This was the next step on Izuku’s path to being number one. He worked hard for this work study - every new experience would be a part of his path!
Even...patrol. This was something new to Izuku - his internship at Gran Torino’s had been a very unique experience. New things are hard - what’s going to happen? Are there procedures he doesn’t know about? Are Nighteye and Bubble Girl okay?
Izuku looks up at Mirio, who stands confident in his hero costume. He knew so much more than Izuku did! Even if the two of them were just on patrol to direct attention away from Nighteye and Bubble Girl, Izuku was determined to learn something from his work study today. His thoughts kept wandering, though... what really happened between All Might and Nighteye?
Denki was running out of time.
He doesn’t know how long he’s been stuck at the central location of the Shie Hassaikai with Eri and their rotating crew of “caretakers”, but he doesn’t know how much more of this he can take.
How much more of this Eri can take.
The experiments have been getting more intense and more frequent. Denki might not have a very good education, but he can read people. Things were picking up around here - someone was expecting results, and the people in charge weren’t producing.
Denki was sitting and playing with Eri when the door entered, the spilled light from the hallway a stark contrast to the dim room. The caretaker who entered was a familiar one. Denki stood, grabbing Eri’s hand as he ducked his head to hide a small smirk.
This one would work.
Out of all of their caretakers, this one would be the easiest to overwhelm. With no noticeable quirk, the man hid his thin frame behind baggy, blue clothes. His thin hair was tucked behind the tan mask that distinguished this caretaker from the rest of the faceless Hassaikai members.
Denki knew the next part of this little dance. This caretaker would take them down the maze of hallways into the experiment room, with Denki carrying Eri so she wouldn’t slow them down. When the small group got to the room where the Boss was waiting, Denki would strap Eri into her chair. Then the caretaker would strap Denki into his machine.
While Eri’s medical-looking chair was connecting to vats and containers, Denki’s machine was a simpler chair with two metal gloves on the arms. The caretaker would remove Denki’s quirk inhibitor bracelet, strap his chest and legs to the chair, and lock his hands into the gloves. Then Denki would power the machines until his brain stopped responding and Eri bled out, then the boss would reset them, and they’d continue. Over and over and over.
But today, they had this caretaker. Some of the other escorts were overzealous, keeping Denki and Eri in their line of sight the entire march. But this escort had a bad habit of getting his head caught in the clouds. It wasn’t much, he was still terrified of messing up on the way to see the boss, but it was enough that Denki was able to fall a little behind and just out of his line of sight. And, after overhearing some loose-lipped lackeys on the way to the experiment chamber a couple of trips ago, Denki knew that one of the hallways they passed on their march would lead them to the outside. In the many hours Eri and Denki had spent in their room, he made sure that she memorized the route outside.
Finally, things were coming together. The small group was halfway to the chamber when they turned a corner and Denki saw his chance. He let go of Eri’s hand - their signal - and, after a quick sweep to make sure the hallway was clear, kicked their escorts legs out from underneath them. A shout echoed in the hallway before Denki had a chance to take a swing at the caretakers face, and Denki could hear footsteps as he quickly scooped Eri into his arms and bolted down the side hallway.
Eri clung to his shirt as Denki whisked them both through a few twists and turns, looking for the slightest sign that they were on the right track. The two of them made it almost completely through the maze - Denki knew that it was only a couple more twists before the two of them would empty out into the street.
Suddenly Denki felt a tug on his sleeve. He looked down at the child in his arms to see her pointing at something behind them. Sparing a quick glance, Denki saw a new member of the Shie Hassaikai following -
This wasn’t part of the plan! The boss was supposed to be prepping the experiment chamber and wouldn’t realize they were gone until their escort regained consciousness. It seems that annoyance of a caretaker could yell louder than anticipated.
Still, there was only one plan of action. Denki sprinted a little faster to round the next corner before stopping dead. He quickly put Eri down, ignoring her tugs and whispers.
“Eri. Eri!” Denki whispered, grabbing her face between his hands and forcing her to look at him. “I need you to remember our plan. What do you need to do?”
Eri looked at him with wide red eyes, tears starting to bubble up and over. “Come on, Eri-berry, what are you going to do?” Denki said, looking over his shoulder to make sure they still had a little time.
“Run outside. F-find a hero?” Eri asked, putting her little hands over his.
“That’s it, Eri! I need you to promise me that you won’t look back, OK?” Denki gave her a watery smile, pressing a kiss to her forehead. He wasn’t sure if he would ever see her again.
“Promise me, Eri!”
“I-i promise!” Eri nodded, tears streaking down her face. She always was a pretty smart little girl.
“Good job, Eri. I’m proud of you,” Denki whispered, their foreheads pressed together for just a moment. He quickly stood to his feet and pushed Eri towards the hallway that would take her to the outside world. Denki didn’t take his eyes off of her until she passed the last doorway and the sound of footsteps behind him made him whirl around.
Just down the hallway stood the Boss himself, accompanied by some low level lacky. Denki met Overhauls glare with a fierce stare of his own, standing straighter and preparing himself. He had to give Eri as much time as possible to get out and find help.
“So. What was your plan here, battery? I assure you that you won’t be able to escape. Especially not with those quirk suppressors you’re wearing,” Overhaul said, lifting his chin to look down past his creepy mask at Denki. The familiar weight of the quirk suppressing bracelet began to burn as Denki called forth all the rage he had left in him.
“I don’t need my quirk to protect her!” Denki yelled before launching himself at the man who had ruined his life.
Izuku was really grateful that he’d been placed with Mirio. The older hero-in-training was so confident! Saving one million people? A crazy ambitious goal worthy of Sir Nighteye’s protege!
“What’s your hero name?” Mirio asked, leaning downwards towards Izuku.
“O-oh! I’m Deku!” Izuku responded.
“Deku? DEKU?” Mirio looked confused, but before he could ask another question Izuku stumbled from a small body slamming into him. Looking down he saw a young girl on the sidewalk. She was barefoot and in a long slip, her long light blue hair loose. Izuku tried to reach down to comfort her but when she flinched he noticed how badly she was trembling.
“Now, now. You can't go around causing trouble for the heroes,” a voice echoed from down the alley that the little girl had come running out of. Looking up, Izuku saw a face that he recognized clear as day.
Izuku could hear Nighteyes voice echoing in his head (“ Be careful not to let them suspect anything” ). His work study had just started! What was with his awful luck?
Overhaul continued talking. “I’m sorry about my daughter, hero. She likes to wrestle with her brother and keeps getting hurt. I don’t know what to do with her!” His eyes crinkled like he could be smiling under the mask, but something in Izuku said that it was fake. He was frozen in place, arms slightly extended in an attempt to comfort the little girl, when a hand was placed on his head and he felt fabric cover his hair.
“Your hood and mask came off again!” Mirio. “Maybe the sizing’s off?” He looked away from Izuku and back at Overhaul. “We’re sorry too, for bumping into her. With that lovely mask, you must be from the Hassaikai, right? You guys are famous around here!” Thank goodness for Mirio. His rambling distracted Overhaul just enough for Izuku to gather his wits and school his face into an expression worthy of a hero. Overhaul couldn’t get any inkling of suspicion or Nighteye’s operation would be compromised!
“Yes, don’t worry about the mask. I’m just sensitive to filth. It’s my first time seeing you two heroes - what agency do you belong to?” Overhaul asked, obviously fishing for information. Izuku knew that they couldn’t be associated with Nighteye’s agency, so what were they supposed to do?
Luckily, Mirio came in clutch again. “We’re students !” Not a lie. “We’re still so new that it would be presumptuous to identify with an agency. Anyway, we need to finish patrolling this division, so let’s go!” Mirio said, nudging Izuku to get him to let go of the girl in his arms.
Izuku was about to stand when a small voice spoke up: “Don’t...don’t go.”
Izuku froze. He couldn’t let Overhaul get any suspicions, but he couldn’t let go of this obviously terrified little girl. Izuku was a hero, and heroes saved people.
“Your daughter...she seems scared...” Izuku said, unmoving as he stayed kneeling in front of the girl.
“It’s because she just got a scolding for fighting with her brother,” Overhaul said. There was something in his eyes that Izuku didn’t like.
“Let’s go!” Mirio tried again, trying to urge Izuku to abandon the situation without making anything worse. Izuku wanted to listen, really, but the child's grip seemed to get tighter on his hero costume.
“Her bandages don’t seem like they’re from playing too much,” Izuku said, noting that all of her limbs were covered in the thin, cheap bandages that Izuku used to use before Recovery Girl.
“She falls a lot.”
“For such a small child to be trembling like this without making a sound...it doesn’t seem normal to me.”
“Please don’t force your normal on other people’s families,” Overhaul had a sharp glint in his eyes that made Izuku swallow. He was pushing his limits.
“Everybody’s different, amiright?” Mirio said, diffusing the tension as best he could. Izuku knew that Mirio wanted him to drop it - the operation couldn’t afford to let Overhaul go underground if he got too suspicious. But Izuku signed up to be a hero when he put on this costume, and a hero wouldn’t let an obviously terrified little girl go back.
Not without a fight.
“What are you doing to this girl?” Izuku asked, meeting Overhaul’s look with a fierce glare of his own.
He wouldn’t know it, but it reminded Overhaul of the same look that annoying little battery gave him before attacking. He couldn’t stand it.
Overhaul gave a little wave of his glove-covered hand. “Jeez, you heroes are so sensitive to the subtle things in people, huh? Oh well. It’s embarrassing to talk about it when people are watching. Come this way with me and we can discuss it,” Overhaul said, turning back into the alley and taking a few steps in. Izuku looked up at Mirio, who nodded. He stood, carrying the tiny girl in his arms - she was so light, much lighter than he thought children her age should be - and following Overhaul down the alley.
“Recently, I’ve been having a lot of problems with Eri. She’s decided to take after her delinquent brother, defying me no matter what I say,” Overhaul said, continuing to lead the two heroes-in-training down the corridor.
Mirio let out a little laugh. “Parenting, huh? I imagine it must be hard.”
“Yes, children are hard to understand,” Overhaul sighed. Izuku watched as he slipped the first two fingers of his right hand into the glove of his left, pulling it down just a little. “They think they can do whatever they want…they just don’t listen.”
Izuku couldn’t help but let out a little ”huh?” when the weight in his arms disappeared as the little girl - Eri, that’s what Overhaul said her name was - ran back to the head of the Shie Hassaikai. Overhaul seemed to exude satisfaction.
“Done with your tantrum already?” Overhaul asked, seeming to relax when she nodded. “I’m sorry heroes, for the trouble. Good luck with your patrol.”
Izuku was helpless to watch as the two walked into the shadows of the alley, disappearing from sight. There was only one thing on his mind:
We’ve gotta tell Sir Nighteye.
Eri was scared. Kiki had told her to run without looking back and find the heroes, which she did! That hero hugged like Kiki did...his hand on her hair felt so familiar it made her want to cry.
But then the Boss started pulling down his glove and - and Eri knew that if the gloves come off then people will get hurt. She couldn’t bear it if the nice heroes got hurt because of her and her monstrous quirk.
Eri followed dutifully behind the Boss until they reached the door that led into the underground maze that she had just escaped. There, one of the Boss’ trusted henchmen - she thinks his name is Chrono - picked her up. She didn’t like it very much - Kiki and the hero were much better at carrying her around.
The small trio continued down the hallways until they came across the masked man that Kiki took down earlier. She was scared that it wasn’t Kiki - Kiki was always there with the escort to take her places. The man wasn’t there for all - Boss was quick to use his quirk on the man.
She felt the blood splash on her face and arms. Chrono kept walking.
They went to the bad room. Kiki wasn’t there.
Kiki was always there.
The bandages felt wrong being taken off by Chrono. Everything felt wrong - even the machine felt different without Kiki there to power it. After Eri was taken out of the bad room she was taken back to her and Kiki’s room.
There, she finally let herself cry.
The room was as dark as always, the only light coming from the crack under the door as it shut behind her. Eri was used to this, though, so she was easily able to see Kiki curled in a tight ball on the bed. Scrambling to reach him, she crawled onto the bed and looked at her favorite person.
His eyes were open but Kiki wasn’t home. That’s ok though, Eri knew how to help bring Kiki back. She fell easily into his arms, which were quick to wrap around her and squeeze her tight. Eri felt tears running down her face as she slowly warmed up in her brothers arms.
Eri knew that she had to be Kiki’s hero right now. She brought her tiny hands and placed them on Kiki’s head - right where the hero had placed his hands on her head.