The alarm sounded by her ear, effectively pulling her from unconsciousness yet again. Her hand, muffled by mittens and further impaired by sleep, clumsily made its way upwards to the clock above her head and haphazardly hit the button.
Sound had roused her, and now the rest of her senses slowly began responding as well. Her breathing was labored—yet unimpaired—as she breathed in the moist air. Tiny droplets of water clung to her skin, chilling her despite the temperature-controlled room of her dorm and the blankets that remained messily draped over her body. Such slight discomforts caused her to pry her eyes open, and she was greeted with gentle sunlight cascading through her curtains.
Dawn, you beautiful goddess.
Blearily, the student groaned. She kicked her blanket off with finality, hoping for some relief from the water that hung in her room. She did not receive it as noise continued to assail her.
She took a deep breath in; then she exhaled. The room was more humid than she was used to, but it wasn’t awful. She could live with this. She turned her head to the side, blinking languidly at the source of noise.
Her phone continued to buzz from its place on the desk, just as it usually did in the morning. And despite being deprived from its job for the past month due to the fact that flowers and anxiety had been waking her instead, her phone appeared no more or less cheerful in resuming its duty today.
With one tired sigh, she allowed the realm of consciousness to fully claim her at last. Bracing against the humidity, she pushed herself upwards and pulled her arms as far above her head as she could manage. A myriad of pops and cracks walked up her spine, releasing the tension she had been carrying and then some. As her body relaxed into wakefulness, she eyed the bin next to her bed, placed there the night before as a caution, and prepared herself.
She allowed herself no more than a brief thought: a flash of green hair and a memory of worried, green eyes. She tensed as warmth spread through her person, a little embarrassed at how lovestruck she could be at a mere memory of him.
But nothing came.
As the realization grew with the dawn, Ochako smiled. Her shoulders remained raised, and her breaths were still shallow, but it didn’t matter. It didn’t matter that the phone had fallen to the floor again, its warning calls ever-present. It didn’t matter that she instinctually lowered her head above the bin despite no flowers arriving to punish her for having fallen in love.
Tsu’s humidifier had worked.
She didn’t waste time in disregarding her mittens, rising to her unsteady feet, and gathering her phone from the floor. She took one last look at the bin before turning her attention to the time.
She had to tell everyone.
Hatsumei’s eyes sparkled under the fluorescent lights, and Ochako refrained from taking a step back as Mei entered her space. The mechanical girl hadn’t mellowed out over the years. In fact, she’d only gotten more eccentric.
“Do you want more effective jetpacks?! My babies are top-of-the-line, but there’s always room for improvement! Or what about an endothermic suit? You can never be too careful with the weather as it is; you might overheat! I can make a baby that will keep you at the perfect temperature! Oh! Is it the grappling gun? I finished a baby about two days ago that might work by holding more rope so you can extend your reach! There’s a bit of gunpowder in there, but that just adds more bang! And distance, but mainly bang. Or do you want your helmet back? I love the antennae; I can include them in my new baby! And a shield that will withstand all manner of debris! Yes, my baby will shine! Oh, this brilliant baby can suit you! I call it a gyro—”
“Um—do you really think I can have the helmet back?” asked Ochako, half grateful that Hatsumei brought the idea up herself and half terrified of how many ideas the young woman had. The terror only grew as the support student’s yellow eyes gleamed.
“Yes!” The cry was far too jubilant for Ochako’s tastes. She liked the antennae on her costume upgrade. “Don’t get me wrong, the antennae are cute, but they’re so impractical. This new baby will have twice the range, even more protection for that pretty head of yours, and fire!”
“Is—is it smart to have fire so close to my hair?” squeaked Ochako. Her stomach dropped as Hatsumei stopped, her finger twirling in the air as she considered the hero student’s point.
Was… was safety even a consideration with this girl?
“You know, that’s a good point.” Ochako paled. Clearly not. “Oh, how about water? A small water jet with the power to cut through enemies who get too close? Or ink! I could create a jet that will spray ink in your opponent’s eyes! That sounds…”
Ochako could only watch helplessly as Hatsumei continued to spitball additions to the return of her helmet. Progress was going to be easier and harder than she thought all at once.
“Got that? Your internships are now your top priority, so make sure you give them due diligence.”
Aizawa grunted. Normally, that would have been the end of it, but his eyes hadn’t yet slunk away from his class. The students sat in their seats, invigorated and determined to make their marks upon the world. Ochako felt herself felt sure and indomitable, a sensation she was relishing in feeling again.
“Now, would anyone like to tell me why half the class has been carrying around water bottles for the past week?”
The tone hadn’t changed, yet he might as well have thrown an ice-cold bucket of water over her In a manner that she hoped was discreet, she glanced around the room. She wasn’t the only one with a water bottle on her desk. Iida had one, Tsu had one, Kirishima had one, Deku had one, Jirou had one, and Tooru had one. She couldn’t see Momo or Mina, but she knew that both of them sported one as well.
Before Ochako could begin to wonder how to answer their teacher, Iida stood from his seat, blocking her view of Aizawa.
“Those of us who have water bottles have realized that leaving the classroom in order to drink at the faucet is at once disruptive to our peers and inhibits our own learning! Therefore, we have crafted a pact to further our educational aspirations by bringing water bottles to class in a discreet fashion! Please allow us to continue their use!” Iida bowed deeply, and Ochako was allowed to look over him to see Aizawa’s face. It was as bored and disinterested as usual. His eyes flicked over to Momo’s seat.
“I-it’s true, Sensei.” Momo’s face showed a resolve that rivalled Iida’s. “Please allow us to continue using them.”
Aizawa’s eyes slid from Momo to the other students in the classroom, languidly taking their time over each. Ochako did her best not to squirm when they rested on her for a moment before returning to Iida. She couldn’t help that she held her breath while Aizawa held his answer from them.
Please… she thought, hoping that the several times she’d used the water bottle over the past week hadn’t ruined all of her friends’ work and support. Please allow it…
A weary sigh was all the warning they had before Aizawa’s tired voice answered their pleas.
“I’ll allow it.”
Cheers rang out across the classroom, a jubilation in progress. Aizawa’s halfhearted dismissal could barely be heard above the noise, and those who were out of the loop either stared at their classmates in confusion or asked where they could get water bottles of their own. One student simply shouldered his way out of the classroom before talking about stupid classmates and dumbass water bottles.
But Ochako didn’t care. She was too relieved to.
She was safe.
Ochako startled at the sudden exclamation, her head jerking upwards from her homework. She, Deku, and Iida had been working hard together when All Might had called Deku out for a moment. Both she and Iida understood—after all, All Might and Deku shared a bond that could almost be called familial in nature—and the two had been left to conquer their physics problems alone. Ochako had just gotten into a rhythm when Iida’s voice surprised her, his head bowed over the page in front of him.
“You were in pain and I, as cla—no, as your friend… I… I didn’t see… I did nothing…”
It only took Ochako a moment to realize what he was talking about. Swiftly, she put her hands up, physics forgotten. “Iida-kun, there’s no need to apologize! I didn’t want anyone to know! A-and you’ve already been helping so much! You got Aizawa-sensei and Mic-sensei and all of the teachers to let us carry water bottles so I can keep it under control. Momo-chan told me that the two of you spent two hours convincing Ectoplasm-sensei earlier today!”
“Those efforts don’t negate the fact that you were in pain, and I did not notice.” Iida’s voice was tight, controlled, and yet somehow emotional. Such a voice carried a depth that Ochako did not understand, but she felt an echo through it. An echo of emotions that had aged and were powerful. Such a voice begged to be heard.
So, she listened.
Iida took a breath, but he did not raise his head as he continued. “In our first year, it was you and Midoriya-kun who noticed my behavior and called out to me before we left for our first internships. I did not wish for either of you to worry about my pain, and I also said nothing. Yet… yet you still…”
Ochako remembered. She remembered hearing about Iida’s brother, hearing about the awful condition he had been left in by the Hero Killer, Stain. She remembered the devastated look on Iida’s face, and she remembered feeling so helpless in the wake of such pain. She remembered thinking that there was very little she could do for him, but she also remembered the day they parted ways on that day.
While it had been Deku who had actually called out to him, she had offered her support. Only a few nods, but she had meant each one. An almost overwhelming desire to help with no clear way to do so. A contribution that, she’d believed, had been lost to the sands of time. Especially after she’d learned that Deku and Todoroki had gone to Iida’s side when their friend had been in the vicinity of the cause of his anguish. Without their support, she wasn’t sure if Iida would have ever truly recovered as miraculously as he had.
But he’d remembered her offer. Somehow, amidst everything he’d been put through because of that terrible event, he’d remembered that she’d wanted to help him during his hour of need.
Now she remembered. Remembered that aching need to help, even though there had been no direction to guide her. The memory, faded gently by time, only allowed her the slightest glimpse into the emotions he had to have been feeling. Her soul ached anew. “Iida-kun…”
“You are my friend, and I am grateful for the opportunity to be of assistance to you when you require it. I only wish that I had noticed, as a good friend should have, and been able to help sooner.”
Ochako was stunned into silence. She had always known her friend to be earnest. It was a trait that sometimes led him into trouble when teased, but it was also an admirable quality. A quality that assured those who knew him that he would never give less than his all to any problem. A quality that had made him strive to be as good a person, as good a hero, and as good a friend as possible. It was that earnestness that spoke then, and it was only then that she realized his head was not bowed over his homework. It was bowed in apology.
“I couldn’t see your pain before, and for that, I deeply apologize. I know what it feels like to want to push people away because of the storm within you. I know how such emotions can tax the mind and the body. I know how desperate it can make a person…” Though Ochako did not know how desperate it must have made her friend, she did not doubt his words. Somehow, she knew that he would probably be able to relate to the dark feeling within her that had been so strong when she had been so full of despair.
Without a doubt, he knew what that felt like. She knew it as fact.
“If you ever need to confide in someone, or if those feelings begin to burden you anew, please know that I would like to offer my ear and shoulder if you should ever want to use it,” offered Iida, his head remaining low. “It’s the least I can do for a friend.”
Ochako didn’t know that she could feel any lighter than the day her friends had pulled together for her and come up with a plan to help her combat the hanahaki. She didn’t know that she could feel even more assured and at ease than she’d been made to feel.
She’d clearly underestimated the earnestness of one Tenya Iida, and a wobbly grin, shaken only by the amounts of gratitude she felt, made known that she would not do so again.
“Thank you, Iida-kun,” she said, her smile displaying the kind of strength that could only come from accepting help. “I’ll keep that in mind.”
And when Deku returned to the session, asking if the other two had made progress on the homework and apologizing for taking so long, he was answered with one profuse apology, one relieved smile, and a murmured promise to be filled in later.
“Oh my gosh! You really outdid yourself, Satou-kun!” Ochako squealed as she took another bite of cake, the dessert quite literally melting in her mouth.
“I agree. This is very good,” added Shoji, the mouth that was not busy eating cake complimenting the chef. “Your recipe for jelly cake gets better every year.”
“It does, kero,” said Tsu. Her eyes gleamed in happiness as she ate her own slice. Ochako smiled. She may not have been able to enjoy Todoroki’s and Koda’s birthday celebrations to the fullest because of her flower problem, but she was happy that she could finally be able to enjoy her dear friend’s. “Thank you, Satou-chan.”
“Aha, it’s no trouble,” said the chef. He grinned. “I’m glad you’re enjoying it!”
Ochako watched as Tsu’s smile burned even brighter, and she was glad. Glad that everything seemed to be working so far. Glad she could just… enjoy this. Enjoy Tsu and Shoji and Satou talking. Enjoy Bakugou getting dunked on by Mina and Kaminari. Enjoy Kirishima laughing in the corner. Enjoy Iida and Momo talking to Jirou about an interesting point they’d covered in class. Enjoy… well, not particularly enjoy Toru flirting with Ojirou, but at least be able to be in the room as it was going on. Romance had been particularly hard to stomach lately, but knowing that she had a failsafe made the concept more bearable than it had been becoming.
“Uraraka-san?” The voice was soft, happy, and gently inquisitive. It fit the festive atmosphere naturally, and it typically would have taken her just a second to respond properly.
But for that one unguarded moment, she froze, her eyes absorbing the scene before her and her mind traitorously replacing the images. For a split second, she could see herself having the courage to flirt. She could see him smiling at her like she was the world. Her heart began to beat with insubordination in her chest, and she jerked her head away, a hand already up as she coughed.
Caught off-guard, her failsafe had not been fast enough. The flowers were coming!
Steady hands led her away from the crowd, and she could hear Tsu tell everyone not to worry and that she would be okay. To give them space. She was grateful when she and her companion made it out and a bucket was passed to her. She spat the flowers out, and a glass of water was placed gingerly into her hands. Dutifully, she drank.
The relief was near instant, and while her own mind and body had scared her, she was relieved to feel the episode passing much more swiftly than before.
“Thanks,” she said, a tiny shrivel of a flower on her tongue. She hadn’t even felt it come up. She spat it into the bin, sure that was the end of it for now. “You really saved me.”
“Sorry, Uraraka-san. I didn’t mean to scare you.” There was the barest amount of hesitance before he continued. “The intrusive thoughts?”
Ochako nodded. Over the past two and a half weeks, she’d grown accustomed to calling those feelings ‘intrusive thoughts.’ It helped her to be able to discuss them with the classmates who knew, and it particularly helped her discuss the problem with Deku, who had taken it upon himself to keep track of the thoughts’ comings and goings. While she still feared he would stumble upon the truth sooner or later, he’d been nothing but attentive and kind about the whole ordeal, and she wasn’t sure if she could have handled it without some sort of way to tell him—however indirectly—what was happening to her.
It was confusing. Keeping him at an arm’s length while also letting him in. She was too grateful for the relief his presence and help brought, though, to overthink it. She refused to overthink it this time.
“Yeah,” she said, training her eyes on the water. “They just sorta—” She glanced at Deku. “—snuck up on me. That’s all.”
His face held sympathy, and his brows furrowed. “Do you need a little more time? I can wait with you—i-if you want, that is!”
Ochako smiled. There he was, caring again. As much as it sent swooping feelings of unease through her stomach, she would never want him to be anything other than what he was. It put her on-guard and calmed her in equal measure, which was also confusing at the best of times nowadays. She could be fine talking to him one moment, sharing secrets and discussing day-to-day activities, and then be suddenly swept with such affection for him that it nearly pulled her under the next. The storm within was powerful and pulled her in every which way it possibly could. Sometimes, it felt as though it was all she could do to keep her head above water.
This time, however, she simply chose to hold to her glass with one hand and to the bucket with the other. It was just an episode. The water had helped, and she would not allow herself to be defeated. Not today. Today was to be spent with friends, happy and laughing.
And that’s exactly what she intended to do with her time.
“That’s okay, Deku-kun,” said she with a confident smile. She held the bucket aloft. “Just need to toss these out, then I can go back in.”
Deku blinked. She wasn’t sure what it was about the situation that put such a look on his face, partially relieved, it seemed, and partially prodding, but he opened his mouth to say somethi—
“Ochako-chan! Midoriya-kun! Tsu-chan’s opening prese— oh!” Ochako swiveled her head to see Mina leaning through the doorway, a grin on her face. The confidence she had began to eke out of her at the sight. “Are you two busy?”
Oh, if only the ground could swallow her whole! Ochako turned and drank some water, hoping the measure would help her now that she had some warning. Mina’s knowing chuckles abruptly stopped with a soft, “Oh.”
“She’ll be back in a minute,” said Deku, coming to her rescue. Her face flushed, and ice flooded her veins.
It’s just Mina-chan being Mina-chan … Just drink some water, and it’ll be fine… There won’t be any more flowers. There won’t.
“Oh. Well, don’t take too long, okay? Tsu-chan wants to open your present first, Ochako-chan.”
Mina’s tone had changed. Gone was the knowing giggle or the sly insinuation. Ochako looked up to find her friend boring into her with piercing eyes. Mina rarely frowned, but intensity could show itself through other ways. Knowing what she saw upon her friend’s face, Ochako made sure she was smiling.
“Okay. Be there in a sec.”
The other girl glanced from Ochako to Deku and back again one last time, then blessedly left without any more sly comments. Ochako breathed a sigh of relief.
She was probably going to need more water to get through the teasing later.
Ochako turned back to Deku. His cheeks were flushed, and his seemed to barely be able to make eye contact. Honestly, she could relate. “I should probably…”
He was gesturing back to the room. Wha—oh! She nodded quickly. “Yeah, and I should…” She gestured vaguely with the bucket. In the opposite direction. Yeah.
“Um, Uraraka-san?” Ochako watched as his cheeks returned to a normal color, his freckles not sticking out as much as they had a moment ago. While he regained his composure, Ochako felt desperate to do the same, hoping that their friend’s off-hand observations wouldn’t make things worse for her. The feeling flooded into her, however, when Deku continued with a soft earnestness that only he could manage. “Are you okay?”
Ochako smiled. Only he could rile her and calm her in such a short time. If only he knew… But he couldn’t. Not yet.
“Yeah,” she said. “I’m okay now.”
Deku’s brows unfurled at her affirmation. He seemed to relax, and he glanced away. How could he be so confident one moment and so bashful the next? The complete dichotomy made her giggle, just a little bit. Her friend was wonderful, and she’d never change him for the world. Never.
“Um, I’ll save you a seat?” His voice went back to the way it had been before her episode. Soft. Inquisitive. Was that happy or hopeful?
She’d thought it was happy before. But could it have been…
“Yes, please!” Ochako couldn’t help the answer that blurted from her lips. She had to stop thinking about him being hopeful to sit by her. They were best friends. Of course he wanted to sit by her.
Thoughts like that were dangerous. She knew it as Deku smiled at her, promised her the best seat in the house, and returned to the room. The smile she wore was shaky as she quickly left to dispose of the flowers.
She’d also have to stop and refill her water before watching Tsu open her presents. Heavens knew she would need it after this.
All in all, she was pretty glad that she had her internship today. She’d managed to distribute her friendly chocolates, give out her handmade cards, and move on without too much of a hassle. Even handing Deku-kun his chocolates and card hadn’t been that hard once she had realized that today was the day she and Edgeshot would make a move on a representative of a thieving ring they’d been going after ever since they’d accidentally caught that sub-group a month-and-a-half ago. The tight-knit group from December had turned out to be following the orders of an even larger organization. When that organization had failed to bail them out of jail, they’d complained about the shady puppet master, and the Edgeshot agency had been investigating the possibility of its existence ever since. Today was their big break in the case! She didn’t have the time to embarrass herself or overthink a friendly gift.
Between two friends.
On Valentine’s Day.
She shook her head. She needed to focus on the present situation, and she didn’t have Hatsumei’s helmet to help her with those thoughts yet! She needed to focus on the here and now!
After almost two months of researching and confirming the presence of an underground ring of Quirked thieves, the Edgeshot agency finally had one of the lackies within their reach. A low-level thief by the name of Sora Rakka who had gotten clumsy. Who had cast his eyes on too big a prize and had snagged the wrong purse today.
Who had just fallen into their trap.
“Heads up, Uravity!”
The Hero-in-training twisted in the air, her gravity removed, in order to avoid the oncoming villain. Edgeshot had cornered him in an alleyway, and the criminal had had no choice but to use his Quirk if he ever hoped to escape the hands of justice.
Unfortunately, his plan of escape had been anticipated, and Uravity was not going to let anyone slip past her grasp. Not again.
The villain’s Quirk was an ability known as Vector. He could choose any direction and go rapidly in a straight line. It looked as though he’d never professionally trained it, and their research showed that he never appeared to have found a way to change direction that didn’t include releasing his Quirk entirely and restarting in another direction. So, when he thought that his chance to freedom was a straight shot in the air, he used it.
Uravity knew that gravity did not affect this criminal while he was using his Quirk, so the trick was to affect him and disorient him in that moment between the release and the restart long enough to get the cuffs on.
Easier said than done.
“Outta my way!” cried the criminal as he tried to continue upwards. Unfortunately for him, Uravity had quick reflexes.
She clamped with one hand onto his arm, effectively being pulled along for the ride. The sudden speed strained her shoulder, but it was nothing she hadn’t already gone through in grueling Heroics classes. Shrugging off the pain, she grabbed onto her prey with her other hand, attempting to force him into a position where she could cuff him.
Uravity grit her teeth as the villain tried to dispel her grip. The only stipulation that their agency had found with his Quirk was that he had to face the direction in which he was going.
No one said he couldn’t spin while he was doing that.
Uravity clung to the villain as he attempted to spiral her off. Faster, faster, faster. The rotations increased, but she could tell he was slowing down vertically.
Shit, she thought, forcing her way through her newfound dizziness, if he releases his Quirk and activates it again before I cuff him, things could get bad! He’ll take control of the direction we take going down, and I could be stuck without backup when we get to the ground!
She pushed her nausea back and exhaled through clenched teeth. Gotta end this quick!
The first thing she had to do was push past the nausea. That was easily done now. While her costume was already hitting the pressure points to relieve nausea on account of her Quirk, she knew that not all of them were activated.
She struggled a moment with her hand, forcing the other to grip tightly to her quarry, before rapping the button quickly. Her costume worked only slightly faster than she did, pushing away the terrible feeling only milliseconds before her entire grip was restored.
With the need to puke removed, she could fully focus.
“You’re gonna make us fall!” cried the villain, true fear bleeding through the adrenaline in his tone. “Get off! I don’t know how to do this with passengers!”
His fear caught her off guard. Uravity took a moment to truly look at the man she was grappling with. Middle aged. Obviously not well off. Stolen bag in his clutches. Scared.
He worked for a criminal organization, and he was scared.
The idea flickered in her mind for a moment before roaring to life with fervor. He was her opponent, yes, but he was also someone that, right now, she needed to save.
Because Heroes saved people. And she was a Hero.
“Let go of your Quirk,” she said. While she was not warm, she was also not unkind. “I can get us down.”
The villain’s eyes widened. “Are you crazy? We’re fifty meters in the air! I’ve never even been this high before!”
Uravity turned the man around, maneuvering both of them in the air and taking note of his petrified state. His Quirk ran them higher, and he was becoming hysterical. Right now, he wasn’t just a criminal. He was a scared person, and she needed to save them both.
“Rakka-san!” Hearing his family name seemed to snap him out of his growing panic, as ironic as it was. Still, now that she had his attention, she did not intend to waste it. “Everything is weightless in front of me.”
Confusion was better than hysteria. Uravity smiled, infusing confidence into her posture and willing him to trust her with his life. “It means that I am a Hero. It’s my job to save people. Right now, I need you to trust that I can save you. Can you do that?”
The villain looked at her, then down at the rapidly disappearing ground. Then, she saw him look at his hands. More specifically, the stolen goods in them. He released a shaky sigh even as they continued to ascend. “I’m going to jail, aren’t I?”
“Yes.” Uravity didn’t see the point in lying to him. If she did, there was a chance he wouldn’t trust her, and she wouldn’t be able to save his life. The man winced at the news, but he nodded.
“Okay.” He raised his eyes to hers, and she could see the barely suppressed terror within them. “Get us down, Hero-san.”
Uravity nodded, pulling out the Quirk suppressing cuffs. Rakka jerked away, but she quickly placed one link around his wrist. Immediately, the two of them stopped moving. Rakka looked around in disbelief.
“I told you,” Uravity said, grabbing the purse and securing it to her belt. She then brought his arms behind his back and finished cuffing him. “Everything is weightless in front of me.”
“I guess…” said the man, struck speechless by the fact that he was floating in the air. It was quite possibly the first time in his life he’d been unafraid of falling. Uravity let him have a moment to absorb it before making sure she had him in a firm grip.
“Okay. Are you ready to get down?” asked she. He only nodded, and she released her Quirk.
The effect was instantaneous. Gravity reclaimed the two souls in the air, accelerating them back to the earth so fast that her companion shrieked with terror.
Quickly, she pressed five fingers to her charge and to herself, removing the accelerating force of gravity. They drifted downwards a little farther, the resistance of the air slowing them to a complete stop, and half the journey back down was nearly complete.
“Y—you sure you can land us safely?” asked Rakka, his voice trembling. Without his Quirk, his trust had to remain entirely in her abilities. Uravity wouldn’t let that trust be misplaced.
“I’m sure. Believe in me.”
Rakka pressed his lips into a line but said nothing more. He closed his eyes and nodded, which Ochako took as a sign that he was ready.
The swooping feeling reclaimed them once more, determined to finish the job in bringing them back to terra firma. Uravity wasted no time in returning both of them to a weightless state, and she readjusted her hold on the man in her arms. With his own arms behind his torso, he would be unable to adjust himself or brace for impact. Uravity would have to protect him from any pain the fall would have caused.
And protect him she did. The earth crashed into her boots, and her equipment absorbed most of the landing shock. The criminal jostled in her hold, but her grip remained firm.
“Look,” she said. He opened his eyes slowly. “We’re on the ground.”
And even as the cops came to take him away, even as Uravity returned the goods that had been stolen, even as she accepted thanks after thanks for a job well done, even as she reviewed the techniques and procedures of the operation with her mentor, she knew she wouldn’t forget the relief in a criminal’s eyes and the knowledge that so many of them didn’t know that they, too, were worth saving.
A hero saved people’s hearts, and she now knew that those hearts could belong to anyone: civilians, heroes, and even villains. She knew from experience that not every villain could be saved—some were too far gone. But today’s experience had taught her that not every villain was beyond saving either.
Even without Edgeshot’s quizzes after the mission, she wouldn’t be forgetting that revelation anytime soon.
There was once a time when her daddy could hold his own against his daughter when she ran to hug him. There was once a time when she could try with all her might to bring him down, and he would only laugh.
He still laughed, but now he did so from the ground after he’d been tackled.
“You two,” said her mother, an exasperated and fond smile on her face. Though she knew the smile by heart, Ochako couldn’t see it at that moment. She was too busy trying to wrestle away from her daddy, who had decided that it was time for revenge.
“Not the hair,” laughed Ochako, trying to evade his affectionate noogie. This time, as opposed to so many others, she was successful in wriggling out of his grasp and standing tall. She grinned widely before helping her daddy to his feet. Though he still stood a head taller than her, it didn’t take much of her strength to get him on his feet.
When did he become so light?
He smiled warmly at her and placed his hands on her shoulders. He beamed at her with a sense of pride only a father could convey. “When did you get so strong?”
“She’s always been strong, dear.” Ochako turned to her momma, who was smiling at the two of them. “Must run in the family.”
Ochako beamed at her parents. They were always like this, showering everyone in their tight-knit family with affection and praise.
She’d missed them so, so, so much. But still…
“Are you sure that the company can go without you until I graduate? That’s still three and a half months away. What about—”
“Woah, slow down.” Her daddy’s laughter didn’t slow down. Not even a little. In fact, he seemed to just smile brighter. “Your momma ran the numbers, remember?”
“We’re taken care of, Ochako,” said her momma. She stood next to her husband, a steadying presence amid Ochako’s frantic double-checking. “I promise. We’re here to support you to graduation, so we’re counting on you to do your best.”
To many children, that might have been an enormous burden to bear. To Ochako, though, it was permission. Permission to focus on her studies, her hero work, and her graduation. Her parents had moved closer for her sake, and it only inspired her to hurry her progress along.
She would graduate.
She would give her parents the lives she knew they deserved.
Ochako almost couldn’t stay upright when she was taken by surprise by one support student.
With that, Ochako could only wave numbly to Mina, Iida, and Momo as she was carted away. Iida’s cries of not yelling in the hall could only faintly be heard above the incessant chattering of her new captor.
“You’re going to love the baby I have for you! I finally figured out why you got rid of my baby helmet the first time! Understandable, of course. You must have upgraded due to a lack of peripheral vision—makes sense, after all, you have to be aware of all of your surroundings—so I decided to integrate your little bunny ear antennae and create a radar system for you! You’re going to love it! You’ll be able to see—well, not see—but you’ll know when enemies are coming within a 100-kilometer radius! It even removes civilian presences by automatically registering heartrate, movement patterns, and gunpowder!”
“Of course!” Hatsumei either didn’t see or didn’t acknowledge that her hostage had lost all color in her face. “And don’t worry, the visor is crafted with the most durable and transparent material I could create—”
“—and I even included your little hydration system! And I even modified other aspects of your costume, too, in case you need to use the restroom. I haven’t tested it out yet, but after today’s field run, it should be good to go! Or it could explode, but that’s what testing is for!”
Ochako’s hair was windswept and her mind was overloaded by the time Hatsumei triumphantly dragged her into the costume department.
“Well?” The excitement and expectation blended in Hatsumei’s voice so terrifyingly well. “What are you waiting for? Try it on!”
Ochako gulped. How did she ever let herself get talked into this?
“This is the information we got from Rakka.” Edgeshot gestured to the folder that Uravity had open in front of her. She let her eyes scan the information silently for a moment, then she glanced up at her boss.
Ah, she realized, looking down to the folder again. Another test.
Her internship with Edgeshot had taught her many things. The utmost importance of information gathered, and the necessity of verifying every piece gained. The skill of thinking on one’s feet, and the ability to remain flexible with any course of action. Now, however, she caught what he had left for her.
Gathering the most useful information from dense packets. Interpreting vital information from dry, legalistic words.
“The scope of this area… it wouldn’t be smart for only the two of us to ambush.” Uravity surveyed the crudely drawn map. “And there aren’t enough details given to plan an infiltration mission. The only information we have is of the outer perimeter and vague guesses about what’s inside. We have the name, Quirk, and description of his employer, but no verification that this person is in charge of the entire operation. For all we know, this could just be an outpost to a much larger operation, like the group of four we took down back in December.”
“So what should be the next course of action?”
Uravity thought. The most obvious course of action was to find and speak with the employer, but a rather large note at the bottom of the page told her why that would be a bad idea.
“If these notes are right, then this base of operations is moving soon. We only have time to either ambush the base or find the employer.”
Edgeshot nodded, gesturing for Uravity to continue her train of thought.
“If we follow the employer, we risk the chance of losing the rest of the group during the move. We’re also not sure how much this employer allegedly knows or if they’re truly connected to what we’re after. If we infiltrate the base, we can find more people who are guaranteed to have some information, but we risk losing the employer.”
“So which risk is worth taking?”
Uravity looked to Edgeshot, his face giving away nothing. That was okay, though. She knew the answer.
“We’re going after the base, aren’t we?”
“And—” she said, remembering the initial problem “—we’re not going alone, are we?”
He nodded again.
Uravity returned his nod before looking back at the folder. She briefly reviewed the employer’s name and Quirk, but she also reviewed every other name and Quirk combination she could find on the page. There were approximately twenty-five of them in total.
“So when do you have the raid scheduled?” she asked, already wise to her teacher’s ways. “The moving dates are too close for us to start planning now.”
Edgeshot might have chuckled, but he might not have. If you asked him, he would deny it. If you asked her, she would tell you that he did. He absolutely did. Regardless of the matter of chuckling, he did answer her.
“Our debriefing about the raid begins in nine minutes. The raid itself begins tomorrow morning.”
Uravity herself would never deny chuckling. Whenever she laughed, it was with pride. She turned the page to find the dates of both the raid and the meeting printed on the back. She really should have checked that first.
“And our teammates?”
“Should be arriving any minute.”
“And by that, you mean you’ve asked them to wait outside of the agency until five minutes before the meeting to give me time to figure all of this out?”
Edgeshot didn’t suppress his smile, and Uravity grinned. If this was his test, then she had just passed with flying colors.
“So,” she said, confident. “Aren’t you going to invite them in?”
“No need,” said a new voice, a voice she had not heard for a long time. It sounded amused behind the gruff exterior, and she turned to verify who she thought she’d heard. “My intern was very adamant that she would exceed expectations and suggested that we let ourselves in so we could listen. Please excuse the interruption.”
Gang Orca… and…
“Uravity! Let’s work well together!”
Deku. Her cheeks flared.
She could do this.
She could totally do this.