Aizawa sat and glared at the city map on the computer screen, taking a bitter sip of his coffee. He had been roped into finding a duo of “vigilantes” for the local police of the city Musutafu because of his background in being an underground hero. Supposedly, his experience with the “unsavory underbelly of the city”, as they’d put it, would benefit the law officers in finding the illegal do-gooders.
He set his coffee down and pursed his lips as he scrolled through the map on his screen, nineteen blue dots scattered across it. Nineteen. If his intel was right, the duo had taken down nineteen villainous groups in the span of three years. That hadn’t included the randos they’d picked off of the streets with petty crimes and manslaughter under their belts. There was no solid connection between every villain that the vigilantes had brought in, except for the singed marks they all sported, scattered over their bodies, and the notes attached to each of them, with scrawled handwriting cramped onto the paper, that depicted every one of their crimes.
At first, the police and Pro-heroes had been baffled by the sudden decrease in open cells at the local prisons. The help hadn’t been unwelcomed, but the way the two anonymous “heroes” were going about it had been completely illegal. Aizawa had assumed it had been a way to help make the world a better place, but tonight had proved something different after he’d helped wrestle the vigilantes’ latest “gifts” into their cells for the next few decades.
“Those damn shitheads!” Buraddouta had screamed as Rock Lock helped to shove her into the small room, ten of her fellow lackeys already glaring at the heroes from inside. “Those assholes! They fucking cheated me out!”
“Yeah, yeah,” Rock Lock had muttered, clearly uninterested.
“I fucking paid them!” she had ranted on. “I paid those little shitheads and then they turned on me! Those fuckers—”
“The people who caught you—” Aizawa had stepped in, slightly intrigued— “You hired them? For what?”
Buraddouta had spat at the floor, face twisted in disgust. “Yeah, to take care of Keruberosu and his mutts.”
Aizawa had arched an eyebrow as Rock Lock had hummed, “I thought vigilantes worked for free.”
Buraddouta’s annoyed scowl had morphed into furrowed brows and a lip half curled in confusion. “Hell no, man. I don’t deal with those kinds of wannabes. These fuckers are mercenaries. Damn good ones too. I just didn’t realize they’d hang me out to dry like weed! Those assholes should learn the damn meaning of loyalty. Those fuckers...”
The rest of her tirade had been drowned out by the clanging of the cell door slamming shut. Aizawa had turned away, mind churning over the new information.
It had started to make sense: the size of gangs being turned in, and how deadly their crimes had been, were starting to increase. It would only be logical for those events to start taking place if the “vigilantes” were actually gaining money from their efforts, resulting in higher-grade weapons, intelligence, or even loyalty. Although, that loyalty wouldn’t be easy to come by if they kept dropping their past employers into the law’s hands. Which did bring up the question of how they kept finding new employers if they were only going to betray them later. It did seem unusual for that tidbit of information to not reach the other villain groups.
“Augh, Shoutaaa.” Aizawa jolted out of his thoughts and turned in his chair at the long, lengthy whine. Yamada slumped into a spare seat beside him and laid an arm on his shoulder, leaning up against him. “You’ve been looking at this stuff for hours. When are you gonna head home?”
“When I find the mercenaries,” Aizawa muttered. “Or, at least, when I get a better idea on how to find them.”
Yamada groaned, letting his head fall back. “Shouta, that could take you days, and I wanna go home. Come on, brood on this later. You’re my ride!”
“Then take a cab,” Aizawa deadpanned. Yamada’s whine rang through the room.
“I don’t have enough information on them,” he tried to explain, scratching at the stubble on his cheek. “It’s all rumors, mostly. Some villains refuse to talk about them, and all the others say they’d never seen or met them before. But one did tell me that they send out kids as their messengers.”
“Really?” Yamada perked slightly, cringing. “That sucks. Wonder how they dragged the kids in?”
“Like I said,” Aizawa reiterated. “It’s all rumors. The kids might not have even existed in the first place.”
“Did they say what they looked like?”
Aizawa shrugged. “A blond boy and a plain, freckled kid. They didn’t know the gender of the second one. ”
Yamada frowned, pursing his lips. “Still, if it isn’t a rumor…”
Aizawa nodded. “That could complicate some things. Don’t worry, I’m not taking it completely off the table, but I doubt there are any kids involved.”
Yamada nodded. “I hope you’re right.”
Aizawa’s frown deepened as he clicked on a blue dot on the map. A page popped up, detailing everything the police and Pro-Heroes had read on the scribbled out notes, including the exact location the villains had been captured in.
“Well,” he sighed. “The sooner we get them, the quicker we’ll find out if I am right.”
Three weeks later, Aizawa’s phone rang as he was heading home after an evening training session with his students at UA.
“What?” he snapped, picking up.
He slowed to a halt at Tsukauchi’s voice. “Yeah?”
“There’s been some unusual activity at a potential villain’s base. It’s in the next town over from UA. Do you mind going to check it out?”
Aizawa tilted his head. “Do you think our ‘gifters’ might make an appearance?”
Tsukauchi hesitated on the other end of the call. “It’s a possibility.”
Aizawa nodded. “I’ll be there. Who am I looking for?”
“Fat Gum and Ryukyu were the heroes on patrol. Kamui Woods is going to join them now. I’ll send you their location.”
“Good. I’ll be there. Thanks for letting me know.”
“No problem. Good luck,” Tsukauchi tacked on before hanging up. A few seconds later, Aizawa’s phone pinged with a message. He looked over the coordinates and spun on his heel, heading to the train station. It wouldn’t take too long for him to get there as long as he didn’t miss the next train that would probably be leaving in…
He glanced down at his phone again and cursed under his breath at the time. He took off at a sprint, his swears only growing louder as he ran.
The train was just about to depart by the time Aizawa managed to slip in, tugging his scarf out of harm's way from the closing doors. He sighed, wiped off a thin film of sweat on his forehead, and dropped into an empty seat between an older woman and a teenage boy. The woman glanced over him and shifted further away, giving his unshaven face a look of distaste. The boy, on the other hand, dug into his bag and handed the winded hero a plastic water bottle with a soft smile. Aizawa graciously accepted it with an awkward grunt and a mumbled, “thank you”. He glanced over the teen: brown hair, no freckles. Not one of the rumored kids then. That was good.
He tilted the bottle back and downed half of its contents. The water was room temperature, not exactly refreshing, but he appreciated the concern and kindness.
The teenager left the train at the next stop, giving Aizawa a cheerful farewell before he hopped off, and the woman on his other side scampered away at the station after that. Then, his station finally appeared, just as the sun was starting to alight atop the city’s landscape.
He slipped out of the train and strolled down the crowded streets, glancing at his phone to check his progress in finding the other three Pro-Heroes. The coordinates dragged him further to the edge of the city where some buildings looked half-ready to collapse, various windows were boarded up, and questionable stains littered the entrances to alleyways.
Dropping his phone into his pocket, Aizawa crept down a small side street. Nishiya, the young Pro-Hero: Kamui Woods, whirled around at his footsteps and visibly relaxed when the underground hero held up his hands and came closer.
“Good. You made it,” he huffed, turning back around to stare at the building further down the street.
“What’s going on?” Aizawa asked, falling in behind him.
“Ryukyu and I saw some people looking pretty suspicious sneaking around the back of the building,” Toyomitsu, Pro-Hero: Fat Gum, retold, his gaze refusing to stray from the building. “We went ta check it out, but then, some other guys were looking around before they went in the front, and then more guys came and did the same thing. Dat’s when we called for back-up.”
“But Kamui Woods was the only one nearby who could help us out,” Tatsuma, the Dragon Hero: Ryukyu, added. Glancing over her shoulder, she offered Aizawa a relieved smile. “I’m glad you could make it though.”
Aizawa grunted, unwilling to reveal why he was truly there. The heroes' gazes all shifted back to the building, waiting.
“How long has it been since the last group went in?”
“Three more a few seconds before you got here,” Nishiya answered brusquely.
Aizawa nodded. “Which totals up to?”
“Thirty-five,” Tatsuma murmured.
Aizawa pursed his lips, brain parsing the math. Thirty-five versus four. Even with the element of surprise, that would still be almost nine villains per hero, and that didn’t include however many other people might have already been in the building. Too much of a risk, especially in a populated area filled with unstable structures and innocent bystanders’ homes.
“How do you know if they’re villains?” he pressed. “Maybe it’s some sort of kink convention they’re all embarrassed by?”
“A kink that involves high-grade weapons that are barely concealed under jackets that are too heavy to be worn in the middle of the summer?” Tatsuma looked back at him, arching an eyebrow.
Aizawa glowered at the new information.
“Think we might have ta fight first and ask questions later on this one, Eraserhead,” Toyomitsu lamented.
Aizawa reluctantly nodded. “Alright, fine. But we’ll need to work as one unit. We have no idea how many people are actually in the building, or what their quirks are. We could very well be walking into a death trap. Are you sure we can’t call back-up?”
“They might not make it in time,” Tatsuma hesitantly warned. “We don’t know if these people are going to start something bloody now or not.”
“I’d rather risk that and know they’ll come eventually rather than not knowing if they can come at all,” Aizawa decided.
“I’ll make the call then,” Nishiya announced, stepping back and pulling out his communicator.
Aizawa dipped his head. “Good, you do that. Meanwhile, let’s decide on—”
A bone-shuddering boom filled the air as glass burst out of the building’s windows, showering the sidewalk and street with glittering, serrated edges. Car alarms blared down both sides of the street. The heroes stumbled back, minds reeling.
Aizawa was the first to snap out of his surprise.
“Woods,” he barked. “Get that back-up now! Gum, Ryukyu, come with me.” The heroes raced across the street. Aizawa smashed down the door with a swift kick and slipped in. His first footstep was on open air. He tipped forward with a strangled cry. Toyomitsu’s massive hand wrapped around his arm and yanked him up.
“Eraserhead!” he cried, pulling him back to the sidewalk. “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine,” Aizawa snapped. He pointed into the dismantled building. “The floor’s gone. It might have been caused by the explosion. Have Woods call up the medical teams. Ryukyu, check the other floors, see if they’ve been damaged too and if there are any wounded. Careful! This might still be a trap.”
Tatsuma nodded as her body morphed and shifted. Her monstrous wings carried her up to the second floor as she peered in, cautiously poking her head through the busted window. Toyomitsu bellowed to Nishiya from across the street his instructions. Aizawa took a step back, looking for signs of smoke or movement on the upper floors.
That’s when he saw two small figures scamper off down the street.
“Hey!” he yelled, chasing after them.
“Eraserhead!” Nishiya cried.
“Keep going,” he ordered over his shoulder. “I’ll be back.” He tugged his scarf down, ready to toss it out and capture the escapees.
“Go!” one of the figures in a black-and-gray hoodie barked, shoving the other one ahead of them. The other figure, wearing a dark green hoodie, tripped but managed to right themselves as they sprinted faster down the street. Aizawa picked up his own pace, the voices of his fellow heroes starting to fade away behind him.
The green figure skidded into a small alley, the black-and-gray figure right on their heels. Aizawa smacked his shoulder into the alley’s wall in his haste to follow. He pushed himself off of it and raced after them again. The alley started to grow narrower. The figures leaped over piles of garbage, the one wearing black pushing and knocking over items behind them as they ran. Aizawa jumped over every one of them, his pace unaffected by the sudden obstacles. He inched closer, gradually gaining ground. Yanking on his scarf, Aizawa threw it out, wrapping it around the closest figure’s waist.
The black-and-gray hoodie yelped as he was pulled back, his feet flying out from under him. “Shit!” he cried as he landed on his back, knocking over a leaning pile of wooden slabs. They fell on top of him, keeping him pinned down beneath them.
The other figure whirled around. Aizawa glanced up, catching sight of green curls peeking out beneath the oversized hood and a dirty medical mask before pops and crackles echoed around him. His gaze snapped down to his captive, sparks dancing around his hands. Aizawa’s hair flew up around his face as he unleashed his quirk. The immediate silence felt as though the world was holding its breath.
“What the hell?!” the confined figure screeched when the pops didn’t return. He struggled beneath the pieces of wood. Aizawa tightened his grip on his scarf and tugged at it. The figure grunted and strained harder to no avail.
One down, Aizawa thought, shuffling slightly to the side to get the second figure into his peripheral. Now for the other— Something flew towards his face. Aizawa jolted back, getting a face full of rotting, slime-covered trash. He gagged and released one hand from his scarf to shove the vile slop off of his face. A blur of green shot towards him and a slab of wood swung out from behind them, arcing its way through the air until it slammed into his stomach. Aizawa grunted, the air in his lungs rushing out, and doubled over. He grabbed the wood and yanked on it, but the figure had already released it and was racing back to their partner.
“Holy shit, Deku!” the black-and-gray hoodie cried. Aizawa’s head shot up at the name. That can’t be possible… “You fucking—”
“He can stop quirks with his eyes. Run!” the green-haired, Deku, rushed out, tossing aside some of the wooden slabs.
The other figure shoved the rest off of himself and jumped to his feet. “Then move!” he ordered, ripping off Aizawa’s scarf.
“Hey,” the hero wheezed, forcing himself to straighten. “Wait. Deku, stop!” Saying the name only made the two figures run faster and zip around another corner. He scrambled after them, cursing under his breath. When he came around the corner, his ex-captive was crouched on the top of a brick wall, barbed wire crushed beneath his shoes, and in the middle of tossing his partner over to the other side. The green hoodie disappeared over the edge and the lone figure twisted around long enough for Aizawa to catch the bright orange “X” painted over the front of his hoodie, and the lone middle finger raised proudly in the air before he too slipped to the other side of the wall.
Aizawa glared at the empty space the figure had been occupying, rubbing the stabbing pain in his side, most likely a broken rib from the green one's surprise attack. That was inconvenient.
He trudged back to the building the other heroes were still at, digging into his pocket for his phone. Dialing it, he held it away from his ear as it rang.
“Shouta!” Yamada greeted, nearly blasting the speakers. Aizawa winced. “Hey, wassup? I thought you were supposed to be on a mission? That’s what Tsukauchi said.”
“I am,” Aizawa sighed, rubbing the bridge of his nose. “And I think I’ve found our two mercenaries.”
“Woah, really?!” Yamada cried. “That’s great! So you caught them then?”
“No,” Aizawa growled. “The little shits got away.”
“Aw, Shouta, I’m— Wait…” he paused. “Did you just say ‘little’?”
Aizawa nodded. “Yeah. I did.”
“Are they… short or something?”
“No,” Aizawa groaned, closing his eyes and inhaling deeply before daring to continue on. “It turns out the terrifying mercenaries, King Explosion Murder and Deku, don’t use kids to bring their messages. They are the kids.”
Aizawa’s eyes scanned over the paper in his hand, his other already poised to grab another from the large stack beside him. It was difficult to decipher the crooked handwriting on it at times, the letters almost lying on top of each other in some parts, as though whoever had written it had tried to cram as many as possible into one small space. He continued to scour the rest of the paper though, searching for anything the ex-villains might have written in their recounting of their crimes, and even the events leading up to their arrest. Most had only pleaded guilty to their crimes, leaving out what they might have been doing before any law officers or heroes had arrived. The rest had cooperated just fine, either giving the bare basics of being caught or eloquently waxing a full novel. Aizawa tried to pay the most attention to the latter, they tended to have more information.
On his other side was his laptop, opened to the police’s library of audio confessions. It was paused on the current recording of the criminal who’d written the paper he was holding. So far, both guilty pleas were exactly the same, as they had been the last five times he’d read and listened to them. He’d spent the last three days trying to dig out any information on the two kids: Deku and King Explosion Murder, or Kem, as he was starting to call the latter. When the criminals had all first written and spoken their recountings, he hadn’t paid much mind to anything more than if they had known what the mysterious mercenaries had looked like or where they might have been located. Anything else hadn’t managed to pique his interest. This time, he planned to comb through every plea until he’d picked them thoroughly apart like a vulture to a carcass.
So far, though, he hadn’t found anything new. The most he’d gleaned was from the one villain who had claimed the Mercenary Duo had used kids as messengers. Listening closer to the audio and analyzing every word they had written, it seemed the low-level thug had seen Kem and Deku sneaking to the gang hideout in order to leave behind a message, then had scampered off before anyone else had seen them. When he’d first heard it, back before he’d known the terrifying mercenaries were no older than maybe fifteen, Aizawa had assumed it had been just two kids trying to pull a harmless prank of some kind, especially since none of the Duo’s other victims had ever seen the kids before. Aizawa was just disappointed now that he hadn’t considered the supposable “rumor” more from the start.
He leaned back with a weary sigh. Kids. They were just children. How had they managed to get dragged into that kind of work? Maybe someone had accidentally used a de-aging quirk on them? It was a possibility, though a minor one at that. Aizawa rubbed his face with his hands as he rested his elbows on his knees. How had this happened?
“Hey.” He raised his head at Yamada’s soft voice. The blond man gently placed a cup of coffee on his desk, situating the mug until a cartoon cat’s smiling face was turned towards him. Aizawa quietly huffed in amusement and cringed at the dull pain that flared in his side, courtesy of the broken rib the green-haired kid had given him. Thanks to Recovery Girl, his ailment had mostly been healed, but it still ached if he twisted the wrong way.
“So,” Yamada drawled, grabbing a chair from a nearby desk and dragging it over. He settled onto it backward, arms folded over the chair’s back. “How’s your search going? Your class kinda misses you.”
Aizawa sighed and grabbed the cup. “I’m sure Iida’s keeping them in line.”
“Oh, he is,” Yamada assured, eyes widening for emphasis. “But Kaminari and Ashido are asking about you a lot. And Yaoyorozu says you’re sleeping a lot more during class. Are you trying to pull all-nighters again?”
Aizawa scowled. Stupid students snitching on him… “I’m getting plenty of sleep, Hizashi. You don’t need to worry about me.”
Yamada’s hum didn’t sound even remotely fooled.
“So?” he finally pressed.
Aizawa glanced towards him, entertaining the idea of playing dumb. He settled on a sigh and took a sip of the coffee. “Nothing,” he admitted. “I can’t find anything on them. No one knows where they live, where they come from. Hell, most of them don’t even know what they look like, and everyone that does, or should, won’t say anything about it!”
“Maybe they’re just embarrassed a couple of kids were able to take them down so easily?” Yamada hazarded.
Aizawa shrugged, the idea not an unfamiliar one to him.
“How many times are you gonna keep reading and listening to these confessions?” Yamada piped up again, gesturing to Aizawa’s open laptop and stacks of paper. “Haven’t you already gone through them? What is this, the third time?”
Aizawa didn’t bother to correct him. “I need to make sure I didn’t miss anything,” he explained.
“Well, maybe you should take a break then, look over this with a fresh set of eyes?”
Aizawa scrubbed a hand over his face, his brain starting to entertain the idea.
A ring from his phone made both heroes jump, peering over at the Caller ID.
“It’s blocked,” Aizawa murmured. He picked it up, thumb hovering over the Receive Call button.
“Wait,” Yamada hissed, as though the caller could hear them. “What if it’s a quirk that hypnotizes you when they talk or something?”
Aizawa hesitated before shrugging. “Then snap me out of it.” He answered the call before he could change his mind. He opened his mouth to grunt out a “hello” but Yamada slapped a hand over his mouth. He glared at his friend, who exaggeratedly mouthed out, “Their quirk!”
“Hello,” a smooth voice rumbled. Aizawa stiffened and Yamada’s grip on his face tightened. “I believe this is the underground hero, Eraserhead?”
Aizawa’s eyes narrowed as he waited for the voice to speak again.
“I’m only going to say this once,” the voice continued on. “There’s going to be something that’ll interest you over in the Minato district involving your ‘Mercenary Duo’.” Aizawa froze at the name. “It’s going to be at nineteen-thirty. Sharp.” The voice grew dark and ominous as it continued, “Don’t be late.” It turned slightly cheerier as it tacked on, “And bring some friends. You’ll need them.”
Aizawa tore off Yamada’s hand, questions burning on the tip of his tongue. The caller hung up, leaving him gaping at nothing.
“Shouta?” Yamada nudged, face pinched in concern. “You doing okay there? What’d they say?”
Aizawa closed his mouth and worked his jaw before speaking. “He said to go to the Minato district at seven-thirty tonight.”
Aizawa shrugged, finger tapping his desk. “Our ‘Mercenary Duo’ will be there.”
Yamada perked up. “Really?”
Aizawa nodded as silence hung heavily over them, stifling and oppressive.
“What if it’s a trap?”
Aizawa shrugged again. “I wasn’t planning on going alone. He even said to bring people with me.”
“An anonymous tipper?”
“Maybe.” Aizawa glared at the papers in front of him, brain rushing through every possible scenario that could appear.
“I need some back-up,” he announced, standing.
Yamada hopped up beside him. “Say no more!”
“Call up some other heroes too,” Aizawa ordered. “Check if All Might can come. Maybe even Endeavor, if he believes it’s ‘worth his time’—” he snarled the last few words as he grabbed his cup of coffee and downed the rest of it, flinching as it burned his tongue— “And see if you can scrounge up anyone else with versatile quirks. I’m going to go check with Power Loader and see if he can figure out where that call just came from.”
“Reandevue back here?” Yamada offered with a grin.
Aizawa nodded. “Fine, sounds good.”
“See you later, Shouta!” Yamada cried as he jogged out of the office, already dialing on his phone.
“Endeavaaaa’!” Aizawa heard his voice ricochet down the hallway as he closed his laptop. “Hey, gotta favor to ask of ya’...”
“This is ridiculous,” Todoroki, the infamous Pro-Hero: Endeavor, huffed, the flames licking up his face growing with each heated word. “You’re wasting my time here, Eraserhead.”
Aizawa looked behind him to the Number Two hero, glaring. “You could have just said ‘no’.”
Todoroki scoffed and crossed his arms, averting his gaze.
“It’s a shame All Might couldn’t make it,” Hakamata, the Fiber Hero: Best Jeanist, sighed, taking a small step away from the flaming hero, which proved futile in the small room.
“What are we even doing here again, exactly?” Takeyama, the young Pro-Hero: Mt. Lady, whined.
Aizawa gritted his teeth at her tone as he glared at the map pulled up on the police district’s computer screen.
“We got an anonymous tip that something’s going to happen here tonight,” Yamada replied, much more graciously than Aizawa was feeling.
“And you’re trusting this ‘anonymous tip’, because…” Kayama, their fellow teacher: Midnight, pressed, placing a hand on her cocked hip and tapping her whip against her chest.
Aizawa hunched his shoulders as Yamada replied, chipper, “It comes from a very reliable source.”
Half of the room began to grumble disbelievingly.
“You're wasting my time based on some ‘anonymous tip’?” Todoroki bellowed, flames crawling up higher. “You’re trusting the word of a coward who wouldn’t even step forward to deliver that message?”
“Hey,” Aizawa barked, twisting around in his seat. “Not everyone feels safe enough to speak out publicly.” He gave the hero a fierce glare. The hulking man’s face twisted into a snarl as he shuffled his feet, eyes subtly darting around. Aizawa let his gaze linger a little longer before he turned back around.
“So,” Takeyama drawled, twirling a strand of her hair. “What are we supposed to do, then? Just wait until something comes up?”
“Yep,” Aizawa flatly replied. Takeyama groaned at his answer.
Yamada leaned closer to Aizawa. “It’s almost seven-thirty,” he whispered. “Are you sure the Anon was right?”
Aizawa placed a knuckle over his mouth, brows furrowing. “We’ll find out soon.”
“What are you two whispering about?” Kayama cut in, leaning over the two men and pressing her face between them. “Is it something ‘juicy’? Please tell me!”
“Ew, no!” Takeyama cried, jumping back. “Don’t do that!”
“You’re all a complete abomination to heroes!” Todoroki bellowed.
“I suppose you believe you’re better?” Hakamata egged.
The other four smaller-named heroes and sidekicks, who had mostly remained silent throughout the entire ordeal, unanimously took a few cautious steps back, pressing themselves against the opposite wall.
A small notification on the computer caught Aizawa’s scattering attention from the growing argument. He leaned closer, reading the small print hovering over the map. His eyes widened and he shot up from his chair, whirling around and unleashing his quirk.
“Shut up!” he shouted, hair whipping around his face. The heroes all quieted and Todoroki sent him a scalding glare at having his flames extinguished.
Aizawa released his quirk and the flames popped back up with a ‘fwoosh’. Hakamata scrambled away with a strangled cry of surprise.
“We’ve got our location,” Aizawa announced. “There’s been a disruption on the outskirts of the Minato District, only a few kilometers from where we are. We’re heading over there. Everyone, be ready.”
The heroes all filed out, with Todoroki shoving his way into the lead.
Yamada leaned closer to Aizawa as they took up the rear, voice lilted with nerves. “That came up at seven-thirty sharp, just like the guy said. Do you think he might be right about…” he trailed off, waving his hand in a vague motion.
Aizawa’s mouth twisted. “I don’t know,” he admitted.
Riding in two nondescript black vans, the heroes were crowded in together, muscles tensed. The van Aizawa rode in screeched to a halt and he stiffened. His gaze darted to the police officer sitting with them, her finger on her earpiece, brow furrowed as she nodded.
She turned to Aizawa. “Sir, there seems to be a lot of fighting a few streets down, in the same area your target is in. The Chief Inspector thinks it’d be best if we got off here and made the rest of the way over on foot.”
Aizawa sharply dipped his head. “Fine, let’s go.” He got up and flung the van’s back doors open and jumped out. Yamada followed on his heels as the rest of the heroes filed out after them.
“What is the meaning of this?” Todoroki growled, stomping up to Aizawa.
“Running, sir,” the policewoman cut in. “We have officers up there trying to stop the fighting and they’re being overwhelmed.”
Aizawa nodded, turning his back on the growling hero. “Right, we’re running. Let’s go.” He took off at a sprint, taking a moment to enjoy the offended sputtering that faded away behind him. Footsteps pounded at his back, signaling the rest of the heroes following him, despite their muttered complaints.
Coming down the street, the sounds of gunshots, screams, and shouted commands were easy to discern against the rest of the city’s natural noises. Aizawa slowed at a building on the street’s corner and peered around. He quickly jumped back behind it as a barrage of bullets slammed into the building’s side.
“Chief!” the policewoman shouted into her earpiece. “It’s us! The heroes are here to help.” She waited a moment then all but shoved Aizawa towards the street. He took off, falling behind the line of multiple police cars. An officer startled at his approach but quickly went back to looking down the barrel of their gun and fired off a couple more shots across the street.
“Where’s your Cheif Inspector?” he shouted over the gunfire.
The officer gestured towards the car furthest down the street. Aizawa ran, bent in half, further into the fight. He paused behind a different car where an officer was filling a small ball with her saliva before lobbing it down the street. An explosion of goop covered a portion of a house’s windows, cutting off almost half of the gunshots that had rung through the city.
Making it up to the final car, Aizawa tapped the shoulder of the officer wearing the most bars. “Chief?”
The man whipped around and his shoulders loosened slightly. “Good. You’re here,” he yelled. “How many are with you?”
“Ten, including me,” Aizawa shouted back. “What are we dealing with?”
The Chief pointed out at the building where the glob of goop still clung to it. “We’ve got hostiles firing from that building there. We haven’t been able to evacuate anyone from this area. Both of our officers who were patrolling here were taken down just over there.” He pointed towards the street’s end, where a white and black car, littered with holes and half-melted with acid, sat. Aizawa tried not to stare too long at the prone bodies spread out next to it.
“We’ve been holding them off fine, but without reinforcements, we can’t do much more than that.”
Aizawa nodded. “Okay, we’ll help with evacuation and overwhelming the hostiles. Just keep them distracted for us.”
“Got it,” the Chief grunted and continued firing at the building. He shouted over his shoulder, “Tourou! Throw another one at them!”
A different officer formed a solid ball of light and tossed it through a second story’s open window. A blinding flash filled the building, followed by agonized screams.
Aizawa took the opportunity to race back to the other heroes. “You four—” he pointed at the wide-eyed sidekicks— “Get the civilians out of here. The rest of us are going to take down the villains. Let’s go,” he ordered, voice already growing hoarse from fighting to be heard over the gunshots.
The heroes dispersed as Aizawa led the rest of them around the back of the building.
“Midnight,” he hissed. “I need you to go first. Use your quirk to make the ones on the first floor fall asleep. The rest of us can sneak onto the second floor. I’ll help take out the ones there, but by then, the ones up on the third floor will probably know we’re already here, so Mic, you’ll need to use your quirk on them. Make their ears bleed if you have to. We just need to throw them off enough so we can take the rest of them down.”
“What about me?” Takeyama quietly cried.
Aizawa turned to her, Todoroki, and Hakamata. “I need you three to make sure those villains stay down. Best Jeanist, tie them up. Mount Lady, make sure the ones that run off don’t go far. Endeavor, cut off all escape routes.”
Todoroki’s eyes shone with glee as he pounded a fist into his palm. “It’s about time we finally started going somewhere with this.”
“Fine, then,” Aizawa started. “We’ll go—”
An explosion rocked the ground as hot air and sickeningly sweet smoke burst out of the building.
Aizawa flew back, slamming onto the cooling concrete. He gaped up at the darkening sky, wheezing as his lungs screamed for air, while his healing rib executed a perfect impersonation of a knife twisting into his side. With a gasp, he finally scrambled to his feet.
“Endeavor,” he coughed, stumbling as his vision swam. “Cut off the exit routes! Jeanist, Lady, protect the police and civilians.”
“I’ll go help with the evacuation,” Kayama shouted, racing after Hakamata and Takeyama.
“I’m going into the building,” Todoroki declared, barging past Aizawa. “I won’t be hurt by the fire.”
“But a bullet could kill you!” Yamada argued, leaning against a neighboring building. He clutched his arm, a small shard of glass sticking out of his shoulder. Blood dripped down the dark leather of his jacket, trickling over his white-knuckled fingers. Aizawa took a step towards him, brain racing to concoct a plan.
“Then Eraserhead can come with me to stop their quirks,” Todoroki shot back.
“My quirk works on other people’s quirks, not their guns,” Aizawa barked, whirling around to pin him with a glare.
“Guys!” Takeyama shouted, towering over the still-smoking building in her gigantic form, courtesy of her quirk. The three arguing heroes turned to look up at her. She pointed down towards her feet. “The bad guys are giving up. They’re, like, filling up the street over here.”
Yamada sighed, leaning further against the wall. “Oh, good. Great! Okay, then. Let’s just—”
Two people stumbled out of the back door, coughing and wheezing.
“Hey!” Todoroki bellowed. The two people froze and spun around. Aizawa yanked on his scarf and threw it out, wrapping it around one of their waists.
“Shit!” the person cried. They whipped around and snarled at him. “You again!”
Aizawa tensed and his eyes grew wide at the piercing red gaze and ash-covered blond hair. “You?” he yelped back.
The young mercenary’s palms sparked and smoked, and he grimaced and flinched as the small pops grew louder. Aizawa hurriedly unleashed his quirk, his hair flying above his face.
“Dammit!” the boy screamed when the smoke died away. He tugged hard on the rope, shaky hands trying to tear it off.
The green-haired kid rushed towards Aizawa, fist cocked back. Todoroki’s massive hand shot out and grabbed the kid by the neck. He held him up, the small shoes barely scuffing the concrete. The kid’s choked cry sucked the air out of Aizawa’s lungs and his gaze shot over to the child without his permission.
“Stop it!” The underground hero’s eyes darted back to his captured mercenary. The blond charged at Todoroki but was pulled up short by the length of Aizawa’s scarf. “Let him go, you fucking bastard! Let go! You shit-eating fuckers! You damn—”
“Endeavor, let him go,” Aizawa commanded, his cold, stoic voice drowning the rest of the chaotic noise surrounding them, and filling up the small bubble of space they occupied. Everyone froze, their gazes simultaneously darting to him, but he kept his stare glued onto the snarling boy.
“What?” Todoroki growled lowly.
Aizawa slowly met his scalding glare with his own frigid one, his hair dropping down over his face. “Let. Him. Go.”
Todoroki’s scowl darkened and his grip tightened around the kid’s throat. They gurgled, the sound small and desperate, and clawed at his wrist.
“Todoroki!” Aizawa bellowed, forcing his quirk onto the man. His flames extinguished with a pathetic hiss. Growling, Todoroki gracelessly dropped the kid. They collapsed to the ground, gasping and retching.
“Deku!” the blond boy cried, straining against Aizawa’s scarf and reaching a hand out towards his partner. Deku stumbled to his feet and collapsed against him. His trembling fingers scrabbled at Aizawa’s scarf while his temperamental partner struggled to hold him up.
“Alright,” Aizawa murmured, stepping closer as he wound his scarf around his arm, pulling it tauter. “That’s enough, kid.”
“Get back!” the blond boy, Kem, Aizawa was guessing, yelled. He held up a hand, the palm cold and clear of any sign of smoke or heat, and widened his stance, one hand twisted into the fabric of Deku’s sweatshirt, holding him up.
Aizawa raised his hands placatingly and took another slow step forward. “It’s okay,” he assured them. “I won’t hurt you, but I do need you two to come with me.”
“I said, get back!” Kem screamed, his voice cracking.
Aizawa hesitated before taking another cautious step. “It’s going to be alright. I just need you two to trust me.”
“I’ll kill you, you damn fuck—”
“Kacchan.” Aizawa halted at the soft, hoarse voice from the smaller child. Kem stiffened as well and looked down at his companion. Deku’s gaze flicked over the ground, his shoulders heavy with defeat. “They got us,” he whispered, his eyes flicking up to Todoroki. He pressed closer against Kem and let his gaze drop down again. “It’s over.”
Aizawa watched Kem’s jaw twitch and clench. His hand slowly fell to his side and he scoffed. Grabbing Deku’s arm, he marched up to Aizawa. The hero tensed, eyes darting between both sets of hands, waiting for a fist to come flying at him again. Kem came to a halt in front of him and stuck his arm out, wrist facing up. He tilted his chin, giving Aizawa a challenging glare.
“Fine,” he growled. “Let’s get this fucking over with.”
Aizawa watched him, looking for a sign of animosity or bluffing. The boy didn’t waver and even dared to arch an eyebrow. Aizawa nodded, reaching around behind him. Both boys jolted back, wide eyes following his disappearing hand.
Aizawa raised his visible hand in surrender, the scarf still wrapped around his palm, and slowly pulled out the quirk cuffs from behind his back. “I just need to make sure you two don’t use your quirks, okay?”
Deku released an airy huff of amusement but obediently held out his own arms as well. Aizawa gently clasped the cuffs around each of their wrists.
“Alright,” he sighed, unwinding his scarf from around Kem’s waist. “Let’s go head over to the precinct in Musutafu. The one here will have enough on their plate already.”
“Sorry about that,” Deku murmured. “It kinda got out of hand…”
Aizawa glanced up at him and shook his head. “You kids shouldn’t even be doing something like this.”
Deku shrunk into himself, fiddling with his cuffs. “Well—”
“Deku, shut up,” Kem muttered. Aizawa straightened in time to see the boy cast Todoroki a look more deadly than a poison-covered blade. “We don’t have to fucking tell them anything.” Deku silently nodded and pressed up against his side, gaze fixed to the ground again.
Aizawa watched the two boys before stepping around behind them. They both immediately tensed as he placed a hand between their shoulder blades. “Okay, then, let’s go.” He looked up and cringed. “You doing okay there, Mic?” he called out, silently berating himself for forgetting about his friend amidst the frenzy.
Yamada held up a bloody thumb, grinning. “Doin’ good. Just need to see a medic, that’s all.”
Aizawa nodded and turned to Todoroki. “Endeavor?”
Todoroki grumbled something about “incompetent” and stomped to Yamada. With a large hand engulfing the unwounded shoulder, he steered the loud hero back out to the street, bellowing for a paramedic.
Aizawa sighed and gently nudged the two boys forward. “Alright, then. Let’s get going.”