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So What If I Know You

Chapter Text

 

There’s no mark, no clock, no sound, no words— people just, somehow, know

What complicates the whole matter is that pairing— the existence of soulmates (if romantic, fanciful language is to be applied)— is not very common. Scientifically, it seems not to be able to be quantified. There’s no change in hormones, blood chemistry or synaptic connections. No physical changes either. The best way of confirming a pairing, it seems, is through the vouching of other people. Some couples may act and claim it, but a true pairing, it seems, is incontestable as judged by the consensus of family, peers and the community.

Which is why possible pairs are deemed candidates when first thought to form, usually during adolescence. Most couples only ever become pair candidates, if at all. When established in a long-term relationship, they become pair apparents, although the term is usually reserved for when the couple is legally joined and upon the birth of their first child. Once their child’s Quirk manifests and settles, and with the endorsement of a panel of teachers, mentors and other experts, the pair is finally confirmed.

All this due to the historic and much-cited Coruscant Study of Confirmed Pairings, a longitudinal study spanning 100 years of continuous research which has shown that individuals in a confirmed pairing led better, healthier lives: less risks for degenerative diseases, cancers, autoimmune dysfunction and mental illness, more financial stability, greater involvement in community and social efforts, and other such positive factors, even accounting for differences in sex, race, sociopolitical status, and even Quirks. However, the most critical of the study’s findings, and what has propelled it onto the second and third generation rounds of research, is evidence which posits that offspring from confirmed pairs manifest the strongest Quirks. 

Except, there’s always a caveat. Not all children display strong Quirks. In fact, some of the children manifest unstable, life-threatening mutations. Not to mention that some pairs are same-sex, and the Quirk enhancement that may occur between confirmed pairs does not seem to manifest with offspring of a paired individual with a surrogate or donor.

And so confirmed pairs are seen kind of strangely: as either luck or a curse, if not for the individuals, then for their children, and the relationships that they will create. On the one hand, the Coruscant Study indicates that pairing leads to an overall increase in general happiness and life satisfaction. On the other hand, The Mandalore Institute’s research into the loss of a pair half, even among pair apparents, drastically raises risks for disease and mental illness. Children who do not luck out in terms of Quirk inheritance might experience early morbidity and mortality, and even those who do may be prone to self-destructive and/or antisocial behaviors or developmental and personality issues.

And yet, popular culture has a way of biasedly portraying pairs as the height of romance. The greatest romance films of all time present the concept quite well: the framing and lighting just so, the music elevating the visuals by playing to just the right emotions. Usually there’s slow motion. Close-ups. For some reason, a focus on the pair’s hands. A particular scene from an award-winning film from the 50’s has even resulted in a lot of young couples, in their real lives, exchanging the words ‘I know you’ while putting together their hands, palm to palm, copying the main characters meeting as older pair candidates. A recognition of each other, wondrously, finally, amidst a sea of other people.

Katsuki never had this cinematic moment.

 

---

 

He was 4 years old, eager for another day at daycare, when a new boy joined their class. Katsuki glances up from the All Might drawing that he was showing to Osha-kun and Haru-kun and sees a small boy come into the room, stopping to stand behind Kenji-sensei’s leg. Their teacher smiles and pushes him forward, asks him to introduce himself.

Looking down, the boy says, softly. "H-hello. My name is Midoriya Izuku.” He pauses, sounds like he might want to say something more, but then finishes up with, “Nice to meet you.”

From his seat in the middle of the formation of tiny desks and chairs, Katsuki can see the new boy clutching a familiar keychain figurine that’s hanging from the corner of his yellow sling bag.

Excitement runs through him.

“Is that the limited All Might from Bespin Arcades?!”

The new boy’s whole body jerks in surprise, he finally looks up and Katsuki sees blazing, bright green eyes.

 

---

 

That first day, it's like Izuku is the only other kid that exists in the world. Katsuki carelessly asks Haru to move and makes Izuku sit right next to him. They talk about All Might, Izuku's old house in Tokyo, how Katsuki's dad can make tiny sparks when he rubs his hands, and how they both want to become Heroes.

Katsuki teaches Izuku the words to the song they're learning in Music. Shows him the flowers he grew from seeds a few months ago, growing tall in the garden. Makes him stand behind him when they line up to wash their hands. Eats with him, even giving him half of his hambāgu. And lays down next to Izuku after lunch, their blankets matching, with the smiling face of their idol.

Kenji-sensei seems to find it interesting. Looks kinda funny at Katsuki and how him and Izuku are suddenly so close. When his dad comes to pick him up, their teacher asks Katsuki to help the girls put away the toy boxes. When that's done, he sees his sensei talking to his dad, their expressions quite serious, often looking back at Katsuki. He'd be nervous if his dad wasn't smiling at him like always.

After a while, his dad calls him and he goes to pick up his bag. Izuku is doodling and coloring in his seat. His mom works until later and there's no one to look after Izuku even if he can walk back home by himself. Katsuki takes the banana milk leftover from his snacks from his lunch box and leaves it next to his friend's sketch book.

"Bye, Izuku!"

The green-haired boy smiles and says, "See you tomorrow, Kacchan." One day and he already earned himself a new nickname.

Walking out of the daycare, they make it down the road before his dad asks, "I see you met a new friend, eh, Kacchan?"

There's something wrong about the way it sounds, not just because he knows his dad is teasing him.

"Don't call me that! Izuku just moved with his mom from Tokyo,” he said. "Oh! I forgot to ask about his dad."

"Your teacher said you and Izuku-kun were together all day. Did you have fun?"

"Yup! He also likes All Might! He has the keychain I was telling you and Kā-san about, do you remember?" He really wanted one because the arms and legs can move and you can make different poses. "Izuku's shy and quiet but he's cool, too."

His dad has a weird smile, looking at him sort of like how Kenji-sensei did. "Yeah? When you started yochien, it took the whole year for you to be friends with Osha-kun and Haru-kun, right?"

"I guess. But Izuku's different," Katsuki answers. 

"Sō ka? I'm really curious now," his dad says. "You should introduce me tomorrow."

Katsuki makes a sound like he's part embarrassed, excited and annoyed. He doesn't need to verbally say it for his dad to understand him. "I'll just say hi!"

"If you want to, I guess it's ok. Can we go to the konbini? Kā-san said I could get chips yesterday but she didn't buy me any."

His dad continues to laugh as he swings their joined hands together, acid sweat slightly tingly in his palms.

 

---

 

Later, his mom comes into his room, still wearing her work clothes and Katsuki tells her about his day. Her normally loud reactions to his stories are quieter, although she giggles when he starts to sing the song. When Katsuki's done, she pets his hair and asks him, "Katsuki, do you remember what I told you? About how me and your dad are soulmates?"

As if Katsuki can forget. Those sorts of stories are everywhere in books and tv.

"Some special people are pairs. They have their closest person. The one they like the most in all the world! Like you and Tō-san."

"Well, maybe the people themselves aren’t special. But the bond they have certainly is!” When she smiles, his mom looks even younger than she already does. “Who knows, you may even find that you have one, too. Someday.”

For a 4 year-old, Katsuki is really smart. He thinks he understands his teacher and his dad. His mom seems to be the final clue.

"I already found him," he says. "Today, at daycare."

"Really? Your dad called me when you got home," his mom replies. "There's a transfer in your class, huh? You think it's him?"

"Izuku." The name is clear in his mind. So is the shy smile, happy voice and shining green eyes.

His mom sighs. 

"But you're so young to have a candidate. Your dad and I were 19, and still apparents, even now." She's saying words he doesn't understand now. "Just— don't rush, okay, Katsuki?"

Katsuki's not sure how he can be rushing, when him and Izuku just seem to have been brought together, without the two of them having anything to say or do about it.

 

---

 

Nothing changes until, some months later, during playtime with the other class, Katsuki's running and suddenly his sweaty palms crackle and ignite. Not like his dad's tiny sparks, but mini-explosions, loud and shocking.

He's gotten his Quirk! This is his Quirk and it’s totally cool!

The two teachers make sure the other children don’t stand too close while looking on with awe in their eyes. "Wow, Katsuki-kun! What a flashy, Quirk!"

"Yeah, a Quirk fit for a Hero!" Kenji-sensei flashes him a wide smile.

He's ran way ahead of Izuku, so a few other kids are already gathered around him as he forces more sweat and they ignite in his hands. But his red locks eyes with green in the crowd. Izuku's face has broken out in the largest, gummiest smile he's ever seen. Katsuki's sure Izuku's crying, too.

He got his Quirk. It's just a matter of time. And then him and Izuku would be on their way to being the greatest Heroes!

 

---

 

Another school year starts, Katsuki turns 5, and Osha-kun's light blue hair becomes like a cloud, changing depending on his moods. By summer, Izuku's birthday passes and, when they get back from break, Haru-kun can hold his breath for up to 5 minutes and then blow air stronger than anyone else in class for 1 minute straight.

Katsuki continues to play with Izuku, egging him to run more, faster, so that maybe he'll start breathing fire any day now. He's taken to leaving small bits of balled up paper on Izuku's desk, hoping to see them floating, sticking, repelling, anything, but nothing happens.

By the time he turns 6, Katsuki can make strong enough explosions that it’s a threat to him, his classmates, and even the teaching staff. Instead of staying in daycare after kindergarten classes, he's enrolled in a special school for child Quirk management. It's not exactly Quirk training, but Katsuki still feels like he's being fast-tracked through to his dream of going to a Hero school.

He tells Izuku, and his other classmates, all about it before class and during lunch, but after a while of their awe and excitement, he starts to feel a shift in their feelings towards him. He wouldn't mind it so much from Osha-kun or Haru-kun (or the others, what were their names, again? Yamanaki? Yamanashi? The one whose hair turned to leaves! Fushi..kawa? She was partnered with him for cleaning duty a few times. She can... measure weight by just looking?) but lately Izuku's eyes seem to glaze over when he talks, or else he goes on and on about a tv show or something else during lunch instead.

It bothers him so much that he tells his mom and dad. But they never experienced the same thing, and Katsuki ended up asking his trainer at his special school instead, despite how annoying it seemed.

"It's not wrong to be worrying about this at all, Katsuki-kun," Ikameshii-shishō tells him. "It makes sense for you to feel a widening gap with your friends."

 

A widening gap. 

 

"You've chosen, at a very early age, what you want to be. And you're giving everything you have." His shihō's face is calm, but he can see the determination he feels reflected in the shape of her brows, the tightening of her jaw. "You should be ready to feel this more and more."

“But, shihō. Kā-san said Izuku might be my pair candidate,” he argues, trying to say the word without tripping up. “So we should always be together. And like the same things. And go to the same school. I’m going to Yūei, so he should, too!”

“You’re too young to have a candidate, Katsuki-kun. But even if you did, would you like to fall behind, just to wait around for Izuku-kun?”

The question, if anything, distresses Katsuki even more. But he understands what his trainer is talking about. While in training, he does more exercises than in P.E., learns about historical Heroes, solves puzzles, and studies with other children with stronger Quirks. He’s always tired by the end of it, and he has more homework than anyone at kindergarten, but he’s so excited for every time he’s there learning. 

“Maybe Izuku’s not happy with me because he misses me while he’s alone in daycare,” he later tells his dad as he helps to wipe the dishes dry. “That means we should both go to training, right, Tō-san?”

He tries to bridge the gap and invites Izuku to come with him to the training school. He even asks Midoroya-san and his shihō for permission. Just for a week, like a trial run. Even if he doesn't have his Quirk yet, Izuku can still join the workouts and puzzle exercises. If he likes it, then Izuku can talk to his mom about the tuition. Katsuki can be too eager sometimes, but he asked, and he was told a single-parent (especially single mother) family can get a big discount.

"Bring extra clothes. And pack a big lunch!" he reminds Izuku. "And don't worry about a ride home, Dad will take us!"

The next day, Izuku's absent. The day after, he disappears magically before lunch. For 4 days, Katsuki's late to training by 25 minutes because he misses the bus, waiting for Izuku to join him by the school gate.

The weekend comes and Izuku never went with him even once.

 

---

 

"Katsuki."

He doesn't know what to say. His dad had tried to have a conversation with him every day during the week of Izuku's no-show. His dad's coming from work so his briefcase and other things are in the backseats, along with Katsuki's backpack, lunch bag, laundry bag and extra shoes. 

It's Monday, Katsuki skipped the kindergarten and his mom drove him to training school during her lunch break. It's Monday and he's already had a bad week. 

"Why didn't he come to train with me?" He's close to crying and it's making his head ache. "Did I push too much? Did I annoy him?"

He knows what his parents say. Katsuki's trying so hard. We're so proud of him! What the teachers say. He has so much potential! A natural-born talent! How his shihō treats him. One of the best I've trained. And at his age! 

There might be Osha-kun and Haru-kun, always looking up to him. Bakugō-kun's so cool! He's the best! But he knows what the other kids say, too. Bakugō's so annoying! He's so arrogant! No one really cares about his training school, why doesn't he just shut up about it already? His Quirk is only good because his parents are pairs anyway.

Did Izuku--

"Katsuki." There his dad was again. "I don't know what happened. I don't know what Izuku-kun feels. Maybe he wasn't ready? He was probably scared. Or intimidated. Do you remember that word?"

He nods, sees his dad glancing sideways at him. "Training’s your thing, but maybe it's not his. Have you talked to him?"

"I would! If he stopped hiding from me!"

"Okay, you know what? How about we visit him and you can invite him for a sleepover?"

Katsuki can't help the smile that takes over his whole face. "Can I? Really? But it's Monday! We have school tomorrow!"

His dad pats him softly in the head. "I already called your school. If he says yes, you can miss school tomorrow. But just tomorrow, ok?"

Katsuki has to remember his breathing exercises so he doesn't blow up the car in excitement.

 

---

 

Midoriya-san doesn't look surprised to find Katsuki at her door. In fact, she already has a bag packed and ready at the shelf by the genkan when Izuku comes out from his room.

"K-Kacchan? Mom, what—?"

Izuku's bag was already being strapped onto his shoulders. The manga at his hand ends up hovering towards Midoriya-san, while she pushes her son towards putting on his shoes.

"You and Katsuki-kun are having a sleepover, okay?" If she thinks her voice is low enough, she's wrong. Katsuki can hear very clearly. "Whatever you're fighting about, talk and make up, okay?"

"Come on. Let's go, Izuku." He bows to Midoriya-san, grabs Izuku's arm and heads down to the stairs. His dad had gone ahead. They just need to cut across the park, walk a bit and they'll end up at his house in a few minutes anyway.

Unable to help himself, he rushes to stand on the swings when they pass by. Izuku opts to sit, barely managing to get fully on top of the seat, afraid his bag will cause him to topple over like an overturned turtle.

Izuku looks like he'd rather be lanced by the swordfish-Quirked Villain they saw on tv last time than look at Katsuki, so he's surprised when the green-headed boy speaks first.

"I'm— I'm really, really sorry, Kacchan!"

He'd hoped the waterworks can start when they're alone in his room, but alone in the park works, too.

"I.. I don't— I don't have a Quirk, Kacchan," Izuku says, voice almost too soft to hear.

"What, did you think I forgot?" He really doesn’t like it when Izuku cries. "It doesn't matter anyway. You just turned 6! There's plenty of time to get it yet!"

"But what if—" sniffles "—what if I never get one?"

"There are no Heroes without a Quirk." What comes out of his mouth sounds mean, but they're true, too. Katsuki doesn't understand why Izuku would ask such a stupid question. "So you're definitely gonna have one. Since we'll both be Heroes!"

"K-Kacchan," the smaller boy hiccups. "I'm still gonna try! Even if.. even if…"

He looks at the smaller boy, his cheeks puffed, eyes red and remembers what his mom said. Izuku is his pair candidate. Chosen, made, born— whatever— perfectly for him. Remembers what his shishō said. A widening gap. You should be ready.

"Izuku."

Izuku's hands wipe at his wet cheeks and rub his closed eyes, trying to get the crying under control. Izuku looks up at him, hopeful at the tone of his voice.

"I've chosen to be a Hero. I don't know what you want to do now but I'll be a Hero." Katsuki sounds as serious as any kindergartener (in his final year!) can be. "I'll always win and be number 1, just like All Might!"

He goes on. "I don't know what Quirk you'll have. Dunno if it'll be cool and awesome or useless and lame. But I'm gonna train! I'll work the hardest! If you slack off, I'll leave you behind in the dust!"

This is his answer to his shihō's question. He won’t be left behind. Not having Izuku by his side is painful to think about, but less painful than not achieving his dream. Less than giving up. Less than not winning.

If Izuku’s his true pair, like his mom and dad and his teachers think, if they’re meant to be together like he knows they are, then the answer should be easy for him, too.

"Even if I never get a Quirk. Even then, I’ll do my best!” Izuku doesn’t often raise his voice, so it’s funny to hear him try to match Katsuki’s own shouting. “I want to always stay at Kacchan’s side. I’ll be a Hero, too! Even if I’m Quirkless, I’m going to be the first!”

Somehow, Izuku sounds sure. Sounds like he really believes it. Sounds like he'll make it come true. Katsuki never should have doubted him.

"I'll watch you," Katsuki says. "You better keep your promise, 'Zuku!"

 

 

Chapter Text

 

The weather was perfect on their first day at shōgakkō. The cherry blossoms were in bloom, the air was crisp, and excitement was all around as spring ushers in new life and new beginnings.

Katsuki was with his parents, meeting up early at the park with the Midoriyas, so they could take pictures together. As if he didn't already have photos alone, with his dad, his mom and with all three of them using a timer, all over the house.

Since they would be attending the nyûgaku shiki together formally as pair apparents with their promising only-born son, Katsuki’s parents were dressed in traditional wear, with rich fabrics like the ones they wore during his kindergarten graduation ceremony only a few weeks back.

His dad was wearing a white juban and black montsuki kimono which was decorated with three family crests, one in the back and two at the shoulders. The attire is completed by a striped grey and white hakama. His mother lived up to her name in a radiant white and gold kimono with a striking black fukuro obi tied in the double-drum nijūdaiko knot, showing off the intricate gold, orange and white flame and explosion brocade.

Katsuki himself was donning his elementary school’s navy-colored blazer and shorts, black shirt, black knee-high socks and matching navy cap. He chose a red randoseru and yellow shoes that felt great to stomp around in as he listlessly waited for Izuku and Midoriya-san to show up.

A few people who were also enjoying the lovely spring day at the park have come up to greet him and his parents, wishing him well on his first day in grade school.

Finally, he sees the mother and son duo, Izuku looking like a beacon with his wild, green hair, bright yellow bag and bulky red shoes. Midoriya-san was wearing a yellow dress and a pink light jacket, her hair done up in a bun. She greets his parents and he sees that she's carrying two wrapped bentos, one with green furoshiki, the other a vibrant orange.

“Oh my goodness, Mitsuki-san, Masaru-san, you look amazing!” Everyone that’s passed them by had praised his parents’ appearance in their formal wear. “It’s still so surprising, seeing you present formally as a pair.”

“Thank you, Inko-san. You’re looking good as well,” his mom replies, open and loud as ever. 

He makes his greeting to Midoriya-san as his mother comes to give Izuku a once-over. “Ah, look at Izuku-kun! So cute!”

“You boys look like a matching set.” His dad says, like he didn’t go with them to buy their bags and shoes.

“Good morning, Bakugо̄-san.” Izuku bows to his parents, lightly blushing. "Kacchan! You look so cool!"

Izuku bounds up to him. Too close, always too close.

"Right? Haha!" He says, with a flare, posing this way and that, going around Izuku to show off his uniform. "I thought you said you'd get a haircut?"

Izuku’s blush intensifies, looking up at him from the brim of his cap. "I think it'd look worse, for the curls to be cut short. Don't you think so, Kacchan?" 

"You're so funny, 'Zuku! I think you'd look great with short hair.”

“Come on then, boys! Go take pictures with your moms first.” His dad says, motioning for them to stand in front of the blooming cherry trees. “I bet we can ask someone to take pictures later with all five of us.”

As they pose, smiles and eyes wide, Izuku trying to keep his cap on top of his unruly mop of hair, while teasing Katsuki about his own blond spikes, Katsuki knows the photos will turn out amazing.

 

---

 

With the extra classes and Quirk management training he gets in special school, Katsuki finds the transition into elementary to be, frankly, quite easy. He'd actually already learned some of the first few lessons they have for Japanese, History, Math and Science. To avoid boredom, he's started to study more English. There were some classes back in kindergarten, but only an extra one, less than 30 mins about twice a month. 

He's memorizing vocabulary, sitting on top of his bed, while Izuku is sitting on a zabuton on the floor, elbows on top of his low study table, completing his kanji charts.

"Kacchan," Izuku calls, stretching the last vowel sound out in a playful way. "How come you're finished with your chart already?"

“I did it on the bus on the way to special class, the last 3 days. Why, are you having trouble?" He'd let Izuku use his good pencil, the one his mom gave him with the retractable tip. "I can help you. I already know 100 kanji."

"I keep going over the square here, for ame."

He leaves his vocabulary book, gets off the bed and sits next to Izuku. Carefully erasing the first practice lines already laid down by his green-headed friend, Katsuki calmly shows him how to do the strokes correctly.

"You make the first line here at the top, right across the middle, from left to right. Make this straight line down the side. From the top corner of that, make this hook box shape. Are you looking?" He doesn't even really need to ask. He can feel Izuku's breath on his arm.

"Then you connect the two with a central line down the middle, from the top. Don't go over the first horizontal line you made, ok? After that, you can make the little marks here, from the left side first, top and bottom, then the right. Like that."

His writing looks bold and sure, if he can say so himself. 

"That one's easy to remember," he says, turning back to Izuku. "It looks like a window. So you can think of a closed window when it's raining."

"Ah, Kacchan's so smart! What's your favorite character so far?" Izuku's sketching out a character again, mimicking how Katsuki did it. "And don't tell me more than the 80 we have assigned. I already can't memorize them all yet!"

Katsuki snorts, ruffles through Izuku's practice sheets and points at the right one. A simple, but powerful symbol. "That one."

"King. So cool!" Izuku's face is flushed. "And it sounds like the end of your name!"

"Sure does! Maybe I’ll use it in my Hero name, someday."

Izuku stops writing, turns to face Katsuki fully now, his face alight with hints of surprise, wonder, and something Katsuki's not sure of.

"You're already thinking of your Hero name, huh, Kacchan?" And something about the way Izuku sounds— the way his voice breaks, both because he’s genuinely smiling, but also because it looks like he’s fighting the urge to cry— makes Katsuki’s chest ache. The feeling is entirely too uncomfortable. "I bet you're gonna have a really cool Hero name."

He wants to run away from this.

"Of course." He tries for a laugh, but it sounds short, horrible. "Um. Are you done? Isn't your mom expecting you to help with dinner?"

He's tidying up Izuku's charts and notebooks even as he asks. The feeling in his chest keeps getting worse the more he sees Izuku there, smiling up at him while looking defeated.

"You're having kenchin, right?" He says pointedly, even though what he wants to do is comfort Izuku. Wants to tell him how they’re both going to have their Hero names in the future. 

But he wants to get away from the feeling faster. Wants to forget he feels it. Doesn’t want Izuku to see, to know.

And, ever the kindhearted soul, understanding him even when he’s not able to turn his thoughts to words, Izuku nods, takes his assignments and arranges them carefully in his backpack. He gets up and puts on his blazer.

"No need to walk me out. Thanks for helping me, Kacchan." He waves, a bit awkwardly. "See you tomorrow."

The door of his room is left open, so Katsuki can hear Izuku say goodbye to his dad who's in the living room. Hears the sound of the front door and the metallic clanging of the gate swinging. After a while follows the calm, measured footsteps going up the stairs. 

"If you're hungry, there's a sandwich in the kitchen. Or you can just hang out with me while waiting for Mom."

"Mmm. Thanks, Tō-san,” he replied, even though he won’t. He feels cruel, but he’s being shown so much kindness and understanding in return.

You’re so careless, Katsuki! He chides himself. You hurt him. Even without meaning to.

In his mind, he's counting the steps down to the park, across the playground, up the stairs to the apartment, inside Izuku's small, cozy room.

He's laid down on the floor, chest tight, heartbeats thundering in his ear.

 

---

 

Every year, as soon as July passes, the temperature soars and the city is enveloped in high heat and dense humidity. Normally, Katsuki and his parents will go and escape the city by visiting his maternal grandparents in Hokkaido. However, through a series of coincidences, both his mom and dad had work-related reasons that kept them from taking their usual vacation away. 

So, of course, in the summer of Katsuki’s 8th year, the mainland experiences the hottest and most humid summer yet. 

In certain respects, Katsuki was used to heat. His Quirk, at the very core, is an exothermic reaction, after all. However, his nitroglycerin-like sweat is complex and becomes tricky to handle in extreme temperatures. The heat causes him to sweat more and he’s liable to become dehydrated if he doesn’t drink plenty of water frequently. Going out in mid-40 degree weather is bad enough. It’s so much worse if you excrete oils that explode when exposed to heat, shock or fire.

To keep him occupied with something other than homework, his dad took him to a music school and encouraged him to find an instrument to learn. As a lover of Classical music, his dad might have hoped he would take up piano, flute or a string instrument, but even in school Katsuki was easily annoyed by the recorder and melodica. Learning to read sheet music was a novelty, but it’s one of the only times Katsuki didn’t give his all, only engaging in music class half-heartedly.

During the open house, however, his attention was immediately captured by the drums. The player kept up a really fast beat and tempo. And even though they were seated like everybody else, they were moving their body so much. Katsuki can see an emphasis on hand coordination, arm strength and building a strong core and upper body— all things that will enhance the way he used his Quirk. With the added bonus of allowing him to be as loud and boisterous as possible.

He was placed with a drum teacher within the day. He’ll have a three-day schedule for all the summer weeks and then find a schedule that will fit when school resumes. On the way home, his dad took him to his favorite music store to look at kits Katsuki can have at home.

Not wanting Izuku to spend whole stretches of the day alone when Katsuki was at drum classes and she was at work, Midoriya-san looked for something productive for her son to do as well, which is how Izuku managed to be enrolled in a free summer class at a local martial arts dojo.

After his class was over, Katsuki would walk to the shopping center that was only a few blocks away from the dojo. Him and Izuku would often get snacks, play at the arcade, stop by to read manga at the bookstore— anywhere that has air conditioning— until the day gets cool enough to maybe play in the park or go to Dagobah Municipal Beach Park if they had more free time.

"Today we took a quiz to divide the class into what martial arts we're gonna start practising," Izuku tells him, waving his hand so much Katsuki's nervous that he'll drop his ice cream cone. "I really thought I wanted to be a Karate master but Jiu-Jitsu seems better."

"Yeah? Like how?" He asked, stirring Izuku away from a ramen shop's standing advertisement.

"Well, my mom has weak telekinesis and my dad's a fire-breather. I think if I get either of those Quirks, then I can have an advantage in mid-range. Jiu-Jitsu focuses on grappling, ground fighting and doing submission holds, which would be so useful for close combat!" Izuku explains rapidly, sounding like he memorized a pamphlet. "And, if I don't get my Quirk, I can still be strong and fight well. Right, Kacchan?"

"What do you—"

"But the dojo isn't rooted in Jiu-Jitsu, so if I become really serious about it, I'll have to look for one that specializes in that," he adds. "I hope there's a good one I can commute to. Mom's not gonna be able to drive or pick me up if it’s not easy to walk from a bus stop or train station."

Katsuki gives up trying to butt in. Izuku can go on and on when he's in the mood. Their love for All Might and all things Heroes make Quirks and fighting technique one of their top shared interests to talk about. He’s grown used to hearing Izuku theorise who’d win in a fight, how certain Heroes can use different support items for different situations and other nerdy mumblings.

Of course, Izuku can also talk Katsuki’s ear off when he's obviously trying to avoid talking about something else in particular. And, although Izuku is as animated, energetic and curious as usual when it comes to other people’s Quirks and mutations, his own lack of a Quirk— still, after all these years— is very much a sore spot for him. 

For years he’s waited for his best friend— most likely his pair— to finally get his Quirk. And together they were disappointed. Even as Katsuki’s control over his Quirk grew and he understood more and more how amazing his power was, how much potential he held, Izuku stood on the outside looking in.

He’s never wanted to, but there have been moments. That voice, whispering at the back of Katsuki’s mind. What if Izuku never gets his Quirk? What are you supposed to do then?

"...if I don't get my Quirk, I can still be strong and fight well. Right, Kacchan?"

Katsuki hopes. Wishes for it, like he's never wished for anything else in his young life.

 

---

 

They finally get confirmation, for better or worse, in fifth grade.

 

---

 

Parents contact Quirk Registration Officers as soon as their child exhibits their Quirk for the first time. Counsellors do a home and school visit and make a preliminary record of the child, the nature of their Quirk, and any unusual mutations that might have emerged. But since Quirks can be misunderstood, misidentified or improperly used in the first few years, the preliminary record needs updating by the time the Quirk is thought to ‘settle,’ usually 5 to 6 years after first manifestation. By the time all children turn 10, it’s expected for them to have their first official Quirk Record.

Katsuki went with his parents to the main Quirk Registry Office in Tokyo at the end of the first term, during summer break. By the time second term ended in October, he’d received a copy of his registration via hand-delivered mail. His record read:

 

Name: Bakugō Katsuki

Special Designation: Pairborn

Father: Bakugō Masaru (Quirk: Oxidizing Acid Sweat), Pair Candidate 2XXX, Pair Apparent 2XXX

Mother: Bakugō Mitsuki (Quirk: Glycerin), Pair Candidate 2XXX, Pair Apparent 2XXX

Quirk: Explosion

Quirk Description: Ability to produce nitroglycerin-like sweat from the palms of both hands which detonate at will, creating violent explosions and shockwaves.

 


When he gets to a Hero school and really develops his Quirk, the record would be updated to include special usage, support items and other notable information. It fills Katsuki with nervous excitement.

On the other hand, Midoriya-san waited for the latest possible time just before the winter break to schedule Izuku for the Quirk assessment test. As the day for the test got closer, despite Katsuki's encouragement— "Just relax. Maybe they'll find out you have a latent Quirk! That happens a lot!" —, Izuku drew further away. He became more quiet and less engaged. He didn't participate in class and didn't come over during the weekends. He didn't even want to come see the new All Might movie!

The day of, Katsuki loiters around the playground the entire morning, a scarf wrapped around his neck and his hands insulated by a pair of leather gloves. If the test is anything like the registration, it should only take a few hours, maybe even shorter. Unless they take a taxi, they'll very likely cut through the park. And he doesn't think Midoriya-san would opt for a cab, when it wasn’t snowing really heavily yet.

He's just thinking of getting green tea and a spicy kare pan from the vending machines after playing around in the monkey bars, when he sees them.

A look at Izuku's face is enough for him to know.

Oh no.

Quirkless. Izuku's really Quirkless.

What do I do? What do I say—

He hears a gasp as Midoriya-san spots him. Now that he's looking, he notices her eyes are red and puffy.

"Were you waiting here, Katsuki-kun?"

He feels embarrassed. He caught them off guard. He should have—

"K-Kacchan?" He's heard this small, pitiful voice before. Here, in this exact place. It plays back to him like a horrible joke.

"What if I never get one?"

"There's plenty of time to get it yet!"

"I, I just thought—" he doesn't know what to say. Why didn't he prepare what to say? "Izuku, I—"

"Katsuki-kun. Izuku's really tired right now," said Midoriya-san. "You two can talk later, ok?"

"But we—"

"Go on. Go back home and eat lunch." Midoriya-san sounds kind like always, but she looks tired as well. How many times has she cried today?

Because it seems like the only thing he can do, he runs and crushes Izuku in a hug. Doesn't feel arms circling him back.

"See you later, Kacchan," Izuku whispered as he let go. “Have a good winter break.”

Midoriya-san gives him a pained smile. Takes her son's hand and leads him home.

Katsuki stares after them. Rooted to the spot. His thoughts playing a rapid and unrelenting loop.

There are no Heroes without a Quirk.

There are no Heroes without a Quirk.

There are no Heroes without a Quirk.

Without a Quirk…

 

---

 

Winter break seems to last the longest to Katsuki, even though it’s only a couple of days. Him and his dad both don’t cope the best with the weather, while his mom is completely unfazed, not the slightest bit bothered by the dry, biting cold. 

As the year draws to a close, his mom sends her design team back home to get re-inspired and ready to tackle their spring collection in the new year. And with their firm being multinational, his dad gets an unprecedented holiday break as well, affording their family good winter bonding time. This particular night, they’re in the living room— his mom on the couch, reading a fashion history book, him and his dad down on the floor, building a large jigsaw puzzle on top of the coffee table.

“How did you know that you were pairs, Kā-san?” Katsuki asked, as he finished putting together part of the left corner.

“You want to hear that story again?” his mom asked, putting down her book. "Our high school volleyball team went to Nationals when I was a freshman. Your dad and I met randomly during the opening ceremony."

"Love at first sight, really." His dad quips.

His mother playfully kicks his dad, winks exaggeratedly at him as he blushed.

“But, I mean, how did you know?” Katsuki rushes to ask.

His dad paused for a bit, tapping a puzzle piece against his cheek. “It’s not really easy to explain. I liked other girls before. And I had a girlfriend once! But, I liked them only because they were cute, you know?"

"What on earth are you telling him?!" His mom half-rises from the couch, pretending to clap her hands over his ears.

His dad messes up the loose puzzle pieces with how much he's laughing.

"It's true though, what do you want me to say?" He defends. "But your mom, I just really liked her immediately. I found her very pretty, of course. But I.. I guess you can say I liked the way it felt, to like her?"

"None of that makes any sense, huh, Katsuki?" His mom nudges him, so that he'll lean on her legs and she can run her hands through his hair. "When you're older, you'll like other people. You'll want to be with them. Want to take care of them. You'll treasure them and always want them to be safe and happy."

"Like how I feel about you," he says, melting into the soothing feeling on his scalp. "Is being pairs like loving family then?"

"That's a good way of thinking about it. It's the deepest, most important love," said his dad. "Why are you so curious, all of a sudden?"

An image of Izuku flashes in his mind. Tears down his face, lips trembling. "Isn't there a way to make sure? To check?" He asked. "Izuku and I will be 13 soon."

"Ah. I still think your kindergarten teacher was just too excited about knowing a possible pair!" His mom cries. "And your dad went and indulged him, and kinda roped me in, too!"

"Being together makes me happy. But when we fight, I don't feel good." Izuku has not come by to see him at all. He doesn’t take Katsuki’s phone calls to their house either.

"Katsuki, that's just how being friends work. You fight, but you make up because you like each other more than what you're fighting about." His mom urges him to move forward, so she can sit on the rug and hug him from behind. "You know, it doesn't have to be Izuku-kun. You don't even have to have a pair at all."

"I'll be so happy if you had a pair. Someone to always love and to make life better for you." His dad, always a romantic. "But I think second-generation pairs are pretty rare. Maybe you're just really picky with friends?"

"Your teachers say you never hang out with anyone else. Even in music school and with Quirk management, you're only focused on your training. My son's too good for social circles, huh?"

They're teasing him again. Yes, he's not friendly. Not very sociable either. He's responsible and smart and very capable for his age and his parents are pairs and their family is 'very comfortable' and he has a strong Quirk. Other students, sometimes even the adults, either dislike him or hang off him. 

Yes, some of his classmates at Quirk management school were his peers, in terms of age and strength. But none of them were there to make friends either. And anyway, most of them had serious issues and were just there to survive. Most of the children in music school were aiming to be professional artists. They've been trained younger, spent most time practising. Aside from playing instruments, they have barely anything else in common. Can anyone blame him for being standoffish?

"But Izuku is—"

"If it is him, then you met too early, the two of you. Izuku-kun's been through a challenge in his home life. His delayed Quirk onset must weigh on him so heavily as well. Especially with how much he's idolised you." His dad reminds him and Katsuki realises he hasn’t told his parents about Izuku being Quirkless yet. Doesn't know if he should, when it's not his news to share. "And as a pairborn, you are under incomparable pressure and expectations. You always rise to them— we're so, so proud of you. But you work so hard, Katsuki.”

"You and Izuku would only begin processes to be interim candidates by junior high." His dad continued. "The next school year would be your last year of shōgakkō. Try to have more fun."

His mom tightens her embrace. “You don't need to worry about soulmates. Not yet. You have so much time ahead of you to figure it out."

Katsuki's no longer a baby to cry so easily every time, but he can't help the tears escaping and rolling down his cheeks. Izuku and him will be okay. He’ll be okay.

 

---

 

When school resumes, everyone finds out about Izuku being Quirkless. Slowly but surely, things start to fall apart.



Chapter Text

 

Izuku's first thought upon receiving medical confirmation of him not having a Quirk is the most pervasive one. One that has quietly haunted him for years, like a dense shadow clouding every moment (even when he constantly battled against it, even when he matched it with good intentions and positive thinking).

You're Quirkless. You can't achieve your dreams. You'll never be a Hero. 

And as much as that hurt. As much as it made him detach from all the things he used to enjoy. Made him almost unable to eat, have fun, focus or engage with others. The dream he's had since childhood, when he first learned of All Might, and what a cool and great thing it was to be able to be a Hero who saves others, all with a smile. Even with that, the greatest fear was always, 

Kacchan is going to leave you behind. 

He didn't want to think about it. Did not want to assume the worst. He wanted to believe. To be generous and hope that, in spite of what he was, that Kacchan would still be with him, stay by his side. 

But it was undeniable. 

Since childhood, Kacchan was the very picture of victory. Smart, proud, strong, relentless. He worked hard to always be better, competing with himself towards greater achievements. 

His Quirk is perfect for a Hero. Kacchan is strong. Flashy. Fast. He can move his body well. He has charisma. His parents fully support him. He goes after what he wants with complete focus, determination and unwavering energy. 

You will never be able to keep up with him.  

How can he? For the longest time, he held out hope. Wished and prayed and tried countless times to breathe fire, to make things move with his mind, anything at all to no avail. 

Looking back, maybe he'd known. Sometimes, he even tried to adopt the thinking that, yes, he's probably never gonna have a Quirk, what can he do with that? So he doubled down on studying. He enjoyed learning. Had a curious mind. 

He studied Heroes. Studied their Quirks. Took notes. What were their advantages, weaknesses, rooms for improvement? What can he learn from them? How would he fight if he was them? How would he try to defeat them? 

Studying Heroes was fun. For a brief period, while he drew and wrote and compared notes, he felt like his dreams were in reach. But every time he closed the notebooks, he was faced with the reality that he couldn't do anything on his own.

People were not made equal. Some are more special than others.  

It's just that it really, really hurts. He was blindsided by the thing he'd been worrying about and readying himself for for years. 

"I'm so sorry, Midoriya-san. Izuku-kun. You don't have a Quirk." 

The doctor said many other things. Showed some slides and pictures and graphs. He nodded but didn't really hear most of it. What did the details matter? The only thing he needed to know had already been said. 

On the way home, Kacchan was waiting. There in the park where, a few years before, Izuku gave him a promise. A promise that seems so stupid and naïve, now. 

Even if I never get a Quirk, I’ll do my best! 

I’ll be a Hero, too! 

I’m going to be the first! 

Do his best? How? When he signed up for martial arts classes, he fantasised about being a strength or speed-type Hero. Stopping and capturing Villains with a quick throw or a swift kick. But even if he mastered Jiu Jitsu. Even if he became a master at Judo, Karate, Tae Kwon Do. Even if he worked out and got stronger and faster. Someone with a basic enhancement Quirk and no technique could defeat him. How can he dare stand up against actually powerful Villains, if even petty criminals can simply overpower him?

It hurt to look at Kacchan. To see Kacchan know. To see his disappointment and his panic. And his pity.

He couldn't hug him back. Couldn't stand how nice he was being. Couldn't comfort him and give him a smile. 

For days after he avoided calls and visits and left his room only to eat. He kept watching the video of All Might's Japan debut on repeat. His heart felt as cold and dead as the winter outside.

His mom kept crying. Kept apologizing. He felt horrible.

What was he supposed to do now?

 

---

 

After winter break, he begged his mom not to send him back. He just knew that things had changed. School was not going to be the same again. But she was strong in her own way, and pushed him to be strong, too. 

"It's going to be alright, Izuku." She said. "Yes, it's no longer as common now, but Quirkless people do exist. Are you meant to hide away for the rest of your life?"

Everyone knew. Somehow. Maybe they overheard the teachers. He didn't know. He never announced it. And yet.

He was thankful for those who were indifferent. He was never the most popular kid at school. A lot of the kids that hung around him did so more because he was just always around Kacchan, and they wanted to be around him . At least they didn't care one way or another.

Some openly pitied him. Acting rigid and stunted, as though they thought any kind of interaction with him would… well, he didn't even know. Break him, somehow? Hurt? Make him cry? So they didn't speak to him. Didn't want to sit next to him or include him in study groups. He felt like a ghost.

He felt worse when a few reacted with open malice. They were hostile and demeaning.

Sad, Quirkless Midoriya.

You're useless. How pathetic!

He didn't want a fight. Did not want things to escalate. So he remained distant. Made himself small and quiet.

He hated that Kacchan had to defend him. That Kacchan stuck around by him anyway. Hated that others talked bad about him behind his back.

Why does Bakugō insist on hanging around Midoriya?

I've heard some people say they could be pair candidates. Don't you think that's funny?

They've known each other since kindergarten, but so what? Midoriya should learn his place!

He's making Bakugō look bad.

Bakugō's been getting into fights because of that useless kid, Midoriya. What a waste!

He wished it would stop. He just wished to be left alone.

He knew they needed to talk about it. But he just couldn't bring himself to do so. Kacchan, for once, is letting him take the lead. He's there, he's present. Always. But he doesn't push. Doesn't barrel his way through like he normally would with a problem he wants to solve. Izuku almost wished he would.

He's not in the best shape of his academic life as he takes the final exam. His end of term grades suffer a bit. And then it's the last weeks of March and the closing ceremony is done and school is out until April. 

He feels like somehow he can breathe again. Before he has to do it all over again for his final year at grade school. 

What was he supposed to do now?

 

---

 

Sixth grade started the same as every other school year did, with a fantastic show of the sakura trees. Izuku marveled at how his experience of the same place, the same time of year, can be so changed by a single fact.

He'd always walked this city as a Quirkless kid. But this is the only time when it was official. When it was final. When it was named.

Before, he could go around pretending. Saying such things like, "I could still get my Quirk! You'll see, it would be any day now!" But not anymore.

An extra joint in his toe. That's all it takes, huh? He'd been going over the medical records that the assessment facility had sent them home with. The x-ray with the damning extra toe joint mocked him daily, from the bottom of one of his drawers.

The doctor had even tried to be consoling. "Not everyone with an extra toe joint is Quirkless. But every Quirkless individual has exhibited it. Do you understand?"

Whatever. Izuku guessed it made sense. Some people with the extra joint apparently still found later in life that they had a Quirk with very specific sets of circumstances or triggers required for it to manifest and be used. Functionally Quirkless either way.

He'd had time to think— to grieve— over the change in his life over the spring, as he awaited sixth grade. And a more productive sulk than the near catatonic state he'd been in in winter.

If he was poetic, Izuku would say that he was trying to find new life with the coming of spring, same as nature all around him.

Realistically, however, he just wanted to stop being so pathetic all the time. Wanted to show that he could still be, could still function, despite the unfortunate cards he'd been given.

So what if he was Quirkless, right? He could still apply himself! He ended in the top 20 of his class instead of 10, but that was still good enough. He could climb his way back! He was going to graduate from his dojo and find a suitable shishō. Not every 'superhuman' had a super powered Quirk anyway. Non-combat Quirks were more common in the general population, after all.

He can't easily be a Hero. But it wasn't ever going to be easy in the first place. At least now, he knew what handicaps he had going into it. He still had 4 years to go before exams for Hero high schools. If he wanted to get into Yūei like him and Kacchan always dreamed, he'd have to work double time. He was already trailing behind.

It would be difficult, but he'll give his all.

I can do this! Ganbarimasu!

 

---

 

The closing ceremony for the first term was a standard affair, their principal up on the podium staring at a sea of children in their summer uniforms, all itching to burst out of school. Afterwards, they went back to homeroom and waited for the clock, eager to embrace their next few weeks of supposed freedom.

“Yes, yes, I know. Everyone wants to start their vacation! But let me just send you off with a few words, okay, children?” Ushihara-sensei said, reining in the bubbling energy of her senior class by using her Calming Voice. “First of all, do not forget to have a conversation with your parents about your plans for junior high. For those of you that want to get into private schools, use this time to start your study prep. Applications will begin in the second term and exams are in January and February.”

She turned to Kacchan, who was at his usual seat in the middle of the class (he somehow always ended up there, ever since kindergarten). “For those who intend to go into a Hero Course in high school, you’ll need extra home and school counselling, so please get the additional booklet from my desk.”

About half of the class stood up. Izuku was just about to rise from his seat as well, but Kita and Ryosuke were elbowing each other to get there first and he didn’t want to get caught in their scaly skin and needle hair. So, he waited until the two had gotten their booklets and were back in their seats behind him before he stood to go to the front.

At which point he realized everyone that got up was already seated and that all his classmates were looking right at him.

“Um.. I— I’m just gonna—” he motioned to the booklets in Ushihara-sensei’s desk.

It probably involved less than 20 steps to get there and back but it felt like a marathon to Izuku. It didn’t help that Kacchan was scowling the whole time and didn’t want to make eye contact with him.

“Well, that’s sorted then. Alright,” their teacher coughed when Izuku was seated at his desk again. “Like I said. Make sure to complete all your assignments. Consult with your parents about cram school, for those of you who need one. And finish your observation studies and individual reports.”

Hai!

“Okay. Have a good summer. See you in September!”

The class erupted in cheers.

Izuku was packing his things up in his bag when a voice called out to him from the back. “So, you’re still trying to be a Hero, huh, Midoriya ?” Kita-kun’s tone was needling, making his name sound like something he didn’t even want stuck to his shoe.

“You should know when to quit.” Ryosuke added, friends with Kita again now that they had a common target. “It’s getting really sad.”

“Hero schools don’t even accept applications from Quirkless losers!” Their laughter got uncomfortable looks from his other classmates, but none stepped up to stop them.

“Actually, Yūei just—”

“Yūei?? Yūei?” The scales on Kita’s forearms were rising in his agitation. “You’re not even thinking of just any Hero school, you’re seriously gunning for Yūei? You??

“Yeah, even Tasuki and I aren’t planning to apply for Yūei. You must be delirious!” Ryosuke cried.

“I wouldn’t know if I could pass unless I try, would I?” He said, thankful that his voice did not crack. “Just because you can’t doesn’t mean I can’t, either!”

The spiky hairs on Ryosuke’s head were standing now, the pair of them looking like spooked animals. Izuku readied himself for an attack, eyeing one of the books still left on his desk, under his backpack.

“Hey!” A chair scraped roughly and loudly against the floor, and then Kacchan was standing a few desks in front of Izuku, staring daggers at him. “If you’re done with those clowns, let’s fucking go.”

He’d started doing it sometime in the 5th grade, but Izuku was still not used to hearing Kacchan swearing.

“Y-yes! Just a second, Kacchan!” He grabbed his books and put on a shoulder strap. He attempted a smile and a bow to his classmates, more out of common politeness than anything.

“Hiding behind Bakugō.” Kita sneered, voice carrying. “Typical.”

Izuku’s smile turned into a grimace as he hurried after the blond.

“Kacchan!” He shouted, putting his backpack on fully as he came into the crowded hall. “Matte!

The students from 6-B and 6-C made way as he rushed past. He already couldn’t see Kacchan. Why does he always walk so fast?!

“There they go again. Midoriya-kun’s like a little puppy.” He heard a bundle of girls by the windows giggling.

“I think it’s cute!”

“I wanna have a childhood crush, too!”

Izuku blushed, clutching the books to his chest. He chose to only look down at his shoes, moving carefully down the stairs, until he made his way to the lockers to change. He hurriedly put on his red shoes, slammed the locker and raced to the school gates. Thankfully, Kacchan was there waiting. Izuku was sure the blond wasn’t hurrying, so he wondered why Kacchan’s face looked flushed as well.

“Did the girls say something to you, too?” He blurted.

“W-What? Shut up!” was the fiery reply. “And hurry up. We need to talk.”

Izuku straightened up, the look on Kacchan’s face promising something serious.

“What is it, Kacchan?”

“Come on, just follow me.”

 

---

 

Kacchan led them to Izuku’s apartment first, weirdly enough.

“Why were you carrying your books? You have a bag for a reason!” He gestured for Izuku to go up, standing by the landscaped bushes in front of the apartment building. “Whatever, just leave your stuff here first.”

“Okay, I’ll be 5 minutes!”

“I’m not timing you. Just, go already.”

He made it up to their apartment, opened the door using his keys and went straight to his room after toeing off his shoes. He left the backpack by the foot of his bed and the books at his study desk. In case Kacchan wanted to go to the shopping district or the arcade, Izuku pocketed his wallet and keys. On the way out, he saw the light on their phone blinking on and off.

“Izuku, sweetie,” he heard his mother’s voice when he played back the recorded message. “I’m taking an extra shift for Nakamura-san. I’ll eat here so just prepare or buy your own dinner if you don’t want last night’s leftovers, okay? Love you, bye bye.”

He made a mental note to pass by a konbini on his way back home later.

His best friend was quiet the whole way, Izuku just trailing after him, unsure. He thought maybe they’d head to Kacchan’s and just hang out there, but they bypassed the park and were already going past the shopping district as well.

“Are we headed into the city center? I don’t think I have enough money for the train…”

Kacchan remained silent and they just walked, by the road now, hugging the side with the guardrails for pedestrians and people on bikes, until they were greeted by a view of the ocean.

Sugē! You could have just said you wanted to go to the beach, Kacchan!” He lifted his nose, smelling the salty water in the air. “I bet a lot of people are over there. I hope we can get a good spot for you to leave your stuff on. Why didn’t we pass by your house, too? We had time!”

As expected, there were some people already having fun at the boardwalk and the shore. A lot of schools let out today and even earlier for younger kids. But instead of coming down the beachfront, Kacchan kept going until they got to Dagobah’s edge, where a massive trash pile had built up over the years. Izuku never remembered that part being clean, so most beachgoers left it alone, keeping to the open side of the shores instead.

Soon enough, Kacchan stopped in an area kind of free of trash and debris and threw his bag in the passenger seat of a beat up old car. He sat on the hood and Izuku followed, carefully climbing up the soft tire. The metal was still warm as they sat side by side, looking at the ocean painted orange by the waning afternoon sun.

“Why do you want to be a Hero, Izuku?” Kacchan asked, his voice uncharacteristically soft.

An old conversation, one they’ve had plenty of times before. “Because I want to save people. With a fearless smile.”

“Just like All Might,” they said in unison.

Kacchan scoffed. “And why do you think they make fun of you? Our classmates. Why do you think they dislike you?”

“I don’t know. They’re just mean!” He cried. “Just mean bullies who—”

“It’s because they want to be Heroes, too! They’re just like us with the same dream. And they have a Quirk.” Kacchan said, clipped, voice rising. “But they’re shit! Porcupine Head back there? He can raise his hair, but he can’t even release them at will. Lizard Arms has scales but so what? That's nothing an armor can’t deal with.”

“You know it’s not very nice to call other people names, Kacch—”

“They have Quirks, but even they are not delusional enough to think they can make it! They understand that not every Quirk is a super power. Yes, they’ll try for Hero schools, but they’re not even worth it to be sidekicks! They’re just—they’re just extras, at best!”

Kacchan!

He didn’t even realise he’d jumped up off the hood and made it onto the sand. He was clutching his fists so hard he was trembling.

“Delusional? You— you really think I’m delusional?”

“You’re fucking Quirkless, Izuku!” Kacchan stomped, stood on the dented bumper and ignited his hands. He flew into the air, landing behind Izuku. “You’ve always been. Isn’t it time to just stop?”

He turns to face Kacchan, even as his heart falls to the floor.

Take it back. You don’t mean it.”

“Aren’t you tired? Don’t you feel bad for yourself?” Kacchan’s eyes flash with simmering anger. 

“You’ve been looking  for a dojo apprenticeship but you can’t find one, right? Because none of them would take someone Quirkless? I mean, why would they? If you were paying to send your kid there, learning against someone Quirkless would be a waste of time."

Izuku shook his head, wanting to defend himself, but he was rejected from every dojo he'd inquired at when he presented his official record.

"All the top Hero Courses don’t officially require a Quirk to apply but it’s just for formality’s sake so you can’t blame them for discrimination. They expect Quirkless people to be eliminated by default!”

Izuku feels the tears well up in his eyes.

“But I can still try. There’s still time for me to train my body. I can still—”

“Why do you need to be a Hero? You can be something else. If you just want to help people, you can be a police officer. Or a civil servant. You can do community work. You can do anything else. Izuku—” 

They’re both crying now and Izuku was not ready for this. All the time he put off having this serious conversation with Kacchan has left him here— motionless even as he erupts in intense emotion.

"You can still try for Yūei, in General Studies. We can still go together. Or Support. Actually, you'd be amazing in Support! You love watching Heroes and analysing fight styles. You could—" 

"You're asking me to give up on my dream, Kacchan."

I'm sorry. You don't have a Quirk.

Izuku! I'm so sorry! Mom's so sorry…

I'm gonna be a Hero who defeats Villains and always wins! Just like All Might!

Kacchan has to control his breathing, to slow his heart rate, so he doesn't sweat profusely. For his Quirk not to go haywire. After a beat, he responds.

"I'm asking you to be realistic. You can be anything else." Kacchan pleads. Takes one step closer. "If you pick another goal now, you'll have time to get ready. You can get the right electives in junior high. For robotics. Or coding. Or design—"

"But you'll be in the Hero Course. Wouldn't you?"

"What? Of course—"

"'Of course.' Because you can do it, can't you, Kacchan?" He was just so, so angry. Frustration welling up as he cries. "Not like us extras. No, wait, I'm not even that, am I? I'm just a useless Quirkless kid. Useless Izuku. I'm just a deku to you, huh?"

"Stop— "

"You can go and do whatever you want. But I can't because I'm just weak and delusional and I—" He's pushing Kacchan. Punching him in the chest. All his aggression and Kacchan just takes it.

He catches Izuku's arm. Holds him by the wrist. "I'll make it for both of us. Trust me. The two of us… we will be happy together."

He's unmoored. Lost in anger and heartache he's never known before.

He shakes off Kacchan's hand and starts laughing like a maniac. He dares bring it up now? 

"Oh yeah? And who told you that?" Reckless, Izuku asks, "Why do you even care about me?"

He does not expect the bright spark, followed immediately by intense heat. And the sound. He can't think fast enough to be rattled. He doesn't even know what happened until he looks back and sees the hood of the car wrecked in the explosion that Kacchan must have fired off right by him.

Kacchan has never used his power like this with Izuku before. Izuku's never felt it before. It's awe-inspiring. Terrifying.

They're far enough away that it seems like the other beachgoers don't notice the commotion. But Izuku's ears ring, his breath catches in his throat.

"I'm gonna give you time. To think and apologize." Kacchan growls, his chest heaving, fists clenched tight. "I'm asking you. I'm begging you. Give up on being a Hero."

"Kacchan—"

"If you don't, we're done. Don't act like you've ever known me."

Kacchan is gone by the time the ringing in Izuku's ears subside and he can start to think clearly again. 

You're fucking Quirkless, Izuku!

I'm a useless Izuku! Just a Deku!

His knees hurt from having collapsed, his feet buckling under him in shock, anger, betrayal, fear. Pure, crushing sadness.

We will be happy together.

Give up on being a Hero!

Izuku cries and cries until his vision blurs and he can't see. He hiccups in the effort to inhale, his breaths coming fast and shallow. Doesn't know if it's his lungs or the sky collapsing on him. 

Emotions flayed raw, Izuku watches as the world burns in the glow of the setting sun.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

I want to save people with a fearless smile just like All Might!

Katsuki’s parents did not let him watch much television or internet videos as a kid, not that he was very inclined to spend his time watching them anyway. More specifically, his parents limited, as much as they were able, the amount of news that he was exposed to. And that made sense. In their superpowered world, where Heroes and Villains fought regularly, the news can be horrific, especially for a young child. It was by chance that he even knew about All Might. In their world, knowing the top Hero was inevitable.

When he continued to express desires to be a Hero as he grew older, his parents introduced him to historic and major events recorded in history books and documentary films. Katsuki assumed that it was either to deter him from being a Hero or to make him realise that it was not fun and games like playground antics would have him think.

Each one fed more into his fascination with strong, powerful Heroes who were able to win and save the day.

The one he remembers the most is from the 2nd generation. One of the few with enough information still available, but only because of its great and horrible impact.

The Razing of Great Kantō in 20XX. The supposedly-pairborn leader of the underground Makkuro Bōryokudan, Daiko Kubashira, created a megathrust by moving the Philippine oceanic plate against the Eurasian continental plate, resulting in a 9.2 magnitude earthquake lasting for 3 minutes and 49 seconds. The earthquake caused a 41-foot tsunami which swept and razed the majority of the port city of Yokohama and resulted in fire storms and fire tornadoes which burned over 55% of Tokyo and nearby prefectures for 3 days before it was contained.

More than 3 dozen individuals with nullifying, spatial, seismic and frequency Quirks came together to create a ‘cloaking’ effect which allowed the great fighters Kanadzuchi and Dagekitai to finish the leader off together with what remained of his chain of command and foot soldiers. An estimated 320,000 people perished from the initial attack and the resulting chaos.

The details were so grand it seemed more believable as a story rather than history. But because of it, the Japanese Hero Commission was established, and the profession 'Hero' became state-sponsored and sanctioned. These days, with the proliferation of Heroes, Hero agencies and surrounding industries that provide support and infrastructure, it may seem like being a Hero is just a job, like any other. 

Everyone dreamed of being a Hero. And even extras with comparatively weak Quirks can make it in the scene by being nice, friendly, good looking, or knowing how to work publicity to their advantage. 

But Katsuki understood. Heroes ensure that there would be a force to guard the people against the greatest threats. Heroes had to be the strongest. The best. Otherwise, people suffer. Otherwise, they die.

I want to save people with a fearless smile just like All Might!

All Might can do it. Because All Might is strong. He can smile in the face of any enemy because he’s always faster and more powerful. His smile alone is enough for people to feel safe because they know that he cannot be defeated by any Villain. That’s why he’s Number One. The Symbol of Peace.

Without a Quirk, Izuku is dumb if he thinks he can even step up to the plate.

 

---

 

When Izuku didn't call or come around at all during summer break, Katsuki thought he was just taking his time to think and to come to terms with the clearly only correct choice that he had to make now— give up on his childhood dream, face reality and create a new dream to go after. Katsuki was patient. He would let Izuki do just that.

When the second term started, Katsuki fully expected Izuku to reach out and apologize for acting glib and denying them being pairs, and to talk to him about what he plans to do next— will he apply for the Support Course in Yūei or what? Because that's the path that made the most sense, right?

Instead, Izuku continued to give him the cold shoulder and even went so far as to start calling him Bakugō instead. The first time it happened, Katsuki couldn't help the kneejerk anger and hurt he felt and answered by calling Izuku Deku in turn, recalling the self-demeaning nickname that Izuku came up with when they fought. All thoughts of apologizing for losing his temper and impulsively using his Quirk against Izuku evaporated along with his cool.

It doesn't escape the notice of their classmates, their teachers or their parents at all.

Instead of enjoying their seniors' class trip to Nara, he was just annoyed that he had to spend over two days in close proximity to Izuku. It especially irked him when no one sat on the bus next to Izuku. Izuku wasn't part of any group during free time. He walked the shrines and temples and gardens alone. He ate alone. No one walked with him to the baths. And he ended up sleeping with his futon in the farthest corner of the room.

(Not totally alone, considering Katsuki was always watching him, a few paces away, having shaken off their classmates with his general surly attitude. And if rough housing, pillow fights and late night Hero-talk were avoided in the boys' shared sleeping area, it wasn't because he glared down anyone who could have thought to fight Izuku or make fun of him again. Not at all. It was just so they don't disturb Katsuki's sleep schedule.)

Realising that Izuku was going to dig his heels in and continue being a stubborn idiot, Katsuki threw himself into his studies and Quirk training out of spite. He took on the rigid practice schedule and extra tasks assigned to him for the bunkasai in November. And after that, he delved deeper into final exams prep.

Early December saw him graduating from special school so that his third and final term can be focused on junior high applications. His shishō asked him again if he was sure he didn't want to go to private school. And while he always answered no before, since Midoriya-san most likely couldn't send Izuku anywhere other than the public district school, he paused and thought about it. 

"Changed your mind? Finally saw the light of day?" Ikameshii-shishō asked, looking odd to Katsuki in her traditional wear instead of her usual sporty attire.

After a bit, he says, "Aldera Chūgakkō has nothing to offer me."

"Well, perfect timing to talk to your parents and homeroom teacher then. Here. You'll be better suited to any one of them." She hands him about a dozen flyers and application forms.

"Congratulations, Katsuki. I'm gonna look forward to your Hero debut, ne?"

That night, he presents his top 2 choices to his parents.

"Of course you'll choose between rival schools!" His mother guffaws. "Sōmei in Tokyo and Dōryoku Daiichi in Saitama."

"One's more focused on advanced academics, the other on Quirk exploration." His dad says. "If you go to Dōryoku, you can safely test and use your Quirk, not just learn to manage your triggers."

"I was thinking the same thing." Katsuki replied. "The academics aren't too far off from Sōmei anyway, with all the required research projects. And I can always take extra mock exams for Yūei if needed."

"Aww, look at our son, planning for the future." His mom said, miming wiping away tears. "Did you tell Izuku?"

"Kā-san, I told you—"

"You're still not talking? Katsuki," his father admonished. "How can you treat your pair candidate like this?"

"But we're not, are we?" He doesn't mean to yell, but bringing up Izuku riles him up so easily these days. "He doesn't even believe it himself!"

"What? Katsuki, that's absurd. That boy is devoted to you."

"He's not. He'd rather have his pride than be with me. So screw him!" He lashes out, stomps away.

His mom yells at him for language. "Katsuki!"

"Let him go," he hears his dad say. "He'll calm down. We'll talk later."

He slams the door to his room, his excitement for junior high applications soured by the turn of the conversation.

 

---

 

"Thank you." A trio of young women bowed repeatedly to his parents. "Happy new year!"

Over the last few days they have cleaned the house, set out pine decorations and hung up shimekazari as part of New Year tradition. The stacked kagami mochi have also been set up. And dozens of greeting cards have been sent out to family, friends, his parents' coworkers and all of Katsuki's classmates at school, training and music class. 

Near midnight of New Year's Eve, after they've eaten soba to wish for a long life, he went with his parents to the Musutafu Shrine for hatsumōde. As usual, his parents dressed in formal kimonos and Katsuki opted to match his dad, except his haori himo was red and orange instead of the traditional white. Despite the late hour, the shrine and its grounds were illuminated beautifully by endless paper lanterns, warm-colored electric lights and stone tōrō.

As they lined up to go to the main offering hall, he saw some men and quite a few women and girls wearing kimono, too. Other shrine visitors still asked to take photos with the pair apparent. But taking photos a bit here and there with locals was better than when they used to go to Meiji Shrine and anyone wearing traditional clothes were liable to be mobbed by tourists. 

His parents declined Katsuki being included due to his age. Despite feeling like a human doll on his parents' behalf, he tried his best to be courteous and gracious when interacting, offering good greetings for the new year. It was good practice for when he becomes a Hero, although it was tedious and kinda boring. 

Every once in a while, he scanned the line and the crowds for a glimpse of familiar green hair, but no luck. Perhaps the Midoriyas were not visiting the shrine early this time around.

After they washed their hands and made their prayers, his mom returned last year's omamori to be cleansed and burned and bought new charms for the year. Katsuki bought an All Might katsumori for success and his dad bought him a gakugyo-joju for his upcoming entrance exams. As his parents looked at talismans for married couples, his eye was drawn to an en-musubi wrapped in green silk with black and red stitching. 

"One of those, please." He told the priest, quickly hiding the love charm along with the others he already bought, heat blooming on his face.

"Let's go draw fortunes!" His mom said, meeting up with him after they wrote wishes for their careers on wooden ema plates.

The bells rung loudly into the night.

 

---

 

The final term of grade school was a flurry of exams, final projects, sports and cultural clubs' final performances and general wrap up. Everyone had already taken entrance exams for both private and public schools. The atmosphere seemed split between two camps: those anxious about the end of grade school, and those antsy to begin junior high.

Katsuki found himself in the middle.

For one thing, Dōryoku Daiichi was an elite school. (The results weren't out yet, but he expected to pass.) He wanted to see how he stacked up among peers on comparable intellectual, social and Quirk level. However, him and Izuku were still not speaking and to part ways like this felt horrible, despite Katsuki being sure and feeling justified in his actions.

Approaching Izuku now and wanting things to go back to how they were would be impossible. Katsuki could never accept Izuku continuing down a foolhardy, hopeless and dangerous path. He won’t stand by while Izuku essentially attempts to get himself killed. It was better like this, despite how painful it felt.

He was jolted out of his thoughts by the class representative calling out to him. "Bakugō-kun, if you're done with lunch, sensei wants to see you in the faculty room."

He nodded and left. On the way, he saw students carrying boxes of items cleared out from clubrooms. 

Entering the faculty room, he called out. "Ushihara-sensei?"

He was waved in. "Bakugō-kun, come in, come in."

The homeroom teacher had cleared out most of her desk, with only her record book, a cup of tea and a big envelope on top, unlike the past few weeks where it would have been filled with exams to be graded.

"Yes, is there a problem, sensei?"

"Oh no, no, of course not. The opposite in fact!" She handed him a sealed letter. "Omedetō! What good news!"

He opened the letter and saw the seal of Dōryoku. Congratulations! We are pleased to inform you

"Is this my acceptance letter?" He asked in surprise.

"The results will come out publicly in March. But they already sent out the welcome materials to the schools." She pushed the big envelope towards him. 

He passed!

"Congratulations for getting into an elite private school. I never had doubts." Ushihara-sensei said. "The school is very proud of you, Bakugō-kun."

"Thank you very much, sensei." He bowed. Taking the envelope and tucking in the letter, he bowed again before leaving the faculty room.

Upon entering the classroom again, his classmates were all over him, wondering why he was called out.

"Did you get in trouble? And so close to graduation?" Porcupine Face asked from the back.

The class rep shushed him and turned to what Katsuki was holding. "Oh, what's that you have there, Bakugō-kun?" 

"My admissions package from Dōryoku Daiichi."

He heard a gasp and controlled his movements to stop himself from looking at Izuku.

"Wait, were exam results posted already?"

"You got in? Woah, sugoi, Bakugō!"

"Congratulations!"

Someone else cried, "There shouldn't be exams for junior high, it's too cruel!"

He accepted the greetings and went back to his seat. He'll save reading the full letter and rummaging through the envelope for when he's back home.

Before 5th period started, the assigned lunch team members called out for them to finish their food. Katsuki already did, so he just made sure to drink all the milk. Izuku, dressed in a white robe and cap, was carrying the crate and going around to collect the empty cartons. When he got to Katsuki, he averted his eyes and simply said,

"Your milk carton, please."

After Katsuki dropped his empty carton in the tray, he expected the greenhead to move on to the others quickly. But instead, he quietly says, "Omedetō, Ka—, ano, Bakugō-kun."

He wants to blow his head off in anger at the unfair fondness of that voice. Instead he settles for a simple, "Thank you."

 

---

 

That night, he looked over the admissions package with his parents. The envelope contained the admissions offer and letter, new students' guide, course list, textbook and supplies list, registration forms, schedule for getting IDs and uniforms, and an invitation to the students and parents’ orientation.

"Isn't this exciting? There'll be a campus tour and then a lunch to meet your teachers and classmates." His mother said. 

"Somehow I didn't realise, but there's only 3 junior high classes with 20 students each. Majority of their high school admissions must be external..." said his dad. "This is very different from my junior high experience."

His mom laughed. "Isn't it? It all sounds so grand and formal. When Katsuki goes to high school, would there be a multi-course welcome dinner then, do you think?"

They shared a good laugh before his dad asked, "When we buy your books and other supplies, let's also look at phones. Would you like that, Katsuki?"

He perked up, dropping the course list for a moment. "Yeah!"

"No, let's get it earlier. It'll be your graduation gift." His mom supplied. "Do your classmates have phones already? So you can exchange numbers…"

"Pftt, as if. I doubt I'll see any of them again."

 

--- 

 

March arrived with the tentative colors of early blooms and a hint of spring.

They sang the songs. They bowed to their teachers. They received their certificates in front of their parents. They gave the bouquet of flowers to the parents and teachers. They left the school halls for the last time, as underclassmen and teachers clapped for them.

They burst into the courtyard, took final class photos and it's done. They graduated.

Some of his classmates asked to take photos with him. And he even got cards from some of the 4th and 5th graders.

"Find Izuku and get your pictures taken together." His dad says, even as Katsuki complained for them to go home already.

"Don't wanna."

"Do it. Years from now, you might regret that you didn't."

Katsuki would very much like to say that he wouldn't, not even a bit. But he goes anyway. For his mom and her albums, he tells himself.

He sees Midoriya-san by the gates thanking the principal and their homeroom teacher, Izuku dawdling behind her, clutching his diploma. When she's done, she turns and sees him, breaking out into a big smile.

"Katsuki-kun, congratulations!" She says with such warmth, and Katsuki wonders how much Izuku told her about their fight.

"Thank you very much, Midoriya-san." He bows. "Dad wants to take pictures. Is Izuku free?"

She smiles and nods, both of them knowing that no other classmates have asked to take pictures with Izuku.

"They're over there by the trees." He says not exactly to Izuku, but to the area just to the left of where he's standing.

The whole thing is awkward and Katsuki doesn't even try to smile. But their parents are happy to snap pictures so he stands there with his diploma. The new phone is burning a hole in his blazer pocket but in the end, he doesn't ask to exchange numbers. Doesn't say his greetings or farewells.

At the end of grade school, Katsuki and Izuku part ways like strangers.

 

---

 

A week before class starts, Katsuki finds himself on the Tokyo Metro with his parents on their way to Saitama for the students and parent's orientation. They could have driven for the occasion, but his parents wanted him to be familiar with the train lines and the walk to the campus, which was about 30 minutes away.

Following what’s stated in the orientation guide, they entered through the Ground Gate and followed signs pointing towards the Grand Hall. A few people were already gathered there and Katsuki openly looked out for other children his age.

At exactly 10:00, the principal stepped up to greet everyone. She was tall, slender, had a shock of pure white hair and no arms. Katsuki eyed her high, pointy-heeled shoes and thought she looked ready to topple over. 

“Good morning, everyone. Welcome to Dōryoku Daiichi! I’m the principal, Naruse Kikyō.” Her voice was delicate but with a hint of something that made Katsuki straighten up and listen.

“We’re glad that the junior high freshmen’s parents and guardians are here. I hope you’ll be able to join us next week for the opening ceremony as well. Even now the faculty and staff are busy decorating the Main Hall and the Founder’s Garden. It's going to be so beautiful!”

She went on, voice somehow becoming even softer, "Please excuse me, this weather does not agree with me."

Katsuki's not sure what the principal meant. Because it's cool outside, the sky's clear and the cherry trees are just waiting to erupt in full, beautiful bloom.

The principal looked at the row of teachers standing behind her. Two of them stepped forward— one, a broad man with dark blue skin, bringing an intricate yet advanced-looking wheelchair that the principal immediately sat on. The other was a cheerful-looking young woman with bouncy pink hair.

“For the university students, please proceed to the East Building. Student guides will be there to show you around, thank you.” She said and then repeated it in English, for the sake of the foreign students who did not know Japanese. “High school students, please go with Naruse-kōchō sensei to the Central Building.”

When everyone else cleared out to familiarise themselves with the facilities, Katsuki noticed most kids only came with their mom or older siblings. The dads were probably saving leave days from work for the opening ceremony. The teacher started to distribute a bunch of papers. 

“Hello. My name is Kamei Chiharu. I’m the homeroom teacher for Junior High 1-1.” She bowed to the parents. “Please see the class list and group yourselves accordingly. Class 1 to the right, Class 2 here in the middle and Class 3 to the left. Some of the children listed may not be here. We have a few students coming in from the affiliated grade school and they can skip the orientation.”

“Ah, there you are.” Katsuki’s dad said, scanning the list. Their name must be pretty easy to find, assuming the list was alphabetical. “You’ll be in Class 1.”

Katsuki peered at the list and found his name right after Abe Hajime and Aikawa Shizuka. He took the piece of paper from his dad and flipped it over, hoping for more information than just a list of names.

As the parents and children coalesced into 3 distinct groups, Kamei-sensei raised her voice to inform them that they will start at the Library, do a quick tour of the public areas of the Research Center, and then go to the West Building. “The junior high students wouldn’t really need to frequent the Student Center so we’ll skip it. But it’s the S-shaped building along the Sōryū River.” Before the welcome lunch is served in the Grand Hall, they will take a look at the Sports Grounds, the Student Arena and the Cafeteria.

Although everyone was listening, a murmur was also starting to rise amongst the crowd.

“Woah, look at that!” one of the other kids shouted in excitement.

The parents closest to his were also sounding intrigued. “It’s quite a rare family name. You don’t think it can be anyone else, do you, honey?”

“And the boy’s name. Quite straightforward don’t you think?”

A boy with levitating soot-black hair was shaking his mom's arm wildly. "Do you think he'd know where All Might is? Endeavor must know so he should, too, right?"

“Hey, what’s everyone talking about?” His mom asked. “Katsuki, let me see that.”

But Katsuki was already looking at the names, scanning it for what might be of particular interest. And there, listed way below his, also in Class 1, was the name Todoroki Shōto. 

Todoroki.

“The Number 2!” he gasped. “I’ll be classmates with Flame Hero: Endeavor's son!”

Katsuki could not wait.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Two months into junior high and any thoughts Katsuki might have had about being rivals with Endeavor's son has, ironically, not gone up in flames.

Because Todoroki Shōto is somehow both a dramatic asshole and a damn bore.

The day they introduced and demonstrated their Quirks to the class for the first time, Katsuki was amazed by the potential of having a fused Quirk that were opposites. Unlike his, which was a perfectly complementary fusion– his dad's nitric acid combining with his mom's glycerin– Todoroki's ice and fire could achieve different things while also balancing the drawbacks of the other.

Except Todoroki stubbornly refused to use his left side.

Sure, Quirk Studies only made up 2 out of 6 periods and their grades would still be determined by other core subjects. But being free to use and explore their Quirk during that time was the selling point of the school, so what gives? Quirk research and exploration set Dōryoku apart. And yet, Todoroki seemed to have no interest in developing the flames that Endeavor gave him. He could make do with using only his ice and the faculty had some kind of unspoken rule to not mention it. Thus, Katsuki steadily lost interest. What's the point of competing with someone who's only giving a half-assed effort?

Katsuki wasn't gonna waste his time on someone else’s identity crisis.

For the first term, Class 1 (on the exploration track) would be quantifying their Quirk's 'power level' based on individual criteria and finding their limits. In the second term, they're supposed to come up with ways to push those limits, with help from Classes 2 and/or 3 (on the research track) as a group effort. And finally, they will present a practical application of their work and research in the third term.

While the other kids in his class can do their quirk explorations safely enough at the Student Arena with Kamei-sensei supervising, Katsuki and Todoroki did their testing at the university's Research Center.

He'll make his way there for 5th and 6th period after he's done with lunch at the Cafeteria, which itself still felt new to him. After having gone to public school his entire life, not having meals in the classroom with the rest of his classmates was odd. Students not having to do chores was even weirder, which his mom laughed at when he brought it up. (Consequently, Katsuki found himself being made to do chores constantly around the house, despite his studies and new workout schedule.)

Somewhat surprisingly, he also found himself eating lunch quite regularly with a girl from Class 1-2, Hatsume Mei. She was loud, assertive, competitive and really smart. Katsuki was annoyed with how much he was okay with tolerating her. At least she always had clear demands and expectations.

"Have you submitted us as a group for second term projects yet?" She asked again, after slurping up the last of her strawberry milk.

"I just told you yesterday and the day before that, didn't I? It's too early. I don't even know what project I want to do yet!"

She smacked the table. "Does it matter? I'll make you a super good item and then you'll beat Todoroki among the combat types in your class and I'll be the best in the research track!"

"The competition’s few and far between. I assumed most everyone would be combat, but there’s a lot of mental and passive AoE types instead.” He grumbled. “Todoroki can eat sand. I don't care what that moron does."

"If he does eat sand, can he heat it up? Do you think anything will happen or is his temp control only external? Is it even temperature control, or he’s just emitting actual fire and ice? From where though? Can he forge things within his body? Is that a thing??"

"Sometimes your Zoom is too far ahead of you, you see into crazy territory."

Hatsume cackled. "Ha! Yeah maybe I do!" Katsuki wanted to smack his own forehead.

By the end of term, he settled on a project to see if his sweat can be used as a contact or plastic explosive to be used as a standby weapon, instead of him detonating it immediately. Handling and transporting his explosive sweat is something he always worried about in the first years of his Quirk manifesting–  his parents and teachers were taught to carry alcohol and absorbents such as wood bark or diatomaceous earth which can be disposed and deflagrated safely in shielded blast-resistant enclosures. Turning what used to be a disadvantage into a weapon he can wield with control sounded totally cool!

Since his sweat is less potent and volatile than pure nitroglycerin, him and Hatsume (they ended up as a team after all) were working out by how much it was weaker (could be a negative), easier to transport (definitely a positive) or both (a workable middle ground).

They met and consulted with some of the university students over the summer. Slowly, the idea was taking shape. To counteract the buildup required for him to powerfully utilize his Quirk, it would be helpful if he can safely store and transport his explosive sweat in a device. When Hatsume first showed him a sketch of the prototype as approved by their senpai, Katsuki was never more amazed at how much nerds working together can do.

If his heartbeat skipped over that thought, he told himself it was due to excitement over their research into support items and not stifled and hidden feelings over any nerd in particular.

 

---

 

Classes halted for the junior high and high school students for a few days a week to prepare for the annual Sports Day. Their school was hosting this year and not only were students competing within their year level, they would also compete with their visiting rivals from Sōmei.

The mood leading up to the Sports Day was electrifying. His mom told him that banners were posted all over the streets near Sōmei's campus in Tokyo as well.

With the school event being an open-day designed to entertain and raise funds for the local community, Saitama prefectures' Hero Agencies provided security and support. And since his son was also participating, Endeavor and a few of his sidekicks also made an appearance.

Katsuki competed in the obstacle course race and finished within the top 10 along with 4 of his classmates, splitting the finalists equally among Dōryoku and Sōmei first years. They went on to represent for the 2000 meter steeplechase event. His Quirk training included a lot of parkour, which was perfect for vaulting over the barriers and the water jump. He only really faced competition from Todoroki and two students from Sōmei– there was Four-Eye with the leg engines and Vine Hair girl, both of whom failed to pace themselves and fizzled out towards the end.

Todoroki covered his lane with ice and skated the entire way. He was 4.16 seconds faster than Katsuki but since he didn't technically negotiate any of his barriers nor made any actual jumps, he was disqualified. The fucking idiot.

Overall, Katsuki took home individual medals for the obstacle course, the steeplechase and the long jump, plus team medals for tug of war and 4-person cycling (which was a damn mess and never to be repeated again). His parents cheered the whole time and his mom got about 6000 photos for the family album.

It was amazing. Next year, he'll round out his experience by signing up for war games, which was apparently Sōmei's specialty.

 

---

 

After his stellar performance during the Sports Day, Katsuki found himself interacting a lot more with the faculty— especially the principal. His student profile probably contained somewhere that he knew how to play drums because, seemingly out of nowhere, Naruse-kōchō sensei was signing him up to be included in the school's kumi-daiko ensemble drum group.

"But, I don't know how to play taiko drums." Katsuki said to the club president the moment the Principal left them alone in the clubroom.

The answering laughter caused the lights to flicker in tempo. "But do you want to learn? It's so cool!"

He'd seen taiko performances before. They looked awesome and intense with their slanted drums and the different shouts and stances they had. 

"Yeah okay count me in, senpai."

Similarly, despite his reluctance to participate in his own class' Cultural Festival booth, he was somehow roped into being a member of the team providing special effects for the high school senior's ambitious drama-comedy play.

"Thanks for your hard work, Bakugō-kun!" 

"What a good kōhai! Haha, look at him pretending to scowl!"

Academically, he was battling Todoroki and Makunōchi Hina, a girl who can affect appetite through vocal suggestion within 150cm radius, for the top spot following the term-ender exams. So when classes resumed in January, Katsuki refocused on academics. After-class hours were reserved only for his research project with Hatsumei.

He was glowing with pride when they presented before a panel of their faculty a plan for his first ever support item: utility gloves connected to a reservoir. The idea was for him to wear gloves that can wick or connect to some kind of storage device which he can use as additional weaponry or as a boost at the start of fights if he's not heavily sweating yet. Having all necessary processes within a portable item would be their next challenge in second year. If successful, he should be able to use his sweat as a contact explosive or to supercharge his self-detonations.

The parent-teacher-student meeting with Kamei-sensei before the closing ceremony summarized his first year at junior high school quite succinctly.

"Bakugō-kun is on track to be one of the most accomplished students we've ever had at his level."

Katsuki was reminded of the odd sort of fortune he got one of the times he'd been approached by the Principal. Coming out from the senior high school hallways, she motioned him to come close to her wheelchair and said, 

"If you let go of what limits you, you can achieve greatness you haven't even imagined." She seemed near-asleep afterwards so he escorted her to the Administrative Offices before heading back to class. He really wanted to know what the Principal's Quirk was!

After the meeting, his parents took him to his favorite fast food place. With an approved diet and training plan, eating there every once in a while was a treat.

He ordered a Level 5 vegetable curry with tonkatsu while his mom went for grilled pork with kimchi and his dad chose a Level 3 beef curry with creamed croquette.

"I knew Dōryoku would be good for you, but I didn't think it would be this good," his mom beamed at him. "Are you happy, Katsuki?"

He swallowed, loving the heat of the curry rice, and nodded. "I really enjoy it there. I would have missed out on so much if I stayed in public school."

His dad gave him half of his croquette. "I guess you were feeling like a shark in a fish bowl back in grade school, weren't you?"

"At the time I thought I was already busy…" With school and special classes and drums and English and all the times he spent with–

"You were! How did my son become such a capable young man?" His mom wiped at his face with a tissue. "Look at him, he's supposed to be my little baby!"

"Kā-san," he whined. "I'm actually really awesome, you know!"

"Top grades. Amazing final presentation. Extracurriculars in both culture and sports. And even collaborating with high school and university upperclassmen," his dad enumerated. "I wonder if Izuku-kun would be happy or jealous with how social you'd become, son. You know, when he gets back."

"Gets back? What d'you mean?"

His mom flashes a quick look at his dad, and then back at him.

"Katsuki, you know we still see Inko-san, every now and then, don’t you?" she said. "Izuku-kun, well. He's no longer in Musutafu."

"What?"

"Inko-san was quite vague with the details to be honest. But Izuku-kun apparently found a, uh–" His dad looked to his mom. "A master? Some kind of sponsor?"

"Yes that's right. And then moved to study somewhere else." His mom confirmed. "I think it might be a town-based scholarship or something."

Huh? Izuku wasn't in junior high school locally? He was no longer in Musutafu at all? Is that why Katsuki had not even seen him by chance anywhere? Since when did this happen? A mentor? A scholarship?

"What?"

"Finish eating. And drink, here." His dad said, refilling his water. "There's something that's been waiting for you at home."

 

---

 

After Katsuki washed up and changed clothes, he sat down with his parents by the kitchen island, where his mom was already brewing tea.

"A few days before the school year started, Izuku-kun came by. He dropped this off." His mom slid an envelope along the marble counter. "I didn't know at the time, but I guess that was just before he left."

"Why didn't you give it to me?"

"What? You already forgot how you blew your head off anytime Izuku-kun was brought up?"

"I did not–"

"Yes, you did. Your dad and I didn't think you'd like to read it then. So we waited."

His dad finally came down from their room, too. "We thought you'd just blow it up. And it'll be unfair to Izuku-kun's feelings for you to do that."

"But then you were adjusting to your new school. And little by little you seemed to be getting over it— whatever it was that drove the rift between you two."

His mom set a cup of tea down in front of him.

"You don't talk about him at all. Based on the fact that you didn't know, you clearly  didn't call or ever come by their apartment."

"It's not my fault! He was supposed to–"

"Whatever it was," his dad interrupted. "I hope Izuku-kun's letter can give you what you're looking for."

Katsuki snapped his mouth shut and angrily swiped the letter from the counter, narrowly missing the teacup beside it.

"Sorry, not in the mood for tea." He said. "I'll be in my room."

He shut the door and flung himself on his bed, crinkling the Hero Weekly magazines he was reading the night before. For a brief moment, he contemplated just shoving the letter in the tiny space between his bed and the wall and letting it gather dust there. But he was gripped with curiosity.

Katsuki ripped the edge of the envelope off and shook the letter out. Almost a year later, he finally read Izuku's parting words.

 

---

Kacchan,

I really don't know how to start this letter. I already tried writing to you before but it was all jumbled and I kept scratching things out and skipping. I'm gonna copy some parts so I hope this is the one. Are you even reading this? I really hope you read it.

I miss you Kacchan. I really miss calling you Kacchan too. I'm sorry about calling you Bakugō. It was kinda petty, huh? If you want, you can keep calling me Deku though. I keep messing up, don't I?

A few days after graduation, something amazing happened! I met a retired Hero! I asked him if I can be one too even if I'm Quirkless. Do you want to know what he said? 

At first he said almost the exact same thing you did, Kacchan. But then, as I told him about my dreams and the things I hope for, he told me he understood me. He said I reminded him of himself when he was young. He said that if I'm ready and willing, he can help me to become a Hero too.

It's unbelievable. I couldn't even find a new dojo that would take me but now I have a Hero who's gonna be my mentor. Only mom knows. It's supposed to be a secret that he's taken on an apprentice. I'm not even supposed to tell anyone this much but I wanted to at least tell you something. Out of anyone, I needed to tell you.

I have to leave Musutafu to train with him. He wants to avoid the Kantō region entirely. It's gonna be a new thing for me. You know I haven't travelled much at all. I'm not sure yet, but I think we might move around Kyūshū? I think it'll be nice to see the inland sea of Japan. Don't you think so?

I'm really excited but I'm also scared. He's expecting so much from me. I'm expecting a lot more. I want to be a Hero. I want to be able to master my body and find my strength. I want to use it to save people. I'm going to work really hard. I hope I can make it. I hope I don't let myself down. I hope I don't let him down.

I don't know how long it will take. I don't know when I'll get back. I hope when I do, I can see you again. I want to see you. I hope you'll be proud of me. I hope you'll be happy to see me. I'm gonna catch up to you, I swear!

When we fought. When I asked you why you even cared about me. I'm sorry Kacchan. I know why. Of course I know. I always have. Please don't think I don't. I know what we mean to each other. What you mean to me. You just really caught me off guard and you blindsided me. I wasn't ready to hear those things from you. 

You really hurt me, you know? When we meet again, I'll want an apology from you too. Don't forget!

But I know why you said those things. I'm choosing to think it's because you care about me. And not because you don't believe in me. That's right, isn't it, Kacchan? It has to be, right? So like I said. I'm gonna train hard. I'll eat well and run and swim and lift weights and learn how to fight. So that you don't have to worry about me. So that I can stand in the same ring as you.

I know you're doing fantastic. Kacchan is so amazing! When I get back, I'll ask your mom to show me all the pictures I'm sure she's gonna take. 

Try to be nice and make new friends ok? Don't eat lunch on your own. Join some clubs and have fun at school festivals. Don't be too competitive. And don't lose your temper too much. I want you to have a beautiful and sparkling youth to remember in the future.

Go to summer festivals with your friends.  See the cherry blossoms. Eat yakisoba and kakigori to keep you full and cooled down. See the fireworks. And go to the beach. Go mountain climbing. Have the best time ok?

I'm going to think of you. All the time. When it's hard and I want to give up, I'll think of your strength and confidence. When I can't keep my eyes open while studying, I'll think of your intelligence and determination. When I'm homesick and I miss my mom and her cooking and your voice and your laughter, I'll think of how much I love both of you.

If it's ok, visit my mom, won't you? She'll be worried about me and she'll be alone at home. Ask her where I am so you can imagine me. If I'm by the sea or the mountains or some busy city. But don't ask for my number. Please. I can't be distracted. If I know how to text or call you, I'll want to do it all the time. And I shouldn't. We're both gonna work hard, right?

I love you Kacchan. I hope you'll wait for me.

Keep safe. Be happy. Be healthy.

Yours,
Izuku

---

"You little shit."

Katsuki carefully folded the paper and placed the letter back in the envelope. Tucked it under some books stored in his study desk.

He threw the magazines onto the floor and climbed back into bed. Hiked up the blanket over himself and held on tightly to a pillow.

His eyes stung and his throat burned.

"I want to see you. I want to see you, too." 

Voice breaking as he cried in the silence of his own room, out loud for the first time,

"I love you. I love you."

 

Chapter Text

 

"When we first met, you asked me if you could be a Hero. I was unjustly dismissive of you, purely because you were a child— too idealistic, too optimistic, unable to come to grips with your reality. I somehow forgot that I was the exact same. A Quirkless kid with an unreachable dream, with no way to make it a reality. Until someone believed in me.

I wanted to create a symbol that can deter and stop evil in its tracks, so that people can live their lives with a smile. You want people to empower themselves. There's no such thing as strong or weak, just pushing through despite the odds or giving up without a fight, huh? Regardless which is wrong or right, you have a heroic and generous spirit and that is why I acknowledged and trusted you.

You've been learning and growing with me for two years. Two years away from loved ones. Carrying the burden of my secret and exceeding all my expectations. I believe your body is now ready to accept this Quirk. If you wish to return and study in Yūei, then you'll have a year to get used to having this power as your own before you do so.

But before I give you my power, you have to know its true history. Where it came from and what it means to be its next wielder and successor.

My Quirk is called One For All. Long ago, in the dawn of superhuman evolution, there was a man who held great power. His name has been lost to time. All that remains is what he came to be known as, which is also the name of his Quirk– All For One.

He had the power to forcibly take and give Quirks. With this, he ruled the underbelly of society and fostered fear, greed and malice throughout the nation. He subdued enemies by taking their Quirks and built his army by granting Quirks to others.

All the while, he had a younger brother who tried to stop and defeat him. But the younger brother was frail, sickly and Quirkless. I don't know if he thought it a kindness or a cruel joke, but All For One gave his brother a stockpiling Quirk, a shadow of his own ability to amass power. But unknown to both of them, the younger brother had a latent Quirk, one which granted him the power to transfer his Quirk to another.

And so the Quirk to stockpile power and the Quirk for passing itself on merged together as One For All!

Without a chance of defeating his older brother, One For All's first wielder entrusted it to another, hoping that one day the power will grow strong enough to be a match to All For One. This Quirk has been handed down through generations, each time getting stronger, carrying the wish and promise of all seven wielders who came before me to defeat the greatest evil.

When I retired five years ago, it was after the final battle where I defeated All For One and was gravely injured and weakened as a result.

But evil can't ever really be vanquished. As long as there is light, there will be a shadow to match it. I don't know what or who will rise next, but no matter what, One For All will be there, with a wielder who will use it to safeguard people's lives, minds and hearts.

This Quirk cannot be forcibly taken. But it can be forcibly given, a sign of the cruelness with which it was born, and the desperation through which it has been passed on. And yet I will ask you. Because you are a dear student of mine. Because I see you now more like the son I never had. Knowing this dark and painful history — will you accept? Midoriya-shōnen, will you take on the responsibility of having One For All?"

"Yes. Yes I will."

 

---

 

3日 5月, Higashikawa.

Izuku was slightly early for hiking season. Most of the people on the bus with him coming from the airport or elsewhere in the city were going to the mountains for a last go at the ski slopes or to enjoy the onsen instead.

He tied the bear bell to his pack (required by the national park), rechecked the tightness of the laces on his boots and pulled his hood over his head.

The trail up to Sugatami Pond from the Asahidake Ropeway Station was punctuated by the sound and smell of sulfur and steam vents. He took the left trail and followed it for almost 4 kilometers before he reached the rim of the caldera. He washed his hands in the hot springs, thankful for a break against the cool, dry wind.

Yagi-sensei's description of using One For All for the first time being like having a battery assisting to pedal a bike was precisely right. Even after an hour-long trek with medium visibility, Izuku reached the peak of the mountain without feeling much exertion. Just the slightest use of the Quirk allowed him to imagine how All Might could create vortexes and hurricanes with just his punches. 

The view from the top was bittersweet due to the weather. Instead of seeing the expansive vista and enjoying the alpine plants and flowers, Izuku was instead enveloped by mist and cloud all around, obscuring the way he came and the surroundings below. Kind of poetic, if I think about it. Is this how All Might feels, alone at the top?

After the years they've spent together— mostly in Hagi in Yamaguchi prefecture, with excursions around nearby Chūkogu and Kyushu— Izuku most often thinks of his childhood idol as Yagi-sensei instead of his Hero alias. It's been a while since Izuku saw him in his All Might form as well. Discussions in the media and online forum speculate the 'truth' about All Might's sudden disappearance from the public— the leading theories are that he was bought by the US for cloning research or that he's secretly in an undercover mission in China— but he's really just in an old samurai town, healing and recuperating, and training the boy that he entrusted his power to.

Atop the highest peak in Hōkkaido, Izuku takes a deep breath and exclaims for himself and to the world,

"I will master this power and make it my own. I will use it to save and protect people. I will be the greatest Hero and make the world a better place!"

 

---

 

Before checking in, he stopped at a bicycle shop with a list of bikes he's researched online. When he told the shopkeeper about his plan to cycle to the south of the country— to which the reply was to ask if he was a monk trainee— he was recommended a beautiful, titanium-frame touring bike. The design and features were fit for long hours on the road and can still allow him to go fast when he chose to.

Afterwards, he found good and cheap accommodations and booked a day. He sent a text to his mom and then made a phone call after asking the innkeeper for breakfast. It was picked up on the second ring.

"Midoriya-shōnen! How was your flight? Where are you right now?"

"Just got back from the top of Mt. Asahi. It was very cold but I loved it. I’m staying at a ryokan near the ropeway station." he replied. "It’s so exciting! I wish you could have gone with me, Yagi-sensei."

A sigh on the other end. "If only my health was better, my boy.”

“Did you hear back from the healer from Russia? What did they say?”

“I’m not sure if healer is the right word. Maybe more like… a mystic? The Quirk seems to be less physical and based more on verbal incantations. I’ve seen that work wonders before. But it is also the realm of fake artists, unfortunately.” Yagi-sensei stated. “I have some friends looking into it anyway so don’t worry yourself over it. This trip is yours. I want you to be as selfish as possible.”

Ano… I bought a really expensive bike.”

Yagi-sensei's laughter boomed. “My agency will cover it. I told you, you can do whatever you want. How long do you plan on staying in Hōkkaido?”

“I want to see the sights. Hiking and exploring Daisetsuzan alone should take a couple of days." He murmured thanks when he was served a pot of green tea. "I don't know, maybe take the long way 'round? See some of the small coastal towns?"

“Where are you keeping your output? Are you utilising 5% already?”

“I feel like I could have, but I'm staying at 1% just like I practiced this last month.” he said. “I want to keep slow and steady. Just to be safe.”

“That’s good. You want your body to be used to holding and using that much energy. When you get back, we’ll work on some moves.” His sensei stated. “I’m so proud of you, Midoriya-shōnen.”

“Thank you, sensei.” Izuku answered, heart full and warm.

 

---

 

7日 5月, Obihiro.

GH10012.mp4
[Izuku doing knife throwing drills at the museum connected to the Northern Office of the Hero Commission]

GS_0028.jpg
[closeup on a shopfront displaying tinned wild bear meat]

 

---

 

8日 5月, Erimo.

GH010045.mp4
[harbor seals basking on jutting rocks approximately 5 meters away]

GH020045.mp4
[POV shot of seals swimming underwater]

GH030045.mp4
[slow motion selfie of Izuku wearing a wetsuit, awestruck as 3 seal puppies circle him underwater]

 

---

 

9日 5月, Shinhidaka.

Draft

To:
I already saw the sakura trees bloom in Fukuoka back in March, but being at Nijikken-dōro is magical! Seven kilometers with 3000 trees almost at full bloom.

Just early enough that the tourists haven't come yet and I could ride my bike down the road with only a few pedestrians and other cyclists. (I saw pictures online and the road was filled with cars. Not the same effect!)

Let's go together some day, Kacchan.

 

---

 

11日 5月, Shikotsu-Tōya National Park.

With not much light left by the time he reached campgrounds the night before, stepping out of his tent at sunrise was Izuku’s first chance to properly see Lake Shikotsu.

The lake was flanked on both sides by mountains and the water was crystal clear. After stretching and sprinting to warm up, Izuku activated his Quirk, now at 3% power, and jumped into the cool water.

The techniques he learned when transitioning from pool to open water training in Yamaguchi allowed him to swim up to 2000 uninterrupted strokes. Perhaps due to his own injuries, Yagi-sensei tended to focus Izuku's training on endurance and building a strong aerobic base.

"Your Quirk gives you increased strength by itself. And you can build your body slowly over time." Izuku remembered Yagi-sensei saying. "But you should be able to handle day-long patrols, extended missions, chases, staggered fights and other Hero work. You can't help the most number of people if you're only good in bursts."

His thoughts were interrupted by a strange sensation. It's distinctly like the feeling of being watched from a distance. No sooner than this thought came to mind, Izuku hears a female voice in his head.

"Hey, so sorry to use my Quirk on you without permission first! But are you okay? Do you need help? You're really far away from the shore and this lake is very deep."

So completely off-guard, Izuku forgets his training for a few seconds and thrashes in the water before finally getting his bearings. He looked around at the landscape features to mark his position.

"What's this? Can you hear me too? Do I have to talk out loud?" He asked. "Huh, where are you? Are you in the water? Ahhh this is so creepy!"

He hears snickering followed by, "I'm on the shore. I can see you using a spotting scope. And I can't see a boat you might have jumped off from. Daijōbu? "

"I'm fine! Thank you for worrying. I'm just swimming!"

"If you're sure. Have fun then!" said the voice.

Huh. What a great Quirk!

 

---

 

As luck would have it, Izuku hears the voice again— with his ears and not inside his head this time— during lunch at a small eatery near the Visitor Center. He was digging into his sashimi platter of himemasu salmon caught in Lake Shikotsu itself when he heard the voice again, exclaiming, "This is the place with the cheese potato mochi and the curry-onut!"

Izuku turned towards the entrance and saw a group of 4 young adults. He made eye contact and the woman's eyes widened.

"Swimmer-san! ” She said, stepping close to Izuku’s table. “Eh, you're a kid!"

Izuku bowed. "Nice to meet you. I'm—" He flashes back to Yagi-sensei recommending he use an alias when introducing himself. "Please call me Deku."

Why am I still using that nickname?

The voice turned out to belong to Yamamoto Natsuki, a first-year university student from Sapporo who was sightseeing with a couple of foreign exchange students. She’s apparently told her companions about spotting him in the lake. They were intrigued and asked if it was okay to join him at the table. Izuku was quite shy about speaking in English but he was glad that he could talk to them, even though speaking too casually took some getting used to.

“...as long as you have a clear line of sight, you can have two-way communication. Woah!” Izuku excitedly said, when Yamamoto-san explained her Quirk.

“Haha, you really have that otaku mindset! I can see why you want to be a Hero.” she replied. 

"I never cared much about Heroes— in my country, elite Quirked individuals are conscripted into the Bundeswehr. Is it normal to start Hero training so young in Japan?” Fritz-san, one of the foreign students, asked. “And while you’re doing this, are you out of school? You’re not taking classes? Can you go to high school next year?”

“I’m enrolled in an accredited free school system—” Izuku turns to Yamamoto-san to ask her to translate that it’s usually for students with disabilities or those with Quirks not suitable around other people. “We have the option to take national tests.”

Yamamoto-san briefly explained about the history of Heroes and the professionalisation of the occupation. The talking points that came after, which became even more diversified when Kimathi-san and Zhao-san came back with their food, were too complex (and spoken with higher-proficiency English than Izuku could easily follow).

After their meal, Izuku excused himself to pack up his tent, bike and other things. He rode for almost 4 hours before finally checking in at an onsen ryokan at the shores of Lake Tōya. Before going to the bath to rest his body, he sent a voicemail to his mom and an email to Yagi-sensei with a photo of him and the university students with the soft-serve cones they ordered for dessert.

I met some university students on a roadtrip today. The exchange students made me curious about Heroes in their own countries. I’d love to hear more of your stories abroad! Good night, sensei.

 

---

 

13日 5月, Sapporo.

Draft

To:
Kacchan, where in Sapporo do your grandparents live? Is it weird if

 

---

14日 5月, Iwanai.

[Voicemail - 00:01:32]

Hello, Mom! How’s graduate school? I hope you’re remembering to rest! Today I'm in Iwanai and I'm looking at the sea as I call you. You'll be glad to know that I'm eating well. But of course I always miss your cooking!  

Most of the old fishermen I helped with carrying their catch were Quirkless but they were strong from decades of labor and being in the sea. They thought my Quirk was having green hair!

In a few days I’ll reach the southern tip of Hōkkaido. I’ll stay in Hakodate to study and then take the midterm exams before heading back to the mainland. 

I miss you, Mom. Please take care. Bye.

 

---

 

16日 5月, Yakumo.

GS_0203.jpg
[landscape shot of a shrine built on top of a huge pyroclastic rock formation]

GH010153.mp4
[Izuku doing Tai Chi with an elderly group in the wide green lawns of Funka Bay Panorama Park, overlooking Uchiura Bay]

GS_0161.jpg
[selfie of Izuku holding up a paper bag from the Oguri Farm Cheese Shop in front of openly grazing dairy cows]

 

---

 

24日 5月, Hakodate.

The Hakodate Central Library was a beautiful sprawling building located near the historic star-shaped fort Goryōkaku, which housed government buildings and majority of the aquatic-focused Hero agencies guarding the island's southern border.

Every day for the past week, Izuku got up early and went for a run in and around the park grounds, catching sight of Heroes, Sidekicks and Interns on patrol every once in a while. After a quick shower and breakfast, he'd hole up in the library from half past nine until closing at eight, going over books, modules, lessons and mock exams, with only lunch and a snack to break up study time.

Sometimes he'd do chair squats and other core resistance exercises, but more often than not he's entirely consumed by problem solving, memorization and reading. Intermittently studying while on the road and listening to lectures while cycling can only take him so far, after all.

But with all that prep, he feels quite ready for today. 1 ½ hours each for Japanese and Social Studies in the morning (with 30 minutes in between), an hour break for lunch, and the same for Maths and Sciences in the afternoon. 

Bright and early, he heads to Seisho Municipal Academy where he, along with others from similar free schools or even homeschooling, was assigned by his school to sit his 3rd year junior high midterm exams.

 

---

 

24日 5月 • 16:17 PM

I'm done! I think I did ok but it was brutal! (ᗒᗣᗕ)՞

24日 5月 • 18:42 PM

Don't worry about it dear I'm sure you did your best!
Have you had dinner yet?

I had kaisendon again o(≧▽≦)o
Walking back to the minshuku
Very tired today from all the tests

Make sure to dry your hair after your bath ok?
Have a good night's sleep Izuku.

Good night mom!
Take care on the way home ⊂(・ω・*⊂)

 

---

 

25日 5月, from Hakodate to Fukushima.

As the days passed and Izuku moved ever southward, the chill that lingered made way for moderate temperature. He had donated his winter gear back in Sapporo to lessen his load to just his panniers containing a few change of clothes, sun protection, wallet and tech (laptop, phone, cameras, chargers), resistance bands, jumping rope, wetsuit, tent, basic bike repair equipment and whatever food and drink he may have while riding.

And it was a sunny and slightly breezy day when he rode from Hakodate towards the small town of Fukushima, the ocean bright and beautiful at his side as he kept to the coastline. Every few hours he spots the Tōhoku-Hōkkaido shinkansen whipping past, bright green and white mirroring the shimmering waters along its route.

"When I master this power, I'm gonna run alongside a shinkansen and see how going that fast feels!"

In Fukushima, Izuku sees a mirror of other small towns he passed along his journey. Sparsely populated with no Hero agencies or schools. In areas like this, Quirks that manifest are often less powerful not because of anything to do with the geography but because people are drained, attracted towards the big cities.

Izuku visited the Seikan Tunnel Museum  which preserves and displays artifacts regarding the building of the undersea railway connecting Hōkkaido to the Tōhoku region centuries ago. He marvelled at how engineering and conventional construction was able to accomplish such a task. Nowadays, the tunnel was maintained by construction and transportation firms with special licenses to hire and deploy Quirked individuals for non-Hero labor.

At the area where Fukushima River meets the Sea of Japan, Izuku spies a line of people as well as various cargo converging on a small pier. That must be the thing Yagi-sensei told him about.

"Excuse me," he asked at what appeared to be the ticket booth. "How much for a ferry to Imabetsu?"

"With the bike, that'll be 2050 yen."

Izuku counts out the money and gets a small token in return. "Please surrender that before departure. Thank you."

After almost an hour, the required number of passengers must have been met and they were called on to a medium-sized boat. Izuku carries his bike and sees another sort of platform on the shore being loaded up with heavier cargo. Shortly after, 4 people dove into the water and the boat started moving. From the side he was sitting from, Izuku could see steam rising from the back of the platform carrying the cargo that was floating alongside the boat as well.

"Someone with steam power must be propelling the cargo. I wonder how the boat is moving. Are they all underwater? Are they just pushing us? Could it be someone has a Quirk that lets them remove or reduce surface tension or drag?" He muttered to himself, remembering every time he's swam with One For All activated, with his body feeling like it's just slicing through water with minimal effort.

He wanted desperately to jump overboard and observe but he didn't. Although use of Quirks in public for personal purposes was allowed (to a certain extent, following several guidelines), these people were engaging in illegal use of their Quirks by ferrying passengers and cargo without a special license. They might not take kindly to a kid nosing around asking about their powers.

They're offering illegal services for people who can't afford to travel by ferry, shinkansen or plane. Heroes are not the only ones using their powers to serve other people, and sometimes even 'bad' things are done for good.

Izuku thought back to Hero fights he'd watched as a kid and the reports of petty and organized crimes rising in the last few years since All Might's effective retirement. With so many people crammed within the cities, with disparate needs, wants and opportunities, how do people choose to use their Quirks? What drives some towards Villainy and criminal activity? What structures has even the Symbol of Peace himself let crumble in order for those people, in their conditions, to remain exploitable?

Izuku promised to keep these questions to the fore as he returned to the mainland, eager to continue on his journey.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

In his 3 year tenure at Dōryoku Daiichi, Katsuki's been called to the principal's office for a wide variety of things: to arrange interviews with the Office for Pair Management and Services (for his parents' confirmation and his and Izuku's candidacy); an investigation into vandalism of Sōmei's gym lockers; to ask him to stop pestering the head nutritionist for special spicy food; and to congratulate him for scoring the highest in various aptitude and national tests, among others.

What's different this time was that he was being called in along with Todoroki. Being matched up in grades and Quirks inevitably caused them to initially respect each other, which then evolved into a teasing, snarky kind of camaraderie. Plus, Katsuki was trying to be more social. Having one more person to regularly eat lunch with counts, right?

But they aren’t the sort of friends who got into shenanigans together, especially during preparations for the Cultural Festival. As members of Junior High 3-1, their horror booth was going all-out. Their class rep was a tiny girl, but really high-strung and loud, even without using her High Pitch. Katsuki was not gonna do anything to cause him to hear from her, no thank you.

"What do you imagine we're getting called in for, Bakugō?" Todoroki asked as they climbed the stairs towards the principal's office in the Central Building. There were elevators but they were generally reserved for mobility-impared students and staff, or when hauling heavy load.

"Dunno. I thought you might've reported your Pops and just needed me for moral support actually."

Todoroki glared at him. "Stop bringing it up. I told you I'll handle it on my own. My Pops is not as easy a matter as you think it is."

Yeah, okay, so maybe him and Todoroki were good enough friends to sometimes do personal talk. It all arose in their second year when Katsuki's parents went to talk to the class about being paired in case any of them were interviewed regarding Katsuki's candidate status. (Izuku's identity was not shared because, the two of them being apart, it was not relevant. His classmates would act as character witnesses for Katsuki more than anything else.)

Of course, him being pairborn and possibly paired as well was intriguing and Katsuki received a lot of attention for that. When Todoroki called him out to the Student Arena after classes, he thought he might be challenged to a fight. Instead Half & Half's opening salvo was to ask, "What's that like, when your parents genuinely love each other?"

To say that Todoroki's family story fucked him up would be an understatement. Katsuki had mashed up Quirks before— he and Izuku would make up their own Heroes with combined powers from different Quirks. It was kids' play. But to actually force a marriage to create children with powerful Quirks? It's barbaric.

"Whatever suits you, Icy Hot. But like I told you, the earlier you deal with it, the better. And not just for you."

Todoroki was tight-lipped about what happened to his mother and eldest brother, but Katsuki knows some bits about his siblings, Fuyumi-oneesan and Natsuo-oniisan. Their family dynamic was tragic and complex. No wonder Todoroki was so awkward around people. 

Still, Katsuki kept out of it, not knowing how to handle such a delicate situation. Every now and then, he'd rib Todoroki about reporting it to the authorities just to see if he might actually do it. For Katsuki, action was always better than inaction.

They entered the Administrative Offices and were welcomed by the head secretary. "Naruse-kōchō sensei is waiting in her office. Another student is in there, by the way."

Katsuki went in first and was greeted by two sets of eyes automatically being drawn towards him.

"Ah here you are, Bakugō, Todoroki. Come in, come over!"

"What are you doing here, Goggles?" Katsuki asked, standing near the pink-headed girl.

"For your information, I, genius inventor extraordinaire, am being recommended for Yūei's Support Course!" Hatsume announced, bouncing on the spot.

Todoroki, dry as always, just said. "Of course. Congratulations." 

"Huh? Recommendations for Support? Is that a thing?" Katsuki asked, never having heard of it.

The principal spoke up. "It's just not very common. Hatsume is the first one to get Dōryoku Daiichi's recommendation to Yūei's Department of Metallurgy, Materials and Support Technology in 3 years."

"What does that have to do with Bakugō-kun and me, kōchō-sensei?" 

"Entrance to Yūei's Support Course requires a written exam and a portfolio demonstration. May we request that you accompany Hatsume-kun to show off the support items she's developed in Quirk Studies and Research with you two?"

"Of course, sensei."

"Sure. No problem with me."

"Make sure to make my babies shine!" Hatsume said, before she was excused by the principal to return to festival prep.

"Was that all, Principal? Our class rep is m—"

"Of course not, Todoroki-kun. I also have an announcement for you. You and Bakugō-kun are also being recommended. For the Department of Heroics, naturally."

Katsuki could not help the giant smile overtaking his facial features. He did it! He's being recognized by an elite school for the most exclusive Hero Course in Japan!

The principal continued. "You may already know, but Yūei Kōkō's regular entrance exam consists of a written and a practical exam weighted at 40% and 60%. The recommendation entrance exams are different. Instead, it's a series of practical tests and an interview, both weighted for half the grade."

"And it's supposed to be even more difficult to pass, isn't it?" Todoroki asked.

"Yes. Recommended students are already at the top— needing endorsement from their school, a Pro Hero, or other reputable references. If a student cannot get in even with that kind of backing, well…"

Katsuki didn't need to hear the rest. The message was loud and clear. If you can't make it, you're kind of hopeless, aren't you?

Meeting up at lunch was interesting. Hatsume was loud as ever, over the moon, not once even considering the possibility that she would not get in. Todoroki seemed more subdued than usual. Katsuki was just antsy, raring to go.

"You'll be interviewed, huh?" Hatsume asked in between bites of yakitori. "Well, we already know Bakugō's gonna fail."

Todoroki snorted, narrowly avoiding sniffing noodles up his nose.

"What the fuck?! Say that again!"

"See? What charming personality."

"I'm a little bit worried." Todoroki interjected.

Katsuki and Hatsume stared at him.

"What? I am!"

Okay. Katsuki's gonna take the bait. "Why the fuck would you need to be worried? You're getting recommendations from the school and Endeavor Agency, right?"

"Well. What if they ask me to use my Flame?"

Hatsume motioned with her empty skewer. "What d'you mean what if, of course they're gonna ask you! It's a practical exam and last I checked your Quirk is literally Frost and Flame."

"Seriously, I hate to break this to you, but the whole not-using-your-fire thing has gotten really old." Katsuki chided. “No one appreciates the handicap. It’s quite insulting actually.”

"You know why I never use it—"

"I know. And it doesn't make sense."

"Wait, I still don't know!" Hatsume complained. "Why do you two have secrets? Tell me!"

Todoroki pretended not to listen. "And the interview. I wonder what they'll ask…"

“If I’m really mean, then you’re really boring—”

Hatsume cut in, "I can make an educated guess. It seems super obvious. But as your friend I'd still like to be told, you know?"

 

---

 

The recommendation exam takes place on the third Sunday of January, a week before the regular exam. In order to prepare, Katsuki had been coming to school to use the gym, track field and other facilities, even over winter break. A few other senior students who were gunning for Hero schools also came by, but a lot from their year level were continuing onto Dōryoku’s high school program, taking the exam for General Studies or were legacy students at hospital-sponsored high schools  instead.

Ordinarily, students with high-powered Quirks could schedule use of the protected areas of the Research Center. However, the university students were also on break and facilities were locked down. 

Katsuki just continued with his training program as usual— upper body weight training to enhance strength and ensure his arms, chest, back and shoulders could take his Quirk’s recoil, plus calisthenics and parkour for flexibility and mobility. Todoroki definitely had access to an advanced gym setup at home and yet Katsuki would often see him at the school gym too, doing his cardio, push, pull and leg exercises. Once per week, they skipped endurance training and would spar instead.

In almost no time, the day of the exam came.

 

---

 

The size of Yūei's campus dwarfed Dōryoku's which to Katsuki seemed insane, considering the former was only a high school and the latter included junior high to university. It was so massive that the recommended students had to be driven in a bus from the meeting place by the western gate just to get to the test area, Alpha Track Oval and Sports Field ("Alpha Field" in the map).

As soon as he stepped off, Katsuki realised the bus he’d been on with 8 other students and Todoroki must have been the second batch, because Four-Eyes from Sōmei was already on the track oval with the first batch, who seemed to have been instructed to come already wearing their P.E. uniforms. 

As they made their way to the starting line of the track oval where Present Mic was waiting, Katsuki saw their names flashing on a massive projected scoreboard, with 6 columns to the right which he assumed would be filled with scores from the various practical tests.

"Hey, hey, special boys and girls! Welcome to the Yūei Recommendation Entrance Examination, yeah!" The Voice Hero: Present Mic screeched. "Today you will perform in 6 tasks— 3 physical and 3 mental— and see if you can make it to the country's top Hero school! You will be recorded for the entirety of the exam. Strike a pose and flash those smiles! Are you readyyyy?!"

"Present Mic, sir! I have a question!"

Of course Pocket Square did.

"According to our head master, this exam has 2 stages— the practical test and the interview. Will the interview be held today as well?"

"Good question! Now, did you notice this line when looking at your names on the screen?" Present Mic gestured at a black line halfway through the names. On top of it, the columns blinked green, below it and they blinked red. "Depending on how you do in the tasks, you will be given a score. Fall below this line and you will not be qualified for the interview, which will happen afterwards, after a short break."

A girl with a high ponytail who was in regular athletic gear and not a school's P.E. uniform raised her hand.

"Does that mean only 10 of us will pass the exam?"

"Now, now, you should listen carefully. Only 10 will qualify for the interview. Usually, only 4 first-years get into Yūei through recommendation." Mic said, with a manic sort of glee. "But don't worry! If you fail, you can still take the regular exam. Recommended students don't need to have applied back in November."

Katsuki sidled up to Todoroki, the pair of them looking striking in Dōryoku's black military-style uniform, with the ceremonial cape folded over the left shoulder, showing the scarlet inner lining which matches the dual stripes down the side of their pants, tucked into knee-high boots. "Good luck to these sidekicks then. We're already taking half the spots."

Todoroki smirked. "That's the plan."

 

---

 

The second batch of students were handed over to The Bunshin Hero: Ectoplasm. They would complete the mental tasks before changing into P.E. uniforms and then doing the physical tasks after a warm-up period. Katsuki was unsure what to think— 'mental' might mean difficult exam questions, but what was the point in including it in the practical tests and omitting a written exam, if so?

"For this part of the practical test, you will be judged on your creativity, quick thinking, problem solving and ingenuity. All 3 tests will be taken individually. You may use your Quirks at any time. A pass is worth 10 points. A fail is worth 0 points. There are no partial points." Ectoplasm said, slow and steady. "You will find the instructions for the first 2 tests inside the respective tents. When you've finished, wait back here and I will prepare the other tent for you once it is free. You may take the 3rd test by approaching me after you've finished both. Read carefully. Good luck."

Ectoplasm digitally drew numbers on his touchpad and 5 of them were assigned to Tent 1, the other to Tent 2. Katsuki headed to Tent 1, excitement piqued. Inside, he found a long table depicting a countryside diorama— two swathes of golden rice fields divided by a river with actual standing water. In the water is a pair of tiny toy cows and a ship. Before Katsuki bothered to survey the rest of the items, he took the small envelope resting on top of the ship and read the instructions.

"Build a self-supporting bridge over the river using only items on this table. The bridge must be at least 20cm tall at the highest point and able to support the weight of the pony. You have 15 minutes. Time starts now."

A countdown timer was projected on one of the tent's walls.

"Okay, I should have looked at the stuff. Damn it, let's get things straightened out."

Carefully, he took all the items that were moveable and laid them down neatly: one envelope, one letter, 20 plastic straws, a deck of cards, 5 rubber bands, a ruler (marked "only for measuring"), a toy ship, 2 toy cows, 4 pieces of gum, a toy pony (to be supported, does not count as building material), 10 paper clips and 20 strands of uncooked spaghetti noodles.

"None of that is gonna work. These things will either break or not support the damn horse. And I am not chewing gum as adhesive. That's insane!" He processed verbally. "What's the trick?"

Picking up the letter, he read the instructions again. "Ectoplasm did say to read carefully." Time was at 13:32.

"Build a self-supporting bridge over the river using only items on this table. A self-supporting bridge..." He repeated. "Using only items on this— using only items on this table. That's it!"

Carefully, Katsuki ran his hands against the sides of the table, hoping for something hidden, like a recessed drawer or something. Finding none, he crouched down, careful not to bump his head.

Gotcha!

Katsuki found a pair of scissors, masking tape, molding clay and a handful of wooden building sticks taped to the bottom of the table. He glanced at the clock— 11:01, and got to building.

 

---

 

The second task took about as much time. Less intensive, but required very quick thinking. The letter instructed,

"Remain facing forward. Do not blink for at least 10 minutes. Time starts in 20 seconds. You will not be told when 10 minutes are up."

Do not blink. 10 minutes. Time starts in 20 seconds.

"Oh, shit. That's easy!"

Katsuki counted to 12 minutes just to be safe before he left the tent. A quick glance at the screen told him he passed the two tests and that two students failed Tent 1 and three students failed Tent 2. Todoroki already passed all 3 tests.

Ectoplasm was sitting at a table with a 3D-projected chess set in front of him. "Are we playing?" 

"Sit down. Do you know the rules of the game, young man?"

"Yes, sir. White moves first. We alternately take turns and movement on your turn is required. The aim is to trap the opponent's king." He recited. "I also know the pieces' allowed moves."

"Very good. Then, tell me: following the rules of the game, is this board position legal? Yes or no? You may only give one answer. You have 2 minutes."

The board was still on initial setup, except black pawn was at d5. Seriously, who thought up these tests?

"Yes, this position is legal."

"This marks the end of the mental part of the practical exams. You may change into your P.E.  uniform. Your bag is at the boys' locker rooms, to the left." Katsuki followed the teacher's gaze and saw one of his clones standing guard by the lockers. "When you're done, you can start warming up. Present Mic will preside over the physical tests."

He quickly changed and, with his uniform carefully hung up in the locker, Katsuki jogged up to where Todoroki was already stretching.

"I really thought that last one was gonna trip you up." The two-toned boy greeted.

"Shut up. What d'you do for Tent 2?"

Todoroki chuckled. "I used the letter to cover my face and then just counted out loud to 10 ½ minutes."

"And that counts as not blinking?"

"I got the points, didn't I? Why? What did you do?"

"I shut my eyes and counted silently in my head. So, are we gonna race or what?"

 

---

 

At the end of the practical exam, Katsuki got an overall score of 57 out of 60. Todoroki got 55. Four-Eyes and Skeleton Dude were tied in third at 50 and Ponytail got 47. Unless things went horribly wrong, the ones who'll get in would be among the 5 of them.

Having put on their junior high school's uniforms once more, Katsuki confirmed that Ponytail— who looked extra cozy wearing a knee-length fur-trimmed parka over casual clothes— was not from any public or private junior high school. She must be homeschooled or, more likely, privately tutored. Being in a different batch, he had no idea what her Quirk could be.

They were served snacks and tea in one of the rooms in the building complex near Alpha Field, to warm up from the cold and as a breather after the practical tests. After half an hour, the interviews commenced. 

When Katsuki entered the designated interview room, he saw a panel made up of 5 faculty members, all wearing formal attire in flipped Yūei colors— matching dark blue-green suits with light grey highlights in the shoulders, lapel and sleeves— seated together behind a long table. The only one he recognized out of costume was Cementoss, and Principal Nezu, for obvious reasons. The other men were a mystery.

The one sitting next to the principal had a tired-looking face with dark undereye circles and uneven stubble, plus long black hair tied back in a messy ponytail. The other one was wearing thin rimless glasses and had dark green hair with yellow highlights. Finally, the oldest among them, with long white hair tied in a traditional top bun, had huge, deep-set dark eyes on a gaunt, angular face. Despite the intimidating appearance, Katsuki thought he seemed kind and comforting.

Katsuki bowed before sitting down on a soft chair with a high back and no arm rests, his cape folded on his lap.

"Good morning, Bakugō-kun. Please make yourself comfortable," said the bear-mouse teacher. "I'm Nezu, principal of Yūei Kōtōgakkō. With me are head facilities manager, Cementoss, Class 1A adviser, Eraserhead, Class 3A adviser, Sir Nighteye—"

The principal motioned to each of them and Katsuki straightened up. Two of the men he didn't recognize were in charge of the top freshmen and graduating Hero classes.

"—and a very distinguished guest, coming out of retirement to join Yūei for the first time in April as Foundational Hero Studies teacher, Nintai Ryoku."

That piqued his curiosity even more. "You were retired, sir? How come? And where was your jurisdiction? I haven't heard of your Hero name before."

"Ah, you see—"

"Perhaps if you manage to end up enrolled, you can ask him your questions then." Eraserhead said.

Katsuki bristled. "Sumimasen."

"I can see here that you were enrolled in a Quirk Management class at age 6 until the end of elementary school. Why was that?" Sir Nighteye asked, as he flicked through a touch pad.

"My parents were scared that I might hurt myself and people around me. I could make bigger and stronger explosions by then. But it was really more like— I guess advanced baby sitting? With training and extra classes."

"And what sorts of management techniques were you taught?" asked Cementoss.

"My shishō always said I was impatient, so she had me meditating and doing breath exercises. She was tough, too. Made me run drills over and over as well as basic combat training." Katsuki replied. "Introduced me to rock climbing, and I fell in love with that. Just me and the wall. The physical effort and mental concentration. Something to do with my hands that didn't end with me blowing stuff up."

Nintai Ryoku nodded before noting, "And then you enrolled in Dōryoku Daiichi. A very prestigious school."

"Yes. I love it there. If I wanted to be anything else, I'd stay there. Honestly I think I'll take it even over Yūei's General Studies course." 

Eraserhead actually managed a smirk. "But?"

"But I want to be a Hero. I want to be like All Might, not an inventor like Professor David Shield or a member of All Medic."

"Even if your sweat can be refined into nitrates for cardiac medication, you would only count as a raw material supplier. The anonymous members sponsored by The All Might Foundation possess some of the best healing and regenerative Quirks in the world."

Nintai Ryoku sighed. "Mirai, please."

"Another All Might fan then, I take it, Bakugō-kun?" The principal asked, breaking up the weird tension.

"I'd be surprised if anyone applying wasn't. I'm not the biggest otaku I know, but I've liked Heroes my whole life. Ever since I first watched All Might beat Banded Mongoose on tv."

Cementoss smiled. "That's way back in the Golden Age, wasn't it?"

"That being said, can you tell us why you want to be a Hero?" asked Sir Nighteye.

The one question Katsuki could anticipate them asking. One he thought he had a ready answer for.

"When I was younger, I always claimed it was because I want to win. That's what watching All Might taught me: the best Heroes always win in the end. I admire that. I want to keep winning just like All Might."

"And now?" prompted Eraserhead.

"Now I think it's because I'm strong. It's arrogant to say that, huh? Maybe I was just born lucky to paired parents— a lot of people have said that. But I've been working hard ever since I got my Quirk. I want to be a Hero because I'm strong and I want to make something out of that strength. Something good and worthwhile."

Katsuki didn't know what to make of the silence that followed. The panel members were taking notes, scribbling onto their screens. There was a glint in Sir's bright amber eyes, and Nintai Ryoku seemed moved. After a beat, Principal Nezu spoke up.

"What did you think of the final mental task assigned to you earlier?"

"The chess board? On its face, I assume the white knight moving forward and back again is a message to be.. patient. Or careful. That it's okay to change your mind and play a measured game. 'You can start over'  or' there's nothing wrong with taking back your earlier decisions.' Something like that." Katsuki started. "But to me it shows how stupid it is to surrender your advantage by making irrational decisions. If you have the initiative, you should use it to dictate the pace and direction of the action. Don't waste it by hesitating."

"And you certainly do not hesitate, do you? Well, I think we heard enough to make our decision. Thank you, Bakugō-kun." said the principal.

"You will receive the result of the exam in March. It would be posted to your home instead of the school." Cementoss reminded. "Good luck."

Katsuki stood up and thanked the panel. "Dōzo yoroshiku onegaishimasu."

 

---

 

February came and went and March approached with roaring excitement. Final exams were taken and graded. Todoroki clinched the spot for first in class and Katsuki was only mildly aggravated.

His kōhai in taiko club sent him off with a roaring performance at the closing ceremony, a day before graduation. He got even more cards and letters, too. Additionally, Naruse-kōchō sensei gave him another blessing— and that's what it was, he finally had the courage to ask what her Quirk was. But she answered in such a cryptic manner that he wasn't even sure what a blessing actually entailed.

After the graduation ceremony in the Main Hall, a few girls asked for the pin in his honor cord but he politely declined. Out in the Founder's Garden, his parents took photo after photo, just like usual. He had some with Todoroki and Hatsume, some with the taiko club members, and some of the high school senpai were there, too. 

When they came home, an ornate-looking box had been left on the front step.

"Masaru, isn't that the mayor's seal?" His mom asked, holding both bouquets of flowers that Katsuki presented to his parents.

His dad carried the box inside and, after they changed clothes, opened it to find a letter along with a carefully wrapped shiraga and suehiro.

"What's with the rope and fan, Kā-san?" Katsuki asked.

"Those are traditional wedding gifts. Could we have received this by mistake?"

"No. No, it's definitely for us. Here, read it." His father said, handing the letter to his mom.

"From the Musutafu Local Government Administration and the Tōhoku Office for Pair Management and Services—" His mother's voice hitched, eyes glistening. "—we offer you our deepest congratulations, Bakugō-pair, Masaru and Mitsuki."

Well, everything was on the up and up. Katsuki was going to Yūei and his parents were being confirmed.

 

Chapter Text

 

There was so much about Yūei that was obscured or completely unknown to the public. Since getting his admissions package— including a mini-projector containing a personalised welcome message from Principal Nezu (which also congratulated him for having the highest test score of all incoming freshmen)— Katsuki had been reading up on all the available material.

The school map alone was daunting. Truly, the Yūei campus is more akin to a town than a school. The network of official buildings, arenas, training grounds, sports fields, student and staff housing, clinics and other facilities directly tied to its function as a school made up only around half of its land mass.

About a quarter was composed entirely by the wide expanse of the forest— a portion of which was sectioned off as Ground Omega for use by the Heroics department— which acts as a natural barrier, sound screen and laboratory, especially for General Studies science projects and for Support students doing communications, tracking, imaging and meteorological technology, to name a few.

The remaining areas were devoted to roadways in and out of the campus which were owned, maintained, controlled, and monitored by the school. The peripheral portions of the roads were accessible to the public but otherwise a student, faculty, staff or special guest pass was required at guarded gates to ensure safety and privacy.

At any point in time, there could be up to 1000 students enrolled in the school, broken down into different classes and departments. The student body broke down like this:

Department of On- and Off-Field Heroics
Class 1-A, 2-A, 3-A
Class 1-B, 2-B

Class Size:
20, 15, 20
20, 15

Department of Support, Metallurgy and Materials Technology
Class 1-C, 2-C, 3-C
Class 1-D, 2-D, 3-D
Class 1-E, 2-E, 3-E

Class Size:
15, 20, 20

Department of Hero Management and Administration
Class 1-F, 2-F, 3-F
Class 1-G, 2-G, 3-G
Class 1-H, 2-H, 3-H

Class Size: 30, 30+, 30+

Department of General Studies
Class 1-I*, 2-I*, 3-I*
Class 1-J, 2-J, 3-J
Class 1-K, 2-K, 3-K
Class 1-L, 2-L, 3-L

Class Size: 30+
*may take electives from Dep't of Heroics

 

Katsuki found it very surprising that there was only one final Heroics class, essentially whittling down the freshmen to half the size come third year. Students who do not make the cut, or else willingly transfer, are moved to another department (minding the cutoff for the Support Course as well). Not only was admission into the Hero Course exclusive, remaining there was not assured either.

One thing, although quite minor, that Katsuki didn't like about Yūei was the uniform. Although getting his ID and uniform set, as well as other miscellaneous items, was definitely exciting, as proof that he made it into his dream school, he found the color scheme kinda lame and the style a little too plain. He'll miss the stylish and eye-catching uniforms they had in Dōryoku. To compensate, he went in on the design of his first Hero costume, which had to be submitted at least 2 weeks before classes start so that Support Companies could work out various requests and finish manufacturing.

Ever since he was a kid, the design elements he knew he wanted incorporated into his costume were their mondokoro, his favorite colors (black, red and orange… and maybe green) and grenades. When he showed the design to his mom— a black, sleeveless top emblazoned with orange and red explosions outlined in white, she surprisingly rejected it. Instead, she simplified the design into a red-orange X across the chest in a plain black background instead. She modified parts of the boots, belt and gloves to match the color as accents, too.

"It's gonna look more striking. And it's good for merchandise design later on, too, you'll see!"

As usual, she objected to his propensity for slouchy and baggy pants, saying something about being 'too middle-heavy,' but he insisted on it. "I'm gonna be moving a lot, I don't want to be in tight pants!"

"Well, if you want to be baggy there anyway, then let's add some storage." She said as she extended the utility belt down with two medium-sized pouches that wrapped around the thighs. "You can have fabric pockets here. Or maybe fasteners for some hard-shelled packs, too."

Next, he asked his dad for additional input regarding weapons. "I don't really design clothes, or armor for that matter, but… let's see. How about something to protect your neck and shoulders? You don't have much cushion there, I think?"

Katsuki scribbled "neck + shoulder brace" on the drawing.

"These gauntlets are cool. But I'm not sure how they work."

"See the gloves? They're made from a stainless steel, polyester and cotton fiber blend. They're porous so my sweat can pass through and collect in these reservoirs, but also antistatic, so my sweat won't explode with just any shock or friction," he gushed. "They're resistant to corrosion, can handle salty water and up to 200 industrial wash cycles. Plus, they're fire and shock resistant, but also thermally and electrically conductive, meaning I can have them heat up my palms even in winter."

"So your sweat can collect in the gauntlets and you can detonate a larger charge, huh? That's amazing! Hatsume is a real genius, isn't she? If they had this kind of support item when I was young..." His dad chuckled, shaking his head.

Speaking of, he should give Hatsume a call and show her the design so far, him being her 'One true muse. No offense, Todoroki' and all that.

 

---

 

"What's up with the mask? And are those explosions or fins? It looks crazy stupid!"

"Okay, bye. I'm unsharing my—"

"I'm joking, I'm joking!" She cackled. "It actually looks good. I'm annoyed you only showed me the design now!"

The canvas started moving and zooming around as Hatsume controlled the view on her end. 

"For the record, the mask and back piece are fucking cool and great branding!" Katsuki said. "Plus I was thinking the mask can integrate with comms and ear protection."

"Makes sense. But you have to specify that. Otherwise some lowly intern at the company's gonna be assigned to make it and it'll be a useless mask just for aesthetics."

Quickly, Hatsume had mocked up a 3D sketch of the mask, with components inside for noise-dampening, wireless communication and voice controls.

Katsuki saw Hatsume list various other possible features. "How's all this gonna work anyway?"

"The engineers will figure that out. We're just here to supply the designs. You know, the ideas! The broad strokes!" she answered haughtily. "I can probably try to do some of it, but..."

"Yeah, I guess you do still have to go to university, huh, Goggles?"

"Not everyone wants to be a sidekick out of high school you know. Hmm, well, now that I think about it, these design requests are gonna be sent together for your whole class right? You can probably add a general request for your classmates to get the same gear— you don't wanna blast their ears and deafen them after all."

"Should we do that? Might mess with them. I dunno what their Quirks are."

"Well, let's just do it anyway. The designers would know how to integrate if their costume designs have ear and comm pieces, too."

"Sure. Why the hell not." He replied. 

"See. This is why you should be thanking your lucky stars for meeting me, Bakkun!" She giggled, voice taking on that too-sweet syrupy tone she used when teasing him. "Anonymous designers don't go out of their way to optimise like this. What do you say?"

"I'm so lucky Hatsume Mei is obsessed with me." He said in the most flat monotone he could muster.

Hatsume laughed boisterously at the other end of the call.

"I like this central design focus on the chest, did you think of that? As for the shoulder support..." She made a new layer and sketched shoulder braces on top. "No, if we add a brace, it might feel too tight after long hours. Or if you're flexing and contorting a lot."

"Is there something you can do with the shirt itself? I only thought of using the smart cloth, like the one you used for the gloves."

"We can still do that. Copper and zinc encapsulated fabric is best, I think…" Hatsume restarted a drawing in fine detail, adding notes about ergonomic seams and strategic paneling. "Yes! Self-cleaning, antimicrobial. UV protection. Abrasion and cut resistance and does temperature regulation, too."

"Isn't this all gonna be too expensive?"

"Oh, you haven't gotten to the budget allocation yet, huh?"

"The what—"

"Or maybe it's only for Support? Golden class doesn't need to do the paperwork?"

"I'm not really—"

"Eh, whatever. Just know that it's best to invest in materials early on that you can use for a long time." She finished the sketch, outlining specific requests in a bullet list. "Okay, let's talk pants next. Oh, and did I tell you? Todoroki's design is the absolute funniest shit you've ever seen. It's like his dad doesn't own one of the richest agencies in the country. It's not even fire-proof! He's such a goof!"

 

---

 

The opening ceremony was held on a Sunday, before the first day of class. Ordinarily, the incoming students would be welcomed with applause by their parents and the older students assembled in the main hall or the gym. There would be singing of the national anthem, speeches from the principal, the student body president and the representative of the incoming freshmen (Katsuki had a short speech prepared and everything) and introduction to homeroom teachers, who would lead them to their classroom after singing the school song. Then they'll meet their classmates, have class expectations discussed and then pose for a commemorative class photo.

Turns out, Class 1-A might not get to participate in any of it, if the "Remain in this Room" message written on the board was anything to go by. Katsuki felt kinda bad for his mom, all excited to see him up on stage.

When he arrived at the 1-A classroom, a bunch of his classmates were already there. He saw Todoroki sitting next to Four-Eyes in the back row. Ponytail was on the far end of the 3rd row and Vine Girl was in the middle of the 2nd. Surprisingly, that skeleton-head guy from the recommendation exams was not here. Either he was late, failed, or was placed in 1-B.

He tapped his ID at a scanner near the door to mark attendance. A light blinked and an alarm beeped on the desk in front of Todoroki. He slung his bag over the back of the chair in front and opened up the desk to see textbooks and other items stored there.

"Scan your fingerprints there," Todoroki commented, pointing at a scanner on the side of the desk. "So that only you can open your desk."

"Isn't it super hi-tech? Apparently it syncs to the lockers in the back and the other storage stuff on the walls!" The redhead to his right, by the windows, added enthusiastically. "Hey, I'm Kirishima Eijirō! That's Mina sitting in front of me— Ashido Mina— and Sero Hanta behind."

"You know each other? Do you all come from the same junior high?"

"Me and Mina, yeah! I just met Sero earlier."

"Okay." He said, bewildered at the informality of the introduction. "I'm Bakugō Katsuki."

"Bakugō? That name sounds familiar." The blond sitting to his left said, and Katsuki was amused at how easily he already disliked him just from his tone of voice. "Oh, that's right. The confirmed pairs— even had a parade and everything."

"Yeah they did. So what? You didn't get to take pictures?" he said, tone condescending back. "They're in the gym now, wearing traditional clothes, too. Not as striking as the white, silver and gold, I think. But still."

"Wait, did that guy just say something about pairs?" The one Red Hair called Ashido shrieked, coming closer.

Katsuki did a double-take as she was followed by a moving, floating female uniform. "Who's paired? You? That's so exciting!"

Blond Idiot rose from his chair, sneering. "I just find it very annoying, being in the same class as an elite pairborn."

"I don't know what your problem is, but if you think you can take me on, go ahead." Katsuki said, stepping up himself. "We're on school grounds. We can use our Quirks freely. You wanna come at me outside or what?"

Four-Eyes, who'd been talking to Todoroki earlier, stood to break up the potential fight. "Bakugō-kun, Monoma-kun! The two of you are acting disgracefully! Picking fights on welcome day, you should be ashamed!"

"Butt out, Four-Eyes. It's between me and the Blond Idiot here."

"Blond Id— how dare you call me names?!"

A voice from the front cut off anyone who might have replied. "All of you, shut up. Get back to your seats." 

Eraserhead was standing on the podium, completely unamused.

Katsuki shrugged and sat back down. A few people came in after he did. A girl with long green hair tied in a bow, sitting out front next to See-Through, as well as another girl with a roundish head and short brown hair. There's also that rock-head next to Four-Eyes who he didn't notice at all. Most noticeable is the desk in front of him, still empty.

"You were yapping on and on for almost 4 minutes. And then I had to step in and stop two of you from throwing down outside unsupervised." The homeroom teacher stated. "Does that sound right to you? Is that rational behavior from the supposed cream of the crop students?"

Eraserhead pulled up a phone and clicked a few buttons. "If it's okay with you not to waste any more time, then let's get to the agenda for today. Introductions and an assessment test to see where you stand."

Four-Eyes' hand came up, chopping at empty air. "Excuse me. Are you our homeroom teacher? How are we supposed to address you, sensei?"

"Of course I am. Why else would I be here? My name is Aizawa Shōta. I go by the Hero name: Eraserhead." He replied. "Aizawa will do, but if I'm in my official capacity as a Hero— not that I expect to encounter any of you in that context— then call me by my Hero name."

"Aizawa- sensei, how about the opening ceremony?" Roundhead Girl asked. "Are we really not—"

"There's no time to lose now that you're enrolled at the Department of Heroics in Yūei High School. If you want to stay here, better get used to skipping a lot of the fun and socialising activities, and enjoy working hard instead." Aizawa-sensei answered. "Asui, let's start with you. Next will be the person to your left.  Stand in front and please introduce yourself and your Quirk to the class."

 

---

 

Katsuki had to admit, his classmates' Quirks were interesting. His curiosity was especially piqued by Round Face, whose Quirk apparently lets her cancel the effect of gravity on anything she touches, that Bird Head and his shadow, Ponytail, who can create non-living things using her own body fat so long as she thoroughly understands its chemical composition, and the Blond Idiot, whose copying Quirk opens up so many possibilities.

The student assigned to the seat in front of Katsuki still had not arrived by the time Elbow Guy finished explaining the properties of the tape he dispenses. When the dark-haired boy went to return to his desk, Aizawa-sensei got up from where he was sitting next to the teacher's podium. 

"In the 5 years I've been teaching in Yūei, I should tell you that yours is, on paper, the most impressive batch of first years yet. There are 4 students who got in through recommendation, and Bakugō tops the score for all incoming first years. He's also pairborn, yes, and Todoroki is pair descended, aside from being the son of Number 2 Hero, Endeavor."

Katsuki turned to Todoroki and whispered, "Pair descended? How have you never told me this before?"

The other boy motioned for Katsuki to face front and replied, "Later."

"Iida hails from a Hero family— three generations heading Team Idaten. Yaoyorozu's name should be quite familiar to you. Their corporation is one of the government's biggest defense and construction contractors. Kirishima, Uraraka, Kaminari, Tokoyami, and Awase scored top points in the combat and rescue practical test. Asui, Jirō, Kōda, Shiozaki and Shōji got the highest marks in the written exam among Heroics students."

"Hey, Teach, why do you gotta leave some of us out like that?" Acid Girl complained.

"All of you are in Class 1-A. Handpicked as having the potential to be the best future Heroes. Your Quirks, your academic prowess, even your personalities will be pitted against each other— polishing the rough edges, but possibly also causing others to crack along the way. You will compete but you will also work together. You will rise, and fall, to the level of this class." 

Their homeroom teacher paused to glance at his phone.

"All of that being said, this class was going to be special from the start no matter what. It doesn't happen very often, because Yūei prefers to attract talent to itself willingly by way of its credentials and reputation, but Principal Nezu went out of his way to recruit not just a student but a faculty member as well, to teach Foundational Hero Studies this year. So, aside from four recommended students, this class also has one entering through rare Special Admissions."

Questions and comments erupted from the class. Elbow Dude turned to Todoroki to ask if it was going to be Endeavor, but Todoroki was already talking to Katsuki and Four-Eyes about the interview panel member, Nintai Ryoku.

"I willingly interacted with my father just to get information, but he's never heard of that Hero before." Todoroki was saying.

Engine Legs replied. "I have inquired with my family as well. And even my grandparents, who I assume to be close in age and therefore career timeline, have no idea who he could be."

"I looked everywhere I could. That Hero doesn't exist!" Katsuki added.

"If the trio at the back could stop talking amongst themselves, that'll be nice." 

Katsuki sat up straight, face heating up with how intense Aizawa-sensei was glaring at them.

"How come they already seem to know who the new teacher is?" asked Long Ears. 

Katsuki noted to be wary of discussing anything in her general vicinity, and that Tentacle Arms guy, too.

"Hero Nintai Ryoku was present during the interview for the recommendation examinees. But if you have any other questions, you can direct them to the man himself. He just texted to tell me he's arrived."

As if on cue, the large doors in the front opened up to reveal the Hero in question. He was wearing a gold pin-striped suit which only served to emphasise his height— easily over 2 meters tall, and styled his hair so that the top half was tied back.

"Good morning, Class 1-A! I was just at the opening ceremony to greet my fellow teachers and welcome your fellow students. I must say, your absence was definitely felt. Everyone was looking for you!"

He seemed more healthy and energetic as he made his way to stand beside Aizawa-sensei. Perhaps he didn't do well in the January cold the last time Katsuki saw him.

"I'm very pleased to meet all of you Future Heroes. My Hero name is Nintai Ryoku. I don't do much Hero work anymore since I was effectively retired— although I did keep my license. You never know when someone would need saving!" He said with a smile. "But please call me Yagi instead. I'm glad to be working together. We'll be in each other's care."

"Kochirakoso dōzo yoroshiku onegaishimasu!"

"Now, I'm sure Aizawa-kun already mentioned that my apprentice will be joining your class. I left him here before I went down into the Main Hall so he should have been the first to arrive. I wanted him to meet his classmates right away— he talked nonstop on the train up to Musutafu about how excited he was to attend Yūei and meet all of you!"

The Hero’s eyes scanned the students once again. "But I don’t see him anywhere. Aizawa-kun, do you know where he is?"

"Yes, I do, actually. I would have thought him a crafty little trespasser, were it not for the fact that his name is listed in today's attendance roster." Aizawa-sensei replied, holding up his phone, where the data must be synced. "I figured there was no harm if he wanted to hide behind the podium and wait for you to arrive."

"Hide behind the— are you there, my boy?"

Katsuki heard an 'eeep!' all the way from where he was sitting. The old Hero peeked behind the teacher's stand and must have found his pupil there just as described.

"Why would you hide there this whole time? Were you asleep— Oh, no, of course not!" He broke into laughter. "I should have known you would be taking notes! Well, enough of that. Come on out and introduce yourself. No need to be shy!"

Katsuki's world slowed down as he's hit with the most intense feeling of déjà vu.

Wearing red sneakers, a huge yellow backpack slung over one shoulder, and holding an A5 ruled notebook, Izuku crept out from behind the podium and stood in front of the room. 

"I'm really sorry, Aizawa-sensei! I, uh, I was kinda snooping around the room. But then, I think it was Iida-kun that arrived first— and I was shocked—"

Izuku found some kind of sponsor? A scholarship or something…

"I thought he would think it was weird or bad that I was trying to see how to get the screen panels to light up and I ended up just hiding behind the teacher's podium in panic."

Something amazing happened! I met a retired Hero. He said he can help me be a Hero, too!

"And then a few others started arriving and at some point it became too late to come out from where I was hiding, because wouldn't it be odd to come out from behind the podium?"

We have a very distinguished guest, coming out of retirement to join Yūei for the first time.

"But then, that's exactly what I ended up doing anyway, huh?" Izuku finished with a weak, awkward chuckle. 

Principal Nezu went out of his way to recruit not just a student but a faculty member as well.

"But, I was paying attention to everything, sensei. I wrote out everyone's names and Quirks and I have so many questions!"

"Maybe we'll get to the questions tomorrow. For now, get on with your jiko shōkai ."

Izuku nodded and stood up straight, turned to face the class for the first time. It's him. It really is him.

His hair was as unruly as ever except cut shorter and completely shorn off at the bottom. His complexion was more tan and Katsuki was willing to bet his freckles were even more pronounced than before. 

In their time apart, Izuku grew slightly taller and he bulked up, too. You've been working hard, haven't you? How are you? How much stronger are you now? Did you miss me?

"Hello, everyone. Nice to meet you! My name is Midoriya Izuku. I call my Quirk 'Limit Break'— with it I can tap into a vast supply of energy to increase my strength, power, agility, speed, durability and endurance."

Did he just say—

Izuku stopped and laughed. "Is that description too vague? It only manifested 9 months ago so even I don't know as much about it as you do your own Quirks. I hope to learn and grow a lot with you. Please be kind to me!"

What— what the fuck is going on?



Chapter Text

 

Yagi-sensei finally returned to the living room after taking a phone call about an hour ago already. Izuku heated up a glass of milk and prepared scramble eggs. He also had a pot of boiling water for tea.

"That took a while, sensei." He said, bringing out satsuma oranges and seaweed-flavored rice crackers onto the kotatsu.

"Yes. Good thing you told me to wear my scarf and coat. I would have gotten too cold in the courtyard otherwise."

Izuku poured the milk into a mug for his master and then made himself a cup of plum blossom tea. His master warmed his hands around the ceramic, before slowly eating the eggs.

"Was it your old friend again? Um, the second one?"

"No, not this time." Yagi-sensei said after carefully chewing. "Midoriya-shōnen, are you sure about Shiketsu?"

"I wasn't saying it just to say it, when I told you any school will do, sensei." Izuku replied, giving his master half of the orange he already peeled. "Shiketsu is closer. And there's something about the traditional, dignified ethos of the school that I find appealing."

"How about Yūei?"

Izuku paused, taking a good look at his master. Maybe the caller was Sir Nighteye, after all…

"I dreamt of going to Yūei because it's your alma mater. Not even because it's the highest-ranked Hero school. It's one of the only known things about your past before your Hero debut." He replied with a chuckle. "But if I go back home, I'd see Mom and Kacchan again. That'll be nice."

Izuku spoke with his mother regularly, sending emails, voice chats and doing video-calls. But his best friend, his pair, was the complete opposite. It's already been years—

"But it'd be too far from you! Mom's gonna finish her practitioner graduate studies in March. It would be easier for her to move here. To find other work and take care of you."

"I'm not so weak as to require constant care. Yet. Even with One For All now residing in you, I can still wield its power for some time." Yagi-sensei replied. "Mirai told Nezu that I've taken on an apprentice poised to enter high school this coming school year. Now the principal is relentlessly pursuing me for a teaching post. This is the third time he's called me now."

"Was it the Principal? Yūei's principal?"

"Yes. He wants to take you in through Special Admissions. He's essentially recruiting you— and me— for the Hero Course."

Despite the things he just said, about the school not mattering, and wanting to stay nearer to Yamaguchi, Izuku felt intensely happy and proud. Yūei wants me! They want me in the Hero Course!

"Does the principal know? About One For All?"

"No. Mirai would never tell anyone without my permission. The only person in Yūei who knows is Recovery Girl. But I'm probably going to have to tell Nezu if you'll be enrolled there. Your homeroom teacher, too, I imagine. Plus the entire Hero faculty would also be informed of my True Form, at least."

"Will you be okay? There's 2 first year Hero classes in Yūei, right? You won't need to teach other years? Then, since you only have 3 hours to be All Might, at most you should only be scheduled for 1 two-hour class, or 2 one-hour classes in a day, just in case they extend. That way, you'll also still have time to leave without danger of being caught or found out. Especially for off-campus events, or—"

Yagi-sensei started laughing, already used to the 'nerd ramblings' Izuku falls into every now and again.

"If I agree to his proposal, Principal Nezu wants me to see the recommendation students and to watch the regular entrance exam's practical test in mid-January."

"Whatever you decide is fine with me, sensei."

"I think— I've been away from Hero work for a long time. Only making appearances in small localities that don't even make the news. The foundation does more of my work for me now with the community outreach programs. I think, if I'm at least teaching future Heroes, it'll make me feel like a real Hero again."

Izuku couldn't help tearing up. "You'll always be a Hero, sensei. Your example is inspiring Heroes as we speak. Even without seeing you for years, you're still Number One. The people love you. They're always cheering you on."

"Even so, I think it's time to officially retire. The public deserves to know what happened to me. Not in so many details, but I think they should know about All For One, too. So that they understand the price of peace and freedom. And how it can easily be lost." There was a sad, wistful look on his face when he said, "Perhaps after seeing how the first year in Yūei goes…"

"What do you mean? How are you going to teach at Yūei without everyone finding out that All Might is back?"

"That's just it, kiddo. All Might's not gonna be teaching at Yūei. Toshinori Yagi is. Or, Nintai Ryoku, actually."

"Your master's predecessor!"

"She didn't talk much about him. Except for you, I think it's always been difficult for the wielders of One For All to talk about the person who came before them." Yagi-sensei said, softly. "All their crushed dreams and thwarted hopes. The bloodshed. Gone before their time."

"Sensei—"

"It's as good a cover story as any. There won't be any information to find connected with that Hero. And every personal record under my civilian name has been expunged. I'll claim to have an emitter-type Quirk that I can no longer use much due to my age, so that I can keep displays of All Might-level power at a minimum." Izuku's master continued. "The thing we need to worry about more is you. Someone's gonna recognise you right away."

"What do you mean? Who?"

His master just stared at him, his smile more teasing than kind this time.

"Ah! Kacchan! Of course!" Kacchan! He's gonna be there! Kacchan is for sure gonna make it to Yūei!

"He knows you're supposed to be Quirkless. You have to be able to explain to him how you have a Quirk now. And a very powerful one at that."

By the end of his four-month journey across the country, Izuku had kept his usage of One For All at a 15% cap, only sometimes going beyond, like the time he went overboard in Sendai and broke his arms and legs for the first time.

But the percentage he talks about is only based on how much power he thinks he has access to currently if he was to go all out. Who knows how immense the power actually is as he grows and is more able to wield and master it. What kind of explanation would make sense? What answer would not feel hollow to give to Kacchan?

"I think it'll be easier to just tell the truth. Part of the truth, of course!" He amended, at the shocked expression on his master's face. "If my Quirk registry was updated to make it look like I manifested my Quirk after my trip, we can say it was due to rigorous physical and mental training."

"A Quirk that's very powerful, but dangerous, so it lay dormant until you were physically able to withstand its effects? It’s rare but not unheard of... and coincides well with what you told your friend about a Hero training you." Yagi-sensei agreed. "And we won't have to tamper with or hide your earlier Quirkless diagnosis. After all, some people born with the two toe joints also later find out that they have a Quirk, except it’s one that's extremely specific and otherwise not usable or detectable. That could work!"

"With that explanation, I think I could also get away with not being too familiar with One for All. And not using it extensively, since it could wreck my body or might express itself in volatile ways that I can't foresee." Izuku added. 

"Of course. All lies are more believable when mixed with parts of the truth... Perhaps we can update the Quirk description to be something that 'gives access to energy reserves which enhances all physical abilities, provided physical requirements are met,' or something similar to that. So you’re not limited to super strength only."

"Unless I start calling out my moves as 'smashes,' no one should easily connect me to All Might.” He said with a smile. “Now... what to name it?"

 

---

 

Before the opening ceremony, Izuku got a tour around the campus with Yagi-sensei and Principal Nezu. 

Yūei's grounds were gorgeous in spring. Endless trees lined the many streets going around the different buildings. And sakura trees bloomed over the many arcs on the main avenue going into the Main Building, painting the scenery in soft pinks and delicate whites. 

Being here, in his uniform, with an ID that marks him as a student from the Department of Heroics Class 1-A, Izuku felt his heart fill close to bursting.

None of it was possible before. Deep down he knew it. He nurtured the dream for far too long, precisely because he knew it could never happen. When his Quirk didn't come at 4, 5 or 6 years old, he knew. He just chose not to look at reality. And yet, fate has been kind to him. He'd been lucky. He was given the chance to grab his dream and live it.

He followed his master and the principal onto the massive Main Building. The northwest tower was apparently for administrative offices, the faculty room, staff center, main infirmary, facilities management and meeting halls. The northeast tower was for 3rd years, southeast for 2nd years and southwest for 1st years.

The first floors were lined with getabako , lecture halls and gyms that can be used by any class from any department (although often crowded with Hero students). The second and third floors were occupied by the Design Studios for the Support Course. The fourth floor was devoted to the cafeteria and students' leisure space, as well as the teacher's lounge in the Admin Tower. All 4 towers were connected to each other along the fifth floor by skyway bridges which could be closed off, forming the iconic 'H' shape. 

The fifth floor housed different rooms such as the music studio, arts and crafts room, home economics room, kitchen and science laboratory. All the classrooms were on the sixth and seventh floors— Classes F-H from the Management Course and Classes J-L from General Studies share the sixth floor, while Classes A-B from the Hero Course, Classes C-E from the Support Course and Class I from General Studies share the other. All floors have male, female and inclusive bathrooms and four elevators run in every tower, two for odd-numbered floors and another two for even-numbered levels.

Before long, they made it just outside the classroom for 1-A, standing by the frosted windows, the massive door looking intimidating for sure.

"Midoriya-shōnen, stay here and wait for your classmates, okay? I'll go with the Principal and meet the rest of the Hero faculty."

"When you enter, just tap your ID by the scanner and make sure to scan your fingerprints on the desk that lights up as assigned to you." Principal Nezu said. "Take a look around. Aizawa doesn't mind that sort of thing."

Izuku nodded and went inside. The lights automatically turned on and he surveyed the room. Very spacious for only having 20 students. There was a raised stage in front with a big podium, and a table and chair for the teacher in the corner. “Remain in this Room” was written on the board, weirdly enough. He left his bag by the foot of the podium and had his ID scanned. His desk was near the front.

He opened up his bag and took out a notebook and pen. He sketched the basic layout of the room and the desks, leaving space for names and Quirks, and marked his own desk with his name and Quirk name. Izuku revelled in the fact that he was starting a new notebook for his classmates!

Just then, his eye caught on to several notches on the far wall, which looked to be storage spaces. But there were already lockers behind. Perhaps this is where the costumes are kept?

In his excitement to try and see if he could open the slots, he almost missed the approaching footsteps. 

"Someone's arrived really early, too. I should get my stuff to my desk now." He said aloud.

But then, Izuku felt quite nervous, with a single thought running rampant through his head. What if it's Kacchan? He's in this class, Yagi-sensei said so. Is it— could it be him?

In his panic, he ended up grabbing his bag and notebook and hid himself away behind the podium, just as the door in front opened up.

"Ah, good! Here bright and early!" Izuku heard the sound of the scanner and the beep from his classmate's— not Kacchan! — desk. "Just enough time to get settled and wait for everyone to arrive before the opening ceremony!"

Izuku debated with himself if he was being a crazy weirdo— nope, he definitely was— and if he should stop crouching by the front, when other people started arriving, too.

"Hello, good morning! My name is Iida Tenya!" greeted the boy who came in after Izuku.

"Good morning. I'm Shōji Mezō and this is Kōda Kōji. We're both staying at the campus dorms so I thought we might get here first. You're here quite early, aren't you?"

Soon after, more students filed into the room, and Izuku was just forced to stay in place. Izuku, sometimes, you can be a real goober!

Finally, Izuku heard him. Even though he was speaking quite softly for a change. "I'm Bakugō Katsuki."

---

 

Izuku took meticulous notes throughout everyone's introduction. He just wished he had faces to match to the names! But, even just through their voices, way of speaking and manner of talking about their Quirks, he could pick out certain characteristics of their personality.

Of course, not far away from his thoughts was the fact that a few steps was all that separated him from seeing Kacchan after 3 years. So much has happened for him. Certainly for the explosive blond as well. Yagi-sensei showed him a video of Kacchan's interview and he sounded so mature now. Even more assured in himself. (And he looked wonderful in his winter uniform, just like Izuku imagined.)

Before long, Yagi-sensei entered the room to greet everyone as well. Izuku couldn't help the blush on his face as Aizawa-sensei talked about his Special Admission. He also jumped when he was called out by both teachers for being a creeper hiding behind the podium.

Yagi-sensei was laughing as he said, "Come on out and introduce yourself. No need to be shy!"

He willed his heart to calm down. Coughed and relaxed his mouth so that he didn't mumble his words or stutter. He put on a smile and thought confidently. We wear a smile to fight the fear in our hearts. There aren't Villains out there. Just his new classmates and teacher. Everything is just fine.

Izuku awkwardly explained his misstep to Aizawa-sensei and apologised for delaying the self-introduction. He bowed, and stood beside Yagi-sensei. After a deep breath, he exclaimed. "Hello, everyone. Nice to meet you! My name is Midoriya Izuku."

His eyes vaguely tracked the faces looking back as he spoke about the properties of his Quirk. He refused to focus on one particular place knowing if he took a glance and saw him—

"I hope to learn and grow a lot with you. Please be kind to me!"

Kacchan was sitting in the second column from the windows, three rows down from the front of the room. His face betrayed every trace of shock and confusion.

He was taller, his hair seemed a slightly darker shade of blond and he's lost the boyish roundness of his cheeks. He looks strong. He looks healthy. 

He was sitting directly behind Izuku's desk.

 

---

 

"Now that all that's done, change into your P.E. uniforms and meet me at Alpha Field. The recommendation students should know where it is." Aizawa-sensei said. Yagi-sensei already left, saying something about visiting ‘the old girl,’ which meant he was off to see Recovery Girl. She must not have been in the opening ceremony.

Izuku hurried to his seat and, seeing the straps of Kacchan's bag on his chair, he strapped his backpack on the chair in front him as well. Thankfully, Hakagure-san had a crossbody bag slung on the side (and probably a file case under the desk, too). 

The girls left for the bathrooms so the boys were changing inside the classroom instead, huddled randomly near the lockers at the back.

"Midoriya-kun! I think you'll recognise us from our voices, but I'm Iida Tenya. What junior high are you from?"

"Hello, Iida-kun. I was enrolled in free school. I travelled a lot, so..."

"Is it true you didn't have a Quirk until last year? Well, you did but you just didn't know, I guess? That's so weird, bro!"

"Y-yeah, it is, isn't it, Kirishima-kun?" Izuku replied as he hung up his pants, shirt and blazer.

Quite a dramatic gasp and then, "Mon dieu, monsieur!  That's what happens when you don't treat your skin after injuries!"

Living with Yagi-sensei, who had the most horrific battle scars of anyone Izuku's ever known, he never even experienced shame over his own scars from cuts, scrapes and other training injuries. Still, he knew he was littered with them.

"Heh, sorry, Aoyama-kun." He said as he put on the shirt and tugged the pants on. "If not for all the work I did, I wouldn't have discovered my Quirk. It only manifested after I heavily trained my body for over 2 years."

"Truly? So.. your Quirk waited for your body to be ready for it?" The blond asked, suddenly deflated.

"Well, that's one way to put it, I guess..."

Some of the boys already left as Izuku finished putting his shoes back on— with Iida-kun acting as self-appointed guide— when he finally hears that voice directed at him. "Where have you been all this time?"

Izuku looked up and came face to face with Kacchan, who was standing not two meters away.

"Hello, Kacch—"

"I asked you a question."

Izuku slowly stood up and stared. Imagined his expression would be something caught in between a fond smile and pained grimace, if he were to look at himself from an outside perspective. Of course Kacchan is angry.  

"I stayed with Yagi-sensei in Hagi mostly, on the coast of the Sea of Japan in Yamaguchi Prefecture. But we also traveled around the region." He answered. "From May until mid-August last year, I cycled alone from Hōkkaido to Okinawa. Bakugō-kun."

"And that's when you got your Quirk?"

"I didn't get it, per se. The doctor and Quirk counsellor said—"

Kacchan huffed. "You know what I mean!"

"Well, yes. That's around the time when it manifested."

This is a new feeling. It's never been uncomfortable being in silence with Kacchan before.

The blond was impossible to read. Although it was obvious he was confused, Izuku could not tell whether Kacchan was at all happy to see him, happy that he finally got his Quirk, or anything at all. Did we… did we lose it, somehow?

The back door opened suddenly and one of the girls, Yaoyorozu-san, peeked inside.

"So, Monoma-san was right.” she said under her breath. “Why are you boys still here? Everyone has gone downstairs. Hurry up, Aizawa-sensei is waiting for us."

Izuku cried, "Yes! Excuse us, we'll be right there!"

She left after a stern look at both of them, apparently the only ones left in the room. He hadn't noticed.

"We can talk more later." He said, turning towards the door.

"My parents.. they said Midoriya-san left the apartment. Where— do you and your mom live with your master, too?"

"Mom just completed requirements to become a nurse practitioner and got a new job. I guess you didn’t go visit her after all…” Izuku said, recalling the multitude of requests he wrote in his farewell letter. “Yagi-sensei is very strong but he's far from being in his best health. He needs help sometimes."

"Who is he?" Kacchan asked, voice low, drawing closer. "I know he's not who he says he is. What's the big secret?"

"Wouldn't really be a secret if I could just tell you, would it?" 

"Deku!"

Izuku laughed. "You know, I've been using that nickname lately. I'm not sure why. It's an insult I gave to myself, after all, but, somehow it seems right. Like— I guess like I'm making it mean much more."

"What does that—"

"As to your question, it doesn't matter. It's not important who he is." Izuku stated. "He is just a man, unremarkable and totally ordinary, except for the fact that he's been a Hero for almost 40 years and is now going to be our teacher. That's all."

"That is very clearly not all. How did you even meet him? Did you know anything about him before you just left—"

"Let's go. I don’t wanna test if Aizawa-sensei will give detentions before classes even start." 

Izuku exited through the doors at the back of the room, assuming Kacchan would follow. It was not the reunion he expected but it’d have to do for now. There would be plenty of time to get caught up with each other again.

I'm sorry, Kacchan. His secret is now mine to keep, too. Perhaps in the future I'll be able to tell you the full story. For now, please don't ask too many questions.

 

Chapter Text

 

There’s something weird going on with Bakugō.

It wouldn’t be obvious to anyone who hasn’t spent enough time with the temperamental blond, but Shōto could tell. It didn’t make sense. Ordinarily, Bakugō would have been the first person vaulting out of the classroom at the chance to showcase himself and see how he ranked against his classmates. That was literally the basis on which their relationship started— Bakugō pestering him to ‘show your real strength, Half and Half!’

In Dōryoku, Shōto planned to remain passive and unaffected, just going through the motions to placate his father and his delusions, while at the same time sticking it up to him by steadily refusing to use, cultivate or even just acknowledge his Flame. If it weren’t for the details written in his Quirk registration, Shōto could have just gone on living as if he only had the Quirk his mother passed on to him. His Frost was strong enough to get him to where he wanted to go. He could achieve his dreams of being a Hero even if he needed to spite half his existence in the process.

But somehow, after months of acting like he’d given up on their non-existent rivalry, Bakugō was able to get under Shōto’s skin, constantly showing up and demanding the best out of him. Sports Day ultimately showed Shōto what Bakugō was all about. He craved competition and demanded absolute victory. There’s no other reason for someone to be dogged enough when it came to an inconsequential obstacle race that they almost deafened the crowd and the competition despite ear protection provided for them. Seeing (and hearing!) Bakugō streak across the sky, one smokeless detonation after another, snapped Shōto out of his own stupor.

His unfair, idiotic and completely embarrasing disqualification during the steeplechase notwthstanding, Shōto had to thank Bakugō. Not to his face though. Swaggering bastard.

So when Shōto made it to Alpha Field and wasn’t automatically bombarded with bets about who would finish on top or aggressive remarks against any of these extras, he was surprised. In fact, the ones talking most animatedly about the assessment was that redhead Kirishima and his friend Ashido, the boy named Kaminari, and another one called Awase.

Stranger still, Bakugō wasn’t in the field at all. Same as that other boy, Midoriya, their mysterious sensei’s pupil who got in through Special Admissions.

“How come you all got here on your own time and didn’t bother to organise and come all at once?” Shōto heard Aizawa-sensei ask. “Where are Yaoyorozu, Bakugō and Midoriya?”

Momo? He looked among the girls and, sure enough, she was not there.

“Sensei, Yaoyorozu went back to check the classroom again.” The guy with the copying Quirk said.

“And why would that be?”

“I told her on my way down that Bakugō and Midoriya were having a strange standoff in the classroom.” He replied, haughtiness level dialed down under the withering stare of their rugged teacher. “I was calling out to them both but I don’t think they noticed me at all.”

Aizawa-sensei sighed like his whole body wanted to just give out and melt into the floor. 

“Normally I’d advise you to take initiative, but since you and Bakugō already almost came to blows earlier, I’d say that was actually good judgment on your part, Monoma.” 

“Sensei, I can go back and get them!” Iida said.

“Oh, there’s Yaoyorozu-chan now.” The green-haired girl named Asui said, pointing with her tongue.

Momo jogged up to where they were huddled and apologised profusely for being late. Bakugō and Midoriya followed shortly after. Fully assembled, their class waited on instructions from Aizawa-sensei.

“As you know, Quirks are physical characteristics. This fairly obvious and fundamental truth is often lost on people, what with Quirks granting our society a myriad of superpowers. Nevertheless, no matter how strong a Quirk is, it will fail based on the weakness of its wielder. Especially as Hero trainees, you will push your bodies past the brink of failure, pain and discomfort.  But before you improve, you must know your limits first.”

He continued, “In this assessment, you will perform purely physical tests. No Quirks. I want to get a full measure of all of you. When you’re up, I expect you to give it your best shot. And while you’re spectating, I advise you to think about where you or your classmates can improve. As you might already be thinking, there are some in this class that are better suited to this test than others. If you think you’re one of those people, step forward."

Shōto looked around and, for a beat, everyone looked like they might have been taken aback, truly unsure or were playing at humility. And then he stepped forward, at the same time as Midoriya and Bakugō, followed closely by Iida, Shōji, Kirishima and then, after some obvious deliberation, Asui.

“It’s good to have a clear estimation of your capabilities. For the ones that did not step up, take this as your first challenge. By the end of the year, I want you to be able to confidently say that you are strong. Is that understood?”

“Yes, sensei!"

From his phone, the Pro Hero projected a list of their names, currently ranked in alphabetical order. “There are bots stationed in areas for each event taking measurements for distance, speed and everything else. At the end of the assessment, you will be ranked based on weighted scores, with 100 as the highest you can get. Well then, let’s start!”

 

---

 

Shōto was surprised at the lack of physical training some of his classmates displayed. Although he knew that his situation was not typical, he still assumed that his peers who were wanting to be Heroes would have been preparing well before they entered high school. Such was not the case, evidently.

As the last six to have a go at the final event, the 3000 meter run, Shiozaki, Tokoyami, Aoyama, Uraraka and Sero posted 15:12, 14:44, 15:43, 15:31 and 14:26 respectively— way above the 10 minutes minimum required to be competitive.

He felt bad for all of them. If they were using their Quirks, they could all score better. If Shiozaki’s vines could support her weight, they could carry her faster along the track. Aoyama's laser could provide thrust and propulsion. Uraraka might be able to take away some of her weight to increase her acceleration. And Sero's tape probably afforded him lots of mobility if he could anchor himself to higher posts or buildings. Shōto was unsure how Dark Shadow precisely worked, however.

After taking refreshments and towels, the 13 students left the testing areas to make way for the remaining 7. Shōto assumed they would all go at the same time. That is, until Aizawa-sensei held Midoriya back.

"Is something wrong with Midoriya-chan, sensei?" Asui asked.

"There's just something I want to see. No need to worry about it." He replied with a smirk. "First event is standard push-ups. Only correct form counts. Elbows as close to 45°, lower backs flat, utilizing full range of motion."

Shōto already knew his personal best was 55 push-ups in a set. He was probably not as warmed up, because he had to stop at 50. Shōji did it with his two primary arms only and stopped at a clean 80. Considering how tiny her arms seem, Asui did a respectable 36 push ups. Iida clocked in at 53, Kirishima at 48 and Bakugō at 66.

The next test was sit-ups. He did 67, Asui 60. Kirishima and Shōji seemed to struggle, getting 46 and 52 each. Bakugō topped up at 74, Iida at 71.

Pull-ups were hard for him, and so it seemed for everyone else. He managed 6, Asui only 3, Kirishima and Iida both got 4. Shōji amazingly made 12 and Bakugō gave fair competition with 10.

The softball throw was kind of a break for everyone. "Like I said earlier, instead of looking at technique, the throw is only about how much force you can impart on an object to make it travel whatever distance. I don’t expect any of you to know the best way to throw a ball. I just want to know if you’re aware of your body, how you move, how you position yourself and how well you can visualise a target. Iida, you’re up first.”

Iida went and covered 60.33m. Asui recorded 64.21m. Kirishima got 59.08m and Bakugō hit at 74.69m. Shōji's ball landed at 79.01m. And although he was used to making big gestures with his arms when using his Quirk, his was only 63.71m.

Finally, the 3000 meter race. Asui's handicap was not being able to hop on all-fours, and of course Iida couldn't fire up his engines. Nevertheless, the boy with glasses was an efficient and practised runner, finishing first at 8:26. Asui's hind legs gave her explosive power and she was through at 8:51. Him and Bakugō were neck and neck at 9:13 and 9:17. Shōji at 9:48 and Kirishima last at 10:13.

Overall, Shōto's performance was good but he was dissatisfied. Although it wouldn't matter as much in the real world, where it would never make sense for him not to rely on the considerable strength of his Quirk, it irked him anyway. He expected to do better and thought he only got middling results.

After the scores were scaled, Bakugō and Shōji were in the lead. 

Shōto watched as their teacher calibrated the bots and called on Midoriya, for whatever it was he wanted the other boy to do.

"Your scores will be sent to you for review but for now, here are the leading stats," he said, as the numbers were projected from his phone. "Push-ups: 80, sit-ups: 74, pull-ups: 12, softball throw: 79.01 meters, and 8 minutes and 26 seconds for the 3000 meter run."

“Wow, you guys are amazing!” Uraraka cheered.

Jirō agreed. “Seriously, some of our classmates are monsters.”

“Frightening temples of muscle, bone and sinew.”

Kaminari scrunched his nose and tilted his head at Tokoyami. “Huh?”

Surreptitiously standing in the back of the gathered class, Midoriya piped up with, “Aizawa-sensei, what—”

Ignoring him, the Hero addressed the class. “Do you know what Special Admission means?”

“You said earlier when introducing Nintai Ryoku-sensei that the principal recruited Midoriya-san personally. I imagine that means he must be specifically gifted and qualified to be able to enter this prestigious institution without need for an application, referral or review.” Momo answered.

“Well said, Yaoyorozu. What that means is that Midoriya did not take the written exam or undergo the practical exam like regular applicants. Unlike the recommended students, he does not have a junior high school’s faculty and staff to vouch for him either. He also did not have to pass a practical test or interview.” Aizawa continued. “All I have as his homeroom teacher is the word of an unknown senpai and the assurances of a mischievous principal.”

That took Shōto aback. Apparently, even Aizawa-sensei did not know who the older Pro Hero was. Perhaps he was using a different name now than when he was active. It’s likely that he could be under an assumed name for security reasons. It could also be that his jurisdiction was far from the mainland. It was an unfortunate side effect of the ranking system that most top-tier Heroes converged within the capital city and other metropolitan areas. That may also be why even his father had no information on Nintai Ryoku, since Endeavor Agency did not work with small agencies or freelancers as a matter of course.

“I want to see for myself if you’re worth the trouble.” This time, their sensei spoke directly to the greenhead. “The softball throw would mess up the timing for the rest so let’s get it over with first. Midoriya, time to pitch.”

The green-haired boy caught the ball and made his way into the pitcher’s mound. “Sensei, I don’t know what you’ve been told about me,” he started. “but I can promise you that I don’t want favors. I know how to work hard for what I want.”

Midoriya gripped the ball with three fingers, centered on his chest. He pointed his lead elbow straight and high, brought his throwing arm up, pivoted and brought the energy from his legs and hips right into a step and released with a well-placed aim.

“Waaaah, suge!” Awase shouted, pumped.

Sero whistled. “That has to be over 80 meters at least!”

“You might prove yourself yet.” AIzawa-sensei said, showing them the data sent to his phone. Midoriya’s softball landed 89.23 meters away.

 

---

 

“Tadaima.”

He heard his sister come to welcome him as he removed his shoes at the genkan. She must have been waiting by the garden.

“Okaeri,” she replied. “You’re back later than I expected. Did you discuss the syllabus at length with your homeroom teacher?”

“We didn’t discuss it at all, neesan. We did a physical assessment instead.”

“Again? Even after the exam?” she asked, taking his bag.

“Aizawa-sensei ’s quite the character. I think he doesn’t think any of us deserve our spot, to be honest.” He said. “Or… I guess he wants to save his time. I heard from one of my classmates that there’s gossip from the other Hero class that sensei is notorious for expelling students.”

“Is that so? Well, you better give it your all, ne, Shōto?” She said, smiling. “Do you want a snack? I can make some crêpes if you like. We have some peaches, too, that’d be nice, huh?”

“Onegaishimasu.”

After snacks, he sat in the living room with his sister, reviewing the class schedule. The core classes were distributed in the mornings and just after lunch. Hero training covers 5th and 6th periods on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Tuesday and Thursday afternoons were divided into free study period and their choice of elective.

Saturday was quite interesting. First to third period are lessons about the public Hero persona— advertising, public relations and speech communication. After lunch, they'd have weapons training and then hand-to-hand combat. It was a rigorous curriculum guaranteed to put them through their paces.

There were a few hours remaining until lunch would be served so he headed to the gym instead. Ever since Aizawa-sensei revealed the regimen, and certainly after Midoriya's go at it, he'd been itching to see how he'd do. Everyone else seemed tired out— Hagakure, Uraraka, Kaminari, Monoma and Aoyama loudly expressed distress just reading it— except for Bakugō who was back to his usual form, visibly buzzing. Whether it was from anger or excitement was debatable.

After changing into his gear, Shōto warmed up with some dynamic stretches and low impact cardio. He already set up the various timers, plus the settings for the treadmill, since he'll be doing the test by himself.

Aizawa-sensei's minimum requirements for Midoriya were:

 

 

85 push-ups in 3 minutes 

(3 minutes rest)

80 sit-ups in 2 minutes

(3 minutes rest)

15 pull-ups

(15 minutes rest)

3000 meter run in 8 minutes or less

 

Every event's minimum requirement exceeds the top stats for the class. The test was not only brutal, it was impossible. At least it was supposed to be.

He unrolled his mat and got into standard push-up position, bearing in mind that the green-eyed boy did this with his elbows closer to his body, effectively doing the more advanced version which targets the triceps.

"Start timer!" 

His voice activated the timer which he set to make a beeping sound at 1:00 and 2:00 and continuous beeps from 2:50 to 3:00.

 

15

30

45

48

50

 

He could feel his arms close to buckling. There'd been 2 beeps. The last minute was winding down. 53 out of 85. Less than 65%. How did Midoriya do it?

The beep for minute one of his rest sounded. This feels impossible. How? He slowly got into position for the sit-ups, using braces to anchor his feet. Sit-ups seemed doable at least. He could give it a good try.

 

20

40

60

66

68

 

Rest time. He got very close with 71. Beep! Two more minutes before he tried to do 15 pull-ups. Seriously, how is that possible? Midoriya did not even activate his augmentation Quirk. Just how strong is he?

With a minute remaining, he got off the floor and prepped a foot stool. He was not going to swing as he pushed off of the floor since that would create momentum. Beep beep beep beep beep!

He was still not recovered from the painful pace of the push-ups. Clearly his body was revolting against the torture. His arms and shoulders were violently shaking by the end of the 4th pull-up. He hung on for a bit to try for one more, but he couldn't even match the 6 pull-ups from earlier in the day.

While wiping off sweat, he rechecked the pace, tilt and other settings for the treadmill. It would be different than running on a track, but it'll have to do for now. In the meantime, he rested, his arms in pins and needles.

On the treadmill, he had to slow down his running pace after 4 minutes. The result was definitely skewed using a machine instead of being able to pace himself and do sprints when he wanted to. Still, Shōto didn't think he could shave off more than a minute from his running time anyway. He finished at 9:18.

He cooled down, stretched his arms and legs and put away the equipment before taking a hot bath. As he sat in the steaming water like plenty of times before, his body feeling run down by repeated training, Shōto ruminated on strength, power and the price people pay for the pursuit of being the best and the strongest.

 

---

 

The following day marked his first official day in school. Although his father insisted on a driver, as had been done when he was in junior high, Shōto put his foot down and asserted that he wanted to be increasingly more independent. He stopped taking lessons with his father shortly after his mother’s banishment and he also refused his recommendation to Yūei. If it wouldn’t break his sister’s heart, he would have found a part-time job and left to live on his own even if he had to rent out only a small room. However, she always managed to bring him back from the brink, reminding him that their mother wanted them to stay together and that his dreams of being a Hero would be easier to achieve with the resources their father had to offer.

“I know it’s difficult for you. Like it was unbearable for Natsuo. But, please, Shōto. Please hold on a little longer.” She pleaded. Although she was trying to hold their family together, she never asked him to forgive, understand or even just try to get along with their father. He wasn’t sure if she was capable of that herself.

With his uniform on, he got plenty of stares on the train ride to Musutafu. A few students even asked him if he was on the Hero Course, to which he just smiled and offered no other answers. He didn't want to be rude but he'd also rather not encourage casual conversation. 

Alighting at his stop, Shōto made his way towards the designated parking area for the school’s shuttle service— available at the three major train stations connecting to the Musutafu area, the 30-passenger shuttles were free to ride from 5:30-7:45, with 1 or 2 shuttles leaving every 15 minutes.

The driver asked him to tap his ID in a handheld scanner, after which he was let on to the van. There were 3 girls chatting in the row behind the driver and a lone boy with purple hair in the row behind. The corner seat at the back would be a good spot to get some quiet time but it'd be a hassle getting off. He decided to sit at the edge next to the girls instead.

Lazily scanning for Hero news on his phone, Shōto carefully shut the sliding door close on the shuttle van. All the while completely unaware of the interested eyes watching him from outside.

 

Chapter Text

 

"I want to see for myself if you're worth the trouble."

"I don't know what you've been told about me, but I can promise you that I don't want any favors."

How could he be the Izuku that Katsuki knew? He didn't even use his Quirk but Katsuki could tell. As he did the drills one after another, with barely any time in between them— he was strong. Very strong. Izuku tried his best with what he had before and he was disciplined with his martial arts, but he was only a novice.  Could three years really be all it took to change him from an earnest weakling into this? Three years to bridge the gap between them? The gap Katsuki's been building since he was 6?

As the green-eyed boy heaved himself with sure strength into his 9th pull-up, something heavy and oily and dark started to form in the pit of Katsuki's gut. 

 

---

 

The next day, Aizawa-sensei asked them to decide the class president and vice-president. Everyone recommended themselves for the job and the class descended into loud shouting and self-aggrandising, enough to make Aizawa-sensei actually raise his voice and sound wide awake.

"I don't care how you decide, but have those names submitted to me by Friday's homeroom." He said before stepping out of the room, carrying the yellow sleeping bag he'd stashed behind the teacher's podium and slept in for the last 20 minutes.

Regular classes followed and then it was lunch time. In the mess of the cafeteria, Katsuki didn't even notice Hatsume until she was barreling into him while he was in line for main dishes.

"Bakkun!" she hollered, holding a fruit salad cup and an onigiri with a 'spicy cod roe' sticker on it.

"You have never been given permission to call me that, Goggles. And is that all you're eating?"

"The Support Course has 4 breaks throughout the day so we're encouraged to eat light. Didn't you know?"

He scoffed, taking two servings of chicken karaage and green salad. "The fuck would I know that for? Anyway, why are you here pestering me?"

"What? You've made all new friends and forgotten little ol' Mei? The betrayal!" Hatsume tried to fake faint against him but he sidestepped her, taking care not to drop his water. "Anyone with a really cool Quirk? Introduce me! I'm looking for new blood!"

"I don't care. Why don't you annoy Half 'n Half instead?"

"I would've but he's with a girl and I didn't wanna bust his game like that! D'you know her? Tall, long hair, really pretty?"

"Probably Ponytail-hime. That tracks. They can make rich annoying babies together." He said, looking for a table.

By chance, he made eye contact with Red Hair who was already sitting with Pink Girl, Scotch Tape and Frog Face. Katsuki reacted too late and then his name was being called out and, well, he figured a free seat's a free seat.

"Hey there, Bakugō. Man, were you following in math class? Our junior high didn't have advanced lessons, I think we'll have to do catch-up." Red Hair commented, Pink Hair nodding with him.

"It's pretty basic algebra. That shouldn't be too hard. How did you manage the written exam then?"

"Dude! I crammed really hard for days!"

"Tsk! That explains it. That's the worst way to study. And I bet you weren't getting enough sleep, too, huh? Way to shoot yourself in the foot. You're lucky your Quirk worked for the practical, I'm guessing."

Frog Face, who was looking behind him, suddenly asked. "Um, who is she?"

Katsuki turned and saw Hatsume beaming at him. "Dammit, Zoomie, why are you following me?!"

She just blinked. "I told you to introduce me to your classmates. Hello there! Are you all Bakkun's classmates? My name's Hatsume Mei. I'm also a freshman, from the Support Course!"

Greetings were exchanged all around until Swollen Elbows piped in, "Having your girlfriend from junior high in the same high school. Hah, lucky!"

"What the fucking fuck?? Who the hell fucking told you that Crazy Eye is my girlfriend?!"

Pink Skin was laughing, saying how sweet their nicknames are, while Red Hair yelled about how manly it was to be in a committed relationship. Froggy chimed in with, "Your language is not very Hero-like."

"I'll fucking end you right now!"

 

---

 

After science, it was time for their first proper Hero class. Katsuki couldn't help but be excited even if he figured they would just be discussing the syllabus and maybe doing an aptitude test like the rest of their regular subjects.

Nintai Ryoku arrived, wearing a cobalt blue suit this time with what looked like tiny silver stars in the lapel, carrying a bunch of handbooks. From the seat in front of him, Katsuki saw Izuku visibly vibrating with excitement which was odd considering he lived with the man already anyway. What's so damn hype about seeing him in a classroom setting, too?

"Good afternoon, students! Welcome to your first Foundational Hero Studies class! I was going to make you do drills today but Aizawa told me he didn't get to cover this topic yet because you took too long deciding on class president!" He said with a laugh. "But this is the most important thing. We can't get any further before you're all on the same page and I know you have basic understanding of Quirk Usage rules and regulations."

"Whaaat? We were supposed to do drills but now we have to do civics class instead?" whined Phone Charger.

"I'm actually interested, I only know the basic stuff…" said some girl in the front.

"Now, now. Who can tell me the basic rules of Quirk Usage? Yes, Yaoyorozu-shōjo."

"First of all, everyone is required to register their Quirk from the first instance of manifestation and to update said registration if and when the Quirk or knowledge of the Quirk is altered or enhanced.

Secondly, use of Quirks is allowed in private spaces, following rules laid down by the owner of said space or property. Use of Quirks in public or mixed spaces is also allowed, but subject to limitations, the most prime of which is that individuals are not allowed to use their Quirks if it will harm another person or property. 

Only licensed Pro Heroes are allowed to use their Quirk on a person in order to rescue, help or save civilians. Otherwise, to subdue, capture or incapacitate criminals and Villains."

Even their teacher paused, before finally showering Ponytail praises for her clear and excellent explanation.

"Expanding on mixed and public spaces. Can anyone give me an example of a place and Quirk Usage implications."

Katsuki raised his hand. "A shopping district. The area itself is most likely privately-owned, but it presents and acts as a public space. The rules for Quirk Usage might differ from the individual shops, to the walkways and other open-air areas."

"A fine example, Bakugō-shōnen. Malls, hotel lobbies, small parks and atriums within museums or schools, restaurants and so many more. This sort of hybrid space makes Quirk Usage reinforcement quite tedious." 

"But don't malls and train stations hire Quirked individuals, too?" Headband asked. "What about those? They use their Quirks don't they?"

"Yes, Awase-shōnen! Of course, a lot of people use their Quirks in their livelihoods, without being Heroes! And they require specialised licensing just like Heroes do." Nintai Ryoku stated. "They are trained by service companies, such as those in hospitality, transportation, construction, electrical engineering and the like, to use their Quirks for specialised tasks. And when regular citizens interact or engage with spaces that employ Quirked individuals, they are providing implied consent."

French Toast quipped, "Like if you enter a flower shop and you feel someone's temperature control Quirk used to keep the belles fleurs fresh and magnifique !"

"That's correct, Aoyama-shōnen. Or someone with a mild mood-enhancing Quirk may be hired as a front desk manager at a hotel. Take note, however— especially for Quirks with an area of effect— that these individuals are not using their Quirks illegally on other people. Rather, they are hired for that purpose and only interact with civilians in the course of business transactions willingly engaged in."

"So… let's say someone with a flame Quirk is hired and licensed to use their Quirk at a teppanyaki restaurant, sensei," said Invisigirl. "They can use their Quirk to cook the food and for entertainment purposes, but they'd be illegally using it if they burned their ex-girlfriend's car!"

"Ano, Hakagure-shōjo… The scenario is correct. Albeit weirdly specific. It'd be more important to note that they may be charged if they cause injuries to any of the restaurant's guests due to excessive or negligent use of their Quirk."

The Hero started to cough.

"Well, um, anyway. What differentiates the role of the Police Force and Heroes?" he asked next. "Ah, Shiozaki-shōjo."

"Well, the police don't use their Quirks because they mostly engage with small-scale criminals. Although, there's a Special Quirked Forces, I believe." she answered. "But Heroes turn over criminals and Villains to the police, and the police do the arrest, processing and lockup duties."

"That's correct. The police can also work with Heroes and Hero Agencies to do investigations, raids and provide security. They're also trained to communicate with the public and handle civilians within a crime scene." He stated. "How about criminals and Villains? Yes, go ahead, Tokoyami-shōnen."

"The term criminal applies to anyone who violates the laws. If they use their Quirks to do so and are repeat offenders, they may be levelled up to Villain status. However, individuals and groups may be labeled Villains or Villain Groups outright if they are high-powered and pose threat of mass injuries and casualties, as well as extensive damages."

"And can Heroes engage with criminals?"

Round Cheeks raised her hand. "Um, no, I don't think so, sensei."

He looked at the class. "Does anyone have a different answer?"

"When you're on the ground, there's really no time to think if people causing harm are criminals or Villains. Of course, if it's a low level crime, the police usually take care of it. But what if there's no police around? Let's say, that purse snatcher, during Mt. Lady's debut." Four-Eyes said. "A low level thug, right? But what if he was armed? Not using his Quirk, but armed and looked ready to use it? Do you take the chance in calling for the police instead of intervening yourself?"

"Good questions, Iida-shōnen. Anyone want to respond?"

"If Heroes are doing the most menial tasks, then that's not the best use of their time as a Hero, is it?" The blond beside Katsuki sneered.

"Do you think it a menial task, saving someone from potential harm?"

"Oh, come on. Potential harm versus imminent danger. A snatcher with a knife that's very likely to just take the goods and run versus armed robbery with multiple hostages. Surely you see the difference."

Katsuki hated to admit it but he sided with Blond Idiot on this one.

"Uraraka-shōjo and Iida-shōnen are both right. The police are more likely to handle criminals but as a Hero you can intervene at your discretion." Nintai Ryoku intercepted. "But Monoma-shōnen has hit the nail on the head. There are consequences to every choice and course of action. In time, with experience, you'll be able to answer for yourselves just what kind of Hero you'll be."

"Sensei, what if in Iida's scenario, you weren't a Hero but just a regular person? Or a Hero student like us? But you have a Quirk that allows you to steal metal objects or freeze someone in place or something like that?" Long Ears asked. "Shouldn't you help?"

"What you've just described is vigilantism, Jirō-shōjo. And as Hero students, this is something I must impress upon you— there is a very fine line between serving the public and breaking the law. Without a provisional license or permission from a Hero you are interning under, you cannot use your Quirks against someone else."

"But what if you're that person's only hope?"

"Then you must find a way to resolve the situation without using your Quirk. Which will put you and the person you're trying to save into even more risk. Don't you see? It's very rarely the case when there really is no choice or no other way." Their sensei said, tone measured. "If you choose to carry on, then you should be ready to face the consequences. You're lucky if you're only expelled from school. Remember, you might pay for it with your life or someone else's."

Long Ears asked, "So what should we do? Call the police and hope for the best?"

"Yes. Call for help, get yourself to safety and trust that the professionals can and will do their job." The Hero replied. "I know that's hard to hear. Should a moment like that ever come for you, it'll be hard to do. But without a license, you are acting on your own authority and using your Quirk against someone else on your own. What do we call people like that?"

… "Vigilantes. And Villains."

"Exactly. So, you should all work hard and do your best so that you can get your provisional licenses as soon as possible. That's what you're here to do." He started to distribute the handbooks. "I want you to read this cover to cover and know the contents by heart. The rules and regulations are all there, as well as many different cases as examples."

Izuku passed the handbooks down to him and Katsuki felt their fingers softly touch, his throat catching as a result. For fuck's sake.

"Unless you have any more questions, change into your P.E. uniforms and let's head to the gym. I want to show you all how to use the different equipment." He said with enthusiasm. "I'll also be looking at your diet plans and workout routines. And don't worry, I made individual plans based on your medical and fitness records and your Quirks, too, for those without one. You have to build up your bodies so you can use your Quirks to their maximum capacity and then go beyond!"

 

---

 

At the gym, Katsuki gets roped into being a model for how to do free weight exercises. Todoroki, Four-Eyes, and damn Izuku, too. 

They're using less than their warmup weights while Yagi-sensei explains the movement, form and the muscles targeted. As they do the moves, their classmates follow with light weights. Afterwards, they break off into small groups to check out and try some of the machines. Katsuki chooses three of his favorites to show to Pink Hair and Spark Plug. He's done demonstrating the seated leg press and lateral pull-downs when they see Izuku, Rock Head and Round Cheeks on the rowing machine.

"If I'm doing cardio in the gym, this is my favorite. Less boring than the treadmill or stationary bike, I think. But I do triathlon training and martial arts when I can." He said.

"How long have you been training, Midoriya-kun?" Cheeks asked.

"Hmm? I started Jiu Jitsu when I was around 8. And cross-trained in Taekwondo a bit later."

"You were amazing yesterday! I couldn't believe it." Sparky exclaimed. "I thought for sure you were gonna get expelled!"

Izuku blushed, highlighting the freckles scattered around his nose and cheeks. "Hah, I don't think Aizawa-sensei really would've expelled me…"

"Still though! How did you do that?"

"I was always weak before. Yagi-sensei really saved me. I think I would've given up if I never met him." He replied, piercing Katsuki's heart.

 

You're asking me to give up on my dream, Kacchan!

 

"Just be steady and consistent. You can totally do it, Kaminari-kun! I trained even when I thought I was Quirkless."

"I was thinking about that." Round Head said. "How was that like for you, Midoriya-kun? Growing up without a Quirk?"

"It wasn't easy. As a kid I was obsessed with Heroes. I wanted so badly to be a Hero like All Might." Izuku answered plainly. "But I had someone who was always by my side. We wanted to be Heroes together and I was encouraged by that childhood dream. I kept holding on to it even when my Quirk didn't manifest past 4 years old. If— I think without that person, I would have sunk into depression and hopelessness early on."

Katsuki felt his face warm up all the way down to his chest. He was just thankful none of them were looking his way or they would have seen him blushing mercilessly. What's Izuku thinking, saying these things with these people around?

Just then, the peanut gallery wakes up from what they just heard.

"Duuuude."

"Aww, Midoriya!" Pinky shrieked. "A childhood love story? How sweet!"

Round Cheeks and Rock Head were emphatically nodding too.

"And where is this person? Are they going to Hero school, too?"

"Kacchan is—"

Sparky cried out. "Ka-chan? Even your nickname for her is so cute! What's her name? Kaeko, a blessed flower? A lucky name, Kagane? Or is she a stunning moon princess like Kaguya?"

"Huh? No, Kaminari-kun—"

"This is so unfair! You're both the strongest in class and you also have girlfriends? Where is my luck?" He whined, facing Katsuki.

"Ohh, Bakugō-kun's dating?" 

Yeah, sure, Rocky Mountains. The one time I hear your voice in conversation and this is what you choose to contribute! Katsuki wanted to scream.

He had to put a stop to this nonsense. "No, obviously I'm—" 

"Yeah, I heard from Kirishima after lunch! He says she's a hottie, too!"

"Now wait a fucking minute—"

Pink Hair cheered. "She's so pretty and cool! She also has pink hair but hers is in dreadlocks. And she's quite, um, well-built . Even under the uniforms I can tell she has great arms!"

"You saw her, too? Where is she from? General Studies?"

"Nope, Support."

"I fucking said—"

Round Cheeks chirped, "Oh! That probably explains the arms! She's making all sorts of gadgets and support items, huh?"

Izuku just had to choose that moment to chime in. "What's her name? Where did you meet?"

"This girl that Pinky—"

"Hey! It's Ashido. Ashido Mina!"

"This girl that Pinky is talking about, we went to junior high school together. Her name's Hatsume Mei."

"An intelligent hottie who knows her way around machinery and went to an elite junior high. She's a dream girl! Bakugō you sly dog!"

"I wasn't done talking. Would you—"

"Excuse me! Yagi-sensei would like to speak with you next." Four-Eyes said, appearing out of nowhere.

Just in time for the bespectacled boy's arrival, Yagi-sensei called the four noobs over to discuss their training plans. Four-Eyes went back to his own little group, too. Katsuki looked around and saw that their other classmates were practising with free weights again or were trying out different equipment. 

Leaving him all alone, standing awkwardly with Izuku.

"Hey. That thing about my girlfriend—"

Izuku jumped. "Ha! Ah, no, it's okay. You know, it's totally not my business! I didn't mean to pry or anything!"

"I didn't say you were prying! It's just those two gossiping hens didn't ever let me get a word in!" He shouted. "And now you're doing the same. It's very annoying!"

"You don't have to explain to me. I know you had to live your own life. It's not like I was expecting you to wait for me or anything. That's be.. that'd be so selfish of me, huh?"

 

I love you, Kacchan. I hope you'll wait for me.

 

Katsuki had read that letter, over and over, he's sure he memorised it. Over the last three years he'd take it out, carefully unfold the pages, and remind himself of Izuku's words. Thought about all the things he'd say when they met each other again.

Everything's gone balls up now. Nothing made sense. Izuku went and got— discovered— his Quirk. He's got a master Pro Hero that no one knows about. Became strong. Maybe even stronger than—

Katsuki feels uncomfortable with this Izuku. He's unsure. Felt like the ground kept shifting underfoot. 

It's all just so weird and different and they've never even talked! Izuku's back and they're going to the same school and Katsuki has to look at the back of his head and his new hairstyle all day and they didn't even properly get to talk yet!

And what is this? No acknowledgment of their pairing again? No acknowledgment of the letter? Izuku thinks Katsuki's dating a girl and it's okay and just none of his business? He wasn't expecting Katsuki to wait? 

 

What the fuck is this.

Is he done with me now?

What the hell is happening—

Did we fucking lose it? Are we done—

 

"Spar with me."

Katsuki wasn't even sure that he said that, although, given no one else was standing near them, he really must have. Izuku looked perplexed, too.

"Come on. Freestyle. Mixed techniques or whatever. Let's go."

"I don't think we're supposed to use our Quirks today—"

"No Quirks then. Brute force. Just arms and legs. I'll take it."

"Kacch—"

He strode towards the mats, far from where some of his classmates were learning to foam roll with Todoroki. He heard Izuku follow.

"Pretty cocky move, asking someone previously Quirkless to a Quirkless fight."

"Shut up. I don't need my Quirk to take you down." 

Izuku laughed and Katsuki genuinely might have hated him at that moment.

 

Chapter Text



Osha-kun’s hair floated in a swirling pattern mimicking the boisterous laugh he put on. 

“You fell for our trap! Time to die, Hero!”

Izuku jumped in front of him, fists up. “No, not if I beat you first!”

Haru-kun stomped, planted his feet and let out a roaring gust of wind. Izuku couldn’t even keep his eyes open.

Charging into the fray, Katsuki swung his right arm, the explosion letting out a crackle. The sound shocked his friend, causing him to gasp, cutting off the wind attack.

“You’re the one who fell for the decoy! Surrender, Villains!”

Standing in front of Izuku to shield him, Katsuki held his palms upfront. He made as if to explode the two Villains, throwing his hands and screaming, “Bang! Boom! You’re dead! Bam!”

Haru-kun was laughing and catching his breath.

“It’s not fair when you join the fight, Katsuki -kun!” Osha-kun cried.

Izuku’s eyes were reddened as he attempted to get his curls out of his face. “Your wind blowing’s so much stronger now, Haru-kun! And your hair looked really cool and flashy, Osha-kun!”

Ignoring the praise, Osha-kun turned to him and said, “You come up with any special moves yet, Katsuki-kun? Maybe I'll have one before you!” 

Not wanting Izuku to feel left out when they just won the game, Katsuki yelled, “Tsk, even Izuku could take you! You won’t distract him with your hair I bet!” 

“What’s he gonna do? Tackle me?”

“Yeah, look at him! He’s small but scrappy! He can totally take you down.”

He must have annoyed the hair-transforming boy too much, his top going ragged and spiky as he huffed and marched out of the playground.

"No fair, Katsuki-kun.” Haru-kun said. “Just because Izuku-kun’s your favorite.”

He went inside, too, jogging to follow their blue-haired friend.

“That was kind of mean, Kacchan.”

“I was just telling the truth! I’ve seen you practise. You can probably pin me down, too! I mean, if you’re lucky!”

“Thanks, Kacchan.” Izuku said. “But you don’t have to defend me all the time, you know?"

“Of course I do. I’m your Hero, remember?”

 

---

 

Katsuki was bouncing on his feet, keeping mobile, as he observed Izuku. He was crouched down maintaining his center of gravity, most likely looking for a way to kick Katsuki’s legs from under him. He had to keep his posture and his distance so that the greenhead would have no opening to take him down to the floor. With his explosions, close combat was not a problem. But in a Quirkless fight, his hands and arms were easy targets.

He threw a couple of jabs. Closing in and quickly backstepping away. His speed seemed to be superior. He’s always been really mobile and athletic. No matter how strong Izuku’s gotten, he’s always been fast and strong, too.

He swung with his right arm but the punch was too wide and Izuku was able to quickly dodge. He was still maintaining his defense stance. Annoying. Katsuki threw three quick punches with his left and backstepped again. Izuku took a step forward, lunging at him and threw a right hook which he easily avoided.

But what is this? Why do I feel uneasy?

Izuku was mostly weaving and bobbing, almost stationary. Katsuki kept circling him, bouncing in and out and throwing punches left and right.

I’m faster than him. He can’t catch me!

Suddenly, Izuku was right in front of him, head below his guard, his left punch catching Katsuki’s guard with a solid hit. His arm stung but the shock was worse. How is he here already? I didn’t see him closing in. While he was busy thinking about what just happened, he stopped moving and left his chest open. Quickly, he backtracked, trying to put some space between them.

“Bakugо̄, you’re going the wrong way!” he heard Todoroki shout. Their fight had attracted everyone’s attention and had pretty much stopped what anyone else was doing. Katsuki saw Yagi-sensei move closer to them as well by the time he’d worn his gloves and headgear, and started pacing in the mat.

For some reason, he was backing into the padded walls. How? I was circling him. I wasn’t — Did he start punching to direct me here?

Katsuki threw a hook, but Izuku just took it, angling his body to catch it with his back. Without any pause, Izuku railed with combination punches, hitting Katsuki’s sides. Left, right, left again. Until finally, Katsuki felt his feet leave the floor as he’s hit with an uppercut, right in the stomach.

His breath catches in his throat and he hits the mat with his knees.

“Holy shit!”

“Bakugо̄-kun!”

“Is he dead???”

“Sorry!” Izuku cried. “You were going so fast I thought I had to get you before you landed a big one on me!”

Katsuki gets on a kneeling position, using his arm to support him. He’s not hurt but he’s rattled. Izuku’s worried face is making his blood boil.

“We’re sparring. Why the fuck are you apologizing for hitting me?”

“I no, I just

Back on his feet, he takes a fighting stance again. “We’re not done yet. You better not let up!”

Izuku nods and they separate back in their zones. His arms are low and his stance is open. The little bastard’s smiling.

“Yeah? You think you got me good?” he yells.

Izuku shrugs. “I think I did. Had you knelt down on the floor in front of me, didn’t I?”

Katsuki sees red. He yells and charges, hits Izuku straight in the nose and another to his jaw. His head whips, his hair flapping with the movement. He puts his arms up and out to guard against the punches, but Katsuki’s already swinging for him again.

He misses. Barely catches Izuku’s hair as he ducks under the punch. He lunges in again, catching the back of Katsuki’s right knee and lifting, causing him to lose his balance and fall to the floor in a quick takedown.

Things happened really quickly.

Izuku bends and folds his right arm with both hands and pulls, just as his right leg squeezes on Katsuki’s shoulder, adding pressure, left leg lodged under his throat to stop him moving his head. He tries to get out of the arm and leg lock with his left arm, but then Izuku is rolling them, cranking his right arm and getting his feet under Katsuki and catching him in a scissor choke.

He taps Izuku’s feet in surrender.

Izuku releases him and gets on his feet. 

“Are you okay?” he holds his hand out.

Katsuki slaps his hand away. Jumps from the toes of his feet back into standing position.

“Again!” he shouts.

The next fight is even quicker. They’re both almost not defending, just taking punches and kicks as they come and giving back just as good. With the first fight, they both measured the opponent’s speed and strength. The ground fight was a miscalculation on Katsuki’s part caused by his quickness to anger. He shouldn’t have allowed Izuku to get him on the ground like that.

“Hey! Where did you just go? Eyes on me!” Izuku yells as he kicks at Katsuki’s side.

He snarls as he kicks off the ground, knee making contact with Izuku’s hands, forming a guard just in time to avoid getting hit in the face. The other boy smiles before attacking back, throwing punches at his head, followed by a swift kick which he avoids and catches with his arm, locking the leg against his shoulder. With a kick, he sweeps Izuku and he goes down facing the floor. Not wanting a repeat of earlier, Katsuki twists Izuku’s right arm behind his back and locks his legs, kneeling on top of him.

Like this, they’re so intimately close he can feel every time the smaller boy wriggles and tries to free his other arm from under him or buck and rise to throw him off. He cranks the shoulder back harder, uses his elbow and chest to push down on Izuku’s neck as he squirms underneath. Their heads close together, Katsuki's sure Izuku feels his breath on his face as he says, “Yeah. I’m looking right at you.”

“I yield. I yield.” Izuku says, unable to tap with either hand.

“Woah, I was sure Midoriya was better on the ground, but it’s hard when your face is pressed up against the mat like that, huh?” Red Hair called out.

Elbow Joints joined in. “But that hold Midoriya did was fantastic. I thought Bakugо̄’s shoulder was gonna pop off!”

“That was quick!” Izuku said, rotating his arm, holding on to the shoulder. “I can really feel that.”

“Let’s go!” he roared.

Taking initiative, he launches at Izuku with a right hook, nailing him in the jaw, followed by a one-two shot to the body. They trade blows until Izuku clinches in and tries to throw him. Getting out of the hold, he kicks at Izuku’s legs and bodies him down into the mat.

Katsuki straddles his chest and wails punches over and over at his head, but Izuku manages to throw him off, gets horizontally on top of him and pins Katsuki's head and chest with both legs. Izuku pulls his extended right arm out in a lock against his chest and arms.

“Fuck! Fuck, dammit!” Katsuki curses.

“Do you yield?”

Katsuki tried to hook his leg and catch him with a kick but Izuku wriggles and adjusts the choke and lock, causing his feet to only hit air. He’s getting tired and it’s not easy to breathe in his position. His right arm’s been cranked twice now and he’s starting to really feel it in the shoulder joint.

“Dammit! Agghhh, you shit!”

“Do you yield?” Izuku demanded again, his legs squeezing .

There’s really no point, the lock is perfect, but Katsuki tries to escape anyway. His breathing is getting heavier and his sweat is dripping into his eye, stinging. Fuck this! His arms have no business getting used against him like this when he should be able to just blast an opponent away. In any other training he’s been on, close range fighting is almost always his advantage. He’s devastating up close and he maneuvers easily.

His frustration mounts as Izuku squeezes more delicately, adding pressure to his neck and shoulders, and he throws his other hand up and thinks of blasting the annoying little shit away.

“Bakugо̄-shо̄nen. Izuku.

Katsuki feels Yagi-sensei tap him on the leg and he stops resisting. Izuku lets go immediately. 

“Are you alright, Bakugо̄-shо̄nen?”

“I’m fine. Why does everyone keep worrying about me?" He scoffs. “Wasn’t even choked out or anything.”

“Bakugо̄-shо̄nen, Midoriya-shо̄nen, take your protective gear off and wipe yourselves down. Everyone, gather around! Let's talk about what we saw in this impromptu sparring demonstration.”

 

---

 

When they were settled Katsuki having to call facilities to properly dispose of his sweat-soaked gloves Yagi-sensei started a debriefing for the class.

“You will go over this with Ectoplasm during your hand-to-hand combat training but since we’re here now, we might as well. What you just witnessed is hard sparring. For beginners, this is not advised. Even for practised and trained individuals, it may be a bad idea depending on the situation. I let it happen only because I have an idea of what these two young men are capable of and because I could stop them when needed.” The Hero started. “When used correctly, sparring is a wonderful learning environment. You spar to learn and to develop your skills, technique and reflexes along with your partner. It’s a close simulation used to prepare you for a real fight, but it is not a fight. It’s not about winning or losing.”

“Bakugо̄-shо̄nen, what did you learn during your session?” He asked.

That Izuku can physically overpower me. That I hate losing in general but I hate losing to him especially. 

I don't like this and I don't know him and I don't know how to act around him and everything's fucked and—

“I’m used to fighting with my Quirk. None of those attacks would work on me in a real-world scenario.” Katsuki answered.

"Class? What did you think of Bakugō-shōnen's performance earlier?"

Ponytail had her hand up in the air again. "Sensei, I thought he attacked too recklessly for someone who didn't know how the enemy fought. But I also admired his quickness and initiative."

"A good thing to bring up, Yaoyorozu-shōjo. In practise, you can choose to hang back and fight defensively or you can take the role of the aggressor. It's good to experiment with both." Yagi-sensei shared. "So that in a real fight, you'll have a feel for what to prioritise. Observation, counter attacking, or putting on the pressure by taking initiative— all will depend on your fighting style."

"Bakugō and I have sparred many times before and usually he's the one doing the taunting. I'm not sure how Midoriya lured him near the walls or goaded him to make attacks that led to easy takedown opportunities," Half and Half said.

"That's another thing, isn't it? The mental game. Some enemies will just know how to get under your skin. There's where your training will meet with your resolve." Their teacher replied. “Bakugō-shōnen, choose whether you want to develop techniques to bolster your weaknesses or if you want to double-down on your strengths going forward.”

Turning to Izuku, “How about you, Midoriya-shо̄nen?”

Hai! First, my partner was really amazing!” Izuku said, smiling widely. “I’m very good in close range, but if we were using Quirks and there were explosions going around, I’d have limited long or medium-range moves to counter or suppress his attacks..."

"Midoriya's attacks were great. But it looked like he took more hits than he should've. In a slug fest, that's not very sustainable..." said Face Mask.

Four-Eye added, "Midoriya-kun was faster than I expected. He's a good gap-closer. But that might put him at a disadvantage if he's fighting against enemies with offensive touch-activated Quirks."

"Thank you, Shōji-shōnen and Iida-shōnen. His basics are quite good but he fights almost… too passionately. He was very engaged, wasn't he?" Yagi-sensei said with a chuckle, as though that's something funny. "Your Quirk is new to you. You haven't lived with it and honed it like your peers have. Now, it's time to synergise, Midoriya-shōnen."

"Understood, sensei!"

“During your own training sessions, pay attention to your areas of strengths and weaknesses.” He called out to the class. “What can you exploit during a fight? Where can an enemy get the better of you? The best fighters change and adapt. You can only do that with enough clarity and self-awareness. Understood?”

“Yes, sensei!”

“Alright. That’s it for our first day. Remember your diet and training plan. And start your training logs right away. But don’t forget to rest and get plenty of sleep. Class dismissed.”

“Thank you very much!”

 

---

 

The class started to clear out. Ponytail and Earlobes were leading the girls to get their uniforms from the lockers before the boys took over the room again.

"Kacchan." Izuku said, appearing at his side.

"What do you want?"

"I'm going to see Recovery Girl. Do you want to come with me?"

"For this? Fuck no."

He felt Izuku grasp at the hem of his shirt, pulling him up short.

"We traded blows and I shoulderlocked you twice. Come on, just have her look you over." Izuku said. "It's close by anyway. We can go on the way back to the classroom."

Katsuki couldn't say why he was so angry and annoyed. Izuku looked concerned but the words triggered a response from him that had him tasting bile in his throat.

"You're openly just mocking me, aren't you?" He tugged Izuku's arm off him. "You get one win off me and you think I'm so weak, huh?"

"What? No —"

"Well, you better cherish that. I promise, I won't lose to you again." He marched out of the gym and was headed back to the elevators to get to the classroom when he hears a bang and sees a streak of green lightning pass him.

"Kacchan!" 

Izuku's suddenly in front of him. That was him. That was him using his Quirk.

"I don't know why you're so mad at me but don't you dare put words in my mouth! I don't think you're weak! I'll never think that about you. I'm not mocking you or looking down on you. Or whatever stupid things you're thinking of right now!"

Is he—? Oh, fuck off, he is, isn't he?

"Are you seriously crying right now? What the fuck?"

"We drifted apart. And it's mostly my fault. I get it! I get that you don't care about us anymore but you can't just tell me not to worry about you or care if you're hurt, I can't do that!"

What the hell—

"I'm not hurt!" He yelled. "You're not so good to fucking break me, you dumb piece of shit! And what's that? You care about me? Really?"

He can't even laugh. It's hilarious and he can't even fucking muster a single damn smile.

"You care so much you just up and fucking left?"

Izuku seemed struck. "Is that— Before I left, I sent you a letter telling you everything. Did you get it?"

"Yeah."

"Well, did you read it?"

"No!"

"Damn it, maybe you should have! I told you—" The greenhead was breathing deeply, trying to calm down. Good for him because Katsuki's not climbing down any time soon.

"Kacchan, I had to go. It wasn't a hard choice— no, it was, in some ways. Leaving mom. She had her work and her patients and she wanted to stay. And it's good she got a break from me and was able to pursue grad school like she always wanted to."

Izuku stared up at him. "Leaving you. Without a goodbye. After the last time… But it was an easy choice. Yagi-sensei was the only person able and willing to give me what I couldn't even try to do on my own back here."

He wiped at his cheeks, eyes red. "But look what happened. My Quirk finally manifested. Weren't we waiting, all those years before? We're both in Yūei, as future Heroes, like we always said we'd be! Why does it seem like you're mad at me for that?"

"Maybe it's because I am! I don’t know why. I don’t know exactly.” He paced. “I don’t know how to feel about you. About everything— you being back. The fact that you were gone in the first place! This new Quirk. The shit I said to you in the beach—”

“Kacchan—”

“I don’t know where we stand. I don’t know how to act around you. You’re my best friend and you should know me better than anyone and I should be the same for you, but you don’t and I don’t because everything’s changed! Everything's fucked!”

His voice kept rising and he couldn’t help it. Their reunion was just so mixed up. It felt too late. Or maybe way too early? Like it should have happened some other way. Just, not like this. Whatever this was.

His breath was coming short and fast and he knew these signs. Could feel the itch in his palms, the urge to just blow up. He held onto the mental and breathing exercises he's been taught but he's slipping, so close to drowning.

“I feel like I don’t know you and it’s freaking me out! I think you fucking ruined us!"

Izuku sags.

"Would you have preferred me weak and helpless?"

"I would have preferred you here with me." He spat. "Don't follow me. I swear I'll fucking blow you to hell if you do."

Katsuki, drowning in a roaring, choking anger that's threatening to topple every speck of his control, walks away from his heart. Left it shattered, alone, behind him.



Chapter Text

Izuku helped set the table, finding it nice and refreshing to set places for three people instead of two. Back in Hagi, he’d taken over the duties of making food after about six months of his arrival. Formerly, Yagi-sensei had a couple of different people come in a few times a month to assist him with home care, food preparation and other chores. Izuku wasn’t sure if they knew who they were helping out, or if they thought he was a regular old man.

His mom was revelling in taking care of her only son again. It's been a few weeks, but she's still making all his favorites. Today’s breakfast was miso soup for all of them, tonkatsu with egg and grated daikon for him, fried egg and saba shioyaki for his mom, and scrambled eggs with cream cheese and ham for Yagi-sensei.

“Izuku, get the rice, will you?” his mom said. 

He opened the rice cooker, steam rising and gathering in the lid. He scooped a cup of sticky rice for himself and his mom and about half for Yagi-sensei then added some black sesame seeds on top.

Ohayō gozaimasu , Yagi-san.” greeted his mom as he placed the rice on the table. Izuku went to the fridge to get water.

“Good morning, sensei.” he said as he passed.

Ohayō.” Yagi-sensei sat down at the head of the table and Izuku sat across his mom. He poured water as his mom set the chopsticks.

“Itadakimasu!”

“How is the clinic coming along, Midoriya-san?”

“Yagi-san, just Inko is fine, please!" his mom requested, like many times before. "Ito-san has been very helpful. I’m excited to get everything up and running!”

Yagi-sensei didn’t want his mom to have finished advanced studies only to become a carer for him, so he hired her through a subsidiary of Might Agency to head a new branch of clinic catered to primary and acute adult-gerontology. They started working out the details when he came to Musutafu in January for Yūei's exams. After getting her Masters, his mom has been busy with hiring new personnel and other administrative duties. Izuku was told that a certain portion of the staff would be seeing retired Heroes exclusively!

“Chikara gets things done quickly. She’s the reason the foundation runs smoothly despite my absence from the agency.”

“Now that you’re back in town, will you make an appearance in Roppongi, sensei ?” Izuku asked. “That’ll be so exciting! It’s been so long since people have seen you. Even I haven’t seen you in costume at all, all this time.”

“Oh, that’ll be a sight! The last I remember from the news was… Toxic Chainsaw?” his mom recalled. “Or was it Professor Pyro?”

“I’m not sure if it will be wise to let people know I’m in Tokyo. So close to Yūei, too.” Yagi-sensei said. “You never know. Some people might draw the right conclusion. I’ll consult with Mirai first.”

“Speaking of Yūei, I received a call from Mitsuki-san last night.” his mom said, turning to face him. “She said you and Katsuki fought? I’m not clear with the details but she sounded worried. You seemed so down yesterday so I didn’t ask right away.”

Izuku sighed. “We kinda had a fight after the fight."

“Hmmm?”

“Izuku and Bakugо̄-shо̄nen sparred during Hero Class yesterday.” Yagi-sensei said. “And then I heard there was, uh… some shouting after the class wrapped up.”

“Kacchan's very mad at me, mom. I really messed up not talking to him before I left. Now he’s not just angry that I left. I think he’s also mad that I came back.”

“Would you like me to speak to him, young man?”

He shook his head. “No, sensei. Thank you. But I’ll find a way to resolve this with him myself.”

“You boys were thick as thieves. I’m sure things will work themselves out for the better soon enough.” His mom commented.

“I hope so, too, mom.” They had to. He needed them to.

 

---

 

Homeroom was even more awkward than expected. Aizawa-sensei reminded the class that the first floor was shared and open to every student, faculty and staff and to be mindful about ‘after-school activities’ and think about their senpai who were working hard and staying in school for longer than they were. Throughout the lecture, Izuku tried to forget that Kacchan was sitting right behind him.

Afterwards, Aizawa-sensei called out everyone’s chosen electives. “Kirishima, Todoroki, Bakugо̄, Kaminari and Tokoyami have Damage Control with Present Mic. Iida, Ashido, Aoyama, Sero and Awase are in Urban Landscape Awareness with Snipe. Thirteen will be teaching Search and Rescue. They’re getting Uraraka, Asui, Shiozaki and Kо̄da.”

Izuku was excited for all the names mentioned for those assignments. He was looking over everyone’s Quirks for the last two days and he was excited for the potential of each of his classmates. While Damage Control and ULA may seem like electives taken to ‘minimise’ the effects of someone’s Quirk, to him they really were about maximizing control and precision. It would be very helpful for everyone to know how to fight and engage properly so they can go all out while being mindful of collateral damage. Search and Rescue is also very important. The first time the world saw All Might, he wasn’t fighting. He was saving hundreds of people from a disaster zone.

“Hagakure, Shо̄ji, and Jirо̄ are with me. Intelligence Gathering . The lifeblood of most Hero work. Yaoyorozu is the only one taking an elective with the Support Department. I know you’ll be an asset to each other. Make sure to represent our Department with dignity.” Their homeroom teacher continued. “Finally, Midoriya and Monoma are taking Quirk Analysis & Synthesis with Principal Nezu. Good luck.”

That… that sounded more ominous than encouraging, Aizawa-sensei.

“And you still have no class president and vice president? Well, you have three days. I’ll give you back 20 minutes of your time.” And then he coccooned himself into his sleeping bag. Izuku was beginning to wonder if maybe Aizawa-sensei was at the tail-end of his work schedule during homeroom.

“Well, well, look at me with Mr. Special over there,” The boisterous blond said, when Izuku turned to talk to him. Kacchan was pretending like he wasn’t interested in either of them at all.

Izuku carried his chair and set himself in front of the other boy. Thankfully, Shiozaki-san also moved her chair closer to Uraraka-san so there was room.

“Hello, Monoma-kun. If you have to call me a nickname, you can call me Deku instead.” 

Deku? Self-deprecation, huh? I can appreciate that.” He laughed. “So, why is a power-type like you doing an elective with me?”

Izuku produced a dozen or so notebooks from his backpack and showed them to the copier. “I’ve been fascinated with Quirks since I can remember. I’ve kept so many notes over the years. I’ve actually already thought up different pairings and groupings for the class when it comes to fighting or suppression missions. Here, I drew this notebook up on Sunday.”

Monoma-kun was looking through the older notebooks from elementary school, flippantly at first and then with some interest. “Wow, when you say fascinated, you mean freakishly obsessed.”

He blushed and chuckled. “If you don’t mind, can I take notes on your Quirk? I’m the most curious about whether when you use Copy, do you have perfect use of the copied Quirk? Would you know what someone’s Quirk is just by touching them? Do you have complete information or do you need to at least see it used first? And you said you can copy.. how many? Three, four?”

“Do I have to tell you anything? What if I don’t want to?”

Izuku just shrugged. “I mean, sure, do what you want. But if we work together I think we can make you one of the top Heroes in Japan.”

Monoma-kun stopped.

Izuku stated it so simply because he wanted to see that look. He’s seen it on his own face before. When you’re holding back hope for fear of crushing disappointment. He wondered what Monoma-kun’s history was, to not already know that his power can make him almost unstoppable with the right planning and a lot of training.

“You don’t know who I am, do you?” It’s whispered so quietly he almost misses it.

“No. Haven’t got a clue.” Izuku smiled. “I hope we can be friends. Then, if you feel like it, you can tell me your story.”

“Tssk. Cheerful, hopeful and friendly. I hate people like you the most, Deku.”

Izuku laughed. He was really looking forward to this new friendship.

 

---

 

In Home Economics, Izuku was assigned as station partners with Yaoyorozu-san, which was a handy stroke of luck. He was already very interested in her and third period provided the opportunity to talk to her and get to know her better. He was glad for the socialisation his journey through the country provided him. He would have been way out of his depth when talking to a girl before.

“Midoriya-san, you’re very good at this,” she said as Izuku quickly decided on a recipe, following the requirements given to them by Shōga-sensei, one of Lunch Rush’s station chefs . The setting: a fact-finding mission in the mountains during fall. Requirements: fast prep time, minimal outdoor cooking equipment, and use of open fire.

“I helped out a lot in the kitchen. Only child of a single mom with a hectic and late work schedule. Just comes with the territory, I think.” he replied. “How about you, Yaoyorozu-san? Your Quirk relies on your caloric intake, right? Are you very interested in food?”

“I enjoy fine dining and hosting. And I love tea ceremonies…” she contemplated. “But I’ve never had to prepare my meals. Sometimes eating becomes a purely mechanical task for me, you know?”

He nodded. “For sure. I’m never less interested in food than when I’m bulking up.”

She smiled, blushing. “I still haven't seen you use your Quirk but I think it’s fascinating. The fact that it manifested so late only when your body was suited to it that alone is almost unbelievable.”

"Yours is, too. It breaks all sorts of rules for conservation of mass and energy. I really can't wrap my head around it. And it requires you to know materials down to their atomic structures? Or was it chemical composition? You must be so smart, Yaoyorozu-san!" 

"Ohh, thank you."

"What sorts of things can you make?" he asked.

"Quite a lot. I started learning basic materials first— different types of natural fabrics, timber, oil, metals and rocks. And then refined products and component shapes," she explained. "It's easier to make modular items. It takes a lot of energy to make something that's ready to use."

"I read up on your family. You have the same Quirk with slight differences from the maternal side, right?"

Yaoyorozu-san nodded. "Yes. My great grandmother could change her body's fat content and my great grandfather's Quirk was to materialise carbon. My grandmother got the combined Quirk which allows her to make organic compounds out of her body's fat stores. Mother has the same while I can make both organic and inorganic compounds."

She checked their menu of different dishes using sansai , chestnut, yams, mushrooms plus mountain stream fish and put it aside. Then, she drew another prompt from the randomizer. 

"Food shopping list for a 6-month mission on a submerged nuclear submarine. Must feed 15 people." she read out.

"15 sounds very low for the number of submariners. Would be easier to multiply by 100." Izuku commented off-handedly. "And submerged means no coming up to restock food?"

"I would think so. And to be safe, you'd probably have to be outfitted with at least 9 months' worth…"

She listed several fresh options, dried, canned and frozen and made estimates for every person for every meal for 9 months.

"Oh, that gives me an idea! Can you also make food with your Quirk, Yaoyorozu-san?" he asked.

"Yes, but the caloric trade-off is not equal and the nutritional value is low. I can't just eat rice and then make steak, unfortunately." She answered. 

Izuku was fascinated. The questions kept popping up in his mind one after the other. "If you ate 500 grams of rice, how many grams of butter can you make? What if you then ate that butter? With pure fat like that, can you create more?"

"I have some idea based on the items I commonly make. But not all the numbers—"

"Is it okay if I help you? My elective is with the principal. Can I use you as a subject?" Izuku asked.

"Well, I mean… sure, I think so. It'd be good for me to know those things, too, anyway." The dark-haired girl replied with a nod and a smile.

"Thank you!" Izuku replied. Yaoyorozu-san was easy to talk to and open to discussions. But she was also weirdly timid. Why would that be, when she has everything?

"I hope you don't mind. I'm just very curious, is all. Why do you want to be a Hero, Yaoyorozu-san?"

She halted. "Wh— all of a sudden. Well. Because— because I want to help. I want to make a difference. I want to give back and serve."

"Why not do that through your family's conglomerate? Why are you in the Hero Course? Why aren't you in Support or General Studies?"

"You know, before my parents made my tutors submit the recommendation they asked me the same thing. 'Why go into Heroics? It'd be dangerous and more difficult.' They thought I should go here simply to make connections for the future." She replied. "And I asked, 'What should I do instead? Make support items? Make weapons? Isn't that what our companies do already?' My parents support me but they don't really understand."

"Understand what?"

"When I was younger, I thought our wealth was a virtue. The result of hard work, talent and intelligence. But really, despite strict guidelines and consultations with fund managers and the national bank, our Quirks get around the finite nature of resources. If I had my way, I'd want to be able to give it all away. To charity. Research and development. Towards infrastructure and public services." Yaoyorozu-san sighed. "But my older brother will inherit the company. It'll be even bigger by the time he's done with it. I think I can make the most change if I'm a Hero in the public eye."

Izuku felt such warmth in his heart with her words. She was amazing!

"You could be the first Hero to deny payment. Even All Might channels his income through the foundation."

She finished writing the list and asked him to double-check. "Since you're so blatantly wanting to help me improve my Quirk, may I ask why?"

It was his turn to blush. He was always eager, but not very subtle.

"I'm gonna be very honest with you. When I found out what your Quirk was, I knew already how I wanted to influence you to use it. There's so many things that will be possible for you to do."

Izuku remembered the devastation which lingered in Iwate. The crumbling homes and structures in Kamagasaki. The dozens of neglected commuter towns between Sendai, Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka, and the forgotten islands in between Kagoshima and Okinawa.

"Non-corrosive bridges so that villagers don't have to make do with making new ones with wood and rope over and over due to the river rising and falling every year. Self-healing concrete for roads and buildings." 

Izuku could sense some of his classmates were noticing his sprawling ideas, but he felt so fired up.

"Mass production of aerogel, graphene, carbon nanotubes, transparent alumina and other future materials. You could work with scientists and leaders of industry so those can enter civilian use one day. Imagine the applications in medicine, transportation, engineering." He motioned with his hands, startling her. "We can have fuelless airships and almost-free desalinated salt water. Can you imagine how many people you'll save? How you could eliminate poverty, illness and hunger? You would change the world!"

Shōga-sensei stood by their station. "Midoriya. Yaoyorozu. Are you done?"

"Ah, sorry, sensei . I got carried away. I apologise!" Izuku called.

"We're finished working on our scenarios, Shōga-sensei." Yaoyorozu-san quietly said.

"Good. If you must chat, be more quiet. You're distracting your classmates."

Izuku bowed. " Sumimasen, mina-san! "

 

---

 

Lunch found Izuku sitting at a table with Monoma-kun, who he invited, and Yaoyorozu-san and Todoroki-kun, who asked to join them. The latter he's had no interactions with yet and he's not sure how to initiate.

The boy was openly staring at him while calmly eating his green tea zaru soba .

"So, Todoroki-kun, how is—" he opened.

Putting his chopsticks down after finishing his squash and lotus root tempura, the other boy said, "What's with you and Bakugō?"

Waaaait what????

"Eh—"

"Bakugō-san? What do you mean, Shōto-kun?" Yaoyorozu-san asked.

Todoroki-kun gestured and pointed his nose in the vague direction behind him, to the right. Following his line of sight, Izuku saw Kacchan coldly glaring at his plate of food, seated in a table with Kaminari-kun, Ashido-san, Kirishima-kun and Sero-kun.

"Normally, he doesn't suffer people loudly pestering him. But he's sat and borne it just so he can be in the best line of sight to us." Todoroki-kun explained. "Hasn't even blown up once."

"I think you're overthinking it, halfie." Monoma-kun said. "Maybe you're the one too fixated on the angry moron over there."

Monoma-kun was a nickname kind of guy. It was unfortunate he and Kacchan disliked each other.

Izuku didn't care to hide their history or that they were pair candidates in all but name. (A change in status might be upcoming now that they were together again. The Pair Office reached out to him and his mom previously, but limited things could be done due to the candidates' separation.) But given his feelings about Izuku, Kacchan probably didn't want anyone to know. 

To give himself some time to formulate an answer, Izuku deflected. "Are you two close? You went to the same junior high school, right?" 

"Yes, we were in the same class all 3 years, too. I don't know if that makes us close." Todoroki-kun said.

"Aside from you, only Ashido-san and Kirishima-kun are from the same junior high in our class, I think."

"Shiozaki-san and Iida-san are both from Sōmei." Yaoyorozu-san corrected.

"And you and Todoroki-kun are childhood friends?"

Todoroki-kun nodded. "Momo and I had play dates together."

"Shōto-kun's mother and mine are friends. So were our older brothers—"

That's something new. Izuku has no knowledge about Endeavor's home life, except being vaguely aware that he had a handful of children. His wife has never been brought up in the media, as far as Izuku knew.

"Oh, really? What—"

"Getting back on topic, I've found Bakugō's behavior odd since the day of the assessment test. You two were late coming down to Alpha Field then, weren't you? Why was that?"

Izuku recognised and noted the absolute rejection of that topic being brought up again. Monoma-kun did, too, if the eye roll was anything to go by. Yaoyorozu-san looked at her friend apologetically, so there must be something painful hiding there.

He was no gossip and he had secrets to keep as well. Izuku knew to leave it well enough alone for now. More importantly, Todoroki-kun was very observant. Typical for someone quiet, serious and intelligent. Izuku was going to have to be careful around him.

"Bakugō-kun demanded to know about me and my apprenticeship with Yagi-sensei. And then he issued a challenge against me. I think he was annoyed that my special admission was overshadowing him being the best in the recommendation exams or something."

Todoroki-kun seemed to think about it and then just shrugged. "That sounds like him. Maybe I am overthinking it."

Izuku took the easy way out being offered and took his notebook out of his blazer’s inner pocket to start asking Monoma-kun some questions. He hadn't even gotten through the first one when he felt his phone vibrating in his pants’ pocket.

"Excuse me, let me just check this," he said, reading his master's name on the call ID. “Hello, sensei?”

“Izuku, listen carefully. I want you to be alert but do not panic. There’s reports of possible intruders in the Administration Building. We’re not sure what they want, who they are or how many. Do you understand?” His master relayed, voice hurried but sure.

“Yes, I’m in the cafeteria having lunch with Monoma-kun, Yaoyorozu-san and Todoroki-kun.” Just in case, he wanted his master to know his location and who he had close by as possible backup. “Are you in the teacher’s lounge?”

“Hound Dog, Ectoplasm and Cementoss are patrolling the grounds. I’ll be checking every floor in the Main Building along with the other Hero faculty.”

Izuku nodded, surreptitiously looking around. “Do you want me to join you, sensei?”

“Not right now. Eraserhead and I are getting ready to start in the first year tower. I'll see you later, alright?” Izuku agreed, and his master hung up.

Monoma-kun squinted at him, “Are you being summoned then?”

“Hah, yep. Turns out Aizawa-sensei’s not the only one with words for me and Bakugō-kun.” Izuku pocketed the slim notebook again and hurriedly ate the last of his lunch. “ Gochisōsama deshita! Excuse me, I’ll go ahead. See you later!”

Intruders? Who are they? How did they get in? What do they want with us?