, “Do you have the letter ‘I’?”

The boy smiled amicably and held up his matching lot, showing her the ‘I’ written there, “Yes I do. Hello. My name is Ojiro.”

“Hi Ojiro, I’m Hagane. It’s a pleasure.” Akiho greeted formally with a slight bow, “I hope we do well together.”

“Me too. Your quirk is metal manipulation, right? Do you think that we will be picked as heroes or villains?” Ojiro asked conversationally.

As though All Might were listening to the question, he pulled out two more boxes labelled ‘Heroes’ and ‘Villains’. Akiho pointed Ojiro’s attention to them and he let out a quiet, “Oh.”

The first teams chosen were ‘A’ and ‘D’. Akiho paled when she noticed that it was Bakugo and Iida versus Midoriya and Uraraka. Bakugo’s team was picked to be the villains, and the dark look on his face made Akiho worried. How far would Bakugo take this? Would All Might stop Bakugo before he seriously hurt Midoriya?

The rest of the class had been ushered into the monitoring room. There were video feeds of the building on a multitude of monitors, that would allow All Might and the class to watch what was happening inside the building. Akiho felt herself moving towards All Might and stood beside the giant man. Her hands were shaking with nerves, she didn’t want to overstep, but she was genuinely concerned about this matchup.

Akiho vividly remembered the look in Bakugo’s eyes, both yesterday and just now when he set his sights on Midoriya. She remembered how angry he was at the green haired boy yesterday. How much it had hurt to be burned, and how upset she had been that Bakugo would attack a fellow student like he had. That emotion was what drove her to speak, “All Might, sir. I don’t think pairing Bakugo and Midoriya is a good idea. Yesterday during Aizawa-sensei’s…”

All Might cut her off, looking down at her with a patronizing smile, “Don’t worry young Hagane. I am here!”

“But Bakugo…”

The smile was strained, All Might clearly losing his patience with her, “Young Hagane. I have this under control. Go stand with your other classmates.”

Shivers of fear coursed through her. The look of irritation in All Might’s eyes reminded her of her mother’s just before she’d pulled out her back ports the very first time. It stunned her into complacency, “Yes sensei.”

Akiho scurried off to hide herself from All Might behind Kirishima, Ashido, and Kaminari. She was thankful for the mask and goggles, as no one could see the frightened look on her face. All Might watched her go, a strange look in his eyes; but Akiho didn’t see it, and she made sure she didn’t look in the giant’s direction again. She cursed herself for drawing attention to herself; it always caused her problems in the long run.

Akiho thought it funny that Aizawa-sensei, the man she thought frightening at first, was kinder than the #1 hero. At least to her. Maybe it came with being an underground hero; a hero that wasn’t in it for the fame, nor the money, but for the good of man. Akiho found herself admiring those qualities in him, that he would still be so kind, even after all that he must have seen. In that moment, she resolved, ‘I’m going to be a hero like Aizawa-sensei. A true hero.’

Akiho couldn’t bear to watch the screens. She knew it was going to be bad.

She was wrong.

It was worse. So much worse than she could have imagined.

Her eyes had involuntarily snapped to the screens after All Might’s desperate warning to Bakugo, “Young Bakugo, stop! You’ll kill him!”

Akiho’s pupils blew out with fear. She couldn’t hear what was being said, but Bakugo pulled a pin from his gauntlet with a deranged grin.

The resulting explosion was large enough to shake the building that the rest of the class was in. Akiho’s stance was sturdy, but she watched Ashido rock slightly and reached out to catch her arm before she fell. The other girl gave her a silent nod in thanks, and then they both glanced back up at the monitors and watched in horror as the battle continued. It was so horrific, at some point Akiho had removed her goggles; though she didn’t recall the action specifically.

After Midoriya took a point-blank blast to his unprotected back, Kirishima ran up to All Might and shouted, “This looks bad sir!”

Bakugo and Midoriya ran at each other from across the room. Explosions erupting from the former as the latter’s arm began to glow with power. Kirishima yelled with even more urgency, “I said this looks bad! Sir!”

Akiho watched All Might do nothing. Grit her teeth as Bakugo burned Midoriya so much worse than he had her. Then let her jaw drop as Midoriya destroyed the majority of the building.

‘How could Bakugo have bullied someone with so much power?’ Akiho couldn’t help but wonder helplessly and hopelessly confused.

In the end, the heroes won; but it seemed that the victory was pyrrhic at best. Both Midoriya and Uraraka were sent to the nurse for their injuries. She watched the feeds and took in the shaking form of Bakugo. She felt no sympathy, not even pity for him. All she knew was that she was furious with him.

She was also furious with All Might; but fear of bodily harm kept her from antagonizing the #1 hero.

All Might returned from the battleground with Bakugo and Iida in tow. He glanced around the class until he found Akiho, hidden partially behind Kirishima. His steps over to her were measured and lacked all of the flair he usually put into all of his movements. Kirishima was confused as to why Akiho seemed to be hiding but held his ground as the giant stood before him. All Might’s incredible height meant that even though Kirishima stood as a faithful sentry between them, he could still see Akiho clearly. The #1 hero pursed his lips and sighed though his nose before speaking in a subdued tone, “Young Hagane, I apologize. Your council, while unappreciated at the time, was honest and undeniably true.”

Big, round silver eyes looked up at blazing electric blues; fear clouded them. It made All Might uncomfortable to know he had caused such unease in one of his students. He continued, trying to put her at ease, “It was truly heroic that you stood up for your convictions against someone meant to know better.”

“T-Thank you sensei.” Akiho said, looking down at the floor nervously.

Blessedly, Kirishima remained silent until All Might had walked away, “What was that about?”

Not thinking, Akiho pressed her forehead against Kirishima’s shoulder blade and let out a shaky sigh. Kirishima’s back muscles shivered at the sensation, and Akiho jumped back nervously, then let out a hiss of pain. Bent slightly as the pain shot through her, she apologized, “Shit! I’m so sorry! I wasn’t thinking…”

When Kirishima grabbed her by the shoulders, Akiho flinched harshly, causing another inhalation in pain. He squatted down so that he could look up at her and asked, “Are you ok? Is it your back?”

Ashido had been standing nearby and watched the whole exchange also leaned over to make eye contact and asked the smaller girl, “Should you really be doing this if your back is that bad?”

With a deep breath in, Akiho straightened. Kirishima’s hands were still on her shoulders but he straightened back to his full height. Determination filled eyes looked at them and it filled her voice when she spoke, “I already got excused yesterday. It won’t look good if I try again. It’s only the second day.”

Kirishima squeezed his hands one last time before letting go of her shoulders. A smile was on his face as he complimented, “Your determination is so manly.”

“We understand. It’s just, we’re your friends, so we worry.” Ashido explained.

Friends. The word warmed her. It had only been a day, but they were the closest friends she’s had since kindergarten. It brought a soft smile to her face, “Thanks guys.”

All Might had declared Iida the MVP of the round for his resourcefulness and compliance with the mission statement. He then drew the lots for the next match. Akiho was surprised to see that her letter had been called so soon.

Ojiro and Akiho had been cast as villains against the hero team of Todoroki and Shoji. Her heart fell at the thought of playing the villain, but Iida’s performance inspired her. She would take a page from his book and try to get into the mindset by playing smart against her opponents.

The villain team had taken their bomb to the topmost floor and placed it in the center of the room away from all the windows. Ojiro seemed to be using the remainder of the time to stretch his muscles. Akiho looked over to him and formulated a plan, “Todoroki-san will be the bigger problem to deal with, due to the range of his ice quirk. I have some ranged attacks of my own, so I’ll head to the lower floors and try to occupy him until the timer runs out.”

Ojiro glanced over to Akiho and nodded in agreement, “I’ll stay and guard the bomb in case he manages to get past you.”

Akiho quickly made her way to the third floor. She needed all the time she had left to enact a plan against Todoroki. It was unfortunate that she was paired up against him, as he was a natural counter to her mother’s quirk. If Todoroki used his ice, he could easily freeze her. The entirety of the Hagane clan had at least some susceptibility to cold, though the severity ranged from individual quirk to individual quirk.

Power flowed over her, as Akiho activated her mother’s quirk completely. Steel danced under her skin, coming alive and ready to serve. Two kite shields formed on her arms; her hands easily sliding into the position that she knew so well. The scales on her armor began to quake, creating a soft tinkling sound like a windchime. This was her element. Todoroki may be her mother’s quirk’s foil, but she would be damned if she gave him the win without a fight.

Akiho was a fighter.

It was what kept her alive.

She needed a plan. Her preparation time was almost up.

Thinking quickly, she fired out the scales that were attached to her pants. In midair, she transformed them into spikes and spread them across the corridor. Then she touched the wall to her right and allowed her metal to leave her. It crawled along the wall like a deranged silver vine; creeping up to the ceiling and wriggling its way onto the left wall as well. Every few feet, she had the mass anchor itself into the supports of the building, so that the overall weight wasn’t resting solely on her. She had to spread it thin too; she needed to leave some metal within her to support her damaged port as well as keep her weight distribution even by doing the same for the other as well.

To get to her, to get past her, Todoroki would have to navigate the terrain that she morphed in her favor.

She was not prepared for Todoroki to do the same.

Ice flashed toward her and before she could move, Akiho’s feet had been trapped in ice. She felt the chill of it instantly through her boots. Her metal toes ached already, and shivers that aggravated her bad back wracked through her. She instantly understood that she had a choice: take the time to try and free herself, or free her metal terrain and fight rooted to her spot.

She chose the latter. Her injury wouldn’t allow for much movement regardless.

Pushing her power through the entirety of the corridor, Akiho began working her metal free of its icy prison. Metal tendrils thrashed and cracked the ice but did not break entirely free. Akiho wanted to appear trapped, helpless to Todoroki’s ice; then she would attack when his guard was down. It was a dirty trick, but she was playing the villain after all.

Todoroki’s arrival was slow, and he sauntered into view with an arrogance that set Akiho’s teeth on edge. By that point, she was shivering fiercely, her body fighting to keep warm. She kept her body slouched slightly, as though the shields on her arms were becoming too heavy to hold. He took in her—albeit purposefully conducted—pitiful appearance and gave her a small egotistical smile, “You can try to move, but the skin on your feet will come off, and you won’t be able to fight your best.”

Akiho didn’t dignify the asshole with a verbal response. Instead, she swept her arms forward and crossed them in front of her, guiding the power that pulled on all the metal that lay in wait under the ice. All at once, thin metallic whips broke free and flew at Todoroki, forcing him to dodge forward into the field of spikes. They were less effective with a layer of ice reducing their depth, but the wince Todoroki gave was proof that they were still a factor.

With an upward swipe of her arms that made her back ache, Akiho’s tangled mass of metal vines swept forward towards their target once more. She kept the pressure on, forcing him to keep dodging, to keep moving on the field of sharp barbs and shot back at him irritably, “You can try to move, but the skin on your feet will puncture, and you won’t be able to fight your best!”

The chill of her feet, of the surrounding building encased in ice was setting in quickly. Akiho focused on the fact that she only had to hold position for 15 minutes. Surely the time would run out soon. Akiho just had to keep him occupied.

Competitiveness sparked in Todoroki’s eyes at the verbal barb. He planted his feet, barbs clearly hitting their mark once more if the wince was a tell and swung his arm out at the attacking mass of metal. Raw power flew from his fingers as the entirety of the corridor behind him filled with ice, encasing her quirk once more.

Akiho didn’t allow herself to be stunned and instead unleashed another attack. To hold the element of surprise, she did so without moving her arms. It was harder to control this way, but she needed to catch him off guard and keep him from gaining any more ground. The scales that made up the armor of her top lifted so that they pointed out horizontally from her body and then shot off in a flurry of slicing metal. She controlled each scale individually, sending them hurtling at Todoroki as fast as she could.

She did not account for another wave of ice to ensnare her attack. The shock and cold that she hadn’t allowed herself to feel before snuck up on her, causing her to pause momentarily. Todoroki took advantage of it instantly and encased her entire body in ice. She felt it crawl up her body, closing in on her like a vice. It was so tight to her; she didn’t even have the room to shiver. Only her head remained free, and Akiho was glad she had her goggles on so that he couldn’t see the tears of frustration in her eyes. She maintained eye contact, waiting in her prison for him to pass her by. Akiho took a small pleasure in the fact that he had limp around the remainder of her spike trap to do so.

The cold was becoming painful already. The chill and numbness of her feet had already travelled up to her thighs. She couldn’t feel her hands either. In what she considered a blessing, she also could no longer feel her back. Come to think of it… Could she feel anything?

Akiho was so tired. She could sleep right there.

‘Sorry Ojiro… I tried.’ Akiho thought solemnly.

And sleep she did.

BONUS:

In the Monitoring Room Bakugo’s P.O.V.:

The class watched at villain team ‘I’ set up their bomb in a similar fashion to the first team; top floor, middle of the room. They even split up just like the first villain team had. It wasn’t very original.

Until Metal Mouth walked down to the third floor, armed herself with some wickedly sharp looking shields, and turned the entire corridor into her playground. Metal spines shot from the legs of her costume and onto the floor, somehow turning into ground spikes in midair. More impressively, she laid hands on the wall nearest her, and set up an elaborate trap of shapeless tendrils throughout the entire corridor.

“Wooaahhh. Where is all the metal coming from?” Bass Bitch asked no one in particular.

“Kuudere-chan said she stores it in her muscles…” Raccoon Eyes responded quietly; still in shock of the sheer amount that the girl had released.

“All that metal was inside her?” Frogger asked incredulously.

He didn’t want to think of why Raccoon Eyes knew that. He should have known that. He met her first!

Bakugo’s ruby eyes never left the screens. He was determined to learn everything he could about Metal Mouth’s and Ice Prick’s quirks. He knew Tail boy wasn’t in their league, so he didn’t even bother with him. He wouldn’t be shown up again. He would beat every last one of them. He would be #1. Screw Deku. Screw All Might. Screw anyone that tried to get in his way.

He was the best.

Bakugo’s resolve was shaken once more when he watched Ice Prick freeze the whole building. It looked like Metal Mouth was stuck, and her hunched over position made it seem like she had already given up. Bakugo felt disgust curl in his stomach. Where was the girl who acted faster than Aizawa-sensei yesterday?

The class erupted into cheers for the villain team (ironically enough) when Metal Mouth launched attack after attack at Ice Prick. She never caught him in those killer looking whips, but she did her damnedest and made the smug motherfucker bleed on the ground spikes.

He wished he could have heard the audio; wished he knew what Metal Mouth had said to Ice Prick to make him lose his cool. It must’ve been badass. But then he watched the match end so suddenly, Metal Mouth’s body caught in ice so thick she couldn’t break out. Ice Prick walked by her, leaving bloody footprints in his wake as he made it to the nuke. Tail boy did nothing to stop him, and Bakugo felt enraged for Metal Mouth that her partner let her hard work go to waste.

When Ice Prick melted the ice (his new name was Icy-Hot from that point on) everyone else had focused in on the largest screen that declared the heroes the winners. Bakugo however, had kept his eyes on Metal Mouth, and watched her body fall to the ground in a graceless heap when the ice disappeared. Without the ice to hold it in place, her metal scale attack clattered to the floor, and the tangled mass of vines along the walls and ceiling hung lifeless. His eyes wide in horror, he called out to All Might without thinking, “Something’s wrong with Metal Mouth!”

After a second of confusion, All Might zoomed in on the screen that still had her in frame. She still hadn’t moved, and with the mask and goggles on, no one could see her face to tell if she was conscious. The teacher called out to the comms, “Young Todoroki, Young Ojiro! Please check on Young Hagane! I am on my way!”

All Might ran at a full sprint to Building B, and Icy Hot was by Metal Mouth’s side on the monitors in seconds. Strangely Bakugo wanted to go too, but stayed put; eyes glued to the screens along with everyone else. Icy Hot’s hand reached for the goggles first, removing them gently from Metal Mouth’s face. Her eyes were closed, and she didn’t respond when he removed the mask as well.

With his great speed, All Might was there shortly after the mask came off. All Might reached down to Metal Mouth’s neck to find a pulse—presumably—but pulled back suddenly. The #1 hero turned to Icy Hot, who visibly paled, but set his hands on the unconscious girl. Steam rose as he began warming her, and two robots with a stretcher appeared to take her to the nurse’s office. Murmurs broke through the once silent room.

“Is she going to be ok?”

“Do you think it was hypothermia? That’s really fast.”

“Maybe it’s because she’s made of metal?”

Eventually the class began chatting about the next fight; predicting the matchups and who would win. Only Bakugo, Shitty Hair, Pikachu, and Raccoon Eyes were still watching the screen when the robots picked up her limp form and carried her to the nurse’s office.

Chapter Text

Akiho woke up disoriented. She wasn’t sure where she was, or how she got there.

Her body felt light. Fluffy even.

Light meant no metal. Light meant defenseless.

‘Where am I?’ She thought, struggling to move.

Her body wasn’t responding the way she wanted it to when she tried to move. A woman’s voice, tinged with worry, scolded her, “Careful. I’ve got you hooked up to some warm fluids, you don’t want to accidentally rip it out.”

Akiho struggled to coordinate her neck muscles to turn her head in the direction of the voice. Sitting in a desk chair nearby was Recovery Girl, but in the bed between them was an unconscious Midoriya. A conveniently placed clock just above Recovery Girl let Akiho know that it was 3:00pm. Classes would be ending soon; she had missed the majority of Hero Training.

Again.

“Are you competing with Midoriya for trips to my office? I hate to tell you that he’s one ahead of you.” Recovery Girl sassed at her with a quirked eyebrow.

Akiho found that it even took effort to speak, “Wh-what happened?”

“You nearly froze to death. If All Might hadn’t thought to have Todoroki warm you with his quirk until you reached me, you very well could have.” Recovery Girl answered sharply; all traces of humor lost from her voice.

“I-I didn’t realize.” Akiho responded.

The girl knew that the cold cut through her more than most because of her metallic physical features. But the extent of how vulnerable she was to it wasn’t something she had experienced before. She didn’t know what to think; with such a glaring flaw in her quirk, how could she ever hope to be a hero? How would she be able to fight crime in the colder months if the threat of hypothermia was so imminent? It had been less than 15 minutes before she had succumbed to the cold.

Shit. The match!

Surely they had lost. If Ojiro’s feet had been frozen like hers had, he wouldn’t have been able to stop Todoroki from retrieving the weapon. Misery flowed through her; she had let her partner down. It had been her plan, and it failed spectacularly. Todoroki blew by her so quickly she might as well have not been there at all.

“How are you feeling? Any numbness in your fingers or toes?”

Akiho’s thoughts shifted from failure to her physical health. She looked herself over, noticing that she was still in her hero costume sans the metal scales, and more worryingly, without her shoes. The tone of her thoughts switched quickly from sullen to panicked. Obviously Recovery Girl had seen her feet, but had anyone else? Her body shot straight up in the bed, and she nearly shouted, “Did anyone else see me without my shoes on?!”

Confusion washed over the older woman’s face as she responded, “No deary, just me. Why?”

The relief that she felt caused Akiho’s shoulder to sag heavily, and that’s when she noticed that her back no longer hurt. Recovery Girl must’ve healed her injuries when she was first brought in. Akiho figured that her quirk didn’t have a diagnostic aspect to it, otherwise the older woman would have asked about the muscle tears.

“Is it because you have a secondary unregistered mutation quirk?” There was an edge to the tone that Recovery Girl used that Akiho wasn’t sure if she liked.

“I don’t have a secondary quirk.” Was Akiho’s automatic, trained response.

She had been through this before with the nurses at Somei. Whenever the yearly physicals occurred, the nurses would always try to register her with a mutation quirk, but her mother would come in the next day and fix it. Aiko was probably going to have to come in to talk to Recovery Girl next. Akiho wasn’t looking forward to it.

“Deary, you have metallic bird feet…”

“Can I be excused back to class?” Akiho asked rudely; done with the conversation.

Akiho knew that she wouldn’t be able to convince Recovery Girl otherwise. She had never been able to convince anyone that she only had the Metal Manipulation quirk her mother had passed down to her. The feet were a result of her lack of control. Her mother explained that when she gained full control of her quirk (when she would finally be able to control ALL metal like Aiko could), that her feet would return to normal. Akiho looked forward to that day, when shoes would no longer hurt; when she could go to the beach and feel the sand between her toes. Human toes. The thought warmed her. Filled her with hope.

Recovery Girl’s eyes narrowed at her, “This conversation isn’t over dear. I will be filing the paperwork to have your quirk registration edited.”

Akiho nodded solemnly, knowing that her mother would handle it. She always handled it.

God have mercy on anyone that stood in Aiko Hagane’s way.

 

When Akiho opened the door to the classroom, Aizawa was dismissing the class for the day. The class was talking amongst themselves, creating a dull roar that Akiho couldn’t pick a singular conversation out of. Aizawa walked past her to exit the room, highlighting her presence to the rest of the class when he informed her, “Good, you’re up. Leave yesterday’s homework on my desk and pick up tonight’s packet from Ashido. All Might says that you can pick up your metal in the building where you left it.”

Akiho nodded in understanding and then the dark-haired man was off. She shuffled into the room nearly unnoticed as everyone began packing up their bags for the day. Kirishima’s face lit up when he saw her and near shouted, “Hagane-chan! You’re ok!”

Ashido and Kaminari ran up to her and Kirishima’s desks and the pink girl practically danced in place. Her giant black eyes were wide, and worry laced her voice, “Oh my goodness! We were all so worried Kuudere-chan! Are you ok?”

Warmth filled Akiho as she looked over to see all three of her friends’ worried faces. A hand reached behind her neck without pain for the first time that day and she bashfully responded, “Thanks guys. Recovery Girl healed me up, good as new! I promise. Even my back feels great!”

The three of them all looked relieved to hear the good news. Kaminari’s face was the first to recover as he brought up his loose fists in excitement and punched the air, “Your fight was crazy! You rigged that whole hallway with traps and spikes! Everyone was super impressed! All Might even gave you the MVP award for the round!”

Akiho’s jaw dropped at the news, and Kirishima laughed at her disbelieving face. Ashido nodded along with Kaminari and explained, “All Might took points from Todoroki because he wouldn’t have been able to pull that move off if there were civilians in the building. He was impressed by the traps you laid out for the heroes.”

“But I didn’t win…” Akiho whined, not believing she deserved the praise.

Kaminari glanced to the left, to where Todoroki was sitting alone, and stage whispered, “I don’t think anyone could have won against him.”

Kirishima looked a little uncomfortable, and changed the subject, “I’m just glad Bakugo noticed that something was wrong with you when he did. Otherwise, who knows what would have happened?”

Genuine surprise flooded Akiho, and she blurted disbelievingly, “Bakugo? Really?”

In that moment, someone shoved past her harshly, and Akiho saw Bakugo’s retreating form disappear through the classroom door. Looking to her friends, she quickly dismissed herself, “I’ll be right back guys.”

Akiho ran out the door and caught up to Bakugo as he was about to turn around a corner. She caught his elbow in her hand, and neatly dodged a small blast that forced her to let go. Immediately she apologized, “Sorry, sorry. I hate that too. Sorry.”

Straightening her posture, Akiho looked up into Bakugo’s confused red eyes, “Look. I just wanted to say thank you. Kirishima told me what you did. I owe you one.”

She bowed low, wanting Bakugo to understand that she really meant what she was saying. She couldn’t see his face, but could hear his discomfort when he growled out, “Don’t do that.”

He grabbed her shoulder and she resisted the urge to flinch away. He pulled her so that she was standing up straight, and bent so that they were eye to eye, “Look Metal Mouth, I don’t know what Shitty Hair told you exactly, but I didn’t do much.”

Despite the closeness of their faces, Akiho smiled and disagreed, “Even so, it saved my life, so really… thank you Bakugo-kun.”

Bakugo straightened violently and tore his hand away from her shoulder. He looked away from her and shoved his hands into his pockets; though Akiho could have sworn she saw a slight blush across his face and heard a sound that reminded her of pop-rocks coming from him somewhere. “Tch… It’s -kun already huh?” He groused.

Before she could defend herself, Akiho watched anger pool in Bakugo’s red eyes, but they weren’t focused on her anymore. Looking over her shoulder, she followed his line of sight to Midoriya. The green haired boy was limping and had a cast on his arm from using his quirk during class. Akiho felt bad for him, knowing how much it sucked, and empathizing with the pain he must be in.

Bakugo took a step in Midoriya’s direction, and Akiho felt anger flare up in her as she stepped in front of him to block his path. The moment between them was ruined. “Haven’t you done enough to him today?”

He grit his teeth at her and yelled, “Why are you taking fucking Deku’s side?”

“Why are you out to hurt him?”

“Because he shouldn’t BE here! Deku was supposed to be a quirkless loser!”

“Why does it matter if he has a quirk?” Akiho asked desperately, trying to understand.

“Because he lied!” Bakugo panted out; rage causing him to practically froth at the mouth at this point, “He’s ruining everything for me!”

Akiho felt an array of emotions wash over her: shock, rage, and then disbelief. She swung her arm out in the direction of the 1A classroom Midoriya just walked into, “How!? He’s barely done anything to you! He’s just trying to get by, just like the rest of us!”

A menacing snarl escaped Bakugo, and his teeth gnashed together as he retorted, “I’m here to be the best! You and the rest of the losers can skate by all you want, but I’m here to be #1!”

“Excuse me?!”

“You heard me bitch! I’m getting sick and tired of you trying to stick your nose where it doesn’t belong! I heard about what you said to All Might before my match. You don’t know SHIT about me!”

“I know enough to have known that pairing the two of you against each other was a bad idea!”

“You need to keep out of shit that doesn’t concern you Metal Mouth!”

“I’m not going to let you bully him just because he exists, Bakugo!”

Bakugo straightened his posture once more, having leaned down subconsciously to yell in Akiho’s face during the fight. He turned away from her and started walking down the hall away from Class 1A and Akiho. His middle finger flew up, and without looking at her he called out, “Watch me, Metal Mouth.”

Rage still fueled her as she shouted back, “Fuck off Bakugo!”

Akiho was still in a rage when she reentered the classroom. Akiho looked around and noticed that Midoriya wasn’t there and asked where he went. A tall boy with chin length black hair and a wide smile answered, “I think he went after Bakugo. He said he heard yelling.”

‘Fuck! How did I not see him?’ Akiho thought tiredly; the fight having left her already.

“Hey! There they are!” Uraraka yelled from where she stood by the window.

Akiho got up to go look as well; wanting to make sure that Bakugo didn’t kill Midoriya after she got him all fired up with their fight. She was intercepted by Todoroki, who gazed at her with an impassive face. His lips twitched as though he wanted to say something but wasn’t sure how to begin. Akiho wasn’t sure what he wanted to say, so she didn’t know how to break the ice. Eventually the boy managed, “I’m… sorry about the training lesson. I didn’t know.”

Akiho didn’t know what she was expecting the boy to say, but it wasn’t that. Especially after how cocky he was during the fight itself.

Akiho felt herself blush, and regret colored her tone as well, “I’m sorry too. I must’ve done a number on your feet.”

Todoroki gave her a small smile—a barely there expression—but it made him look all the more handsome. He tapped his right foot on the ground and said, “Recovery Girl healed my injuries. It was clever to use traps like you did. I learned a lot. Thank you.”

Her blush grew darker at the compliment and Akiho stuttered nervously, “A-ah, no. Thank you. F-for the compliment. And the fight. I learned a lot too.”

The dual-haired boy nodded at her, shifted his backpack to sit more securely on his shoulder, then walked off. By the time Akiho remembered to check the window, All Might had intervened, and stood between the two boys. Bakugo shook the hero off and stalked off the school grounds.

The class decided against reviewing the battle footage that day and agreed to do it tomorrow in the hopes that Bakugo, Todoroki, and Midoriya would be there to benefit as well. It worked out in Akiho’s favor, as she felt slightly off kilter without the familiar weight of her metal. After packing up her bag and saying goodbye to her friends, she walked to the Beta Grounds.

Akiho wasn’t expecting anyone to be at there, so she was genuinely surprised when she saw another student there. He was still far away from her, but as she continued walking toward him, she took in his features as they became clear to her. She first noted that he was incredibly tall, with purple hair that rivaled Midoriya’s in its inherent wildness. His back was to her, and he was walking toward Building A with purpose. Akiho immediately felt panicked as she shouted out, “Don’t go in there! It’s dangerous!”

The boy froze, and his shoulders tensed visibly as he turned his head in her direction. She was walking a little faster, trying to get to him. She immediately noted that his eyes had large, dark bags under them, as though he hadn’t slept in ages. His mouth was set into a scowl, and he asked venomously, “Yeah? And who the hell are you?”

More than used to—and honestly annoyed by, at this point—male attitude, Akiho tried to be the bigger person, “I’m Hagane Akiho of class 1A, who are you?”

When she answered, the boy looked shocked. He turned to face her fully, and now that Akiho was standing within normal talking distance, she saw that his wide, surprised, eyes were a lovely shade of purple to match his hair and his pupils were white instead of black. Akiho wondered briefly if his quirk had affected his eyesight at all, but with how heavily he was making eye contact, she was almost positive he could see. He fumbled as he introduced himself, but Akiho found it endearing, “I’m, uh. Shinsou from class 1C. Why’re you here? I thought that classes were done for the day?”

“They are. I had class here earlier, and when I got sent to the nurse’s office, they left my stuff behind.” Akiho explained, but then grew curious, “Why are you here?”

Shinsou seemed surprised every time she answered a question. His eyes would widen, and eyebrows would lift slightly, as if he weren’t expecting her to respond. He tilted his head back toward Building A and stated, “Training honestly. I want to get into the hero course. I figured the training grounds would be empty, but I was going to head in there so I wouldn’t be spotted.” A wry smile appeared on his face, but his eyes were almost challenging her, “Guess that didn’t work out for me, huh?”

Akiho let out a small laugh and tried to be reassuring, “I won’t tell anyone, I promise.”

Shinsou’s eyebrows furrowed in confusion, and he gestured his hand out to the building behind him, “Why did you stop me then?”

“Oh! Uhm, I wasn’t kidding when I said it wasn’t safe. Two of my classmates damn near destroyed the thing. If you walked in from the other side, you would have seen it.” Akiho clarified.

Shinsou’s eyebrows rose high up on his face, and Akiho thought it was funny that they were so expressive while the rest of his face looked too tired to emote. In a strange way, he reminded her of Aizawa, if Aizawa were a good conversationalist. Feeling brave, Akiho continued, “Building B should be fine. That’s where my fight was, and I’m heading there now to pick up my metal.”

“Your metal?”

“My quirk is metal manipulation, but only if I digest it first. It takes a long time to build up as much as I have, so it’s easier to pick it back up when I can instead of trying to replace it.” Akiho explained as concisely as she could. She then began walking to Building B and invited, “Come on!”

The pair talked amicably as they walked into the building. Shinsou’s conversationalist skills more than made up for Akiho’s lack of them, and he always seemed to be ending with a question. Shinsou’s reaction to Akiho’s responses were always a mild, but genuine look of surprise, followed by the appropriate reaction to her response. It was almost like he wasn’t used to people answering his questions at all. When they reached the second-floor stairwell of Building B she gasped and apologized, “Oh my god I’m so rude. You asked about my quirk and I never asked about yours.”

A bitter look crossed Shinsou’s face as he dismissed with a wave of his hand, “Nah, don’t worry about it. My quirk isn’t great.”

Akiho panicked, thinking that Shinsou was mad at her for not asking sooner. Stepping in front of him to block the way (and admittedly she used the extra height of the stair to look him in the eye) Akiho pleaded, “Come on Shinsou. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it. I’m just bad at talking to people. Please tell me about it?”

Confusion knitted Shinsou’s eyebrows together as he asked, “What are you-” He paused, suddenly understanding that she thought he was mad, “No, I’m not mad at you. My quirk isn’t a good one.”

Another pause, but this time Shinsou’s eyes looked so sad, but he tried to smile anyway, “And you’re going to treat me different once you realize what it is.”

Akiho’s heart broke for him in that moment. Her mother had always accused her of having a soft heart. That’s likely why she jumped to Midoriya’s aid so quickly; and also why she was tearing ever so slightly in front of Shinsou now. She tried to wipe them away quickly but being eye level with the boy made it so it was impossible for him not to notice.

Purple eyebrows skyrocketed and he asked disbelievingly, “Are you crying?”

“No!” Akiho denied childishly, sticking out her tongue.

“Is your tongue pierced?” Shinsou asked in shock, changing the topic completely.

“Yes.” Akiho answered with a smile.

She knew that he was trying to change the subject; trying to get away with not telling her what his quirk was. She contemplated leaving it be, but she felt like it was something important to him; that her knowing, and not caring would mean the world to him. ‘How bad could it possibly be?’ She thought.

Leaning in a little closer, she asked one last time, “I promise I won’t ask again if it makes you that uncomfortable, but I also promise not to freak out.”

The jaded look returned to Shinsou’s face, and he asked, “You sure you want to know?”

“Yes.” Came Akiho’s resolute response.

Shinsou suddenly looked away from her and sat down on the step she was standing on. Akiho followed suit, and they sat side by side in silence; Akiho waiting patiently for Shinsou’s answer. A deep sigh punctuated the quiet and he finally forced out the words, “I can brainwash people. When I ask questions, if they answer, I can get them to do anything I want.”

“Oh. So that’s why you always look surprised when I answer you.” Akiho guessed gently.

Shinsou wouldn’t look up from his shoes, so Akiho pressed on, “That’s pretty cool honestly. Super useful for de-escalation hero work, maybe even interrogation if that’s more your thing.”

Purple eyes with white irises blown wide looked at her in shock, “Do you actually mean that?”

It wasn’t lost on Akiho that the first thing he said to her after telling her about his quirk was a question. He was testing her, and she hoped she passed when she answered, “Of course I do. You want to be a hero Shinsou, and I think you can do it.”

Shinsou’s face erupted in a smile that met his eyes for the first time in the short amount of time that they knew each other. It warmed Akiho to know that she helped put it there. He stood up and held a hand out to her to help her up as well, “Thanks.”

Akiho shook her head and declined gently as she stood up without assistance. Seeing Shinsou’s face fall slightly, she hastily explained, “I’m way too heavy for you to help up.”

Shinsou looked down at her with exasperation and asked, “Oh god, you’re not one of those girls, are you?”

Akiho laughed, and defended herself, “No seriously. Right now, you probably could have. But on a normal day with all my metal, there’d be no chance.”

They began walking up the stairs to the third floor, but Shinsou was intrigued and asked, “Yeah? How’s that work?”

“I store my metal in my muscles. The more metal I have, the more useful I am in combat.” Akiho stated easily, as if it were a fact.

“So you store it in your muscles, and it makes you heavier; doesn’t that mean you’re slower too?” Shinsou questioned.

“Yeah, but it’s not the Hagane style to be fast. The heroes in my family are more known for brute force.”

“Any names I would know?”

“My mom had a short run as Iron Maiden before her accident. But my grandfather was Steelworks.”

Shinsou turned his surprised and awed face to her and asked, “Holy shit, Steelworks is your grandfather?”

Akiho smiled awkwardly and nodded, “Yeah. My cousin Tetsutetsu inherited his quirk, and he’s here in class 1B.”

“That’s pretty cool. But why do you sound like it’s a bad thing?”

The pair finally turned the corner to the hallway that Akiho had boobytrapped. She held out her arm and barred Shinsou from walking forward with a silent motion to the ground spikes. Akiho let her quirk flare up and could sense all the metal in her body and what was littered across the hallway. Lifting her arms out, Akiho turned her palms up, and then clenched her fingers into fists.

The metal scales flew up first; flying at her in a swirling cloud and reattaching to her costume. She turned to Shinsou as they swirled around her and answered, “Honestly? I don’t know. I haven’t seen much of my family in a long time, so I guess I just miss them is all.”

“Why haven’t you seen them?”

“My mother says it’s because I don’t have full control over her quirk yet. She doesn’t want me to embarrass her in front of the rest of the family, I guess.”

“That’s stupid,” Shinsou snorted, “Seeing as you’re in Class 1A and your cousin is in 1B.”

“But he took the entrance exam… I didn’t.” Akiho admitted guiltily as she walked over to the large mass of motionless, metallic vines that blocked off the majority of the hallway.

Akiho reached out and placed both of her hands on the metal closest to her. Instantly the mass reared up towards her and began flowing into her arms ports. While she would normally use her back ports as well, they were still covered by bandages. She could feel her muscles expanding slightly, as the steel reentered her body.

Shinsou walked over as well, curiously watching as the huge mass of metal was reabsorbed into the tiny girl. His eyebrows were pulled together in confusion when he asked, “Does it matter?”

“Hm?” Akiho asked in confusion.

“Does it matter that your cousin took the test and you didn’t? If you sucked, U.A. wouldn’t have let you in, regardless of a recommendation letter.” Shinsou responded, looking her in the eye.

“Oh, well… I guess not, but I kind of feel like a fraud you know? Because I got in by recommendation, I’ll never know if I was good enough to get in on my own.” Akiho admitted sadly.

Shinsou was quiet after that. It gave Akiho time to think about her acceptance into U.A. Her mother had been more than clear that if it weren’t for her grandfather’s recommendation letter, Akiho wouldn’t have stood a chance getting into U.A. on her own. Not when she couldn’t even use her mother’s quirk correctly.

It was awkwardly silent for the last few moments it took for Akiho to finish up. When she was done recollecting all her metal from the corridor, Akiho turned to Shinsou and saw the look of awe on his face as he sheepishly stated, “I’ll admit; I don’t think I can pick you up anymore.”

A bark of laughter escaped Akiho’s lips without warning. Highly amused, she retorted, “I told you so.”

“So, are you leaving now that you’ve gotten your metal back?” Shinsou asked curiously.

Akiho considered the question; she was already late for training with her mother, and it would be better for her to not show up and have a good excuse as to why, instead of showing up late with any excuse at all. Shinsou stood before her with his hands situated in his pockets in a laidback stance; but it looked to Akiho like he was trying not to look interested in her answer. With a small smile, she stated, “I can stick around and train with you if you want. I can run you though my workout regimen; if anything, it’ll bulk you up for hero classes.”

She accentuated her meaning with a flex of her arms, and though any clear muscle definition would have been hard to see through the scales of her armor, the sheer size of her bicep belayed the truth of her words. Shinsou looked surprised at the offer, but grinned and shrugged, “Can’t argue with those results. Alright, let’s go.”

Chapter Text

By some miracle, Akiho hadn’t seen her mother when she arrived home. There had been a note from the woman sitting on the kitchen table, stating that she was disappointed that Akiho had missed training. It went on to say that she had left to go to the Hagane estate and wouldn’t be back until later that night. Relief speared through Akiho when she realized that she was home alone. Part of her recognized that it was terrible for her to think that way; that she shouldn’t be glad that her mother wasn’t there.

It wasn’t unusual for Aiko to disappear for a few days, leaving Akiho to fend for herself. The longest she had disappeared was when Akiho was 9, and Aiko had been gone for eleven days. Because she didn’t know how to cook for herself yet, little Akiho had been living solely off school lunches and microwaved instant noodles, waiting for her mother’s return. Since then, she had studiously researched how to cook; practicing when Aiko was gone, and she felt she was relatively good at it. Her mother disagreed, complaining that Akiho was too heavy handed with the spices, and that the food always burned her delicate taste buds.

When Aiko would return from wherever she was (because Akiho doubted her mother was truly at her grandfather’s estate) she always came home reeking of alcohol. But the following days would usually be light training days as the woman recovered from her binge, so as awful as Akiho felt about it, she was glad for the reprieves when they came her way.

Working out with Shinsou had left Akiho with more energy than she usually had; the purple haired boy was in shape, but not used to her ‘hero’s regimen’. She had mostly kept an eye on him during their training; stopping him from pushing himself at first so he wouldn’t burn out and encouraging him at the end when his muscles were likely screaming at him to quit. It was how she always wanted to be treated, and Shinsou seemed to respond to the method well enough to ask for more sessions.

Akiho figured that she would have to talk to her mother about it. Aiko surely couldn’t get mad if Akiho explained that she was training at school with friends. At worst, her mother would assume that Akiho would warm up at school and demand combat training when she got home. Akiho hoped, at least.

Deciding that a shower was in order, Akiho set the water as hot as she could tolerate and jumped in. Her skin stung slightly, but the heat was a welcome relief for her poor muscles. She washed the sweat and grime of the day off, and then enjoyed the hot water that warmed her to her metallic bones for a while longer before getting out. While she toweled off, Akiho planned her dinner, deciding on stir-fry.

To prepare the food for the wok, Akiho flicked her right wrist out, flexing her fingers daintily as metal slowly danced from her port and into her hand. It took 9 seconds to take the shape of a knife, and another 4 before the edge was sharp enough for the job. Akiho frowned at the time it took but took pleasure in the fact that the knife sliced through the vegetables and meat with no resistance. When the job was done, she washed the knife in the sink, dried it thoroughly, and recalled the metal into her port. It flew from her left hand to her right wrist, changing shape in the air to a amorphous blob, before sinking into the exposed metal of her arm.

As she cooked, Akiho realized that she had likely made too much; having been used to cooking for both herself and her mother. With a shrug, she decided she would take any leftovers to school with her tomorrow for lunch.

When the meal was done, she grabbed a set of metal chopsticks from the utensils drawer and sat down to eat. It was a lonely affair, sitting by herself at the dinner table in silence. Not that eating with her mother across from her was any livelier, but at least there was someone there. Usually if Aiko spoke at the dinner table, it was a negative comment on Akiho’s performance during training; Akiho always listened intently, hoping that she could somehow improve so that her mother could be proud of her.

When she began to grow full, Akiho packed away the rest of the stir-fry as leftovers. ‘Dessert’ as she called it, came in the form of the metallic chopsticks she had eaten dinner with. They were made of HSLA steel that her mother special ordered for her, and coincidentally it was the best tasting steel she had come across. Taking one, she bit into it eagerly; her teeth cutting through it as though it were a dry biscuit instead of metal. The other she planned on saving for later; to nibble on while she was completing her homework.

After washing and drying the dishes and putting her packed lunch in the refrigerator for tomorrow, Akiho grabbed the remaining chopstick and finished it before she even entered her room. Akiho completed the homework that her teachers had assigned, and then promptly fell asleep; exhausted from the day’s activities.

 

The next day Akiho got dressed, leaving the top button of her shirt unbuttoned, and her tie loose like she had on the first day of school. She recalled that she had never actually fixed her attire on the train like she had promised, having been distracted by her first meeting with Bakugo. Deciding to put some extra effort into her appearance, Akiho also gelled her hair just enough that her growing bangs didn’t hang in her eyes annoyingly. Instead, it was swept to the side, and though Akiho felt it made her look a little more boyish, it was much better than letting it do as it wanted. If it were up to her, Akiho would let it continue to grow until she could tie it back, but Aiko would never allow it.

Akiho left for the train on time, but Aiko was either still asleep or hadn’t returned home yet. She crept out quietly, just in case.

On the train, Akiho spotted Bakugo sitting in the same seat he had been on the first day of school but kept her distance. Red eyes watched her from across the car, silver meeting his defiantly; daring the blonde to approach her. He remained where he was, and even exited the train from a different door, putting him some ways behind her. Akiho continuously felt his eyes on her as he followed her to U.A. She had half a mind to turn around and snap at him, but rationalized with herself that it would be petty, since they were going to the same place.

Whether it was intentional or not, they managed to keep the same distance from each other almost the entire walk to school. Reporters were lined up outside the gates, and Akiho was stunned still as they rushed her, all shouting questions. One particularly fierce woman ran up and shoved a microphone in Akiho’s face, “What can you tell me about All Might and his teaching style at U.A.?”

A horde of eyes watched her, multiple microphones joining the first as the mob pressed towards her. She’d never been the center of everyone’s attention like this. How did the pro heroes deal with this on a daily basis? Were these people going to try and follow the students home? Akiho began to breathe heavily as panic consumed her thoughts.

Still frozen, Akiho unintelligently replied, “Uhhh,”

A warm hand, much larger than her own, gripped hers and with a significant tug pulled her forward and into action. Not expecting to move, Akiho stumbled, but trailed obediently behind her rescuer. With her hand still in his, Bakugo weaved through the crowd of rabid reporters and got them through the gates. Once on the other side, Bakugo dropped her hand immediately. He turned to look her in the eyes, silently observing her for a moment before making a ‘Tch’ sound and turning to walk away.

Without thinking, Akiho reached forward and grabbed his hand once more to stop him. Unreadable red eyes met silver, and Akiho sincerely said, “Thank you.”

Bakugo looked at their linked hands, and then back at Akiho’s face, and was about to say something when a loud squeal interrupted him, “I KNEW IT!”

Ashido ran up to them from the gates; abandoning Kirishima to the mob of reporters. The redheaded boy shouted at her to come back and help him, but was ignored. Bakugo ripped his hand from Akiho’s, but it seemed that the damage was already done. The pink girl stopped just before them and danced in place; heels kicking up and her hands by her face, “Oh my god I knew that you two were going to be a thing! I just didn’t think it would happen this fast!”

Wide black and gold eyes danced from Bakugo and Akiho eagerly, “I need to know how this happened! Who asked who out?!”

Bakugo’s face was bright with a blush and Akiho swore she heard pop rocks again. Akiho’s face was likely just as red, if not more so. As she went to stammer out a denial, Bakugo shouted, “SHUT THE FUCK UP RACCOON EYES! NOTHING HAPPENED!”

With that, the boy stomped away; explosions erupting from his palms. The girls both watched him march off into the building silently. Akiho couldn’t help but notice that he waited until he was a few steps away from the girls before he let off the first one. She wondered if he was becoming more situationally aware of who he hit with his quirk after what happened on the first day of school. But her musings were cut short as Ashido’s face popped into her line of sight. The pink girl had a devious grin on her face and an evil gleam in her eyes as she questioned the shorter redhead, “Sooooooo, what’s going on with you and Bakugo?”

Akiho’s hand reached up to rub at the back of her neck nervously. She knew that no matter what she said, Ashido wouldn’t believe her. Luckily for her, she was saved from responding by Kirishima who strode up to them with purpose. He moved to stand directly in front of Ashido, blocking her line of sight to Akiho and accused, “What the hell Ashido-chan?! You left me to the wolves back there! That wasn’t manly at all!”

Akiho took this as her chance to get away and began casually walking to the front doors of the main building. Ashido’s voice was loud enough that Akiho could still hear her defense, “Kirishima-kun, I had to! Bakugo and Kuudere-chan were holding hands!”

Kirishima spluttered loudly in shock and turned to where he had last seen Akiho, but the girl was missing from the spot behind him. Ashido also let out a cry of indignant confusion, and their eyes scanned the area until they spotted her almost at the doors. Shoulders dropping in defeat, Akiho sighed in resignation as she listened to them scramble to catch up to her, shouting questions from across the courtyard.

They caught up to her just as she reached the doors, and Akiho held it open for them so that they could walk through. They bombarded her with questions during the walk to the classroom, but Akiho refused to answer; mostly out of embarrassment.

“Were you two really holding hands?”

“Are you and Bakugo going out now? He seemed super embarrassed earlier. Is he shy?”

“Was he at least manly enough to ask you out? Or did you ask him?”

“Can I pick out your ship name? What about Bakugane? Hakugo?”

“Ashido shouldn’t you use their first names for that?”

“Ah! True! Katiho? Akisuki?”

“That last one sounds cute, I’m sure Bakugo would hate it.”

Akiho was sure that her face was beyond red and her mouth was glued shut with her overwhelming mortification. How could she explain to them that it wasn’t what they thought? That she and Bakugo hadn’t really been holding hands. That he had just saved her from the horde of reporters.

‘Wait, no. She might take that the wrong way too…’ Akiho thought with an inward sigh.

“Akiho-chan, are you ok?” Ashido asked, finally looking at her red-faced friend.

Panicked energy coursed through Akiho in that moment, and all semblance of volume control fled her as she all but shouted, “Nothing happened between Bakugo-kun and I!”

All Akiho saw in that moment was Ashido’s shit eating grin as she questioned loudly, “Bakugo-kun, huh?”

The redheaded girl opened her mouth to protest, but before she could she heard a familiar, “Tch” come from behind her. Mortified Akiho turned to see that they had walked to the classroom, the door was open, and Bakugo stood in the doorway with an unreadable expression on his face. His ruby red eyes were on her, but quickly flicked up to Ashido and he growled, “Leave her alone Raccoon Eyes. You’re going to give her a stroke.”

Ashido’s grin never faltered as she questioned the explosive blonde next, “Then you tell me! Why were you and Kuudere-chan holding hands?”

Bakugo brushed past Akiho so that he was standing between her and the devious pink girl. He stood with his back to her, staring down the pink demon who seemed unaffected by his glare.The two began arguing about nonsense; Ashido was trying to keep Bakugo on topic, but it seemed he had a knack for arguing circles around people. After only a minute, Akiho wasn’t even sure if Ashido knew why they had started taking verbal shots at each other. It was mostly nonsensical, almost playful, in the way that there was no real heat behind either of their insults.

Akiho couldn’t see Ashido past Bakugo’s wide shoulders, but Kirishima was at just the right angle so that she could see his face. The taller redhead snuck by Bakugo and motioned for Akiho to follow silently. When they were seated, Kaminari leaned over and whisper-shouted while pointing in the arguing pair’s direction, “What’s that all about?”

Akiho watched Kirishima’s eyes closely and saw the devious light shine through after only a moment’s hesitation. Akiho tried to telepathically tell Kirishima not to say anything, willing him to understand with a deep glare that he was in deep shit if he made this any worse than it already was.

‘Don’t you fucking dare Kirishima-kun!’

If anything, the devious glint only grew upon seeing her glare, and Kirishima ‘whispered’ back with a grin, “Ashido’s trying to figure out why Bakugo and Akiho-chan were holding hands while they were walking to school today.”

‘You’re dead to me Kirishima.’ Akiho thought, her glare only intensifying as Kirishima stuck his tongue out at her.

“YOU AND BAKUBRO WERE HOLDING HANDS?!” Kaminari shouted incredulously, calling the attention of everyone else in the room.

Akiho panicked as she felt the eyes of all her classmates on her. It was like the mob of reporters all over again; a dull roar of questions being flung at her that she wasn’t quite hearing. But once again, Bakugo came to her rescue, “OI! NOTHING HAPPENED SHIT-NERDS! FUCK OFF!”

Aizawa chose that moment to walk in for homeroom, and glared across the classroom silently. Instantly everyone was back in their seats, facing forward and silent. Aizawa’s lips curled into a smirk, but he otherwise didn’t mention the class’s improvement on ‘time management’. Instead, he walked to stand behind his podium and announced, “Good work on yesterday’s combat training. I saw the video and results. Bakugo,”

Aizawa’s head turned to face the boy, who grimaced slightly at being addressed before Aizawa continued, “You’re talented, so don’t act like a child.”

Bakugo’s scowl only deepened, “I know.”

Aizawa ignored the angry blonde’s response and continued on, “Midoriya… you settled it by breaking your arm again, huh? You can’t keep saying you can’t help it because you can’t control your quirk. I don’t like saying the same thing over and over. Fix the control issue, and there’s a lot you’ll be able to do.”

Midoriya looked inspired as he replied, “Yes sir!”

“Next, Hagane.” Aizawa addressed her, and Akiho sat up straighter instinctively. She was ready for the negative criticism that was sure to come, “You did well preparing for your enemy. However, you would have done better had you freed yourself first. You would have had the time for both had you tried. You need to try your hardest and prepare to fail occasionally, rather than only try what you think you are capable of.”

An embarrassed blush crept over Akiho, and with her eyes still on her desk, she nodded solemnly. Aizawa went through the rest of her classmates, critiquing them all in a similar fashion. Akiho couldn’t help but think it was odd that Aizawa was doing this instead of All Might, though she supposed it may have to do with All Might’s lack of teaching experience.

Though it was mortifying to have her failure broken down in front of the entire class, it was nice to have an idea on how to improve. She wished her mother was as kind, usually Aiko left her to suffer and would keep repeating harsh lessons until she figured it out on her own. If she was particularly slow on the uptake, her back ports usually suffered. Akiho barely contained the shiver that ran down her spine at the thought. She had lucked out this time, with Recovery Girl’s interference weeks of pain had been avoided.

“Now let’s get down to homeroom business. Sorry about the late notice, but today I’ll have you decide on a class representative.”

Relief flooded nearly everyone in the classroom. Akiho suspected that they had all assumed that Aizawa was going to throw another ridiculous test at them. As soon as everyone had recovered the shouting began,

“I want to be class rep! Pick me!” Kirishima shouted first, jumping up and holding both hands up in the air.

“Me too!” Kaminari protested at the same time Jirou spoke, “I want to do it too!”

“It’s a job made for m-” The odd blonde boy with the laser started.

“I’ll be the leader!” Ashido trampled over the other student that Akiho hadn’t formally met yet.

“LET ME DO IT! ME!” Bakugo shouted angrily.

Akiho was the only one who seemed to not want the job, and sat quietly as the rest of the class devolved into madness. Aizawa homed in on her subdued nature instantly. He quirked an eyebrow at her, and she responded by shaking her head with a grimace. Akiho knew she didn’t have what it took to lead the class; she couldn’t even control her mother’s quirk, never mind a classroom of her peers. Aizawa shrugged at her, and his eyes returned to the cacophony that was the rest of the classroom.

“SILENCE!” Shouted Iida, successfully quieting the class before continuing, “It is a job with the serious responsibility of leading others. It’s not a job for just anyone who wants to do it. It is a calling that requires the trust of those around you. If we want to use democracy to decide a true leader, then we should hold an election to choose one.”

The class broke out into debate again, before Kirishima’s honest statement rang out, “Everyone is just going to vote for themselves.”

“Don’t you think that’s precisely why whoever receives multiple votes here can be truly considered the most suitable person?” Iida asked, “What do you think Aizawa-sensei?”

Aizawa spared a glance to Akiho, who remained sitting and silent at her desk. It didn’t appear that anyone had noticed that she wasn’t participating in the battle for the position. With dread pooling in her stomach, Akiho realized that the vote would likely come down to her, if only because she had no intentions on voting for herself.

A moment passed before Aizawa addressed the question verbally, “I don’t care, as long as you decide before homeroom is over.”

Everyone quickly scrambled to their desks and pulled out paper and pens to cast their votes. Akiho had the time advantage of already being in her seat with her notebook out, so she had time to properly panic about who to vote for.

She ruled herself out instantly, knowing that she wasn’t meant for a leader’s role if she couldn’t even control the quirk her mother passed down to her. She also immediately ruled out any of the students she hadn’t interacted with yet, as she didn’t have an accurate read of their character, and honestly wasn’t sure what half of their names even were.

Kirishima and Ashido were ruled out next, as they were both on her shit list for the stunts they pulled that morning. It felt slightly petty, but Akiho wasn’t above it at the moment.

Bakugo wouldn’t make a good class representative at all with his combative and bullish behavior. Midoriya had the exact opposite problem. Akiho felt that the green haired boy was a lot like herself in the fact that he had a lot of work to do when it came to his quirk; and loading extra responsibility on top of that seemed foolish.

After reasoning with herself a little more, she realized that her options were between Iida, Yaoyorozu, and Todoroki. Following the logic about trust that Iida had presented with the class originally, it only made sense for Akiho to vote for him. He had been class rep in Somei, and he had done a well enough job that she felt good about her decision.

When the votes were tallied, Midoriya ended up winning with three votes, and Yaoyorozu was elected vice with two votes. It seemed that Iida had voted for someone else, as he only had one vote (her vote) going for him. He looked devastated, and Akiho couldn’t help but wonder why he voted for someone else if he had wanted the position so badly.

Surprisingly, Akiho had received a vote as well, and she wondered who it could have been from. The only students that had no votes were Todoroki, Sero, and Uraraka; Akiho would bet her life that Uraraka had voted for Midoriya, as they were quickly becoming close friends along with Iida.

Todoroki was more likely than Sero, seeing as she had at least had contact with him in the past. But with the way his eyes were locked on Yaoyorozu, she doubted it. Which left Sero. Sero was a tall, lanky boy with shoulder length black hair and a wide smile that was almost always present on his face. His quirk manifested in his elbows, which were large and bulky looking, and fired tape that he could use to bind his opponents or swing from.

As Midoriya stood before the class with Yaoyorozu, Akiho could see that he was shaking from nerves. Trying to be subtle in her encouragement, she gave him a small smile and a thumbs up. She honestly felt bad for him, as she wouldn’t ever want to be in his shoes.

 

In comparison to the morning’s events, the normal classes were absolutely boring. Akiho’s whole body deflated in relief when the lunch bell rang; signaling the end of the tedium. With her packed lunch in hand, Akiho went to step out of the classroom when a hand around her metallic wrist stopped her. In reflex, the metal surged outward, encapsulating the hand and was about to bear down with brutal force when she realized it was Bakugo.

With a quick outward flex of her fingers, she released his hand, pulled her arm away from him, and apologized, “Sorry, you scared me.”

Curiosity burned in Bakugo’s red eyes as he glanced down at his hand and flexed the fingers as if shaking off the feeling of her metal. They stood there in the doorway silently, silver eyes glancing up into red. There was an awkwardness in his usually confident stance, his shoulders were hunched forward a little more defensively than normal, and the toe of his right shoe tapped the ground rapidly. Akiho actually found that it humanized him to her, seeing him emote something so clearly, other than rage. It lasted only a moment, before he bluntly questioned her, “Did you vote for Deku?”

His voice was gruff—as always—but it lacked the heat that they had been arguing with the day before. Seeing it for the step forward that it was, Akiho answered just as civilly, “No. No offense to him, but he’s a mess, like me. He needs to get his quirk under control, and the class rep position is only going to distract him.”

Bakugo exhaled a sharp breath from his nose in what Akiho could only assume was humor, but his face remained as grumpy as ever. He nodded to her, and then walked off towards the lunchroom without another word. She watched him go, but didn’t follow. She had her own lunch, and it was a nice enough day outside that she felt as though an impromptu picnic was in order.

Wandering around the back of the school grounds, Akiho found a nice tree with decent shade. What made it even more attractive as a lunch spot, was the purple haired boy sitting alone under the tree. His head was tilted back and his eyes were closed, and when she approached she saw the headphones sticking out of his ears. The music was loud enough that she could hear the beat of it from where she was standing, but couldn’t tell the genre exactly.

Trying to avoid scaring him too badly, Akiho lightly tapped the bottom of his shoe with her own. Purple eyes with white irises snapped open, and for a moment his hackles were raised, and he was ready to fight. But upon seeing Akiho, he deflated and lazily pulled out an earphone, “Hey. What’re you doing out here?”

It still wasn’t lost on Akiho that he phrased almost everything as a question when he spoke to her, as though he were testing her. Without missing a beat, she grinned and replied, “I could ask you the same. Is it alright if I sit?”

Shinsou shrugged nonchalantly, but moved over a bit so she could sit beside him and lean on the tree behind them. As she unwrapped her leftovers, she looked over at him curiously and asked, “Did you already eat lunch?”

Akiho was met with another shrug, and it struck her how differently he was acting today compared to yesterday. She didn’t know him well enough to know for certain, but it felt like this wasn’t typical behavior for him. With determination in her eyes, she thrust her metal chopsticks in his face and said, “Share with me, I packed too much anyways.”

Purple eyebrows skyrocketed as Shinsou looked at her as though she were crazy. But nevertheless, he took the chopsticks in hand, clicked them together, and asked, “What about you?”

Akiho grinned, and another pair of metal chopsticks rose up out of her left wrist, closest to him. Pulling them from her arm with ease, she repeated the clicking motion he had just done. He laughed at her and stated, “Well that’s convenient.”

They shared Akiho’s lunch in silence; Akiho had the feeling that Shinsou just needed someone there for him and not hound him with questions. It’s what she always wanted when she was having bad days, but the people she could count on to do so were limited, even more so lately. Her cousin used to stand in that number, but she hadn’t heard from him in the last year.

Akiho was honestly surprised when Shinsou spoke, “Everyone in my class found out about my quirk today. They all joked about it, but I could see the nervousness in their eyes. One of them even had the balls to tell me it was a villain’s quirk. Can you believe that?”

His eyes were glued to the sky once more, but Akiho could see the upset look plainly on his face. She heaved a deep sigh and said quietly, “Whoever said that was an asshole, Shinsou. You are going to be a great hero, I know it.”

“Yeah? Is seeing into the future part of your quirk too?” Shinsou asked acerbically, turning to face her with a defiant look in his eyes.

Choosing to not let his tone bother her, Akiho just smiled and confirmed sassily, “Yeah it is. Now shut up and eat, hero.”

She clicked her chopsticks in his face once more, daring him to say something. His face was pleasantly shocked, and he smiled softly at her before digging into the food once more.

When they had finished the food, Shinsou returned the chopsticks to Akiho’s awaiting hand. Using a little water from her sports bottle, she rinsed them and then dried them with her napkin. Shinsou watched her curiously, only to have his eyes widen in shock when she bit clean through the newly cleaned utensil. He watched in silent awe and horror as she chewed and swallowed, and he asked in an aghast tone, “Holy shit, you really meant ‘eat’ the metal didn’t you?”

Pausing mid bite, Akiho looked over at him confused and asked with a tilt of her head, “Yeah?”

“It’s just, holy shit. I wasn’t expecting you to bite through that like it was a biscuit.” Shinsou stated, still in shock.

“Oh… well… if it’s too weird I can stop… sorry.” Akiho responded dejectedly.

’Just because you accepted his quirk, doesn’t mean he has to accept you.’ Akiho reminded herself as her heart sank.

“What? No… no it’s not that. It’s just, that’s metal, and you’re eating it like it’s nothing. And I’m trying to wrap my brain around the fact that you’re doing something, that if I tried, I would break all of my teeth.” Shinsou hastily explained with his hands up in a placating gesture.

Hope flittered in Akiho’s heart, “So then, I’m not too weird?”

“I can control people’s minds and you don’t give a shit. I think that this is pretty standard compared to that.” Shinsou reassured her with a grin.

A breath of relief escaped her, but before Akiho could respond, a siren started blaring. The announcement was that the grounds had been broken into, and that all the students were to evacuate the building. As they were already outside, Akiho and Shinsou rushed over to the designated emergency lane, and waited with a handful of other students that had been enjoying the good weather.

Akiho peeked around the building, and saw the horde of reporters in front of the main doors, screaming at Aizawa and Present Mic. The front gates appeared to have been melted, and Akiho wondered which one of them had such a powerful quirk, and why they weren’t in the hero business instead. Turning around, she reassured the other students by filling them in on the situation at the front doors. Most of them looked relieved or annoyed, and a few an odd combination of both.

The police were called on site to remove the press, all of which were less than pleased. None of them claimed to have the quirk that caused the gates to melt; though Akiho doubted that the person responsible would have come forward regardless.

An hour later, the grounds were cleared, and the teachers were guiding the students back into the building. Akiho and Shinsou walked together as long as they could until they reached the 1-C classroom. Akiho waved goodbye to him before walking the rest of the way to 1-A. Upon entering, Ashido, Kaminari, and Kirishima jumped up to greet her.

“Kuudere-chan! You’re ok!” Ashido exclaimed relieved to see her friend.

“Yeah, we were afraid that you got trampled in the hallway! You’re so little!” Kaminari commiserated with the pink girl.

“Where were you?” Kirishima asked curiously, “We got nervous when we didn’t see you after the lunchroom stampede.”

Akiho wasn’t entirely sure what they were talking about, but it seemed as though there had been a bit of a panic about the alarms. She felt like a bad friend because she hadn’t thought of them during her time outside. “I’m sorry for making you worry. I was already outside when the alarms went off. I saw it was the media almost right away, so I wasn’t concerned.”

“So cool…” Ashido whispered under her breath at the same time Kirishima complimented her ‘manliness’ in the same tone.

“I’m glad you’re all ok, and I’m sorry I wasn’t there.” Akiho continued on, her guilt on the subject only growing with the compliments.

“No worries Hagane-chan, just sit with us tomorrow and we’ll be even!” Kaminari answered, placating her fears that they were upset with her.

Akiho caught movement in her peripheries and jumped when she saw Aizawa rise up from the ground cocooned in his yellow sleeping bag. His face was as blank as always, and his dark eyes took in his noisy classroom with an emotionless stare. The others followed her line of sight, paling and immediately taking their seats upon seeing their teacher. He called up Midoriya and Yaoyorozu to speak to the class about the incident as their first act as class representatives.

Midoriya was shaking as he stood up in front of the class. His big green eyes were tearing slightly, and his shoulders were up by his ears as he shouted, “I think Iida should be class rep! He was able to get everyone’s attention in such a cool way, and I think it would be best if he did it.”

The class broke out into murmurs, most agreeing with what Midoriya proposed, and only poor Yaoyorozu complaining that the job should have technically gone to her. Akiho felt bad that she was looked over like that, but still thought that Iida deserved the role.

“You’re wasting time.” Aizawa grunted from his sleeping bag on the floor, “I don’t care what you do, just hurry up and do it.”

With that, Iida and Midoriya quickly changed places, and the class resumed. The other classroom positions were filled by democratic votes as well. Akiho made sure to vote for anyone but herself, to lower her chances of being elected. Her plan worked, even though she came close for the treasurer position with four votes to Todoroki’s five.

When the voting was over, Aizawa reluctantly removed himself from his sleeping bag on the floor and took his position behind the podium, “For today’s hero basic training, it’s turned into a class with three instructors, All Might, myself, and one other person.”

Akiho and the rest of the class were taken aback by the peculiar wording. Sero raised his hand and asked, “Excuse me! What’re we doing?”

Aizawa lifted an index card that had the word ‘Rescue’ written on it in a stylized, blocky, blue font, “Rescue training. Disasters, shipwrecks and everything in between.”

“Rescue?” Kaminari complained, “Looks like it’ll be a lot of work this time too, huh?”

Kirishima leaned over and berated him, “Idiot, this is the duty of a hero.”

As the rest of the class chattered excitedly, Akiho felt nerves come over her. Her mother had never trained her for rescue, only combat. She wasn’t even sure her metal would be useful in any sort of rescue scenario.

‘Oh shit, I hope I don’t get picked for the shipwreck disaster,’ Akiho thought miserably, thinking of how hard it was to swim with metallic muscles and bones. Buoyancy was a foreign concept to her and the rest of her family.

“Hey, I’m not done.” Aizawa cut in, silencing the class, “You can decide if you want to wear your costume or not this time. Because there are probably costumes that limit your ability, too. The training is taking place off campus, so when you’re done changing, get on the bus. That’s all, get ready.”

Akiho and the girls all changed into their costumes quickly. Akiho decided to keep her mask and goggles off until they were at the disaster site. No one seemed to notice that the bandages wrapped around her torso that they thought were a part of her costume the day prior were missing; leaving Akiho’s back ports on full display, much to her relief. When they were done, Ashido and Akiho walked out to the front of the building where the bus was waiting. The girls made their way over to Kaminari and Kirishima, who were talking to Sero rather animatedly.

The taller redhead noticed them first, grinned and said, “Are you guys excited?”

Akiho nodded, a small smile on her face, though she wouldn’t call what she was feeling ‘excitement’ so much as ‘beyond nervous’. She was about to reply verbally when Iida called the attention of the entire class, and began barking orders about the seating arrangement.

It backfired instantly as the bus had an open seating area. Looking around, a nostalgic feeling swept over her as she noticed the seat by Bakugo was open. It was a typical bus seat that faced the open seating area, and allowed Akiho to participate in the conversation if she wanted to, but ignore it if she didn’t. Standing by Bakugo she asked with a quirked eyebrow and a small smirk, “Could I sit with you?”

Bakugo looked up at her with a glare and barked, “Don’t be cute. Sit down and shut up Metal Mouth.”

Akiho grinned and plopped down gracelessly, forgetting that she was on a bus until the entire vehicle shifted slightly and the seat whined. Bakugo looked down at her and quirked an eyebrow but didn’t comment. The ride was quiet for a while, and Akiho was tuned out of the conversation in the open seating area until she saw Kirishima lift his arm and activate his quirk.

Akiho watched in amazement as his arm and fingers appeared to sharpen into points, and he complained, “My Hardening is strong against others, but unfortunately, it doesn’t look like much.”

The comment pulled Akiho’s lips into a frown, not liking how Kirishima was being down on himself. She was about to comment, but Midoriya beat her to the punch, “I think it’s really cool! It’s a quirk that can definitely pass as a pro’s”

“A pro’s huh?” Kirishima pondered aloud, “But you have to think about popularity as a hero too. But if we’re talking about flashy and strong, it’s gotta be Todoroki and Bakugo.”

Bakugo, who Akiho hadn’t thought had been paying attention, perked up at the praise that Kirishima gave him. Akiho couldn’t help but smile to herself at that, thinking it was cute that he actually cared what his classmates thought of him.

However, Tsuyu burst his bubble quite harshly, “Bakugo’s always mad, so it doesn’t seem like he’ll be popular though.”

Even Akiho flinched at that, ‘Ouch Tsuyu, that was mean.’

“What the hell! You wanna fight Frogger?!” Bakugo shouted, only proving the green haired girl’s point.

Kaminari was next to pick on the angry blonde, “We haven’t known each other long, so it’s amazing that everyone knows that your personality is crap steeped in sewage.”

‘Oh wow, is this pick on Bakugo day?’

“You’re going to regret saying that Pikachu! I’ll kill you!”

‘He’s only making it worse for himself…’ Akiho thought amused.

Seeing that Bakugo was a moment away from jumping over the railing in front of him and tackling Kaminari to the ground, Akiho placed a hand in the crook of his elbow. Blazing red eyes glared down at her, but she wasn’t afraid. It wasn’t the cold gaze that promised pain that her mother always gave her when Akiho crossed the line. This was passionate, like Bakugo couldn’t help but feel everything outwardly and openly when he was provoked. It was almost reassuring to know where she stood in the moment with him.

Akiho tilted her head to the side, and prodded him with her eyes to sit back down. Bakugo’s mouth twitched down into a frown, and a loud ‘Tch’ escaped him before he threw his body back into his seat with a pout. The rest of the class watched the moment between the two in amazement. Midoriya seemed especially affected by the scene, as his mouth was opened wide in shock.

Before anyone could comment, Aizawa announced, “We’re here.”

The building was a large, white dome-like structure on the outside. Akiho thought it kind of looked like an amusement park building. When the class made its way inside, Akiho’s impression only deepened as she saw the multiple disaster scenarios sectioned off like different themed parts of an amusement park as well.

The third person that was helping teach the class was revealed to be Thirteen, a hero that was in a large, puffy astronaut suit. They introduced each of the disaster areas, and then proclaimed with their arms spread wide, “It is a training ground that I made with different types of accidents and disasters. I call it the Unforeseen Simulation Joint, or the USJ for short.”

‘So it is like the amusement park.’

Aizawa and Thirteen spoke to one another quietly, not letting the students hear what was being said. Akiho wasn’t trying to pay attention to them; instead focusing on each of the disaster areas and trying to figure out where she could help from a distance with little luck.

Thirteen addressed the class suddenly, “Everyone, let me begin by saying a few things. I’m sure you know my quirk, Black Hole. I can suck up anything and turn it to dust.”

‘And Shinsou thinks his quirk is villain material…’ Akiho thought exasperatedly.

Midoriya spoke up then, fanboying a little as he praised, “You’ve been able to use that quirk to save people from all kinds of disasters.”

Thirteen was solemn as they replied, “Yes, but it’s a power that can kill just as easily.”

Akiho was surprised to hear the Pro Hero admit that. Though she supposed that every quirk was dangerous if used improperly. That was partly why she drove herself so hard to gain full control of her mother’s quirk. The possibility of failing, of hurting others while trying to be a hero were too great not to.

Thirteen’s tone only grew grimmer as they continued, “Some of your quirks are like that, right? In a superhuman society, personal quirks have been certified and stringently regulated, so that doesn’t seem to be a problem at first glance. However, please don’t forget, that there are many quirks that can easily kill with one misstep. With Aizawa’s physical fitness test, you found out about the possibility of your own hidden powers. And All Might’s person-to-person combat training taught you the dangers of using those powers against others. This class is a fresh start. You shall learn to use your quirks to save lives. You do not have powers so that you can harm others. You have powers so that you can help others.”

That statement struck a chord within Akiho, bringing uncomfortable feelings to the forefront of her mind. Her mother had always focused so hard on the battle aspect of hero work; Aiko stressed the idea of incapacitating the opponent by any means necessary. Akiho demonstrated that very thought process just yesterday when she made the hall of traps for Todoroki. Even when they were rendered less efficient by his ice, he still bled in that hallway. She did that.

Her mother had done worse to her. Much worse. The extensive scarring around her back ports was a testament to that.

Was Aiko’s way of no mercy wrong?

Were there other ways to try and win the fight yesterday that wouldn’t have caused so much pain?

Was Akiho just as bad as her mother?

Then, the lights flickered around the building, catching Akiho’s attention just in time for all hell to break loose.

“Those are villains!”

Chapter Text

Akiho watched in horror as dozens of villains poured out of a black portal with misty purple edges. Standing still in front of it was who she assumed was the leader of the assault. The only feature she could make out was the person’s long blue-gray hair, as their face was covered by what looked like a severed hand. More hands gripped their body, and Akiho prayed that they weren’t real. Her stomach was in knots as it was, and she wasn’t sure if she could handle if she were in the presence of a villain who wore the severed hands of his victims.

Sliding out next was a huge monster, with black skin and rippling muscles and height that matched All Might’s. It had a beak, but more striking and disturbing was the exposed brain matter on which its eyes sat.

Silver eyes flicked to the rest of her class, noticing the similar looks of fear and unease that matched her own emotional turmoil. A small part of her felt vindicated in her reaction to see them react as she had; but another, larger, more powerful desire flooded her next. It was likely due in part to Thirteen’s speech that had rattled her blind trust in her mother’s ideology and justified her own quiet beliefs. Or perhaps it was watching Aizawa (whom acted like he barely tolerated them) determinedly slip on his hero gear and passionately warn the students back.

In her soul, Akiho knew what she had to do. She had to protect her friends, at least until they could get away. Aizawa and Thirteen could surely hold off the threat until they could call for help, right? They’d likely not even need her help, considering they were pro heroes, right?

Surely All Might was on his way, he was scheduled to help teach this class. As the #1 Hero, he would wipe the floor with these villains before any harm came to the students.

Right?

Preparing for the worst, Akiho slipped on her hero gear as well; the mask settling over her face gave her courage, and the goggles gave her determination. In this moment, she wasn’t Akiho, she was a hero.

She stepped forward so that she was shoulder to shoulder (as much as she could be with glaring height difference) with Kirishima at the top of the stairs. The horde of villains was walking in their direction leisurely, adding to their menacing effect.

“There’s no way they could get into a hero school.” Kirishima stated in dismayed disbelief.

“What about the security alarms?” Yaoyorozu asked Thirteen desperately.

“We have them of course, but…” Thirteen trailed off, trying to keep their eye on the approaching gang of villains.

“I wonder. Did they only appear here, or around the whole school?” Todoroki questioned, “Either way, if the sensors aren’t responding, that means that they have someone with a quirk that can do that. We’re isolated from the main campus. They’re fools, but they’re not stupid. This surprise attack was carefully planned with some goal in mind.”

“Thirteen,” Barked Aizawa as he stepped in front of his students, “Start the evacuation, and try calling the school. These villains counteracted the sensors, so it’s possible that someone with radio-wave type powers is interfering. Kaminari, you try contacting the school with your quirk too.”

Kaminari immediately began fiddling with his headset, to try and establish a connection with the school. A concerned Midoriya jumped forward and asked, “What about you, Aizawa-sensei? Will you fight by yourself? With that many, even if you erase their quirks… Your style is capture after erasing their quirks, a frontal attack is…”

Aizawa looked back, his face was serious and his tone matched, “You can’t be a hero with just one trick.”

With that, the man jumped down the huge flight of stairs that the villains had just approached. Akiho peered down in time to see his scarf wrap around three villains at once, throw them into the air, and bash their heads together; rendering them unconscious instantly. That sight alone brought a dangerous feeling of hope; hope that they would come out of this alive.

‘He’s so cool…’

Thirteen immediately called the attention of the students, “Let’s go. The sooner we get out of here, the sooner we can call for aid for Eraser Head.”

Collectively, the class began running for the exit, Akiho bringing up the rear with Midoriya as she had been the furthest from the door, and the slowest runner of them all, and he had hung behind to watch Aizawa fight. She was tempted to try and boost her speed by using her mother’s quirk again, but it didn’t feel like a great time to experiment and fail.

As that thought crossed her mind, a recent memory replaced it. Aizawa’s voice rang clear and true,

“You need to try your hardest and prepare to fail occasionally, rather than only try what you think you are capable of.”

‘Damnit… even now, in the face of real danger, I’m still doing it…’ Akiho cursed herself.

Aizawa was down in a pit with dozens of villains, outnumbered but certainly not outmatched; all because he was willing to give his all to make sure that the villains were defeated. The least Akiho could do was make sure that she got away.

Against her mother’s teachings, Akiho allowed the power of her mother’s quirk to settle over her whole body. If she was going to experiment, she would give it everything she had like Aizawa instructed. With the situation as dire as it appeared to be, Akiho could think of no better time to give everything she had. In this moment, it literally could mean the difference between life and death.

The concentration of power stroked against her skin, starting in her fingers, and quickly coursing through the rest of her body. Her arm ports tingled and the metal there rippled erratically; ready to be molded to Akiho’s whim. Her back ports felt ready to burst, as though the metal there was compressed too tightly. The small ports on her ears and tongue vibrated, ready to serve. When her power reached her feet, she nearly tripped; but because her quirk was now active across her body, she kept herself upright by yanking herself back by her metallic ribcage. It was insanely uncomfortable to do so, but it got the job done.

Just as she had pushed herself forward into the middle of the group, the entrance was cut off by another swirling black portal, and a deep voice spoke out, “I won’t let you.”

The portal itself shaped itself into a man of sorts, with large glowing yellow eyes that were striking against the endless void of black, “Nice to meet you,” It spoke condescendingly, “We are the League of Villains. It may have been presumptuous of us, but we have invited ourselves into the home of heroes, U.A. high school, in order to have All Might, Symbol of Peace, take his last breath.”

The yellow eyes looked around, and then continued, “I believe All Might should have been here. Has there been a change? Well that is neither here nor there. This is the part I am to play.”

Black, wispy, wing-like arms stretched out with the threat, causing Akiho to allow her shields to form instinctively. With her quirk fully activated, they formed almost as quickly as she thought of them. As she went to take a step forward, Kirishima and Bakugo launched themselves at the warp villain. The resulting explosion caused a smokescreen, but Akiho could still see the warm outline of the villain thanks to her goggles.

Akiho ran up to stand by the two hot signatures that were Bakugo and Kirishima, in hopes that she could provide some help in taking this villain down. As the smoke began to clear, Kirishima taunted, “Did you consider that you’d be beaten by us before you did?”

Akiho was surprised to hear the words come from Kirishima instead of Bakugo, but the explosive blonde was silently standing in a battle-ready stance with a serious look on his face. Kirishima was grinning cockily, until the deep voice spoke out in mock dismay, “Oh dear, that’s dangerous. That’s right. Even if you are students, you are the excellent golden eggs.”

Thirteen’s warning to get away came too late as the villain continued, “My job is to scatter you all, and torture you to death.”

With that statement, black misty tendrils flew from his body, and began engulfing everyone. Trying to think fast, Akiho used the metal of her shields, transforming them into ribbons that wrapped around Bakugo and Kirishima waists, as they were still standing closest to the villain. With as much force as she had, she hauled them back to her, causing their bodies to collide with hers and the three of them toppled to the floor. Keeping a firm grip on them with her metal, she shouted, “Hold on!”

Blackness consumed the three of them shortly after, and for a horrible moment, even with her goggles on, Akiho could see nothing.

Then they were falling.

Before Akiho could react, her body crashed into, and then through the roof of a building; dragging a hardened Kirishima and a vulnerable Bakugo down as well. They landed in a heap, with Bakugo luckily sprawled out on top of both of the red heads, having the more durable Akiho and Kirishima take the brunt of the blow. Akiho was thankful for her armor, as it kept the majority of her skin safe from the debris they just crashed through. Her back, though sore from Bakugo landing on it, was intact as well despite not being armored.

“Where are we?” Akiho managed to groan out as she moved to stand up and recalled the metal that was tying the three of them together.

“Tch. We’re still in the U.S.J., I can see Sensei fighting from here.” Bakugo grunted as he dusted himself off.

“We have to make it back over there, he’s going to need our help eventually.” Kirishima stated as he too, righted himself.

A sudden crashing sound and a shout from the floor below them clued the three friends in that they were not alone, “Son of a bitch! Why the hell would that mist asshole send kids in here? This place is falling apart!”

Akiho looked at the other two in horror, not remembering that they couldn’t see her face. ‘Shit, we’re in the Collapse Zone.’

‘Shit, shit. Bakugo and I are in the Collapse Zone.’

Akiho could think of no one worse than the two of them to be there.

“There are villains on the floor below us!” Kirishima whispered loudly, with horror written clearly on his face.

“Tch. Not for long. Sounds like they’re coming to us.” Bakugo growled back whilst returning to his battle stance.

When the first small explosion erupted from Bakugo’s fingers, Akiho finally found her voice, “You can’t use your quirk here!”

The sheer confusion had Bakugo come slightly out of his crouched stance as he turned to stare at her incredulously, “Eh? What the fuck are you talking about Metal Mouth?”

She gestured to the building they were in with one hand and pointed the other at him in warning, “We’re in the Collapse Zone, Bakugo. You’ll bring the whole building down on us if you aren’t careful!”

The blonde grunted and turned his attention back to the door that lead to the stairwell, “Then I’ll just be careful Metal Mouth.”

Kirishima glanced nervously at the other boy and began to interject, “I dunno man, she’s probably rig-”

The door was suddenly kicked open, and five villains rushed into the room. At the same time, two more villains with wings crashed through the windows opposite the door to surround them. Without even having to look at each other, the three students moved to stand back to back, as to not leave any blind spots. They trusted each other to cover their backs.

For a moment that seemed to last a lifetime, the villains just stared at them; the eager grins on their faces making Akiho feel sick to her stomach. Without warning, one of the men closest to Bakugo rushed forward, only to be thrown back with a blast that shook the floor they were standing on. The man stayed down.

Before Akiho could turn to scold the blonde for the blast, a winged man rushed forward, this time within her range. With her mother’s quirk still fully activated across her body, her shields erupted almost instantaneously once more. She waited for him to reach her, as she didn’t want to leave a hole in the triangular defense she, Bakugo, and Kirishima were depending on. A fist shot out at her when he finally got in range, and Akiho deftly raised her left arm to block the attack.

A harsh metal on metal ringing sound emanating from her shield made Akiho’s stomach clench tightly in fear. Instantly she was back in the training room with her mother; facing down the brutal metal on metal attacks and seemingly fighting for her life. Reacting instinctively, she lashed out with her right arm as hard as she could. The metallic shield struck the villain in his solar plexus, driving the air out of his body as he stumbled back. Her brain only registered that her opponent was still upright, still seemingly a threat before her.

‘It’s not over until they’re down for good. If you don’t finish it, they’ll just take you down instead. No mercy.’ Aiko’s venomous voice whispered, both a ghost and a horrible memory. A lesson in pain that had broken Akiho’s spirit as a small girl.

Still not fully seeing what was truly happening around her, Akiho struck out with her right arm again. This time she aimed higher and to the left, and felt more than heard the crack of the man’s ribs as he finally went down. Her eyes were watching the featureless person anxiously, waiting for the body to get up and try and hurt her again.

They always got back up.

They always took her down instead.

She was weak and soft hearted like that.

It would hurt, as it always did when Akiho failed to meet Aiko’s brutal standards. But Akiho didn’t have the stomach for the extreme violence that her mother demanded of her. ‘Do you want to die?’ Her mother would ask angrily, ‘Because out there, in the real world, being soft gets you killed. I’m doing this for you.’

Then the pain would continue until Akiho was unable to move; usually bleeding and broken, but always able to eventually pick herself back up and lick her wounds alone. Her mother considered it kindness, explaining that the villain that paralyzed her by dropping a building on her hadn’t given her the opportunity to crawl away. Pain was a lesson, the only way to grow stronger was to embrace it and move past it.

‘Please just let Bakugo and Kirishima come out ok.’ She pleaded instinctively to any god that would listen.

The sudden errant thought confused her, causing a conflict in her mind as reality and her delusion clashed. She remembered that her friends were there.

‘Why are they here?’

She blinked rapidly, and even brought the heel of her right hand up to her face to rub her eyes. Suddenly the man on the ground before her had features again; his wings sprawled out gracelessly under his clearly unconscious body. Her eyes were drawn to his hands, which were still held in loose fists adorned with brass knuckles. Suddenly the metallic clang made sense.

Two more loud explosions and a loud, “DIE!” to her right rooted Akiho in the present just in time to block another assault from another villain. This one had long greasy hair and a metallic mask on, much like her own in design. A quick flick of her wrist had her left shield turn into a whip that struck him in the head just hard enough to render him unconscious at her feet.

A quick glance around the room showed that Bakugo and Kirishima had handled the other five villains in the room. Kirishima released his hardened form and rolled his shoulder whilst breathing heavily. Bakugo turned to both redheads after scanning the room for himself and asked, “That’s it? They’re so weak.”

Akiho had to agree, seeing as three barely trained students just took out a squad of villains that claimed they were here to kill All Might.

Kirishima spoke next, “All right, let’s hurry and go save the others! I’m worried about the guys with less offensive ability. Besides, it’s our fault. Because we ran ahead, Thirteen was slowed down. If we hadn’t done that, they could have sucked up the fog. As men, we have to take responsibility for what we did!”

“If you want to go, then go by yourself.” Bakugo growled, “I’m gonna kill that warp gate bastard.”

“We can do both,” Akiho interjected, hoping to come to a quick agreement of what to do, they didn’t have time to argue. “The warp villain is guarding the door, and I bet all of our classmates are going to head in that direction to see if they can get through him and call for help.”

They both turned in her direction, taking in her words before they both nodded silently in agreement. Suddenly, the building groaned loudly, shaking and resettling and seemingly wanting to live up to its name as the Collapse Zone. Akiho swore as she lost her balance in the turmoil. Her foot stomped down on the floor when she tried to catch herself and went through when the boards couldn’t support her weight. She landed awkwardly; her left leg sprawled out uncomfortably in front of her as her right dangled helplessly from the ceiling below.

At that same moment, Bakugo turned, grasping at something she couldn’t see and using his quirk to blow it up. A lizard creature appeared from nowhere, his face dangling from Bakugo’s grasp for a moment, before the blonde cast it aside.

“Then let’s go already. The warp gate is their way in and out of here. If we take him out, they’re trapped.” Bakugo rationalized like he hadn’t just defeated another opponent less than a second prior.

When the blonde turned back to face Akiho’s direction, she watched his face curl into confusion when he didn’t see her. Red eyes flicked around for a moment, before settling on her predicament on the floor. Akiho’s silver eyes narrowed as he snorted with laughter, “Oi, Metal Mouth, what the fuck happened to you?”

Akiho awkwardly tried to pull herself out whilst warning Kirishima away, “No don’t. The flooring here isn’t stable, and I’m heavy enough on my own to make it worse.”

Kirishima looked less than convinced but stayed back. As she attempted to heave herself up a second time, she fell through the floor entirely; Kirishima and—surprisingly—Bakugo calling out wordless shouts of concern.

But Akiho was reassured that Bakugo wasn’t shouting out for her when she heard, “Where the fuck did they all go?”

A powerful shockwave from outside struck the building a moment later.

The floor above gave way further, and Kirishima came crashing down to her level as well. The building’s shaking renewed, now more vigorous than before. As Bakugo’s head peeked down the now significant hole in the floor to look at them, the building pitched to the side, casting him down as well.

Seemingly instinctively, he facilitated his landing with series of small explosions that corrected his fall, and he landed almost cat-like on his feet. With some difficulty—thanks to the still quaking and pitched building—Akiho pulled herself to her feet and helped Kirishima up as well.

An ominous, all encompassing groan from the building made Akiho’s stomach drop to her feet. The slight pitch of the building was becoming more pronounced.

The building was beginning to fall.

Panicked, all three students froze for a moment, trying to think of how to survive. The building lurched, sending them crashing towards the windows. Kirishima’s body crashed through one back first, his hardened body protecting him from the glass. Akiho saw his face transform into fear as gravity began taking hold, and Kirishima’s scream of terror sent her into motion.

Adrenaline coursed through her as she unthinkingly cast herself from the same window Kirishima fell through. Her quirk nearly sang as she began her freefall to catch up with her falling friend. She had kept it fully active since before the warp villain had appeared near the exit; the growing uncomfortable tightness in her back ports was borderline painful now that she was falling. She pushed through it, determined to get to Kirishima, not thinking of what her next steps might be. All that mattered to her in that instant was getting to him before they hit the ground.

She could barely hear Bakugo’s shout of worry as he too thrust himself out of the building; and felt the warmth from an explosion on her back. Instead, she focused on her dive, falling headfirst until she collided midair with Kirishima’s horizontal body. She grabbed onto him, turned her body to be parallel to his, and locked his hands to hers with some metal from her wrist ports.

Now that she had Kirishima with her, Akiho panicked slightly. The look on his face was still scared, but he had a hopeful gleam in his eye. She didn’t have the heart—nor the time—to explain that she had no exit strategy for this daredevil move. The most she could do was try to slow their fall by using her quirk to levitate her body and hope that they survived the landing.

As she gathered all the power she had into her back ports—in a desperate attempt to yank them upwards and slow their fall—Akiho felt her quirk go haywire. Instantly, metal exploded from her back ports with speed that she had never achieved before. Two huge, thin, plates of metal extended out; yanking on Akiho’s back painfully as the sudden drag slowed their fall considerably. The metal connecting Akiho and Kirishima’s hands was sole reason she was able to keep her hold on him.

The redheads’ uncontrolled freefall had turned into a miracle glide; the forward movement now allowing them to clear the danger zone of the collapsing building. Every few seconds, Akiho would feel more than hear the explosion above her; letting her know Bakugo was still with them as well. About 30 seconds into the slow descent, Akiho heard the building crash down loudly behind her. Small bits of debris peppered her, but her armor did its job in protecting her.

As the ground came upon them—much more gently than Akiho had ever dared to hope at the beginning of this disaster—Akiho realized that she still had no landing strategy. Hurriedly, she released the metal connecting her hands to Kirishima’s. He dropped to the ground effortlessly; landing in a practiced crouch.

Akiho on the other hand, tried to pull her body upward to get her feet under her. This caused the metal plates on her back to catch even more drag, which unbalanced her completely. With a yelp, she tumbled to the ground gracelessly; practically a pile of limbs and metal as her face was in the dirt and her left leg was caught high in the air. The initial hit to the ground knocked the breath out of her, and she gasped pathetically into the dirt as she tried to regain it. Kirishima rushed over to her, and—with some effort on his part—helped haul her into a sitting position, and then threw himself at her with a hug.

Akiho had no time nor energy to flinch at his sudden movement toward her; her breathing still gasping and irregular, and her adrenaline spike was fading now that the threat of the building falling on them was over. She merely wrapped her arms around him, feeling him shake with what she assumed was shot nerves. The boy pulled back enough to look her in the eyes, surprising her that his own were red and wet with tears as he thanked her, “That was the manliest thing I’ve ever seen. Thank you for saving my life back there Akiho-chan.”

A blush erupted over Akiho’s face at the casual use of her first name, but before she could respond, an explosion behind her clued her into Bakugo’s arrival. Turning her head to look at him, she saw the anger on his face as he stomped over, “What the fuck Metal Mouth! Don’t do that shit!”

Confused and exhausted, Akiho merely asked, “What?”

Bakugo’s eyes narrowed into a fearsome glare and he shouted, “You know ‘what’! I didn’t know you had wings! I thought you just jumped like a dumbass!”

The shock of the statement had Akiho releasing her quirk, and the metal plates retreated into her back ports. Unbidden from her lips came the trained response, “I don’t have wings.”

Kirishima’s face in front of her jerked back slightly, his face a mix of confusion and disbelief. Bakugo’s tone matched it, though he was still shouting, “Are you fucking serious? We just saw them. Your secret’s out, get over it.”

Akiho pulled out of Kirishima’s grip and moved to stand awkwardly, her arms crossed in front of her uncomfortably, “I don’t have wings. Those were just metal plates that created enough drag to soften our landing.”

“They had feathers…” Kirishima interjected.

Growing increasingly more uncomfortable, Akiho straightened and deflected with a determined tone, “Look, we don’t have time for this. We still have to go take care of that warp gate villain.”

Bakugo opened his mouth, but closed it with a snap and huffed angrily, “She’s right. We can deal with her delusions later.”

With that, the blonde turned away and began running towards the center of the U.S.J. building. Kirishima spared Akiho one more concerned look before he turned away and followed. Akiho brought up the rear, running without augment to try and preserve some of her dwindling energy. Keeping her quirk completely active for as long as she had, as well as the fall from the building had left her feeling particularly drained.

‘I’m not delusional,’ Akiho thought furiously to herself as she watched Bakugo and Kirishima pull ahead of her, ‘The feathers are a malfunction of my mother’s quirk. I don’t have wings.’

An explosion from the main doors of the building caught Akiho’s attention. When the dust cloud settled, she was overjoyed to see All Might standing at the top of the stairs.

‘He came! We’re saved!’ Akiho thought hopefully.

Still, she kept running towards the center of the building, where Bakugo and Kirishima had gone. By the time she arrived on the scene, Bakugo had the warp gate villain pinned to the ground. Two gates were still open on the ground, and the gigantic beaked monster was split between them. The beast was immobilized by the ice that covered half of it, trailing back to Todoroki.

Kirishima aimed a punch at the villain covered in hands, but missed. Trying to take advantage of the situation, Akiho flexed her arm and sent a metallic whip out at the villain as he dodged back from Kirishima’s onslaught. The whip connected with his arm, and she wrapped it around to try and subdue him with a clench of her fist.

The villain didn’t struggle to get away, instead reaching to the metal cuff and grabbing it whilst scolding her, “No more new players are allowed, this is a full room.”

Akiho watched in horror as the metal rusted and began flaking away. Worse still, was that it began travelling up the whip towards her. Instantly she severed the whip from her body, though the rot seemed to stop a few feet away from the villain. The rest of the whip remained untainted, but Akiho didn’t want to risk touching it.

“Hagane-chan be careful! He has a disintegration quirk!” Midoriya supplied after she had cut her connection.

“I gathered that, thanks!” Akiho snapped back dryly.

“Nomu.” The hands villain called out.

Immediately, the monster moved; pulling itself out of the portals so forcibly that it shattered its body parts that were covered in ice. It crawled around on the ground in pain, crying out until it horrifyingly grew a new arm and leg. The hands villain then addressed All Might, “Nomu’s been modified to take you at 100%. He’s a super-efficient human punching bag.”

“First, we need to get our gate back.” The villain continued, “Go, Nomu.”

The creature rushed forward so quickly Akiho couldn’t react; she couldn’t even see it. The force that it hit the area Bakugo had occupied was so great that even she was thrown back by the shockwave. When she landed, she saw the creature called Nomu was holding the warp villain. Panicked, she called out, “Bakugo!” at the same time Midoriya shouted, “Kacchan!”

Only to realize he was on the ground beside them. Akiho rushed over and threw herself at him, gripping his shoulders to keep him still long enough to make sure he was ok. Her panic made her goggles suddenly felt like they were hindering her eyesight, and she ripped them off with one hand; allowing the band to dangle around her wrist so that she wouldn’t lose them. Her hands shook slightly as they gripped his shoulders, turning him slightly to the left and right to continue her examination. Bakugo was surprisingly patient as she manhandled him. Her frantic motions were slowing down, but the shaking was becoming pronounced. Akiho took a deep, calming breath in and murmured quietly to herself repeatedly, “He’s alive, he’s ok.”

Amazed, Midoriya complimented, “You dodged? You’re amazing!”

Bakugo peered around Akiho who was still fussing and murmuring nervously and growled, “No. Shut up scum.”

“Then how…?” Kirishima trailed off

Momentarily satisfied with her quick check for injuries, Akiho stood and offered her hand to help pull Bakugo up as well. He took her slightly shaking hand without looking her in the face and grunted his thanks. She kept hold of his hand for a second longer, squeezing it to gain his attention. When he looked down at her, her silver eyes met with his red. Her genuine concern radiated clearly through them; making Bakugo blush slightly before turning away to face the direction of the dust cloud, “All Might of course.”

Akiho moved to stand by the blonde, and whispered to him, “I’m glad you’re ok.”

“Tch. Of course I am.” Bakugo shot back without looking at her, his tone lacking it’s usual fire.

The dust cleared slowly, revealing All Might who was panting with exertion, “Do you not know how to hold back?”

“It was to rescue my companions. I had no choice. I mean, earlier, that… that plain looking one. He was about to punch me with everything he had, you know. Violence for the sake of others makes it admirable. Isn’t that right, hero?” The hands villain excused his behavior before continuing his speech with his arms spread wide, “You know what, All Might? I’m angry. I’m angry at this world that categorizes the same acts as heroic or villainous, deciding what’s good and what’s bad.”

His hands, the ones that truly belonged to him, gestured to his fallen horde of villains, and then he shrugged, “‘Symbol of Peace?’ Ha! You’re just a device to repress violence. Violence only breeds violence. The world will know this once we kill you!”

All Might slipped into his battle stance fluidly and growled back, “That’s preposterous. The eyes of white-collar criminals like you burn silently. You just want to enjoy this yourself, don’t you, you liar?”

“It’s three against six.” Todoroki stated calmly, as if he weren’t threatening a villain with his cool declaration.

Midoriya nodded in agreement and put his fists up in front of him, “Yeah, and Kacchan’s already exposed the fog’s weakness!”

“These guys are crazy, but if we back up All Might, we can push them back!” Said Kirishima as he prepared his quirk for the impending fight.

Akiho poured out two more metallic whips from her wrist ports, ready and willing to sacrifice her metal to apprehend these villains once and for all. But her train of thought was stopped when All Might shouted, “No! Run away.”

Todoroki flexed his right arm into a battle-ready position and argued, “You would’ve been in trouble if I hadn’t done anything earlier, right?”

“That was a different story, Young Todoroki. Thanks.” A flex of All Might’s arms, almost like the posing he had done just the day prior but scarier, “But it’s fine! Just watch as a Pro gives everything he’s got!”

“All Might, you’re bleeding!” Midoriya protested, “Besides, time’s-“

Midoriya cut himself off suddenly with a hand over his own mouth; All Might gave a thumbs up and stalked forward towards the villains.

“Nomu, Kurogiri, get him. I’ll deal with the children.” The hands villain commanded.

Then the hands villain ran towards them, only to be blown back by the shockwave of All Might and Nomu’s fists meeting in combat, “Damn. Hey, you talked about his shock absorption yourself earlier, didn’t you?”

“Yes, I did!” All Might responded, throwing another punch that Nomu blocked with its fist.

The two giants traded countless blows in a similar matter; moving so quickly and with so much force that Akiho couldn’t see the punches but could feel the shockwaves they produced. Soon the fight was so fierce that Todoroki, Bakugo, and Midoriya were fighting to stay on their feet. Akiho shifted into a sturdier stance, but remained upright when the others were forced to their knees. Seeing their struggle and thinking quickly, she punched her right fist forward, causing the metal whip to pierce the ground and then reemerge as a horizontal bar in front of the boys.

Todoroki caught on first, gripping the bar with his left hand; freeing his right hand, and allowing him a battle-ready stance on his knees. Midoriya then also grabbed the bar with one hand, Akiho only just now noticing that the other was wrapped awkwardly in black cloth. Kirishima knelt low, gripping it with both hands as he prepared for the onslaught to grow in ferocity. Akiho found herself using the vertical bar of metal connecting her wrist port to the ground as a makeshift cane to keep herself upright. Bakugo was the last to grab on, and only did so when the wind pressure threatened to knock him away entirely.

“If your quirk isn’t shock nullification but shock absorption, then there’s a limit to it, right?” The punches sped up even more, causing even Akiho to fall to her knees from the wind pressure it caused, “Made to fight me? If you can withstand me at 100%, then I’ll force you to surrender from beyond that!”

Nomu was sent flying back, but All Might followed him through the trees, “A hero can always break out of a tough spot!”

A swift hit from Nomu forced All Might to the ground, but the hero was quick to kick the monster into the air. He followed—not letting the beast get the chance to regroup—and then grabbed its arm and threw it forcibly back to the concrete below, shattering a large area of it instantaneously. As All Might landed and prepared a powerful looking punch, he asked, “Hey villain, have you ever heard these words?”

“Go beyond! Plus Ultra!”

The punch was so powerful that it created small explosions of light in Nomu’s torso before it was launched through the roof of the building.

The students gripped the metal bars in front of them tightly as the final blast rocked the whole building. When it was over, Akiho was the first to move to stand, and recalled her metal slowly; waiting for the boys to let go as to not risk hurting them somehow.

“Is this a comic book or something?” Kirishima asked in awe as he moved to stand as well, “It’s like he nullified the shock absorption. His brute strength is crazy.”

“What insane power.” Bakugo concurred, before presenting a question of his own, “Does this mean he rushed at him so fast he couldn’t regenerate?”

Akiho was shocked silent, but her mind was whirring with thoughts.

‘Is this the power level of a Pro Hero? I can’t imagine myself as that powerful. Does that mean I don’t have what it takes?’

Her dismayed thoughts were interrupted when All Might spoke in his usual jaunty tone, “I really have gotten weaker. In my prime, five hits would have been enough. But it took more than 300 hits.”

‘F-five hits?’ Akiho thought horrified.

All Might then turned to the hands villain and Kurogiri, whom Akiho had entirely forgotten about until that moment, “Now villains, I’m sure we’d all like to end this as soon as possible.”

The hands villain stood in an aggressive stance, shaking with rage as he complained aloud, “He used a cheat!? He was supposed to be weaker! We’ve been completely overwhelmed. I can’t believe he did that to my Nomu!”

The hands villain then began scratching at his neck furiously, almost as if it were a nervous tick gone wrong. All Might addressed him again, taunting, “What’s wrong? You’re not coming? You said you’d ‘clear’ this or something, right?” His voice then grew darker and more demanding, and his features matched, “Come and get me if you can.”

The hands villain retreated a few steps, seemingly frightened, though it was hard for Akiho to tell because his face was covered. Though it wasn’t directed at her, Akiho still felt the shiver crawl up her spine at his tone. It was all too reminiscent of her mother’s when she was angry with her; and was a more intense version of the voice the hero had used when he was annoyed with her yesterday.

Kirishima saw her reaction and stepped forward; standing so that she still had a view on the villains but stood between her and All Might. Bakugo noticed Kirishima’s behavior; his eyebrows coming together in a concerned scowl before he also stepped closer to her, and spoke in a troubled tone, “All Might?”

Akiho was silent, trying to control the shaking of her hands again. Midoriya’s eyes met hers with great concern, trying to analyze what had set her off. Todoroki was blissfully unaware of the turmoil going on with Akiho, Kirishima, and Bakugo and commended the hero, “As expected, it looks like there is no need for us to fight.”

Akiho watched Bakugo slowly reach for her shoulder, applying pressure to silently tell her to turn as Kirishima shouted, “Midoriya! We should get out of here now! It’ll be worse if we end up being taken hostage instead!”

Midoriya stood frozen; watching the standoff between All Might and the villains. His face looked concerned to Akiho, and she wondered if he knew something that they didn’t. All Might had the situation under control. Didn’t he?

“Well? What’s wrong?” All Might baited again.

The words made the hands villain jump back in fear again. A frustrated growl escaped from behind the hand on his face as his actual hands came up to scratch furiously at his neck. Akiho could see small trickles of blood traveling down from where his fingernails were scraping the skin off. “If only I had my Nomu,” He complained petulantly, “That guy would have been able to go up against him without thinking about anything!”

“Shigaraki Tomura!” Kurogiri scolded, “Please calm yourself. Looking carefully, I see that he was definitely weakened from Nomu’s attacks.”

He then whispered something else that Akiho couldn’t hear, but had both villains looking at her and the other students.

Akiho heard groans and movement behind them and turned to see the villains that Aizawa had knocked unconscious rise to their feet once more. Bakugo turned immediately, blasting a man with an impressive explosion that sent the villain reeling. The distraction caused Akiho to miss Shigaraki’s rush at All Might. Instead, she just watched in horror as Midoriya had somehow launched himself into the fray, and right into the path of Shigaraki’s portaled hand.

A gunshot rang out, and Shigaraki’s hand recoiled with a bullet hole in it. A shrill sound echoed out next, sounding like a man’s voice, but distorted and impossibly loud. The U.S.J. erupted into chaos, causing the students to be overcome with hope.

Help had finally arrived.

“Aw man, they’re here.” Shigaraki whined, “It’s game over now. Shall we go home and try again later, Kurogir—”

He was interrupted as three, no, four bullets hit him; one in the torso, one in each leg, and another in his right arm. Akiho’s stomach twisted with conflicting thoughts; on one hand, she was glad that he was incapacitated and that she was safe. On the other hand, the bullets, the shooting was so sudden and violent that it made her uneasy. Akiho didn’t feel bad for the villain, he needed to be stopped, but she empathized with the pain he must be enduring at that moment. Kurogiri quickly came to Shigaraki’s defense, using his mist to absorb the bullets and warp them somewhere else.

A sudden, powerful force of suction slowed their escape, but ultimately, the two villains still got away. The horde of villains they had brought with them, however, were left behind. The few that were still standing around Akiho and the other students began to panic, and Akiho wasted no time using that to her advantage.

With a flick of both of her wrists, Akiho’s metal whips broke into several sharp points, one for each villain that stood before her and the other students. She fought to keep the shake out of her voice as she loudly commanded, “Get down on your knees with your hands above your head!”

Immediately two of the eight men dropped at her command. They screamed when the metal spikes rushed for them, though if they had paid attention, they would have noticed that her aim was too high to be lethal. Just before the spikes made contact, the metal morphed, split, and collided with the villains’ wrists. The metal wrapped around each wrist individually, and Akiho carefully—but forcefully—dragged their arms behind their backs. Manipulating four limbs at once (without breaking or pulling anything out of place) drew all her focus, but when she had maneuvered them how she wanted, the metal came together to form handcuffs.

The other six villains looked at each other nervously, before one brave soul rushed forward at the students. Todoroki stepped forward with his right foot, and a sheet of ice raced towards the approaching villain. The ice engulfed the man up to the neck instantly, and raced on to the other unsuspecting villains who were then trapped similarly.

Akiho heaved a sigh of relief and recalled the remaining metal spikes still hanging in the air by holding her hands palm up and clenching her splayed fingers into fists. The spikes flew back at her, flying into her wrist ports like they were diving into water. Bakugo and Kirishima looked briefly concerned, before they realized that she was ok.

A tug against her mental connection to the cuffs around one of the villain’s wrists let Akiho know that the man was trying to get up. Thoroughly annoyed, she swiped her left hand in a downward diagonal motion, forcing the man to the ground, prone. Stomping over, she squatted down so that she was close to his face and growled, “Do not test me right now. I’m tired and you’re pissing me off, so if you could just wait to be arrested like a good little villain that would be great.”

“If they were good, they wouldn’t be a villain Hagane.” Todoroki pointed out with an innocently confused tone.

Akiho took a deep breath in to avoid saying anything unnecessarily mean. She stood from her crouch, and took a firm hold of the metal restraining both villains. She would have to keep eye contact, but unless they were able to physically overpower her quirk, they weren’t going anywhere.

“If this many Pro Heroes have gathered here, then it looks like they did not attack the whole school.” Todoroki observed out loud.

“Midoriya!” Kirishima shouted frantically, “Are you alright?”

Akiho’s head whipped over to look for the green haired boy, finding him laying on the ground with his elbows propping his upper torso and head up. The lapse in concentration had the villain that was still on his knees try to make a break for it. Akiho forced him to the ground like the other one, and shouted exasperatedly, “Seriously?!”

A rumble from behind her tempted Akiho to look, but her focus had to remain on the two flight risks under her control. Suddenly, cement poured over all the villains that Todoroki and Akiho had restrained, and a deep voice spoke, “You can release the villains now. I have them under control.”

Akiho recalled the rest of her metal with another clench of her hands, palm up. The last of her adrenaline infused energy left her when the steel settled within her. Exhaustion pulsed through her in waves, and she struggled to find the energy to move. Cementoss appeared before her and asked, “Are you alright? Do you require assistance?”

“Sorry. I’m just tired.” Akiho apologized.

“It’s quite alright. You’ve had a trying day. Rest easy now knowing that you and your classmates are safe.”

Akiho nodded tiredly and shuffled over to Bakugo, Kirishima, and Todoroki. The boys kept pace with her, making her feel bad that she was slowing them down so considerably. By the time they exited the U.S.J. there were several busses and police cars lined up outside the building.

A man in a beige trench coat and matching hat stood in front of the rest of the class counting, “14… 15… We’re missing students.”

“Hey! Over here!” Kirishima shouted to the man as the four of them approached.

Upon seeing them, the man continued his count, “16, 17, 18, 19. Alright, other than the boy with both legs seriously injured, everyone else seems unharmed.”

Ashido and Kaminari ran over to where Akiho, Bakugo, Kirishima, and Todoroki were and questioned, “Where did you guys end up? Were you all together? Oh wow, that must’ve been some dream team with Todoroki and Bakugo on it.”

“Todoroki met up with us later on. Bakugo, Akiho, and I were in the Collapse Zone.” Kirishima explained.

“The Collapse Zone?” Kaminari asked horrified, “Man, you guys were lucky to have gotten out before it fell on your heads then. I bet Bakugo blew the damned thing off its foundation, didn’t he?”

“Fuck off Pikachu! I did not!” Bakugo barked angrily.

“He was actually pretty careful all things considered.” Akiho defended the blonde, to everyone’s surprise, “Something outside made the building fall.”

“Outside?” Todoroki questioned, “Meaning that you were in the building when it began to fall?”

Dread coursed through Akiho, chasing away some of the exhaustion that felt like it was seeping into her bones. She opened her mouth to speak, but Kirishima beat her to it, “Yeah! We crashed through the roof, so we were on the top floor when we got there. When the building started to fall, I fell out through a window. If Akiho-chan hadn’t thought as fast as she had, I’d be a pancake buried under that building.”

Ashido’s eyes widened as she squealed, “You’re so cool, Kuudere-chan!” A moment passed before the pink girl nearly screamed, “WAIT! YOU CALL HER AKIHO-CHAN?!”

“Well, yeah. She literally saved my life. It doesn’t get any more familiar than that for me.” Kirishima answered with a shrug.

‘He didn’t mention the wings… He’s covering for me… why?’ Akiho thought in confusion.

Bakugo also said nothing to correct or fill in the narrative. Were they both going to let it go?

The detective cut in, disrupting all the conversations the students were having, “Let’s have the students return to their classroom for now. We won’t be questioning them right away, anyway.”

Tsuyu hopped up to the detective and asked, “Detective, what about Aizawa-sensei?”

The detective pulled out his phone and played a recorded message, “Comminuted fractures in both arms and a facial fracture.” Presumably a doctor listed out, “Fortunately, there does not seem to be any serious brain damage. However, his orbital floor has broken into small pieces, and his eyes may suffer from the aftereffects.”

The entire class looked shaken with the news. Though it seemed that he would pull through, who knew if their sensei would even be able to see again? Let alone continue to be a hero.

“What about Thirteen?” Ashido pressed.

“Thirteen has been treated.” The detective answered, “The laceration from the back to upper arm was bad, but Thirteen will survive. All Might will also survive, he is being treated by Recovery Girl as we speak.”

“What about Midoriya?” Iida shouted his concern the same time Uraraka pressed, “Deku-kun?!”

“Midor—Oh, Recovery Girl is taking care of him in the nurse’s office too.” The detective answered after a moment of confusion, “Now, go back to your classroom.”

The class began slowly filtering towards the busses; Ashido was trying to yank Akiho along once she realized that the shorter girl was almost too tired to walk, “Jeez Kuudere-chan. How much metal do you have stored right now? I can’t even move you.”

“Usually I weigh close to 400 pounds. Right now, I’m slightly lighter because I lost some metal in a fight with a villain.” Came Akiho’s tired, honest answer.

“Four hun—Kuudere-chan that’s insane! No wonder you can barely walk right now! Honestly it’s a miracle you can move at all!” Ashido scolded lightly.

They stepped onto the bus, Akiho taking the steps slowly, and one at a time like a small child. She sat in the seat closest to the door; shimmying her body over so that Ashido could sit as well, “More metal means more power. The heavier I am, the more versatile I can be.”

“Did you ever stop to consider that there was an upper limit to that? That there’s a point where your metal is a detriment to you?” Ashido pressed on, slightly concerned.

“No… Not really. I’ve been training for as long as I can remember to be able to take this much in. Seems like a waste if I don’t use it.” Akiho replied as she rested her head on the glass window; eyes closing of their own accord.

She was asleep before she heard Ashido’s reply.

Chapter Text

Akiho was awoken abruptly with a hand on her shoulder, shaking her roughly. As she sat up with a gasp, her metal fluttered tiredly in her ports until she realized it was just Bakugo. Ashido stood behind him, her head peeking over his shoulder and her eyes staring worriedly down at Akiho. “We’re back at the school Metal Mouth.” Bakugo informed her gruffly before stepping off the bus.

“Are you ok Kuudere-chan? You fell asleep almost as soon as you sat down.” Ashido asked concerned.

Still waking up, Akiho rubbed at her eyes and then blinked owlishly up at Ashido. She then yawned, only realizing she still had her mask on when she went to cover her mouth politely. She pulled off the metal gently, stood from her seat, and then answered, “I’m fine Ashido-chan. I’ve just never used my quirk like I have today, and it tired me out.”

Ashido moved so that Akiho could walk by her, and they both exited the bus together, “Yeah, I get what you mean. It was super scary today. I’m just glad everyone is ok.”

“Me too.” Akiho agreed quietly.

The girls followed the rest of the class back to the 1-A classroom; nervously exchanging stories about their experiences during the U.S.J. attack. By Akiho’s design, Ashido did most of the talking as they changed back into their school uniforms. The redheaded girl was channeling Shinsou’s conversation skills as best she could, asking question after question to keep the pink girl talking. But inevitably, the other girl finally asked, “What about you?”

“I didn’t really do much,” Akiho explained as they entered the classroom together, “Kirishima and Bakugo did most of the work. I only took out four villains.”

Both boys were waiting by the door inside the classroom and heard Akiho’s take on the incident. Kirishima was standing right beside the entrance, obviously waiting for someone, while Bakugo leaned casually against the wall on the opposite side of the door. Akiho had no doubt that they wanted to talk to her in private about what happened when Kirishima fell out of the Collapse Zone. So far, she had been successful at using Ashido as a shield, but Akiho wasn’t sure how long that would last before the boys just brought it regardless if the girl was still present.

Almost as if Ashido knew that there was something that she was not being told, she rebutted, “But Kirishima-kun says you saved his life! How did you do that? None of you gave specifics and I’m curious!”

Akiho froze, eyes wide in horror as she tried and failed to quickly come up with an explanation. Her mouth opened, and a dull, “Uhh-” escaped her lips before Kirishima jumped in to save her.

“That’s actually why I hung back Ashido-chan. I’d like to thank Akiho-chan and talk to her in private.”

Ashido looked confused, eyes narrowing in on Bakugo before she questioned suspiciously, “Then why is Bakugo still here?”

“Because I was there too, Raccoon Eyes. Now get lost so we can get this conversation done with and go home.” Bakugo snapped from his corner.

The pink girl pouted, obviously put out that she didn’t get the answers she wanted, but relented, “Fine, but I still want to hear what happened. I’ll talk to you tomorrow Kuudere-chan.”

The trio waited for Ashido to leave, closing the door to the classroom when they saw her disappear down the hall. Bakugo pounced as soon as the coast was clear, trampling over what Kirishima was about to say, “So you have wings.”

“No, I don’t.” Akiho denied instantly with a slightly offended tone, “Don’t you think I’d know if I had wings?”

“Obviously fucking not, seeing as you do, and you’re denying it.” Bakugo bit back sharply.

Kirishima moved to stand as the middle point, pushing back against Akiho and Bakugo’s shoulders as they inched towards each other in their arguing, “Hey, now. This isn’t what I wanted when I decided we needed to talk.” He paused and looked at Akiho, “Thank you, really, for saving my life back there Akiho-chan.”

“Of course, Kirishima-kun.” Akiho replied genuinely, a small smile on her face.

“But we really need to talk about what happened,” Kirishima pressed on, “Whether you meant to or not, you flew us to safety with a pair of wings. I got a good look at them when I was trying not to look at how far away the ground was. They were wing shaped and covered in feathers.”

‘Fuck.’ She thought to herself dejectedly. She had been hoping that Kirishima and Bakugo hadn’t seen the metal from her back ports in detail.

The feathers no longer appeared when Akiho created shields and whips with her arm ports, but whatever she tried to create out of her back ports always had them. It had taken her a lot of practice, and a lot of ‘lessons’ from her mother to create something that wasn’t a feather from any of her ports. Almost nearly as long as it had taken her to figure out how to open her arm ports. The dark red scarring around her wrist and near her elbow was a testament to the shoddy, rushed job she had done in a desperate attempt to please her mother once she had figured it out.

Akiho stared down at her shaking hands nervously and caught the warped reflection of Kirishima’s concerned face in her right arm port. They wouldn’t understand; their quirks weren’t dysfunctional like hers was. What if they made fun of her because she was weak? What if they told the school that she couldn’t control the very basics of her mother’s quirk and she got kicked out?

The more she thought on it, the wilder and more outlandish the scenarios got, until Akiho worked herself into a frenzy. She was panting with nerves until Bakugo’s loud, yet slightly concerned tone broke through her crazed thoughts, “Metal Mouth?”

She could think of no way out of the situation, so she decided to tell the truth. She just hoped that they would continue to keep her secret like they had been since they survived the villain attack, “The feathers are a malfunction of my mother’s quirk. She and I have been training non-stop for years to try and correct it, but sometimes it still happens against my will.”

Both boys looked beyond confused and borderline concerned. Bakugo took a step forward and asked, “What do you mean, ‘your mother’s quirk’?”

Equally confused by the strange question, Akiho unsurely answered, “Uhm, I inherited my mother’s quirk, so that’s why I call it that?”

“But Iron Maiden could control all metal. You just control your own.” Kirishima pointed out gently, unsure of where this conversation was going to lead.

Akiho flinched at the statement despite its gentle presentation but was surprised that Kirishima knew who her mother was. She only remembered telling Shinsou, and she knew that he wouldn’t have had a reason to tell anyone. Still the question came unbidden from her lips, “How did you—”

“I mean, you got in on Steel Work’s recommendation, right?” Kirishima interrupted, “Iron Maiden was the only kid of his that became a hero, so I guessed. But I’m right, right?”

Shoulders sagging in relief that he didn’t know more, Akiho nodded and confirmed, “Y-yeah, you’re right.”

“So, your quirk is already different than your old hag’s.” Bakugo pointed out with apathetically.

“But I’m training to be able to use all metal! I just haven’t figured it out yet.” Akiho defended herself hotly.

“You ever think that your dad’s quirk might be the reason why you make feathers randomly and can only control your metal?” Bakugo pointed out with a raised eyebrow and crossed arms.

Another flinch, and Akiho replied with much less enthusiasm, “No. I don’t even know who he is. He ran as soon as he found out my mom was pregnant with me.”

Bakugo’s eyes widened as he realized his misstep. He turned his head away from Akiho’s sad grey eyes, and let out a quiet, ‘Tch.’

Kirishima cut in again, trying to save the conversation, “Look, all we’re trying to say is that maybe you don’t know everything about your quirk yet. You said that your quirk does that on its own… Maybe that’s how it’s supposed to be used…”

The look on Kirishima’s face was pleading Akiho to at least consider what he was saying, but she couldn’t. If what he was saying was true in any form—if she didn’t inherit her mother’s quirk and instead had her own—then her metallic bird foot mutation was permanent. There would be no chance of sunny beaches, or sand between her—human—toes, or cute shoes ever again. Her mother would have been lying to her all these years. Her stomach dropped to her feet at the thought.

Aiko wasn’t the perfect mother, not by a long shot, but she wasn’t completely heartless. She gave Akiho food, shelter, and an excellent education, in exchange for her daughter’s compliance when it came to hero training. After all, Aiko expected Akiho to take the mantle of ‘Iron Maiden’ when she became a hero; to continue her mother’s legacy.

Akiho refused to believe that her mother would lie to her about something as important as her quirk. A quirk was essentially a person’s identity; only a monster would rob someone of that.

Right?

Swallowing thickly, Akiho nodded, and watched Kirishima’s face relax into relief as she acquiesced, “I… I’ll give it some thought.”

“Tch. While you’re at it, ask your bitch mother who your dad is. It might explain a lot about your quirk.” Bakugo interjected roughly.

It wasn’t like Akiho hadn’t asked when she was younger. She was certain that every child raised in a single parent home, like she was, asked at least once. Aiko had always shut her questioning down harshly, but the last time Akiho asked, she pestered her mother about it until the woman snapped. It was the first time in Akiho’s memory that Aiko left her home alone for longer than twenty-four hours. By the time the older woman came back, Akiho was a mess of nerves and was more than overjoyed that her mother had returned.

While Akiho didn’t think that she had inherited her own quirk, perhaps the defect of feathers came from her father’s quirk. She wasn’t even sure quirks worked like that, but it made more sense than subconsciously making feathers all the time.

“Sure… I’ll try.” Akiho unconvincingly agreed, her gaze focused solely on her shoes.

“Tch. Whatever.” Bakugo stalked over to her and held out his hand, “Give me your phone, Bolts for Brains.”

“Huh?” Akiho asked confused, trying and failing to recover from the conversational whiplash that just happened.

“School’s closed tomorrow because of the attack, so it’s the perfect time to train. You can practice using your quirk like you did today. It’s embarrassing how quickly you tired out.” Bakugo replied easily, like he wasn’t insulting her.

Indignant, Akiho was ready to snap at Bakugo, before realizing what he was doing. In his own Bakugo way, he was trying to help her. It calmed her slightly, so that she was mostly just annoyed when she reached into her pocket, handed her phone over, and responded, “Alright Bakugo-kun.”

Bakugo took the phone from Akiho’s hand, and another was placed in hers. Kirishima looked down with a playful grin and stated, “We’re on a first name basis now. I think it’s only fair I get your number too. We can text about how mean Bakugo is to everyone else.”

“Ha. You’re on a first name basis with her, but she’s not with you.” Bakugo barked back with an indiscernible tone.

“Aww. Akiho-chan! Prove him wrong. Say Eijiro. Do it!” Kirishima teased; getting closer to Akiho as she finished entering her number into his phone.

Akiho blushed profusely, shook her head, and put up her arms in a placating manner, “I’m sorry, but I can’t. It’s way too soon.”

‘Never mind the fact that I’ve never been close enough to call anyone by their first name.’

“It’d be soooo manly if you did!” Kirishima tried to coerce her.

The blush only intensified as she looked up to see him pouting adorably down at her, “Please Akiho-chan?”

“U-uhm.”

“Fuck off, Shitty Hair. Leave her alone before she has a stroke. You’re just as bad as Raccoon Eyes.” Bakugo bit out angrily.

Both redheads turned to look at an irate Bakugo in surprise. There was an undefinable look in his red eyes, trying to hide in his glare. He handed Akiho’s phone back with a sharp motion that would have made her jump if it were anyone but him at this point, “I’ll text you the details tomorrow Metal Mouth.”

With her blush finally dying down, Akiho moved to take the phone from the blonde’s hand, surprised that he didn’t just throw it at her. When she took it from him, her fingers brushed his briefly, and she internally screamed in an awkward fit of embarrassment.

‘Oh god, he’s going to think I did that on purpose!’

Bakugo abruptly turned, and Akiho swore she heard pop rocks again. The blonde stomped over to the door, opened it, and rushed out of the room. Without turning back, he waved his hand and shouted, “See you later nerds.”

Oblivious, Kirishima asked innocently, “What just happened?”

Akiho could only groan in relief that he hadn’t noticed.

 

Surprisingly, Akiho didn’t see Bakugo on the train. The ride home was quiet; Akiho spent her time watching the familiar city landscape go by. Her thoughts were solely focused on getting home and taking the longest, hottest shower she could stand, to get all the dirt, sweat, and debris off her. Or maybe she could wash quickly, and then take a nice bath to soak the tension out of her muscles.

Walking into the apartment, Akiho quietly called out to the empty space, “I’m home.”

After taking her shoes off by the door, she walked in casually. The door to her mother’s room was shut, and no light shone out from underneath, nor was there any sound. Akiho wasn’t surprised; lately her mother was gone for at least two days before she reappeared from her drinking binges. However, the kitchen light was on, and Akiho swore to herself; she must have accidentally left it on when she left this morning.

Stepping into the kitchen, Akiho was surprised to see Aiko sitting in her wheelchair at the kitchen table. Her elbows rested on the tabletop and she was leaning most of her weight onto them. In her hands was a blue cup full of what Akiho could only assume was tea, as the liquid was steaming. Dull brown eyes regarded her for a moment before Aiko spoke dispassionately, “You’re late.”

It was an hour later than Akiho usually got home from school, but class 1-A had been held by the police until they were sure the villains were gone from the area. It wasn’t as if she could have helped that. Though she hadn’t expected her mother to be home tonight, Akiho still thought her mother would have at least sent a text to ask if she was ok. Aiko didn’t seem concerned at all, just tired and hungover.

‘She doesn’t know?’ Akiho thought to herself confused, ‘The police said all the parents were notified.’

Surely one of the officers would have let Akiho know if they hadn’t spoken to her mother. In actuality, Akiho was almost certain that they wouldn’t have released her until a parent was notified because she was a minor. Her grandfather was listed as a secondary contact; did they call him instead?

“There was a villain attack at the school.” Akiho explained as she shuffled nervously, “We were held by the police until they cleared the area.”

Aiko’s eyebrows furrowed together, and she let go of the cup with one hand to rub at her temple, “Is that who called earlier? I’ll be honest, I wasn’t really paying attention to what they were saying.”

Akiho was dumbfounded and hurt at that revelation. How could her mother not listen to a police officer calling about her daughter? What if Akiho had been hurt? Would she have been alone at the hospital, waiting for her mother that would never appear?

The older woman put the cup down, and lazily rolled her neck muscles whilst asking, “Well? What happened?”

Akiho reached up to scratch the back of her neck nervously out of habit, only to abort the motion halfway through when she saw her mother’s expression. Aiko hated when Akiho did that, or any other motion that relayed her nervousness. It wasn’t heroic to be nervous. It especially wasn’t heroic to display it. ‘Villains will take advantage of that and you’ll be dead in a heartbeat.’

“Sorry. U-uhm. There were seventy-two villains that attacked the U.S.J. while my class was there for rescue training with Aizawa-sensei and Thirteen-sensei. The villains managed to separate us into small groups, and we fought them until All Might and all the other teachers from the school cam and rescued us.” Akiho summarized quickly.

Aiko’s eyebrows had twitched at the mention of rescue training, and her expression only darkened as Akiho continued to speak, “There was a villain there that could disintegrate anything he touched. I lost about twenty pounds of metal trying to attack him. Sorry.”

The kitchen was quiet for a long time before Aiko spoke quietly, dangerously, “How many villains did you defeat?”

It was the tone that sent shivers up Akiho’s spine the second she heard it. It promised pain if Akiho answered incorrectly; and she somehow always managed to have the wrong answers. What was worse, this time Akiho knew that she had the wrong answer. It put her in a stressful position; if she told the truth, she would without a doubt be punished for it. If she lied and was caught—and she always was as she was a terrible liar—she would also be punished.

Akiho clenched her shaking hands into fists in a weak attempt to hide the involuntary motion. She ducked her head but kept her mother’s form in her peripheries, bit her lip nervously, and muttered quietly, “F-four.”

The silence was unbearable as Akiho waited for Aiko’s reaction. Usually, the longer it took, the worse it was; causing Akiho to anxiously count the seconds. Her breathing became erratic, and her eyes became dry as she refused to take them off the threat in the room. She wished—not for the first time—that her hair was long enough to hide behind. Akiho was very bad at schooling her face to not show her emotions; hence why Aiko had insisted on the mask and goggle combination she had worn during her time as Iron Maiden for Akiho’s hero costume. The redhead was sure that her face screamed her fear in this moment and was almost positive that her mother was prolonging it on purpose.

***_______________________________________________________________________________________________________***

Suddenly the metal in Akiho’s arm ports screamed.

Or was that her screaming?

Agony fired from all synapses in her arms, and Akiho fought to take a breath in against it. Her arms were moved against her will until they were brought up into a ‘T’ pose. She felt open and vulnerable but resisted the urge to fight back. She was certain it would only get worse if she tried to defend herself.

“Seventy-two villains.” Another screech was heard as the metal in her arm ports pressed inward against her will once more, “Remind me how many you defeated?”

It hurt, it hurt so much. Aiko was pressing the inflexible cuff of metal around Akiho’s forearm into the—albeit reinforced—muscle underneath into equally inflexible metal bones. At this rate, her muscles would explode before anything else in her arm gave out. Tears leaked out despite Akiho’s best efforts to keep them at bay.

Akiho’s arm ports were always more susceptible to pain than her back ports or her feet. It was likely because they weren’t natural, and she had probably damaged something when she hurriedly opened them as a child. Aiko knew this, but often targeted the other ports for ‘lessons’ or punishments because they were easier to hide. The arm ports were only attacked when Akiho had truly done something wrong.

“I asked you a question.” Aiko’s voice never raised, but it grew icier; sending Akiho into a fear induced panic.

“F-four.” Akiho gasped out against the pain

“Four? Four? You might as well not have not even been there.” Hissed Aiko as she rolled her wheelchair over to Akiho’s captive form, “Must you always strive to be this useless?”

“I did my best!” Akiho defended herself, pulling slightly against her mother’s quirk restraining her.

The outburst was unexpected by both parties, and Aiko’s eyes narrowed as she hissed, “Then obviously your best isn’t good enough.”

Akiho felt a rare indignation—rare, at least around her mother—flare up as she shouted fiercely, “It was! I kept my friends safe, that’s what matters most!”

Thirteen’s speech and Aizawa’s sacrifice today proved that. Akiho wouldn’t let her mother cheapen their heroic actions. Not when it came to this. Akiho knew that she didn’t compare to the rest of her class when it came to raw power and quirks. But she saved Kirishima today, and that felt huge. Whether or not he would have survived the fall would remain unseen; but Akiho took solace in the fact that she at least prevented serious injury from befalling her friend.

Aiko’s hold on Akiho’s arms loosened so that the metal was no longer pressing in but were still held uncomfortably in place. Akiho instantly panicked; this was new. New was never good. The older woman wheeled closer and quietly asked, “Is that so? And how did you manage that?”

Akiho’s eyes widened in terror, knowing that she had just dug herself impossibly deep. She couldn’t tell her mother that she used her quirk in the express way Aiko had told her not to; and she definitely couldn’t explain that she had used her back ports to make ‘wings’ and glide Kirishima and herself to safety. So, she went for a half-truth and prayed that her mother wouldn’t notice, “We watched each other’s backs when we were surrounded by villains.”

Aiko wasn’t fooled and the metal in her arms tightened once more, “Tell the truth, you lying little bitch.”

“The building was going to fall on us!” Akiho wailed in pain, trying anything to make it stop, “Kirishima was going to die! I had to! I flew us to safety!”

The pain in her arms was worse this time, and Akiho was unsure if it was because her mother was squeezing tighter or if it was due to the fact that she was already compromised from the first attack. Acting instinctively, she pushed against her mother’s attack, lessening the pressure greatly. She took a deep gasp in, as it finally felt like she was able to breathe properly.

Aiko’s eye twitched in anger as she felt Akiho push back against her, “You dare use my quirk against me?”

Abruptly, Akiho’s entire body felt as though it were being crushed in. The pain was literally bone deep as Aiko manipulated Akiho’s skeleton, squeezing tight for a moment, and then releasing her body so that it fell gracelessly to the ground. She lay facedown on the tile, gasping for the breath that had been forced out of her when her ribcage had constricted her lungs.

“Let that be a lesson. I have all the power here. Not you.” Aiko warned before wheeling out of the kitchen.

***_________________________________________________________________________________________***

Akiho lay alone on the kitchen floor for a long while, gathering her breath and allowing the pain to dull. Though her body lay motionless—aside from the heavy breathing—Akiho’s mind was whirring with activity.

‘It’s my fault, I used my back ports.’

‘I shouldn’t be punished for saving someone’s life, no matter what stupid rules of hers I broke.’

‘Maybe there could’ve been another way to have saved Kirishima that wouldn’t have gotten me into this mess.’

‘It was an accident. The ports made wings without me thinking about them.’

‘Don’t be stupid, that’s not how mom’s quirk works.’

The last depreciating thought tumbled into an even more radical one:

‘What if I don’t have mom’s quirk?’

The thought terrified her for multiple reasons. One, if she didn’t have her mother’s quirk, her feet were likely a permanent mutation. She had spent her life from the tender age of four until now believing that if she tried hard enough, she would regain her ‘true feet’. Thoughts of beaches and sandals and shoes that didn’t hurt kept her going on miserable days where all she seemed to be able to do was disappoint her mother. Two (and more frightening), her mother would have been lying to her about the crux of her very identity. If a person had a quirk, that quirk shaped their personality; if her mother lied to her about that, then her whole sense of self was unreliable.

If she were being completely honest with herself, Akiho was finding it harder to rationalize her mother’s behavior as she got older. Aiko was steadily growing more violent as Akiho tried to grow into herself as a person. Her hair was kept in the same style as her mother’s, and Aiko had even suggested dying it black to match with the excuse, ‘It’ll draw less attention.’

Anything that Akiho deviated from in Aiko’s likes/dislikes, perceptions, and even personality was punished.

Aiko said that she was preparing Akiho to be the next Iron Maiden.

Akiho was starting to think that Aiko was trying to usurp her autonomy until Akiho became a continuation of the original Iron Maiden.

Chapter Text

After struggling to her feet, Akiho leaned heavily on the kitchen wall. She nervously looked around the apartment; searching for where her mother went. Her eyes caught the closed door to her mother’s room and saw the flickering light shining out from underneath. Aiko had retreated to her room, but it was still early, and Akiho wasn’t sure if she’d stay in there the rest of the night.

As she stood in the kitchen, Akiho took a moment to evaluate the damage. Her entire body was sore, and moving her hands was especially painful. Looking down at her arm ports, Akiho nearly vomited when she noticed that the metal was still dented in from her mother’s assault. With shaking hands, she slowly and gently moved the steel back into place, tears welling in her eyes as the lingering pain was relieved slightly. The back of her hand and the inside of her elbow were red and swollen from all the burst blood vessels; and Akiho knew that there would be extensive bruising there come tomorrow. When she was done reshaping her forearms, the edges of her arm ports began bleeding slightly; the sensitive skin there broke easily. Though Akiho thought it may be for the best, considering how much blood was built up under the skin in those areas.

‘She’s getting worse.’ Akiho thought solemnly, ‘She’s never done this so many times in a week before.’

Thankfully, Akiho discovered that most of the pain was localized to her arms, and that walking was bearable as she made her way to the bathroom. The tired ache of her muscles was a distant memory compared to what she was experiencing now; likening it to kicking someone in the shin to make them forget about their headache. Both still hurt, but one demanded more immediate attention than the other. Unable to enjoy herself with the still swimming thoughts in her head, Akiho showered and redressed quickly. It wasn’t too late yet; Akiho wanted to get out of the apartment just in case Aiko decided to leave her room. The girl wasn’t taking any chances; she wouldn’t survive a Round Two.

Stepping out of the apartment, Akiho looked up at the fading light in the sky and heaved a sigh. She walked casually, dragging her too heavy, too large shoes as she went. Her feet still ached in them, despite all the extra room. She wondered if there were specially designed shoes for people like her. There had to be, right? If six-armed Shoji could find clothes, surely, she could find shoes that fit her needs.

Or maybe she could go barefoot. It’s not as if she would have to worry about stepping on anything that could hurt her. Metallic bird feet were more durable than shoes.

But the thought of displaying her feet, letting anyone else see what was wrong with her…

‘Is it wrong though?’

Reasonably, Akiho knew that she had classmates that had eclectic physical features. Her best friend—and she really was, Akiho mused with a small smile—Ashido was bright pink and had horns, and she owned it unabashedly. Akiho wished for that kind of confidence.

Tokoyami had a bird head and no one thought anything poorly about him. Why would anyone care about her feet?

Instead, she was left shaking at the thought of showing anyone how she was different. She had spent the greater part of her life ashamed of her ‘defect’. Her mother had made it known early on in her childhood that the metallic bird feet were horrible to look at; Akiho took measures to keep them hidden at all times since then. Long, soft, fluffy socks were her best friend at home.

Akiho soon found herself at the nearby park and made her way over to the benches that surrounded the perimeter. It was nearly night now, the sky to the west was holding on to the last tinges of sunlight, but everything else was a dark, inky, blue. The city was too bright for her to see any stars that night—or any night, really—and it seemed all the darker for it. If Akiho were more dramatic, she’d assume that it was a metaphor for her life. She let out a sigh of relief as she unceremoniously dropped onto the bench, her body protesting any more movement after her long day.

Silver eyes slipped shut as Akiho took in the sounds of the nightlife in Musutafu. Though muffled by the park trees and distance, she could hear the many cars going by, people yelling at each other, and the occasional police siren. While it was by no means quiet, Akiho was used to the noise, and honestly found the familiarity in it comforting. She leaned back on the bench, allowing her head to drop back so that her face was to the sky, breathed in deep, and let out a long, shaky, sigh.

“That’s a big sigh for such a little girl.” Came a deep voice from in front of her.

Akiho’s eyes snapped open in a panic as she sat up and looked at the stranger. He looked like he was in his mid-twenties, tall and skinny, with spikey black hair, and striking blue eyes. He had dark, ropey looking burns that started under his eyes, his cheeks were normal pale skin, but the burns started again just under the cheekbone and travelled all the way down his neck and under his shirt. He wore an open jacket and matching pants, though in the dark it was impossible to tell if it was black or dark blue. His most striking feature was that it looked like his skin and burn scars were being held together with surgical staples. If she weren’t so frightened, she might have felt sympathy for him.

He stood there looking down at her with heavily lidded eyes and an easy smirk on his face. Akiho gripped her phone in her pocket tightly, and tried to sound less scared than she was, “My friends are meeting me here. They’ll be here soon.”

A snort escaped the man before he casually shrugged his shoulders and shook his head, “No they won’t.”

Akiho swallowed thickly around her fear and began to gather her energy to pour into her quirk. ‘Fuck this. I’ll be damned if I survived all this shit today, just to get taken out now.' She thought vehemently.

As though he sensed it, the man took his hands out of his pockets and put them out in a placating manner, “Hey, no need for that Princess. I’m not here for you.”

Confusion coursed through her, but Akiho kept her quirk activated and her guard up, “Then why are you here?”

A brief flash of emotion crossed the man’s face before it returned to its bored, carefree state. His tone matched his facial expression, but the words did not, “Let’s just say, the ‘ran-away-from-home-to-get-away-from-my-asshole-family’ look you have going on is familiar and leave it at that.”

Akiho didn’t know what to make of the man, at all. He approached her in the most threatening way possible without laying hands on her, and then he roundaboutly tells her that he empathizes with her abusive homelife? ‘Just who is this guy?’

“I didn’t run away from home.” Akiho denied, “I just… I had to get away for a little bit.”

‘Why did I tell him that?’ She panicked.

The man’s face broke out into amused understanding, and he moved to sit on the bench beside Akiho. She tensed, arm ports ready to strike, but his hands once again went up into a non-threatening position. Akiho didn’t relax even as he did, resting his elbows on the back of the bench and tilting his head up towards the sky. His eyes closed as he spoke again, “Ah, so you’re not there yet. Don’t worry kid, by the looks of it, you’ll get there soon.”

Akiho jumped up from the seat, looking down at the man who hadn’t moved an inch and asked angrily, “Not where?”

One brilliant blue eye peeked open to look at her as he replied, “Look, I know an abused kid when I see one. And I didn’t even need to see the bloodied bruises on your arms to prove it.” He paused only to motion to her arms with a lazy flick of his left wrist, “There’s only one of three ways it goes for people like us. One, and most likely, you run. Two, and least likely, they get caught and they go away. Or three, they eventually succeed and kill you; mentally, emotionally, or physically. It doesn’t matter in the end, because either way you slice it, you’re dead and they’ve won.”

Akiho flinched and fought the urge to cross her arms, needing to keep them available to strike at any moment, just in case. She didn’t trust this guy, but it was almost therapeutic talking to someone who empathized with what she was going through. It was relieving to talk about it with someone at all.

Akiho knew that most people wouldn’t understand. They wouldn’t understand why she stayed. They wouldn’t understand why she never said anything. How could she? She was training to become a hero. Who would respect a hero that was abused by a woman in a wheelchair?

Thinking on what the man said and how he said it, Akiho figured he fell into the first category he described; but where would she fall?

Based on the events of her life so far, she already knew.

“I-I think I’m in that third category.” Akiho spoke quietly, heart breaking as she felt the truth of her words wash over her.

The man didn’t bother reopening his eyes to address her, “Nah, not yet at least. You’re out here. But if you go back?” His shoulders lifted into yet another shrug, “Who knows? Maybe.”

Hope was a dangerous emotion, Akiho knew that better than most, so she did her best to squash it down before it could grow. Instead, she voiced the thought that kept her chained to her mother’s will, “I can’t not go back. She’s my family.”

For the first time, Akiho saw angry fire in the man’s eyes as he lifted his head so that his eyes met hers dead on, “Family doesn’t mean shit if they treat you like shit. Remember that kid.”

Surprised by his sudden display of conviction, Akiho found herself nodding despite herself. She released her quirk, relaxing slightly and letting out a soft sigh of exhaustion. She knew that she was still going back tonight, but resolve flowed through her, ‘I won’t let myself fall into that third category. I’ll run before I let her kill me.’

Blue eyes held silver for a moment longer before they closed and the man heaved himself dramatically from the bench, “Alright. That’s enough kid counselling for one night. Good luck with your shithole family. I look forward to seeing you free, on the streets.”

His back was already turned to her, but before he started walking, Akiho asked, “Wait. What’s your name?”

There was a long pause before he answered, “Touya.”

Akiho paused, thinking it was strange that he gave her his first name. Was he American? He didn’t have an accent. Not bothering to bow since he wasn’t looking at her, Akiho spoke sincerely, “Thank you, Touya-san.”

“Don’t mention it kid.”

Akiho watched Touya leave and left the park shortly after he did. He had walked off in a different direction from her home, but she still took a long and winding route just in case he was following her. While he had given her some sound advice, he still looked and acted strangely enough that it set her on edge. Something wasn’t quite right about him, but he hadn’t attacked her, so she found no reason to report him.

When Akiho reached the apartment, she unlocked the door and tiptoed in as quietly as she could. To her relief, the apartment was completely dark, save for the flickering light coming from under Aiko’s closed door. Not wanting to take any chances, Akiho ran for her room, and quietly shut the door behind her. She then took her wooden desk chair and slipped it under the doorknob for an added layer of safety.

Akiho changed into a tank-top and a pair of soft, worn, fleece pants. As always, she had a pair of long, thick, fluffy socks on; functional only in hiding her feet, as she couldn’t feel temperature very well. Sitting on the edge of her bed, Akiho stared down at her socks for a long time. She could hear her mother’s disgusted tone whispering venomously in her mind, ‘No one wants to see that horror show.’

‘No one’s here. It’s just me.’ Akiho thought to herself determinedly, ‘No one but me will see.’

With shaking hands, Akiho reached down to the soft fabric covering her feet. Her hands caressed the threads softly; stalling for time.

‘Do it. Just do it!’

Like ripping off a band-aid, Akiho’s hands gripped both socks and pulled. Lifting her legs off the ground, Akiho stretched them out and stared. There were four ‘toes’—three in the front and one in the back—all topped with viciously sharp looking talons that were about four inches long. Scaly, metallic ‘skin’ covered her foot and went halfway up her shin before suddenly transitioning to pale—human—skin. The skin there wasn’t scarred or delicate like it was around her arm ports.

Akiho watched as she clenched her toes—a motion that she honestly couldn’t remember doing in recent years—and flinched as the talons clicked together with a loud metallic ‘clink’. Spooked, she abandoned her attempt and dove under the covers, shivering with nerves. She felt like a small child hiding from a monster trying to get her.

And yet, sometimes it felt apt.

Despite her nerves, and cuddled up under her warm blankets, Akiho lost her battle with exhaustion and fell asleep.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Akiho woke with a start when her phone chimed from its spot on her desk. A groan escaped her lips as she saw the alarm clock read 6:30 am. Her sleep had been blissfully dreamless, and she wasn’t ready to wake up just yet.

‘Someone’s going to die.’ Akiho thought darkly as she dragged herself out of bed.

Akiho’s whole body shivered as she removed herself from the blessedly warm sheets and met the cool air of her bedroom. The involuntary motion made her realize that her whole body was stiff and sore; though that wasn’t anything she wasn’t used to. She lifted her arms high above her head, linking her fingers together and stretching back to try and work out some of the tension. She felt some of her vertebrae pop, and some of the pressure in her back release delightfully, though the tightness seemed to return almost immediately afterwards.

Akiho would never call herself a morning person, but usually she wasn’t out for blood. However, it was a half hour before she would normally wake up for school and school had been cancelled because of the attack yesterday. Akiho had been looking forward to the possibility of sleeping in. Angrily snatching her phone off the desk, Akiho unlocked it and read:

Bakugo: Meet me at the school at 7

‘Fuck no. He’s nuts.’ Akiho thought, irritably tapping on the screen, ‘I wanna sleep in damnit.’

Akiho: 10

Bakugo: 7

Akiho: 8?

Bakugo: 7

Akiho: 7:30?

Bakugo: Fine

Akiho let out a frustrated groan, knowing that she would have to start getting ready soon to make it on time. She got dressed slowly, trying to wake herself up as she went. When she was ready to leave her room, the sight of the wooden chair under her doorknob finally succeeded in rousing her. The memories of the day previous came flooding back.

The villain attack at the U.S.J. and saving Kirishima from the falling building.

Aiko’s indifference to her safety and subsequent rage at Akiho’s low villain count.

Meeting Touya at the park and the depressing—yet liberating—realization that family didn’t mean anything.

Carefully, she removed the chair, pushed it in neatly under her desk, and peeked her head out of her room. The apartment was still dark and silent. Aiko was still asleep at this god-awful hour.

‘Small victories, I suppose.’ Akiho mused to herself as she tiptoed through the apartment. She quickly put on her boots and slipped out the door.

When she got on the train, Akiho groaned when she immediately spotted Bakugo’s shock of wild blonde hair. He was staring back at her with an annoyed look on his face; his hands smoking slightly by his sides. He stomped over to her and shouted with far too much enthusiasm for the unholy time it was, “Why give me so much shit if you’re just gonna show up when I asked?”

“Because I wanted to sleep in, but you wouldn’t let me.” Akiho whined tiredly.

Confusion knitted Bakugo’s eyebrows together at her response and he asked abrasively, “What the fuck is wrong with you Metal Mouth?”

“I’m up early as shit, on a morning that I didn’t have to be up early as shit. Give me an hour, I’ll be back to normal.” Retorted Akiho.

“’Back to normal’? What are you, type AB?” Bakugo scoffed, almost jokingly if Akiho’s ears weren’t deceiving her.

“Yeah, actually.” Akiho shrugged tiredly, “Not everyone can be like you type A bastards.”

“How the hell did you know I was type A?” Bakugo snarled in surprise, jerking back from her slightly with narrowed eyes.

“Lucky guess honestly. Though you definitely fit the bill.” The tired redhead explained with a lazy flick of her wrist.

Bakugo let out a huff of annoyance but didn’t say anything else on the subject. The two teens sat in the train in silence, Akiho nearly falling asleep in her seat until the sound of screeching brakes snapped her back to attention when they reached the next stop.

Akiho felt herself slowly becoming a functional human being on the train ride to school. She equated it to the fact that it was part of her morning routine, and that her body knew she needed to be cognizant by the time she got to school. Either way, she counted it as a blessing, as Bakugo would likely not put up with her for very long if she was still half-asleep.

After badging into the school grounds, Bakugo directed Akiho over to Ground Beta. Despite it being an off day, the school was alive with activity. Men in construction hats and yellow vests were running around like little worker bees; each had a job to do, and they danced around each other effortlessly. Akiho spotted a few teachers standing and surveying the work being done, but only one of them managed to spot the students.

Dressed in her skimpy hero costume, Midnight struck a pose and pointed a riding crop at Bakugo’s face, “And just where are you trying to sneak off to? Don’t you know naughty boys and girls get punished?”

Midnight emphasized her last sentence with a smack of the riding crop into her hand. Mortified at the suggestive remarks, Akiho began to stammer out nervously, “O-oh, no. I-it’s not like that, Mi—”

“We’re here to train.” Bakugo interrupted, saving Akiho from herself.

One of Midnight’s perfectly shaped eyebrows lifted, and she questioned, “Your class was just attacked by villains yesterday. I’d think that you all would want to take today for some well-deserved after-care.”

‘Some of us were trying to…’ Akiho thought bitterly to herself; still annoyed that Bakugo had woken her this early on a rare day off.

Akiho watched as Bakugo’s face contorted into full blown annoyance, and quickly cut in to prevent him from saying something outright offensive. Widening her eyes and looking up into Midnight’s face, Akiho used her small, adorable stature to try and avoid the teacher’s ire, “Bakugo-kun offered to help train me because he saw how quickly my quirk tired me out yesterday. We didn’t know that the school would be under construction today, but could we please use Ground Beta?”

A smirk came over Midnight’s face as she turned the crop in her hand and then pointed it at Akiho, “Begging? So soon? I hadn’t even begun!” The tall woman placed a hand to her chin, posing as she thought out loud, “I suppose it would be alright. We finished the upgraded security in the training grounds late last night. Very well! You have my permission!”

“Thank you!” Akiho said gratefully, as Bakugo began stomping away; grumbling to himself as he went.

Akiho hurried after the blonde, and caught the tail end of his tirade, “… can’t they just agree outright? It’s like they live to be annoying.”

Sure that she didn’t want to get involved with a verbal fight over what she assumed was the female gender this early in the morning, Akiho pretended she didn’t hear any of it. The pair ducked and weaved around a few more construction workers, and eventually made it to Ground Beta.

Once there, the pair silently stared at each other; Bakugo with annoyance and Akiho with curious expectance. Figuring that she would have to be the one to break the silence, she asked, “So… uh… What now?”

Bakugo let out an annoyed huff and snapped back, “How the hell should I know? How do you train at home?”

Akiho suppressed a shiver and hoped that her voice sounded more nonchalant than she actually felt, “Lately mom’s been throwing spikes at me to block or dodge until I can’t get up again.”

Bakugo’s red eyes widened in concern and he barked out, “What the hell Metal Mouth! Seriously?”

Shuffling awkwardly, Akiho placed a hand behind her neck and scratched at it nervously. ‘Time to backpedal on the brutal honesty…’

“Yeah, but it probably sounds worse than it actually is. Usually it’s quirk exhaustion that keeps me down.”

‘Still true,’ Akiho rationalized to herself as she watched Bakugo’s hackles drop, ‘And at least he cares.’

Narrowed red eyes met silver, trying to read if she was lying to him. Bakugo took a deep breath and sighed out heavily before his rough voice instructed, “Activate your quirk like you did yesterday Metal Mouth. If nothing else, we’ll work on your embarrassing lack of stamina.”

For the first time, Akiho found herself activating her quirk across her entire body guiltlessly. Power rippled across her body, this time starting in her back and quickly expanding outwards. Once again, her back ports felt tight, like the metal there was trying to push out. Instinctively, she kept the metal there compressed; the byproduct of years of her mother’s training.

There was a high-pitched creaking noise, and Akiho could feel the steel in her arm ports resituating itself; relieving pressure that she hadn’t even been aware of. Her fingers tingled slightly from the restored blood flow, and the tenderness of her inner elbow lessened. This time, without the thought of an impending attack from a horde of villains, Akiho noticed something different when her quirk reached her feet. Surprisingly she could actually feel the fibers of her socks, instead of just the vague feeling of light pressure she usually got.

It was embarrassing, but Akiho felt the sting of tears in her eyes for a moment before she quickly blinked them away. It was something small and insignificant to most, but to Akiho, it was a sense of normalcy that she craved so desperately. Her feet were still weirdly shaped, but the feeling of sensation was normal, and that filled her with glee.

Grinning, Akiho turned to Bakugo, who was looking at her strangely, and asked, “Alright, now what?”

“Do you think you can block my explosions?”

“I think so.”

That was the only warning Akiho received before Bakugo lifted his hand level to her face. Akiho’s eyes widened and brought her arms up to protect her face; creating shields as quickly as she could to mitigate the damage. The explosion was unexpectedly small, and Akiho realized belatedly that he wasn’t trying to actually hurt her; he just wanted to test her reflexes. It was a refreshing change of pace.

But before she could move to retaliate, Bakugo pointed to her and barked out, “Wait! Look.”

Akiho wasn’t sure what she was looking for, until she looked at her shields. Instead of the mirror smooth finish that they usually appeared, they were seemingly made of feathers. “Shit.” She cursed loudly, and immediately smoothed the surface with a clench of her fingers around the grip.

“Why’d you do that?” Bakugo asked in a gruff, curious tone.

“They’re not supposed to have feathers on them!” Akiho answered anxiously, looking around to make sure that no one else had seen.

“What does it matter if they do?”

“Because that’s not how my mot—” Akiho started before Bakugo cut her off.

“You don’t have your old hag’s quirk!”

Wide silver eyes met heated red as Bakugo glared at her, “I did some research last night. Iron Maiden only had metal in her wrists, but you’ve got it in your back too. Those are your wings, and when you try to use your arm things, feathers come out of there too unless you think about it.”

‘This again?’ Akiho thought annoyed.

“I don’t have wings—”

“Yeah you do. That little test I did just now proves it too. Did you ask your old hag about your dad yesterday? Or were you too chicken shit?”

Akiho felt anger flare up uncontrollably and she shouted back, “I didn’t get the chance to. Some other shit happened, ok?”

Bakugo aggressively rolled his eyes at her and retorted, “Yeah? Like what?”

Akiho’s mouth opened, but nothing escaped. How could she explain what happened last night? She knew that because she had opened her mouth, Bakugo wouldn’t let it go until he got an answer. Honesty was her only option; she was a terrible liar after all. “I-I got in trouble… for only taking out four villains yesterday. She was mad and after we fought, she locked herself in her room.”

A blonde eyebrow quirked upwards in disbelief, “Are you fucking serious?”

Akiho nodded and reached up to scratch uncomfortably at the back of her neck again; just barely remembering that her shields were still out and nearly hitting herself in the head. An awkward chuckle escaped her, and Bakugo let out a small snort of amusement despite himself.

“Can you at least admit that you have to think about not making feathers whenever you use your quirk?” Bakugo relented slightly.

“Yeah. That’s true.” Akiho agreed easily.

“You realize that’s slowing you down right?” Bakugo asked exasperatedly.

“What?” Akiho asked, genuinely confused.

“When you blocked my explosion, you didn’t have time to think about making your shields, you just reacted, right?”

“Right…” Akiho dragged out the word, still not following.

“Have you ever made anything that quickly before?”

Akiho had to give it serious thought. Even yesterday, when she had summoned her smoothed out shields after fully activating her quirk—even under the duress of a villain attack—it wasn’t as fast as what she had just achieved with the feathered ones. She had just reacted when Bakugo’s hand leveled with her face, and her steel had moved just as fast as she could think about it.

‘Shit, is he right?’ Akiho groaned internally, loathing to admit that even to herself.

“I’m right, aren’t I?” Bakugo asked with a huge smirk.

Akiho’s eye twitched in annoyance, and she let out a large huff, “Yeah, yeah. Whatever. Don’t get too full of yourself Bakugo-kun.”

“Tch. I’m the best. It only makes sense that I’d be right.” He added, obviously not listening to her; his ego inflating to the point that Akiho could see him peacocking and puffing out his chest.

Their training commenced shortly afterward, and consisted of Bakugo trying to blast Akiho, while Akiho tried to entangle Bakugo in any number of metallic traps. They decided that the first person to hit the other three times would be the winner. Though she didn’t think it likely, Akiho was determined to do her best to win.

Though she knew that Bakugo’s quirk was strong, Akiho had no idea how fast and versatile it made him. Until that point, she had only seen him fight indoors, where the lack of space limited him. But out in the open, he rained down attacks from all angles; the only place that was safe was the ground beneath her.

Without the scales on her hero costume, Akiho was initially limited to attempting to bind Bakugo with her steel ribbons or hit him with her shields. Both proved ineffective against the sheer speed that he had over her. The first point quickly went to Bakugo, who struck her in the back when she couldn’t turn in time to block with her shields. Akiho recalled the metal shields into her ports with an outward flick of her fingers. She turned to face him, expecting a smug look, but was met with his anger instead, “Why are you holding back?”

“I’m not—”

“You’re not using all your metal things!”

“My ports?”

“Tch. Yeah, whatever. If you had been using the back ones, I wouldn’t have been able to get that hit in.” Bakugo huffed, crossing his arms angrily and pointedly not looking at her.

Akiho could still feel the tightness in her back ports and knew that using them would alleviate it. However, years of being told not to, held her back. She voiced her defense meekly, “Usually I’m not allowed to.”

“Fuck that shit.” Bakugo snarled vehemently, “You’re gonna be a hero, right? You need to use everything in your arsenal.” He got back into his battle-ready stance and called out, “If you hold back again, I’ll blast you to hell.”

With that, Bakugo launched himself at Akiho once more, immediately sailing over her head and aiming a huge blast at her back. Just by accidentally releasing the tension that she held in her back, Akiho’s back ports came to life. Two large sheets of metal erupted from her back; absorbing the impact of the explosion and flicking Bakugo away from her in the same motion.

Akiho heard the impact Bakugo’s unsuspecting body made with the ground. She turned around with a horrified look in her eyes and her hands covering her mouth in shock. She ran the few feet to where he was flung and held her hand out to help him up, “Oh shit! I’m so sorry! I didn’t mean to hit you like that.”

“Don’t fucking apologize. Do it again.” Bakugo ordered with a self-satisfied grin on his face; his eyes flicking between hers and something just to her left.

Akiho went to protest, but a flash of metal from the same direction Bakugo kept eyeing caught her attention. She turned her head to get a good look at it, and her face blanched at what she saw. It was a wing, a fully formed, honest to goodness wing. Not the feathered plates that her mother had ripped from her back more times than she could truly remember. It bent and curved in all the anatomically correct places; and the feathers were all of varying sizes and lengths, like a real bird’s feathers would be. Akiho honestly couldn’t figure out which muscles in her back were making them sway, if any were at all. She tentatively flexed her shoulders back, but all that did was roll the bases of her wings with her back muscles; the wings themselves didn’t twitch from their resting position. It felt like she was trying to figure out how to wiggle her ears, the ability to do so was there, but she had no idea how to utilize it.

She had wings.

‘What the fuck?’

How was she the last person to realize this? Why did it take the obstinate insistence of an outside person for her to see it?

Surely Aiko knew. That’s why she forbade Akiho from utilizing her quirk across her whole body. That’s why Akiho was punished for using her back ports at all.

Akiho had her own quirk. It wasn’t a malfunction.

Her mother truly tried to erase her individuality; Aiko tried to make Akiho her puppet, the reincarnation of Iron Maiden.

‘I almost let her.’

Mortified, Akiho was about to recall the metal into her back reflexively, when Bakugo seemingly sensed it and—surprisingly gently—said, “Don’t. It’s obviously part of your quirk. You need to learn how to use them.”

“I-I don’t know how. I can’t even move them.” Akiho admitted lowly, ducking her head so she wouldn’t have to look at him; her eyes were burning as she tried to hold back her tears.

“Then how the fuck did you hit me with them?” Bakugo asked curiously, crossing his arms while he waited for her answer.

Thinking back, Akiho wasn’t entirely sure, but she had an idea, “Before I accidentally let go, my back ports felt like they were…” She paused, searching for the right words, “Like they were under pressure, I guess. So, they kind of, exploded outwards. I think that’s what hit you.”

Akiho watched as his feet took a step closer to her and his voice was a little lower and gravellier than usual, “Ok, so now what?”

“I don’t know.” Akiho hiccupped quietly as tears poured down her face.

Overwhelmed, tired, and emotional, Akiho reached out suddenly, grasping onto Bakugo’s shirt and tucking her head into his chest, crying quietly. She felt the tension and surprise shoot through his body, seemingly unsure how to react to a crying girl. Yet, slowly, his arms came around her awkwardly; clumsily searching for a place to hold where the gigantic metal wings didn’t block him. Eventually the settled low on her back; normally far more intimate than what the moment would usually call for, but a touch starved Akiho didn’t notice, nor care.

Chapter Text

Akiho wasn’t sure how long she had cried on Bakugo, but she knew that it was long enough for her to feel embarrassed about it. The only thing that kept her in place was the firm grip of the blonde’s arms holding fast around her waist. Without making eye contact, Akiho moved to step back from him; her eyes focused on the large tear stain on the white shirt covering Bakugo’s left peck. However, her attempt to pull away was thwarted when he tightened his arms around her; his fingers moving to splay as wide as they could across her lower back. The faint sound of pop-rocks filled the otherwise silent training area. Startled, Akiho looked up, red-rimmed silver eyes gazing up at Bakugo questioningly.

Bakugo’s face was bright red, his eyes focused directly ahead instead of Akiho’s face. When he stopped her from stepping back a second time, he grunted and ground out reluctantly, “Your, uh, your shirt ripped…”

Confusion swept over Akiho initially, before her cheeks colored violently, “Oh… OH! Shit, seriously? I’m so sorry.”

Now that she was paying attention to it, Akiho could feel the early spring breeze on the exposed flesh between the gigantic metal wings on her back. After a frantic check, she found that her bra had miraculously survived when her shirt had not, and Akiho thanked every deity she could think of for it. The situation she was in now with a shirt that was barely hanging on was bad enough. Without thinking, Akiho hid her face back in Bakugo’s chest and let out a small whine of mortification.

‘How am I supposed to ride the train back like this?’

Akiho felt Bakugo shift slightly, his head peeking over her shoulder to better assess the damage, “It’s a good thing you like baggy-ass clothes Metal Mouth. I think I can tie the ends together. It’ll be better than nothing.”

A sigh of relief escaped Akiho’s lips at Bakugo’s evaluation. The blonde shivered slightly before his hands got to work; tying a simple knot in the excess fabric of her shirt to keep it closed but allowing room for her wings.

When he was finished, Akiho looked up into Bakugo’s face and gave him a small smile, “Thanks Bakugo-kun.”

The sound of pop-rocks intensified for a moment; Bakugo’s face turning away from hers as he stepped back from her and deflected, “Yeah, yeah, whatever Metal Mouth. Are we going to help you figure out your stupid quirk or what?

There was a quick, purely instinctual moment where Akiho felt the need to deny that she had her own quirk. She supposed it would take a long time before she would no longer automatically try to deny it. It felt strange to hear that, and know that it was true.

She had her own quirk. And she had no idea how to use it properly.

“Oh. Yes, please!” Akiho replied after a moment, realizing she had been lost in thought.

Bakugo crossed his arms, his head ducking down slightly as his face pinched in thought. Akiho’s head followed him as he walked behind her, and she heard his knuckles rapping on metal as he asked, “Can you feel this?”

“No.”

“What about this?”

Akiho shivered as she felt his hand smooth along the top ridge of her right wing; where the bones would be in an actual bird’s wing. The sensation was dulled significantly, but it felt incredibly alien; nerves that had felt nothing but pain before lighting up from a different touch. It almost felt like how her feet normally felt without her quirk activated across her body.

The comparison gave Akiho an idea. If she could now feel acute sensation in her feet because of her quirk, maybe it was the same with her wings. Currently, she could feel her quirk was pulsing throughout her body, excluding her wings. Without giving much thought as to why her quirk hadn’t automatically spread outward when her wings had, Akiho shifted her power outward to the ‘feathered’ appendages.

She regretted it almost immediately.

Instantly Akiho’s brain was flooded with information that she wasn’t sure what do with. The longer she had her quirk activated, the more intense the sensory overload became, until she eventually lost track of time. Initially, she could feel each of the individual feathers. She could feel the gentle scrape as they brushed up against one another. The heat from Bakugo’s hand transcended hot, but thankfully without the pain. But in the next moment, she could… She could feel the air touching them; how the air passed differently around something behind her. Belatedly, she realized it was Bakugo; she could feel Bakugo standing behind her in the air.

Akiho cut off her quirk entirely and gripping her head and rubbing her knuckles along her scalp to try and rid what felt like pins and needles in her brain. She was hunched over slightly and breathing heavily through her mouth as she fought the urge to vomit. Vaguely, she registered Bakugo’s hand lifting from her, and he asked, startled, “Shit! Hey, Metal Mouth, are you ok?”

Unable to respond verbally, Akiho waved her hand in an abrupt motion she hoped conveyed that she needed a moment. Bakugo hovered near her but said nothing as she tried to collect herself.

When Akiho was finally certain that she wasn’t going to puke, she straightened and asked, “How long was that?”

“How long was what?” Bakugo barked back, confusion pinching his face.

Akiho fought her addled brain to come up with a suitable response, “How… How long was your hand on my wing?”

Bakugo scoffed, “Fuck, I don’t know. Maybe ten seconds? More importantly, what the fuck happened?”

Akiho’s eyes widened in horror, ‘Only ten seconds?’

She had been overwhelmed by her quirk in less than ten seconds?

Rubbing her temples, Akiho dazedly began to explain what happened, “When I could barely feel your hand, I realized that my quirk hadn’t spread over my wings like it had the rest of my body. So, I activated it fully and the information feedback was so intense my brain still itches. And apparently it all happened in less than ten seconds.”

“So, you’ve got to get used to it. Do it again.” Bakugo shrugged.

“I can’t, not yet.” Akiho balked, “You don’t get it. Apparently, my feathers are so sensitive that I could feel you standing behind me from the way the air hit them.”

Bakugo’s face shifted from slight confusion to aggravation, “You’ll never get used to it unless you practice. You want to be a hero, right?”

Akiho nodded quietly, sensing that Bakugo’s rant wasn’t quite over yet.

Bakugo began pacing in front of her, almost as if the agitation wouldn’t let him stand still, “Then you’ve got to use everything you have to your advantage. If you figure out how to use this, a villain would never be able to sneak up on you, because you’d feel them coming. Or depending on how powerful this is, you could use it to find victims in collapsed buildings, or whatever.” He stopped and turned to look at her; red eyes boring into silver, “My point is, if you aren’t doing your best, then what’s the point of trying at all?”

Akiho couldn’t help but draw a parallel to the criticism that Aizawa had given her about her performance during combat training, and Bakugo’s speech now. Both were about her not pushing herself to her limit, and they were both right. But she couldn’t fathom getting used to the onslaught of information that came from her wings. It was too much, all at once. She felt like it was as if she had been blind her whole life, and now was given the ability to see.

“So, what’s it going to be Metal Mouth? Are you giving up?” Bakugo antagonized.

“No… I just don’t know where to begin.”

The blonde huffed, still staring her down, and spoke as though the solution were simple, “You break it down into it’s smallest parts and you go from there. Right now, you need to figure out how to move your wings.”

“But I don’t even know what muscles to use.” Akiho whined petulantly.

Bakugo raised an eyebrow at her and questioned, “You sure it’s even a muscle thing? You control metal with your quirk, maybe that’s how you move them.”

Akiho was floored by Bakugo’s proposition. She had been so focused on comparing the wings to her feet, that she hadn’t considered that they could be different. It made sense that there would be no muscular connections in her wings; they weren’t always present.

Tentatively, Akiho reached out with her quirk; taking extra precaution not to accidentally allow her power to flow out to the wings again. Instead, she treated it as if she were trying to control her normal metallic protrusions. She created two points of control on the outside of each wing; guessing where the joints would be in a live bird and trying to recreate that. Then—feeling much like a five-year-old trying to control a puppet made for a master—Akiho tried moving the large metallic appendages.

Mutedly, Akiho could feel the wings moving sloppily as she tried to control them and stretch them outward. The feathers wobbled and clattered against each other noisily, sounding almost like tiny little thunder sheets from a school play. Halfway through her attempt, Akiho had to shift her weight forward slightly, as the displaced mass nearly tipped her backwards.

Though her attempt was rudimentary at best, Akiho achieved the results she sought out. Adjusting her ‘grip’ slightly, she tried again; this time trying to bring her wing to curl around in front of her so that she could get a good look at it. She took her time—and another adjustment as she accidentally pulled something in a direction it wasn’t meant to—but after a minute of struggling, Bakugo grew impatient and barked, “It doesn’t bend that way dumbass.”

The blonde stepped closer, very carefully grabbing the very last feather at the edge of her wing, and slowly led Akiho and the appendage in the direction she had been trying to move it. It felt awkward, like it wasn’t supposed to bend the way she had it, but it wasn’t painful. She took a good look at the limb now that it was in front of her and was honestly amazed at what she saw.

The feathers at the very bottom of the wings were huge and impressive, and demanded her attention outright. They were at least three feet long and about three inches wide, and though they looked like real feathers, Akiho could see that they were sharp like knives. Just above those were feathers that were about a third of the size, but no less deadly looking. As she trailed her eyes further up, Akiho noticed that the feathers continued to shrink in size, but increase in placement density, as there were so many tiny feathers at the very top of her wing, she couldn’t actually make a single feather out. Akiho couldn’t help but notice that when the wing was stretched out like this, it appeared longer than she was tall.

Akiho noticed that Bakugo was taking her wings in as well, and found herself growing slightly self-conscious about them. After making sure that his hand was no longer around her feather, Akiho recalled her wings into her back; stumbling slightly before readjusting her stance to account for the shift in weight again. When he opened his mouth to likely berate her for it, Akiho cut him off, “I think I need to do some research about wings and how they work before I accidentally hurt myself.”

Bakugo’s mouth closed so quickly Akiho swore she heard his teeth clack together, but his eyes were still narrowed at her. She took a small amount of pride that she shut down the argument before it started. But it seemed like he wasn’t quite done with her yet, “Tch. Fine. We’re going to my place Metal Mouth. We can do your shitty research there.”

“What, you don’t trust me to do it on my own?” Akiho asked, mildly offended.

“Fuck no. You didn’t even think you had wings less than a half-hour ago. Last thing I need is for you to delude yourself again. That shit’s annoying.” Bakugo bit back, without missing a beat.

‘He has a fair point.’ Akiho acquiesced silently.

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Bakugo’s home was much larger than the nice apartment Akiho had been expecting. From the outside it looked to have three floors, and the roof was cutely curved instead of pointed or flat like most other buildings. The front lawn had tall bushes that were neatly trimmed separated down the middle by a wide brick walkway. It was infinitely nicer looking than the apartment that she stayed in now.

It was only when he reached his front door that Bakugo noticed that Akiho had paused by the gate. He gave her a confused look and called out, “Hey! Are you coming or not?”

Akiho physically shook herself from her stupor and jogged up to where the blonde was waiting for her, “Sorry. You just have a really nice house is all.”

“Eh? I thought the Hagane’s were all made of money?”

Akiho couldn’t fault him for thinking that; it was true for the most part. In Japan—thanks to quirk marriages—anybody who was anybody with a metal quirk was a Hagane; whether it be by blood or marriage. The Hagane family also had a near monopoly on quality steel in the country; skyrocketing the family fortune even further. Additionally, even though she was wheelchair bound, Aiko was probably the most accomplished metalworker the family had ever seen. It had been a family tragedy when her hero career was cut short, and it felt like all eyes were now on Akiho to achieve where her mother had failed.

Blushing at Bakugo’s crass questioning, Akiho reached up to scratch the back of her neck embarrassedly, “Well yeah, my grandparents are loaded. But my mom and I, we’re not. She’s got a lot of medical bills to pay, so that eats up most of the money she makes. The rest is used to pay for rent and food.”

‘And booze.’ Akiho added silently.

Bakugo merely responded with a huff, and turned to walk into his home, shouting, “HEY HAG! I’M HOME!”

Akiho’s eyes widened in fear when she heard a woman shouting with just as much fervor, “DON’T YOU CALL ME A HAG, YOU SHITTY KID!”

Akiho followed in after him, bending to take her shoes off at the door but making sure that her socks were pulled up to cover all the metal there. When she looked up, a female version of Bakugo poked her head out of a room, glaring at the boy before her red eyes turned to Akiho, “Oh! You didn’t say you had company you brat!” She fully stepped out of the room she had been in, and walked over to greet the little redheaded girl with a smile, “I’m Mitsuki, it’s nice to meet one of Bakugo’s friends.”

‘There’s two of them…’

Akiho blinked dumbly for a moment before responding, “H-hello! My name is Hagane Akiho. It’s a pleasure to meet you! I didn’t know Bakugo had a sister.”

Delight shone in Mitsuki’s eyes while Bakugo groaned, “Don’t be stupid Metal Mouth. She’s my mother.”

‘O-oh…' Akiho thought to herself surprised.

Mitsuki’s eyes darkened as she glared dangerously at her son, “Shut up brat.” Her expression then softened when she looked back to Akiho, “Thank you for the compliment. So, I take it you’re the girl that has been keeping my son in line at school?”

Akiho’s eyes widened as she refuted, “Oh, no. I wouldn’t say that.”

“Tch. Yeah this is her. We’re here to study. We’ll be up in my room.” Bakugo stated with finality in his tone, unopen to debate; grabbing Akiho’s arm to direct her up the stairs.

“Remember to keep your door open!” Mitsuki shouted up to them deviously.

The soft sound of pop-rocks (Akiho still wasn’t quite sure why she kept hearing them) could be heard as Bakugo shouted back down, “Fuck off! It’s not like that!”

Akiho futilely tried to fight the blush from her face as she entered Bakugo’s bedroom. The room was surprisingly neat; there were no clothes laying around and the bed was made. A desk with a computer was set up against the wall opposite his bed and closed two doors led from his room; Akiho assumed that they led to a closet and personal bathroom. There was an extensive weight set in the corner of his room as well as a speed bag that extended out from the wall. Three posters were on the wall, numbered one through three with yellow post-it-notes in the corners; All Might, Endeavor, and Hawks all displayed with their ranking. Akiho wondered how often Bakugo checked the rankings to make sure that they were still accurate.

Bakugo walked over to the weights and picked out two, eventually sitting on his bed and began to casually curl the smaller one. He motioned over to his computer and grunted, “You can use that.”

Akiho nodded her thanks and sat in the computer chair normally, before deciding better of it and spinning it around so that the back was pressed to her chest. Looking back at Bakugo, she questioned shyly, “Do you think the room is big enough for me to extend my wings?”

Red eyes darted back and forth around the room, and then back to Akiho before he nodded, “Yeah, just don’t break any of my shit.”

“I’ll do my best.” Akiho sniped back.

Akiho spent the next few hours searching everything that she could about birds, wings, and feathers. Much to her embarrassment, it was only when she clicked on what was clearly a children’s website that she understood that she had been trying to control her wing in all the wrong places. And that there were three important moving joints in a wing, not two.

Armed with this new knowledge, Akiho looked up at Bakugo—who had since moved on from the weights to pummeling the speed bag near her—and warned, “You might want to move, I don’t want to hit you.”

“Fucking finally. I thought you were going to drag your ass forever.” Bakugo complained but still moved to sit in the middle of his bed.

Akiho allowed her quirk to spread over her, but this time did not fight the feeling in her back ports, allowing her wings to come free almost gently. Because she was sitting, her feathers were only a few inches off the ground while her wings were at rest. Referencing the image one last time before her attempt and imagining that the wing was like a human arm, Akiho attached her points of control in her back port (the shoulder), the spot where the wing began to curve upward (the elbow), and the very top of the wing (the wrist).

Starting with the ‘elbow’ joint on her right wing, Akiho began pulling on it, and watched with glee as the wing extended out partially with minimal issue. The sound of the feathers hitting each other was less like a thunder sheet and more like a windchime now that she wasn’t dragging her wing around like a manwoman. The ‘wrist’ was next, and Akiho pulled on that until her wing was fully extended outwards; the sound of windchimes still rampant.

The ‘shoulder’ was what concerned Akiho the most, as it would likely take the longest to figure out how to maneuver properly. She gave it a small, tentative tug, and her wing came flying towards her; the inside of her wing crashing against Bakugo’s computer desk followed by what sounded like a clap of thunder.

Almost immediately, Mitsuki was in the doorway yelling, “Damnit Katsuki! How many times do I have to tell—” Her red eyes widened as she took in Akiho’s wings, “Oh…”

Panicked by the yelling, Akiho quickly recalled the metal into her back and near shouted, “I’m so sorry!”

Recovering quickly, Mitsuki smiled at Akiho and waved a dismissive hand, “Don’t worry about it. These things happen sometimes. So, is that your quirk?”

“Yeah, she just figured it out though. So, she’s still shit at it.”

“Katsuki! Don’t be an ass!” Mitsuki barked before asking, “Is that what happened to your shirt?”

Akiho blushed and ducked her head, “Yeah, I don’t actually have any backless shirts, so I guess this is my new training shirt.”

‘At least when I’m alone…’ Akiho added internally, ‘Mother will flip if she sees this.’

“Nonsense! My husband will have some clothes designed just for you!” Mitsuki refuted and began to rant, “No girl as cute as you should be hiding your figure! And your hair is such a pretty red! You should really let it grow out!”

Akiho tried to cut in, “Please Mitsuki-san, I couldn’t ask for you guys to do that for me! I couldn’t pay you back.”

Mitsuki’s lips curled in the devious way that Akiho had noticed before when she was teasing Bakugo, “Well then, it’s a good thing you didn’t ask. And don’t worry about payment, it’s the least we can do for you. Bakugo has never brought a friend over before.”

Akiho opened her mouth to protest, but Bakugo cut her off, “Just take the clothes Metal Mouth. Dad designs clothes for people with quirks anyways, so it’s not like it’s a big fucking deal.”

Akiho looked at Bakugo, gauging his sincerity before nodding her head in acquiescence, “Thank you so very much.”

Mitsuki clapped her hands together with a smile, “You’re very welcome! Now! Are you staying for dinner?”

Akiho considered it momentarily before deciding, “I probably shouldn’t. My mother will wonder where I am.”

The older woman’s face was still smiling when she replied, “Oh, definitely next time then!”

Akiho nodded with a smile, looking forward to her next visit to the Bakugo home already. Noticing the clock on the wall and reading the time, Akiho realized it was just past two in the afternoon, “I should really head out now if I want to miss the start of rush hour.”

Mitsuki and Bakugo both walked her to the door; waving goodbye and grunting respectively when she walked out onto the sidewalk. Akiho waved back and shouted, “See you at school tomorrow Bakugo-kun!”

Akiho couldn’t help but laugh at Mitsuki’s shocked face and Bakugo’s red cheeks and intense glare, as he slammed the door shut with an explosive bang. She could hear their screaming almost a block away.

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The next day at school, Akiho was one of the first to arrive again. In her attempt to avoid Aiko as much as possible, she had woken up early, and snuck out of the apartment as quietly as she could. When her classmates started filtering in, they were all talking about the attack two days prior. Ashido, who was early—for her at least—rushed over to Akiho’s desk and asked, “Hey Kuudere-chan! Are you feeling better?”

Smiling up at her friend, Akiho replied, “Hey Ashido-chan. I’m feeling much better. How are you?”

“I’m great! We were on the news! I’m pretty much famous in my neighborhood!” Ashido nearly shouted, a smile wide on her face.

“Man, all the channels were making a big deal out of it.” Came Kaminari’s voice as he sat down in his seat in front of Bakugo’s.

“I was surprised.” Interjected Kirishima, who took his seat behind Akiho.

“Can you blame them?” Asked Jiro who had been sitting in her seat and doodling quietly in her notebook, “The hero course that keeps pumping out pro heroes was attacked.”

“Who knows what would have happened if the teachers hadn’t come when they did.” Sighed Sero, resting his elbows on his desk lazily.

“STOP IT, ALL OF YOU!” Shouted a grating, whiney voice that Akiho hadn’t heard before.

Akiho turned to look at who was speaking and saw the short guy with purple balls on his head. He was waving his arms around frantically and tears were in his eyes as he continued to shout, “Just thinking about it’s making me want to piss myself—”

“SHUT UP! BE QUIET, SCUM!” Bakugo interrupted with a furious shout; causing the other boy to cower in fear.

Akiho hadn’t noticed Bakugo entered the room, so she greeted him belatedly, “Good morning Bakugo-kun.”

Bakugo’s red eyes looked over at her with a raised eyebrow and bit back, “Tch. You’re in a better mood this morning than you were yesterday.”

Ashido immediately zeroed in on their conversation and began shouting excitedly, “What? You guys met up yesterday? Was it a date? It was a date wasn’t it!?”

Simultaneously Kirishima whined, “Aw, what the hell Akiho-chan? How come you didn’t say good morning to me?”

“Who cares about that!? Kuudere-chan and Bakugo-kun went out on a date!” Ashido yelled loudly.

“It wasn’t a date Raccoon Eyes!” Bakugo denied with a shout.

Trying to calm everyone, Akiho stepped in, “We were just training together, Ashido-chan.”

Ashido looked from Bakugo, big black and gold eyes reading the sincerity on Akiho’s face and threw herself back into her seat pouting, “You guys suck! I got so excited, but my ship hasn’t sailed yet.”

“Eh?” Bakugo questioned antagonistically.

“You don’t want to know.” Akiho deadpanned to the blonde before turning to Kirishima and Kaminari, “Good morning Kirishima, and you too Kaminari, before you get jealous too.”

Both boys laughed slightly at that and returned her greeting kindly. Suddenly Iida’s loud voice could be heard from the front of the classroom, “Everyone! Morning homeroom is about to start! Stop talking and take your seats!”

“Uh… we’re all sitting.” Kaminari called out.

“Yeah! You’re the only one standing.” Kirishima added annoyed.

Akiho watched in amusement as Iida robotically moved to his seat and sat down angrily. She couldn’t hear what he was muttering to himself, but Uraraka patted him on the shoulder gently whilst trying to hide the fact that she was laughing at him too.

“Kuudere-chan!” Ashido leaned over so heavily towards her that Akiho had to quickly reach out and catch her before she fell into the open aisle. After she righted herself, Ashido continued, “Who do you think is going to teach homeroom today?”

“I’m not sure… I just hope Aizawa-sensei is doing ok.” Akiho responded genuinely, making Ashido and Kirishima whisper, ‘Aw’ under their breath.

The door to the classroom opened shortly after, and Akiho was horrified to see a practically mummified Aizawa standing in the doorway, “Morning.”

“Aizawa-sensei! You’re back too soon!” The class shouted as a whole.

Kaminari looked especially spooked, his face aghast as he exclaimed, “You’re too much of a pro!”

“Aizawa-sensei!” Iida shouted with a hand raised, “Are you sure you’re all right?”

Aizawa limped across the classroom until he was standing behind his podium, “My well-being doesn’t matter. More importantly, the fight is not yet over.”

A shiver of fear ran down Akiho’s spine at Aizawa’s words, ‘Are the villains planning another attack?’

However, the class wasn’t left in suspense for long as Aizawa continued, “The U.A. sports festival is drawing near.”

“That’s a super normal school event!” The class shouted in unison again.

“Wait a minute!” Kaminari shouted after the rest, interrupting Kirishima’s second excited cheer for the festival.

“Yeah. Is it ok to have a sports festival so soon after the villains snuck inside?” Interrupted Jiro; though Kaminari nodded along eagerly, wanting to know the same thing.

“What if they attack us again or something?” Ojiro fretted next.

Aizawa breathed a deep sigh before answering the class, “Apparently, they think of it as U.A. showing that our crisis management system is solid as a rock by holding the event. Security will also be strengthened to five times that of previous years. Above all, our sports festival is a huge chance. It’s not an event to be cancelled because of a few villains.”

“But that’s a good reason, isn’t it? It’s just a festival of sports.” Came the same annoying voice that Akiho still didn’t have a name for.

Everyone in the class turned to look at him incredulously, but it was Midoriya that found his voice first, “Mineta… you’ve never seen the sports festival?”

‘Oh. Didn’t have to wonder for long.’ Akiho thought, slightly amused.

“Of course I have. That’s not what I meant!” Mineta refuted quietly.

The admission made Akiho’s eye twitch, ‘How the hell did he pass the entrance exam?’ She thought to herself incredulously.

“Our sports festival is one of Japan’s biggest events. In the past it was the Olympics, and the whole country was crazy about them. As you know, with reductions in scale and population, they’re now a shell of their former glory. And now, for Japan, what has taken the place of those Olympics is the U.A. sports festival.” Aizawa explained, glaring down Mineta for the entirety of his speech.

“Of course, all the top heroes around the country will be watching. For scouting purposes!” Yaoyorozu added excitedly, pumping her fist into the air at the prospect of it.

“I know that.” Mineta whined again.

“After we graduate, it’s typical to join a pro agency as a sidekick.” Kaminari continued the explanation, either ignoring or not hearing Mineta’s complaint.

“A lot of people miss their chance to become independent after that and become eternal sidekicks, though.” Jiro added pessimistically before turning to Kaminari with a teasing look, “Kaminari, I feel like you’d be one of them. Since you’re dumb.”

Feeling the need to stick up for her friend, Akiho cut in gently, “It’s not all about book smarts though.”

Kaminari shot Akiho a grateful smile before sticking his tongue out at Jiro and blowing a raspberry. Jiro rolled her eyes and quipped, “This is exactly what I mean.”

“Joining a famous hero agency will get you more experience and popularity.” Aizawa cut in before the class could veer off subject, “Time is limited. If you expect to go pro, then the path to your future will open up at this event. One chance a year, a total of three chances. No aspiring hero can afford to miss this event. If you understand that, then don’t slack off on your preparations!”

“Yes sir!” The class responded.

Aizawa then dismissed the class, hobbling out of the room slowly.

 

As soon as lunchtime came, and Cementoss exited the room, Kirishima pushed out of his seat and shouted, “Even though all that stuff happened, I’m getting really excited!”

Akiho turned in her seat and smiled at the exuberant redhead, “Me too! I just hope I do well!”

Sero walked over from his seat to put an arm around Kirishima’s shoulders, “If we put on a good show and stand out, we’ll have taken the first step to becoming a pro!”

Akiho felt nervous thinking about it, finding it hard to believe that she would be able to stand out amongst her peers. Her quirk wasn’t flashy like Bakugo’s or Todoroki’s; nor was it immensely powerful like Midoriya’s. She knew that to make her mark at the festival, she would have to be creative with her quirk. She’d likely have to use her wings too.

The thought sent a wave of dread over her, ‘Mother will kill me if I expose the fact that I have wings to all of Japan.’

Suddenly Akiho felt trapped. If she didn’t do well at the sports festival, she could kiss her future as a hero goodbye; but if she used everything in her arsenal, including her wings, she wouldn’t live to see a future at all.

“Oi! Metal Mouth! Calm the fuck down.” Hissed Bakugo, his face ducked down near hers to attract less attention.

Silver eyes blinked repeatedly, the room unexpectedly coming into focus (when had it gotten so blurry?) as Akiho began breathing once more. ‘That’s never happened before.’ Akiho mused to herself.

Once she had her breathing under control, Akiho smiled up at Bakugo and thanked him. The blonde didn’t respond, he just walked out of the classroom and took a left towards the cafeteria. Taking her time to ger her home lunch from her bag, Akiho did the same, hoping to catch Shinsou and eat lunch with him again. She hadn’t seen him since the attack, and she didn’t have his number either to let him know that she was ok.

It was easy to find him in the cafeteria line, Shinsou’s wild, purple hair made it easy to spot him in a crowd. It looked like he had his earphones in again, and he didn’t seem to notice her until she tapped him on the arm.

Purple eyes widened dramatically as Shinsou quickly reached out for Akiho, only for her to take an instinctive step back, apologizing as soon as she realized she did it, “Sorry, sorry. I can’t help it.”

Shinsou shook his head earnestly and waved off her apology, “No, no. I don’t give a shit about that. Are you alright?”

Some of the students around them tensed nervously at the question, but Akiho paid them no mind, “Yeah, I’m fine. I have a couple of scrapes and bruises, but I’ve definitely had worse.”

“Were there really seventy-something villains there?” Shinsou continued to question quietly; hunching closer to Akiho to try and discourage eavesdroppers.

Akiho couldn’t help but notice the students flinch again when Shinsou spoke. It bothered her, but she kept her mouth shut, not wanting to make a scene. Yet.

“Yes. But the Aizawa-sensei and the other teachers took care of most of them. I only had to fight four.” Akiho answered, and upon seeing Shinsou’s reaction to her tally, reassured, “The guys I fought were super weak. All Might took care of the dangerous ones.”

Shinsou’s hackles lowered slightly at the explanation, and he nodded once, “Ok, fair enough. I’m just glad you’re alright. When I saw the news, I was worried.” He paused, took a deep breath through his nose, and almost nervously, asked, “Can I get your number?”

Again, the students around them stiffened, and Akiho had enough. Turning to face them fully, she growled, “Fuck off, all of you! You’re being assholes! Shinsou-kun’s a good guy and I don’t know what your fucking issues are, but get the fuck over them!”

Akiho could hear Shinsou’s sharp inhalation over the din in the cafeteria, and she felt herself grow nervous. Would he be mad because she berated his classmates? Did she just make it worse? The other students had quickly turned back around to mind their own business as soon as she had finished yelling at them, so she wasn’t sure.

A hand came down on her shoulder gently, Shinsou’s voice was closer than before as he spoke, “Thank you.”

Akiho turned to look him in the eye, only to find his face not that far from hers, and his purple eyes were the softest she’d seen then since they’d met. And then the moment was over, and his eyes were alight with mischief, “So, can I get your number or what?”

Chapter Text

After classes were over for the day, Ashido immediately launched herself towards Akiho and asked, “So do you think you’re ready for the sports festival?”

‘Jeez. Going straight for the jugular today, Ashido?’ Akiho thought to herself nervously.

“Ah. No, not even close. But I’m going to do my best! What about you Ashido-chan?” Akiho replied with a nervous smile; her hands occupied with putting away her school supplies.

Determination shone from Ashido’s dark eyes, but before she could reply verbally, both girls were distracted by a distressed shout from Uraraka, “Wh-what’s going on?”

Without hesitation, Akiho turned to face the door, hands up in a defensive position and her quirk coming alive across her body. She withheld her wings, knowing that they would be a hinderance in the enclosed and heavily populated classroom. It took a moment to register that there was no threat, just in time to hear Iida ask authoritatively, hands waving ridiculously, “What business do you have with Class 1A?”

“We can’t get out! What’d you come here for anyway?” Demanded Mineta, shaking his fist at the crowd of students.

Akiho’s silver eyes gazed across the students in the doorway; observing them watch her classmates like they were some sort of zoo exhibit. They all looked intrigued and curious; pushing and fighting so that they could each get a look. Eyes slid over her briefly before settling on others like Bakugo, Shoji, Todoroki, and Tokoyami; it made Akiho’s skin crawl to be so easily dismissed by her peers.

Unphased, Bakugo sauntered forward, taking in the horde and growled, “They’re scouting out the enemy, Small Fry. We’re the ones that made it out of the villains’ attack. They probably want to check us out before the sports festival.” He paused when he reached the blockade and addressed them directly, “There’s no point in doing stuff like that. Out of my way, extras!”

‘Again, with the ‘extras’ stuff?’ Akiho thought to herself annoyed.

“Stop calling people ‘extras’ just because you don’t know them!” Iida shouted whilst waving his hands angrily.

“I came to see what the famous Class 1A was like,” Came a familiar voice from the crowd as Shinsou shouldered his through to the front of the pack, “But you seem pretty arrogant.”

Shinsou’s tired purple eyes drifted over to Akiho, dismissing Bakugo and asking her directly, “Are all the students in your class like this?”

Akiho stepped forward to stand by Bakugo in front of Shinsou, and tried to placate them both, “Shinsou, that’s not very fair—”

A literal growl came from Bakugo at Akiho’s familiar tone, “Eh? You know this loser, Metal Mouth?”

“Bakugo! You can’t just—” Akiho tried again.

“I’ve gotta say, seeing something like this makes me disillusioned.” Shinsou stated lazily, cutting Akiho off, “There are quite a few people who enrolled in general studies or other courses because they didn’t make it into the hero course. Did you know that?”

Bakugo tensed slightly beside Akiho, and she heard the rest of her class quiet down to listen to Shinsou as well, “The school has left those of us a chance. Depending on the results of the sports festival, they’ll consider our transfer to the hero course.” Shinsou paused, and the tone of his voice grew dark and devious, “But that also means that they’ll also have to transfer people out. I’m not scouting out the enemy, I came here to say that even if you’re in the hero course, if you get lazy, I’m coming for you. I’m here with a declaration of war.”

Akiho was stunned silent, watching both Bakugo and Shinsou stare each other down like bitter enemies. Perhaps, in that moment, they were. Bakugo had everything that Shinsou wanted; a flashy, powerful quirk and the respect of his peers. Shinsou had also pushed every button Bakugo had; insulting Class 1A and declaring war like the purpled haired boy thought he was better than them.

God help anyone who insinuated they were better than Bakugo at anything.

The tension was growing so thick it was making Akiho nervous when another familiar voice shouted from the crowd, “Hey, hey! I’m from Class 1B next door! I heard you fought against villains, so I came here to make sure my baby cousin was alright!”

Irritation flowed over Akiho as she instinctively barked back, “I’m older than you Tsukun!”

Deep laughter followed her retort as TetsuTetsu also pushed his way to the front of the crowd. His silver hair was longer than the last time she had seen him, but otherwise he looked the same as she remembered him. Small, black eyes looked down at her, and he smiled an easy, shark-toothed smile at her, “Don’t get so full of yourself, Akibo. You may technically be older, but you’re definitely the baby out of the two of us.”

Akiho bristled angrily at the combination of the name and the comment but bit her tongue to keep from retorting. Anything she said to TetsuTetsu had a chance to make it back to her mother; even if he didn’t mean for it to happen like that. It had been a long time since she had heard either insult; and though TetsuTetsu didn’t intend to be mean, the combination hurt as it always had.

Akibo had been the name he had given her when they were children; it was a teasing reference to the boyish haircut her mother made her keep to this day. The ‘baby’ comment came from her mother’s influence; Aiko lied outright and/or made light of all of Akiho’s complaints of ill-treatment and neglect to discredit the young girl. Her family thought she was a whining, ungrateful child, all thanks to Aiko.

After being rebuffed by her own family, young Akiho found it best to not tell anyone at all.

Ashido stepped up next to Akiho and barked at the boy, “Who the hell do you think you are? Talking to Kuudere-chan like that?”

TetsuTetsu leaned back slightly from Ashido’s rage and backpedaled loudly, “Hey, hey. It was just in good fun. I’m seriously here because I wanted to make sure she was alright.” He turned his eyes to Akiho, looking over her calculatingly and then added with a point in Bakugo’s direction, “It’s good to see you’ve got some good friends now Akibo, unlike this bastard.”

A hand came up to awkwardly scratch behind her head as Akiho explained, “Ah, well, Bakugo-kun’s actually—”

“You’ve got to be shitting me!” TetsuTetsu interrupted incredulously, “You’re friends with that asshole?”

Bakugo’s narrowed red eyes glossed over TetsuTetsu briefly before he shouldered his bag and began to force his way through the crowd without another word. Kirishima ran up and shouted after him, “Wait a minute, Bakugo! What’re you gonna do about all this? It’s your fault everyone is hating on us!”

Bakugo paused briefly, looking over his shoulder to reply, “It doesn’t matter.”

“Huh?” Kirishima replied unintelligently, not expecting that answer.

“It doesn’t matter as long as you rise to the top.” Bakugo clarified before walking off; the sea of students parting for him easily.

“What a bastard.” TetsuTetsu swore loudly.

“That’s so simple and manly.” Kirishima stated inspired; his fist clenched and what looked like a tear in his eye.

“Eh?” Kaminari wordlessly asked, an incredulous look on his face.

“You said it.” Agreed Sato.

“Huh?!”

“The top, huh? There’s truth in that.” Tokoyami agreed pensively with a nod of his head.

“Hang on, don’t be tricked! He just made more pointless enemies!” Kaminari rebutted.

Akiho was inclined to agree with Kaminari until Mineta chimed in, “That’s right! We’ll just be at a disadvantage at the sports festival!”

Unable to help herself, Akiho barked at Mineta, “It doesn’t matter what Bakugo said. Everyone was going to be gunning to take our place in Class 1A regardless.”

Looking to Shinsou, Akiho added quietly, “If you could replace him, that’s be great.”

The purple haired boy’s lazy grin widened and morphed to something darker as he stared over Akiho’s shoulder to where Mineta was. Akiho turned her head to the side, catching Mineta in her peripherals and almost felt bad when she saw the scared look on his face. However, the dominant part of her didn’t trust the smaller boy; something about him set Akiho’s teeth on edge. The uncomfortable feeling that she got whenever she saw him made Akiho want him gone; and if Shinsou could take Mineta’s place, it was a win-win in her eyes.

___________________________________________________________

TRAINING MONTAGE:

Akiho hated Bakugo.

She couldn’t help but think it repeatedly as she precariously stood on the edge of a roof of a ‘small’ two-story building in Ground Beta. Bakugo had chosen it as a ‘novice’ level perch when Akiho had refused to jump from one of the taller buildings he had originally picked. As she looked down to the ground below, Akiho felt every instinct she had scream that this was a terrible idea. She wasn’t afraid of heights, but repeatedly falling twenty feet to the concrete below until she learned how to fly sounded less like training and more like masochism.

The hour certainly didn’t improve her mood, either. It was still dark out, the stars were still visible, indicating that the sun was still a while away. She was tired, sore, and cranky from waking up so early after training late the night previous. Aiko had pushed Akiho to her limits and left her to collect herself in the dark like usual. It was demeaning and demoralizing, but Akiho figured that was likely the point; to try to keep her in line.

Bakugo and Kirishima were standing on the ground below her, shouting up insults and encouragement respectively.

“Are you gonna jump anytime soon Metal Mouth? I’m getting bored down here!”

“You can do it Akiho-chan!”

With a sigh, Akiho realized all she was achieving up on the edge of the rooftop was delaying the inevitable. Spreading her wings wide, Akiho jumped from the building and tried to flap her wings. From the first beat her timing was off, and one wing completed the downstroke well before the other, tilting her to the side. Unprepared, Akiho had no time to figure out how to correct it, and came crashing to the ground in an undignified heap. Bakugo’s barking laughter echoed around the otherwise silent cityscape.

Akiho really hated Bakugo right now.

__________________________________________________________________

To extend the amount of time she could have her quirk fully activated, Akiho began practicing during school hours. Even while just sitting and taking notes, it was an incredible test of will to stretch her limits as far as she could go. She had never used her quirk in this way—due to her mother’s coaching—so her stamina was less than ideal. During Aizawa’s class, she could feel herself shaking in her seat, sweat beading on her brow as she fought to both pay attention to her teacher and keep her quirk active.

Silver eyes glanced to the clock on the wall, calculating the time, ‘Almost 22 minutes straight… fifteen more seconds…’

Akiho knew if she could hold it for those precious seconds, she’d break her current record; but with how hard she was pushing herself, time felt like it was moving at a tenth of the normal rate. She tried focusing on the clock to distract herself from the exhaustion seemingly seeping out of her very core.

Ten.

Nine.

Eight.

Seven.

Si—

“Hagane!” Barked Aizawa, breaking Akiho’s concentration and causing her to lose her shaky grip on her quirk.

Akiho felt the power retreat back into itself shakily; almost like an overworked muscle. She blinked tiredly up at Aizawa, who had moved so that he was standing beside her desk and asked dazedly, “Yes, sir?”

Aizawa’s face was still mummified from the U.S.J. incident, but his black eyes could be seen glaring down at her, “Speak with me after class.”

Feeling properly chastised with just that sentence, Akiho focused solely on Aizawa’s lecture for the rest of the class period. When the bell had rung, Akiho watched nervously as the rest of the class grabbed their things and began heading out to the training grounds; save Todoroki, who had yet to train with the rest of the class once.

Aizawa stared at Akiho quietly for what felt like an eternity before he questioned her, “Why are you here?”

Cold dread filled Akiho at the question, and she spluttered, “W-what?”

“Why do you want to become a hero, Hagane?” Aizawa asked before elaborating, “For students like Bakugo, Todoroki, and even Midoriya, their motivation is clear. They have something to prove to someone and it drives them to become stronger. But you, I can’t figure it out. Why are you here?”

Akiho wasn’t sure how to respond, so she went with the first thing that came to mind, “I’ve been training to become a hero since I was four years old. It’s all I know.”

“If that’s your only reason, you may as well leave U.A. now. It’s not rational to keep at this if your heart isn’t in it. Being a hero is more than just being strong—"

“I know that!” Akiho interrupted desperately, not liking where the conversation was going, “I know that it’s more than being strong, or smart, or having a powerful quirk. My mother started training me to carry on her legacy as Iron Maiden from the age of four…” Silver eyes met black defiantly, “But it was only recently, when I met you, that I knew that I wanted to be a hero to protect people who couldn’t protect themselves. It was never about the fame or fortune for me, I just want… I just want to make people feel safe.”

Black eyes narrowed suspiciously at her, “Is that so?”

Anxious to get her point across, Akiho continued without checking her words, “I know what it’s like to feel defenseless. So, if I could stop that for someone else, I’d do whatever it takes.”

A flicker of emotion crossed Aizawa’s eyes, but with his face covered as it was, Akiho couldn’t get a read on it. It was gone just as quickly as it came, and his voice gave no inflection as to what it could have been, “I’ve watched you train. Physically, you’re one of the strongest in your class. Your quirk is incredibly versatile, and you have excellent battle instincts. Yet still, I watch you second guess yourself constantly, and I know that you’re not maximizing your potential. And now you’re not paying attention in classes.”

Embarrassment colored Akiho’s cheeks as she fought to not scratch the back of her neck nervously, “I’m sorry Aizawa-sensei. I was trying to push the limit of how long I could keep my quirk activated.”

Aizawa looked intrigued, but said nothing so Akiho continued, “I’ve… recently discovered that I’ve been using my quirk incorrectly, so now I’m trying to make up for lost time before the sports festival.”

“Do you need to re-register your quirk?” Aizawa asked seriously.

Akiho was taken aback by the question; she hadn’t even considered it. She supposed it would have to be necessary, though the thought of her mother finding out made her anxiety spike. Akiho physically curled in on herself, crossing her arms over her torso nervously.

‘Mother will kill me the second she finds out about this…’

It was a long and pregnant pause before she answered, “Y-yes.”

Aizawa nodded and spoke as though this were the easiest thing in the world, “I’ll complete the paperwork. I need to know what you believe your quirk is now, and after it’s sent out, the registry will mail the confirmation for your guardian to sign.”

“No!” Akiho pled, eyes wide with fear, “Can’t you sign it?”

The same flicker crossed Aizawa’s face as he stated guardedly, “I cannot, only a legal guardian can sign for a minor.”

“Then please don’t send it out.” Akiho begged.

Aizawa was silent for a long time, and Akiho was afraid that he was going to push the issue. She knew if he did, she would likely crumble; she was terrible at lying, and Aizawa was a pro hero who was very good at his job. The silence was broken by a deep sigh from Aizawa, “Very well. You’re dismissed, Hagane.”

Akiho rushed to gather her things and exit the classroom, bidding Aizawa a rushed goodbye, but was stopped when he called out, “Wait. Actually, I need you to take something to Recovery Girl for me.”

Akiho paused in the doorway, cursing her luck that she had to remain in this awkward situation even longer. Long seconds passed while Aizawa scratched his pen across the paper almost furiously. Akiho was just impressed that he could write at all with the way his hands were bandaged. Admittedly, he had to sandwich the pen between his mummified hands to do so, but it was still remarkable.

When he was done, Aizawa folded the paper in half and haphazardly shoved it into a manila envelope. Instead of watching him struggle to lift the envelope from the desktop, Akiho gently strode over—her shoulders tucked up to her ears, unsure if her help was wanted—and slowly reached for it. Aizawa watched her with that strange expression again; grunted his thanks and directed, “Tell Recovery Girl to put that in the file. She’ll know what it means.”

‘I hope so, because I sure as hell don’t.’ Akiho thought uncertainly.

“Yes, sir.” Akiho spoke dutifully, almost out the door when she turned back briefly, “Have a nice night Aizawa-sensei. I hope you feel better soon.”

The walk to the infirmary was eerily quiet. There were no students mingling in the classrooms; rationally Akiho knew that most of the students had rushed to the training rooms to use the exercise equipment, but she couldn’t help but feel like her conversation with Aizawa lasted longer than she thought. Looking back on it, Akiho couldn’t help but feel a little apprehensive; Aizawa dropped the subject quicker than any other adult she had that kind of discussion with. Even Recovery Girl had put up more of a fight.

The door to the infirmary was closed when Akiho reached it, but the light was still on inside, giving the young girl hope that the nurse was still in. She gently knocked on the wood with the knuckle of her index finger; trying to be respectful if there was a student sleeping off an injury inside. Recovery Girl’s voice called out in response, “Come in! Come in!”

Opening the door slightly and peeking her head inside, Akiho saw Recovery Girl sitting at her desk, her back to the door, and stacks of paper surrounding her. Feeling like she was interrupting something important, she responded quietly, “Aizawa-sensei asked that I give this to you. He said for you to put it in the file… I hope that makes sense.”

Recovery Girl’s head perked up at the sound of Akiho’s voice, and she turned quickly to face the younger girl, “Ah, yes. Come in, please don’t mind the mess.”

Akiho walked cautiously into the room; anxiety from the last time she had been here surging back to life. Recovery Girl’s eyes watched her closely for a moment, before she seemingly remembered something important and turned to scribble on the page in front of her. Akiho waited quietly until she was done to hand the folder to the nurse, and watched uneasily as the older woman opened and read the note.

“Thank you dear, you can go now if you’d like.” Was Recovery Girl’s only response, tersely spoken and the clear dismissal that Akiho was hoping for.

Akiho ran from the office so quickly she missed the fact that Recovery Girl placed the note on one of the stacks with a heavy sigh and kept writing.

______________________________________________________________

Akiho breathed deep, once again standing on the edge of a rooftop at an ungodly hour. The sports festival was only three days away, and she looked forward to when it would be over so that she could sleep in again. Kirishima stood beside her, fully hardened and ready to jump with her. Falling out of a building during the U.S.J. incident had inspired the idea of testing how far he could fall without injury. They had jumped off the two-story building together first, and Kirishima had talked Akiho into jumping off a three-story building next; citing that if she had more time in the air, she would have more time to react if she messed up.

Akiho was convinced that it just meant that the landing hurt more.

It was Akiho’s inability to withstand Kirishima’s watery, wide eyed begging that landed her on a four-story building next. Her loathing for her male friends only growing as these two weeks passed. At least now that they were standing on a ledge about forty feet off the ground, Kirishima had the decency to look as nervous as she felt. His trademarked shark-toothed grin was intact, but his red eyes were a little wider than normal as he stared down at the ground below.

‘At least Bakugo isn’t here to laugh this time.’ Akiho thought bitterly as she roughly pinned her hair away from her eyes with a bobby pin she made out of desperation.

Akiho’s hair was longer than it had been in a while, and while she was excited for the extra length initially, she was growing tired of it getting into her eyes when she was airborne. She briefly mused how long it would take for the strands to be long enough to tie back. It was a pleasant idea until she remembered that her mother would physically drag her by the hair to the barber long before that could happen.

Shaking her head to clear the unwanted thoughts, Akiho tried focusing on the problem at hand. Instead of jumping from the building with no plan whatsoever—Kirishima and Bakugo kept insisting that instinct would take over like it had at the U.S.J.—Akiho tried something new. She focused her power into her fingers and wings simultaneously, imagining that they shared the same joints. It took her some time to achieve; the connection felt wrong, and she knew that it still wasn’t the correct way to operate her wings based on that feeling. Yet she was pleased with the results; when she moved and curled her index fingers, her wings moved in kind.

‘Finally. Progress.’ Thought Akiho, immensely pleased with herself.

Until she accidentally knocked Kirishima from the ledge with an errant flick of her wing. An unmanly yelp the only sound he made before he was well out of Akiho’s reach.

Instinctually, Akiho tucked her wings and dove after him, but the fall was too short for her to catch him in time. He hit the ground with an almighty ‘bang’; creating a dust cloud that shielded him from her view. Suddenly remembering that she was falling as well, Akiho began curling her fingers rapidly; surely looking like a fool, but her wings performed on command and she could feel herself slowing down, but not fast enough. In a last desperate attempt, she used her quirk on her ribcage, ignoring the wrongness of the sensation and yanked upwards. It felt even more unpleasant than when she had caught herself from tripping, but her feet touched down to the ground heavily instead of her body crashing to the earth in a heap like she had expected to.

It was still definitely not flight… but she was falling with style at least.

Kirishima let out a war cry as he emerged from the smokescreen his landing had caused; fists held level with his head and a look of wild determination on his face, “AGAIN! HIGHER!”

Invigorated by her success and Kirishima’s adrenaline high, the pair went in search of a five-story building to leap from next.

______________________________________________________________________
**
“That was sloppy. Again.” Aiko’s bored voice spoke.

Akiho’s chest rose and fell heavily as she fought to keep her breath; her muscles were shaking from the strain of nearly two weeks of working out before, during, and after school, and even her quirk responded sluggishly to her will. Her arms felt the burn harshly as she fought to hold up both of her kite shields and not just let them dangle at her sides like wet noodles. Honestly, she felt lucky that she had kept enough presence of mind to not allow feathers to form on any of the metallic creations Aiko drilled her on. Akiho knew that would only end badly.

When she finally felt like she was beginning to catch her breath, Akiho began the drill again. Her right arm thrust out first against an invisible opponent; the shovel-headed point digging into an imaginary solar plexus. Her left shield came up to defend her body and face as she swept her right arm parallel to the ground and forced it to stretch into a whip.

The metal ribbon wrapped around another imaginary enemy, but before she could complete the next part of the set, Aiko interrupted, “Too slow. Again.”

Akiho fought not to glare over at her mother, knowing that it would only make things worse. If she were honest with herself, Akiho could count herself lucky; in the last week Aiko had refrained from any physical punishments so that Akiho would be in peak condition for the sports festival. Aiko had also gone out drinking last night—if the smell of booze permeating the apartment was any indication, she hadn’t stopped there either—so the woman was as well behaved as she got; massive hangovers usually kept her relegated to scathing comments and a downright bitchy attitude.

Akiho tried to repeat the set again and again, growing increasingly tired but still giving her best effort; but nothing was ever good enough for Aiko, and she grew increasingly picky as the training session wore on.

“Pick up the pace, Akiho. Again.”

“You’re rushing. Again.”

“Your whip didn’t make full contact with your left shield in the sweep. Again.”

“You only completed a quarter turn instead of a half turn before you struck the second time. Again.”

The criticisms were fair, until the last set when Aiko stopped her to correct her on the whip grapple, “You missed.”

Akiho was so shocked she couldn’t help but whip her head in Aiko's direction repeat incredulously, “I missed?”

Brown eyes narrowed dangerously, the barely veiled threat in them causing Akiho to cower slightly, “Yes, you missed. Do it again.”

Frustration overcame fear, and Akiho dropped her arms, recalling her shields with a clench of her fists, and stated, “The sports festival is in two days. I won’t be able to do well if I’m too tired to move. I’m done.”

“Excuse me?” Came Aiko’s disbelieving reply.

The older woman snapped a hand outward, and instantly Akiho felt a horrifying pressure settle over her metallic bones. Appallingly, her body was no longer her own as she was dragged none too gently over to where her mother was seated in her wheelchair. She fought to move even the slightest, but her muscles flexed uselessly around the steel trapped in Aiko’s agonizing grip. Fear ripped through Akiho as she realized that she was trapped in her own body; her breathing growing increasingly panicked as she used her quirk and her muscles to push as hard as she could muster in her tired state with no results. She was forced to bend so that she was face to face with her attacker as she hissed, “You’ll do well to remember your place you little bitch. If I say you missed, you fucking missed. And you’ll keep going until you complete the set, or you drop, am I clear?”

The final question was punctuated with a painful clench over her entire body; causing Akiho to literally choke on her pain and she swore she heard one of her vertebrae make a popping sound from the pressure. When Aiko released her, Akiho’s body dropped to the ground limply; gasping and shuddering from the hurt.

The last thing she heard before the lights were flicked out was her mother’s acerbic voice as it ground out one filthy word, “Pathetic.”

Chapter Text

The two weeks leading up to the sports festival had flown by so quickly Akiho could scarcely wrap her brain around it. Kirishima had trained with her daily to try to learn how to fly, and though she still felt like she was doing it wrong, she felt like she was leagues better than she was before. She felt utterly ridiculous wiggling her fingers like a madwoman but hadn’t quite figured out the timing of flapping without it. She supposed it was because she couldn’t feel her wings, but every time she tried to send her power through to the feathered appendages, she was hit was the same debilitating sensory overload. As it was, she felt accomplished that—when she jumped off the two story building—she could manage sustained flight for almost a minute before her stamina wore out and she was forced to land; longer if she jumped from a higher level.

Trying to learn how to take off from ground level was a rushed affair on the last day before the event. Her first attempts of flapping hard, running and flapping, and hopping up and flapping made her feel like a fool; Kirishima’s mirthful laughter at her expense compounding that feeling. She couldn’t fault him, especially after he recorded a ‘running and flapping’ attempt on his phone and showed it to her. She looked like a lunatic, spastically waving her arms and wiggling her fingers as her wings flapped uselessly behind her.

It was Kirishima’s idea that she may be too heavy to achieve flight from the ground without assistance; though Akiho refused to disclose how much she actually weighed and outright denied lightening her metallic load. Aiko’s warning rang through her head the entire time the two teens debated it, ‘The more metal you have, the more power you have.’

Akiho needed all the power she had at her disposal to do well in the sports festival.

Thankfully, Kirishima also came up with a viable solution to Akiho’s lift problem as well. He suggested that she use her quirk to toss herself up into the air as hard as she could, so that she would get the altitude that she needed. The downside, however, was that it cut her flight time down to a mere 20 seconds, and she was beyond exhausted when she landed. She only managed it three times before she called off the training session entirely; the attempts left her so tired and shaky that Kirishima had to help her walk out of the training grounds.

 

The day of the sports festival, Akiho woke up with the sun; relishing in the fact that it would likely be the last time she would have to do so; unless she was trying to slip out of the apartment before her mother woke up. After getting dressed and removing the wooden chair from under the doorknob, Akiho opened her bedroom door and her heart dropped.

The kitchen light was on.

Akiho knew without a doubt in her mind that Aiko was up and waiting for her. She had been successfully avoiding her mother in the mornings the last two weeks by leaving early to train with Bakugo and Kirishima. Aiko had expressed her displeasure at first, but when Akiho explained that it was for training, the older woman—surprisingly—begrudgingly relented without further fuss.

This time felt different; purposeful and looming with a yet to be seen threat. There was no option but to walk past the kitchen to get to the front door. It felt like Aiko was perched like a predator, and Akiho was the prey that was cornered with no way out.

With a deep, uneven sigh, Akiho strode forward; her limbs shaking the closer she drew to the kitchen. Aiko was sat in her wheelchair at the kitchen table; her hands wrapped around a clear glass half-full with an amber liquid inside. It was undoubtedly alcoholic in nature, but Akiho wasn’t sure what kind; the empty bottle beside the cup had the label turned away from her.

There was a beat of uncomfortable silence before Aiko noticed Akiho standing there. Grimacing, Akiho couldn’t help the thought that she could have snuck out in that time, and Aiko would have been none the wiser. The young girl was resigned to her fate when brown eyes flicked over to her lazily, and Aiko slurred without preamble, “Don’ be a disappoin’men’ ya hear? The sports…” The words trailed off into unintelligible slurring before picking up again randomly, “…ya oughta win, otherwise I’mma pull ya right outta that piss-poor school. Understand?”

Cold, dread gipped Akiho’s heart instantly. Her mother didn’t make idle threats. If she lost, and the woman was lucid enough to remember this moment, Aiko would most certainly pull her from U.A.

‘She can’t do this to me.’ Akiho thought to herself forlornly, despair taking over, ‘I’ve just barely begun… Is… Is she trying to break me?’

It didn’t make sense for Aiko to threaten her with removing her from U.A. if she wanted Akiho to have the best chance at becoming the next Iron Maiden. U.A. was famous for churning out some of the best pro heroes Japan had ever seen. Not even Ketsubutsu Academy could claim to have the same results, despite the rivalry between the schools. Akiho was also operating under the assumption that Aiko would bother to put her into another hero school at all.

Akiho didn’t dare hope that Aiko would forget this in her drunken stupor. She would have to win the sports festival; she couldn’t hold back, she’d have to use everything she had, wings included. Her mother would likely be furious with her, but if she won, Aiko wouldn’t be able to argue with the results. Maybe Akiho would even be allowed to train with them at home.

“Yes mother.” Came Akiho’s determined reply.

 

When Akiho arrived at the sports festival arena, she was surprised to see the amount of security at the front gate. Though she supposed Aizawa had warned them that the security would be much tighter this year. There was already a line forming for the item check, seemingly all spectators who were chatting excitedly to one another as they waited in line. Taking her place in the queue, Akiho groaned out loud when she saw the metal detectors.

‘This is going to be a nightmare.’ Akiho whined internally.

Akiho fidgeted anxiously, awaiting her turn with apprehension. She had never gone through metal detectors before, but her grandmother always complained about the hassle of having metallic bones when trying to travel out of the country. With that in mind, after she had placed her belongings on the conveyor belt to be scanned, Akiho tried to warn the guard, “Excuse me, sir? I won’t—”

He cut her off before she could say anything else with an annoyed bark, “Just walk through the detector, miss.”

The ‘miss’ was tacked on at the last second, almost as though he only remembered his manners as an afterthought. The man was tall—though nowhere near All Might’s height—with dark hair flecked with grey and brown eyes that were already shining with agitation. Feeling slightly petty—but not caring due to his poor attitude—Akiho rolled her eyes at his less than pleasant tone.

‘Asshole.’ Akiho thought, ‘He looks like he kicks puppies for fun.’

She was torn between hoping that her eyes conveyed what she was thinking and praying that her mean thoughts weren’t apparent on her facial features. The last thing she needed was to get kicked out before the sports festival even began.

Despite knowing what would happen, Akiho nodded meekly and walked through the detector. It shrieked at her as she did so, and the second guard who had been watching the monitors scrunched his face in confusion.

“Do you have any metal remaining on your person?” Asked the first guard, already more than exasperated with her. His arms were crossed in front of his chest and he straightened his posture in an attempt to try and intimidate her; but he was using the wrong tactics.

“Yes, sir. That’s what I was trying—”

“Remove all metal items from your person, put them in the bin to be scanned, and walk through again.” He interrupted again, not letting Akiho get a full sentence out to try and explain.

“But—”

“There are no exceptions. Either you remove the items, or you will be removed from the premises.” The security guard ground out at her; growing increasingly agitated with her by the second; the cold glare he suddenly pinned her with intimidating her far more than his male posturing had.

By this point, the second security guard had called over the rest of the team to look at the monitor with him. The flow of spectators entering the arena ground to a halt as the security team all gathered around one monitor and began discussing in low tones. It was the sole female in the group that called out, “Do you have a metal-based quirk, miss?”

“Yes ma’am.” Akiho responded gratefully, not meeting the angry security guard’s gaze.

“Why didn’t you just say that?” He demanded hotly.

Akiho opened her mouth to reply, but ironically, the female guard beat her to it with a sharp tone, “She tried, you just wouldn’t listen Tanaka. I’ve got this, go help the next person.”

It was obvious that this woman was in charge when the much larger Tanaka immediately stalked off angrily to go help (harass) the next person in line. The woman smiled at her and motioned for Akiho to follow her to the side, out of the way of the entrance. She pulled out some slips of what looked like paper, and wiped Akiho’s fingers down with them as she explained, “This is how we check for gunpowder and other explosives. Have you been around either in the last 48 hours?”

“Does my classmate who has an explosion quirk count?” Akiho asked meekly, ducking her head.

A groan escaped the woman’s lips as she held the slips up and waited, “Come on kid, you gotta work with me here.”

“I figured it’d be better to be honest…” Akiho mumbled, feeling her shoulders around her ears as she ducked her head shyly.

“I mean yeah… but kid, you’re not making my job easy. I can’t let you in if these come back positive.” The guard explained gently.

‘Oh shit.’ Akiho panicked internally; praying that nitroglycerin didn’t pass easily from items to skin. Bakugo had definitely touched her backpack by her feet in the last two days.

“Hagane is a participant of the festival. She is free to enter.” Came a familiar deep voice from behind her.

Akiho turned quickly to see a still mummified Aizawa standing there. The woman looked to him and frowned slightly, her eyes narrowing as she suspiciously asked, “And who are you?”

“I’m part of the faculty here,” Aizawa stated simply, showing her an ID badge that was pinned to his person, “Hagane is one of my students.”

Apparently, the badge was enough, as the woman threw her hands up in the air comically, letting the little paper strips litter the ground around her, “Good, because she failed the explosives test too.” She turned to Akiho and with shocking sincerity said, “Good luck in the events.”

Surprised, Akiho managed a strangled, “Thank you,” before the woman walked back to her station.

That left her alone with Aizawa, and Akiho felt an embarrassed flush color her cheeks. The last time they had been alone, she had blurted out that he was her inspiration as a hero; and it had only occurred to her how deeply awkward and personal that was when she got home that night. Blessedly, he ended the awkward silence quickly, “Admittedly, I rationalized that it would’ve been Bakugo who I would have to vouch for to the head of security.”

Akiho’s embarrassed blush only deepened as she ducked her head and scratched the back of her neck absentmindedly, “Sorry Aizawa-sensei.”

He dismissed her apology with a wordless grunt. His dark eyes stared down at her intensely for a brief moment, almost expectantly, before he sighed heavily through his nose, “Remember what we discussed last time we spoke Hagane. Trust your instincts, and you’ll do fine.”

 

Akiho was surprised to see other people in the 1A locker room when she arrived. She assumed she would have been one of the first to arrive, though looking at the clock she realized that being held by security had taken longer than she thought. Ashido bounded up to her, already dressed in her uniform, “Kuudere-chan! How unfair is it that they won’t let us wear our hero costumes?”

“To keep everything fair, we can’t.” Ojiro explained from nearby, “People like Hagane who have seriously specialized their costumes would have an advantage.”

Akiho shrugged in agreement with Ojiro, knowing that she would have had a serious advantage if she had access to the scales on her costume. Sato’s anxious voice spoke next, “I wonder what the first round’s going to be…”

His visible anxiety made Akiho feel slightly better about her own, however awful a person that made her. Tokoyami spoke next, though his words were less than comforting, “No matter what comes, we have no choice but to deal with it.”

‘Fuck if it’s not the truth though…’ Akiho thought to herself anxiously before reciting the new mantra Aizawa inspired, ‘Don’t overthink it… Don’t overthink it.’

Akiho moved to get changed quickly, making her way to the girl’s locker room when something black flew at her head. Instinctively she moved to catch it, incredibly tense until she realized that the item was soft in her hands. Halfway across the room, Bakugo straightened from a slightly pitched position and loudly proclaimed, “The old hag told me to give this to you.”

Akiho was confused until she let the black fabric uncurl, and a sleeveless, backless, halter top revealed itself. Remembering her conversation with Mitsuki, Akiho grinned, happy for the first time that day. While she had been looking it over, Bakugo had apparently approached her, his voice much closer—and quieter—when he spoke again, “Dad says there’s more where that came from if you like it. The hag had to guess at the size, but she’s usually pretty good at that.”

Silver eyes misted momentarily at the thoughtfulness of the gift and Akiho couldn’t help but hug Bakugo around his narrow waist, looking up at his face as she spoke, “Thank you, and tell your parents I said thank you to them too.”

Surprise kept Bakugo’s body rigid; his arms held up and away from her, and his red eyes wide. A muffled squeal behind the blonde caught Akiho’s attention. Curiously, she raised herself onto her tiptoes, her large, bird-like feet gave her just enough height to see over Bakugo’s shoulder; revealing a grinning Kaminari covering Ashido’s mouth with his hand. The pink girl’s eyes were wide with joy as she looked at Akiho and Bakugo. A choking sound followed shortly after, coming from Midoriya who had just walked into the room. Disbelief was clear on his frozen face, and Akiho was glad Bakugo was facing away from him. The last thing class 1-A needed was a fight right now.

Akiho held on for a moment longer before releasing Bakugo and moving to the girl’s locker room to change. The halter top fit her perfectly, making her slightly uncomfortable as she was used to swimming in her clothing. The shirt was held together with a belt’s width of fabric around her waist, allowing her ports to be completely unhindered. She pulled on her U.A. uniform jacket on as quickly as she could; afraid that someone—Ashido—would come in and see her with that much skin showing.

When she exited the girl’s locker room, Akiho was surprised to see a slightly agitated looking Todoroki addressing Midoriya. Everyone in the room turned to look as well, curious to see what the most powerful boy in the class had to say. Todoroki’s stance wasn’t particularly aggressive, Akiho would have dared to call it blasé even, but his eyes were sharp and narrowed, “Looking at things objectively, I think I’m stronger than you.”

‘Wow, that’s rude.’ Akiho couldn’t help but think as her eyebrows shot up at Todoroki’s assessment, only to furrow when Midoriya agreed hesitantly.

“But…” Apparently Todoroki wasn’t finished yet, “All Might has his eye on you, doesn’t he? I’m not trying to pry about that, but I’m going to beat you.”

Immediately the class burst out into murmurs, but one voice was louder than the others, “Oh? Is the best in the class making a declaration of war?” Kaminari grinned easily, leaning back in his chair to try and get a better look.

Kirishima—ever the peacemaker, Akiho was figuring out—stood up and approached the pair, grabbing onto Todoroki’s shoulder and gently scolded him, “Hey, hey, hey! Why are you trying to pick a fight all of a sudden? Not now, we’re about to start!”

Todoroki knocked Kirishima’s hand away, not even bothering to look at the redhead as he bit back, “We’re not here to play at being friends. So what does it matter?”

Akiho walked closer as well, so that she was standing beside Bakugo and Ashido. The blonde’s face was surprisingly neutral as he took in the scene, but Akiho doubted it would remain that way for much longer.

‘Bakugo’s not going to handle this well…’ Akiho thought whilst watching the impending explosion bubble up, ‘Todoroki’s essentially implying that he thinks Midoriya’s stronger than Bakugo.’

There was a moment’s pause, and Todoroki was nearly to the door when Midoriya responded, “Todoroki, I don’t know what you’re thinking when you say you’ll beat me, but of course you’re better than me.”

Akiho’s heart broke a little for Midoriya with his blatant acceptance of his statement. She empathized greatly with that lack of self-confidence. Her heart broke a little more when Midoriya kept talking, “I think you’re more capable than most people… Looking at it objectively…”

Even Kirishima seemingly felt bad for the green haired boy. He stepped forward with his hands held up placatingly and tried to interrupt, “Midoriya, you probably shouldn’t talk so negatively…”

“But everyone…” Midoriya’s head was bowed, but his voice was strong and steady, “The students from the other courses are aiming for the top with everything they’ve got. I can’t afford to fall behind. I’ll be going for it with everything I have, too.”

The whole class perked up at his words, seemingly drawing from Midoriya’s newfound drive; even Todoroki turned around to face the boy once more. Akiho watched intently as in that moment he blossomed from a small, scared boy that she needed to protect, to a fellow peer that was ready to stand his ground against the strongest person in their class. Midoriya was flourishing in this new environment, and it was time for Akiho to allow herself to do the same.

“Yeah.”

 

“IT’S TIME FOR THE STUDENTS TO ENTER THE FIRST-YEAR STAGE!”

Akiho’s mind was in a panic; time was going too fast and too slow at the same time. It felt like she was simultaneously breathing too quickly, and yet not getting enough air. Just as the hallway she and her classmates were standing in started to spin and darken slightly, a heavy hand clapped onto her shoulder and Kirishima’s quiet voice whispered, “Deep breaths, Akiho-chan.”

Silver eyes glanced up into bright red, seeing nothing but kindness and reassurance reflecting back at her. An errant thought crossed her mind that his eyes were a completely different shade than Bakugo’s. Kirishima’s were a bright candy apple red that reflected his bright personality, while Bakugo’s were like fiery rubies and extremely expressive.

‘They’re both pretty…’

Closing her eyes and shaking her head to physically remove the thoughts from her brain, Akiho breathed in deeply through her nose and exhaled through her mouth. When she opened her eyes, she noticed that the class had started making their way into the stadium. Without thinking, she grabbed Kirishima’s wrist and rushed after them, managing to remember to let go of the other redhead just before they came into view.

“It’s the U.A. sports festival!” Present Mic screeched over the loudspeakers, “The huge battle where fledgling heroes sharpen their swords once a year! Anyway, these are the guys, right? The miraculous new stars who overcame enemy attacks with their hearts of steel! Hero class 1-A, right?”

Akiho could feel herself still shaking as she walked out onto the field. She focused on her breathing, making sure to take slow, deep breaths and didn’t dare look up at the crowd like her classmates. Kirishima was looking around the audience, but there was a tension in his eyes that she hadn’t seen before, “Man, he’s going overboard with that praise. I’m getting nervous. Aren’t you, Bakugo?”

Akiho startled to see that Bakugo had fallen behind from the front of the pack to walk in time with them. She hadn’t noticed him there, nor did she expect that his ego could handle being anywhere but at the front of the class. Briefly, she wondered if the nerves were getting to him as well, but the blonde quickly disproved that with his response, “No, I’m just getting more into it.”

Bakugo’s face was alight with a dark grin, and Akiho believed without a doubt that he lived for this kind of situation. An opportunity for all eyes to be on him, to outshine everyone else around him? This was Bakugo’s paradise.

It was Akiho’s hell.

Her mantra replayed in her mind on loop, “Don’t overthink it… Don’t overthink it…”

“Don’t overthink what?” Kirishima leaned over and asked curiously.

“Sh-shit. Nothing, Kirishima-kun. Just trying to calm down.” Akiho stuttered back.

Furious with herself, Akiho forced herself to stand still and not claw at the back of her neck as the class came to a stop in front of a stage that held only Midnight and a podium. Present Mic introduced the other classes, but there wasn’t nearly as much pageantry involved. The poor general studies classes barely got an introduction at all.

When all the classes had made their way onto the field, Midnight swung her whip with a dramatic flair only she had, and addressed the crowd, “Time for the player pledge!”

Apparently, not many students beside herself and Bakugo had seen Midnight in her hero costume in person, as frantic murmurs broke out across the field. Even Kirishima was blushing and looking away slightly as he commented hesitantly, “Man, what is Ms. Midnight wearing?”

“That’s an R-rated hero for you.” Kaminari replied hoarsely, whilst not even blinking.

“Is it okay for her to be at a high school even though she’s R-rated?” Wondered Tokoyami aloud.

“YES!” Protested Mineta loudly, giving Midnight a thumbs up as blood dripped from his nose.

‘Pervert.’

“Quiet, everyone!” Midnight shouted, her whip cutting through the air with an impressively loud ‘swish’, “Representing the students is Bakugo Katsuki from class 1-A!”

The whole class seemed to be caught off guard by the choice of representative. Akiho personally thought it would have been Iida, as he was the class president, but Sero brought up an excellent point, “He did finish first in the entrance exam.”

“In the hero course.” Groused a female student from one of the general studies classes.

“It’s obvious she hates us.” Sero complained, his shoulders rising up to his ears defensively as he looked over in the girl’s direction.

“And it’s all Bakugo’s fault…” Griped Kaminari as he glared at the blonde on stage.

“It’s not all his fault, Kaminari…” Akiho protested weakly, trying to stand up for her friend.

There was a long pause as Bakugo stared up at the crowd of spectators, and then with total seriousness proclaimed, “I pledge… That I will be number one.”

Nearly the entirety of class 1-A stood in horrified silence, and the crowd was shocked still by Bakugo’s gall. The silence in the arena made Akiho’s surprised bark of laughter nearly echo in the large, open space.

‘Only Bakugo…’ Akiho thought fondly, shaking her head at the blonde.

Suddenly, all the student’s eyes were on her, and Akiho felt herself become enemy #2 behind Bakugo himself. Curiously, instead of making her more nervous, Akiho found that the animosity made her more focused on the task at hand. They would undoubtedly come after her now, and the knowledge of that fact pushed her anxiety away and her fight or flight response took over. Flight—figuratively or literally—was not an option; Akiho knew she would have to—likely literally—fight through a horde of her angry peers.

She was ready for it, and was ready to let her peers know it too. Adopting a very ‘Bakugo-like’ pose, Akiho squared her shoulders back, raised her head high, and smirked at the pack of angry students surrounding her. Her mantra coming to life in that moment. She wasn’t going to overthink, or self-sabotage; Akiho was going to let over a decade of brutal physical training guide her. Kirishima—who had been keeping an eye on her—noticed the change immediately, and gave her a small grin of encouragement.

The boos came not moments later.

“Don’t be so full of yourselves class 1-A!”

“Sludge bastard!”

Iida ran up to the stage, waving his arms robotically at Bakugo’s direction as he reprimanded, “Why are you doing something so disgraceful?!”

“Not my fault you guys are just steppingstones to my victory.” Bakugo replied easily, giving the crowd a thumbs down to compound his statement’s abrasiveness.

“You can’t just say things like that Bakugo! You represent us all!” Iida barked back, flailing energetically.

Bakugo didn’t respond, nor did he bother to look back in Iida’s direction. He shouldered his way through the crowd, hitting anyone that was in his direct line back to his spot near Kirishima and Akiho. She saw his red eyes glance over her, and he smirked darkly, “Confidence is a good look on you Metal Mouth.”

Midnight drew everyone’s attention before Akiho could find the words to respond, “Now let’s get started right away!” A huge screen lit up, and different challenges scrolled by at impossible to read speeds, “The first game is what you would call a ‘qualifier’. Every year, many drink their tears here! Now, here is the fateful first game!”

The screen came to a stop suddenly, and Akiho read the words carefully.

Obstacle Race

‘Fuck.’ Akiho swore to herself with a grimace before forcing herself back into her confident mind state, ‘No, you’ve got this Akiho. Don’t overthink it. Trust your instincts.’

Akiho missed Midnight’s explanation, but a quick look at the board let her know that all the classes were competing together. It didn’t seem fair to the general studies and business students, and Akiho found herself hoping that Shinsou somehow would make it through to the next round.

“Now, take your places everyone!”

The students from all the classes were guided to a singular corridor entrance, despite the fact that they had all come into the arena from individual ones originally. Akiho found herself near the front of the pack, with Ashido and Yaoyorozu to her left and right respectively. Strategically, Akiho knew that she needed all the advantage she could get; she was the slowest runner in class 1-A.

Three green lights appeared over the archway, signaling the countdown to the event.

Three lights.

Akiho allowed her quirk to flow over her, relishing in the powerful feeling it gave her.

Two lights.

She focused her quirk into her legs, unwilling to waste a second’s time when there was so much on the line. Any falter, trip, or stumble would likely cost her.

One light.

Akiho was ready to show the world what she was capable of.

“START!”

A stampede of students pushed forward into the narrow corridor. Instantly it became clear that there was not enough space for everyone to make it out easily. Elbows and knees were being thrown left and right, connecting with anything nearby in a mad grab for freedom. Akiho’s small size and significant weight was to her advantage—she was essentially a human battering ram—as she slipped through where she could, and bowled over anyone that got in her way. She quickly made her way to the exit of the corridor, feeling good about traversing the first obstacle when she heard it.

A hauntingly familiar, light tinkling sound coming towards her had Akiho instinctively leaping as high as she could with the aid of her quirk. When she was easily twenty feet off the ground, Akiho looked down at the ground to see it swiftly become covered in ice. Most of the students below were trapped up to their knees, just as she had been during her first combat training. The culprit rushed by next, icing the ground further as he went, shifting the terrain so that it was unfavorable to anyone else but him. It seemed Todoroki had taken a page out of Akiho’s book.

Two could play that game.

As she fell back to the ground, Akiho used her quirk on her feet, pulling the excess metal from her talons and piercing through the bottoms of her boots. When she landed, her weight on the spikes made them penetrate the ice, and with her new ice cleats, hurried after Todoroki. She couldn’t afford to use her quirk to enhance her running now, the jump had used a lot of her stamina, and she needed to conserve her energy. It was only the beginning of the first event after all.

The sound of explosions coming up on her fast let her know that Bakugo had made it through Todoroki’s trap as well. Yaoyorozu apparently made it through as well, vaulting through the air as she taunted, “Naïve, Todoroki!”

“I won’t let you get away so easily, you Icy-Hot bastard!” Bakugo threatened as he flew through the air past Akiho.

Much to Akiho’s shock, Mineta passed her next; throwing balls from his head onto the ground and bouncing from one to the next. He too, called out to the boy in the lead with an arrogance that made Akiho want to roll her eyes, “I’ve outwitted you, Todoroki! How pathetic!”

Mineta was quickly gaining on Todoroki, and his monologue continued, “Take this! My special attack! Gra—”

Akiho watched as Mineta’s gloating was cut short by a gigantic robot arm that slammed into the small—annoying—boy from behind. He was sent tumbling, cartwheeling head over feet until he was behind Akiho and out of sight. Midoriya was obviously a saint; he was the only one who seemed to care about the boy’s wellbeing and called out worriedly, “Mineta!”

It wasn’t much. But it was more than anybody else did for the purple creep.

Without breaking her stride, Akiho ran past Midoriya and the other students that had hesitated at the sight of the robots. The metal of her cleats had been recalled when the ice path Todoroki made had stopped.

“Targets acquired.” One of the robots said mechanically, before posing intimidatingly and adding in a much scarier, modulated tone, “Lots!”

‘Non-living enemies are much easier to deal with.’ Akiho mused, thinking of the endless hours of target practice her mother put her through.

There were three small robots in front of Akiho, before a large open field revealed seven much larger robots behind them. Even more small enemies started filtering in from the sides, and Akiho knew she had to make it through fast if she didn’t want to get caught up in a never-ending fight. Calling up her shields quickly, Akiho ducked under a punch that the smallest, front-most robot sent her way and ran to the left. There, a second robot, the average sized one, waited for her.

Releasing her grip on her right shield and detaching it from her forearm, Akiho raised her arm and leveled it with the robot’s head. Focusing her power on the shield, she held it in place whilst simultaneously pushing on it as hard as she could with her quirk. When enough pressure was put on the shield, she stopped holding it back, allowing it to shoot forward. The shield launched from its spot on her arm; whistling through the air with great speed. The sharp pointed end of her kite shield cut clean through the head of the robot with ease, and continued to careen ahead until it embedded itself into the ground with a concussive bang. Akiho couldn’t help but say the name of her attack as it happened, “Shield Piercer!”

The body of the robot fell shortly after it lost its head; obviously no longer functional. As she ran around her felled opponent, Akiho swung her arm out, and recalled the shield to her forearm without missing a step. In front of her, Todoroki crouched low as he moved to take on the seven gigantic robots.

Huge amounts of ice erupted from the ground and froze the looming robots, freezing them in place, and allowing Todoroki to slip through their defenses by running through their legs. Even though Akiho was running as fast as she could, there was still half the open field between herself and the robotic ice sculptures, and she saw Kirishima and TetsuTetsu run ahead of her. Then she heard one of the students behind her shout, “He stopped them! Quick! Between their legs! We can get through!”

“I wouldn’t if I were you!” Todoroki shouted back in warning, “I froze them when they were unbalanced!”

Almost as if they were waiting for Todoroki to say that, the broken robots began collapsing forward. Distantly, she could hear Present Mic’s voice shouting, “The first one through the barrier is Todoroki Shoto from class 1-A!”

But Akiho was much more concerned with the fact that one of the robots fell directly on her cousin and one of her best friends, “Tsukun! Eijiro!”

Akiho found herself at the robot site and started slicing through the inferior metal with the sharpened edges of her shields. The other students panicked uselessly behind her.

“Hey! Someone’s trapped underneath!”

‘No fucking shit! Help me!’

“Wouldn’t that kill them?!”

‘They’re strong, they’d survive this as long as she got them out.’

“Will people die at this sports festival?!”

“I’m gonna start killing people if you don’t start helping soon!” Akiho shouted back furiously, still working to get through the pile in front of her. It didn’t help that she had no idea where they were under the rubble, and thus had to be careful of her swings.

A crunching sound from above made Akiho look up just in time to see Kirishima emerge—fully hardened and angry—from the felled corpse of the robot, “Like I’d die!”

Scant seconds later, TetsuTetsu emerged as well, just a few feet away from where Kirishima was, “That Class A really is filled with bastards!”

Relief flooded Akiho, and without thinking, her arms swung upward; her shields turning into whips that gripped the top of the robot, and hauled herself up to their level. Worry blinded her, and she wasn’t entirely sure where she put her feet on the way up, but luckily, she never slipped or faltered. She was on top of the downed robot with the pair of boys within seconds. Just barely remembering to recall the metal protruding from her forearms, Akiho reached forward and wrapped an arm around each of their necks.

“Oh? Is Hagane Akiho from class 1-A going for a final takedown?”

With her considerable strength, she pulled them down to her level; bringing their heads together and breathing in a deep, calming breath. Glaring silver eyes darted quickly between the two boys, checking for injuries. When she found none, she scolded, “You two just scared the living shit out of me. I’m glad you’re ok.”

“Feh, like I’d get hurt by something like that!” Grumbled TetsuTetsu, looking at Akiho incredulously.

Kirishima on the other hand, was grinning profusely, “I heard you, you know.”

Akiho was genuinely confused, “Heard what?”

“You called me Eijiro.” Teased Kirishima.

“I did not!”

“You totally did! Do it again! Call me Eijiro!”

Now knowing that they were both ok—especially if Kirishima was teasing her—Akiho knew that she had to get back to the race. Just as quickly as she pulled them in for the impromptu group hug, she released them. Akiho pushed them away from her, ‘accidentally’ knocking Kirishima off the edge and back down to the ground. There was a muffled crash, and Kirishima called up annoyed, “I’ll get you to say it again Akiho-chan!”

TetsuTetsu’s head whipped over to glance at her in disbelief, “He calls you by your first name?”

“Bye Tsukun!”

Akiho jumped down from the robot to continue racing after Todoroki before she was pulled into that conversation. It seemed everyone was confused, as Present Mic asked, “Hey, Mummy-man. Hagane is in your class, right? What was that?”

“Hagane likely rationalized that the importance of the wellbeing of her fellow classmates outweighed the race. A quick glance to make sure that they were largely unharmed was all she needed to feel at ease continuing the course.” Aizawa explained easily, as though it should have been common knowledge.

“Oho! It seems as though we’ve found the sweetheart of class 1-A!” Present Mic teased.

Akiho had no time to bask in the praise of her favorite hero, nor worry about Present Mic’s remark. The next obstacle was in front of her, and Bakugo was coming up on her fast if the steadily growing louder explosions behind her were to be trusted. There was a huge, deep pit in her way; the only seemingly viable way to traverse it were the stone pillars connected with thick metal cording. Frowning, Akiho was unsure how to navigate the obstacle.

‘I can’t use my wings yet… I’ll wear myself out before the other events even begin.’

Akiho watched as Bakugo flew by overhead, propelled forward by his explosions. Their eyes met briefly, and the small redhead could see the agitated confusion on his face. He wanted her to use her wings; hell, even she wanted to use her wings, but she knew it was too soon.

A large group started collecting behind her, and they all looked aghast at the challenge ahead of them. Akiho felt better that she wasn’t alone in her dismay.

‘Don’t overthink it…’

Distantly, Akiho could hear Present Mic’s voice, but she wasn’t paying attention to the words. After backing up until she was almost in the crowd again, Akiho rushed forward, powering her legs with her quirk until she reached the edge and leapt into the open air.

“KUUDERE-CHAN, ARE YOU CRAZY?!”

As she was falling, she swung her left arm forward with a brutal punch and released a metal whip that pierced into the side of one of the stone pillars. Her shoulder was yanked harshly as her fall suddenly turned into a controlled swing. Using her quirk to keep the whip fluid but the grapple solid, she rode it smoothly until she was about to crash into the column she had speared. She quickly repeated the process with her right arm and another pillar further away. As she pulled away from the first pillar, Akiho didn’t have the time to change the dynamic of the hooks embedded into the stone. Even though it was against everything she was taught, Akiho was forced to leave small amounts of metal behind each time she swung from column to column.

When she reached the far side of the canyon, Akiho reshaped her metal whips into rock climbing pickaxes and climbed her way out without using her quirk. It cost her time, and many of her classmates were beginning to catch up to her again, but she was already starting to feel the beginnings of her quirk’s fatigue. Avoiding Todoroki’s ice trap at the beginning of the race had cost her dearly.

As Akiho ran up to the final barrier, she saw Bakugo and Todoroki fighting awkwardly in the middle of an open field for first place. They would constantly sidestep and hop strangely as they moved forward, using their quirks to send small strikes at one another. She only understood why, when Iida began to run at a full sprint, speeding past her.

Explosions followed the tall, blue-haired boy, and it seemed like he was just barely fast enough to clear the explosion radius. The entire field was riddled with landmines.

Kirishima and TetsuTetsu ran by next, their quirks already fully activated. Akiho watched as they both thoughtlessly ran through the field; triggering the explosions and pushing through regardless. Other students were treading carefully between the visible markings on the ground, but it seemed as though there were some that were better hidden than others; explosions were sending some of them flying.

Knowing that she had wasted enough time as is, Akiho decided to take advantage of Kirishima and TetsuTetsu’s approach. By making sure to stay in the path that they ran, she had a safe passage as she ran. The explosions were slowing them down, as they had to brace themselves as to not be blown back by the concussive force. By the time they were half-way through the field, Akiho had nearly caught up to them and had to think of something fast.

With only a few seconds to try and improvise, Akiho had a plan that she hated, but it was all she had. Calling forth thin whips of metal, Akiho waited until the boys had caused another explosion, and then rushed forward after taking a deep breath and holding it. Using the smokescreen as cover, she moved ahead of them, whipping the ground in front of her as hard as she could in an attempt to set off the landmines before she accidentally stepped on them.

The resulting explosions shattered the ends of the thinner than normal whips, thus resulting in sharp shrapnel that was unsafe to walk on. Akiho was unaffected as she ran through her trap, the jagged steel that penetrated her shoes could not pierce her metallic feet. Unfortunately, the explosions also created a thick smokescreen that blinded her, so she had to trust her innate sense of direction and hope that it didn’t lead her astray. Akiho naturally had a keen sense of due north that she attributed to her metallic body and the earth’s magnetic fields; though now she thought it may have to do with the fact that she was part bird. But she wasn’t travelling in that direction, so she tried to focus on keeping that feeling exactly where it was just before she obscured her vision.

An angry—thankfully unfamiliar—female voice called out from behind her, “OUCH! Wha—Spikes?!”

‘Sorry’ Akiho apologized internally, ‘I can’t afford to give anyone else an advantage.’

Akiho’s lungs were starting to demand air, but she was unsure if the pink, glittery smoke that surrounded her was safe to inhale. It didn’t matter, as shortly after her lungs began to truly burn, a huge explosion from behind her rocked the area. The resulting shockwave blew the smokescreen around her away, just in time for her to stop running and gasp in shock at what she could see.

Midoriya was flying through the air on a plate of green metal armor; likely powered by the awesome explosion that had just occurred. Bakugo and Todoroki who were 20 feet ahead of her, looked up in shock to see the new threat to first place. Both boys immediately abandoned their battle and instead focused on trying to regain first place from Midoriya.

It was only when she noticed that Sero and Tokoyami had run past her, that Akiho realized that she had stopped running. Immediately she reinstated her previous harebrained plan, and resumed using her metal whips to clear a safe pathway for her. She continued striking the ground—even after the explosions stopped—until she broke free of the smokescreen. In front of her was a corridor that lead back into the arena, and Akiho felt relief that the event was nearly over.

Pushing her body as hard as it would go, Akiho ran at a full sprint towards the finish line. Nothing else mattered to her in that moment. Not the fast falling footsteps behind her. Not the loud bickering of Kirishima and TetsuTetsu that kept creeping closer to her. Just the feeling of one foot falling in front of the other.

She could do this.

The sudden change from the darkness of the tunnel to the brightly lit arena blinded her, and Akiho barely skidded to a stop before colliding with Sero. The lanky boy was bent at the waist, hands on his knees as he panted. Akiho found herself in the same position shortly afterwards, but managed to spare him a small smile when he shot a friendly one her way.

However, Akiho’s attention was caught when Yaoyorozu stumbled into the arena looking defeated and beyond exhausted. It was only when the other girl turned to lean against the arena wall that Akiho saw why: Mineta was clinging to her back like a perverted leech. Anger shot through her, though Akiho knew that the only rule was that the students couldn’t leave the bounds of the course. Mineta hadn’t technically done anything wrong. He was just lucky that his hands weren’t anywhere inappropriate, and that he jumped down before she could do anything about it; otherwise Akiho would’ve ripped him off without her usual judicious control of force when dealing with living enemies.

“The first game of the first-year stage is finally over!” Midnight’s voice echoed through the arena, pulling Akiho from her dark thoughts, “Now let’s take a look at the results!”

Akiho watched the screen quietly, unsure of how she placed. She had been too busy catching her breath—and then glaring at Mineta—to pay attention to how many people had been in the arena before her. Midoriya had surprisingly come in first, followed by Todoroki, and Bakugo in second and third. In fourth place was the first student from class 1-B, a serious looking girl with thorny vines for hair named Shiozaki Ibara. A few more names passed, and suddenly her name and a picture of her glaring fiercely to the side were on the screen with a large number ‘9’ beside it. She assumed that it was taken when she was glaring at Mineta just a few moments ago; noting that Kirishima’s photo reflected his uniform’s recently ripped collar.

‘9th place?’ Akiho thought disbelievingly to herself, amazed that she had done that well.

Strong arms wrapped around her from behind, sending Akiho into an instinctive panic before Kirishima’s voice cheered happily, “We did it, Akiho-chan!”

Heart still beating erratically, Akiho turned slightly and batted halfheartedly at the other redhead, “Let me go! You know I hate that!”

Kirishima pouted at her, but did as he was told, “Aw, come on Akiho-chan. We beat the first trial! It’s time to celebrate!”

As he bounced from foot to foot, Kirishima suddenly winced. Picking up his foot, he examined the bottom of his shoe and Akiho noticed a few shards of her metal embedded in the rubber. Without thinking, she flicked her fingers in a quick, ‘come hither’ motion; calling the metal back to her. When she was done, Kirishima looked back up at her and grinned, “Thanks. That was a mean trick, you know. If it had been anyone other than me, someone might’ve gotten hurt.”

“That was kind of the point Eijiro, otherwise I would’ve left a path for everyone to follow.” Akiho explained with a sarcastic edge.

Bright red eyes widened considerably, and Akiho wondered if Kirishima’s face hurt from how hard he was grinning, “You called me Eijiro!” He turned to the crowd of students, and shouted to Ashido, who was quite a distance away, “SHE CALLED ME EIJIRO!”

“WHAT?!” Came the pink girl’s energetic reply.

“I KNOW RIGHT?”

“For fuck’s sake, please shut up.” Akiho grumbled, embarrassed beyond belief.

“NEVER!”

“I’m out of here.”

“AKIHO-CHAN! DON’T GO!”

Akiho was laughing to herself quietly, doing her best to not encourage Kirishima’s wild antics. She made her way over to Bakugo, who was standing by himself; the intense seething look on his face was enough that all the other students gave him a wide berth. Akiho ignored the glaring warning signs to stay away from him, walking over and smiling softly, “Congrats Bakugo-kun.”

Hard, dark, red eyes met open silver; Bakugo’s face never lost its intensity but Akiho’s smile began to slip. Perhaps the other students had the correct idea in giving Bakugo plenty of space. It felt like the boy was trying to determine if she was being sincere or making fun of him.

“What’s there to congratulate? I lost!” Bakugo barked, “I lost to that fucking Deku! Do you see how he’s ruining my life now? I had that Icy-Hot bastard!”

Openly frowning now, Akiho tried to reason with the hotheaded boy, “That’s not fair. He’s just trying his best like the rest of us.”

“Fuck that! I’m going to prove it to everybody that I’m better than Deku! Better than all of you!”

“Bakugo—”

“You can fuck off if you’re just going to defend him. I’m not in the mood.”

Bakugo waited a moment, still maintaining the intense, direct eye contact. Akiho wasn’t sure what he was looking for, but whatever it was that he saw had him turning around and walking away from her with a ‘Tch’.