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The Atomic Hero

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U.A. towers above you both, like some great coliseum where only the truly worthy may enter. Where only the truly worthy may stay.

“You ready?” you ask Shinsou. Nervousness flutters in your stomach, and your atoms buzz in anticipation. You know you’re going to do well; your quirk is…immense. Still, you’re not exactly the pinnacle of calm.

“How many times are you going to keep asking that?” he deadpans back. “Get a grip.”

“You get a grip,” you mutter. “How’s anyone gonna take you seriously when it looks like you haven’t run a comb through your hair in three weeks?”

Shinsou side-eyes you. “It’s an aesthetic,” he replies. “Ever heard of it?”

“Baby, I invented aesthetic, and you know it.”

The two of you walk through the open doors. The fresh, late-winter air changes to ventilated heat as you enter the building. Worthy, indeed, you think as you take stock of the swarm of students around you. They’re just as hopeful, just as nervous—maybe even more. And from a quick, lazy scan with your quirk, you find that they’re all unique and powerful in their own ways.

You feel bad; not everyone is going to get into the Hero Course. Your worry over Hitoshi has nagged incessantly at you since he decided he was going to take U.A.’s entrance exam. His quirk is amazing; brainwashing could come in handy in any situation, especially when the villain doesn’t know that the moment they speak, they’re his. It doesn’t work on you, of course. You can change the chemical compositions in your brain to counter his quirk, as past experiments have proven. Even if it did, who knew what chaos would be unleashed? You’re only able to control your quirk because you’re you.

Hitoshi doesn’t have any combat experience, though, and he is pretty…lanky. He’s told you not to help him with whatever may come your guys’ way during the exam. You don’t like it, but you’re not going to hurt his feelings by stepping in and helping. It won’t be like middle school—though even that hasn’t been too bad. Hitoshi just likes the loner persona more than he’d ever admit.

You take your seat with him and the other students from your grade that are also going to put their quirks to the test.

“Here,” Shinsou mutters as the clamor of the hall washes over them. He reaches down into his backpack and pulls out a giant muffin. “You didn’t eat much of a breakfast, I can tell. Your hair is getting all dusty.”

Frowning, you give your bound hair a quick pat and discover that yes, it is dusting a tiny bit. Not enough for anybody to notice, Shinsou aside.

Nevertheless, you say, “Thanks,” and take the muffin from him. It’s one with bananas and nuts and chocolate chips in it. The size is reminiscent of Costco muffins in America, and you wonder where he got it. You scarf it down in three quick bites. The food breaks down almost immediately when it hits your stomach and converts straight to energy. “I skipped breakfast because Ferdinand is sick again.”

“Again? Is it the mites?”

“Yes,” you groan, and shovel the muffin’s wrapper into your mouth. A student from another school happens to glance by when he sees you eat it, and you hear a faint, “Wha…?”

“I thought you had them eradicated.”

“I did. But they messed up his poor root system, and now he needs extra surveillance.” You pause, then ask lowly, “Do you have another muffin?”

Shinsou sighs, but you expect it. He pulls out another muffin, this one a double fudge kind. You go, “Ooooo,” and snatch it from him. As you unwrap it, you pause and say, “Wait. Was this going to be yours?”

“No,” he lies nonchalantly. Huffing, you evenly split the muffin in half with your quirk and give him the piece in your left hand. “Thanks.” After another quick check, you feel that you aren’t dusting, anymore, so you settle back into the seat and wait for everything to begin. Part of you can’t help but feel the passing looks. It’s not just the fact that you’re munching on the second plastic wrapper; it’s that, despite the fact that there are literal people with tails and horns and blue skin and six eyes, someone with naturally darker skin is bound to be looked at twice.

You take out a pen and notebook and pretend to ignore it, but not before you give your hair one more pat. It’s in a tight bun and plain black today. If you get hungry again, you always have some spare wrappers and plain pencils to consume.

The lights to the front of the hall come to life, followed by a loud electric guitar riff. You and Shinsou shift collectively in your seats with the rest of the students. “What’s up, U.A. candidates?” a loud voice screeches into the microphone. “Thanks for tunin’ in to me, your school D.J.!” You shudder at the sudden soundwaves disturbing the air. Particles ricochet off you, and you’re tempted to shift your density to make them pass through instead. But you stick through it and focus on the announcer, who turns out to be the one and only Present Mic.

Your pencil quietly taps on the blank page of your notebook.

“C’mon and lemme hear ya!”

You start to slump in your seat to avoid any cheering. Fortunately, the rest of the hall feels the same way. A silence hangs over everyone.

Present Mic doesn’t miss a beat. You’re glad he’s not embarrassed—or at least he’s pretending he isn’t. “Keeping it mellow, huh? That’s fine! I’ll skip straight to the main show. Let’s talk about how this practical exam is gonna go down, okay?” There’s another guitar riff, and he screeches, “Are you reaaaady? Yeah!”

You, again, stay silent. Just the mention of the practical exam forms a ball in your throat.

Are you really cut out for this hero stuff? Like, you have saved people before (and it was an amazing feeling), but to make a profession out of it? If you let your body sweat, you’d be covered in it right now because of the doubts in your mind. Underneath your blank exterior is someone screaming in panic.

Shinsou takes notes like you do while Present Mic goes through the exam. Robots are…easy. Well, you’ve never fought one, but your quirk makes fighting anything easy. Not that you’ve ever really fought. But not that you haven’t done anything with your quirk! Because you have!

You glance at Shinsou. He’s always so calm. Is he just as anxious as you? A quick check of his heartbeat gives a definitive no.

He feels your stare on him and looks over. You make a scared frowny face, eyes all squinted and your chin dimpling. It’s so sudden that he can’t hide his abrupt smile. Shinsou quickly covers it behind the back of his hand, and you turn back to your notebook, feeling a little bit better. It’s good to just accept that hey! You’re freaking the fuck out! But that’s okay!

Afterwards, you and Shinsou are going to get some ice cream before you take the train back home. Celebratory ice cream, where you’re going to have the poor shop employee stack five or six scoops of different flavors on one too-small cone so you can shove it all down your throat like some fucking animal.

Look forward to the ice cream! Ice cream! Ice cream!

Absently, you draw a cone with three scoops on top of it at the bottom of your page. You can hear some boy complaining about the list of villains on the information sheet they’ve been given and how another student is talking too loudly, and as you perk up, you hear that the zero point robot is also going to be the biggest one.

“You think you can take it on?” Shinsou whispers to me.

“Maybe,” you reply in just a low of tone. “We’ll see if I’m feeling brave enough.”

“You should do it. They’re putting them out there for a reason. To see who is brave and strong enough to bring one down. It’s an opportunity.”

As you go to reply, you see the same boy who just stood up and boomboxed his entire voice across the hall whip around and glare at you two from his seat lower in the hall. Does he have the fucking ears of a hawk?

Instead of being humiliated like the other poor student who got publicly reprimanded, you give an awkward, apologetic smile, and mouth “Sorry” to the boy. He gives you one final glare before turning back around in his seat.

Shinsou shares a look with you, and the both of you roll your eyes. Some people are so anal retentive.

“As General Napoleon Bonaparte once laid down,” Present Mic says right before all of you are about to be dismissed to take the second part of your exams, “‘A true hero is one who overcomes life’s misfortunes.’”

“Did he say that before or after Waterloo?” I mutter to Shinsou out the side of my mouth. He only replies with a soft snicker at my lame joke.

“Mmhmm! Now that’s a tasty soundbite!” Present Mic leans forward expectantly, and you can’t help but feel some excitement bubble up through your nervousness. “You ready to go beyond?” He leans back and yells, “Let’s hear a Plus Ultra!”

Now hell, you can’t say no to that.

“Plus Ultra!” you chant, considerably less loudly than some of the other students, but just as enthusiastically.

“Good luck! Hope you practiced hitting more than just books!”

Okay. Okay. You can do this. You’re ready.

You and Shinsou stand to file out of the hall and go to your respective locker rooms to change into workout clothes for the practical. Afterward, you’ll be shuttled out to the battle centers where it’ll commence.

“Which one will you be in?” he asks me amidst the commotion. You hold your card up.

“A. You?”

“C.”

“Damn,” you smirk. “Guess I really won’t be able to help you after all.”

“How are you going to hold yourself together without me, you mean?” Shinsou snarks back. You scoff, mock offended.

“I can hold myself together just fine, thank you. Figuratively and literally.”

You come to the stairs and join the stream of students making their way out the exits. For extra assurance, you snag the end of Shinsou’s backpack strap and hang on. Though you’re about the same height, he’ll never stop gloating that he barely has a couple centimeters on you. You could make yourself taller, you say to him, but you have yet to permanently do it.

Right before the two of you have to split up, you give him a quick hug. He pats your back like he normally does. Hugs really aren’t his thing, but for you, he’ll tolerate it. Mildly enjoy it, even.

“Good luck, Shinsou.”

“Yeah. You too, Mari.”

You let go of him, step back, and give one last hopeful grin. He smiles back, and the two of you part ways.

-

All the girls chatter with one another in the locker room. You’re a little too on-edge to speak, but another girl sidles up to you and blurts, “Oh man, I’m so nervous! Aren’t you?”

She’s all pink and her eyes are inky black. Two little cream-colored horns sprout up from the top of her messy pink head of hair.

“Yeah,” you say, throwing on a black athletic tee whose composition you’ve already memorized. “I really am. Like, this is freaking scary, right? Fighting robots? I mean, I knew we would have to do something, but actually going out and doing it makes me want to crap my pants.”

You don’t actually poop. But the expression still stands metaphorically.

The girl throws her head back and groans in agreement. “Totally.” She zips up the jacket she’s wearing. It’s still chilly outside, but you don’t need any more extra clothing than necessary. It’d all just accidentally get disintegrated, anyway. “I’m Ashido Mina, by the way.”

“Isoko Marigold. Nice to meet you.”

“Girl, same. What battle center will you be in?”

“Uh, A.”

“Darn! I’ll be in D. I thought we could, ya know, team up or something!” She gives the air a one-two punch.

“That would have been nice,” you agree, though you know you don’t need to team up with anyone. Ashido pouts a little but perks up quickly.

“Well hey then! Good luck! Hope to see you in the Hero Course!”

You give her a thumbs up. “You too.”

The shuttles are waiting for the students. You file in with everyone else going to battle center A. It’s an open-seat style, so after a mild panic attack as to where you’re going to sit, you slam your ass down in a random spot before you’re forced to stand.

Nobody talks to you on the short drive, thankfully. You’re afraid you won’t make for very good conversation. You stop yourself from removing your fingers in anticipation. Shinsou says it “Grosses people out” or some shit like that. But is there any blood or bones? No. It’s just like snapping carrots apart. It’s cathartic.

You stare at your pink tennis shoes, which are the only spot of color on your outfit. They’re the slip-on kind without any laces. Less problematic that way. Laces are a bitch to reconstruct.

The moment the shuttle stops, you hear a voice shout, “Outta my way, extras!”

At a glance, you see a boy mercilessly shoving his way to the front, ignoring the cries of other students. His spiky blond hair and red eyes just scream “angry.”

You frown at how inconsiderate he is. Japan has rubbed off on you. But with the boy off the shuttle, you and the rest make your way out with ease.

The entrance to the battle center is closed. You walk toward it, moving past other students who are hanging back and grouping up. You dare not try to cheat and get a preemptive sense of the layout behind the walls. What if the teachers can sense that sort of thing? Like, they probably can’t, but you’re not taking any chances. You’re too scared to get in trouble and be disqualified for something stupid.

The blond-haired boy is near you. He wears his impatience plainly, and it’s mixed with a scowl that makes you want to scoff. You don’t need to worry about him and whatever grandiose quirk he’s itching to use. Just worry about yourself.

There’s ice cream waiting at the end of it.

“RIGHT, LET’S START!” Present Mic announces from the top of the tower positioned in the center of the battle centers. “GET MOVING!”

The door opens wide. You’re already taking off, quirk spreading across the battle center to figure out where the robots are.

“RUN RUN RUN LISTENERS! YOU’RE WASTING AIRTIME HERE!

You veer off down a street, heading toward a nice cluster of robots that are just a couple of blocks up ahead. You’ve increased your bone and muscle strength to run faster. You could just disintegrate and reform where you want to be, but you want to be seen by whoever is watching. The neater tricks can come later.

Nobody else has reached the robots by the time you get to them. There are five three-pointers and four two-pointers. Without skipping a beat, you transform your arms to graphene and dive into the nearest one. It tries to grip you with its claw, but you densify the air around you so its claw stops about a meter away.

Then it explodes, and you’re onto the rest.

When the graphene gets boring and you want to move on, you simply find a few circuits in the last robots with your quirk and snap them. They explode outward, but you keep it contained by manipulating the air. There are more students coming, now, and you don’t want any of them to be hit by shrapnel.

The robots are more scattered when you do another scan. They’ve dispersed to fight the students. By the time you rack up about forty points (it’s not hard to accomplish with the diversity and power of your quirk), you’re more mingled with the other examinees. It’s not your favorite scenario, but you’re glad that you and your quirk are in the area when the blond boy carelessly destroys two three-point robots. His flames propel outward at an alarming rate along with a fair amount of metal. Two students nearby scream and brace themselves for the full front of the blast. You lash out a hand in their direction and solidify the air in front of them. The fire, stopped by an invisible wall, propels upwards. Bits of metal clang off the barrier. When there’s nothing left but smoke, you release it and race over to the students.

“Hey, are you guys alright?” you ask, checking them to make sure they’ve sustained no injuries. One of the students, a girl with electric blue hair, rubs some soot off her arm. She makes a disgusted noise.

“Yeah. Was that barrier yours? Thanks.”

You give her a nod. The other student, a reptilian boy with a tail, disdainfully turns his head toward the culprit of the explosions. “He’s been doing that this whole time. I mean, we all wanna be in the Hero Course, but we don’t want to kill anyone else trying to get in!”

“What a dick,” you say. The students vigorously nod. You start backing up—

A rumble shakes the ground. Your quirk tells you that something’s being brought up from below, and it’s…it’s…

Huge.

“Oh, shit!” the girl screams. “It’s that zero-pointer!”

The robot rises higher and higher above the buildings, its red, electronic eyes sweeping the center. Students who are near it are screaming and fleeing, because what else can they do? Time is running out, and there are fewer and fewer robots by the second.

You take a sudden, involuntary step toward it. “Hey, what’re you doing?” the boy exclaims. “Come on! Let’s just get away from it! That thing isn’t worth anything!”

It’s not you, though. It’s the fucking Way. It’s guiding you, urging you like a pair of hands on your back pushing you forward. “Fuck,” you mutter, then glance back at the students you helped. “Go ahead! Make sure that nobody is trapped and can’t get clear of this thing!”

“Are—are you sure?” the girl asks. She’s hesitant; neither of them wants to leave you.

“Yes.” You grin and try to put on a reassuring face.

After a moment, they take off running in the opposite direction of the zero-pointer. Dirt barrels through the streets with each of its steps. You see the blond boy still taking down smaller robots the closest street. He’s taking advantage of people not wanting to be around the boss robot to finish off the leftovers. You could take some fun out of his day and end them before he can, but you set your mind to bigger things.

Or, the bigger thing.

You start walking forward again. You shake your hands out and then blow on each of the tips. Dirt from the robot’s movement scrapes against your skin cells, and it irritates you.

Shinsou would be proud. Opportunity, he calls it. The bastard just had to put such dumb ideas in your head, and the Way thrived off it.

You let out a frustrated growl and start running toward the zero-pointer. The few straggling students that are coming from the rubble catch glimpses of you as they flee. You give them boosts of speed by using the air on their backs to push them further down the street.

The robot looms. Its mechanical gaze locks onto you.

With a shout, you leap into the air and land on solidified surface. Then you’re bounding up, up, and up, gaining momentum, even though it looks like you’re running on a rising staircase. The robot takes a swipe at you with its massive claw. You twist the air so it bounces harmlessly off nothing. Right as you reach its chest area, you leap again, disintegrating into trillions and trillions of particles, sweeping through the air like a dark swarm of conscious dust. You could have made yourself invisible, but you want to be seen for long enough—

You reform ten feet above the robot’s head. A long spike of graphene forms in your hand, and you tilt your feet up to the sky to find purchase on the solid air. You push off it at a speed you’ve surprised yourself with; usually you don’t move this fast in a corporeal form.

The graphene spear slams through the top of the robot’s head, slicing past metal and wires and gears. It implodes on the inside, stands still for a moment, then begins to topple forward.

BAD!

“Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuuuuuuck!” you sing operatically, foregoing all sense of restraint and dissipating again. Everyone is down there, and you can’t let them be crushed under the Opportunity. Fuck Shinsou and his stupid words.

You slide through the falling robot and reappear at its front again. You switch back into a body and throw your arms out to latch onto all its particles while simultaneously thickening the air so it doesn’t pitch as quickly as it is.

Hot damn, it’s heavy. You—you don’t usually put in this much effort with your quirk.

The slight challenge spurs you on. Reinvigorated, you push back on the robot and hold fast to its particles. You yourself are floating in front of it, and you push its loose arms close to its body so it doesn’t hit any buildings and cause more damage. Now directed, the robot falls slowly to the ground and lands with a shuddering—but safe—crash. To make sure it’s not going to pop back up for a round two, you disconnect wires running through its body like veins.

Your feet touch the pavement. The robot is about five feet away from you, and you’re starving. That muffin-and-a-half doesn’t really hold up when you’re fucking around with a million-pound robot.

Guiding it down has depleted whatever time you had left to get some more robots. It’s alright. You’re too hungry to do much anyway.

Shuffling, you dig your fingers into the robot’s head and tear off a hunk of metal. It squeals as it roughly balls up to fit in your hand. You bite into it like an apple and begin walking back down the street, toward several of the students who sacrificed their own precious time to watch you take down something worth zero points.

“TIMES’S UP!” Present Mic announces, accompanied with a wailing siren. You scarf down the rest of the metal and pick up another errant piece of shrapnel to snack on. It soothes the dusting effect once more energy to maintain your form is channeled through.

You see the blond boy watching you with nothing but hate. Though he’s surrounded by smoking robot leftovers, it seems like it doesn’t matter to him. You briefly meet his red-eyed gaze, but after another second you drop it. You’re embarrassed by the show you put on. It was an unnecessary display of your quirk, and now everyone will be wondering what it is. You hate giving the answer because of the way they look at you afterward, and how the more they think about it, the more they realize that you have something scary-powerful in your DNA.

You avoid everyone else’s looks, too, and if your leggings had pockets, you’d be shoving your hands into them. All the attention makes you squirm. Fuck Shinsou. You should have just kept your head down and did the same things as everyone else.

But deep down, you can’t deny your pride. Maybe when you’re back on the shuttle, you can tell that spiky-haired knucklefuck to move out of your way.

You don’t, though. You keep to yourself and stay quiet on the ride back to U.A.

-

Shinsou meets you on the entrance steps. “How’d it go?” he questions. You shrug your shoulders and adjust your backpack. The feel of slamming graphene into the robot’s head still echoes in your hands.

“Fine.”

“Did you get that zero-pointer.”

“…Yes.”

He cracks a smile, and it makes you happy enough to grin back. “Alright, nice. So you didn’t second-guess yourself after all.”

You turn the conversation away from yourself. “And how did you do?”

The smile slips. Shinsou turns too placid, and you know that he’s upset. “I could have done better. Robots are hard to brainwash. I doubt I’ll get into the Hero Course.”

“I’m sorry, and what have I said about being negative?”

“If it makes plants sad, then it makes you sad,” he replies automatically, his tone extra dry.

“But hey!” You force yourself to stay optimistic for both their sakes. You don’t always follow your own advice, but you like to try. “Who knows what will happen? I don’t think U.A. would look over someone with a quirk like yours.”

He huffs. “Yeah, okay.”

Grinning, you hop in front of him and walk backwards. The relief of being done with the practical has left you feeling airy. You almost forget that you even took down that zero-pointer and stunned everyone in the battle center. “You know what I want right now, though?”

“Ice cream?”

“Ice cream!” you shout. “Ice cream for Shinsou and Isoko!” In English, you say, “We gonna get chocolate, and strawberry, and peanut butter, and cookies n cream, and key lime pie…”

“Are you going to keep listing off flavors?”

“Maybe.” You rejoin his side with a little skip. “I’m just super excited for ice cream. I’m hongry.”

Shinsou smirks at me. “Then let’s go get some ice cream. In February. So we can be even colder.”

“Hell yeah!” You thrust a fist out in front of you. Shinsou is going to be the only one colder, anyway. You’d be fine in any temperature, kinda like a tardigrade. Should that be your superhero name? “Ice! Cream! Ice! Cream!”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

You get the results of the exam a week later. You’ve tried distracting yourself by fawning over your plants, rearranging the apartment, and actually going to sleep. Shinsou isn’t much better; when the two of you hang out or study together, the both of you talk about what you could have done wrong during the practical and what the right answers were during the written. There’s not much else to do.

With the envelope sacredly in your hands, you set it down on the glass coffee table and quickly sit on your white couch. The plants in the room all shift and sway, sensing your excitement. They want you to hurry up.

“I’m trying, I’m trying!” you say back. You cross your legs and lean forward. Your quirk tears the envelope open, and out pops a little transmission disk. A second later, a projection beams to life. You stare up at it, holding your breath, natural hair fluffing up into an even cloudier shape.

Present Mic points a finger at you through the projection. “What’s up Isoko Marigold? Hope you’re having a rad time, ‘cause I’ve GOT SOME EVEN RADDER NEWS FOR YOU! Not only did you pass your written exam with flying colors, but you ROCKED THE HOUSE during the practical!”

He grins wider and spreads both arms out like a true entertainer. “You could have succeeded just fine by destroying villain robots with your quirk and helping a couple students in need of FIRE PROTECTION! But when the opportunity arose—”

You brace yourself as he takes a big breath. There’s that word again. Opportunity.

The projector’s audio fuzzes as Present Mic’s voice reaches an even louder volume. “YOU TOOK THE CHANCE TO PROTECT OTHER STUDENTS FROM ONE OF THE BIGGEST, BADDEST VILLAIN ROBOTS U.A. HAS TO OFFER! YEEEEAAAAAHHHH!”

Wincing at how distorted the audio becomes, you watch as the projection plays a clip of you pushing running students further away from the robot while you dive into the wall of dust and rubble. It skips ahead to you bringing the giant mechanical beast down slowly with your quirk to ensure that it doesn’t accidentally crush anyone or cause damage that could hurt others. You look like a speck compared to its size. The camera zooms closer in. You shouldn’t be bothered that there are cameras; why wouldn’t there be? That’s how all the judges watched students succeed. But the fact that it’s gets such a personal shot at you is slightly perturbing. You don’t want to be examined that closely.

It’s odd to look at your own face from another’s angle. Your lips are pulled into a determined frown, and your eyes blaze with focus and control. You have both hands splayed out as you work, and your legs hang without anything to stand on. You’re dusting off the side of your cheek, revealing a bit of dark red muscle that the skin doesn’t cover.

Wow. Do you always look that intense when you’re using your quirk?

The projection cuts back to Present Mic. He’s now holding two thumbs up at you. “After such an EPIC DISPLAY of your quirk’s abilities and your THOUGHTFULNESS toward your peers and surroundings, the panel of judges who determine HEROISM in students decided to award you THIRTY-FIVE RESCUE POINTS!”

The projection shows the rankings of all the students who got the highest scores on the entrance exam. Your name falls second with forty villain points and thirty-five rescue points. Your back straightens, and you begin to emit a high-pitched, closed-mouth squeal. This is—holy shit—this is really happening—

“ISOKO MARIGOLD!” Present Mic points his finger back at the projection, back at you. “Welcome to the HERO ACADEMIA!”

You lurch to your feet and let out a joyous shout. “Hell yeah! Fuckin—hell yeah! Yeah! Yeah!” Overwhelmed, you dance around the coffee table, clapping your hands sporadically and feet sliding across the hardwood floor. The plants jostle, just as excited as you are at the news. Vines that have crawled across the walls remove themselves and happily rearrange themselves to mirror your mood. The hanging plants on the ceiling curl and twist as you pass beneath them. You raise your hands up and let your fingers brush against their leaves. The thrum of the life in them courses through you. They’re all so happy for you and what you’ve accomplished, even if they don’t entirely understand it. They just know that since you feel this way, they’re going to feel the same way.

“Whoo—whoo—whoo!” you chant. “I—got—in—I’m—fucking—badass!”

You momentarily disintegrate and come back into existence with a bubblegum pop! Your afro is vibrant pink to match your mood, and you ruffle it with your fingers as you dance to a silent song.

As soon as you calm down enough to be coherent, you pick up your phone and FaceTime Annie. It’s super early in Houston. Like, two in the morning. But you call, anyway, and a few rings later your stepmom answers.

“What’s up?” she says. She’s standing outside of some gas station, drinking soda that you know she shouldn’t be. The iridescent scales on her cheekbones shimmer underneath the white light of the station, and the high, dark blue collar of her costume is barely visible.

“Annie!” you shout, hearing the static on Annie’s end. “Annie, I got in!”

Her face lights up, and she beams. “No way? Ha! Marigold, what did I tell you? You didn’t have anything to worry about! That’s awesome, sweets! When do you start?”

You jump onto the couch and lightly bounce up and down on the cushion. “At the beginning of April.”

“Do we need to move you to another apartment that’s closer? I can have your father—”

“Nah, nah, it’s cool,” you say. “I like it a lot here, and I don’t want to be a bother.”

“You’re not a bother!” Annie insists.

Yeah. Tell that to your dad.

Still, you stay smiling and flop onto the couch. “I just wanted to call you and let you know.”

“Who else have you told?”

“Nobody. You’re the first.”

She grins at that. “Thanks for telling me. Gah, I’m so excited for you! Keep me updated, alright? And if you need anything, just ask.”

“I will. Better get back on patrol—and finish up whatever you’re drinking.”

Annie smirks impishly as she takes another swig. “Talk to you later. Love you.”

“Love you too. Bye!”

You end the call. It’s still so surreal. You? Going to U.A.? But…but…

All those scientists and doctors that speculated you’d never be able to control your quirk can go to hell. You’ve been controlling it since you were old enough to be aware of the world around you. Your birth, it was just…

It was an accident. It wasn’t your fault. You were a baby.

Your dad never has and never will forgive you. Fifteen years cannot quell his hurt, his blame. Not even Annie can repair what he wants to stay broken. She’s a good stepmom to you, though. Annie is the reason you’re even here in Japan, living in this nice little (and rather expensive) 1LDK apartment. It gets lonely, sometimes, but you have your plants and Shinsou and the Way to keep you from darker places.

Without pausing, you FaceTime Shinsou and use the screen showing your face to see how good your serious look is.

He answers. “Hey.”

“Hey. Did you get it?” You keep your voice intentionally unnuanced.

“Yeah. Lemme guess,” he drawls with a smirk, “you got into the Hero Course.”

Your mouth splits open and you grin. You nod vigorously, hair bobbing. “Yes! Yes!”

“Good. I’m glad.”

“And you? How’d it go?” you stifle your own joy so it doesn’t become overbearing in the conversation.

“Ah,” he sighs, and it crackles through your phone’s speaker, “didn’t make it into the Hero Course. I expected as much.”

Your heart drops into your stomach. He’s purposefully kept the lights low in his bedroom so you might not notice the red rimming his perpetually tired eyes. “Oh, Shinsou, I’m so sorry…”

“Don’t be. I got into General Education, so I still have a shot at climbing higher.”

“Well.” You puff your cheeks out. “At least we still get to go to the same school together.”

“Sure do.”

Your smile comes back, but this time it’s softer and half-teasing, half-sincere. “You won’t have to worry about eating alone. You won’t have to worry about being alone! Though,” you add quickly, “I know you like to be a lonely, lonesome loner.”

“I do. You talk enough for three people as it is.”

“Someone’s gotta! You’re super fucking boring, Shinsou.”

He snickers and you follow suit. You stand up, stretch, and say, “Why don’t I come over? We can watch something. I’ll bring snacks.”

“I can come over. My mom has been bugging me to bring back all of you Tupperware that’s piled up in our cupboards.”

You chuckle. You bring over some kind of dessert or fresh fruits and vegetables almost anytime you go over to the Shinsou residence, and you almost always forget to bring the containers back.

“Then let the cycle repeat,” you declare, knowing full well that Shinsou is going to be sent back home with something in yet another container or two. You have some tomatoes that are ripe, and you have a lot of grapes and raspberries that need to be eaten up. You could eat them yourself, but you enjoy sharing more than eating—which is saying a lot, because you freaking love stuffing your face with food. Because food means energy! And energy means that you’re happy and strong!

“Alright,” he softly laughs. “I’ll see you soon.”

“Bye!”

You hang up. There’s…not really anybody else for you to call. Shinsou will tell his parents about your success, and Annie will tell your father. With little else to do until Shinsou gets to your place, you check your phone and find that U.A. sent you an email with more extensive details about the Hero Course. You’ll be starting at the beginning of April, and you’ll report to Class 1-A. You’ll need to fill out a quick survey for your uniform size in a link they’ve added to the bottom of the email. Other records will either be obtained from your school or your parents/guardians.

You tap in your sizes. You’re bigger than a lot of the girls in Japan—and many of the boys. Shinsou is a few centimeters taller than you, but even he is on the larger end of the height chart. You’re too spiteful to shrink yourself down.  

Once that’s done, you saunter around the apartment, cooing over your plants and listening to your infinite lo-fi playlist. You should be doing your homework, but you’re too excited to seriously concentrate on something for more than a few minutes. It’s a relief when you hear Shinsou buzzing the doorbell to come inside.

Your quirk opens the door for him. He takes off his shoes and wanders into the living room. You’re tending to your growing eggplants that are growing on the wall by the terrace door. Thanks to your quirk, you can manipulate vegetables that would not otherwise grow on walls or ceilings with little sunlight and out of season. It saves you money and keeps things organic. The Shinsous are always in fresh supply of free produce that would typically be expensive to buy.

Maybe with your hero license, you can become one of the greatest farmers to sell all kinds of sustainable, affordable, and organic fruits, vegetables, and herbs, thus disrupting capitalist consumerism and bringing ethicality back into modern-day farming.

“Why do you want to become a hero?” the teachers at U.A. will ask.

“Well,” you’ll say back, “I want to be able to legally modify food with my quirk and sell it on the marketplace at low costs because my quirk costs nothing to use.”

“So you don’t want to protect people?”

“I mean, I’ll be protecting them from pesticides and contaminants. Plus, poorer families will be able to buy a crate of avocados without going bankrupt. I think that will be a great service to the people.”

“But your quirk can do so much!” they’ll say, confused. “You want to waste it on agriculture?”

“My quirk can do anything and everything,” you’ll deadpan. “And I can literally hear the universe. Believe me, I’ll know if I’m doing something that’s a waste. Also? I can basically move faster than the speed of light when I’m in my particle form. I’m sure I’ll be fine if the community needs my services in other ways.”

But you sound much more confident in your mind. In all reality, you’ll be stumbling over your words and avoiding eye contact if anything is remotely confrontational.

Shinsou dumps the Tupperware onto your small counter. The containers overflow and clatter on the hardwood floor.

“Oops,” he mumbles, then crouches down to pick them up. You twist two eggplants off the wall and put them into one of the containers Shinsou has just brought back.

“Take these home,” you instruct. “I also have some—”

He tosses his head back and groans loud enough to cut me off. “Uuuuuuuuuhhh. My mom is going be pissed that I come back with a third of the containers that I brought back.”

You slap a hand on the counter. “Well too damn bad! That’s how it’s gonna be!” You point a finger at him and hiss in mock anger, “You’re gonna take all the produce I give you, and you’re gonna like it.”

Shinsou stares at me for a moment before cracking a smile. “Fine, fine. I brought snacks.”

“Good.” You both cross over into the living room area and sit down on the couch. It’s a soft cream color with pastel pink fuzzy pillows, as well as a matching set of pillows with an embroidered cat face on one and an embroidered French bulldog face on the other. The couch only has space for about two people, so you naturally cozy up to Shinsou and shovel a rice ball into your mouth.

You turn the tv on and stream a rom-com you two have already watched before. The television is smaller to make more room for your plants everywhere else, and it sits on a low, light tan television stand.

“I’m sorry again that you didn’t get into the Hero Course,” you say about five minutes in. Shinsou shrugs, his shoulders bumping yours. He absently snacks on some chips.

“It’s alright. I’m going to be a hero, no matter what. This is barely a setback at all.”

You smile at him, glad that he hasn’t lost sight of his dream in spite of the rejection. He glances at you and smiles back.

“Your sunniness has rubbed off on me,” Shinsou suddenly sighs, turning back to the movie. “I hate it.”

“Mm.” You eat another rice ball whole without removing the wrapper. “I bet. Guess you better just not go to U.A. then, since, you know, I’ll be going there. Whoosh.” You make a shot with an imaginary basketball.

Shinsou snorts. “I didn’t event take that into consideration. You’re probably right. I don’t know if I can go another three years of watching everyone get sunburned because you’re so bright.”

“You call it a sunburn. I call it an enriching tan that has just as much inner glow as outer,” you explain.

“That’s skin cancer, Isoko.”

-

The month passes in a warped time that you feel every now in then when you’re lost in the Way. It’s slow and fast all at once, and you spend moments standing in your room getting ready thinking that the new term at U.A. will never happen—then you’re standing in front of the building, your new backpack strangely heavy on your shoulders.

It’s a nice day. Cloudless and blue. You should be basking in all the active photons that cling to your crisp uniform and long eyelashes, but the pressure in your chest is too great.

There’s a deeper kind of anxiety that a simple chemical change can’t fully fix.

“Remember when you were so nervous to speak during our presentation in grade eight?” Shinsou says next to you, and you give him a side-glare. “You went to open your mouth, but instead your nose fell off.”

“Yes. I remember,” you snap. “Thanks for bringing it up. I don’t ever think about that moment when I’m trying to fall asleep.”

He snickers. “All I’m saying is don’t get yourself so worked up that it happens again.”

Other students walk past the two of you, more eager to get inside the building than you are. You pat your hair. It’s black, today, and bound back in the same tight bun you’ve worn every day for school the past three years since arriving in Japan. You keep it as slick and unnoticeable as possible to avoid unwanted touching.

“Since we’re just giving out advice, you don’t go making everyone hate you on the first freaking day of class,” you say. “I know you like to be prickly—but maybe just this once—you can just say hi back to people when they say it to you? As outlandish as that sounds…”

“Making friends is, like, number ten on my priority list. Dead last.”

“Well, it should be number one! You can’t be a hero if you don’t have as many friends as possible helping you out.”

“I’m, like, your only friend, and you got into the Hero Course.”

“That’s because the universe is my friend.” You point up to the blue sky, an exaggerated, emotional look encompassing your face. “And they’ve really got my back, ya feel?” You direct that finger back at Shinsou. “And they’ve got your back. And they’re saying that you need to make more friends. Because friends tell you when you have something stuck in your teeth.”

“Are you trying to tell me I have something stuck in my teeth?”

“Just a little bit of nori. Right here.” You move your tongue between the top left side of your teeth. Shinsou gets it out, and you give him a thumbs up. “Great! Now you’ll really make a great first impression!”

He lets out a long-suffering sigh instead. “Come on. You don’t want to be late to being early.”

The two of you walk up the steps. You fidget with your red tie. “Do I look okay?” You ask for the millionth time since Shinsou met you at the train station. “Do my socks look okay?”

“Your socks are fine.”

“Are they pulled up evenly?”

“If I say yes, you’re just going to say no because you can sense that one is a thousandth of a millimeter shorter than the other.”

“No, I wasn’t,” you lie.

Shinsou reaches his classroom before you. Knowing that he’s not going to want to hug you in front of other students, you give him a brief fist bump. “I’ll see you at lunch, baby boy.”

He blushes and his indigo eyes dart around to make sure nobody heard what you said. “Could you not call me that on the first day?”

“What?” you repeat innocently in English. “Baby boy?”

He glares, and you grin. You wave goodbye and head to find the 1-A classroom.

Your nerves build again, and you have to gawk for a moment when you see that yes, the door is just as big as Shinsou’s classroom. “Well,” you whisper to yourself, “that’s unnecessary.”

Taking one last glance at your shiny black loafers, you take a breath, feel your atoms buzz in an eagerness you don’t match, and open the door.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

All heads turn toward you as you walk through. You stop for a moment, caught in the entrance, and try not to look too panicked.

“Oh, holy crap! It’s you!” a boy shouts. He stands up from his desk, an excited grin on his face. His hair is a dark yellow with a black lightning bolt running through it. You wonder if it’s real or not, but you refrain from using your quirk to find out. You don’t need to get creepy just yet.

“It’s…me?” you repeat.

Your eyes scan for a seat somewhere in the back. There’s a black-haired girl sitting in the very last seat on the furthest row, and next to her is a red-and-white-haired boy. He gazes at you impassively. There’s a back seat on the nearest row, but it has someone’s backpack already in it. The boy who made a commotion in the lecture hall about robots and speaking loudly watches you frantically try to find an open desk. Ashido, the pink-haired you briefly spoke to in the lock room enthusiastically waves to you, and you wave back—you’re happy to see her in the same class.

You gloss over the same ashy blond that yelled around a lot and blew stuff up during the practical exam. He gives you a death stare, but you lock in on the empty desk in his row, right in front of the black-haired girl.

“Yeah, you! You took down that zero-pointer! I saw you!” The boy laughs and makes big explosion noises. You keep your head moderately down as you take a seat. The ash-blond literally growls at you when you walk past him. “Man, that was the most freaking epic thing I’ve ever seen!”

“Wait, you took down a zero-pointer?” asks the boy next to him. He has sharp teeth, and his eyes gleam with a kind of awe that you are definitely not used to. Everyone is turned in their seats to look at you. “How? Why? That’s so manly!”

“Because it was a chance to show off, idiot,” the ash-blond says bitingly.

Your dislike of him rises.

“I…” you try to answer, “I did it so nobody would get hurt or distracted by it.” Meekly, you add, “That’s all.”

“So heroic!” the electric boy croons. Even inactive, your quirk can pick up electromagnetic charges rolling faintly off him. “I wish I could be that cool!”

“You’re here, aren’t you?” You give him a small smile. “That’s pretty cool all on its own.”

“True!” He leans back in his chair, forgetting that it has wheels on the bottom, and almost falls out. You’re thankful that the attention is pulled away from you to laugh at him as he tries to recover from the near fatality on the first day.

A finger taps your shoulder. You turn and look at the girl sitting behind you. “My name is Yaoyorozu Momo. I’m looking forward to getting to know you as my classmate.”

“Isoko Marigold. It’s nice to meet you.”

She nods, and the two of you strike up a conversation. Even sitting, you can tell that you’re around similar heights, and it’s relieving. Tall girls need to stick together in Japan.

There’s a lot of commotion around you, surprisingly. Everyone is eager to meet their classmates—or yell at them, in the case of the boy with glasses and the boy who hates Isoko for some reason. If anyone wants to ask you about beating a zero-pointer, they have the decency to wait until a calmer time.

Slowly, you begin to ease into your new surroundings. Yaoyorozu got into 1-A based on recommendations, meaning she’s probably a rich girl. That’s okay; you are, too, if you think about how your dad’s and Annie’s funds are what keep you comfortable in Japan.

Yaoyorozu is talking to you when her eyes happen to glance over at the door. She does a double-take, eyes widening. “What is that?” she whispers.

You follow her gaze. Through the legs of the three students standing at the door, you see a man in a sleeping bag in the hallway. He’s laying down.

The sinking feeling in your stomach tells you that this man will be your teacher.

He stands and unzips his ugly sleeping bag to step out of it, and you hold back from grimacing at the teacher’s…scruffy appearance. Yaoyorozu doesn’t, however, and you hear a soft, “Oh, my,” come from her.

“It took eight seconds before you all shut up,” he says, and he talks like he’s bored of the entire class already. “That’s not gonna work. Time is precious. Rational students would understand that.”

You understand. It’s not your fault that he didn’t come into the classroom on time and instead waited to reprimand the students. Where was he eight seconds ago, huh?

“Hello, I’m Aizawa Shouta, you’re teacher.”

Several students, including Yaoyorozu, can’t help containing their small and rightfully shocked gasps.

“Right,” he sighs, and pulls out a gym uniform from his sleeping bag. “Put these on and head outside.”

Your grimace comes to fruition. Did he just…he just pulled your official clothes out from his own sleeping bag? And why the hell is he crawling around on school floors in it, anyway? You’re all for comfort, but that is…

Disgustang.

Muttering, your classmates get up and shuffle back out toward the door, leaving their backpacks behind. They give your teacher their sizes, and he pulls out one for them. As you get closer, you do see that they’re all in a bag, specifically, but the fact that the bag is still inside this sad-looking man’s even sadder-looking sleeping bag doesn’t make you feel much better.

You mumble your size to Aizawa and get a gym outfit two seconds later. He barely bothers you with a glance, but even though it’s tired, there’s still an alertness to it. Kind of like Shinsou, you think. Great. You don’t need to picture what he’ll act like when he’s grown up.

“What do you think we’re going to do?” Ashido asks, sliding up to you as the girls walk to the locker room.

“Not go to orientation, that’s for sure,” you reply. “Unless there’s a surprise dance routine that we’re supposed to put on.”

She giggles, but there’s a tone of nervousness to it. “I really hope not. I mean, I’m down to improvise, but I don’t want to coach anybody else in the class. I don’t even know anybody’s name, much less their dancing skills.” Ashido waggles her brows at you. “Are you a good dancer?”

“According to my plants, I am. But to anybody else, I have no idea.”

Ashido hums seriously and takes it into account.

In the locker rooms, you get more acquainted with the other girls in your class. You’re outnumbered by the boys; seven to thirteen. But, from what you can tell, all the girls are nice and excited to begin the semester.

Your ethnicity, of course, is brought up. It’s inevitable, so you’d rather explain how you’re a foreigner in Japan and get it out of the way. “My dad is Japanese,” you say as you zip up your uniform top. Nobody was prepared to be exercising, so all of you are wearing your regular bras. “My mom is African-American.”

You intentionally use the present verb as you speak about your mother. No need for all of your backstory to be dredged up all at once.

“I was born in America, but I came here to at the start of junior high.”

“That’s so neat!” the brown-haired girl sighs longingly. Her name is Uraraka. “I’ve always wanted to go to America.”

“It’s nice,” Yaoyorozu says. “I liked Washington, D.C., a lot.” A fond smile forms on her lips. “There’s so much history.”

Rich and smart. And you bet she’s not just all talk, either. Just like the electric boy, you can passively feel her particles move in a different way, like they’re ready to transform into something else at the snap of a thought.

Does she have a quirk like yours? You’re too afraid to ask without seeming weird, and you don’t want to have to go into the depths of your own quirk for as long as you can help it. So you stay silent and smiling, and once all of you are dressed, you head back to the classroom and grab your snacky snacks in case you get hungry. Then Aizawa simply says, “Follow me.”

-

It’s a quirk apprehension test. Of course. Some of the students complain that they’re going to miss orientation, but how does Aizawa bluntly put it? “If you really wanna make the big leagues, you can’t waste time on pointless ceremonies. Here at U.A., we’re not tethered to traditions. That means I get to run my class however I see fit.”

You get nervous again the more he explains all the assessments you’ll be doing with your other classmates. The class learning that you took down a zero-pointer was enough attention for you; demonstrating all your capabilities with them watching close-up is…scary. You don’t want to make anyone feel bad! That’s all. Especially since the student in last fucking place will be expelled. Shouldn’t getting in the Hero Course be enough? Everybody’s so freaking nervous that you can sense their chemicals in the air. It’s a nice day, too; it doesn’t need to be mussed up by teenage anxiety.

You want to question your teacher’s methods. You do question your teacher’s methods. Particularly since you can tell that he’s not fucking lying about expulsion. What’s his problem? This is your first day of class! Can’t the lesson in psychological warfare come tomorrow? If the students here don’t deserve to be in 1-A, then why are they here at all? Why must you go through a secondary process without even knowing it?

The blond death-glare loud boy is named Bakugou. He throws the ball that Aizawa gives him a long way, and he seems pretty pleased with himself that he can. He even gives you a challenging look. You just give a confused one back, and that throws him off. Is it because you took down that zero-pointer? It’s not like you had him in mind specifically to show him up or anything. You didn’t even know he existed until the exam, and you don’t care to even think about him for more than a few seconds.

The first test is a fifty-meter dash. You freak out about what you’re going to do, but after watching a few students run, you decide that it’s best to just go with the basics. You increase strength in your muscles that give you abnormal speed compared to the average build of a human body. You’re matched with the boy who has red hair and pointy teeth.

“Name’s Kirishima, by the way,” he says with a friendly wave. You both get into positions. “Kirishima Eijirou.”

You smile back. “Isoko—”

“Runners, on your marks!” the little cam robot chimes. “Ready—”

The sound of a gunshot has you flying forward. You barely feel the ground underneath you, and then you’re across the finish line, briefly wondering how you got from point A to point B. It’s really just not worth remembering.

“3.50 seconds!”

You turn around and watch Kirishima run past the robot. He crosses the finish line as well.

“6.72 seconds!”

“Marigold,” you wrap up with the same smile on your face like before. Kirishima pants a little, but he’s grinning. “Isoko Marigold.”

“Nice time, Isoko!” The two of you begin walking back to the rest of your classmates, who’ve grouped up with two to four people while they wait for the test to be over. “You’re so fast! What kind of quirk do ya have?”

You wince a little. Did you have to get asked that so quickly?

“It’s just, um, a little manipulation quirk,” you half-lie. “I can accelerate or decelerate the muscles and bones and stuff in my body, as well as things around me.”

All you leave out is one pesky little word.

Kirishima buys it wholeheartedly, though. “That’s awesome! Man, I wish I’d been there to see you take down that zero-pointer!”

The two of you stop to watch the remaining students run. The electric boy and the boy with…tape dispensers (?) for elbows come and join you. They congratulate the both of you on your times and introduce themselves as Kaminari Denki and Sero Hanta. At the mention of your achievement (which everybody wants to talk about, for some reason), Kaminari goes into his account of the events. He wasn’t able to see you shove the long spear of graphene into the robot’s head because of all the dust in the air, so your explanation to Kirishima still pans out. You tell them the same thing.

Manipulation quirk! That’s good, right? Then nobody will get freaked out?

You decide to go with it before you can think about the lie for too long.

Next comes the grip strength. You accidentally pump in too much strength in your right arm, so when you squeeze down on the handle, it straight-up breaks. Little sparks fly out of it, and you drop it with a strained, “Oh, no!”

Seeing the accident, Aizawa comes over and picks up the broken grip equipment. He grunts as he looks at the screen, which is miraculously working. “Not bad,” he mumbles half-heartedly. You only feel more dejected.

“Sorry for breaking it,” you say, arms crossing and shoulders hunching a little.

“Don’t be. It’s not the first time such an incident has happened.” He hands you what’s left of the equipment and scrawls down the score. As Aizawa wanders off, you look down at the numbers and end up making another strained noise.

2267kg.

That’s, uh, a little over five thousand pounds.

You need to ease it back.

“Did you break yours?” Ashido suddenly squeals, setting all focus on you.

“I—I didn’t mean to!” you say back. “I just…added too much juice.”

She laughs, sees your force grip, then drops her jaw. “No. Way.”

“What’d you get?” Uraraka calls as she walks over.

“Two thousand two hundred sixty-seven!” Ashido answers for you. That definitely locks in the class’ focus. You give your shattered equipment away to those who want to examine it and nondescriptly back out of the forming huddle.

Bakugou, of course, doesn’t join the group. He instead decides to glare at you some more. You ignore him and pull out a slightly mushed KitKat bar to eat. You don’t want to look like a psycho, so you at least unwrap it first. Then, when you’re pretty sure nobody’s looking, you put the wrapper in your mouth and let it convert to energy.

You could convert it right in the palm of your hand, but you’ve been eating wrappers through your mouth for so long that you don’t really think of doing it any other way.

Standing long jump? You clear it and land far on the other side.

Repeated side steps? You move as fast as you can with air cushioning you on either side to increase speed.

Ball throw? You’re tempted to make a lame-ass attempt, but it’d be phony as fuck at this point. Everyone knows you can be crazy strong.  

You add a little something extra to the ball by decreasing its density. Then you breathe, arch your arm back, then throw it as hard as you can with the modifications you’ve made to your body.

The ball goes, goes, and goes, until you can’t see it anymore.

“Two thousand three hundred eleven kilometers!” Aizawa’s monitor reports. You do the math in your head, gasp, then cringe.

“That went beyond the atmosphere!” you cry. “I’m so sorry! It won’t hit any satellites, will it?”

Aizawa, unphased, shrugs. “Doubt it.”

You cast an anxious glance at your cheering classmates and walk close to your teacher so they won’t overhear. “I can…I can bring it back, if you want,” you say. It’ll expose you as a big fat liar not even an hour into the lie itself, but you can deal with the embarrassment—maybe. “So it’s not just floating up there in space destroying stuff.”

He’s quiet for a moment, then shakes his head. “No. It’s fine. It’d just be a hassle to have the feds coming to the school again wondering why something reentered the atmosphere and went straight to our school.”

You pause.

Again?

He ignores your presence and calls for Jirou to step up. You awkwardly rejoin the class.

“Whoa, Isoko!” Kirishima cheers. He gives you a high-five. “That was awesome! Way up into orbit. Just like Uraraka!”

Unable to help yourself, you flash a grin.

“Excuse me,” says another voice. You turn and see the tall boy with engines in his calves. He’s one of the few in the class that’s taller than you are. “That was an excellent display of your quirk! I don’t think we’ve been properly introduced. I’m Iida Tenya.”

Of fucking course he’s an Iida. Your dad would just go on and on about the family and all their stupid prestige in the Japanese hero world. Like, you get it, he wishes he could have his own perfect Ingenium family to pass down the heroic mantle. Instead he got you, Marigold, the Destroyer of Worlds and Fatherly Dreams.

He holds his hand out to shake. You grasp it and get a quick, preliminary scan of his anatomical makeup. You’ve always been morbidly curious about people who have inorganic parts to their quirk. It’s neat to see how they’ve adapted to mesh with organic components and how it’s changed bones and organs and blood. He’s got a lot of metal in his bloodstream, but his body has adapted to it so well that it doesn’t kill him within hours.

“Hey, nice to meet you,” you smile. “Isoko Marigold. You glared at my friend and me in the lecture hall on the day of exams because we weren’t whispering quietly enough.”

It stumps him for a bit, but he recovers and clears his throat. “Ah. Yes. Well, I apologize if my behavior has given you a negative outlook regarding my personality. I was simply concerned for maintaining the prestigious standards of U.A.”

Wow. Lotta words for saying, “Sorry if you think I’m a tool.”

You shrug and chuckle. “Nah, it’s alright. At least I didn’t get yelled at.” You jerk a thumb at the green-haired boy, who’s getting ready to throw the ball. Overall, he hasn’t been able to do anything singularly impressive in any of the other tests, so you hope he does well in this one. “He’s pretty tough. I would have started crying.”

Iida looks appalled that such a thing could have happened. He suddenly bows, and you glance around with growing embarrassment. “Forgive me! I can’t imagine how I’d be able to live with myself if I were to do such a thing!”

“It’s okay. Hey, it’s okay.” You frantically motion for Iida to come out of the bow. Nearby, you hear Kirishima and Kaminari snicker. “I was just, uh, joking!”

It takes a little more coercing for Iida to come out of his repentant state, and by the time he does, it’s the green-haired kid’s turn. You and the class watch him. Apparently, he also took down a zero-pointer in one insanely destructive punch. It destroyed him, too.

Now what kind of power can do that?

You pretend to casually watch the boy, but inside you’re waiting to see how his quirk reacts in his system. You shouldn’t be doing this, but sometimes when you just can, you do. It’s probably not very healthy, yeah, but Dad has never bothered to get you a therapist, so you blame him for all your flawed justifications.

He’s…panicking. Probably because he wants to do well but also doesn’t want to bust up any limbs. You’re not so good at healing injuries; nobody wants to be a guinea pig for a quirk like yours, and honestly, you don’t blame them. You hope that now you’re at U.A., you’ll be able to improve in medical areas of expertise.

“If Midoriya doesn’t shape up soon,” Iida comments, “he’s the one going home.”

Bakugou overhears him and sneers. “Huh? Of course he is! He’s a quirkless loser!”

Iida sputters. “What? He has a quirk. Did you not hear about what he did in the entrance exam?”

Quirkless loser.

Well, you’d never call anybody a loser. But quirkless? It’s a biological fact.

Why does Bakugou think he is?

You continue to stare at this Midoriya, practically getting hit by the overexerted brainwaves rolling off him in his conflict.

He finally rears his arm back. You begin to feel something, something, something vast

And the ball flies an unimpressive distance. As it rolls to the ground, your eyes go to Aizawa. They narrow a fraction.

He has a quirk erasure ability, and it’s powerful enough that it changes the molecules around him so that everything around his head area becomes floaty, like gravity forgets that his quirk’s pocket exists. Hm. You make a slightly impressed face. Not a bad thing to have.

Midoriya, the poor boy, doesn’t realize that his quirk’s been yeeted for a couple seconds. Aizawa gives him the rundown of what he’s done and why he thinks Midoriya shouldn’t be in the Hero Course, because “the judges for this exam were not rational enough” and “you don’t have control over your power” and “nothing more than a liability in battle.”

It’s painful to listen to. You feel bad for Midoriya; does he get cussed out on a regular basis? Can’t Aizawa see how sweaty and shaking he already is? He doesn’t need more stress! It’ll give him a heart attack! And you know what those feel like, too, because you were bored one day and decided to give yourself one just to have the experience.

They’re not nice.

You visibly grimace when Aizawa tells Midoriya that with his power, there’s no way he can be a hero. But what the hell even is his power? You gotta know! Your teacher’s reaction to him trying to use it doesn’t quell all the mystery and awe surrounding the quirk.

Aizawa releases Midoriya from his scarf. You’ll have to get a sample of its construct later, because you’re unsure if you’ve ever come across such flexible and strong material. You’ll want to add it to your stockpile. “Take your final throw,” he says. “Hurry and get it over with.”

At first glance, Midoriya seems disheartened. Anybody normal person would be. Hell, even you’re disheartened, and it’s not even you he’s talking to. But underneath the mop of wily green hair is a face of unwavering determination.

It’s when everyone starts murmuring about what Aizawa and Midoriya might have said to each other that you realize you have your hearing amplified way more than the average person’s. Oops. That was probably meant to be private, then. But you’re glad it’s probably just you that could listen. Less humiliation for Midoriya.

Aizawa’s unspecified reference to another reckless hero that Midoriya reminded him of gives you cause to ponder. It takes a couple seconds, but you conclude that he’s possibly referencing All Might. Isn’t that a compliment?

Midoriya resumes his place in the ball throwing circle once more. He stands so stilly that you’re surprised when he bursts back into motion. There’s that something again charging up and up and up, more and more and more, growing until you can barely hear or feel anything else besides it.

The quirk is dipping into another dimension, another plane of power that you’ve never comprehended before, and it’s like a massive punch to your own quirk. As the other students gasp at how far he throws the ball with it, you barely restrain yourself from doubling over at the sheer force that ripples into the Way. There’s so much to it in an instant that it shakes you to your very core.

Midoriya’s quirk is not just a quirk. It’s an entity, and it’s powerful.

You want to sit down. Unexpected, dimensional variegation in the Way does that to you. But since you can’t, you pull out another snack from your pocket—a small clementine from your tree—and peel it like a normal person would. Your hands shake, but you don’t tear your eyes from Midoriya. The finger that he channeled his quirk through is shattered, and there’s tissue damage to go with it.

“Mr. Aizawa,” Midoriya says, holding his fist with the broken finger close to him. You have to smile; his willpower may be just as strong as his quirk, because it shines through the pain of a broken finger. “You see? I’m still standing.”

You should really butt out of the conversation. But you can’t. You’re just too nosy.

Aizawa grins. “This kid,” he mutters to himself.

He’s right. This kid. Just who the hell is he? And what the hell is his quirk?

You need to go introduce yourself.

-

The last three tests are pretty easy. You partner up with Yaoyorozu to do sit-ups and toe touches, and you get the highest in class. Iida beats you in the long distance run but coming in second again is actually a relief. Midoriya doesn’t display any of his quirk again, which slightly disappoints you, but you can be patient. Besides, it’s probably good that he doesn’t try to use it if it obliterates him so thoroughly each time.

But it’s weird, isn’t it? Your quirk would do similar things to you and those around you, but you’ve had a handle on it for basically your whole life because you were forced to learn. How come he doesn’t? It’s like he got it yesterday.

Ooh, you feel like a detective. The Quirk Detective. Detective Isoko, Quirk Division. Quirk Investigation Department, this is Isoko speaking. Boom! Agent Marigold Isoko! Put your hands up, scumbag!

Midoriya’s on his back at the end of the long-distance run, seemingly exhausted. You walk over to him and shield the sun with your head so he can see you and not some vague form.

“Hi,” you smile. “Need a hand?”

“Y…yeah,” he pants, and he offers his uninjured hand for you to grab. You effortlessly hoist him up and lend steadying support when he wobbles. “Thank you.”

What he doesn’t realize is that you’re diving into his molecular structure, digging up all the dirt you can find.

And h o l y s h i t.

This boy basically did get his quirk yesterday. It’s new and—and—and foreign and his body literally cannot handle the output of it—

“Midoriya Izuku. Nice to meet you.”

“Isoko Marigold. Same.” You drop your hand from his shoulder and file away the juicy information until later. Man, who knew that you’d learn so much on the first day of class? It’s such a wild ride, and you are totally here for it. 

You make casual conversation with Midoriya as the two of you walk back to Aizawa. He’s incredibly nice and humble for having the power he does. But, then again, that’s how you try to be. That’s how most people try to be—except for Bakugou, it seems. You avoid talking about his quirk and simply ask if his finger is alright. Nobody has bothered to even wrap it for him, but you can’t whip out a piece of athletic tape right now. Not after you’ve lied about the nature of your quirk.

Midoriya’s secrecy about his own makes you feel a little better, though.

“Alright, time to give you your results,” Aizawa announces. He pulls out his phone. “I’ve ranked you all from best to worst. You should probably have a good idea of your standing already. I’ll just pull up the whole list. It’s not worth going over each individual’s score.”

Midoriya is palpably nervous beside you, so you give his shoulder a comforting squeeze. It makes him jump a little since the gesture pulls him out of his own fear.

“Don’t worry,” you whisper to him. “I think you did pretty good.”

He lets out a soft, anxious laugh. “Are you sure?” His voice faintly trembles.

You end up going with, “I mean, in my opinion, yeah.”

All you get back is a little, tense hum.

The scoreboard comes to life, and Class 1-A scans the results for their names.

When you see yours, you go, “Oof.”

1: ISOKO MARIGOLD
2: YAOYOROZU MOMO
3: TODOROKI SHOUTO
4: BAKUGOU KATSUKI

Then, alllllll the way at the bottom, is:

20: MIDORIYA IZUKU

He lets out a pitiful puff of air and clenches the fist with his broken finger.

The scoreboard flickers off. “And I was lying,” Aizawa states. “Nobody’s going home.” He grins again in that unnerving style. “That was just a rational deception to make sure you gave it your all in the tests.”

Most of the students go into uproar. You furrow your brows; Mr. Aizawa is lying about lying.

“I’m surprised the rest of you that out,” Yaoyorozu says, looking genuinely confused that nobody in the class thought the same thing. “I’m sorry. I guess I probably should have said something.”

You don’t break it to her or anyone else that no, Mr. Aizawa was deadass serious. Maybe he just changed his mind about expelling Midoriya because of his awesome display during the ball throw. You gotta admit, the kid is smart. He shouldn’t be discounted just yet, no matter how damaging his quirk may be. If anything, it’s all the more reason to have him in the class. He can learn to control it with some of the best heroes around to help him.

“That’s it, we’re done for today. Pick up a syllabus in the classroom. Read it over before tomorrow morning.”

Midoriya sighs in relief. Aizawa walks over to you two, filling out some kind of notepad. He tears off a piece of paper and holds it out. “Midoriya. Take this and go have the old lady fix you up. Things are gonna be tougher tomorrow when your actual training begins. Make sure you’re prepared.”

His tired eyes glide over to you. “Isoko. A word.”

Aizawa begins walking again, so you have no choice but to follow. You give Midoriya and Uraraka a small wave before heading off.

Once you and the teacher are out-of-earshot, he bluntly says, “I know you held back today.”

You shift as discomfort begins to bloom in you. “Well, I mean, yeah…”

“And I know you’re lying to your classmates about your quirk.”

“Yeah…”

“Heroes don’t hide their power. You should have done far more. I only ranked you first because you excelled evenly in all the tests.” Aizawa pauses to apply eye drops. “I understand why you’d want to key down the extent of your quirk, however. It’ll get out, eventually, but I’ll leave that up to you to decide when—or how—to tell your classmates. But don’t expect to be lax in this course; you’ll have to push yourself just like everyone else.”

“Yes sir. Thank you.”

You bow. Aizawa grunts and leaves.

“What did Mr. Aizawa want to talk to you about?” Uraraka asks once you rejoin your classmates. Everyone begins moving toward the locker rooms.

“Oh, you know, things like, ‘Isoko, I ranked you first because I hate you and I want to see you suffer under the pressure of being ranked number one on some dumb quirk apprehension test. Gimme two thousand yen.’”

You shift your vocal cords so you really get Aizawa’s deadpan, tired, gravelly voice down. Uraraka, Midoriya, and those close enough to hear the impression giggle.

“And what did you say back?” she presses humorously.

“I said, ‘Well, Mr. Aizawa sir, thank you very much for that, and I’ll have your two thousand yen by tomorrow because you obviously need it more than I do.’”

There’s a good round of laughter, then you answer honestly. “Nah, he just said that he still expects me to improve my quirk despite how well I did, and that I should probably get out of my comfort zone.”

You obviously don’t mention that you should also be honest with your classmates about your quirk. It can’t last long, anyway; someone will see you eating a wrapper or snapping off your fingers or conjuring something out of thin air.

Before you head into the locker rooms and change back into your uniform, you get one last glance at Midoriya. He’s oblivious to your observation.

What lies beneath your bones?

 

 

 

Chapter Text

“Time to load up,” you crow in English as you grab a tray for both you and Yaoyorozu. It’s your first day in the cafeteria, and you’re not gonna miss out on any of the celestial food that awaits you.

“Load…up?” Yaomomo repeats. She’s said that you can call her that since you’ve made such a fast friendship.

“It just means getting a whole bunch of food,” you explain. The line is moving too slow, so you impatiently dance on your feet. “My quirk makes me need to eat a lot.”

“Mine is the same way if I want to produce as many objects as I can,” she says. You’ve found out that Yaomomo has a creation quirk; it’s sort of like yours but on a much, much lower level. Still, it’s cool that her lipids can whip anything out if she wants. You certainly couldn’t create any electronics without extensively researching its composition and memorizing where all the wires and circuits are.

You stock food up much more confidently than she does, but the fact that you do helps her grab more food for herself. You hear little mutters of, “Maybe no…oh, okay” and “I shouldn’t, except it does have a lot of calories…oh, okay” and “I have so much already, but we’ll be training later on…oh, okay.”

You expertly hide your smile so Yaomomo doesn’t think you’re laughing at her. You’re just happy that she’s eating like she should with her quirk and not putting herself at a disadvantage because of her fears of what others might think of all her food piled up on a single tray.

Oh well. You have more food, anyway, and you look like a foreigner, so you can draw the stares from Yaomomo like Jupiter draws asteroids from Earth.

Shinsou is still nowhere to be seen. You texted him saying that he should come sit with you when it was lunchtime, but he said he’d be sitting with other classmates. You can’t tell if he’s lying because you can’t see him, and despite all your powers, you doubt you’ll ever be able to discern the exact truth through messages.

He’s a big boy, though, and you trust him not to be completely stupid. A little stupid? Yeah. But that’s how everybody is, yourself included. Like, when you’re alone with nobody but the plants to keep you company, you do some real dumb shit.

Asui (but call her Tsu) joins the two of you at the table before someone else can take up the space. She has considerably less food, but she makes no comment about the difference. You all talk about your first day of lessons, and Tsu says that if she needs help with her English, she’ll come to both of you. Yaomomo is fluent in the language, and you think she’s probably better at understanding the grammar than you are. Like, you can speak English, but listing off proper terms and that shit? Not really your thing. You’re better at breaking down the technicalities in Japanese, since you learned it in a more proper setting.

Hakagure also joins you about halfway through lunch. She’s incredibly bubbly and cute, and she’s done her hair up for the first full day of school despite being invisible to everyone.

Well. Everyone except you. Your eyes adjust to the way her skin absorbs light and the overall cellular structure. Combined with a little infrared and you get the basic outline of a pretty teenage girl.

You’re not gonna tell her that you can choose to see her.

By the time hero training rolls around, you’re really glad you didn’t say anything, because her hero outfit is basically nothing. You wouldn’t have wanted to make her feel self-conscious.

But you, on the other hand, are straight-up not having a good time right now.

“You look like Mr. Aizawa,” Tsu croaks.

“What? No, I don’t…”

You examine your hero costume in the mirror and frown. It’s a simple black jumpsuit made of cotton, since you’re the most familiar with the fabric and can reconstruct it easily if you ever do deconstruct. In the rough outline you sent the support department, you explicitly stated:

-No zippers! No buttons! No clasps!
-No skin-tightness!
-No flashy-flashness!

They got two out of three. There’s a slim zipper down the front of your jumpsuit hidden by a fold of fabric. You probably should have said that you didn’t want it because it’s a bitch to fully reconstruct in a moment’s notice. And you can’t complain about it to the girls, either, because then you’d have to fully reveal just what your quirk can do.

Still. You slump. You do look a little like Aizawa, especially in your current hunched position. You slip your hands into your pockets and attempt to grin in your teacher’s weird way. Uraraka sees you mimicking Aizawa and busts out laughing.

“Keep laughing and you’ll be expelled,” you impersonate, which only garners more laughter from her and the other girls. You go back to your normal voice. “Man, this kinda sucks. I had no idea that my own teacher and I would be twinning. Support department must’ve had a big ol’ fat laugh about it.”

“Just unzip it a little!” Ashido suggests, provocatively motioning for you to bring down the zipper. “That’ll make a difference!”

“Um, no.”

You don’t tell them, but you were originally planning to go commando underneath the jumpsuit. There’s always a high chance of you forgetting to reconstruct your underwear when you dissipate, so what’s the solution to that? Not wear any!

But you’ve gone and fibbed about your quirk. You won’t be deconstructing anything in plain view for a while yet. It’s simultaneously relieving and limiting.

You give your hair a pat. Besides Hagakure’s outfit, yours is the easiest to slip on, so you wait for everyone else to get suited up. You don’t want to go out all on your own. You like most of the boys you’ve met, but you don’t know any of them well enough to seek out. Once everybody’s complimented each other a dozen times over, the seven of you leave together. Ashido makes sure that you’re all strutting your stuff to impress the boys. You try your best; strutting isn’t exactly your thing, and just the thought of doing it for the guys makes your body want to blush. You have to dial back some chemicals to keep it from happening.

Fortunately, your costume is so fucking plain and loose that you’re not the center of attention. Probably dead last, really. Even all the boys’ outfits are cooler than yours, and for a moment you want to slink back into the hall the twenty of you just came from. You should have thought of something better.

It’s All Might’s presence, however, that keeps you from deconstructing out of self-imposed embarrassment. He carries an incredible, indiscernible amount of power with him—you sensed it when he first came to meet the class back in the room. But scanning the All Might for actual quirk power? When you haven’t even spoken to him first? Or seen him in action up close? That’s just rude.

Also, he’s so intimidating that you’re unsure if you even have the guts to.

In his booming voice, he says the class looks cool in all their hero outfits. You doubt he takes your costume into account, seeing as it looks like it got pulled off the discount rack at H&M compared to all the others. You start to subconsciously put your hands in your pockets and slouch to be noticed even less—then, realizing that you’re taking an Aizawa stance, you jerk back upright.

As All Might explains the training scenario, you get that sinking feeling in your particles that you really shouldn’t have kept the truth hidden about your quirk. Indoor battle? That’s perfect for deconstructing or doing just about anything else than using what you claim you can do.

Shitballs.

It gets a little better, though, when you draw the same lot as Yaomomo. The two of you light up when you see that you’re a team. She even gives you a high-five when you hold up your hand to slap. Even though you actually haven’t seen her do any battle, you’re sure that she has a great analytical mind that’s quick to think under pressure. Her presence relieves some of your panic.

“I think we should call ourselves the Tall Girl Team,” you say as the two of you head to the monitoring room with the rest of the class. It’s Iida and Bakugou versus Midoriya and Uraraka. You feel bad for the heroes—especially Midoriya. How’s he gonna win this with that quirk of his?

And Bakugou? You’ve picked up on some of the low-toned insults he’s thrown at Midoriya during class hours. They’re personal and vitriolic. Those two have a history, and it hasn’t improved since Midoriya was accepted to U.A. with Bakugou.

Quirkless loser.

Midoriya isn’t quirkless anymore, though. However he got his power…Bakugou hates him for it.

“I feel like that’s a suitable name for us,” she can’t help but grin. “I must say, it’s nice not to be the tallest girl in class.”

“That’s what I’m here for!”

But not everyone has the notion of being heroic in their minds. You watch with yawning horror as Bakugou and Midoriya go head-to-head, witnessing him time his explosions just enough that he hurts Midoriya—but not so much that it ends the fight. You can’t hear the words they’re saying to each other, but the loathing that radiates off of Bakugou is nuclear. It travels through the Way and hits you. Does All Might know about their relationship? Does he know what Bakugou intends to do? What Midoriya can’t do without hurting himself? This isn’t about pretending to be a villain in order to fend off the heroes until the clock runs out; it’s a personal, very real vendetta.

You keep your mouth shut as other students protest the severity of it all, but you see something else as your gaze glances away from the screen to avoid watching Midoriya get ripped to shreds. There’s something tense in All Might, like he’s expecting something—expecting someone—in the teams to do something big. His hand trembles as it grips the microphone, but he can’t bring himself to say anything just yet. He’s waiting…waiting for…

The Way’s song is soft, but it is clear.

All Might finally demands that the boys stop battling, but he cuts himself off for some reason.

Your eyes move back to the screen as the revelation dawns on you like a slow, early morning sun. The barest rays touch your thoughts—

Then it consumes you, shattering your mind like the glass windows shatter in the building that Midoriya and Bakugou are fighting in. Midoriya uses so much more POWER than he had before during the apprehension test that it slams through the Way and right into your own quirk. It’s not painful, but it carries its own kind of shocking force that makes you react like you’ve been stabbed right through the gut. You double over slightly, wincing and trying to keep yourself in a solid form, but your gaze returns to All Might.

Your mouth turns into a firm line, and you reach out with your quirk, afraid but unwavering.

Both his and Midoriya’s quirks are so similar that they should be related, but their DNA is inherently different. The only thing that connects them is the power they both hold. All Might’s is older, weaker, and Midoriya’s is newer, stronger—and very, very much out-of-control.

He can’t control it, though, because there is even more to it than All Might’s quirk. You can feel the entity of it still rippling through the air as Midoriya’s punch fades. You can’t properly comprehend it with your own thoughts—it’s only through the Way that you can even begin to grasp what this means, what this does, and how it changes everything you once believed you understood.

The universe—your universe that you hold inside you—expands significantly more.

There is also something terribly wrong with All Might.

“Isoko? Are you alright?”

Yaomomo’s hand on your shoulder drags your spiraling consciousness back to the monitoring room. Midoriya is out, Uraraka is on the verge of throwing up, but they win.

They win.

“What a weird way for this to end,” Kaminari comments. “The losers are practically untouched, and the winners are both on the ground.”

You stand upright and flash a smile to Yaomomo. “Yeah. Just feeling the pain for my classmates is all.”

She nods in understanding. The fight wasn’t a pretty thing to watch, and a few around you bear similar expressions. They’re for different reasons, but it fits in the same.

Your answer to one question has opened the door to a million others.

As if sensing your revelation, All Might glances back at you. There’s nothing you can say or do in return, so you simply stare at him with a sad expression.

You’re sorry. Sorry that he’s fading, sorry that Midoriya hurts, sorry that you dug out his secret without permission.

But there’s nothing you can do now except move forward. You carry countless secrets of the universe that may never be uncovered by any human on Earth for another hundred thousand years; you can carry this one, too.

-

The plan is simple. Yaomomo creates steel beams to barricade the door to keep Kaminari and Jirou out. Despite his electricity quirk, you don’t think it can carry enough force to bust through. You’re still uncertain what Jirou can do, however; Aizawa’s apprehension test didn’t really give her much of a chance to showcase her quirk. It’s okay, though. You and Yaomomo? You’re gold.

“I’m gonna tap into the building,” you say once the beams are stacked almost to the top of the door. “I can make its molecules buzz just a little faster to get a sense of where everything is.”

She’s rightly surprised. “Oh? Your quirk does that?”

“Yeah. That way, I can differentiate the building’s particles between Kaminari’s and Jirou’s. Not enough for them to notice that the building is rumbling or whatever. Just enough for me.” Your smile has a hint of slyness.

Yaomomo grins determinedly. “Excellent. They won’t be able to get a surprise on us.”

You crouch down on the ground, both hands splayed out on the floor. You don’t need to do it, but you play along with what you’ve said your quirk is.

The building’s atoms begin to vibrate at your call. They’re barely moving any faster. Even though you could use a different aspect of your quirk to speed up the process, the method works out, and within a few seconds you’ve not only gotten the internal and external layout of the building, but you’ve found out which floor the heroes are on.

“I see them,” you hiss devilishly, and Yaomomo has a hard time hiding her smile. Since you’re going to lay into the role of villainy, she will too, and she puts on a cold, dark demeanor.

“Let them come,” she states, folding her arms and widening her stance so it has an air of superiority. “We shall crush them.”

There’s a ping in the building from five floors beneath you, followed by the distinct thump of a heartbeat. You narrow your eyes and press your ear to the cold floor. Then, once you realize who it is and what she’s doing, you whisper with as much manic evil as you can muster, “Hello, Jirou.”

You hear a yelp from her end and the removal of her earphone jack. It’s so neat that she can do that, and once this is over, you’re going to have to ask her more about her quirk.

“They most likely know where we are.” You stand up and begin pacing with your hands laced behind your back. “Kaminari—I mean, whatever that wannabe hero’s name is—has an electric quirk. Once they find that our door is blocked, I bet he’ll try to swamp us with electricity and hope that it incapacitates us.”

“Well, he shall soon find out that we cannot be so easily defeated!”

Yaomomo sets to work on creating rubber blankets for the both of you. You’re tempted to say that you don’t need one, but you would also feel bad if you hindered her quick-thinking skills. Every once in a while, the two of you utter low, “Mwa ha has” to each other.

About six minutes later and nine minutes into the session, you sense them approach. You silently warn Yaomomo about it, and the two of you back to the furthest edge of the wall. She places an extra rubber mat on the ground for more protection.

You had guessed correctly; Kaminari’s quirk comes raging through the room, but you feel the electricity gloss over your protection. Within a matter of seconds, it’s over, and you can hear them conversing on the other side of the room. Yaomomo goes to take off her blanket—but you reach out and stop her, giving your head a silent shake. She reads your caution and drops your hand. If the blankets aren’t enough for what may come next, you’re sure to prepare your body to absorb any extra voltage. Yaomomo…well, you just hope that the blankets are thick enough.

A few more minutes pass as the two of you wait for the heroes to make their next move. Every once in a while, you hear either one or both of them trying to break down the door. It’s no use—Yaomomo has them stacked so solidly that you figure only someone with a quirk that enhances their strength or something forceful like Bakugou’s and Todoroki’s can bust through.

By about minute thirteen, you start getting worried that they’ve given up. You don’t want them to do that. Take risks! Go big, even if it is dumb! Yaomomo may be right about treating this like a real battle scenario and playing it smart, but that can’t always apply.

“I’m going to taunt them,” you whisper to Yaomomo. “I don’t want them just standing there until the clock runs out. Something needs to happen.”

Surprisingly, she agrees. “Yes. They need to take a chance.”

You suck in a breath and shout, “Hey! You weak little heroes! What, can’t knock down a door? We’re gonna—ooh, man, we are way cooler than you, and we’re gonna do some real bad stuff with this bomb! I mean—I mean missile! Nuclear stuff! Killing is the best! Yaoyorozu loves the smell of blood! And radiation! Ha ha! It’s like an air freshener for her!”

Yaomomo gives you a weird, confused look. You frantically shrug and mutter, “I don’t know how to talk like a villain?” Then you go back to yelling. “And I’m going to pop a cap in—”

Powerful sonic waves roll through, and the two of you both recoil at the invasion coursing through your skulls. It vibrates the barricaded door and rattles the steel beams. Jirou.

Now you understand what the speakers strapped to her legs can do.

It doesn’t stop. Yaomomo falls to her knees, covering her ears up in a futile attempt to block out the strain. You, however, decelerate your hearing until the world goes silent. You can still feel the ripples of the sonic waves, but you stand strong against it by accelerating your strength.

Once one beam falls off, the rest quickly follow. The power of her sonic waves is creating cracks in the wall, however, and they do damage to the pillars in the room. It must’ve been a tough decision for her, since heroes are supposed to do all they can to maintain the building’s structural integrity.

You walk forward, pushing past the waves that radiate throughout the room, and pull out the capture tape. The heroes will be coming in any second, so you push yourself against the violently shaking wall as best you can and wait for the last beam to dislodge. Once it does, the sonic waves cut off and the door bursts open.

“Put your hands up, garbage—”

As soon as Kaminari thrusts his hands out, you have the capture tape wrapped around it. He barely registers that you’ve got him until you’re onto Jirou, who doesn’t have the time to get her earphone jacks back into the amplifiers. She tries to jerk her wrist away, but it’s too late. You tie a simple knot and back away, feeling your atoms jitter with the excitement of the moment.

“THE VILLAINS WIN!” All Might booms through the com.

“Hey, sorry,” you immediately begin. “You probably wanted a cool fight or something…”

“How did you move that fast?” Kaminari blurts. “I barely even saw you!”

“Yeah, and how did you resist my sonic waves?” Jirou follows up. “How could you hear me searching for you?” The three of you go to Yaomomo and make sure she’s alright. Other than a faint buzzing in her ears, she says she’s fine.

“Insulation,” Kaminari says as he feels the blanket draped around your shoulders. “Nice thinking. That’s why neither of you went down during my initial attack.”

“I made myself deaf,” you answer, and Jirou nods. “I also fortified my body so it couldn’t be pushed back by the force. You got a pretty rad quirk going on, though, especially with those amplifiers. It went through solid steel!”

She blushes and glances away. “…Thanks.”

You smile at her attempt to hide her pride, and your enthusiasm about being in this class with this group of people grows.

-

All Might makes a quick, “heroic” exit from the battle center that you’ve spent the period training in. You sense something else, though, that forces him to leave. His quirk has a limit to it, and you wonder if it’s because of the horrific injuries he’s sustained or if that’s just how it works. But once he’s gone, you get changed back into your school uniform and pretend like you’re clueless about the Symbol of Peace’s declining quirk and its relationship to Midoriya’s.

It’s not hard to walk around with world-changing information in your brain. You’ve been doing it since you could listen to the Way.

You watch with the rest of the class as Midoriya and Bakugou have some exchange outside. The sun is low in the sky, golden yellow and relentless. Whatever their conversation is, it’s heated and tense—but you expect that’s how all their conversations typically go.

Eventually, everyone disperses. You make your way home and think about what you’re going to have for dinner. The plants must be lonely.

All Might must be lonely, really. It has to be hard to try to keep up with being the Number One Hero but suffer with what he does—and not be able to tell anyone about it. Oh, sure, a few people probably know, Midoriya included, but still. Everyone looks up to him for safety, but the Way whispers that soon, he won’t be able to carry the mantle of the protector anymore.

And yet he continues to smile.

You don’t have as much ambition like the rest of your classmates do. They want to be like All Might, succeed like All Might. You just want to legally be able to use your quirk to help others, whether it be fully in the pro-hero world or not. You’ve never wanted to be number one—never wanted to be in top rankings, really. It doesn’t really matter, as long as you can provide, as long as you can serve. The universe is too big to be concerned with popularity.

But if anything, you’ll smile like All Might does. It makes people feel like everything’s going to be okay. And if you’re going to be there, then it definitely will.

You test out a few All Might-worthy grins as you make the solitary walk to the train station. Such a big, broad expression feels strange on your face, so you pull it back to a bright smile. Eventually, you step it up to a grin that suits you.

Under your breath, you utter the phrase you hope to say to those in need of rescue one day.

“Don’t worry. I’m here.”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

You sit in class, quietly listening to the rest of the students talk about the swam of reporters they had to struggle through just to get inside U.A. You ignored all their shouts and questions just like everyone else trying to reach the school. It’s annoying, to say the least, having them piled up like that.

If the reporters knew who your father was, they probably would have paid more attention to you. But your skin color doesn’t exactly relate back to him in Japan, so you fly under the radar. Not even anyone in class has picked up on it. You prefer it that way.

Aizawa goes over yesterday’s combat training. He tells you and Yaomomo that you worked together effectively. That’s pretty much it.

You bite back a sigh. So this is how it’s gonna be, huh?

“Let’s get down to business. Our first task will decide your future.”

You make a scrunched-up, confused expression. Really? Really. Really?

“You all need to pick a class representative.”

Of course. No offense to your teacher if he can read minds as well as erase quirks, but he’s a bit of an asshole.

The class breathes a collective sigh of relief right before all hell breaks loose.

“Pick me guys! I wanna be class rep!” Kirishima yells.

“I’ll take it!”

“Yeah, you’re gonna need me.”

“Someone with style would be the best—”

“I’m, like, totally the right pick!”

“Hey! Want me to show you? I’m your only choice!” 

In front of you, you see Midoriya tentatively raise his hand. You glance and see Tokoyami sitting in his usual position: arms crossed, head tilted down. Behind him, Todoroki looks on like he’s bored of everything. Then again, that’s usually his expression.

Iida silences the room with his megaphone voice and declares that the class needs to take a more democratic approach to the election system. You go along with it mostly because you couldn’t give a fart about being class representative. It’s a huge thing in Japan, you know, but seriously? You don’t want to be in charge of these guys, anyway; they’re all so…

“EVERBODY VOTE FOR ME OR I’M GOING TO KILL ALL OF YOU!”

Yeah.

You automatically vote for yourself, but the second you turn your piece of paper in, you realize that you should have voted for Yaomomo. She’s best suited for the task, and she really wants the position. Besides, she’s one of the first friends you’ve made in this class.

“Can I change my vote?” you weakly ask.

“No!” Ashido, who somehow was put in charge of counting the votes, yells back brightly.

You thump your forehead on the desk.

It works out alright in the end, though. Yaomomo winds up with two votes, and Midoriya? The little sucker got three.

But, like, it’s not hard to figure out who gave him the extra votes.  Iida and Uraraka have been tight with him already. If it’s anyone, it’s them.

And it’s definitely not Bakugou.

“Okay, you idiots, who voted for him?” Bakugou slams his hands on the desk and stands up. You glance at Aizawa sleeping on the ground to see if the sudden noise has disturbed him, but no. He remains content in his cocoon.

“What, did you honestly think anyone was going to vote for you?” Sero asks back.

“HUH? WHAT DID YOU JUST SAY?”

You roll your eyes and quietly mutter, “Could you just shut up for one second?”

Midoriya whimpers, and you realize you’ve said it too loud. Bakugou, still baring his teeth, slowly swivels to you. “…Are you talking to me?” he growls.

Great.

“I mean, you’re the loudest in class,” you say, arms folding and body sinking into your chair. You don’t want to do this. Bakugou is a pointless person, making all engagements with him also pointless. “So…who, uh, else would I be talking to?”

“I’M GONNA MAKE YOU REGRET SAYING THAT!”

You just make an I-doubt-that kind of face and say nothing. He glares at you for a few more moments before sitting back down, muttering, “Not worth my damn time.”

No, you really aren’t.

-

“…And I didn’t even think about voting for you because I’m dumb,” you whine, sulkily eating your food.

Yaomomo waves you off with her chopsticks. “It’s not a big deal. It would have just made me tied with Midoriya, then we would have had to go through another round. I’m just happy that you think I’ll do a good job at being vice class rep.” She smiles to assure you that it’s alright.

“By the way,” you drawl, leaning in closer. “Midoriya? What the hell?”

Yaomomo snorts. “I’m glad I’m not the only one who thinks that. Don’t get me wrong, I think he’s fine, but…”

“But you saw how sweaty he was up there, right?” You shovel rice into your mouth and continue. “Luckily, he’ll have you to be the real boss.”

“Stop flattering me,” Yaomomo says, but she enjoys it. You open your mouth to say something else—

In the distance, atoms are deconstructed, destroyed, disintegrated.

And it isn’t you.

Your brows furrow while you look out the cafeteria windows, searching. “Isoko? What is it?”

“Something…” How can you explain the change in the Way?

An alarm rings, cutting you off. “WARNING. LEVEL THREE SECURITY BREACH. STUDENTS, PLEASE EVACUATE THE BUILDING IN AN ORDERLY FASHION.”

“Level three? What’s level three?” For the first time since meeting her, you hear a tinge of panic in Yaomomo’s voice.

It has to do with whatever—whoever—manipulated those atoms. Fear spikes in you as well; what if they have a quirk like yours? What hell can they unleash in the school before the teachers can do anything about it? Can the teachers even do anything?

Shit.

“Whatever it means, we gotta get out,” you say, jumping upright and grabbing her hand. The two of you meld into the flood of fleeing students, but you take the lead, using your strength to push past. Part of you wants to disintegrate and go see what’s going on outside—maybe you can help. But that’d just give you away, and you’d probably get in trouble with the teachers. Besides, if the students in here need protecting, you can offer it best if you’re present.

Everyone is evacuating through the main hall, and you soon become swept up in the pandemonium. You want to increase your density to resist the current, but that might just hurt other students. According to Shinsou, it feels like slamming into a metal post when you’re heavier. Added with the panic, you’d possibly break someone’s nose or toes the moment they’re shoved into you.

You should have stayed in the cafeteria. This is even more dangerous.  

“Everybody needs—to calm down—” Yaomomo gasps. The two of you are crushed against each other and about six other students, all of whom are shouting and yelling their own pleas.

Luckily, you don’t sense any more atomic disintegration. You hope it stays like that.

“Isoko!”

Yaomomo is ripped from your grasp as more students cram into the hall. Another second later, the two of you are separated by several feet as your gap leaves more to violently flow in. You stumble, catch yourself, and ram into two familiar faces.

Kaminari isn’t as sturdy as Kirishima, so he trips and goes down. It’s a death sentence in this rampage. “Save me, Isoko!” he wails. “I don’t wanna diiiieeee!”

You heft him back upright, and collectively the three of you all cling to each other. “What the hell is going on?” Kirishima blasts beside your ear.

“Whatever it is, don’t let go of me!” Kaminari holds tighter to your waist. You’d push him away in any other situation, but he isn’t even doing it to get a feel of you. He’s just that scared. Kirishima has his arms firmly wrapped around you both, ready to defend against anyone who tries to separate you three.

Now somewhat protected, you take the chance to look out the window and see if you can spot any villains or fighting. All you see is the same swarm of reporters that were outside the school this morning.

The same. Reporters. In. School. Grounds.

“What in the fuck?!” you holler, but only the two boys hear you over the noise.

Then a wheeling, engine-fired Iida goes flying above you, and the universe becomes a little stranger.

Still. It makes you break out into an unabashed grin, and a bit of disbelieving laughter bubbles up in your throat. Freaking Iida. You’re coming to learn that he really is just like that, but his actions are always driven to help others.

Iida slams against the exit all the students are cramming to get through, fitting perfectly atop the exit sign. Somewhere along the wild ride he lost his glasses, but he’s undeterred.

“Listen up! Everything is okay!” Iida yells. His voice is perfect for the announcement since it’s so loud. “It’s just the media outside! There’s absolutely nothing to worry about! Everything is fine! We’re U.A. students! We need to remain calm and prove that we’re the best of the best!

He’s wearing ankle socks, you note.

Kaminari and Kirishima let go of you, the fear fading from them. You adjust your crooked tie and pat your hair. Since it’s quieting down, you can hear police sirens outside. No quirk-fueled disintegration. You’ll need to tell Aizawa or somebody about it. Was it just one of the reporters trying to get in? Or…or something worse?

“Can Iida even get down?” Kirishima questions, pointing at him. He’s still stuck at the top of the exit sign, and it’s a good eight-foot drop to the ground since the doorways are all so fucking huge. His legs quake from the odd position.

“Oof,” you mutter, and begin wading through the sea of students. Kirishima and Kaminari follow. When you get to the exit, you peer up and smile. “Hey, you need help?”

“I—I am unsure how to get down—” Iida admits through gritted teeth. You hold your arms up like you’re going to catch a child.

“I got you! Don’t worry!”

“Isoko! I do not think it would be safe for me to jump on you!”

But the boys are already making space like they’re security guards or something. “Alright, people, back it up, back it up, we’ve got this situation under control. Nothing to see here. Nothing to see here!”

You motion for Iida to leap with a simple flex of your fingers. “Come on. You won’t hurt me. Just jump! I got ya!”

There’s some serious grumbling on Iida’s part, but eventually he says, “Alright, fine! Get ready!”

Iida falls more than jumps off the exit sign, but despite his ungracefulness, you manage to catch him securely in your arms without stumbling backwards. “See? That wasn’t so bad!” you giggle as you let go of him. Iida’s cheeks are a faint pink. “Great job, by the way.” You pat his shoulder and realize that this boy is built. “Real heroic stuff, calming down a mob.”

You don’t mean to make Iida’s blush deepen, but there it goes. Luckily, he takes the compliment in stride and straightens his back. “Thank you! I simply wanted to put an end to unwarranted madness.”

The smile keeps sticking to your face, but Iida’s words remind you about what you felt. Unwarranted madness.

The Way sings a soft, inaudible song that unnerves you to the point where you have to forcibly keep yourself together. Whatever this may have been, it is…it is a beginning of something.

But man, you’re just a freshman.

Even worse, they’re just freshman. All of your classmates. You want to keep them safe, even though you barely know any of them. Kirishima and Kaminari, who’re now showing Iida how he looked when he was up on the exit sign, are two great guys who can make anybody feel at ease. Iida, who’s telling Kirishima and Kaminari over their mimicking to act orderly, is driven and far kinder than you first expected him to be.

Yaomomo is coming up to you in the crowd, as well as Midoriya and Uraraka. They’re all so nice. Even Bakugou, who you can see slouching against the wall and making sure everyone knows he’s uninterested in the events around him, should be kept safe—though you’re certain that he’d just get mad at you for trying.

You’ll keep them safe. Yeah. You’ll keep them all safe.

-

In a sudden turn of events, Iida gets elected as class rep. You’re happy for him (but you still think Yaomomo should have been elected class rep with him as vice rep, since she got more votes than he did). After that, everyone blows over the whole incident during lunch, and they all joke and tease about everyone’s reactions during the panic.

“I saw how you were all cozied up with Kaminari and Kirishima,” Ashido pokes at you. “Did it feel nice?”

“It felt cramped,” you say back, unwilling to be baited into her riles. “And Kaminari was crying.”

He overhears your conversation. “I was not! Besides, I almost got trampled to death!”

You all laugh, but unease grows in the pit of your stomach, churning and changing cells with the stress. Before you know it, blood is filling your mouth, so you quickly swallow it and readjust your slackening organs. Gotta be more careful about that—can’t have an eyeball popping out in the middle of quirk history class. Or even worse, your nose.

Shinsou would never let you live that down.

Is he okay? He didn’t want to hang out with you since school began. In fact, his text responses have become considerably lighter. Thinking of him, you slide your phone out from your uniform’s jacket pocket and slyly text him.

13:23
you okay? Cafeteria stuff was crazy

14:10
hope you didn’t get trampled :(

15:02
Noooo don’t be dead

15:03
Hitoshiiii boy
I am still alive unfortunately

15:03
Gooooood

“Mr. Aizawa?”

You hesitantly approach your teacher. He’s still pretty imposing, and you hadn’t spoken to him since the apprehension test. Battle training hadn’t begun, yet, and classmates are still filtering out of the locker rooms.

“What.” He’s staring at his phone screen, and you barely keep yourself from shirking away. Your shoulders hunch, but you manage to open your mouth and speak.

“I, uh, it’s about what happened at lunch.”

Aizawa’s dark eyes flicker up at you, and he lowers his phone. “And?”

Hoo, boy, this isn’t getting any easier. Why are you so bad at this?

“Um, well, it’s—okay.” You glance around to make sure no classmates are close enough to overhear. “I felt…I felt something today, right before all those journalists flooded into school grounds. A, a disintegration quirk. Atomic disintegration, I mean.”

Though Aizawa’s expression doesn’t change, his eyes sharpen tenfold, and it’s the first time you see an intensity in your pro-hero teacher. “You sensed another person’s quirk?”

“I can, I can sense anybody’s quirk, really,” you mutter, shoving your hands in your costume’s pockets. “But it requires at least a little effort. This one, though…this one I felt all on my own because it changed particles nearby. Violently.”

“So this user has a quirk like yours?”

For the first time, you regard Mr. Aizawa with a serious, unflinching stare. You sense his heartbeat quicken. “Let’s hope not. You couldn’t stop them if they did.”

He sighs and scratches his bedraggled, scruffy jawline. “Alright, I’m excusing you from today’s training session. Go to the principal’s office and report to him what you’ve told me.” Mr. Aizawa pulls out his phone and taps out what you assume is a message. “Just go into more detail, please. Principal Nedzu and other faculty members will want to know what you’ve sensed.”

“I will.” You slightly bow to your teacher. “Thank you.”

“Get going, Isoko.”

You turn and quickly leave the center. Unfortunately, Tsu and Uraraka catch you ducking out. “Where you off to?” asks Tsu, and you slow your pace and put on a nonchalant smile you hope nobody can see through.

“Oh, there’s just some international paperwork I have to go over,” you lie, and you silently say fuck to yourself because of how clearly you can hear that you’re bullshitting.

Uraraka has no reason to believe you’re lying, though, so she smiles empathetically. “Aw, that sucks! We’re going to miss you! Maybe it won’t take that long!”

Tsu says nothing, and you’re rapidly coming to the conclusion that the froggy girl is…perceptive. More than she lets on. She doesn’t pry anymore, though, so you say goodbye to them and continue down the hall.

You pass the boy’s locker room, and just when you think you’re going to be free of running into any more classmates, Bakugou rounds the corner and catches you with his red-eyed glare. “Stuff too hard for you?” he sneers.

He doesn’t like that you ignore him and keep walking. “Hey! Dumbass! I’m talking to you! Huh? You fucking deaf?”

Nah. You just do not care for him at all.

-

By the time you leave campus, the sun is well on its way to setting and the halls are empty. Principal Nedzu, a mammalian with a genetic structure you do not want to get into today, grilled you pretty hard about the potential threat. Apparently, the reporters got in because someone disintegrated U.A.’s blockaded entrance. He and some other faculty members took you to the entrance to see if you could find anything with your own quirk, but even though you picked up DNA traces, you couldn’t go and identify their name. You could potentially find their location, but that’d take a lot of energy you didn’t want to spend and a lot of time U.A. didn’t have.

You do, however, use the DNA to tell the principal that whoever did this doesn’t have the same quirk as you. It’s a relief for everyone. They can’t rip apart atoms on a particle level, but they can disassemble them, like removing blocks from a tower. It’s still incredibly, incredibly dangerous.

Part of you is scared because of what this means for the school. Part of you is excited because of what this means for you.

There has never been a challenge in your life when it came to your quirk’s capabilities. There’s no true limit, no true drawback. You set limits on yourself only to have a standard of normalcy with everyone else. Could this person have something to offer? Something to stand against?

As you walk, as you take the train home, as you get into your apartment and greet your shifting and swaying pants, you muse over such notions.

Yaomomo texts you the details about today’s battle training. The class went over how to respond to hostage situations and what to do when rescuing them. Damn. You wish you would have waited a day. You’re most excited to help other people as a hero, and you really could have applied your quirk.

Well. The part of your quirk that you’ve said is yours.

19:47
Are you free? Got some stuff I wanna talk about w you

20:05
Hitoshiiii boy
Sorry, super busy with homework.

You frown.

20:06
Can I call you later tonight?

22:27
Hitoshiiii boy
Hey Mari I didn’t see your text but can we talk tomorrow? I’ll be less busy then

When he answers so late, you can’t help but cry a little in your bed, tears dusting away before they can wet your cheeks.

You want to ask him what’s wrong, what’s changed, why he’s acting like this. It’s only been a few days since the two of you started attending different classes at U.A. He can’t resent you so much just yet.

Right?

How can he resent you at all?

You two have arguably been best friends since the start of junior high. When his hair was just plain messy, and your Japanese wasn’t as good as it is now. When nobody wanted to talk to a kid with a villainous quirk or a shy girl whose body parts fell off the moment she spoke in front of a small crowd. You were bonded by the awkwardness of growing up—and Shinsou’s puberty. You didn’t really go through much of the acne and body hair phase; your quirk has always allowed you to regulate your internal workings. But even back then, he straight up told you how much he hated you for your quirk’s ability to save you from the pains of teenage transformation.

Now, though, it seems he’s not telling you much at all.

You should just go over to his place right now. It’s not difficult to do, as you’ve found. A simple disintegration and a light breeze really do the trick—plus, it’s cost-effective.

But you don’t want to be fucking crazy. If Shinsou doesn’t want to text you, then he probably doesn’t want to see you. That thought makes you even sadder, so you curl up tighter underneath your blankets and watch YouTube videos of actual heroes in action until dawn rises and your phone’s alarm goes off.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

The bus has an open layout, much to Iida’s chagrin. You kick back and stretch your legs in front of you, pretending to be casual. In truth, your atoms buzz uncomfortably, sensing what you can’t through their connection with the non-linear.

“…Power of yours. Isn’t it a lot like All Might’s?”

You can’t help but swivel your head from staring out the window to Tsu, who asked the question, and Midoriya, who begins to spontaneously sweat. His eyes dart around nervously, and you think he needs to act not so suspiciously whenever these kinds of questions get brought up. The boy’s so…obvious.

“What? Really? You—you think so, huh? I never really thought about that! I guess it’s kind of similar…”

“Wait, hold on, Tsu,” Kirishima puts in, “You’re forgetting All Might doesn’t hurt himself. That makes a huge difference.”

It’s a struggle not to roll your eyes. And when he stops hurting himself? When he can control the power given to him and all its facets? What then? Will they start to see?

But hey, this isn’t your problem right now. It might not ever be any sort of problem you become involved with. You’re just a passing stranger who happened to see something strange that nobody else did.

The pro-hero Thirteen exudes atomic energy, and just its power roiling underneath them makes you squirm. They don’t have the actual power of a black hole, but it’s enough of a force that your particles try to act bizarrely around them until they adjust to the new medium of this reality.

It means that while they’re enthusiastically speaking about the Unforeseen Simulation Joint, you’re standing there with your hands in your pockets, shifting on the balls of your feet and making an uncomfortable face. You hang near the back of the class in an attempt to distance yourself from them.

“Hey, Isoko,” your classmate, Shouji, whispers to you underneath his cowl. “You alright?”

“Yeah,” you immediately respond with a glance up at him and a tight smile. “I just gotta—poop.”

Okay, okay, you don’t need to poop—you haven’t since you were old enough to decide, hey, this whole bathroom thing kind of sucks, why don’t you just stop it? But you’re certainly acting like you’re three cramps away from a massive shit, so you just go with it.

Shouji only replies with a slightly uncertain, “Oh, sorry,” and you go back to trying to listen to Thirteen.

“Some of you also have powers that can be dangerous. In our superhuman society, all quirks are certified and stringently regulated, so we often overlook how unsafe they can actually be. Please don’t forget that if you lose focus or make the wrong move, your powers can be deadly.”

Thirteen’s words cause you to still. You are acutely, constantly reminded of that fact, but someone else saying it aloud uniquely resonates with you.

Your powers can be deadly.

Yes. They can. Your quirk has proven so.

Thirteen finishes their speech on a positive note. As you go to give them a round of applause with the rest of your classmates, something wrong hits you. It’s twisting reality, atoms, you.

You double over, body structure loosening, and groan loud enough to draw attention. Half a second later, blood rises up from whatever organs that can’t keep themselves together against this—this manipulation and spills from your mouth.

“Isoko!”

Hands are on your back, but their touches only remind you of their close proximity. You can’t have—your quirk is reacting like it’s allergic to the growing shift in reality—and what if you lose control? What if you lose focus just like Thirteen warned against?

More blood wetly spatters to the pristine floor. Your skin begins to dissipate on your right cheek—where it always begins when you don’t have enough energy or full control to keep yourself whole.

“Something—something’s coming—” you gasp, managing to look up at Mr. Aizawa. For the first time, you see a clear expression on his face: worry.

You collapse onto your knees and desperately attempt to pull yourself back in. “It’s—it’s coming here and I can—I can feel it—

An electric current foreign to Kaminari’s signature jolts through the simulation joint. You whimper again and fall onto your hands. Blood smears across them.

“Isoko.”

Mr. Aizawa’s voice cuts through the cries and yells of the class.

“She needs help!” Yaomomo exclaims, her typically composed voice cracked with worry, and you realize that she’s kneeling right next to you.

Air particles further down in the simulation joint are invaded and ripped apart as new entities move through the Way, distorting, disturbing, bringing malevolence to your peace.

Through the portal that’s yawning open, shuddering and rippling, you feel him.

No. No—everyone! Everyone here! They’re in danger—

“Stay together and don’t move!” Mr. Aizawa sharply instructs, and the fear in the room spikes higher, jagged and metallic. It causes the dusting on your cheek to expand, revealing teeth and gums. Blood leaks through them. “Thirteen. Protect the students!”

“Isoko!” You’ve never heard him raise his voice. “Get your quirk under control, now. You can’t be a liability. Your classmates need you.”

You raise your head up to your teacher. He stares back at you, dark eyes intense and focused.

They need to be protected. Don’t just sit here, useless and falling apart.

Reabsorbing the blood in your throat, you rasp out, “The quirk user from yesterday—he’s here.”

“I figured.”

Bodies move through the portal, and it’s such an unnerving sensation that you almost want to lose all focus on yourself and simply deconstruct; it’d be easier to move around like that, anyway. But Aizawa wants you to get a grip on yourself, and you’re more afraid of disappointing him than you are of what’s in store.

Aizawa puts on his goggles, and the students gasp and murmur. They know what it signifies. “This is real. Those are villains.”

The blood underneath your hands is brought back into you, and you forcibly shift your organs back into their proper places and functions. You can’t quite stitch the hole in your cheek back together, but it stops growing.

You stagger back upright, wiping away the last bit of blood on the corner of your mouth. There are so many villains, and that one who can manipulate distance through teleportation stands at the center of them with the atomic quirk user, and another, larger figure that makes you want to look away from it because there’s something off about its genetic makeup.

But the shadowy villain is the one you despise the most. He made you nearly lose your shit. It won’t happen again, and you will right the Way that he disrupted.

“Isoko, are you…” Shouji wants to ask again, his hands hovering above your shoulders.

You nod and smile for real, this time.

“I am. But it sure as hell may be short-lived.”

“Real villains? No way—how could so many of ‘em get into a U.A. facility this secure?” Kirishima questions.

Yaomomo steps toward the front of the group, her hand loosening from your upper arm. “Yeah, Thirteen.” She sounds…pissed. “Why aren’t the alarms going off?”

You’re there to join her side. “I sensed an electrical current running through the building,” you answer Yaomomo, though you speak to Thirteen as well. “Someone’s used their quirk to jam everything.” You take a breath. “I think we’re cut off from the rest of the school.”

More fear springs up from your statement. You want to reassure them. You may…you may not be the most confident or daring, but you will keep them safe. They’re your friends.

Todoroki is the only one who looks outwardly calm, but even he can’t stop his racing heart. “Is the entire campus under attack? Or are we the only ones being targeted?”

Thirteen looks to you for an answer. Without hesitation, you tilt your head and listen to the Way. After a moment, you mutter, “No. I only feel distortion in here.”

Todoroki nods once. “Then they carefully chose this isolated facility as an entry point at a time when a class was being taught. They’re fools for trespassing here, but they’ve thought this out. Whatever their plan, they must have a concrete objective in mind.” His brows furrow a fraction. “But what is it?”

“Thirteen, get them outta here. And alert the main campus. If what Isoko said is true, then you won’t be able to reach anyone until you’re outside of the building. So hurry.”

“What’re you gonna do?” Midoriya yells. “You can’t fight them on your own! There’s too many of them! Even if you can nullify their quirks, your fighting style isn’t suited for this. Your power works best in stealth and one-on-one fights. That’s not gonna help with a group.”

But Mr. Aizawa starts heading down the stairs, anyway, a lone hero against a wave of evil. “You can’t be a pro if you only have one trick.”

His words resonate with you in a gut-wrenching kind of way—well, it adds to the gut wrenches you’re already going through. This quirk you’re pretending to have…it’s not going to do, anymore. Not when everyone is in danger like this. Not when there’s a villain who can bend reality and teleport people through it. Even now, you can feel his twisting presence. The particles around him react differently, drawing into the chaos of his power.

They draw to you as well, though.

“Do you need help, Isoko?” Kirishima asks you, his brow wrinkled with genuine concern. He can’t help but stare at the hole in your cheek rather than meet your gaze.

You shake your head and cover up the dusting effect with a hand. “Nah. It doesn’t hurt. I’ll be fine—but we need to get out of here right now.”

The class starts running, and your quirk is drawn back like a bowstring, ready to fire should your friends be in danger. The world becomes sharper; you can see the individual strands of Todoroki’s red-and-white hair shifting as he runs, a loose piece of string hanging off Jirou’s jacket, the cloud of dust in the air, and—

A portal rips through the ground. The displacement of trillions of atoms rockets through you, causing you to stumble. The hole in your cheek rips upwards as you redirect the effect of the villain’s quirk up to a singular spot instead of your entire body. You hand can no longer cover it, so you let it drop. The entire right side is gone, starting from the corner of your mouth up to the browbone.  Whatever muscles that are left string across each other, and white bone gleams in the natural daylight of the simulation joint.

“There is no escape for you,” the villain rumbles when he emerges from the portal. You glare at him, fists clenching, digging into the aspects of his quirk without hesitation. He’s a mass of darkness, his atoms all jumbled and chaotic—but there’s an order to it, just as there is to everything in the universe. But he cannot do what you can do.

Good.

“It’s pleasure to meet you. We are the League of Villains. I know it’s impolite, but we decided to invite ourselves into this haven of justice to say hello. And besides, isn’t this a fitting place for All Might, the Symbol of Peace, to take his last breath?”

Behind you, Midoriya’s shudder rises above everyone else’s trembling.

“I believe he was supposed to be here today, and yet I see no sign of him. There must’ve been some sort of change in plans we could not have foreseen.”

His being expands, atoms charging up to open more portals. “Ah, well, in the end, I suppose it doesn’t matter. I still have a role to play.”

Everything, everything happens all at once. The universe around you swirls with all the concentrated imbalance, from your own quirk to the villain’s and Thirteen’s interference. You should have pulled those two idiots back—Bakugou and Kirishima are the reason Thirteen couldn’t have done anything, and now your entire body is being peeled away, particle by particle, as the villain’s power washes over the class. You scream and scream at the top of your lungs because there’s a pain that goes beyond simple receptors—receptors that have been shut off for weeks, now. It burrows into your existence, your connection to the Way, your everything.

Fuck, it wasn’t supposed to go this way. You’re supposed to be stronger. You need to be stronger! Stronger than the villain! Stronger than anyone else in this stupid fucking simulation joint!

Your screams of pain turn to screams of defiance as you stick yourself to the floor, refusing to be tossed up in the air by the gale force of the villain’s quirk. He’s tossing everyone not out of the way or shielded by Shouji through portals, scattering them across the center, dividing them. The quirk wants to pull you up, too, but you refuse and partially merge yourself with the floor. You take the new atoms and draw them into yourself, which begins to seal up the gashes in your physical body.

The heavy veil of black and purple lifts, and you remove yourself from the ground. Your panting, blood spilling from your mouth, but you’ve remained whole—and you’re fucking pissed.

“Isoko? Are you alright? What’s happening to you?”

It’s Iida, and you’re glad to hear his voice cut through the rage thundering in your bloody eardrums. When you turn your head to him, he stumbles back and gasps—he hasn’t seen how the entire right side of your face has been stripped away to muscle and bone. “We need to get you to a hospital! Right this instant!”

He goes to pick you up, but you stop him by pressing a hand to his Ingenium-styled suit. It hurts to see the genuine panic on his face over your wellbeing. “I’m alright,” you say back. “Just scraped up a bit.”

SCRAPED UP?!” He chops his hands for absolute emphasis.

You look down at your hands and flex your fingers. Several of them are mostly ligaments and bone. You take atoms from the air and rearrange them so they suit your body’s cells. When you glance back over at Iida, you offer a small smile that counters his shock and say, “I’m the last person you ever need to worry about, baby.”

Iida goes to open his mouth, but you’re already walking up beside Thirteen, who stands at the front of the remaining class. Uraraka lets out a soft whimper as you pass, most likely from the fact that you’re, well, not looking so hot. You gently touch her shoulder, though, as a silent gesture to affirm your okay-ness.

Thirteen looks you over once. “Can you operate fine?” they bluntly ask, voice layered from their protective costume. You nod once. Thirteen, you find, gets you. Sure, you’re still a student, and thus a priority for the teachers to protect. But they also understand what your quirk enables you to do and become.

“Tell me, Isoko: are you feeling heroic today?”

No.

But it doesn’t matter. Heroes don’t get to choose when doing the right thing stands above all else.

“Yeah.”

“Good. I need you to get out of here and tell the teachers what’s happening. Can you do that? Even with this villain?”

The two of you stare down your assailant, who looms over everyone in his void-like nature, just waiting to see what your move might be. You can tell that he senses how different you are from the rest of the students here, and the moment you make a move, he’s going to try and rip you to shreds with his teleportation quirk.

Well. The feeling’s mutual. You could tear him to shreds without so much as twitching your fingers—but you’re one of the good guys, and you’re not supposed to do things like that. Even…even if they did scare and hurt your friends.

You rub at your cheekbone, feeling how smooth it is without skin and muscle protecting it. “Probably. He can’t fight me if he doesn’t know where I am.”

“Excellent.”

“Should I just take him down right now? I—I could.” Shit, sound more confident in yourself!

“No. Leave that to me, Isoko. It’s not your job—”

Your atoms contract and you whirl around, eyes focusing beyond the archway that leads down to the center of the simulation joint. There. The deconstruction. It’s—he’s using it—NO.

“Mr. Aizawa is in trouble,” you rasp, ignoring the discomfort and shock from your remaining classmates as they have to gaze on your ugly mug once more. “His cells—it’s like the gate at U.A! He’s gonna, he’s gonna—”

“Isoko! Wait!” Thirteen calls, but you’re already running, running, running, leaving your friends behind to danger. And you’re so, so sorry, but you have more faith in them than they give themselves. Mr. Aizawa is alone, his cells broken, facing two powerful villains and a slew of others that could kill him at any moment. He needs help. He needs help.

Thirteen said it wasn’t your job. You know that, you do, but—but—but who else can help except you?

Now behind you, you feel a rage of Thirteen’s and the villain’s quirks. You can’t glance behind; it would only keep you here. That teleportation bastard will have to wait to get his ass kicked. You need to keep moving, sprinting, until finally you reach the edge of the massive staircase that descends to the center of the battle.

Mr. Aizawa is still alive, but the skin of his entire elbow has been disintegrated, and villains are coming nonstop at him. And he can’t see—he can’t see that—that thing coming for him! It’s going to—

You’re already up in the air, fluctuating from a corporeal body to a swarm of dark particles.

So these villains think they can come and scare your friends? Hurt them?

Well. You’ll give them something to be fucking scared of.

Atoms from the air pull into you, shifting, forming, connecting.

And from them comes a nightmare.

An inky, black limb seemingly bursts through a tear in reality, gripping onto the solidified air around it to pull the rest of itself forward. Then comes another limb, massive and jointed and unnatural, followed by a head that’s horror made real. It’s black like the rest of its body, and ropes of tentacles hang from its maw. They drag against the ground, shifting and coiling. The nightmare stands fifteen feet tall, six-limbed, stitched seamlessly together with the darkness found only between galaxies. It has no eyes, no ears, nothing to define it against the black.

Its claws sink into the concrete. The villains give pause, unsure if the eldritch beast is on their side. Even the villain with hands on him—the villain whose quirk is undeniably the one you’ve been obsessing over—stops, as well as the genetically-manipulated creature who has Aizawa’s broken arm in one hand and his head face-down in the concrete in the other.

Then the creature slowly killing Mr. Aizawa dares to screech at you.

Your tentacles pull back, revealing rows and rows of gleaming white, razor sharp teeth, and you let loose an ear-shattering, paralyzing, enormous roar. The ground shakes, the air vibrates, and fear instantly runs rampant. It causes the hand-villain to stumble back. The genetic creature doesn’t react; all of the reactionary parts of its exposed brain have been removed.

That’s okay.

The villains start screaming when a tentacle lashes out and wraps around some bad guy’s waist. They really start screaming when the tentacle shoves the villain into your mouth. As soon as his legs disappear down your throat, you let out another, sharper roar and begin to feast. The villains can’t react fast enough; before they decide to run or fight, you’ve got three of them, five of them caught in your whipping tentacles. A second later they’re consumed.

Okay, they’re not really getting eaten. You’ve just got them trapped in your stomach and sedated. Hopefully when they wake up, they’ll be in handcuffs.

The creature pays no attention to you. It breaks Mr. Aizawa’s other arm, causing him to scream in pain, and begins slamming his head once more into the concrete.

One of your tentacles turns serrated. It wraps around the creature’s waist and mercilessly cuts it in two.

Entrails go flying with the creature’s bottom half. Another tentacle softly grabs Mr. Aizawa and turns him over, checking his vitals. He’s going to go into shock, soon—it’s amazing that he’s managed to stay conscious.

Nearby, the creature begins to heal. You didn’t doubt it would. Its regeneration powers are off the charts; it’ll be back to normal within a few moments.

The other villains take the opportunity to flee when you turn your attention elsewhere. You start to pick Mr. Aizawa up—

A portal opens in the middle of your neck and decapitates you.

The sudden attack is enough to make you lose focus, and the nightmare disintegrates. Villains limply rain to the ground, but you manage to catch them even while incorporeal. Their fall is slowed, but you decide to give the jig up. You’ve already expended a lot of fucking energy to become the nightmare; you’ll save more for the bigger fight to come.

The next moment, you’re standing beside Mr. Aizawa, crouched down and panting. Your entire cheek is still gone, but you have your jumpsuit and shoes, which hide everything that’s in a similar state. Unfortunately, you’ve lost your bra and underwear in the reconstruction, as well as the rubber band and bobby pins holding back your hair. It usually happens in situations like this. The black bun is gone, leaving your dusting curls to hang like a cloud around your head.

Alright, fine, there has never really been a situation like this, but oh well.

“So the abomination is a brat, huh?” the villain muses. His voice is scratchy, like some of the atoms in his own throat have been erased. “Cool transformation, I’ll admit. Had me pretty scared for a second. But you couldn’t even actually kill anyone, could you? It was all for show.”

“I…soko,” Mr. Aizawa gasps. Part of his face has been badly bashed in. “You…shouldn’t be…”

“I know, sensei,” you simply say. “I know.”

“Well,” the villain says to the teleportation one, who returned from the entrance. You heard him say that one of the students got away, even though Thirteen was out-of-commission. But you can still sense their vitals from afar; they’re weak but constant. “Back to the title screen, I guess. And I was looking forward to finishing this today. Damnit. Let’s go home.”

You glance sidelong. The creature actually rejoined itself with its lower appendages, and, in retrospect, you’re glad. It had pants for a reason, and you don’t want the first wiener you’ve seen to belong to a beefed-up monster.

“Oh, but before we leave,” the villain says, turning. You follow his line of sight, and horror freezes you. “Let’s make sure the Symbol of Peace is broken. Let’s wreck his pride.”

Midoriya and Tsu are off in the water’s edge, watching. You hadn’t noticed…you had been so…so fucking stupid—

The hand-villain moves incredibly fast, his hand outstretched toward Tsu, little Tsu, preceptive and brave Tsu.

You’re faster, though, and you jump after him. Mutedly, you hear Mr. Aizawa mutter, “Shit!”

Your arms find the villain’s waist, and you heave him backwards. “Not so fucking fast!” you shout, hurling him back several feet. He grunts as he rolls, but he gets back up in that freaky fast speed and lunges at you.

“Such a hotshot, huh?” He’s grinning behind his hand mask. You brace yourself to take his disintegration because you know you can handle it—

But, oh, Midoriya doesn’t.

“SMMMMMMAAAAASSSHHHH!”

It’s only thanks to a quick increase in density that you’re able to maintain an upright position. The world becomes a hurricane of power and wind, and at the center of it is Midoriya. It’s an amazing power to behold—if you just reached out, you could grasp a pocket of power that transcends this dimension, connected only through the veins of a fifteen-year-old boy who wants to protect you as much as you want to protect him.

But that…thing…has a speed that you can barely comprehend, and even though Midoriya doesn’t break a limb because he threw his punch, it’s useless. The creature protected his master, and now it towers above Midoriya, whole and unharmed.

It could rival All Might, couldn’t it?

“Heh. You’re pretty powerful,” the villain comments. “And this ‘smash’ of yours…are you one of All Might’s disciples? Doesn’t matter. I’m done with you now—”

The creature slams into the ground. You’re shaking as you try to hold it in place with solidified, incredibly dense air. The hand-villain comes for you again, and this time you meet him unflinchingly and unobstructed.

His dry hand wraps around your forearm, and your atoms start to deconstruct. He’s gleeful behind the hand on his face—until he realizes that you’re not exactly wailing in pain.

You narrow your yellow, orange-flecked eyes at him as your atoms come back together. Or, you’re at least able to narrow the left eye—your right eye is missing too much of an eyelid to make the movement. Your atoms will listen to you more than they’ll ever obey another’s violent quirk.

“I’m disappointed, baby,” you hiss. “I was expecting so much more.”

He lets go, and you smirk—then creature breaks through the barrier and does what you did to it in your nightmare form. It snatches you up and effectively rips you in half.

“SON OF A BITCH!” you shout out. Unlike the creature, you don’t have guts spilling everywhere. It’s more like blackish-gray matter with little tendrils escaping out of the broken halves of your abdomen. You’re lucky to have acted fast enough to turn your dissolve your organs; you don’t want to traumatize Midoriya and Tsu even more than they already have been.

The creature throws you down and steps on your skull, crushing it. Darkness consumes your vision as your eyeballs are smushed. Midoriya screams your name, the hand-villain goes back to the students, you desperately try to reform—

The center’s doors blow open, and then you sense him in all his injured, radiating power.

All Might.

The foot comes off where your head used to be. You reform it as best you can, and you find your torn bottom half. It deconstructs for a moment and then rejoins back with the rest of you.

But fuck, you’re so weak. You couldn’t reconstruct your jumpsuit, so now you have a stupid crop top. It exposes areas of ribs and tissue.

“HAVE NO FEAR, STUDENTS,” his voice booms, and it alone restores some energy you had once expended. “I AM HERE!”

“Ah,” the hand-villain says, and you can tell that All Might’s entrance has brought back some vigor in him, as well. “Looks like our game’s getting a ‘continue.’ After all this waiting, the heroic piece of trash shows up.”

You can’t follow All Might’s movement, but in less than a second he’s scooped up Mr. Aizawa. In the last half of the second, he has you, Midoriya, and Tsu under his other arm. You’re set down next to Mr. Aizawa, and through one half-lidded eye, you can see your teacher’s unconscious, bloodied face. His dark hair is matted and wet with red.

“Mr. All Might,” you say, tilting your head up to look at the Symbol of Peace. Your vocal cords aren’t properly constructed, so you sound like a hacking cat. “That…bird brain. It’s stronger…stronger than you think. Strong as you, maybe. And his regeneration…it’s crazy powerful.”

“Thank you, young Isoko. Young Midoriya and Tsu, get them back to the entrance immediately. Mr. Aizawa doesn’t have much time.”

“Ribbit,” Tsu croaks.

“You saved us, All Might,” Midoriya mumbles, and just from his tone you can tell that he’s getting some kind of heroic blindness. It’ll get him killed, one day.

But until then, he’ll do a lot of good.

Tsu goes to try and pick you up, but you wave her off and push yourself up. “I’m good, I’m good,” you say in English. Then you hear yourself, and you switch back to Japanese. “Just a little…peeled.”

“It would seem so.”

You draw more atoms from the air and begin rebuilding what’s missing.

“All Might! Isoko is right; that brain villain took One For—I smashed him and didn’t break my arm this time, but he wasn’t fazed at all. He’s too strong!”

“Young Midoriya!” All Might turns back to you three, grinning. He throws up a peace sign, and you have to smile a little. “I got this.”

Your smile vanishes.

Does he?

But you help Midoriya carry Mr. Aizawa, anyway, and the three of you make a break for it while All Might dukes it out with the brain villain. With each punch, each swing, each block, you can practically feel All Might growing weaker—while the brain villain takes virtually no damage.

Midoriya keeps looking behind him. You find yourself doing the same. You really shouldn’t…man, you really shouldn’t—

You feel the teleportation villain’s quirk flare, and you let out a low curse.

“Midoriya,” you say, and the two of you share the same look.

“Asui, could you take Mr. Aizawa?”

“Ribbit? Sure, but what’re you gonna do?”

“Nothing smart, that’s for sure,” you say to her. You quickly construct a simple cot with wheels for Tsu to at least make it to the stairs with Mr. Aizawa. It eats up more of your energy, but you refuse to convert anything that’s not food (or wrapping up said food). That’s how it’s always been. You’ll always take the L rather than becoming less human.

“Isoko, your face…”

The dusting has spread all the way down to your neck. Your right eye is completely gone, but the left one remains intact, bright and burning.

“It’s only cosmetic. I don’t feel a thing.”

You help Midoriya lay Mr. Aizawa on the cot, and inwardly you hope it holds up. You’re no Yaomomo—you don’t usually make perfect items on the fly, and especially not when you’re in a state like this.

He’s gonna chew your ass out later. You swallow the fear of that confrontation and deal with what’s going on now.

Midoriya hasn’t waited for you. The short little bastard’s already gone off running to help All Might. “Be safe, Tsu,” you say to the froggy girl.

“Please be safe too, Isoko.”

Whatever is left of your heart pangs, and you take off after Midoriya.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

You glide into a form similar to the nightmare one, but it’s smaller, sleeker, and less terrifying. It has no tentacles and is back down to four limbs, but it helps you maximize your quirk while not having to worry about sustaining all the different kind of cells in your body. You stop seeing through two eyes and instead see in a three-sixty, everywhere kind of view.

Midoriya has tears in his eyes when you catch up to him. They fill with a small sort of shock when they catch sight of you, but he doesn’t stop, and neither do you.

All Might isn’t smiling when he sees the two of you dummies running straight toward him, heads filled with the notion that you can somehow help. But, in a way, you can.

You burst ahead of Midoriya and aim for the portal villain, who has moved in the way to block you off. With no time to form vocal cords, you leap soundlessly. Just as you expected, he forms a portal right in front of him to send you spiraling out of the way.

But you divide yourself in half, moving both parts around the edge of the portal, and return to a whole form with your unnatural limbs wrapped around the villain’s body. He has one, after all, and—

“GET THE HELL OUTTA MY WAY, DEKU!”

Well fuck, of course he had to show up.

The explosion, thankfully, does little but jostle you around. Because of your three-sixty vision, you’re able to reappear on the villain’s back, maw latching firmly onto where his throat is while Bakugou sends the two of you flying several feet backward.

“HUH? JUST WHO THE HELL ARE YOU?” Bakugou yells when he sees that he’s not the main hero of the day. You have the portal villain on the ground, mouth still gripping him and one of your clawed hands pressed firmly on his chest.

A single eye briefly forms on your head to show Bakugou that it’s you. He’s surprised for a moment, but he’s quick to return to a scowl. “SINCE WHEN THE HELL CAN YOU DO THAT?”

Todoroki and Kirishima are also here to help. You’re more than glad, because despite what some of these dumbasses may think, groups do better than a single person.

Maybe All Might needs to learn that lesson, too.

“One of your poorly trained thugs told me you’re here because you think you can kill All Might,” Todoroki says, deadpan as always. Beyond the villain you’re incapacitating, you can still sense a storm under his calm.

All Might manages to get out of the brain villain’s grasp thanks to Todoroki. With him safely away from the portal, you take the opportunity to press harder down onto the portal villain’s body. Vocal cords form in your throat, and another simple mouth made for talking appears on your neck.

“Close the portals,” you command.

“And what shall you do if I don’t?” the villain replies, haughty for his circumstance.

“I’ll turn your atoms against you.”

“A little dark for a hero-in-training, isn’t it?”

“Maybe so.”

“IF SHE CAN’T DO THE JOB, I’LL BLOW YOU TO TINY FUCKING BITS!”

“Whoa, Isoko,” Kirishima says as he joins you and Bakugou. “Is that you?”

The same yellow eye opens again, and the mouth on your neck smiles. He’s caught between being creeped out and impressed by it.

“Kurogiri,” the hand-villain seethes, “How could you let these brats get the best of you? You’ve gotten us into a real jam here.”

“Heh, you got careless, you dumb villain,” Bakugou grins, “thinking that you could hide the whole part of your body in the mist.”

“Thinking that I couldn’t feel your entire existence, inside and out,” you add, and you feel this Kurogiri under you finally squirm. You take the chance to bite down on his neck armor, black teeth sinking a few centimeters in. “Don’t you dare move.”

“Try anything funny, and I’ll blow your ass up right now, you got it? They’ll be cleanin’ you up for weeks.” Even though Bakugou doesn’t have Kurogiri restrained himself, he’s definitely the more intimidating one. You can feel the heat rolling off him.

“Whoa, that doesn’t sound very heroic,” Kirishima nervously chuckles.

“They escaped uninjured and captured my two strongest men. Kids these days are really amazing. They make the League of Villains look like amateurs. Can’t have that.”

The hand-villain looks at the creature caught in Kurogiri’s portals. “Nomu.”

You watch as it sinks through the portal and comes back up through the one where its legs were. Todoroki’s ice froze its limbs right off, but you know that it’ll only be a matter of seconds before it regrows them.

With it free and All Might’s body infected with pain, you start to worry.

Keep them safe. Keep them safe.

“Stay back, everybody!” All Might shouts. Your fears are correct; the Nomu, as it’s apparently called, has a new leg and arm once more.

“Nomu has been modified to take you on,” the hand-villain confirms, “even at one hundred percent of your power. He’s basically a highly efficient punching bag that hits back.”

The Nomu lets out a shriek. “First, we need to free our method of escape.”

You feel the hand-villain’s eyes fall on you, and your little mouth lets out a small, “Shit.”

“Get her, Nomu, and that little spiky-haired punk. And don’t fail me, this time. I want to hear her scream.”

You move fast, but you can’t save Bakugou. In a single leap, you’re out of the way with Kurogiri still in your mouth. There’s dust everywhere, but even without clear visuals, you can sense Bakugou safely away from danger thanks to All Might.

Oh, All Might.

He took the brunt of the Nomu’s attack. He’s hurt. Badly.

But still he fights on.

“Let’s see just what this quirk of yours can do,” Kurogiri purrs, and the next instant you have a portal splitting you open.

You scream from the sudden change in dimensional distribution, and you spring away from Kurogiri. Without Bakugou to make good on your threats, you’re facing the villain alone.

As weak as you are, though, you’ve still got some kickass juice left in you.

So Kurogiri wants a preview?

Al-fucking-righty.

You slam him down with solidified air just like you did with the Nomu. Kurogiri grunts in surprise, but he’s a slippery one, and he warps himself out from underneath the barrier.

But it’s just like when you were facing him at the entrance with Thirteen.

He can’t fight you if he can’t see you.

You leap forward again. Kurogiri throws up a portal. You deconstruct, however, and become a swarm of matter like you were before. He snarls at the change in your state of matter and becomes more incorporeal himself, sending out waves of mist. It’s like being in the middle of an atomic tornado, and for a moment you almost get swept away.

He cries out when he feels a sharp pain lancing in him, though. You don’t necessarily follow through with your threat of turning Kurogiri’s atoms inside-out, but you do redistribute them. They’re snatched away from him and manipulated so they become part of you. It’s a dangerous game of stealing, but it’s working. He can’t fight you properly when you’re everywhere at once.

“YOUNG ISOKO!” you hear All Might cry over the din of the chaos. “RETREAT IMMEDIATELY!”

Kurogiri’s entire being pulsates, and the resistance sends your matter flying outwards. You sweep back in and keep attacking. You know that ignoring a teacher’s—All Might’s—commands is incredibly dumb, but Kurogiri is the first person in…perhaps in your life that challenges you to some extent. It creates an insatiable hunger, a desire, and you realize that this is what it’s like to want to win.

“Did you not hear your teacher?” Kurogiri asks. “I suspect he doesn’t want you to get hurt.”

All at once, Kurogiri’s mist becomes one giant portal. Only part of you is unable to resist the pull—the other half is eaten up and spat out elsewhere. It weakens the rest of you considerably, but a lot of Kurogiri’s own strength is gone.

You should just be done with this. Stop distracting him. Finish him completely. Go inside his brain and increase the melatonin. Give him a mini-heart-attack. Turn his quirk against him—

The BLAST of power takes the both of you off-guard, and you’re separated from Kurogiri just by the fact that there’s too much wind from All Might’s and the Nomu’s renewed battle to keep inside his mist. Your atoms threaten to scatter across the simulation joint, but you manage to pull yourself together and get back into a physical form. You choose your regular human one, as bad as it looks. Without Kurogiri to fight, you have no primary source of stolen energy. It leaves you incredibly weak.

So you’re back to square one. Probably even less than that, considering that you’re just lying on the ground, now, too weak to barely move. You’ve still got half your face, though, and a whole eye. The uniform is good, too, so you don’t have to worry about being naked in front of a bunch of villains, boys, and your pro-hero teacher.

Kurogiri probably doesn’t have enough power to create anything more than one or two portals, either. He still poses a threat if they’re well-timed, but along with the storm of wind and rubble created by the fighting going on, he won’t get to do much else.

Despite your weak-ass state, you can tell that All Might is way past his quirk’s limit—

And yet.

He’s drawing from that same pocket of power that Midoriya has, and it’s what’s fueling him, pushing him, protecting him. If it wasn’t for whatever the hell this quirk is, All Might would be dead.

It’s an amazing thing to watch. 

The Nomu can’t keep up with All Might’s flurry of astounding punches, and it starts to lose more and more until All Might hits it with such a powerful punch that it rockets out of the stadium. The ground breaks apart in the process, and the Nomu breaks through the glass ceiling and disappears into the blue, blue sky.

So that’s what being the number one hero looks like.

You’ve used your quirk so much and so extensively that the sound of the Way begins to fill your ears. Its music beckons, warns, foretells of many things you can’t quite yet understand—things you don’t want to quite yet understand. You don’t have it in you to concentrate enough to hear the conversation between All Might and the hand-villain; all you can do as watch and let dread brittle your bones.

Kurogiri is back with the leader, and All Might is basically two breaths away from losing control over his quirk. You’re not sure you want to see what happens when it goes.

With the Way singing, you attempt—and fail—to get back up. There’s not enough muscle in your body. Damn, you’re about two breaths away from going up in a puff of matter.

All you can do is lay there and watch and, and, and be useless.

You can’t protect them. Not All Might. Not Midoriya.

You hate Kurogiri with a passion that burrows deep into your particles. You should have been smarter, quicker, stronger. But this is what losing feels like, doesn’t it? Huh. It’s new. New and bitter.

A small part of you hates Midoriya as well. He’s too reckless, too untrained, too weak. But he does what you can’t in this moment, and that is what you resent him for.

Because you still hold yourself back. Because you’re still afraid of how much the world—your world—will change when you don’t.

Midoriya isn’t afraid, though. You scream his name with blood in your mouth the same time a bullet goes through the leader’s hand.

And then you sense them.

Your teachers. Backup.

…It’s over. Everyone is safe.

Kurogiri’s yellow eyes slide over to you as his quirk swallows up his injured leader. He’s resisting Thirteen’s black hole, and he’s getting away.

Oh, this is not over.

You two will meet again. And the next time, you’ll fucking obliterate him.

Three boys run over to you, and not even Bakugou can hide his complete and utter shock at the sight of your appearance. There’s not even a snappy follow-up. Just panic.

You feel bad. Their reactions are your fault. You should have just been honest with your quirk.

“We need to get her medical attention, now,” Todoroki says. He picks you up, then makes a surprised noise once he finds how light you are. “She’s not going to—”

“I’ll make it just fine,” you cut off. Though your voice is soft and scratchy, it’s clear.

“Isoko—but—but you’re—” Kirishima stammers. You smile with what mouth you have left. Since Todoroki’s cradling you, his hand touches your bare ribcage, complete with semi-dry muscles.

“Looking like shit? I just…I just need energy. Food.”

Your head rest against Todoroki’s shoulder. He removed the ice just for you. How nice.

“I saw some vending machines by the entrance.” Todoroki starts moving. You’re exhausted beyond chemicals; your particles want to loosen, and it’s all you have just to keep them together. “Will that work?”

“If…you’re okay with seeing me…demolish it…then yeah.”

-

The remainder of Class 1-A gathers outside of the center. They’re missing two classmates; Midoriya was rushed off to Recovery Girl, and you stayed inside the facility with a few of the teachers and emergency services watching over you to make sure you replenished your energy.

“Did you see…did you see what she turned into?” Ashido whispers. “It was so scary!”

“And she didn’t hesitate to cut that brain villain attacking Mr. Aizawa in half,” Tsu says. She pales with the memory of intestines spilling out of the villain’s halves. “Ribbit.”

Todoroki comes to your defense. “Midoriya told me she knew about the villain’s regeneration abilities. She did it to buy herself time to defend Mr. Aizawa.” He didn’t see your form everyone’s talking about, but the void-like creature you had transformed into earlier gives him an idea of what it could have looked like. You were eating villains, apparently, but it was just a display to make them fear you. The ones carted out by the police were still unconscious but unharmed.

“She went head-to-head with that teleportation villain,” Kirishima adds, but he’s not speaking with that easy grin he usually has. His brows are furrowed. Bakugou stands silently beside him, expression guarded. “I think…I think she could have actually taken him down if it wasn’t for the bigger battle going on.”

The students stand there uneasily. Everything is overwhelming enough, but to see you do what you did is almost incommunicable. Sure, they can all state what they witnessed. Analyzing it, however, opens a plethora of questions they don’t have answers to.

But they can see your face torn open, blood pouring from your mouth. They can see how your eyes burned like a summer sun on the horizon, gold and orange and painful to directly look at. They can hear the sound you made in your nightmarish form, and the screams of villains that followed. They can feel the horror of watching you get torn in half and have your head crushed underfoot, thinking that a classmate of theirs died right before their eyes. They can feel the excitement rise up in them as they saw you take on that teleportation villain all by yourself.

They can see Todoroki bringing you back, barely more than a skeleton with patches of muscle and skin. Nobody else notices, but his hands still shake. He’ll never be able to forget what bone and tissue feels like on his palms. How were you able to smile after all that? How come you were the one doing the reassuring?

Iida can’t get the picture out of his head. You, standing there, smiling despite the exposed hole in your cheek. “I’m the last person you ever need to worry about, baby.” Then you…then you ran to save Mr. Aizawa. And if you ran despite the danger, then he had to run headfirst into it, too, no matter the cost.

Bakugou turns his gaze to the entrance. He wants you to come out and face him—he wants to fucking yell at you for getting right in the way, for taking the villain that was his. He wants to know how you could move that fast to avoid the Nomu designed to take down All Might himself.

You damn liar.

He stays mad so he can’t be intimidated by you and your fucking quirk.

-

Thirteen wants to speak with you. After a couple hours, your body is reenergized, and you have no internal or external injuries. You’re perfect.

But Kurogiri’s atoms continue to move against yours, ghostly and echoing. You’re lucky you didn’t get yourself entangled with him. That could have been…bad.

A crisp white hospital blanket covers them up to their shoulders, and in a nearby chair is their broken costume. Guilt constricts your particles; you should have stuck with them, shouldn’t you? It’s your fault they’re hurt.

Thirteen is what you could become, you find. They’re composed of something else, something that extends beyond human DNA.

“It’s good to see you,” they say, and you bow once. You’re dressed back in your school uniform since your hero outfit was destroyed.

“Thirteen, I’m…I’m so sorry,” you whisper. “I acted against your orders—I put everyone in danger—”

“Isoko. Stop.”

Thirteen’s voice glides across you, and their intentionally changed soundwaves soothes your particles. You quiet, tears shining in your eyes.

“I’ll leave the reprimanding to Mr. Aizawa,” they say with a touch of humor, vestiges of eyes gliding to the thick curtain off to the right. He’s on the other side recovering from his own extensive injuries. Even with him, you failed. He got hurt. “Take a seat, won’t you?”

With no other chairs in the room besides the one Thirteen’s costume is in, you construct one beside Thirteen’s hospital bed.

“You did some amazing things today, Isoko. I wanted to make sure you knew that. You…oh, I can tell you’re the type of person that doesn’t ever think they’re doing enough. But you did do enough.

“Your quirk is going to do amazing things. I can hear it. And you can hear it too, can’t you?”

They’re speaking about the Way.

You inhale. “It’s—I hear a lot. I can’t distinguish much.”

“That’s alright. I can barely hear the Music at all, you know, except when I’m pushing the limits of my quirk. That great beyond, that universe…it’s beautiful. And frightening. You don’t have to embrace it all at once; it took me most of my life to get to where I am now with my quirk. Yours is much, much stronger than mine, though, and yet you’re so much better at using it than I was at your age. Do you realize how amazing that is, Isoko?”

A tear rolls down your cheek.

“Quirks like ours…people will fear them. It’s in their nature, their DNA. It goes beyond all rationality and bleeds into their connection with what is greater. That’s just the Music. But their emotions, their personalities, their love—that goes beyond, as well. Don’t underestimate how much people will care for you because you care so much for them.”

You hang your head a little, staring at your hands with blurred vision.

“I’m afraid I don’t have any answers for you about how you’ll manage your quirk; you understand it more than anyone else. Just…keep striving, alright? Don’t let yourself be so afraid of it that you limit your ability to do good.”

When you finally look up at Thirteen, your tears are dusting away. “And what if I can’t ever do enough good, even with my power?”

They softly sigh. “That’s the burden of being a hero, Isoko. The truth is, you won’t ever be able to do enough.” They lean in slightly, and you can see a bit of the cosmos running through their veins. What do they see in yours? “Until then—try.”

-

You don’t sleep.

You sit on your couch, cross-legged, staring at static on your television screen, listening to pieces of the beginning of this universe. It’s an old, old song, and it’s sad.

But it is not alone. You’re here.

You’ll always be here for it.

Here for them. For people you barely know, for people you don’t know at all, for people you know well.

The Way will always be with you. It’s a small but astounding certainty in this vastness.

And maybe…maybe they will be, too.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

You’ve faced down villains. Straight-up, deadass villains. Nothing else should be scarier, right?

But as you drag your feet to the classroom, hearing the voices of the 1-A students, you have to wonder if it’s the case.

All you did on the day off yesterday was talk to your plants, disassociate, and tell everyone that you’re alright through text. You only spoke with Annie on FaceTime. Shinsou asked if he could come over, but you didn’t want to force him to do anything since he hates you now. Besides, you were just acting weird in your apartment. Deconstructing, going into the Way, morphing into different states of matter—you took Thirteen’s words under consideration. There was still a lot about your quirk that you needed to figure out, which meant stepping outside of your comfort zone.

Step out of your comfort zone. Yeah. Sounds easy.

“Homeroom class is about to begin!” you hear Iida’s voice boom. “Everyone stop talking and take your seats!”

“Uh, we’re all sitting,” Kirishima drawls.

With a muffled snicker, Sero adds, “Yeah, you’re the only one standing.”

You cross over the classroom’s threshold the moment Iida frustratedly sits down at his desk. Whatever conversation building up in response to the class rep dies once they see you.

So, naturally, you stand there like a complete dumbass.

Then Mina lurches from her chair and rushes to you, crying, “Isoko! I’m so glad you’re okay!”

She hugs you tight, and you hug her back. Everything wound up in you dissolves. Your classmates break into a clamor.

“Isoko! You’re super powerful!”

“Yeah, why’d you keep it a secret?”

“What was that huge thing you turned into? I nearly peed my pants!”

“You took on that villain like a pro! So manly!”

“SHUT UP! IT WASN’T THAT COOL!”

“Don’t be jealous, Bakugou! Face it—Isoko has the coolest quirk!”

“How were you able to move like that?”

“Does your face usually get that gross?”

You’re laughing through all of it while you make your way over to your seat. Bakugou glares at you, but not in his typical way. Midoriya can’t help but rattle off an endless list of questions about your quirk, body rotating in its seat to maintain a direct connection.

They quiet when you finally choose to speak in the last four minutes before homeroom begins. Iida will cut you off, too, so you better make this quick. “So, uh, I guess I have some explaining to do.” You can’t make eye contact with anyone specific, so you gaze down at the desk. “Um, well, okay, so I—I lied. About my quirk.”

“Yeah, no shit!” Bakugou yells.

“I don’t…I don’t…what did I say? Accelerate my mass or some crap like that? I made it up on the fly.”

Midoriya flips through the pages of one of his notebooks. “You said you could ‘accelerate or decelerate the muscles and bones in your body,’ as well as objects around you.”

“Yeah. Thanks, Midoriya.” You glance up quickly enough to smile at him, and he turns a light shade of pink. “So I can do that, but…I can do a lot more, too.”

Your hand moves across the desk, and the atoms begin shifting in wake of your touch. You create a sort of watery effect on the surface, and your classmates mutter and gasp.

“My quirk is particle manipulation. It’s basically whatever you think that is, because in all honesty, I can probably do it.”

“That’s impressive,” Yaomomo says from behind you. “Why did you want to conceal it?”

You give your head a small shake. “I—I don’t know, I guess I just didn’t want to intimidate anyone. But that kind of went to crap at the USJ. I’m sorry for scaring all of you. I really am. My…I naturally keep myself together with my quirk most of the time. When I’m expending energy, though, I start to…loosen up. It’s always started on my cheek.”

One of your hands rubs the spot. “Then it spreads the more I use. I have my pain receptors turned off, so it doesn’t hurt.”

“If you don’t hurt, then why were you screaming when that warp villain first attacked us?” Midoriya sincerely inquires.

“He was messing with my atoms and the reality they’re used to. It hurt in a non-neurological way.”

The green-haired boy hastily scribbles down everything you say.

“So that’s why you were able to withstand the leader’s own quirk,” Tsu says from across the room. “And it’s why you weren’t actually harmed by the Nomu.”

“Yeah.”

“Could you have beaten that Nomu, Isoko?” Kirishima questions, and a tension fills the air. It’s like everyone has been wondering the same thing, and now you hold the answer between your lips.

The thing is, you don’t want to answer.

The universe takes pity on you, however, and saves you from spiraling down into the endless vacuum of your quirk.

Your hero comes in the form of a lanky-haired, bandaged zombie.

“Morning, class,” Mr. Aizawa says through his heavy medical wraps. The only thing peeking out is the tip of his nose so he can breathe. “You can interrogate Isoko on the nature of her quirk later.”

You let out a sigh you’re pretty sure Yaomomo and Midoriya can hear as all the attention turns away from you. They freak the fuck out over his presence, and honestly, you’re a little shocked about it too. The shock turns to dread once you realize that Mr. Aizawa being here means you’re probably going to get a “talking” to.

“Mr. Aizawa!” Iida shouts with his arm raised ramrod in the air. “I’m glad you’re okay!”

“You call that okay…?” Uraraka whispers none-too-quietly.

Your teacher shuffles up to the front of the classroom. “My well-being is irrelevant. What’s more important is that your fight isn’t over yet.”

Yeah, wow, okay, your teacher has a sick sense of humor.

“The U.A. Sports Festival is about to start.”

While everyone gets excited over the prospect of showcasing their powers to pro-hero agencies, you sink lower into your seat. An actual competition…you against your classmates.

No aspiring hero can afford to miss this festival.

But…can’t you? Plenty of other heroes from different schools have risen through the ranks just fine. It’s not as life-or-death as Mr. Aizawa makes it. As long as you get experience, you’ll be grateful. Besides, a few pro heroes here in Japan will know who your father and stepmother are; they may want to have you intern just for clout.

Or maybe not. If they know your father, they may have known your mother. They may have known what you did to her when you were born.

Oof. That thought isn’t so great.

Maybe you don’t have to intern at all? Low-level agencies aren’t as bad as some may think, and it’d help you work under-the-radar to do good—without all the mess that comes with popularity.

If you had been a better daughter, you might have been in the spotlight more. But you’re grateful, now; who would you have been if you were?

And, despite what your father may want you to believe, you actually…like yourself.

But anyway. The Sports Festival means that all hero training is being delegated to personal practice. You’re, uh, not sure what you’re supposed to do. Unless students voluntarily go to teachers for help, everything is unsupervised. Thirteen would have been the one you worked on some things with, but since they’re still out of commission, you don’t really have a teacher you can train with that closely matches your quirk.

Is it bad that you’re not stressed? You should be—you would have been if you continued to keep your quirk on the DL. But now that everyone knows that your quirk is literally manipulating the matter of the universe, the circumstances have…changed.

Mr. Aizawa finds you on the second day of hero training. You’re sitting in a secluded part outside of a battle center, where the grass is green but asks for a little bit of protection from the chill. Your hands sink in the ground, and the spring breeze carries a bright tune.

It’s because of the breeze that you sense his approach. It collects his pain, his fatigue, his endurance.

“Mr. Aizawa,” you say, your back to him, “you’re harshing some vibes here.”

“Imbalance in the universe?” he drawls. The grass embraces his soft footsteps, grateful for the lightness.

“Ah, there’s always imbalance in the universe. Without it, there would be no balance.”

“…So imbalance is the balance?”

“Mm. Something like that.”

He sighs and comes around so he can look at you. When you don’t stand up to meet him, he sighs again and slouches down. You move the air so he doesn’t trip up because of how both his arms are set in casts. “I didn’t come here to have a philosophical conversation with a student.”

You smile and move your hands out of the ground. The grass sways around you in thanks, and Aizawa’s one good eye glances around when he notices it. “I’m sorry. I…yeah, sorry.”

Aizawa sighs for the third time in the span of fifteen seconds. “There’s nothing to apologize for. I’m guessing you already know why I’m here.”

“You want to, uh, reprimand me. For fighting villains when I should have stayed with my class and let the teachers do the work.”

“Exactly. As the student, you shouldn’t be putting yourself between actual villains and heroes. It was incredibly dangerous and reckless.”

You look down at your hands, guilt rising.

“Still. Your courage likely saved me and your classmates. You used your true quirk without hesitation or fear. It was a fine display of heroics.”

A breeze passes through, and it has both the scent of blossoms and city.

“…Thank you, sensei.”

“Now at least act like you’re doing something to prepare. You’re a U.A. student, after all.”

“I will.”

-

You pack up to get ready for hero training. The Sports Festival is four days away, and you’ve tried to look busy after Aizawa gave you the what’s-what. Nothing has really changed, though. While everyone else has worked on amping-up and controlling their quirks, you’ve mainly focused on how to maneuver yours in different ways. Even that isn’t new—just a refresher.

Your dread has only grown. Do your classmates look at you like a rival? Are they thinking about all the ways they could possibly beat you? Midoriya probably is, as well as Bakugou and Todoroki. Uraraka, too, and Yaomomo. You don’t resent them for it; you feel bad for them.

Do they come to the conclusion that they can’t beat you? The only way they’d win is if you pull back on your quirk, which wouldn’t make it a fair fight. None of them would like it.

There’s a notion growing in the back of your mind that you don’t want to acknowledge until the festival begins. Then you’ll see if you’re going to listen to it.

Gasps from the class draw your attention away from half-formed thoughts about what snacks you’ll eat before training begins. There’s a crowd of students waiting on the other side of the classroom door, and oof, they don’t look too friendly.

“U-um, why the heck are you all here?” Uraraka squeaks. She’s at the forefront, after all.

Iida chops an inquisitive hand at them. “Do you students have some sort of business with our class?”

“They’re scouting out the competition, idiots,” Bakugou mutters. He heads straight toward the crowd, unafraid. “We’re the class that survived a real villain attack.” He stops in front of them, and you know he’s about to say something asshole-y. “At least now you know what a future pro looks like. Now move it, extras!”

You shake your head and sling your backpack over both shoulders. “Oh my gosh.”

“So this is Class 1-A.”

The clear voice makes you snap your head up.

Shinsou moves through the crowd, his indigo hair stark against the gray U.A. uniforms.

“I heard you guys were impressive, but you just sound like an ass. Is everyone in the hero course delusional, or just you?”

Iida, Uraraka, and Midoriya make frantic gestures to stop saying stuff like that to Bakugou. You slowly make your way to the front of the classroom. Seeing Shinsou makes you realize just how long it’s been since the two of you have really talked or hung out.

And, well, the way he’s speaking about your class gives you more of an answer as to why that is.

“How sad to come here and find a bunch of egomaniacs.”

He rubs the back of his neck. How many times have you seen him do it?

“I wanted to be in the hero course, but like many others here, I was forced to choose a different track. Such is life.”

Shinsou’s eyes are focused in on Bakugou. He doesn’t see you draw near.

“I didn’t cut it the first time around, but I have another chance. If any of us do well in the Sports Festival, the teachers can decide to transfer us to the hero course. And they’ll have to transfer people out to make room. Scouting the competition? Maybe some of my peers are, but I’m here that if you don’t bring your very best, I’ll steal your spot right from under you.

“Consider this a declaration of war.”

You’ve never had Shinsou be the reason that anger spikes in you.

It’s your voice that cuts through the broiling tension.

“Against me, Shinsou?” You smile, and for the first time since he looked into the classroom, his eyes fall on you. They’re mildly surprised, actually. “Ouch.” His lips form a tight line before cracking into a dry smile.

“You’re always the exception.”

You brush past a confused Bakugou and act like everything’s normal.

“I-Isoko, you know him?” Midoriya asks nervously. You glance over your shoulder at him, Bakugou, and the rest of the class.

“Oh, unfortunately.”

Shinsou moves back through the parting crowd with you. Another boy that you recognize from 1-B steps forward to get into another shouting match.

Once the two of you are far enough away, you come to a stop in the empty hall and face Shinsou. His gaze conveniently locks onto the window and the mid-spring scenery beyond.

“Hey, man, what the hell was that all about?” your smile is gone. “I’ve never heard you fucking talk like that.”

“It was an intimidation tactic, Mari,” he mumbles.

“An intimidation tactic? People who do that are people who are fucking insecure, Shinsou.”

He finally looks at you, sharp and irritated.

“It’s not insecurity. I’m not scared of any of those dumbasses.”

“So what does that make me? One of…one of those dumbasses?” You slouch and cross your arms.

“No, Mari—” Shinsou grumbles and runs fingers through his already messy hair. “Of course not. You’re better than any of them.” He lowers his voice and reluctantly admits, “I…also didn’t see you in class.”

You toss your head back and scoff. “What? You—you didn’t see me in the class that I’m literally in all the time?”

The sentiment digs deep into your particles. Shinsou stays silent because there’s nothing he can say that he hasn’t made clear.

He also didn’t notice you. You. But you’d—you’d notice him. You’d always notice him.

An errant tear rolls down your cheek. The sight of it breaks Shinsou’s distant demeanor, and his indigo eyes widen. He naturally touches your arm, and you don’t shy from it.

“Wait, wait, Mari, why—why are you crying?”

You glance over his shoulder and see Tokoyami and Hagakure heading your way. The rest are soon to come. Not wanting them to worry, you dust the tear away and sweetly smile through the pain. Pain that reminds you how human you are.

“Because you’re my friend, Hitoshi.”

He stiffens when you hug him, but not in the usual way he does. It’s unsure, surprised. You feel no smile coming from Shinsou, inward or outward. “I’ll see you soon,” you whisper. When you let go, you make sure not to look at his face.

When you make it to the locker room and the rest of the girls follow in, Hagakure asks, “Who was that boy, Isoko? He looks so tired.”

“And intense,” Uraraka adds.

You unclasp your bra and toss it into the locker. By now, all the girls have seen your dress routine You’re not going to lose any more underwear to deconstruction. Gym uniforms are provided by the school; Victoria’s Secret bras and panties are not.

“We’ve known each other since junior high,” you explain. “Shinsou Hitoshi.”

“He’s kinda mean, ribbit.”

“Oh, he just wants to be a hero really bad. Don’t take his words too seriously.”

“What’s his quirk?” says Jirou.

“I think…I think it will be a cool surprise if you find out at the Sports Festival.”

“Aw, not fair, Isoko!” Uraraka whines. “We need a fighting chance!”

“You’re in the hero course. You’ve already won anything more than the Sports Festival can give.”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

You sit at the table in the waiting room for Class 1-A. You’re really here, aren’t you?

Maybe…maybe you should try your best. It’ll be an insult to everyone else if you don’t.

But then what? Do you actually want the whole world to see how powerful you are? And not like, “Whoa, that girl’s really powerful!” But more like, “Whoa, that girl is too powerful to live in this society.”

That’s what they thought for a long time, your father included. You’ve tried so hard to get to a point where you’re not considered a menace, a threat. You just want to do good. Be good.

Iida bursts through the door, scaring some of the other students. “Everyone get your game faces on! We’re entering the arena soon!”

You pop another takoyaki in your mouth. It’s nine forty-five in the morning and way too early for street food, but you’ve never had a nervous stomach in your life. You get nervous atoms, obviously, but it results in different side-effects that are, thankfully, absent today.

“How can you eat that?” Yaomomo regards the food with disdain. “I feel like I’m going to be sick. Just the smell…”

“Have you eaten anything?”

“Ah, just some toast this morning,” she admits. “I’m too nervous.”

“Girl, you gotta eat something! You’ll run out of juice!”

Yaomomo covers her face. “I know, I know. But…”

“Here.” You scoot the takoyaki over and adjust its chemical makeup a little bit. “I got rid of most of the taste. It’ll just taste like…nothing. If you’re still nauseous afterward, I might be able to help with that too.”

She’s dubious but smart. Yaomomo begins to eat, and once she gets used to the fact that the food in her mouth has no taste, she finishes off the box.

You go to say something to her, but the scrape of a chair interrupts you. “Midoriya.”

Todoroki stalks forward. He’s got down that icy calm. You’ll likely never tell him that you can hear his heartbeat almost all the time because of how loud it constantly is. It’s actually a bit worrying.

“Hey, Todoroki. What’s up?”

A very dramatic conversation between the two ensues. It’s all, “I’m going to beat you because I’m the best.” And, “No, I’m going to be the best by beating you.” Pretty tiring, really. But Todoroki’s onto something between Midoriya and All Might. You’ll keep an eye on it.

Right after Midoriya gets done speaking, you stand. You don’t want to be late for the line-up.

“Don’t worry, guys,” you say, making sure to glance over Todoroki. A smile twirls at your lips, and you know you’re being dumb, but there’s way too much heaviness for a bunch of high schoolers going on. “I want to make sure all of you know that—I’m not going to be aiming for the top. I’m just here to make friends.”

The tension eases into a more light-hearted atmosphere. Still nervous, but better. You stick your hands in both pockets and head out, ignoring Bakugou’s mutterings about how fucking stupid you are, and smile at Iida.

“Ready to rock, Iida?”

“Y-yes. Of course!”

“Alright!”

You raise your hand up for him to slap. He doesn’t leave you hanging, and you’re met with a very crisp, strong, Iida-like high-five.

The Way’s faint song changes, however, giving you reason to pause. You do a half-turn and look back at your classmates. They’re all so wonderful, aren’t they? You should say something to them, something powerful, impactful.

But no words of the universe flow from your mouth. That’s how it usually goes when nineteen other people are staring at you.

So instead you grin as brightly as you can. “I think—I think all of you will do amazing.”

Because they’re nothing less.

-

Oh, Bakugou.

You expect nothing less from him, either. While the classes and spectators go into uproar in lieu of his combative words, you simply stand there with a grimace. Bakugou’s so sure of himself. A small part of you envies his confidence; you could certainly use some more of that juice. Most of you, however, is glad that you don’t have that attitude. What kind of person would you be if you were cocky and had your quirk? You saw how he used his fire against others—to the point of harm. If you…if you did that willingly…

Bakugou’s glare catches you on his way back down. It’s cool and focused, which is a great change of pace from its typical scorch. Maybe he’s making it clear that he’s challenging you as well. You’re too distracted with fishing out some peach gummi candies to get a full analysis.

“An obstacle course?” Yaomomo mutters beside you. “I wonder what it will look like.”

“Unfair, that’s what,” you finish as you chew through your candy. “But I’m sure you’ll rock it.”

“Are you eating?” Yaomomo then smiles and gives her head a shake. “Never mind. I suppose the question should be: when are you not eating?”

The two of you quietly laugh to yourselves for a brief second before listening to Midnight. She whips her flog around so violently during the obstacle course’s description that you can hear it faintly snap in the air. Does she actually hit villains with it?

You’ll have to ask her later. Midnight is an awfully straightforward teacher. Sometimes it can be helpful, and other times…well…

The flog snaps again as it directs all the contestants to the gate where the obstacle course will begin. The acrid tang of teenage anxiety hits your senses. “Are you ready to be humiliated, 1-A? Huh?”

The harsh nudging on your shoulder knocks you from your thoughts. You glance a little down to your left and see a blond-haired boy you recognize from 1-B. There’s a manic look on his face that shields any deeper fear. Is he talking to you?

From how his eyes directly meet yours, that’s a yes. “You all just think you’re so much better than the rest of us, don’t you? That’s why today is going to be so amazing! Because everyone will see that you’re really a bunch of entitled—”

“Okay, my dude,” you cut off with a half-laugh, “you need to chill. Here.” You dig into your pocket and pull out a few peach gummies. He makes a choked noise when you grab his hand, lay it flat, and slap the gummies into his palm. “Good luck, by the way.”

A swatch of indigo hair catches your attention. As the boy from 1-B is still sputtering for a response, you quickly tell Yaomomo that you’ll be right back. Since it’s so loud, though, she doesn’t hear you.

“Shinsou! Shinsou.”

You grab his arm to get his attention. A couple students around him are standing there in a glossy-eyed daze. Ah. So he’s already getting ready. “Hey, Isoko.”

“We should—” you swallow. “We should team up! I’ll help you get through this first bit, then—”

“Then what? You help me through the second part? The third?”

His voice bites in a way that you’re unprepared for. The hopeful smile falters.

“W…what?”

Shinsou sighs like you’re inconveniencing him and rubs the back of his neck. “Look, Isoko, I can’t rely on you, alright? I won’t ever make my own way if I do. I’ll just be the pathetic hero-wannabe if I let you help me.”

“But—but Shinsou—”

What’s happening? What’s going on? The universe has been thrown into disorient, into tumult, and you can’t find your footing. You’re falling.

“You’re in the hero course, Isoko, because it’s so easy for you. Everything is easy for you. But I’m not in the hero course because nothing has ever come easily for me. I’ll get in by my own quirk—not yours.” He purposefully turns away from you. “Until then, you should consider yourself my enemy.”

The buzzer sounds, and the gates to the obstacle course opens. You let yourself be swept away from Shinsou.

What?

What?

Just—just a few days back he was apologetic—but now—now it’s like he hadn’t cared at all. He had lied. Lied to you.

You don’t let yourself cry in the crammed tunnel. The world is muted, dim.

Shinsou, he’s supposed…you two…

The blast of cold from Todoroki’s ice pulls you from your spiraling sorrow. There’s a competition going on, and people are watching to see if you’ll amount to any success.

But what people, exactly, beyond hero agencies? Annie won’t get the live broadcast in the states, and besides, she’s likely on patrol. Your dad definitely isn’t watching. The Shinsous may keep an eye out for you, but their number one priority is worrying about how their son is doing. They know you’ll be fine. You’ll win.

It’s not difficult to get out of the tunnel. You leap up and run swiftly across the ceiling, and you see red-and-white hair up in first place with several of your classmates close behind.

Those stupid robots block everyone from the rest of the course. There are several zero-pointers and under, and you race forward to get them the hell outta the way so everyone else can just get on with their lives—

Then they’re frozen and come toppling down.

Kirishima! He’s—and another student—they’re trapped under the robot that Todoroki froze closest to the ground—

Chunks of ice rain from the otherwise sunny blue sky, and the screech of metal grates against your ears. You frown, and a new kind of anger that’s been simmering inside you ever since Shinsou spoke those words finally comes to a higher, steadier boil. So Todoroki wants to show off his quirk and hurt other students in the process?

Fucking fine.

“TODOROKI SHOUTO HAS TAKEN AN EARLY LEAD—WHOA WHOA WHOA?! WHAT’S THIS? OUR VERY OWN 1-A STUDENT, ISOKO MARIGOLD, GOES RACING HEADFIRST INTO THE DEATH SENTENCE!”

“Don’t call it that.”

The blinding dust sweeps back into the air, dissipating with the breeze. Students cough and stagger with the sudden change. You thrust a hand outward to signify what you’re doing. The collapsing robots come to a stop, metal groaning and creaking. The one already on the ground lifts up, and from under it comes two loud, shark-toothed boys.

Kirishima with his hardening and the boy with metal encapsulating his skin stagger upright and stare at the lifting robot. Both your hands are up above your head, now, and you realize that you’re wearing a full-fledged, intense scowl. Fuck these robots.

“WHAT’S THIS? LOOKS LIKE ISOKO’S A TEAM PLAYER! GETTING RID OF THE OBSTACLES FOR HER FELLOW CLASSMATES! THAT’S TRUE CAMARADERIE RIGHT THERE!”

“…No way…”

“…Is she really…?”

“…What the hell…!”

The zero-pointers jerk upward, ice and all, and smash together like aluminum cans. You ball them up, tighter and tighter, until they’re nothing but one singular, mottled, giant mass. With a toss-like gesture, you make the robot remains go flying off to the side and out of the obstacle course. Other students have already taken advantage of the robots’ absence, and they go flying by you while you’re standing still. Good. They deserve the chance, and it’s not like you’ll have a difficult time catching up.

You see Izuku rush past. He’s carrying a decent-sized piece of scrap metal.

“LOOKS LIKE ISOKO JUST REALLY HATES THOSE ROBOTS, RIGHT? SHE DEMOLISHED ONE WAY BACK DURING THE ENTRANCE EXAM! CAN ANYTHING STAND IN HER WAY?”

You run forward and catch up to Kirishima, who’s sprinting down the track. “Hey,” you call, “are you alright?”

He gives you a shining grin and a thumbs up. “Yeah! Thanks a lot, Isoko! You rock! I’m glad nobody else was under there besides me and that other kid with a hardening quirk!”

So there’s two of them. Nice.

You desperately want to stay with Kirishima, but he’s dug down and picked up his speed, leaving you to your own devices. Without much else to say or do, you increase your pace and make it to the massive canyon-like obstacle. Students are either leaping over or using the ropes connecting the rock pillars to get across. Up ahead, you can see Bakugou propelling himself to the edge of the canyon with his explosions. You don’t do anything flashy; the air becomes solidified beneath your feet, and you run across seemingly nothing.

Nearby, Jirou yelps and starts to lose her grip on the rope she’s moving across. Air solidifies vertically by your feet, and you propel off it. Before she can fall completely, she finds your hand wrapped around her wrist.

“I-Isoko!”

“You’re hanging too much! You need to get your legs around the rope as well! It’ll help you move faster, and you’ll be less likely to slip.”

Reaching down, you grab Jirou’s ankle and bring it up so the rope is between the crook behind her knee. She manages a short, shaky laugh, and there’s a soft “thanks” somewhere in between. You want to stick with her, help her, but you’re coming to find that nobody really wants to stick by you.

They have something to prove. You don’t.

Like Shinsou, your classmates don’t want to be around the person who’ll make it easy for them.

You cross the canyon with ease. Nobody cares. There’s…no one.

Don’t cry. Please, don’t cry.

About two dozen students have made it to the final obstacle by the time you get there. Sweat forms on their brows, they mutter curses under their breath, and when they accidentally step on a mine, their screams are accompanied with small-sized explosions.

You don’t detonate any. Your steady jog hides the fact that you’re stepping on solidified air a few inches above the ground. There’s a warzone of pink gas all around you. Todoroki and Bakugou duke it out near the front of the minefield, and a moment later, a large amount of mines detonating vibrates up your feet. You look up and see Midoriya flying overhead, the piece of scrap metal underneath him.

He didn’t use his quirk. Just his brain. Midoriya’s smarter than a lot of people give him credit for, and they’re seeing right now just what his intellect can do.

What do you use other than the sheer enormity of your quirk? Midoriya has fought for his place in 1-A. He’ll break his bones a thousand times over to ensure it, too. You, though, you’ve…you’ve never…

Uraraka barely manages to avoid a mine. The two of you are about halfway across the field, and even though Present Mic and the crowd are completely engulfed in the battle between Midoriya, Todoroki, and Bakugou, there’s still a lot of competition going on. Iida flies by, relying on the tactical zoom-boom-zoom. He sets off an extremely close detonation, and the world turns cotton candy pink.

Next to you, Uraraka wobbles. She has tears in her eyes because she thinks she’s going to fall behind, because she’s going to slow—and her fears aren’t misplaced.

She deserves to advance. They all do.

Do you?

“Hey, baby,” you say, garnering her attention. She sniffs and puts on a brave face for you now that she’s being watched. “Do you want a little help?”

Please say yes. Please.

Uraraka opens and closes her mouth, then says, “Oh—Isoko, I couldn’t ask—you need to keep going! Don’t worry about me!”

She grins despite the situation. Why does her answer matter so much to you? Why does it cut so deep?

Then, because you’re distracting her, Uraraka steps on a mine.

Before she can even get her scream out, you’ve pulled back down on her uniform and make sure she’s got both feet planted. By the time the pink gas haze clears, Uraraka is blinking in an attempt to see you. She finds that she’s several feet forward than when she was before, making up for lost time when she spoke to you.

You get to the edge of the obstacle course. The tunnel that leads back into the arena opens up, dotted with familiar class 1-A students all heading for the same spot. Those three competitive dummies are long gone, and from Present Mic’s announcements, you can tell that they’ve finished.

The world is steady beneath you, but you haven’t felt this unsteady since…since…

Ah. This is new.

You enter the tunnel, and a dark grayness overcomes you. In the beyond, you can see the green grass of the arena and the flash of cameras. The crowd roars so loudly that it almost drowns out the Way, which has been singing small and soft in your atoms. You listen to it, hoping for an answer. What should you do? What should you do?

It gives no reply, because you had made up your mind before you accepted it.

Everything is easy for you. Shinsou’s words ring so clearly in your ears that you almost think he’s standing right there, saying it all over again.

Your hand braces against the tunnel’s cool concrete, and you stagger to a stop. Classmates rush by. “Come on, Isoko!” you hear Kirishima call as he runs with Sero in hot pursuit. You keep your eyes fixed on your laceless sneakers, though, and this time you don’t stop the hot tears from rising up. They spill over effortlessly. You don’t see Kirishima glancing over his shoulder at you, and you don’t see how his intensity changes to shock once he realizes you’re crying.

This is all so pointless. Unfair. What will you do once you make it to the second round? If it’s one-on-one fighting, you’ll just pretend like you’re actually trying. If it’s a team effort, those that know your quirk will clamor over it because you’ll get them an easy win. Others might not even want you on their team because they don’t want to—to look like a pathetic hero-wannabe. You’ll steal their spotlight, the spotlight you don’t even want that badly.

Other concerned glances are thrown your way, but nobody stops. If you’re not going to make it to the finish line, they’ll happily take your spot. You sense Shinsou approach, because out of everyone in this stupid fucking festival, you’re the most familiar with his smell, his atoms, his being.

You keep your gaze trained on the ground. Small spatters of tears have darkened the pale concrete. Let him have his win. That way, he’ll know you, his sworn enemy, chose to let him succeed, chose to let him rise while you subsided. Because he’s right. Everything is easy for you.

Eventually, you attune yourself back with the Way and dust the tears. With how many students are in the arena, there’s no possibility that you’ll make it to the second round.

Midnight announces that the first forty-two will advance. You’ve place in the mid-fifties, and you ignore the looks from everyone who saw the girl from 1-A standing so close to victory but letting it slip through her fingers. Those who bothered giving you more than a passing glance saw how you were crying, mouth covered by a hand. You, the girl who destroyed those zero-pointers like it was nothing, who crossed the canyon effortlessly, who was destined for a high ranking…

Wasted.

It doesn’t bother you. Your decision remains resolute, and once Midnight dismisses those who didn’t advance, you duck out before any other 1-A students can come and ask you what’s the matter or why you let everyone get ahead of you.

You don’t really want to explain it right now.

The 1-A break room is empty, since everyone else from your class advanced. You wander in, sit down, and take out the peach gummies. The monitor has a live feed playing, and right now, everyone is gearing up for a cavalry battle. You’re thankful you don’t have to participate. Who would have wanted you? Not Shinsou. Not Bakugou or Todoroki. Maybe Midoriya, just because he knows he can use your quirk to his advantage.

You go to your locker where your phone is. The lock screen is blank except for the time. There’s nobody. Nobody.

With barely a sound, your head thumps against the cold table. Fingers fumble to take out the rubber band holding your tightly bound hair together, and it loosens into a black cloud.

The universe hears your despair, however, and just as you’re descending into an emotional darkness, your phone begins to vibrate. Sniffing, you lift your head up and see that Annie’s calling.

You answer, trying to make your voice sound normal and light. “Hey, Annie.”

“Hey, sweets.” Annie’s kindness and sympathy cracks your veneer. “I watched the last bit of the festival.”

She hears you start to sniff. “I—I couldn’t do it,” you confess quietly so you don’t completely break. “They were all trying so hard, and I…I…”

“It’s okay. It’s okay. I’m still so proud of you, Marigold. I really am. Don’t feel bad about being kind. Never feel bad about being kind.”

“I don’t—I don’t feel kind, Annie. I feel dumb and selfish.”

“I know, but you’re not. You could never be any of that. It’s not you.”

Though you don’t quite feel like believing in Annie’s words at the moment, you take comfort in her call. She loves you, and right now, it’s enough.

When the cavalry battle is about to begin, you say goodbye to her and get ready to watch. Midoriya is at the top, and he’s going to have to fight to stay there. You don’t envy him. That’s what it means to be number one. There will always be others grasping for it, trying to tear him back down.

He’s not going to go so easily, though. The quirkless loser isn’t so quirkless anymore, and you doubt that he has ever been a loser. Losers don’t come this far. Losers aren’t given that kind of power. Midoriya has an exceptional heart and a relentless drive to be the best.

You prop your chin on a hand and toss a few gummies into your mouth. He has Uraraka, Tokoyami, and a girl probably from hero support on his side.

He won’t know it now, but you’re also on his side. How can you not be?

“Plus Ultra, Midoriya,” you say through the candy in your mouth. Its sweetness reduces the acidity of your sorrow. He’ll never have to worry about you coming after him like so many of your classmates are going to do once the cavalry battle starts.

It’s the reason, the truth of why you’re here and he’s out there.

So you watch the monitor alone, and air from the vent occasionally rustles your loose curls.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Team Todoroki, Team Bakugou, Team Shinsou, and Team Midoriya. Shiozaki and Tetsutetsu take the places of Ojiro and Shouda.

Yaomomo is the first to find you during the lunch break. “Isoko—are you alright? I saw you…” She doesn’t say it, but her concern is visible enough.

You grin and shrug. “Oh, yeah, just had a bit of a breakdown at the worst time.”

“Do you want to talk about it?”

“Nah. I’m good, now. Let’s get you some food so you can kick ass in the next round!”

You’re not sure if she buys your renewed, easy enthusiasm, but she goes along with it. The two of you join the rest of the students filing out from one of the stadium’s entrances, and she begins to review everything that happened during the cavalry battle to prepare for the final round of combat. You give your input here and there. Dark Shadow is susceptible to light, Iida and Aoyama will have a long-range advantage, Todoroki uses high defense, Midoriya can only use his quirk so much, and Mina—

“…Aren’t you just a little glad that she didn’t make it to the cavalry battle?”

You pause, and Yaomomo catches on. Kaminari, Kirishima, and Ojiro talk up ahead. Kaminari’s hands move animatedly.

“I mean, come on, we were all freaked out about her, right? Or am I the only one?”

“No,” Ojiro reluctantly admits, “I can’t even imagine how things might have gone if she was in the cavalry battle. I doubt even Todoroki or Bakugou could have stood up to her. And if she was on their team?”

Yaomomo stiffens. You put your hands in your pocket and keep nonchalant. Stay positive. It’s alright.

“I don’t know, man,” Kirishima drawls. “She was, like, crying?”

Kaminari keeps going. “We would have been toast! Woulda been looking like those villain robots she took down at the beginning of the obstacle course—”

“Guys,” Yaomomo snaps beside you. The three boys whirl around, and they pale when they see how close you’re standing behind them.

“H-hey, Isoko—I had no idea—” Kaminari tries to backtrack. Why do you feel like crying again? It’s the truth. “I mean, don’t listen to me, I’m stupid—”

“You’re not,” you say gently. Your soft voice contrasts with the lively atmosphere of the vendors around you. “I’m…I…”

How can you ever explain it to them? They have no idea what it’s like to be you, to have your quirk.

Not knowing what else to do, you bow with your hands still in your pocket. “I’m sorry…I’m sorry for making all of you nervous.”

The boys are flushed red, and Kaminari looks like he wants to die. You smile at them and continue walking, but not before you give his shoulder a pat.

Yaomomo hangs behind and waits before you’re several steps ahead. “You idiots,” she hisses, and the tone of her voice makes you glad you’re not on the receiving end of it. “That’s the exact reason why she stayed behind.”

Ah. So she does get it. You’re grateful.

Once she catches up, the two of you pretend that nothing has ever happened. “Wanna finally enjoy some of that takoyaki?” you ask. The sun’s rays sink into your skin, bouncing off the particles that compose your being. “There’s a mochi stand right next to it, too. We can load up.”

“That sounds lovely.”

-

You don’t have to participate in the side games, so you choose to find Midoriya instead. He’s going up against Shinsou. And, since he’s declared that you’re his enemy, you might as well spill the beans about his quirk.

Ojiro, as it happens, is doing the same thing when you enter the waiting room. His eyes guiltily flicker away from you; he’s still hung up on the conversation you overheard during the lunch break.

You’re not bothered by it so much anymore. Food made you feel better, and you’re still sipping on an ultra-mega-sized lemonade. It’s almost as big as your head and has a fun, squiggly straw that goes with it. Full strawberries and lemon slices float around at the bottom.

Midoriya tenses. “Oh, hey, Isoko,” he says, slightly surprised that you’re here. You take a big gulp of your lemonade and throw up a peace sign.

“Hey, Midoriya. You guys talking about Shinsou?”

“Um, yeah…”

“Cool. He’s going to brainwash you like he did Ojiro.” A chair scrapes as you pull it out and take a seat. “But Shinsou isn’t a fighter. He’s going to rely on his brainwashing to just make you walk right over the boundary. Don’t speak, don’t even make a noise that’s vaguely a response to whatever question he’s going to ask you.”

Midoriya nods, his calloused and crooked fingers coming into a steeple. “Isoko, I overheard that you and Shinsou are friends. Is this…okay? I don’t want to make you feel like you need to give away his tactics just for my sake.”

You smile, and his cheeks turn pink like the lemonade in front of you. “Shinsou is…he’s trying his hardest to prove himself. Right before the obstacle race, he told me that we, uh, well…my quirk casts quite a large shadow. Even standing near me might make you invisible. At least, that’s what Shinsou thinks. So he’s staying away just to make sure that I don’t block him out.”

Ojiro sinks a bit into his seat, the pinnacle of remorse.

Even though Midoriya is less than an hour away from the tournament, he still shines with sympathy. It makes you want to cry again. “I’m really sorry to hear that.”

“Ah, it’s nothing that won’t pass.” You slosh your lemonade around and watch the contents swirl. “I hope he does well. But I want you to do well, too, which is why I’m here.” You lift your head back up to Midoriya. “Don’t underestimate him. He’s obviously not letting anything get in the way of him winning.” Not even you. “His brainwashing quirk has limits. You won’t be able to do anything that takes a lot of cognitive function. He’ll stick to simple stuff. He’s very good at riling people, and you, Midoriya, are very good at being riled.”

He lets out a small and sheepish chuckle. Your smile grows. “Get him out of the ring as fast as you can before that happens, alright? Otherwise, you’re going to be in deep shit. But if it ends up happening…try to fall or slap yourself or even just dig your nail into your skin. Anything that’ll get your brain functioning on its own again.”

Midoriya nods once, firm and understanding. “Okay. Got it.”

You rap your knuckles on the table and stand back up. “Alright. I’ll leave you alone and let you get ready.”

“Thank you, Isoko. Really.”

Even as you leave, though, you can sense Midoriya straining to ask another question. You make it to the door, your hand wrapped around the handle, when he’s no longer able to put a lid on it.

“Isoko—wait.”

“Hm?”

You take another, casual drink of your lemonade, gaze locked on Midoriya. There hasn’t really ever been anything hesitant about him, has there?

“Why did you keep yourself from advancing to the second round?” Underneath the tremor in his voice is strength. Strength and sincerity.

“Because, baby,” you answer, straw lowering from your mouth. A resigned smile flicks at the corners of your lips. “There are people who want to win this tournament more than me.”

Your words spark something in Midoriya’s dark green eyes, and he stands with both hands splayed on the table. His actions surprise you; a reaction like this is more of Bakugou’s style, isn’t it? Then again, they’re more similar than they’d ever admit.

“Why don’t you want it, though? Why did—why did you give up something that would make you a better hero? You gave up the chance!”

Midoriya isn’t quite angry—just exasperated. That streak of boldness in him doesn’t help, either.

“Chance? What chance? To win? If I advanced, there would be no chance. I’d just win.”

Midoriya and Ojiro both still. You shrug like it’s the truth, because it is. “I understand why…why you might not be able to make sense of it. I’m, I’m fine, though. I’ll get some agency to train under. That’s what this whole thing is about.”

You glance down at your lemonade. Droplets of liquid cling to the lid, and condensation makes the sides sweat. The sight reminds you that you’re holding back tears again. You…you can’t wrap your head around why it hurts so badly. While your decision is unwavering, something inside your atoms continues to shake.

You go to take another breath and speak some more, but nothing comes out. It’s just like before.

So you put on a smile again and return to looking at Midoriya. “Don’t worry about it too much. It’s over, and you have a lot on your mind already. Do your best, Midoriya. I’m rooting for you.”

Before he can say anything else, you slip out just as your smile does.

The plastic lemonade cup squeaks as your hand tightens around it. You start walking, walking away from Midoriya, from his questions. You don’t want to think about it anymore. Let it be.

But while the past may have happened, its course is not finished, nor is it linear.

In one unnatural gulp, the rest of the lemonade is gone. You pop the lid off and eat all the ice, strawberries, and lemon slices. Once you turn the corner that takes you to the booth for 1-A, you eat the straw, lid, and cup as well. It’s eco-friendly.

Someone not eco or friendly comes stalking up behind you, however, thinking that he might take you by surprise with his silence. He doesn’t know that you’re familiar with his high internal temperature, his pissed-off aura, and his sweet nitroglycerin sweat.

You side-step when he makes a grab for your collar. Bakugou growls and stumbles forward, but he catches himself and whirls toward you. There’s a snarl on his lips.

“You damn idiot,” he seethes, his voice already climbing in volume. “Why the hell did you do that?”

“Oh, hey, Bakugou. Listen, I’m not really in the mood—”

He goes right over your nonchalant sentence. “Think you’re too good for everyone, huh? Think you’re so much better? BECAUSE YOU’RE NOT! I’LL KICK YOUR ASS, RIGHT HERE AND NOW—”

The sunlight leaves your yellow eyes.

Bakugou lets out a choke as he’s suddenly pressed against the wall by an invisible force. He struggles against it, causing the tendons in his neck to pop out. “Damn—it—”

You approach him, hands going into your pockets. Bakugou slides up the wall enough to make his heels lift from the ground. “What is your fucking problem?” you ask softly. Bakugou’s eyes are pits of hateful red. “Why do you care so much about what I…about what I do?”

He spits out, “It’s because—you think—you’re too good to fight!”

“I don’t think. I know.” You let out a laugh, but it’s humorless and pithy. You’re tired of people questioning you, your reasoning, your sanity. Why can’t they just let you be?

Tears begin gathering in your eyes. “This whole thing…it is such a fucking joke to me. Can you get that through your thick head?” The force tugs on Bakugou’s hair, imitating fingers, and he makes another, more surprised noise. “Do you want me to tell you all the ways I’d beat you?”

He glares but remains silent.

“I’d create a vacuum so your flames couldn’t survive. No oxygen, no fire. I’d transform your nitroglycerin to regular sweat, making you so fucking weak that I could just push you out of the ring with my bare hands.” You lean in closer, applying just a bit more pressure to the force around Bakugou that it causes him to squirm. “Or I could increase the melatonin levels in your brain so you pass out. I’d turn into a swarm of deconstructed particles and knock you on your ass, and you wouldn’t even be able to touch me.”

You become quiet for a moment, and then you release Bakugou. He gulps in air. A hand strays to his chest.

“Or,” you say more slowly, allowing cruel words to escape, “I could just…take away your quirk.”

A glimmer of fear shines across his eyes, even though it’s drowned back out the next second. “Who would you be then? Everything you are, Bakugou, revolves around your quirk. It’s kinda sad to see how afraid you are of not being able to use it to maintain your worth.”

“Shut up,” he spits. You take a page out of his book, however, and keep on going like he didn’t even speak.

“Is that why…is that why you hate Midoriya so much? Because he was everything you were afraid of becoming? And now that he has power, you have to come to terms with the fact that your perception of reality might be wrong?”

Your tears finally begin to fall, but you dust them. They don’t run down your cheeks. Bakugou watches the fine grains that were once liquid dissipate into the air. He, too, seems to be on the verge of…something, except he can’t make up his mind on what it’s going to be.

“You’re great, Bakugou. You know that all too well. I get how you start to— lose grasp on reality once anybody puts that into question. I didn’t mean to make you have such a conniption. I didn’t mean to make anybody upset. But here we are. And…”

The rest of your words falter. It’s like this whole ordeal has expended actual energy, leaving you with the beginnings of a deep exhaustion that chemical rebalance can’t make up for.

Bakugou sniffs and roughly wipes at his nose with the back of his arm.

“If you still want to fight me, just tell me when and where.” You go to pat his shoulder but think better of it. He’ll probably try to bite you. “Until then…good luck. I hope you—I hope you find another place to put your worth. Somewhere that doesn’t hurt as much.”

He snarls again, but when he shouts, you can hear the forceful attempt at keeping a quaver from his voice. “I don’t need another damn place! You got that?”

It doesn’t help when you only smile counter to Bakugou’s rage. “Okay.”

You leave him standing in the empty hallway. “Hey! HEY! I’m not done talking to you!”

Bakugou probably would never be done trying to argue and get the last word in. That’s why it’s best just to leave. You doubt he’ll accept anything you say; his pride guides the way he thinks, and you’ve damaged it.

Thankfully, nobody has come back to the booth when you make it up there. The sight of its emptiness and the verbal lashing you just received—and delivered—tempts you to tell Mr. Aizawa that you’re going to go home. You’re not needed here. Almost everyone in your class is weirded out by you, and you’re afraid that they might not know how to act normally.

But you want to support your classmates that are fighting. Leaving early might just make things worse.

When they eventually wander in as the side games wind down, you’re all smiles and casual conversation. “I like your hair, by the way,” Uraraka comments from the row behind. She’s forcing herself to be bubbly, too, because she’s going to be going against Bakugou soon.

“Oh, yeah?” You ruffle the loose curls that you haven’t put back in a bun, yet. “Thank you.”

“You should wear it like that more often. Don’t you think, Tsu?”

“It’s nice, ribbit. I think it suits you more.”

Their compliments, however intentional to make you feel more comfortable, still help you relax. When the two girls get wrapped up in their own conversation, you sit back in your chair and put both feet up. Usually, you’d have Yaomomo beside you, but she’s taking some time to prep for her battle. You hope she doesn’t get too much in her own head. She’s strong. She can do it.

Then again, Tokoyami is strong as well. He proved so in the cavalry battle. You glance over at him. Though he’s seated in the booth, he’s got his head tucked down and eyes closed. If you didn’t know better, you’d think that he’s napping. But nah. Just resting.

You want to touch Dark Shadow and find out what the being is made of. It’ll have to wait, but maybe later you can ask. Is that kinda weird? You’re not sure; you haven’t spoken to Tokoyami much, so you can’t exactly gauge what his reaction will be.

“Hey, Isoko.”

Kirishima pulls you from your thoughts. You turn to the red-head, and what you see is the face of apology.

His small, little frown tugs at your heart. Kirishima bows as best he can in the seat next to you. “Look, I’m really sorry about what happened earlier. I didn’t…it was very unmanly of me—and all of us—to even be talking like that.”

“Don’t worry about it,” you smile. “You’re alright.”

“It it’s not too much to ask…why were you crying earlier? I shoulda stopped, which I’m sorry about as well.”

You look straight ahead. The crowd cheers as Midoriya and Shinsou walk to the platform where they’ll fight. Present Mic’s enthusiastic commentating swells over everything.

“If you stopped, you would have only placed lower. I wasn’t going to go.” Your thumbs circle around each other in your lap. “It’s just…hard sometimes. Having my quirk.”

Kirishima doesn’t have a response, but you’re grateful that he chooses silence over some attempt at consolation. You don’t need it, and he can tell. All you want is somebody to sit next to you for a little while.

To Kirishima, you smell like fresh strawberries and lemons. He notices that whenever he’s close to you, he can always pick up some scent that nobody should naturally give off. Flowers, for example, or citrus. Do you do it on purpose?

He’s too afraid to ask, just like he’s too afraid to ask most questions about you. All Kirishima knows is that he saw you crying, and he doesn’t want to see it again—or be the reason for it.

And besides, you radiate a calming presence, and he needs all the calm he can get before heading into the ring.

-

There.

When Midoriya used his quirk to break free of Shinsou’s grasp on him, you sensed it. It. Or, perhaps, them. They were the ones who reached up and assisted Midoriya. They were the ones who had some sort of control, even though they are only…only…only what?

Shit. You still don’t have a clear picture. You want to know.

But is it right to go to either of them? Or will you only get in trouble?

Whatever the case, now isn’t a good time. You’re happy that Midoriya won—and you’re sad that Shinsou lost. He wanted it so badly, going to far as to burn even you to make sure he achieved his dreams. You want to tell him that you’re proud, anyway, that you’re going to keep rooting for him.

He doesn’t want that, though. He doesn’t want you.

The rest of the matches are fun but stressful to watch (especially between Midoriya and Todoroki). You’re always so torn between the winners and the losers after each one. It goes to show how anti-competitive you are, and as each one passes, it makes you gladder that you chose to stay behind and lose.

Yaomomo loses to Tokoyami. You find her alone and, before the two of you head back to the booth, you hug your friend and let her cry into your shoulder. Defeat is defeat, and it stings. Yaomomo is extremely critical of herself, too, which makes the pain worse. She’s good at cleaning herself up, though, and when the two of you return to your classmates, it seems as if she’s never cried at all.

 The Way whispers once more of the deep sadness inside Todoroki. You saw it when he fought Sero and Midoriya, and you see it when he beats Iida. You figure you’ll see it again when he goes up against either Tokoyami or Bakugou.

You’ll try your best. For him. For all of them.

Iida’s voice draws your attention away from the current conversation with Yaomomo and Mina. You can tell that he’s disappointed, but he continues to smile despite the defeat.

He does it because he’s watched you, after all.

Before you can congratulate Iida, his phone goes off, and he steps out to take it. You go back to eating your snacks, listening to the two other girls talk, and…

Oh.

Oh, no.

At first, you think its Todoroki’s sadness that has swept all the way down the hall and into the booth. It exudes so often from him, after all. But the longer you focus, the more you deem that it’s not coming from him. It’s…it’s…

Iida.

The Way mourns.

“I’ll be right back,” you mutter, uncaring if Yaomomo and Mina hear you. Nobody else pays any mind to your departure. You head up the steps, feeling cold, ventilated air breeze through your curls. The natural light of the booth recedes and is replaced by the hall’s fluorescent lighting. The roar of the stadium fades, leaving strange, muted sounds to echo in the space between you and Iida.

Your classmate’s back is braced against the wall, shoulders slumped, head down. His glasses cling to the edge of his nose, eyes wide and shocked, phone in his hand. The white, unforgiving light that hangs above the two of you reveals a thin trail of tears streaking down his cheek.

“Iida?”

Amidst the silence of the hall, your voice sounds unnaturally loud. Iida jerks his head up to you and straightens. His phone snaps shut, and he places it back in his pocket.

“Ah, Isoko.” Iida pretends that you can’t see him wiping his tears away. Once he pushes his glasses back up, he makes his way toward you at the same time you take a few more steps to him. “The match between Bakugou and Tokoyami is about to begin. Aren’t you interested in watching?”

He’s deflecting.

“Hey, hey, what’s wrong?” You get closer, and as you do Iida stiffens. This close, you can see how his mask is already breaking.

The distant increase in the crowd’s volume creeps through the hall. Tokoyami and Bakugou’s fight has started. You don’t care.

“Iida.”

“My brother.” Iida’s voice cracks, and it sends a fissure through your heart. You’ve never heard your class president sound anything less than firm and enthusiastic. “He’s been gravely wounded. The Hero Killer attacked him in Hosu.”

A renewal of tears springs forth in Iida’s dark blue eyes, and before he can try to keep them in, you have your arms wrapped around him. One hand cradles the nape of his neck, and he fails to stifle his few sobs. He can’t help but hold you back and lean into you. He’s heavy, but you’re able to keep the both of you grounded and unwavering. “Oh, baby,” you keep repeating softly, stroking the back of his head. Usually, Iida would swerve from such touches. This time he doesn’t stop you. He doesn’t move.

It doesn’t take long for Iida to regain his composure. You let go and worriedly gaze at him. He adjusts his glasses and clears his throat.

“Thank you, Isoko. I must go at once.”

“Do you want me to come with you?”

Iida doesn’t hide his surprise at your question. Is it so strange for a friend to want to make sure he’s okay and not alone?

But maybe he doesn’t consider you a friend. Maybe most of them don’t.

“I appreciate your concern, but I’ll be fine. Stay for the ceremony.”

“Really, Iida, it’s no problem…”

He grasps your shoulder. “Rest assured, Isoko. I will be fine, and so will my brother.”

Iida doesn’t need you. Makes sense. When are you ever needed?

You reluctantly nod. “Okay. Just…”

When you can’t find any words, you simply give Iida another tight hug. He gives you one back again. “Be safe, Iida.”

“I will.”

Before you depart, you give Iida’s hand a squeeze. Then, as you leave him and head back to the booth, you collect your hair and twist it into a bun.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

You go shopping on your first day off from school. The Sports Festival plays on every screen, every projector, and it’s hella annoying. A few people recognize you, but most leave you alone. Despite being reminded of it no matter where you turn, your mood has improved considerably now that you’re done with all that emotionally draining shit.

When the Sports Festival isn’t on, news outlets report on Ingenium’s horrific attack in Hosu at the hands of the Hero Killer. Iida doesn’t respond to your text messages, and when you ask Midoriya and Uraraka if he’s been responding to them, they reply that he hasn’t.

You make some food and head to the Hosu City hospital on Friday. Since you’re not a family member, you can’t go to the intensive care unit that Iida’s older brother, Tensei, is in. It leaves you stuck in the lobby, so you text Iida telling him that you’re here and hope that his propriety will compel him to fucking talk to you.

About five minutes later, you see your blue-haired classmate step through the opening doors of the elevator. He puts on a smile when he sees you, but it’s placid and forced. You don’t expect him to be happy, of course, but part of you shrinks at the sight. He doesn’t want you here.

“Isoko. What are you doing here? You should be enjoying your day off.” Iida chops his hand at you as he approaches. The lobby the two of you are in is slow, with only a few other people dotted throughout rows of semi-uncomfortable chairs. The television screen mounted on the lobby wall broadcasts the Sports Festival. It’s the Third Years’ day.

You hold up your bag full of homemade food. “I brought some lunch for you. Figured you might be, uh, hungry. Or in need of something not from a restaurant.”

“Ah. That was not necessary.”

Iida’s curtness causes you to avert your gaze. “I mean, I know. I…I also wanted to see you. See how you’re holding up.”

“I am fine. Tensei has woken up, and he has remained stable.”

“Good. That’s good.”

“Yes.”

There’s a moment of silence. You tap your white sneaker against the linoleum floor, then say, “Look—I made this food. Do you wanna…eat some with me?”

Iida rubs the back of his neck. It reminds you of Shinsou, and your atoms anxiously buzz. “Apologies, Isoko, but I do not want to be from my brother longer than is necessary.”

Are you not…necessary to him?

“I get it. Of course—of course.” You smile because you don’t know what else to do. You’re just a classmate, after all. “I’m sorry. Sorry. Here.” You thrust out the bag of food. “This was for you and your family. At least take it.”

He bows and, fortunately, does what you ask. “Thank you. I shall inform my family of your generosity and concern. I will also return the bag and containers to you on Monday.”

“Thanks, Iida.”

He gives you one last fake smile and heads back to the elevator. You watch him leave, and your smile slips to a worried frown. There’s something festering in Iida. It changed the air around him, and it left a trail of gloom in his wake. You listen to the Way to see if it has any discernable answers.

Amidst the glory and discord, the warps and weaves, you pick out one prominent emotion that surrounds Iida.

Vengeance.

Standing alone in the lobby, you quietly mutter, “Shit.”

-

 Midoriya watches replays the obstacle course clip that one of the news stations uploaded to their YouTube channel. He absently curls a weight. He sees himself yet again with the rest of the First Years, standing in shock as he watched you completely obliterate something without so much as breaking a sweat. You begin to deconstruct when you expend a lot of energy, but this was…this didn’t even phase you, did it?

The cameras don’t follow you when they realize you don’t take the lead like you could have. But Midoriya catches glimpses of you, here and there. Helping Kirishima up, making sure Jirou stays on the ropes when she crossed the canyon, saving Uraraka from being blasted off-course by one of the mines. Your main concern is helping everyone, not winning.

And then you go into the tunnel and don’t come out until almost all the contestants are through.

A breakdown, Yaomomo curtly said when he asked what happened to you after the cavalry battle. But you explained the truth of it when you found him in the waiting room, that small smile constant on your face despite the sadness he saw in your deep pools of orange-flecked gold.

To have that kind of power…

Who are your parents?

Midoriya flips through his notebook. Your dad is Japanese, and your mom is African American. That’s common knowledge. But despite the extensive information about your quirk already sprawling the pages of the notebook, he feels like so much more is still missing.

“Isoko, Isoko…” Midoriya mutters, tapping the pen in his hand. He’s spent most of his day reviewing how he did at the Sports Festival, and then did some digging on the Hero Killer, but now he’s diving down another hole.

Search results of your name doesn’t do much initially, but Midoriya isn’t deterred. Putting his pen in his mouth, his fingers fly across the keyboard, and his eyes scan the screen for answers. The process repeats itself with slightly different terms, until the words “Isoko,” “America,” and “hero” are strung together.

When Midoriya sees the image and name that pops up in the results, his pen drops from his mouth.

Haruto Isoko. Radiance.

Midoriya is familiar with the pro-hero, but he’s never put two and two together. How could he have been so blind? Isoko Haruto, otherwise known as Radiance. He’s Japanese-born, but after moving to America, he quickly rose through the ranks as a charming, effective, and valiant hero. His quirk: light manipulation. Currently, he sits comfortably at fourteen in the American Top Twenty.

The most recent pictures show him with his wife, Anastasia Belyaeva, posing at charity events. Anastasia Belyaeva, the hero Snow Croc. She can turn into a white crocodile, ranging from the size of a regular one to that of a charter bus. She’s ranked forty-fifth in America.

“No way…” He had no idea that you come from a pro-hero family. You’re so casual, so soft-spoken. You’ve made it clear that you have nothing to prove. Nobody is expecting anything of you—or at least you don’t care that they do. Perhaps your family is just as certain as you are about your capability of victory each time you choose to fight. Choose. You don’t go into fights unless you deem it necessary, as the Sports Festival showed.

Belyaeva isn’t your mother, is she? Midoriya squints his eyes to remember things you’ve said. Once, he overheard you telling Yaomomo that your stepmother had visited during summer break last year, and that the two of you went to Mt. Fuji. It must be Belyaeva, then.

Where’s your birth mother? Who is your birth mother?

The voice in the back of Midoriya’s head tells him not to pry any further without asking Isoko first. You’re so closed off, however, that it may be difficult. Maybe All Might will know? Then again, Midoriya doesn’t want to put his mentor in the awkward position of divulging information that he doesn’t have the right to give. If your father’s quirk is light manipulation, and yours is particle manipulation, then what is your mother’s quirk do to create what you have?

That brings Midoriya to the next question he’s been repeatedly brewing over. Just the fraction of power you’ve shown is immense. Can you…can you beat All Might, if you want? He doesn’t doubt that you could have torn that Nomu up back at the USJ. You went head-to-head with not only it, but both those villains without so much as a flinch.

Midoriya remembers how your eyes burned when that villain failed to disintegrate you. Because you were stronger than him. Are stronger than him.

He tucks away the question of your parentage and focuses on other aspects. Was the USJ Incident the first time you displayed your quirk’s sheer power? Or had there been other times? He’s more curious than obsessed. Even though you don’t care about competition, you’re obviously committed to being a hero. Midoriya can already tell how much you care about everyone else, stranger or not, and how much you’re willing to give to make sure those around you are safe.

After about another hour of searching hero-centered American reports, Midoriya finds something while he’s doing squats. It’s a short article from about three years ago. Even though he doesn’t know where you’ve lived, exactly, he has a feeling that the article might pertain to you. In Atlanta, Georgia, villains had planted bombs under half a block of residential buildings. Before the pros even arrived to save the seventy-eight people trapped under the rubble, however, the survivors recounted that they’d been pulled up by an invisible force. The debris above them disintegrated so they could get through. The citizen who did such an incredible act was never identified, but a few people said that there was a young black girl waiting on the other side to help them out. She didn’t stick around for the pros and police to give a statement.

Seventy-eight people. Holy whoa. You must have been, what, eleven or twelve? If it was you, but Midoriya literally has “invisible force” and “disintegration” written in his notebook about your quirk.

Should he ask you about it? You’ve always been nice, so far, but what will happen if he gets on your bad side?

“Sorry, Midoriya,” he imagines you saying as you loom over him. “But I’m gonna compress your atoms into a little cube because you couldn’t keep your freckled face out of my business.”

Okay, so he’s never heard you talk like that, but it’s possible!

“Still,” Midoriya murmurs to himself as he moves into push-ups. “She has an incredible quirk. It would be nice to train with her because I could probably learn a few things and work on techniques that only she could help me with since she can present so many types of dilemmas and scenarios. Her control over her quirk is also amazing, so she could potentially teach me some tricks that she’s picked up when she doesn’t want to overdo things but still deliver the specified amount of power that she wants…”

He finds himself texting you. It’s a little nerve wracking; you’re a girl, after all, and a pretty one at that. Occasionally, Midoriya will catch the smell of fresh flowers wafting from you. The smell is—well, it’s nice. Very nice.

His palms grow clammy when he picks up his phone and texts you. Midoriya wouldn’t have had your number if Iida didn’t make sure that all classmates exchanged them before training started. After the USJ, he wanted to text to see if you…if you were alright. But his anxiety got the best of him, and the message was never sent.

This time, though, Midoriya sends the text, even if his teeth are gritted.

12:22
Hey Isoko, are you busy? There’s something I want to ask you

For the next minute, Midoriya anxiously stares at his phone screen. Just when he’s about to think, “She hates me!” a new text pops up.

12:23
Isoko Marigold
For sure. What’s up?

Midoriya breathes a loud sigh of relief.

12:24
Could we meet up and train together? I need some help with techniques

12:24
And I really think that you could help me out because of your quirk.

12:25
Isoko Marigold
Sounds good. Where do you want to meet?

Midoriya grins and types out the details.

-

You didn’t expect to spend your weekend with a classmate you’re not as well-acquainted with, but you’re happy to work with Midoriya. The Way knows that he needs all the help he can get.

One of the smaller gyms is available for use. You would like to stay away from school as much as you can when it’s not mandatory that you have to be here.

“It’s a good thing you’re cute and nice,” you say to Midoriya when you see him standing outside of the gym’s doors in workout clothes. “Otherwise, I would have said no.”

He burns bright red and stammers, “Ah—oh, I didn’t mean—thank you for coming then! I—I—I—”

You can’t help but lightly laugh at his system crash. “Here,” you say, tossing him a plum in your hand. “I have some more in my backpack. Picked them fresh this morning.”

Midoriya refocuses with the fruit. “Do you have a plum tree? Aren’t they out of season?”

“I grow a whole bunch of fruits and vegetables in my apartment. My quirk enables me to make some modifications.”

“Whoa, that’s really neat! Let me…”

He goes to take his backpack off and rummage for that damn notebook. “I’m sure you’ll be able to write it later,” you say. You pass him and push open the unlocked doors to the gym. “Let’s just focus on improving your quirk, huh?”

“Oh—yeah!”

Midoriya’s enthusiasm picks back up, and he follows you into the gym. Like most training grounds at U.A., it’s outdoor. There’s a small track ringing the outer edge and a few track-and-field equipment in the center. You’re wearing leggings and a cropped, pastel pink sweater with white tennis shoes. Your hair is in a bun again, but it’s looser and puffier, this time.

You toss your bag on the ground and take a seat while Midoriya does some stretches. When he sees you sprawling out on the grass, he hesitantly stops. “Isoko…what’re you doing?”

“I’m getting into a very vital position,” you reply, your arms stretching up and over your head. “And I want you to join me.”

He turns red again for some reason. “But—but shouldn’t we be…I mean, are you going to help me out with my quirk?”

“This is helping you out.” You motion for him to sit beside you. Haltingly, Midoriya does, but he’s not as relaxed as you are. “Okay, dude, listen. I don’t want to go messing up your body without Recovery Girl nearby. I mean, I could possibly heal you myself—”

“Wait, you can do that?”

“—but I don’t want to experiment right now, unsupervised. So we’re gonna take a different route!”

“And what’s that?”

You smile and stare up at the blue sky. The day is good, and the Way sings.

“We’re going to listen to your quirk.”

“Um…what?”

Smile turning wry, you tilt your head toward Midoriya. “You have a powerful quirk, baby. It needs to be listened to in order to be understood. And, in your case, in order to be controlled.”

You place a hand on your sternum and begin to breathe evenly. “When I was young, I had a hard time figuring out how to gauge my quirk whenever I used it. I knew how to use it, of course, but it was either zero or one hundred. Nothing in between.”

“Hm. I understand.” Midoriya lifts up his hand and closes it. “I know my quirk has power, but I’m still fighting to balance it. I managed to control it the tiniest bit at the USJ, but that’s been the only occasion.”

You’re tempted to ask him more about his quirk, but now isn’t the right time. He didn’t come to you to get ambushed, and besides, you’ve got more time before it matters. At least, that’s what the Way says. So you breathe in the fresh spring air and continue with, “That’s good. You probably aren’t in that same headspace, though, and you need to consciously control your quirk during times that aren’t life-or-death.”

“Yeah,” Midoriya says sheepishly. “So how did you get to where you are with your quirk?”

“A lot of practice, and a lot of trial-and-error. Fortunately for me, I was able to heal myself from any bodily injuries I sustained while I practiced.”

You don’t mention just where you learned how to use your quirk; you don’t know Midoriya enough to divulge such information. That can be saved for a later date when everybody is sharing all their deep secrets.

“But you’re not me, and your injuries are a lot more…permanent. If you want me to give you a lesson or two, then it’s going to be basic stuff. Like learning where to put your fingers on a saxophone before playing it.”

“Do…do you play saxophone?” Like all of Midoriya’s questions, he asks in earnest.

With a little smirk, you say, “Yeah.”

“Wow, that’s so neat! Okay!” He huffs and takes a concentrated breath. “Learning the keys of the instrument. The keys of my quirk. Got it.”

Closing your eyes, you center yourself and find the pulse, the shift, the song of the Way. Its gold, violet, white, azure—music transformed into color, swirling, existing within your DNA and just beyond the peripherals of this reality. It welcomes you, beckons you.

“Familiarize yourself,” you mutter. “There is no rush; there shouldn’t be a rush. Just…just do you. Find your quirk. Find the keys.”

Midoriya only hums in response.

And so the lesson continues in silence, unburdened by anything but the desire to be, the desire to learn, the desire to rest.

You think it’s best not to tease Midoriya about this being something like a date.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

You stare at the projection on the screen. It lists the number of internship offers everyone in the class got after the Sports Festival. Why do you stare? Oh, well, uh, maybe that’s because you still got fifty fucking offers despite being a weenie and ditching out of the second round.

“Whoa, Isoko,” Midoriya mutters, glancing back at you. “That’s a lot, even…”

“Even though I don’t deserve it?” you say back with a trace of bite to your words.

“Hey, that’s not true,” he argues. “You did amazing during the obstacle course. You helped a lot of people out like Jirou and Uraraka. Agencies were bound to notice it.”

“Wait,” you drawl. “How do you know that I helped them out?”

He swallows and sits ramrod in his chair. The back of his neck flushes pink. “I—I was—I just glimpsed it when I was reviewing the video of the obstacle course!”

You can’t help but laugh. “Bruh, chill. It’s all good. Maybe they did see me.”

“It…probably helps that you completely demolished those zero-pointers, too,” he adds meekly.

“Oh yeah. I forgot about that.”

“What? How could you forget?”

You shrug and make an I-don’t-know noise. “It wasn’t that big of a deal for me.”

It’s the first time you hear an ounce of bitterness in Midoriya’s forced chuckle. “Aw, don’t be salty,” you say, poking his back with a finger. “With my rigorous training schedule that I’ve provided, you, too, can wreck shit without getting your shit wrecked!”

Yaomomo leans forward, overhearing the conversation. “You gave Midoriya a training regimen?” she inquires. “What is it?”

“Meditation and a little yoga,” Midoriya replies. “At least twice a day for thirty minutes.”

She hums. “Sounds like she’s just telling you to relax a little.”

“Hey, is that so bad?” you say. “Look at him, Yaomomo.” You poke at his back again, and Midoriya makes a shy noise. “He’s wound up so tight he could just snap in two at any second.”

With a light laugh, Yaomomo says back, “I suppose you’re right. I’m sure if anyone has the secret to optimizing their quirks, it’s you.”

Maybe that’s what the hero agencies think. Or it could be that they know who your dad is, and they want to get in good graces with Radiance. Well, you’ll have to break it to them that since you can’t get into his good graces, then they probably won’t for taking you on, either.

You gaze out the rain-streaked window, growing somber. They should have chosen Midoriya instead. Anyone else.

When Midnight storms the classroom and passes out whiteboards and markers for everyone to write their name down, anxiety spreads throughout the room, but it’s mingled with excitement. You stare down at the surface of the board, and because of its faint, specular properties, you can see a bit of yourself in the reflection.

Who do you want to be? Nothing flashy. Who do you want to represent?

To be honest, you haven’t given your hero name much thought. At least, not in English or Japanese.

“How do I write electromagnetic waves and the quantum sound of atoms existing in a language that isn’t math?” you ponder aloud.

“Can math…even do that?” Midoriya wonders from his seat. He’s trying to distract himself from the same dilemma you’re having. Because honestly, there aren’t that many different ways to switch All Might around with originality.

“I mean, sometimes,” you reply as you tap your marker against the whiteboard. “They get the basics, at least.”

“Quantum mechanics are the basics?”

“Uh huh.”

Yaomomo once again rejoins. “Then what’s beyond the basics?”

You let out a low huff of a laugh. “Some freaky shit, y’all.”

Who do you want to be?

Miss Universe? Nah, too dumb. Radiant? No, too close to your dad’s name. The Living Embodiment of Entropy and Quantum Manipulation? Too long. Quantanium? Too retro.

All you want is a name that represents…you, as small as that representation of your entire being as that may be.

Wait.

Wait.

You write down your name, marker squeaking across the whiteboard. It’s simple, low-key, and comparable to your quirk. Forget your knowledge about quantum mechanics; you’re a pure genius alone because you’re able to come up with a name.

After Yaomomo goes up and presents her superhero name, The Everything Hero: Creati, you cheer and clap for her, then pop up and head to the front of the class before you can get too nervous and psych yourself out. It’s all going good, going good—

 Then you face everyone, and your particles suddenly want to leap apart from each other like they just got caught committing a crime.

“The Atomic Hero!” you blurt out a little too loudly before anything can fall off or disappear. “Speck!”

“Speck-tacular!” Midnight immediately retorts with the snap of her fingers.

You grin and hurry back over to your desk. “Oh shit,” you mutter once you slap your medulla oblongata back into performing as an automatic breathing function. “That was the scariest thing I’ve had to do all semester.”

“You literally fought a villain,” Yaomomo deadpans while Midoriya gets even more freaked out by your words. “And that was the scariest thing? Standing up in front of class for five seconds?”

“I don’t do well with public speaking okay?”

Just the mention of it makes the bun on the top of your head start to dust, and you slump onto your desk, exhausted. Yaomomo chuckles at you, and from the corner of your eye, you can see a stoic Tokoyami struggling to hide his own smirk.  

Frowning, your gaze drifts to the other side of the classroom. It follows Iida as he stands and presents his hero name, which is the same as his real one. The Way’s whispers calm your mortal fears, but they carry more disconcerting truths. Darkness refracts inside him like an inverted prism, only it cannot escape.

Your frown, hidden, turns deeper.

-

“Iida,” you call, footsteps lightly squeaking against the sleek floor as you trot up to him, “going to turn in your intern choices?”

“Ah, yes.”

You smile as though you had never worn any other expression in your life and wave the paper in your hand. “Can I walk with you?”

He nods and continues on. You hum a bright tune and casually ask, “What are your top choices?”

“I intend to intern at an agency in Hosu City.”

“Oh yeah? That’s cool. I got one from there, as well. There’s a hero in the area, Diamond, that I think I might go with. She’s got the mineral stuff down, and I’m always ready to—to, you know, get my rock on.”

Iida hums, and it’s not because of your lame-ass joke. He’s not listening to you. He’s not even listening to the fact of, “Hey! Guess what! I might be going to the same place you are! And whatever stupid shit you wanna do, I could be there to stop you!”

It’s alright, in the end. You’re not important to most of your classmates, Iida included. That means they won’t pay attention to you until you’re there, ready to haul their asses away from danger and dumbassery.

Iida and you turn your papers into the office. Then he bids you goodbye, and you’re left standing there beside a window, the raindrops rhythmically pattering against it, quietly putting in your earbuds.

You ask the Way what you should do, just as you ask it in most things. It replies with an infinite number of paths and an infinite number of endings—or as much as an ending that can be perceived in the Way. It’s more of an outcome. An ending means that there is nothing beyond the end, which the Way cannot understand. There is always something. Always. Because of this, you typically have a hard time figuring out what everything means. Closeness to the Way doesn’t mean you can see into the future; it means you can see into a sliver of what may come, but even that is tenuous because to the Way, there is no such concept of the future. Nothing is linear.

That’s why you try to stay linear, and that’s why you only interact with the Way to a certain point. The closer you are to it, the deeper you are in it…makes things messy when you come back out.

It’s happy to help you, though, because it’s happy to be talked to.

You venture back down through the hall and leave the school. Lo-fi music plays in your ears, and, for the moment, all is well.

Soon it won’t be, but you’ll deal with it then.

-

The day before Class 1-A heads off to their internship, you have one last “training session” with Midoriya. Since it’s still rainy, and more students are using the indoor gyms and centers over the weekend now that the Sports Festival isn’t going on, you happen to find yourself in an interesting position.

Midoriya is blushing when he opens the door a touch too frantically. You grin and hoist up a reusable bag in your hand, which contains a bunch of fruits and vegetables.

“Hey Midoriya!” you chime.

“Hi—Hi Isoko! Come in!” Midoriya bows and bolts out of the way so you can enter. “You can, uh, you can put your umbrella right there, and I’ll take your raincoat!”

You don’t need the Way to tell you that this is the first time a girl has ever been to his house.

Still, it’s sweet, and you can tell he basically gets everything from his mom when you meet her. Midoriya Inko. Bless.

“I’ll leave you two in the living room!” she says as she shuffles every which way in their apartment. There’s a mighty fine spread of food at the coffee table. “Help yourself! Izuku said you like to eat a lot!”

Midoriya squeaks, “Mom!”

She laughs again because she’s not nearly as nervous as Midoriya—just excited. “Again, it’s so nice to meet you! Midoriya talks about his classmates all the time, and I’m so happy that he’s made friends. I’m glad that you’re helping him with his quirk, too! If my baby boy hurts himself one more time…”

Mrs. Midoriya tears up. You can really tell where he gets everything from.

“He obviously needs to think about his mom more,” you agree with a plain nod. Midoriya hunches forward as though he’s been punched in the gut.

“See, Izuku!” Mrs. Midoriya says, vigorously nodding her own head. “Your friend gets it!”

“…Mom…”

Grinning wide, you give Mrs. Midoriya your bagful of goodies. “I brought some produce! I grow them in my apartment.”

Mrs. Midoriya gapes as she pulls out the first Tupperware container and sees how huge the strawberries in it are. “How are you—how did you—”

“It’s her quirk,” Midoriya chimes in. “Isoko can grow food that usually doesn’t grow in an apartment.”

“Thank you, Midoriya,” you nod in joking austerity, and his fading blush renews.

“You’re welcome!”

Mrs. Midoriya oohs and ahs over the decadent strawberries, plums, lotus roots, onions, grapes, blueberries, and carrots she’s been gifted with. She thanks you profusely and, after another twenty-minute conversation between you and her that leaves Midoriya standing there, the two of you finally get to work on “rigorous training.”

The ceiling fan circles above you, and you absently eat a rice ball. Your legs stick up in the air, and you pedal them in rhythm with the fan. Midoriya lays with his head pointing toward yours because of the long living room, so you can’t see him.

“Hey, Midoriya,” you say after some time, “your mom is really nice.”

“Yeah, she is, isn’t she?” he says back. You can hear a smile in his voice. Then, a shift. You doubt that he’ll ever successfully be a nonchalant person. “Is…how is your mom? Does she miss you?”

You chew the rest of the rice ball and convert it. “Uh, I’d like to think so. She dead.”

Midoriya freezes, breath hitching. You’re unable to stop yourself from smirking. Dark humor was never your best trait, but you don’t mind using it from time to time. It hardly takes your enhanced senses to detect Midoriya’s guilty, hammering heart.

“Why, baby, have you been snooping?” you question.

“Uh—uh—well—no—I mean—”

You sit up and grab another rice ball, and then you turn around and face Midoriya. He takes your cue and sits up, as well. Once again, the two of you mirror each other’s positions, but his looks far meeker. You hand him the rice ball in your hand and find a replacement. For some reason, Midoriya prefers to stare at his food rather than meet your gaze. It’s alright. You understand.

After a hum, you take a small bite of the rice and slowly chew it while you speak. “My mom…my mom is gone. And my dad is Radiance.”

Midoriya’s stillness says that he already knows. “He sent me here because our…our relationship is strained. I look like my mom. He just sees me and sees…and sees her, and he’s never figured out how to deal with it.”

Your voice is soft as you reveal a small part of yourself to Midoriya. You’re not sure why you are doing this; you feel safer when you keep yourself contained from others, like a bottled universe that people like to look at but never fully comprehend. It is a daunting task to be perceived by others when you let them in to understand you. The risk is that they may not understand despite your efforts, and you’re left alone again while others walk away only with fragments of who you are. Fragments of a glass jar that contain your universe.

But Midoriya’s green eyes are kind, and you have been left in a new kind of vacuum with Hitoshi’s absence.

You still keep most of your universe sealed in the jar; the truth of its past, your past, is still too much for you to let out for others to hold. But this tiny piece, it…it’s nice to give. Your universe doesn’t drastically spin out-of-control with its removal.

Midoriya doesn’t look away from you, anymore.

“I don’t hate him for it. I…it’s been my whole life, basically, and I’ve come to accept what is.” You keep eating your rice ball. “My stepmom, Annie, fills in a lot of that motherly gap, now. We’re far away from each other most of the time, though, so sometimes it can be a little difficult. But she’s great. I love her.”

“Did…did you ever know her? Your mom?”

Midoriya’s voice is so soft that it’s almost lost in the thrum of the ceiling ban.

“No. It’s okay, though. I have never known her loss, and so I’ll celebrate that she gave me life.”

Even though you took it.

You were just a baby. It’s not your fault. It was simply the…the Way. The design.

But your father does not understand like you do. He does not hold your fragments to try and piece you together; his hands were cut by your shards the moment you were born, and so he never wants to touch them again. To him, you are a black hole, not a universe. A consuming, unknowable void lightyears and lightyears away.

“Still. I’m sorry. Sorry that it had to happen to you in the first place.” Midoriya means it, and you smile at him. He smiles back and finally takes a bite of the rice ball you gave him. “If you want,” he goes on, “you can always come here whenever you need…”

He falters for a second then picks back up.

“My mom is great. She’ll give you plenty of love. You don’t even need to ask.”

You let out a small, light laugh. It causes Midoriya to break out into a grin. His freckles stand out against his pink-dusted cheeks. “Does this mean I can come by whenever?” you have to tease. He laughs this time, and though his nod is halting, it’s there.

-

“Goodbye, my loves,” you say one last time to your plants in the apartment. They hum back good luck, they will miss you, the sun is warm, their roots are strong. You almost cry when you shut the door behind you and carry the small duffel bag that has your clothes for the internship. “I won’t be long,” you whisper to yourself while you descend the stairs. “I won’t be long. I’ll be back.”

Your plants provide constant companionship, but they definitely have less ache in their nuclei than you do about you being gone for an entire week. Their concept of time is less…strict than yours. But you like it that way. You don’t like what happens to you when you stop seeing time as a linear path. Things get freaky. You get freaky.

“Why do you look so sad, Isoko?” Yaomomo asks you as the class begins to trickle into the train station where Aizawa will see you off on your internships.

“I miss my plants,” you sniff. As you woefully talk, you reach into your backpack and take out a bento box. “But I made this for you. For the train ride.”

Yaomomo smiles and bows. She takes it. “Thank you. I really appreciate it. And, I really appreciate your cooking. I’ll eat it on the way.”

You happen to see Iida approach. He doesn’t bother you with a glance; he’s formed his demeanor into perfect, focused placidity to hide everything underneath.

Why are you doing this? He’s not going to commend you for going to Hosu. If anything, he’ll be upset if you do say that you’re going so you can make that when he does something stupid, you’ll be there. So why are you trying this hard? Really, you and Iida don’t know each other that well, anyway. That brief moment in the hallway during the Sports Festival only lasted about a minute.

You can’t ignore the Way, though. And, perhaps just as importantly, you can’t ignore how much you care about your classmates.

Aizawa gives 1-A the rundown while he hands out briefcases containing your uniforms and train tickets. Just as you’re about to leave in the same direction as Iida, a hand touches your arm. “Isoko. A moment?”

The sadness that channels from Todoroki’s hand to you makes you want to hug him. But you refrain and instead meet his mismatched eyes. “Yeah?”

“You’re going to Hosu, right? With Iida?”

“Mm, not to the same agency, but we’ll be in the same area.”

Todoroki nods as though this is appropriate news. “Good. Watch over him. I have a feeling that he’s not going to Hosu because he will find the best internship experience there.”

You let out a small sigh and grip the handle of your briefcase. “You’re not wrong. I’ll try my best.”

He nods once more and stays silent. It gives you a chance to smile at Todoroki. “Ya know,” you can’t help but say, “you’re a nice person.”

Out of all the things that could possibly take Todoroki off-guard, it’s a sincere compliment. If he was going to say anything else, it’s gone, now, and he’s left unable to speak. You simply wave goodbye to him, then to everyone else, and head to the stairs that’ll take you to the train to Hosu.

The teachers reserved your seat next to Iida’s. “Isoko?” he finally says when he sees you. “I didn’t know you and I would be—”

“On the same train?” you finish for him. You toss your duffel bag and briefcase up into the rack above you. “Funny how that works.”

Iida’s conflicted as to how he should react to your presence, but he falls back on formal politeness.  Nodding, he says, “Well. I am glad that you and I will be able to complete our internships near each other. This week shall be an insightful experience.”

“Yeah. Insightful.”

The Way has other descriptions for it.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Diamond has a moderately-sized agency along the southern side of Hosu City. One of her sidekicks picks you up at the train station, and when you finally meet the pro, she greets you with a warm welcome. Her agency’s main lobby is decorated with tasteful rock art; some are in their natural state, and some are polished and shaped. But you like her even more when you see that she does have some plants throughout the office that add balance to the rocks.

“Welcome to my agency!” Diamond says. She firmly grasps your hand. You can sense flecks of minerals embedded in her system, which can still function with the high levels of otherwise toxic substances. “It’s great to finally meet you!”

“Yes, thank you for offering an internship to me,” you say back with a grin. It slips when the real question comes to your mind, and you’re too anxious to know the question to save it for a later date when you and Diamond are more familiar with each other “Uh…I don’t mean to be rude or ungrateful, but—but why did you take me on? I didn’t make it past the first round.”

Diamond gives you a fond look gestures for you to take a seat in one of the lobby’s small couches. One of her sidekicks places a tea tray on the coffee table in front of it, and she pours you a cup. Steam billows from the dark liquid, and a nice fragrance wafts to your nose. “It’s not that complex of an answer. I saw how versatile your quirk really was, and so I called the school and inquired about it before I made an offer. Particle manipulation. I can’t even begin to imagine how much power it gives you.”

She takes a sip of her tea, and you do the same, trying not to be too nervous.

“I’m guessing you didn’t want to really compete because you thought it would be unfair to everyone else otherwise.”

You nod once. Diamond hums. “To be honest,” she goes on, “I don’t like watching the Sports Festival. Putting students on the spotlight like that is…well, I’ll keep my opinions to myself about it.” She lets herself laugh a little. “But I think you believe the same, Isoko, aside from your powerful quirk. So?” Diamond shrugged. “Thought I’d put my offer in. I wasn’t sure if you’d take it.”

Her prismatic eyes gleam. “There. I answered why I chose you. Now answer a question of mine: why did you choose me? My agency is small and new. I’m sure a lot of other pros felt the same as I did; despite not making it to the second round, you displayed an intensity that undoubtedly attracted others. I bet you still got quite a few offers.”

It’s true. You got offers from pros like Gang Orca, Seismic, Rock Lock, Edgeshot, Nightspear, Ms. Heavenly, Titanium, and others. Diamond, however, had the only agency located directly in Hosu and not surrounding cities and wards.

Should you be honest? Diamond truly wants to know. But—but you don’t want to hurt her feelings. And besides, even if you lie, she’ll probably figure it out. The Way whispers that Diamond is incredibly intelligent when it comes to detecting the truth.

So you stare down at your hot cup of tea, and you can almost see your reflection in its dark surface. “I…I’m sorry if my answer isn’t as heroic as you might think.”

“I’ll decide after you tell me,” Diamond says, but it’s not unkind.

“Well. Okay. Mm. Here’s the…here’s the thing.” You drink your tea to stall for a few seconds. Its taste still lingers in your mouth after you’ve stopped. “My friend, well, I’m not sure if he thinks I’m his friend, but I think he’s my friend—he’s my classmate—he came to Hosu. I think he’s here to do something dumb.”

“So you followed him,” Diamond finishes. You nod.

“Yeah. It’s—it’s Iida Tenya. Ingenium’s younger brother.”

Diamond stiffens, and her face becomes grave. She puts her cup to her lips and mutters, “Shit.”

“Yeah,” you breathe. “You see my problem.” A swell of emotions rises up in your chest, and before you can stop yourself, you’re saying, “He’s always so—so great and upstanding, and I don’t want him to mess up so badly that he can’t ever come back from it. This, this isn’t like the Iida I know. All the grief inside him is turning into vengeance. He’s going to a dark place. I…I want to help pull him back.” You turn solemn. “Before he gets himself killed by the same villain who nearly murdered his brother.”

After a tense moment of silence, Diamond whistles lowly. “Damn. That sounds like a U.A. problem. Your teachers let him come here?”

“They trust him to make the right decisions,” you say. “They don’t realize he’s one flashback away from going rogue.”

“Should I contact the agency he’s interning at and inform them? Then they can keep an eye on him, and you don’t have to worry as much.”

“Yeah. Yeah, I’d like that. He’s interning at Manual’s agency.”

“Oh! Manual!” Diamond pulls out her phone from a hidden, zip-up pocket on her thigh. “Great guy. Worked with him a bunch of times—” She snapped her head up, eyes dazed. “He’d be devastated if anything happened to his intern. Especially…especially…after Ingenium…”

She goes through her contact list and calls Manual. You sit there, trying not to feel too guilty, and finish up the rest of your tea. Diamond moves into her private office to have a conversation with Manual. You refrain from eavesdropping.

Iida will resent you more if he finds out you’ve told on him. Oh well. It’s not like him resenting you will be a big deal. You’re not his friend.

Hitoshi was your friend, and his resentment toward you will hurt more than anything Iida or your other classmates can possibly do.

Diamond comes back out a short while later, looking better than when she first went into her office. “I’ve told Manual. He’ll handle the situation and keep a close eye on Iida.” She sits down on the couch again. “I don’t know how you could have thought that you weren’t acting heroically. Watching out for your classmate is plenty heroic.”

If your body could blush, it would.

“I…” you can’t think of anything else to say, so you end up with, “Thank you.”

Diamond smiles. “Now let’s focus on you! Tell me more about your quirk, and I’ll see what I can do to help you improve and make this a great internship week!”

And, for the day, you let yourself ignore the weight of what would be coming.

-

21:45
Yaomomo 💕
✨💕
Okay, so my internship might now be going as planned…

21:45
Jirou 🎧
How so?

21:46
Yaomomo 💕✨💕
Uwabami just wanted Kendou and me for our looks, not our skills

21:46
Isoko Mari
That bitch! Want me to beat her up??

21:46
Uraraka Ochaco 🍑
Isoko can do it too!

21:46
Tsu 🐸
Yeah Isoko can set her straight

21:46
Jirou 🎧
Let Isoko fight her

21:46
Hagakure Tooru 🤫
🙌🙌🙌 Yes please!!! Isoko fight her!!! Show her who’s boss!!!

21:47
Yaomomo 💕✨💕
Wow…all of you really want to see Isoko fight don’t you?

21:47
Isoko Mari
I will do it for your honor my lady

21:47
Hagakure Tooru 🤫
For honor!!!

21:47
Tsu 🐸
It’s because we know she will win

21:48
Isoko Mari
Damn right I will!!

01:17
Ashido Mina 👽👄
Ommmgggg I totally missed out
Please please kick a pro's ass
I'd pay a thousand yen to watch that shit

01:18
Isoko Mari
For you baby?? It'd be free 😚

You and the girls in the group chat talk about your internship experiences for a little while longer until it’s late enough that everyone needs to go to bed. You’re staying in Diamond’s spare room. You’ve told her that you don’t need to sleep if you don’t want to, and she says that’s probably the one thing any hero wants in this world. It is nice, but it can be lonely.

In the end, you wind up staring out the spare room’s window. The sound of the city washes over you; Diamond lives in a very busy part of Hosu. The lights shine in their own neon galaxy.

You turn yourself into a diamond composition, just like your pro hero mentor does. In the center of your translucent chest, however, resides a cloud of stars and creation that you did not intentionally put there.

In another second, you return to your original physical state.

-

08:03
Are you keeping up with your training regimen?

08:04
Midoriya 🤜
I’m trying…but my mentor keeps me pretty busy

08:04
I’m crying

08:04
Midoriya Izuku 🤜
Don’t! You really helped me prepare for everything I’m doing now!

08:06
Okay, I’m smiling 😊

08:06
Midoriya Izuku 🤜
Good!

08:07
Have you heard anything from Iida?

08:15
Midoriya Izuku 🤜
Not much…he must be busy.

08:15
Or he’s avoiding you

08:16
Midoriya Izuku 🤜
Why would he do that?

08:17
Because he’s still angry

-

Most of the week goes by without any problems. Diamond teaches you about the importance of patrolling and what it means when people see heroes out on the streets. She also has you form into at least two hundred mineral compositions that you have memorized in the span of a minute. It takes a toll on your stamina, and so you two go through the motions of training to improve it. Some minerals are easier to sustain without it expending as much energy as others—even your regular physical state. They usually are the ones with an easier atomic structure. When you turn into a diamond again, you don’t have the swirling mass inside you.

Diamond likes it when you turn into the same composition as her. She also likes it when you turn into platinum and tungsten, as well as prettier substances such as jade and gold. The two of you have a pretty good time together, actually; her enthusiastic and caring presence almost makes you forget about the looming darkness that the Way warns you about. Diamond’s goal, you find, is helping you be even more comfortable using your quirk in unique ways.

“Who the hell cares if people get intimidated by it?” she shrugs as you two drink smoothies on your patrol. “That just means they’re weak!”

You think that Bakugou would like her.

She even gets you to change your hair. “You have the entire universe at the tip of your fingers, and you wanna keep up with the same look that you’ve had since junior high?”

“I don’t want to be disrespectful,” you mutter. “Also, I hate it when people here think it’s their right to touch it when it’s not pulled up.”

“If U.A. thinks whatever hairstyle you choose is disrespectful, call me, and we’ll file a lawsuit! Also, if people touch your hair, punch them in the face!”

“…That’s not very heroic.”

“It’s heroic to stand up for her personal space! And it’s heroic to remind people when they’re being assholes—sorry, buttholes!”

You take your scrunchie out and change your hair to a pale purple. It retains its typical curls. Diamond gasps and high fives you.

“Yes! Yes! Love it.”

You grin and keep your hair that way for the rest of the day.

-

13:22
🍓 Kirishima 🍓
Hey! Quick question what is it called when one energy turns into another?

13:23
Uhhhhhh transduction?

13:23
🍓 Kirishima 🍓
That’s the word! Thank you! 😁😁😁

13:24
You’re welcome babe!
Why do you need it?

13:25
🍓 Kirishima 🍓
Trying to prove a point to Tetsutetsu
Knew I could count on you for the right answer!
You’re way smart

13:27
🥰🥰🥰

-

Diamond and you talk about your family life over dinner. She knows about your father, mother, and stepmother. Apparently, she and your dad went to Ketsubuku, though she attended much later than he did.

You tell her about your mom and what you did to her. She gives you a hug and tells you that it’s not your fault. Even though you know it to be true, it feels reassuring to hear someone else say it.

-

22:58
Todoroki Shouto 🔥
What did you mean when you said I was a nice person?

22:59
What else would I mean?

22:59
Todoroki Shouto
🔥
I don’t understand what you meant by it.

22:59
Okay…

23:00
You’re a nice person. I don’t need to know you well to see that

23:00
And to be honest?
You try to be distant and cold, but that’s not really who you are.
You’re just a kind person.

23:01
I’m sure that’s hard to believe for you.
I doubt anyone has ever really told you that because you’re asking me
But it’s what I see.
And I see basically everything, so you can’t doubt me lol

23:20
Todoroki Shouto 🔥
Thank you

-

It happens in the evening. You and Diamond are patrolling when you feel it—feel him. The Big Bastard himself, Kurogiri.

You spray blood onto the concrete with the sudden influx of atomic change, just like before. Diamond freaks out for a bit, but you tell her that the same thing happened at the USJ. Kurogiri, Shigaraki, The League of Villains, are at it again, sowing chaos they have no right to unleash upon the innocent because of their fucked-up, half-baked views.

Then an explosion goes off in the distance, and you tell her that you sense Nomu. Diamond doesn’t pale. She hardens into her prismatic state, phones in her sidekicks, and tells you to join her. Then the two of you are barreling down the street and into the madness. A kind of thrill makes your molecules hum; you can do good, and you’ve been given permission to do good. Part of you does want to go after Kurogiri and beat his ass up, but people need your help more.

You put out car fires and help lead people away from the main battle. You can detect similar genetic makeups in the Nomus ahead from your last experience with one. They’re not as amped-up, however, and…and…the closer you look, the closer…

Every single cell in your body goes numb.

Dear god.

They were—

They were—

People.

You let out a stifled cry.

How did you not see this before? Stupid, stupid, stupid.

“Speck!” Diamond shouts, pulling you from your spiraling thoughts. “We’re moving further in! More sidekicks are here for evacuation! Can you detect any bystanders that are still close enough to be in danger?”

You nod and do a quick sweep for vitals in the radius ahead. “We got about seven people who are caught up in everything!”

Diamond commands, “Meteor! Quicksand! Follow Isoko and get those people to safety!”

“Yes, ma’am!” her sidekicks yell back. You take the lead—you take the lead—and point out where the people either too terrified to get out of the buildings or too panicked to see a way out. Meteor and Quicksand get to work on helping them run. Out from the corner of your eye, with the heat of destruction billowing against your skin, you see them.

Nomus.

People.

People, but not anymore.

Who could…who could do such a thing? Commit such an act against the universe? Take the will of a living soul and use their bodies as weapons?

Diamond goes face-to-face with the Nomu with no eyes. It manages to pick her up, but she immediately sprouts diamond spikes all over her body. The Nomu screeches and drops her. Her reflective eyes hastily scan the area and find you half-carrying two people out from danger. A thick spray of rubble goes to hit you and the bystanders, but before it can, you disintegrate it into nothing. Diamond grins at the sight, and you go to grin back at her—

Another Nomu sends her flying into the side of a building. “Diamond!” one of the other heroes screams while he fends off the Nomus with sprays of water. “Are you okay—”

She leaps from the crater she left behind in the building, untouched. “I’m okay, Manual! It’s you who should be worried!”

Meteor takes the bystanders you’re helping, and you pause. Manual…

Wait. Manual is…

That means…

But where’s…

You rush up and grab Manual’s shoulder. He jumps at your abrupt grasp. “Hey, what—”

“Where’s Iida?” you practically yell. “Where is he! He’s supposed to be with you!”

“I don’t know where he is!” Manual yells back. He uses his flow of water to redirect the flying Nomu away from another hero. “I lost him!”

Anger makes your eyes burn. “He’s not lost,” you seethe. Atoms in the air gather tightly around you, transforming your normal body into something with a magnetic-like pull. Only, it’s not magnetism; you’re like a sun drawing everything into its orbit because of its sheer power.

Manual understands your words, and he goes pale despite the heat all around you. This isn’t entirely his fault; if Iida wanted to be stupid despite everyone telling him not to be, then he’d find a way. You should have confronted him, confronted his rage, so this wouldn’t have happened.

You haven’t been paying attention to the Way in all your focus, but it’s been thrumming for a while, repeating its same song, telling you, telling you, telling you—

Diamond reappears beside you. The light from the fire shoots every which way from her, turning her into some celestial being.

“I have to go,” you say in a panic, eyes filling with scared tears. “I have to—Iida—”

“I heard you,” she says back. Her voice is layered. “Can you even detect him?”

“Yes. Yes.”

She hisses between her teeth, conflicted. “You really shouldn’t…you really, really shouldn’t—”

“Diamond.”

Her prismatic eyes sharpen on you. What she sees is no longer a simple, shy student, but…but someone else.

A hero.

Your eyes burn like the center of a furnace, and stray flecks of rubble and dust climbs around your legs and arms, swirling in their ascent. Your hair seems to react to the change in your demeanor, the increase in your power; the curls lift off your shoulders, a cloud of dark matter that sucks any and all light into its void.

Diamond knows she couldn’t stop you even if she tried. Even if they all tried. Staring at you is like staring into the sun, and it’s hard to keep looking without being blinded and feeling like she’s being exposed to something far greater than herself.

“I’m not asking for permission.”

She at least pretends to let out a reluctant groan, and it’s followed by a quick nod. “Then you better get going! And come back here after you’re done! I’m not going to get my hero license suspended because you were sloppy! Got it?”

You grin, and it magnifies the blaze in your eyes. The grin also grounds your existence to who Diamond knows as Isoko, the student, and not Isoko, her superior. “I don’t know how to be sloppy.”

“Please, please be safe—”

But you’re already throwing yourself into the stream of time, the stream above and below and between this reality, the flow of something that transcends math, mortality, minds. It embraces you, drowns you, sustains you. But, above all, it welcomes you back to its existence, its realm which is imbued in every molecule, every atom, every electron, every quark, until it opens back up into something endless.

It is the Way of Things.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

The smell of burning fire and melting ice is a familiar one to Todoroki. He keeps pushing back, keeps dodging, keeps fighting the Hero Killer who moves erratically and fanatically fast. No matter how much Todoroki sweeps ice this way, fire the next, it takes only one mistake to be vulnerable, to be paralyzed—

To be dead.

Stain knows that Todoroki is trying to keep him at a distance, and he’s using it to his advantage. He’s throwing blades, slicing at ice, never once missing a moment to find an opening to advance. Closer, closer, too close!

Midoriya sweeps his leg up and kicks Stain away. Iida and the other pro are still unmoving on the ground, making Todoroki and Midoriya the first and only line of defense against the mania of the villain they’re facing.

I’ve faced villains before, he tells himself, and he thinks of the Nomu he swore he wasn’t scared of, though he still has nightmares about its limbs being severed and growing back in grotesque ways. Steam billows out from the corners of his mouth. Midoriya lights up the alleyway with green fissures of electricity. They streak off him as he flies through the air, engaging with Stain as best he can without getting sliced up by a blade or shot off-course by Todoroki’s offensive and defensive ice spikes. Iida keeps yelling. Todoroki tells him to shut up and let his friends save him.

Blood streaks down his cheek and collects on his jawline. Todoroki can barely feel his arm where he ripped out two of Stain’s throwing knives. His heart is racing, but he can’t think about what will happen if they lose, if he lets Stain get past him, if Iida and the pro bleed out from their injuries. He won’t think about it. All that exists is the fight. All that matters is the victory.

A flash of fire erupts from Todoroki’s side, but Stain uses it to his advantage and sweeps in as a blind spot. Todoroki cries out as more pain steeples in the new slash on his side. Midoriya lets out a yell and manages to kick the sword from Stain before his long tongue can lick up the red shining against the metal.

Midoriya makes himself vulnerable, though, and yet another blade finds its way across his leg. Todoroki blasts Stain back, hoping that the heat will burn away any fresh blood, but it’s too late. Midoriya cries out and freezes against an alley wall glistening with melted ice. The air turns humid, turns dry, then humid again—

Todoroki’s shouting at Iida to get up, to prove that he’s worthy to carry Ingenium’s name, but his whole life is inches from being extinguished as each syllable passes his lips.

Midoriya’s scream rises above the din of chaos. “TODOROKI WATCH OUT!”

Stain pounces off the side of the wall, angling just so he can get behind Todoroki and into one of his weaker spots. A sword points directly at his side. Todoroki sweeps an injured arm out, fire erupting on his skin. It blackens more of the fresh blood flowing out from his wounds. The injury makes his reaction time too slow, however, and Stain avoids the direction of the flame. His tongue lolls out, eyes gleeful with the thought of finally impaling Todoroki on his blade.

His breath catches, and all he can do is watch the sword come straight for him.

Iida wails his name—and Todoroki is sorry—

There is a noise. It starts small, like a drop of water in a lake…but then it grows and grows, becoming the lake itself, becoming more, becoming the air, rippling through the alleyway and shaking its foundation.

A familiar brown hand lashes out from the very strands of reality itself and grips the sword. Blood sprays from the skin the blade cuts. It hangs suspended in the air like crystalized crimson.

The noise is a thunderous scream, Todoroki realizes. A scream that belongs to his classmate.

He would have smiled if he had not been so utterly stunned.

The very world itself compresses in the alleyway. It momentarily deafens Todoroki, and an intense pressure from something he’ll never be able to explain condenses around the hand. Then, a brilliant flash sends him skidding across the ground; Todoroki never knew that light could have weight to it. The lingering light is tangible on his skin, hot and bold and singing. It carries the faint scent of fresh-cut flowers.

The luminescent flash fades from Todoroki’s eyes, closing in on the darkened alleyway once more as if it’s turning into a single spotlight on the stage.

There, standing tall against Stain, dressed in a simple black outfit, is you.

Your eyes are the sun itself, relentless and surging, and specks of stars and galaxies spin around you. They curl up into your black hair, dust across your cheekbones, glow in your veins. Reality that is only visible when it touches you refracts like bending, shifting mirrors. You blur in-and-out of existence, as though you are losing focus, but you center your body back in again without so much as a flinch.

They crack and break apart when you, whose voice is layered as though you are speaking five times at once, utter:

“Don’t touch my friends.”

Todoroki is able to smirk.

The pressure of the alleyway tenuously returns to normal. The blade in your hand disintegrates, and you backhand Stain against the nearest wall. He chokes at the force of the blow. Blood pours from his mouth.

You casually walk up to him, shifting out-of-focus again. It hurts everyone’s eyes to directly stare at you. Your feet leave searing prints in the concrete, and your hair shifts like a black cloud, uncaring of the physics around it.

Stain tries to escape from your reach, but you take hold of his neck and lift him several inches off the ground. His back scrapes against the wall. One hand latches around your wrist, and the other carries a knife that punctures your chest. You don’t notice. Stain haggardly groans as he finds that you are too hot to touch, and he whips his hand away from your wrist, burned. His neck begins to sizzle when you don’t let go.

Another flicker. You rip away the cloth around his face and reveal the disfigured man underneath. “Knuckleduster,” you say. Bitter amusement laces through your voices, weaving them together in their multiple layers. Stain’s eyes, for the first time, widen in shock and fear. “Knuckleduster did a number on you, didn’t he, Stendahl, Stendahl the street killer, street killer sawed off his own nose and hit her and HURT MY FRIENDS!”

At the peak of your voice’s climb, your voices go from five layers to ten. You throw him deep into the alleyway, where he tumbles and spins until he hits a dumpster and leaves a dent in the metal.

“Tenya.”

You turn to your classmate, your friend, your eyes like suns and skin scattered with starlight. He stares up at you in all his bloody mess.

He gasps your name, dark blue eyes filled with awe. You do not hear him. Only the symphonious chaos of the Way.

“Get. Up.”

Stain lets out a bellow and comes running back again to finish the girl who assaulted him so, who saw into his insides and burned it all out.

You flicker again and finally double over. You see so much, too much, all at once and nothing at all.

You see forests and volcanoes, lava under your feet, grass under your feet, dirt under your feet. You see daylight and carriages beyond the alleyway, women in kimonos, ancient creatures roaming. You see a building in front of you, futuristic and spiraling, and people working within.

You look at Iida and see a little boy in glasses, a man with gray streaking his dark blue hair, an infant, a corpse, a hero—he is clean-shaven and scruffy, blood not of this time streaks his face, he is a child again—

Todoroki hoists you up as Iida meets Stain head-on, the effect of the villain’s quirk on him gone. He wraps his left arm around your waist, which is immune to the heat that radiates off your body. You see a child’s arm, an old arm—the sky is blood-red above you, filled with primordial ash, the sun is too close, the moon is fractured, the moon is gone, the dusk is pink. Dark ocean water surrounds you.

You take a ragged gasp of oxygen and try to solidify yourself. Todoroki has to let you go as he blocks off Stain from an opening to attack Iida. A knife goes flying at Todoroki, and you shove him out of the way and take it in the eye socket. You pull it out. The knife disintegrates. You blink and your eye reforms. Blood runs into your mouth, and you can taste diamond, carbon, hydrogen, tungsten.

Shit…shit…you need to help, but you…there is…too much.

You lose grip of yourself and flicker again.

There is nothing in front of you but distant stars, there are children laughing, there is the red of Todoroki’s fire, the blue of Iida’s engines, the green of Midoriya’s electricity. There is, there is, there is everything as you shift through time like the flow of cursive, like the center of a storm, like the cycle of memory. You need to—fucking—anchor—

Stain goes to shove his sword into the chink of Iida’s metal armor. You’re appear in between them, redirecting the sword and shoving the child, the man, the villain, the fetus, the skeleton, the nothing away. Iida spins with his hands on either side of your waist; when he lets go of you, you twirl in the air, and time becomes jumbled even more, mixing and meshing together like psychedelic ingredients in a bowl.

Then you land on your feet, flicker, and turn back around to reposition Midoriya’s kick so it lands a better blow. His arm jerks back so the dagger coming for it misses, and perhaps that is the most draining thing you have ever accomplished, because Midoriya isn’t Midoriya; he is a multitude of people, shadows and forms, who are fighting Stain. He is All Might, he is a woman with black hair and a white cape, he is a bald man with goggles. They are inside of him, outside of him, and you can’t tell whether he is moving them, or they are moving him. The green electricity weaves through Midoriya and his ghosts, his entities of sheer power, connecting them through time and space and mortality. The vestiges are all alive, somehow, as if their souls were imprinted so thoroughly and deeply into strands of this inheritable DNA that they’ve become integral to its makeupits purpose. They have bent reality and created a pocket within the cells. Trying to grip onto him is like trying to reach into another dimension and find a single strand within an entire universe. It leaves you exhausted like you actually did.

But you continue the alleyway dance with three other heroes, a villain, and time imbalanced. Spectral dust trails in your wake as it ghosts off your cheek. You give direction to Todoroki’s fire, fuel to Iida’s engines, power to Midoriya’s jumps. The whole time, the echoes in Midoriya’s quirk are cheering him, on, cheering all of you on, and the second you’re able to not flicker for more than five damn seconds, you see the black-haired woman turn her echo away from Midoriya and look to you.

She grins. It’s wide and hopeful, and it has a touch of amusement to it, like she knows you’re about to tell her something funny and she’s already about to laugh.

The perception of reality bends yet again, inverting and twisting through another layer. You’re looking at somebody who isn’t exactly there, who belongs within the within, who resides here and another plane away, and who is…gone. Gone to a place that you’re not allowed to touch. They all have, besides All Might.

The overlapping ribbons in time warp off to the sides, creating a kaleidoscopic tunnel that pinpoints to the grinning woman. She gives you a thumbs up, and her voice clearly cuts through the impenetrable crashing of the sound of the Way. Distant, but there.

You hear her words, and though your atoms want to rip apart with the quantum beating they’re taking, you nod and give her your best smile back.

Then she recedes back into the shadows woven by green electricity, and the Way snaps back into place like a whip cracking taut. As if the Way itself recognizes the defining occasion, it allows you to witness the moment that etches itself the most deeply on time in this alley, this not-alley, this place.

Iida and Midoriya take down Stain. Together.

You stop flickering. Stain swings one last sword at Iida, but it’s turned to raining metallic dust by the time it hits him. Iida delivers another powerful blow, and Todoroki fries the villain with a blast of fire.

As they fall, you manage to get a more stable grip on your quirk and catch Iida and Midoriya so they don’t catapult down Todoroki’s new alleyway iceberg. The peak of it encapsulates most of Stain’s unconscious body. You gently set both the boys down and look down the alley. The remnants and promises of time are fading, now; it is flickering instead of you.

You ask the Way if it’s over. The Way replies that nothing is ever over.

The boys are talking, but you still can’t hear them. Iida is slumped against the ice Todoroki formed in case you couldn’t catch them. You crouch down next to him. Iida stares back at you, crying. You lift a hand and wipe the tears away with a thumb. You hope your temperature still isn’t too hot. Fading images of him as a little boy still settle in your brain.

He says something to you, but you can’t hear him, so you simply add a touch of a sympathetic frown to your smile and create a fresh bandage. You wrap it around Iida’s forearm that isn’t obstructed by his metal armor. You’d deconstruct parts of the costume to tend to the wounds better, but you doubt he’d like that. He’s got some serious damage in his shoulder area. Maybe you should really focus on biological reconstruction so you can help your classmates heal.

You stand up and turn to Todoroki and Midoriya. They currently have Stain on the ground and are disarming him. You tap on Todoroki’s shoulder and get his attention. His mouth forms words, but you press gauze to his cut cheek and secure it with medical tape. After, you bind up the injuries on his arm and waist. You move onto Midoriya, who has injuries in miscellaneous places. He lets you bandage his legs and underneath his armpit, even though it’s over the costume, and then place gauze on his forehead. His arm has taken some damage, too, with that final punch, so you construct a simple sling and have him put it on.

By the time you’ve gotten to Stain, the crashing waves of the Way have turned to an ebbing shoreline. You can hear Iida brokenly ask you, “Why did you come?”

You pause and glance over your shoulder. Your cheek is still gaping, but you have enough tissue and skin left to smile. “Because,” you reply, and your voice is soft and back to how it normally sounds, “you’re my friend.” You lift your gaze to Midoriya and Todoroki. “You’re all my friends. Why wouldn’t I come for the people I care about?”

For some reason, they look back at you as though you’ve gifted them with a profound secret of the universe.

In another second, you have Stain secured with rope. The Way tells you it’s the right material to bind him in. You stand and go to the pro that’s staggered upright.

“And you,” you say as you wrap up his waist as well, “I think you should know that I literally talk to the universe. And the universe says that cultural appropriation is bad.”

He makes a nervous noise, and you smirk.

The boys are watching you as you make your way back to them. The night sky is unmoving, and you breathe a sigh of relief. “Thank you, Isoko,” Iida says, bowing. “I…you saved us.”

“Ah,” you shrug. Your hand reaches out and brings Iida’s broken glasses into your palm. In a second, one of the cracked lenses is repaired. You hand it back to him, and he takes it gingerly. “I think you guys would have been fine on your own. I just came in and added a few flourishes here and there.”

“F-flourishes?” Midoriya gasps. He literally starts to shake. “You—Isoko—you came from nowhere!”

“It’s not nowhere,” you reply. “There is no true thing as nowhere, since that is even a place. It was just, uh, some quantum travel shit. Makes me all messed up though. That’s why I was barely able to do anything at all.”

“Still,” Todoroki says. “Thank you.”

There’s a moment of silence in the alley, and you can hear sirens in the distance. “Well,” you sigh, though there’s so much more you want to say. But it’s all clogged up in your chest, and you need to get back to Diamond. “I’ve got to go. People to help, ya know? Heroes will be coming for you soon, anyway, and…”

Your yellow eyes glaze over for a second as you see one last, trailing whisper of the future. “Oh.”

But the Way doesn’t want you hanging around, so you have to oblige.

Todoroki is focused on you. “Isoko…what did you see?”

You hunch your shoulders and shove both hands in your pockets. “Uh, just, oh, just future things. Traveling how I did takes the string of time and basically bunches it all together.” Quietly, you add, “I don’t really like what it does to me.” Then you lift your head up and bring back the smile. “But I don’t regret doing it. Not even a little bit.”

Iida appears to be on the verge of tears again, and Midoriya isn’t that far away. Todoroki, as always, seems indifferent, but you know better.

You begin backing up. “I’ll see you guys tomorrow, alright? We’ll talk more then.”

Hopefully, you’ll have shaken off the last of the non-linear funk the Way has got you in.

Nobody waves goodbye, but it doesn’t hurt your feelings. They’re all too injured to be making unnecessary movements, anyway.

You spin on your heels and deconstruct into a swarm of matter that’s barely distinguishable from the night. Then you’re gone, leaving that alley behind. You’ll probably have to go back in a little while and make sure you didn’t weaken the whole structure of time and that good shit. A dinosaur in Hosu would be the last thing the heroes need. But totally epic.

Even though you’re not traveling faster than light, you do find Diamond within the next two minutes. The Nomus have either fled or been dispatched. She’s giving a statement to police when you reappear several feet away. Diamond catches sight of you, and she excuses herself to jog over.

You sink into her immediate hug. “I’m so glad you’re okay,” she mutters. “I was worried. And I hate being worried.”

“You don’t ever have to worry about me,” you respond automatically. Diamond pulls back. You’re surprised at the sudden depth in her gaze as she regards you. Her hand cusps your incomplete cheek.

“Oh, Marigold. I’ll always worry about the people I care about. That’s just the way it works.”

Your eyes finally well with tears, and you lean back into Diamond’s shoulder.

It really is one of the truths of the universe, isn’t it?

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Diamond and you head to Hosu City hospital. You’re dressed in black high-waisted jeans and a button-up shirt with tiny French bulldogs dotting the white fabric. The shirt is tucked into your pants. You have your hair loose and extra poofy. Diamond is still in her hero costume, but you’re not going to be able to keep training for the last couple days of the internship with her.

“It’s because Manual is a damn snitch,” she mutters to you, “and he told the school that you sneaked off to help your boys. Damn snitch.”

They’re not your boys, you want to say, but you don’t argue.

Diamond sees Manual and a small, older hero walking into the hospital.

“Hey! You damn snitch!” Diamond shouts, and Manual hunches his shoulders before he turns around to face his fellow hero.

“Hey, Nakazawa,” he says with a nervous half-laugh.

“Don’t be upset with Manual for doing the right thing,” the old hero snaps. “It ain’t his fault you let your student knowingly run off.”

“If it hadn’t been for my student, your students would be dead!”

The old man glares at Diamond, and she glares back.

“Hey, hey,” Manual nervously intervenes, “it’s over, now. Let’s just head to their room, alright?”

Diamond mutters something under her breath. The old man does the same. You keep your head down and stay quiet.

It’s an awkward walk to the elevators, and the ride is downright painful. You want to apologize for causing such tension, but you figure that Diamond will tell you that there’s nothing to apologize for; at least you didn’t get abandoned by your mentor like your classmates did. Yeah. That’d be something she’d say, and you honestly just want to get this done as quickly as possible.

Things don’t get better when the four of you reach the room that Midoriya, Todoroki, and Iida are staying in. There’s a tall, dog-headed man waiting outside of the room, and after all the training you’ve gone through with Diamond this week, you can sense the metal of a gun residing within his suit. His dark eyes train on you, and his black nose faintly tweaks in the air.

The old man, Manual, and Diamond shake his hand. “Tsuragamae,” the old man says, “sorry we’re late.”

“It’s perfectly fine, Gran Torino,” Tsuragamae replies. He takes a good look at you once more. “Isoko Marigold. It is good to meet you, woof.”

You bow, unsure. Diamond pats your back consolingly. “Sorry, Isoko,” she sighs. “But he wanted you to be here so you could get a scolding with the rest of them.”

Assuming that Tsuragamae is in police enforcement, he probably grouped you together with the boys, even though you ditched out early.

“Oh,” you mumble, and you can’t help feeling more dejected. “Okay.”

But the old man, Gran Torino, is already sliding the room’s door open. “Oh,” he dryly remarks, “so the injured youngins are awake!”

“Gran Torino!” you hear Midoriya squeak.

“And Manual, too,” Iida adds. The boys’ gazes go behind the heroes and onto you.

“Hi,” you say with a small wave. “How are you guys doing?”

“We’re alive, no thanks to you,” says Todoroki.

“See? What did I tell you?” Diamond breathes snappily from the side of her mouth. Then she gives you a nudge to go sit on one of the three beds the boys are occupying. You freeze, hastily trying to decide which bed to choose—which boy to sit beside—until you finally say fuck it and shuffle over to Midoriya’s bed.

He goes red in the face when you plant your butt down next to him, but before he can say anything that’ll likely embarrass the both of you further, Gran Torino hisses to his intern, “Idiot!” He stalks forward. “I could yell at you for hours right now.”

“Yeah, I—I’m sorry—”

“But before I do, you’ve got a visitor.”

Gran Torino introduces Tsuragamae as Hosu City’s chief of police. He gives all of you a stern and direct reprimand, which is what you’d suspect. While the boys get fired up about everything—especially Todoroki—you simply want to sink into the bed and vanish from the world. This is so embarrassing. You get Todoroki’s anger, and part of you wants to argue back just like he is, but there’s no point in expressing it. Not when you have glided past that point in time. What you don’t expect, however, is Tsuragamae’s turnaround when he gives an off-record statement. The police are willing to look the other way if you are all okay with giving the credit of taking down Stain to Endeavor.

Of course you’re fine with not receiving recognition. You’re…you. The spotlight doesn’t matter.

“Either way,” Manual says bittersweetly, “we’ll need to take responsibility for being negligent as supervisors.”

Iida walks forward and bows to Manual. “I’m sorry. I should’ve listened.”

Manual chops him softly on the back of his head. “Yeah! You caused us a lot of trouble, and you worried Isoko to death. Remember that, and don’t do it again.”

You get up and bow with Midoriya and Todoroki and sincerely state your apologies. Tsuragamae himself thanks all of you in return.

As you get up to walk back out with Diamond, she pulls you aside and softly whispers, “Why don’t you take some time to be with them? If you need me to have someone drive you home, just text.”

Naturally, you start to freak the hell out.

“Wait—Diamond—”

But she grins and pushes you back into the room. The door resolutely closes behind her.

You stand there for a moment, memorizing the beige metal color of the door, too afraid to turn around and face them. It’s all so different in the heat of the moment, when the Way is flowing through you, when the threat of death is far more important than your own comfort.

It’s daylight, though, and light doesn’t allow you to hide from the aftermath.

Shit. You miss your plants.

“Isoko…”

Slowly, you turn and face Iida. He’s sitting on his bed once more, face downcast, hair loose.

“Did I…did I truly worry you?”

His voice is so quiet that anything louder might break it entirely. It is so quiet that it breaks your heart.

“I…”

You find something wet on your cheek. When you put your fingers to your skin, you find that it’s a tear. You dust it away and turn off your tear ducts entirely.

The room is so quiet.

Even though all you want to do is deconstruct and escape through the air vents, you move forward, little by little, until you’re close enough to Iida to reach out to him. Your hand reaches out to rest on his shoulder, but you hesitate at the last moment and draw back. The movement makes Iida’s lip quiver.

“I know…I know you might not consider me your friend, but I couldn’t stop myself from—worrying about you. After your brother and, and Stain, I—I sensed how hurt you were inside.” You give a faint smile. “I don’t mean to pry into your or anybody’s emotions. I just…um, my quirk does it before I even realize stuff.”

When Iida doesn’t say anything back, dread begins to swell in your atoms. You open your mouth, but no words come out, and when that happens, you really consider just blipping out of the room.

Before you actually do, though, and presumably what you’ll keep doing until everything around you dies so you can keep avoiding the topic, Iida utters, “You…the whole time, you were trying to be there for me.” His teeth grit. “And I ignored you.”

“Oh…I mean.” You fumble to make a coherent sentence. “It’s not a big deal. Nobody pays much attention to me anyway, and I, and I know you probably don’t think of me as your friend—”

Iida’s head snaps up. His expression desperately searches for an answer. “Why do you keep saying that?”

You stare at him, unable to look away.

“Because…” you answer just above a whisper, “it…it’s true, right?”

Iida can’t stop his tears, and neither can he wipe them away due to both his arms being in slings. “No. No, of course it’s not true! I—I have been a horrible friend to you, Isoko. You are so caring and kind, and all you wanted to do was help. But I was so blind—”

Iida’s voice breaks the moment you embrace him. Just like in the hall during the Sports Festival, your arms wrap tightly around his body while his forehead presses into your shoulder. There’s nothing you can say right now, nothing you’re able to say. You figure that all Iida needs—all the both of you need—is this.

You want to laugh at yourself, really. You’re always so caught up in worrying about if you’re needed when the answer has not and never will change.

You are.

Eventually, you let go of Iida and straighten his glasses for him. “It’s alright, baby,” you manage to whisper. “It’s alright.”

Then you turn to Todoroki and Midoriya, who are sitting beside each other on Todoroki’s bed. “And you two!” you exclaim, throwing your arms around them, as well. “You guys need hugs!”

They both make noises as you draw them in. “T-thank you, Isoko,” Midoriya says, his voice muffled because his head is smashed into the crook of your neck. When you release them from their hold, Todoroki uses his free arm to block the sneeze caused by your hair tickling his nose.

You smile, pat their heads, and sink back onto Midoriya’s bed. This time, however, you’re facing all of them much better. “So,” you breathe, and your hair slightly puffs out with the process of exhaling, “I…guess I should also apologize for making you guys see what I did last night. I—I’m not normally like that.”

“You said that you would see us tomorrow back then,” Todoroki says. “Is this what you saw? Us all being together in the hospital?”

“Mm. Kinda. More like felt. By then, my ability to see into the future had subdued.”

“So…” Midoriya’s eyes are intense. “You can see into the future?”

“Only when I travel through the Way.”

“The…Way?”

You let out a small chuckle. “Yeah. It—it sounds weird when I say it out loud. It’s what I call the…the realm of atoms and particles and all that stuff. The natural laws don’t abide there, so if I enter into it, I can travel faster than the speed of light…and then some. But when I come out, though, its, uh, it still has residual effects on my body and mind. Really fucks me up.”

“Back there, you called Stain something else,” Todoroki follows up, unencumbered by the realizations of what you can do like Midoriya is. “Is that how you knew?”

“Oh, yeah. Stendahl, was it?” You tilt your head up as you try to recollect the blurred memories of the alley. “That was his vigilante name years ago. Then another vigilante came along and knocked the shit out of him. Again, I didn’t so much as see it as I sensed it.”

“But did you see that Stain would escape and save Midoriya after you left?”

There’s a silence. Your hands run over the rough, disheveled blanket on the bed. “The Way was telling me to use rope that he could cut…so I did. Then it told me to go, so I went. It’s for the best. I never disobey the Way’s guiding.” You lift your eyes to the white ceiling above, and you can’t deny the heavy weight in your chest. You saw Stain’s video already circulating. “But…the world will change after this.”

“For better or worse?”

You rest your gaze back onto Todoroki. “Don’t know. I hardly ever do. It may be better for some, worse for others; it is constant in its relativity.”

“That’s just one big contradiction.”

“Maybe to you. But to me, it’s just…”

“The Way,” Iida finishes quietly. You glance at him and nod with a small smile.

“I have another question,” Midoriya says before Todoroki can continue interrogating you about the nature of the universe. His green eyes, however, tell you that his question still won’t be a light one. Lightness is a foreign concept to all of them right now, it seems. “Why didn’t you stop Stain all on your own? You could have.”

Iida hums. “I wondered the same thing, too.”

“Ugh, yeah, about that.” You flop yourself back on the bed, black curls fanning out. “One, remember that whole ‘being guided by the Way’ thing? Had to do with that. If I jump into everything and do it all on my own, then I’m depriving everyone of the chance to grow and learn. Huge no-no for the universe. But, really, the bigger reason is that…oh, how do I put this?” You splay your fingers out in front of you. “I was seeing the stream of time all at once, and it was hard to distinguish where everybody was for the most part.”

You sheepishly giggle. “Like, I was basically seeing the end-slash-beginning of the Earth and everything in between. Traveling through the way disrupts my linear perception of time.”

“Like a piece of string being balled up,” Midoriya mutters.

“Exactly. Or like ice cream coming out of a vending machine. Except I’m the ice cream and the machine and I’m at the bottom of the cone and the person making it and the person eating it. Oh, and the ice cream is infinite.”

“That’s…okay,” says Iida.

“There’s not really any way I can explain it in words. Basically, after I leave the Way, time is a circle instead of a line.”

“You should have started with that,” Todoroki remarks.

“Well—I really want ice cream! I’m hungry.” You pat your hands on your stomach like it’s a drum. “Anyway. I couldn’t kick ass because sometimes Stain was a baby to me, and you’d feel bad beating the shit out of a baby!”

“Did you see us as babies?” asks Midoriya. You sit up and grin.

“Oh yeah. You guys were all cute as hell. Saw you as fetuses, too. Sometimes you were just, just gone because I was seeing you before you had even been born.” Your grin slips a little. “I also, uh, saw you as corpses. ‘Cause, you know, mortality.”

“Being dead,” Midoriya nervously laughs, “great.”

“Death comes for us all,” Todoroki nods sagely. “It’s expected.”

“Ooh! I saw dinosaurs, though.”

The three of you share a laugh about the nature of the conversation. Then Iida inquires, “You were able to see all of this in the alley. Could your quirk allow you to travel to other periods in time physically?”

“For sure my dude. But will I do that?” In English you say, “Hell to the no!” You switch back. “Time travel is scary shit, and I’m not stupid enough to try it out. Also, Japan can still be hella racist. Why would I want to go back a hundred and fifty years when it was even worse?” After a brief moment, you add, “Though, I could just dazzle them with my quirk and become a supreme overlord or something.”

There’s amusement in Midoriya’s voice. “You’d never do that, Isoko.”

“Maybe so, but I could create a perfect world where no tragedies ever occurred, and the world was at peace. Then, when quirks manifested, I’d steer humanity further into technological and ethical advancement until we distributed our teachings and peaceful beliefs to different planets throughout the galaxy.”

When you don’t receive any rebuttal, you frown and put a hand to your chest. “I’ve had a lot of time to think about things, okay? It’s not like I’d do any of it!”

“Yeah,” Todoroki drawls. “Sounds pretty nerdy to me, anyway.”

Your frown deepens, and Iida and Midoriya snicker.

“Whatever. Shut up. I’m trying to tell you about my super-powerful time-altering quirk, and you’re calling me a nerd!”

“Well, are you?” Todoroki questions passively.

Well, are you?” you shoot back in a mocking tone. The corner of his mouth flicks upward, and you grin in return.

Looking at all of them, you know that they’re going to be alright. You’re going to be alright.

You stand up and stretch. “Well, I’m going to get some food from the cafeteria. I’ll bring back snacks and drinks for all of us.”

“That isn’t necessary,” says Todoroki.

“So…strawberry milk for you? And some Pockys for Midoriya? And orange juice for Iida?”

They all mutter and mumble that yes, they’d like that. You head for the door. “Thank you, Isoko,” Midoriya calls. You slightly turn back to them and grin again.

“You guys can just call me Mari.”

-

“That classmates of yours,” Todoroki’s father said to him while they began their patrol on the second day, “Isoko. Do you know who her father is?”

“No,” Todoroki replied. “I don’t ask my classmates things I don’t care about.”

“Well, you should,” his father snapped back. “If you had, you would have made her your ally on the first day.”

“I’m a first year in high school. Don’t talk as if we’re political countries.”

Todoroki was ignored. His father kept a strict pace while he continued talking. “Isoko Marigold is the daughter of Radiance, a well-known pro in America and Japan.”

Todoroki slowed for a moment but picked back up. “So she’s the daughter of a pro. So am I. If that’s all we’re basing this off of, then this conversation is pointless. Unless,” he adds, “she also had a terrible childhood growing up under the roof of a pro hero. Then we have two things in common.”

His father gave him a sidelong glare. “What you do today will determine your entire future, whether you understand that principle or not. Neglecting to build a relationship with that classmate will deprive you of opportunities for your career. Radiance can be a major influence on American hero politics and ranks, if he so chooses.”

“Basically, you’re telling me that I should use her for my personal gain,” Todoroki spat. “You really are despicable, aren’t you?”

“You chose me to be your mentor for the week. As your mentor, this is my advice. Not listening to it will cost you.”

Todoroki bitterly chuckled. “If only you were just my mentor. I’ll be the one to decide whether Isoko is worth my time or not.”

Days later, he glances at the same classmate who sits beside him in the car. Todoroki offered to take you home, and Iida’s parents who came to pick him up took Midoriya once they’d been discharged. You stayed the whole time, as if you knew that simply your presence brought an indescribable calm.

It’s a silent ride. The sun has set, by now, and it’ll be another thirty minutes before they reach your apartment. Neon lights flash through the window, turning your pink, purple, yellow, red, blue.

He’s never been good at conversation. What can he really say? “I know your father is a pro in America.” “I think your hair looks nice when it’s down.” “Does your quirk allow you to see if Midoriya is All Might’s secret love child?”

Todoroki at least has the common sense to say none of those things aloud. So he sits quietly on the other end of the backseat, staring out the window.

Then, a finger taps his shoulder. You—Marigold—Mari—gets his attention. When he looks to you in the dimness of the car, he sees bright lights passing behind your head like some galactic backdrop. Todoroki still can’t get over how he saw you in that alley, swirling with stardust like some interstellar being.

You smile and hold up your phone. “I’ve got an earphone splitter. Wanna listen to some music together?”

Todoroki initially doesn’t know how to respond; the only noise between you two are other moving cars and wheels rolling on smooth streets. After a few moments that make him painfully aware that he’s already taken too long to reply, he simply says, “Sure.”

You beckon him to slide closer. Todoroki unbuckles his seatbelt and settles into the middle seat. His shoulder brushes against yours. He pulls out his own earbuds and plugs the jack into the splitter. You do the same, and once he has his earbuds in place, you press a play button on your phone.

If you were a kind of music, Todoroki thinks, you would be this kind. It’s easy and smooth lo-fi, and the kind you’re playing is particularly soothing. He takes another glance at you; you’re staring back out the window, again, and the lights reflect in your eyes. The neon of the city eventually fades to the rhythmic, warm yellow streetlights of the highway. The timing of the faint light washing over you is in-sync with the current song playing.

Todoroki wants to say something. Whatever that is, however, is lost on him.

You’ve proven that you are far more than a classmate with a pro as a father. Todoroki believes that you wouldn’t agree with the concept of allies or partnerships; you’d just settle back on being friends. You care so much about people you don’t know a whole lot about. Or maybe you do because of your quirk, and that’s what compels you. Either way, you choose to act on it as though it was part of your own quirk, and that is what astounds Todoroki.

He wants to be like you. Be that doubtlessly caring.

You’re a nice person.

Your words confounded him to the point that he had to search through the class contact list he got on the first day of school to ask you more about it. Your answer was simple, which he should have expected. Still. Simplicity did not mean you were lacking in truth. It was just…difficult to believe.

Neither of you speak. Todoroki succumbs to the music and the scent of jasmine rising from your skin and drifts asleep. Time and memory meld together with the highway lights gently pulsating behind his eyelids. When he wakes up, the car has stopped, and the driver is getting your luggage out from the trunk.

“Thanks for the ride, Todoroki,” you say to him. He rubs the fatigue from his eyes with his good arm.

“You’re welcome.”

“See you at school?”

You ask the question as though you’re unsure if Todoroki will be there, but you’re hopeful about it. He nods.

“Yeah. See you at school.”

You grin and step out of the car and into the dark street. The door closes behind you, and Todoroki can hear your muffled voice thanking the driver. Eventually, as the car pulls away, Todoroki watches you open the apartment’s lobby door with a key fob and step inside.

He wants to say that you’re a nice person, too.