If Toshinori excelled in anything, it was his self-awareness for being an idiot. The term itself was a bit harsher than the man thought was appropriate for use in constructive criticism, but Mirai and Nedzu both laid it on thick that the vocabulary was okay to use on the number-one hero, and the blond man was afraid it was going to bleed into his pupil's list of terms for the man. The rest of the school staff was at least nice and critiqued his honestly pitiful excuse of designing and leading the battle trial class an exact week ago, but Toshinori knew Aizawa was biting his tongue from using the word, held back by his own hypocrisy that was his original design of the battle trial teams.
That whole ordeal had nothing to do with today, though. Today, Toshinori was an idiot because he couldn't help being a hero. Arguably, it was a good thing, spending the day helping in-need civilians and stopping rising criminals. But, as a counterargument, not every hero had a three-hour time limit a day like he did. Nor was he supposed to waste it all in one morning before a school day in which he was supposed to help teach children in rescue training. That would undoubtedly get him a mouthful from the heroic freshman class's homeroom teacher, but Toshinori wouldn't take it personally. There was still time for him to get better.
"That doesn't excuse how inappropriate that is," a voice chided him over the phone. "Word got out you were going to help teach today, and I don't doubt the students have their hopes up to see you."
Toshinori sighed and rubbed his temple, nearly dropping his head on his head. "I know, Thirteen," he apologized over the line. "I even told myself I had a responsibility to the students today. I didn't forget, I refused to listen. That is my fault."
"As long as Togata doesn't follow in your footsteps, we may be okay with the rest of class today," the black hole hero replied. "I'll make sure Aizawa is aware when he gets here. I can't save you from an earful from him."
"No one in the world could stop him." Toshinori could hear the man's glare in his own imagination. "I'll handle it myself. Thank you for sparing me, at least. I'll see with Nedzu on conditioning myself to let other heroes handle the workload out there. It's unfair to run them out of a job, too."
"Good luck with that. If you're in your office now, he's probably on his way, unless his guest is holding him up in the teacher's lounge."
"Got it. I'll prepare for the worst, thank you. Pass to the students my apologies and I'll be there next time to help them grow into the heroes of tomorrow." With a quick farewell, Toshinori ended their call and threw himself back in his chair. At least the school had staffing that wasn't prepared to rip out his hair for his mistakes. He at least had people to work with and learn how to properly teach from.
A strong knock bounced into the room from the door, and he felt his body tense and bulge into his hero form. But seconds later he let himself deflate; it was his real name on the door, not his code name. No reason to parade around the symbol of hope's smile under the wrong alias. "Come in," he announced, dusting the wrinkles from his coat and waving the steam he generated out of the air.
As the door inched open, the small mammal that was the school's principal scurried in and climbed onto the couch in the room's center. "I thought you'd be locked away here," Nedzu commented as he seated himself comfortably. "The news could barely keep up with your movements, but the reports painted the picture enough that you were being irresponsible."
"I wish I could help how the world works," the blond hero defended himself. "My apologies for going all gung-ho, but people in need are people I cannot ignore."
"You should be leaving it to the heroes you did ignore," another deep voice interjected, and the door finished swinging open to allow a white-suited man with green and yellow hair to walk in. "Kamui Woods is rising fast in the popularity polls; there is a good chance he will make it into the top ten with you before the end of the year. Allow him and the others the chance to prove themselves to the public before you go and take their spotlight."
Even without his muscular form active, Toshinori found it in himself to deflate even further. "Mirai," he greeted his old sidekick, Nighteye, as the other man closed the door to his office. "You didn't tell me you were coming in today."
"A last minute arrangement," Nedzu told him. "He's been harassing me in our emails about visiting the school and assessing the situation with us. I was hoping to talk to him while the students are out at the rescue training facility, but since you're unable to follow along on their field trip, I thought it would be an excellent opportunity to invite you into the discussion today. Many brains make for many thoughts."
Toshinori gave the principal and his old friend a side-eyed look as they took seats on opposite couches in the middle of his office. Them barging in like this and forcing upon him a conversation that just so happened to be about the validity of one of their students' honor and mere existence was almost exactly the kind of situation he wanted to avoid; a few details were different from what he imagined, but the message was the same. It bothered him more how eager Mirai was to involve himself in the discussion.
Their relationship had still to mend itself to its old ways, though Toshinori would be lying to say he expected their trust and friendship in one another to return at all. His old partner had nearly manhandled the situation of his successor and choice, and it was only because it was Toshinori's word in the end that the number one hero didn't clap back at the man. It was his choice to pass One For All on to Togata, even if Mirai had recommended the boy with as high as praise came from him. Midoriya wasn't Togata, however, and so little signs were pointing to a connection to his nemesis, beyond the grave or hidden in the shadows; Toshinori didn't believe Mirai had any right to inject himself into the boy's life.
Still he held his tongue, picking himself up from his work chair and easing down at the far end of the couch from Mirai, giving the man a quick look before focusing his gaze on the principal. "I wasn't aware Midoriya had done something new to warrant us discussing his allegiance behind his back again."
"Oh, not today," Nedzu waved away his threatening assumption aside. "Nighteye may be the only one in this room uncertain about the boy's trustworthiness but I'd like to assume you and I can take his words to heart and believe him." The white-suited hero barely flinched at the jab, but the eyes behind his glasses did peer down at the mammal of a principal. "He has, however, brought to my attention a new thought we've yet to discuss among the staff. Or a few, really."
"They are completely theoretical," Mirai spoke for himself, glancing sideways to the hero he once worked under. "And it depends on whether or not we can truly prove he doesn't have a quirk."
Toshinori gave the other lanky man a thoughtful hum as he returned the stare. "We've checked his birth records, ran a blood test and had Eraserhead's quirk fail to work on the boy. Genetically, he's quirkless."
"And genetically Mirio only has Permeation," Mirai countered coldly. "One For All still does not appear in his bloodstream and DNA. Have you ruled out the possibility he has obtained a quirk in a similar method to the two of you?"
"We assume it improbable given our teacher's inability to stop him from shooting a baseball into the Pacific," Nedzu answered on Toshinori's behalf, the blond lanky man bristling in his seat at his partner's assumption. "Unless he has also obtained a quirk that blocks out the effect from other quirks, and we've yet to see anything in the world that powerful on its own. To assume that would be to assume the worst scenario is upon us, despite his death."
The short principal didn't need to spell it out to Toshinori what he was talking about. Aizawa's quirk was a rare mutation, the kind the number one hero wasn't so sure came from either of his parents. The ability to nullify one's genetic quirk was something no one else in the world had, not to their knowledge or the Hero Commission's. For a quirk to nullify that in return — completely bypass the erasure and work in whatever other form it takes — would probably have to be explicitly connected by blood or manufactured to meet that requirement. There was only one man Toshinori knew of who met both of those checkmarks, and he was left six feet under where All-Might buried him with his bare hands.
"He's gone for good," Toshinori announced aloud, finding his words had reassured himself more than they did the men around him. "There is no possibility Midoriya had obtained a quirk from him unless he had done so six years ago, and I do not believe a nine-year-old would hide something like that so well. I'm not suspending my disbelief to villainize a child who's done no wrong." He looked to his old sidekick and the principal with fiery eyes. "With that decided, we're moving on to any other justifications that explain Midoriya's powers."
Mirai seemed displeased that his accusations were rejected, but Nedzu remained unfazed and hopped along the couch he had all to himself. "Well ruling out that possibility," the principal drawled on, counting the stubs of his fingers on one paw, "we are left with very little options. Midoriya cannot simply be quirkless and manage the feats of strength he has, but we cannot label him with a quirk in the sense that we know them to exist. The rules of the world to which we understand it by simply cannot answer our questions in the state it is in currently, unless it is willing to evolve itself."
The number one hero squinted at the short man-mammal, his ears plucking key words from the other's sentences. "What are you implying, 'in the sense we know?'"
"Evolution is an age old process in the world, is it not?" Nedzu crawled up the back of the couch to sit atop the higher perch, and Toshinori cried internally as his claws scrapped against the material. "From the study of finches across various climates of the globe to the branching ancestry between you humans and the primates you deem your cousins; the ins and outs of evolution have been studied rigorously. Quirks themselves were a sudden addition to human evolution from seemingly out of nowhere, but with the exploration of space around the corner at the time, maybe it was the world's way of preparing humanity for the discoveries they would make if they traversed the stars. A story for another time.
"But over the last two centuries, quirks have melded themselves into the study of evolution across education facilities around the globe. Through ancestry and birth, families have been able to craft combinations of quirks like breeds of dogs, and with each generation result in quirks stronger than those before them. Alongside this ever-increasing ancestry tree of quirks has been the decreasing size of the quirkless population; people without powers existing in a world filled plenty with powerful individuals and groups. People who, theoretically, should have been lost to evolution ages ago, and very well may never be seen again as quirks become the true norm."
Toshinori knew of very little people without a quirk of their own, born the way he was without a power flowing through his body or altering his skin. Melissa Shield, daughter to his once-sidekick David Shield living across the ocean lining the Americas, was only one of the two people he ever met born quirkless. The other, the green-haired student currently mingling with his classmates as they should have been preparing for the trip to the rescue-simulation facility across the campus. With how low their population was worldwide, they would probably be the last two he ever met born quirkless.
"And yet," Nedzu continued, "evolution works in mysterious ways. The tailbone you humans have that serves no purpose, the variety of beaks finches have to survive in their regions, quirks popping up sporadically and with little warning or sign in the history beforehand. Some can be explained, some cannot. The truest certainty of evolution is that it is never-ending. Who was to say the transformation from primitive cavemen to sophisticated humans would be the end of your change? Who is to say quirks would ever be the first and only sudden change to the human race, its biology and its capabilities?"
Toshinori could see Mirai shuffle in his seat, hands fiddling in his lap in the brief yet dramatic silence Nedzu left them in. He wasn't sure what the other man was thinking about, but Toshinori was aware of his own thoughts; of the conclusions he was drawing from the principal's words before he even finished. If the number one hero was expecting anything today, questioning the time of his birth and the life he could have lived were not it.
"What if Midoriya is the first of his own evolutionary line where quirklessness no longer means powerlessness?"
It was oddly satisfying to be in his hero costume, Izuku thought to himself. It was far more comfortable and free than the school's uniform was, and still better on his body than the gym uniform felt. And he had to thank the company that designed his costume for replacing his last one after the damage it took from the battle trial only a week ago, probably a benefit for having such a simple design for them to replicate and deliver. Only downside was that apparently green shirts weren't as in demand as some other colors, so for today — and hopefully the only day — Izuku was going to have to wear a red undershirt. Maybe he could put in a permanent request to stock up on green shirts only.
"Oh, you got to wear your costume!" Uraraka commented as she ran up behind him, stalking by his side as they followed their classmates out to their teacher. "They patched it up quickly! I didn't think they'd let you wear your old, burned clothes, but I wasn't expecting them to make you a new set this soon."
"I'm lucky the design is so simple," Izuku replied, patting down his chest and swinging his bat by his side. At least it stayed intact enough for him to keep using it. "It probably costs less to replace because it's mostly just normal clothes. Material is probably a bit sturdier though. And I wish they gave me the right color." He pinched at his undershirt, grumbling audibly his distaste for the color. "I don't want to have to cycle through the rainbow before I get to wear green again."
The brunette laughed at his misfortune. "You don't look too bad in red, Midoriya," she tried complimenting him through her giggles. "And I think it goes really well with the black of the rest of your costume. It even matches your shoes!"
The tip of his shoes knocked against the ground in acknowledgement. He did wear his red kicks with his costume, simply because he liked them. Izuku didn't have a better answer than that over choosing more tactical or athletic footwear with his uniform. He'd have to write in for a pair of sneakers to replace them officially, alongside his shirt request form.
"Yeah, but it doesn't match my hair," he grumbled, pointing up to the shaggy mess of green locks atop his head. "The red shirt looks weird compared to the green one; it doesn't work for me. And I'm not dying my hair to match my shirts. I like my green."
"You should definitely do something about your hair." A ball of fluff ruffled against his curls as Ojiro caught up to the duo, hassling Izuku with his tail. "When was the last time you went in for a haircut? You got lucky your hair isn't straight or you'd be blinded by it half of the time."
Izuku growled and whacked away his friend's tail with a flailing arm. "I like my hair." Sure, he hadn't gone to a salon or stylist in almost a year for a fresh trim, but that was hardly important anyways. His kinda-afro was too important. They'd have to hold him down and chop it with a sword to get it off his head, and the only two he expected to have the gaul were Ojiro and Kaminari, and that was just in his immediate circle. And they could fucking try; he'd fight them all.
"Aye! Everyone's got their costumes!" It wasn't long before the trio caught up to Iida, Yaoyorozu and Kaminari at the building's exit, the latter greeting them and shuffling to Uraraka's free side as they carried on towards the bus down the pathway. "Our first real day in hero training! Who else is excited for this? I know I am. I was up until like 3 a.m. hyping myself up for today!"
"What—Kaminari that's unhealthy!" Iida chastised him quickly, chopping a hand down on the boy's shoulder that shuddered him like he was struck by lightning. "If you're not sleeping properly then it's going to poorly affect your studies! How can you expect to perform at your best if you're not getting your eight hours of sleep?"
Kaminari shrugged at the other boy's concern. "I spent four of those extra hours on homework already. Getting four a night isn't going to kill me." Izuku stayed silent as Iida and Uraraka ganged up on the blond boy that it could quite possibly kill him. He only got five or six a night himself; he'd probably end up with Kaminari being scolded by their blue-haired friend if he tried jumping in to save him.
Waiting for their class at the bus was their homeroom teacher, and flanking his side was the apprentice to All-Might from the battle trial also dressed in his hero costume. "Listen up," Aizawa shouted over the class, silencing their mingling and grabbing their attention. "The rescue training facility is on the other side of the campus, so we'll be taking a bus to get there. There's enough space for you to all have a seat so I don't want to hear any standing or running around inside. This will be your last class of the day, so keep yourself in line on the way there or you're walking."
Togata laughed over the nervous aura of the class, clapping Aizawa on the back despite the man's grumble not to be touched. "We'll explain more about the exercise when we get there," the blond young man announced to the other students. "There is another hero waiting for us at the Simulation Joint and another that should be joining us by the time we arrive. I hope." He let a small frown plaster his face for only a second before he rocketed around and darted into the open door of the bus. "All aboard!"
Izuku silently followed his classmates aboard the bus as their teacher ushered them in. It was barely a secret at this point that All-Might himself was supposed to be teaching this class as well, and he wondered which of the other two heroes he was supposed to be and who the other was. Though, given what Izuku had seen of the number one hero on the news that morning to his classes, he wasn't too sure the man was going to spend a lot of time teaching them today in his hero look. How did he replenish hours anyways; was there a timer in his blood that reset at the end of each day to limit him for those three hours?
Izuku took to napping on the ride across campus. With Ojiro by one side and the frog-like girl on the other, the green-haired boy took to listening to his classmates converse; Aoyama and Tsunotori engaged in an English discussion about food he could barely make out a sentence of; the tall and many-armed Shoji shared tactics with the orange-haired Kendo over similar quirks; Yaoyorozu was trapped in the back rows of seats as the pink-skinned Ashido hounded her over the tall girl's choice in costume design, now that she strutted around without her cloak on hand. This was the nicest bus ride he'd ever been on.
"I usually say what's on my mind, Midoriya," the girl by his side croaked out, drawing the boy to face him.
"That must be an inconvenience," Izuku replied to Asui after a pause to breathe. "Is it at least good stuff that comes out?"
"Most of the time." Well if that wasn't unnecessarily concerning. "Your quirk reminds me of All-Might."
The green-haired boy paused what response he had sitting on his tongue to stare quietly at the girl. Her big eyes stared back at him, bouncing slightly as it examined his face and placid expression. He put what strength he had into reserving a laugh at the comment from her.
"Well I'm sorry for leading you on like that, but I am absolutely nothing like him. At all."
It was only because God hated him that their conversation had to be loud enough for the people around them to hear. "Come on, Midoriya, I wouldn't sell yourself that short," Kirishima interjected, throwing an arm over the frog-quirked girl to pat Izuku on the shoulder. "You may not be a carbon copy of All-Might like Togata over there but you're still pretty amazing."
"Hey!" came the indignant but jovial cry of their permeating upperclassman from the front of the bus, phasing his body through the back of his chair to face the red-haired boy who mentioned him. "I'm not a copy of the big guy. I'm not nearly that tall."
"But you do share the same hair color, body build, talk the same, wear a costume that resembles his Bronze Age uniform with inverted colors, and copy his smile," listed Asui with a stoic face. Huh, Izuku thought, she was being serious about "most of the time."
"Wha—" The laundry list of comparisons nearly threw Togata through his chair, the boy on catching himself with a moment to focus. "I mean yeah, I look up to the guy. Who wouldn't? But it's all coincidence, I'm telling you! You can back me up, right Eraserhead?"
Their teacher behind the wheel barely glanced at the blond boy by his side, and Izuku saw the man's eyes flicker back their way in the rearview mirror. "Mic and Midnight are running bets in the teacher's lounge that All-Might is related to you in some variation of blood. Cementoss is convinced he's your uncle."
The blond young man threw his hands about and cried comically. "Ahhh! You were my only hope in this!"
Izuku revelled in the ease of weight off his shoulders as the conversation shifted to their upperclassmen vetoing claim after claim from the class over his and All-Might's connection. He couldn't stop his thoughts from doing the same, given Asui's observations and the knowledge he was the man's assistant for their first heroics class. It did feel very coincidental, how many similarities the two shared with one another if they were connected by nothing else but a school. But why Togata specifically, of all their seniors in Yuei or even from the heroics scene as a whole?
What purpose did he have for being around their class?
The dome they pulled up on was bigger on the inside. Not TARDIS levels of big but even being outside of something he couldn't see the far left or ride side of at the front gates did little justice to the several catastrophe-designed "parks" scattered about inside. Not only did they start at a staircase that led down into the ground below sea level, but from atop the steps Izuku could see a full-sized cruise, two small cities, a larger town, a jungle and a set of mountains lined against the wall of the dome. The center of it all being a fountain and actual park decorations felt almost out-of-place for looking so normal and Universal Studios Japan-esque.
Had they placed two round ears on the hero that greeted them behind the front door, Izuku would have believed it to be that place.
The astronaut suit that stood before they waved and the eyes peeking through the pitch-black dome of its head emoted in a warm greeting. "Hello students," a feminie voice called out from the suit. "Welcome to the Unforeseen Simulation Joint." Oh, so this just was Universal Studios Japan. "Glad to see you make it on time. I worried Eraser would have played another expulsion prank on the bus and delay you all."
"They aren't pranks, Thirteen," Class 1-A's homeroom teacher defended himself as he led Mirio past the class and to the heroine's side. "My threats of expulsion are always serious. This batch knows how to keep themselves in check, at the very least."
Uraraka bounced between the group, latching onto Kaminari's arm and shaking him as she beamed with excitement. "Oh my god it's Thirteen!" she squealed, keeping her voice low enough not to shout in Izuku's ear. "She's here! She's actually here! I heard she was on the staff list but I thought that was just a rumor. My favorite hero is actually here!"
"I think my lunch is about to be here too," the blond electric boy burped and tried to remove himself from the brunette's choking grasp.
Izuku watched their teachers converse quietly with one another, their voices muffled and the only gesture he made out being the three fingers Thirteen put up for Aizawa. He wasn't sure what it meant, but given All-Might was still nowhere to be seen, it probably meant this was going to be a three-teacher course instead of four. Maybe that three meant the hours he had to be in "character"? It would make some sense if the entirety of the school's staff swore secrecy about it.
"Well I guess we have a change of plans," Aizawa announced to the class as he turned their way with an undirected glare in his eyes. "Our fourth supervisor has chosen to be an idiot and won't be joining us today, which throws a wrench into our plans for the day. I take it you all know who I'm talking about already." Izuku could feel the wave of disappointment that washed over his classmates: it wasn't hard to miss the empty space where All-Might was supposed to be beside their teachers. "Which means we'll have to rework our schedule to fit this-"
"Or we change nothing," Thirteen interjected, stepping forward and pushing their homeroom teacher back a step. "I've already called All-Might about his absence today; you won't be able to surprise drop-kick him later today."
"I still will."
"But, we don't need to change anything about the selected groups, just how we rotate them in the exercise." The space-suited heroine swiped a paper from the glove on her chest. "As you should all be aware, this is a rescue training exercise today. For the purpose of our staff size, we have planned out and designated you all into four groups we would all mentor individually and rotate through the simulation centers around. But now that we're low one supervisor, we'll have to swap you between us to follow the same plan."
"I'm not leaving one groupd unsupervised," Aizawa interjected, but Thirteen patted the man reassuringly.
"I understand you're a closet helicopter parent" - the space heroine showed no reaction to the man's irritated growl - "but you said it yourself that these students are responsible, and they should be enough so to be trusted on their own. We have communicators to keep in touch with them while they rest in between everyone else's turn. We follow the old exercise plans to a T but we stay supervising the exercises while they rest here or at the fountain."
As the two heroes engaged in a silent staring contest, Kaminari leaned over to their group and whispered, "It's like watching domestic conflict."
"How many soap operas have you watched for that to be your first thought?" Ojiro asked him.
"Why would I need to watch soap sing about it?"
Before Izuku could rightfully hassle the electric boy to an audience of equally aghast onlookers, their homeroom teacher had forfeited the staring contest and turned to address the class. "All right. Since you have all shown to be responsible and respectable, consider this another test of firsts." Swiping and unfolding the paper from Thirteen's hands, Aizawa presented the lists of names grouped off from each other. "Listen up. We'll be splitting the class into groups of four for today's Rescue Training Session. One group was to be supervised by me, another by Thirteen and another by Togata. The fourth group was supposed to be overseen by All-Might, and while I would like to section you all into the other three, the split was made for a clean rotation and schedule. It should be obvious why that's a problem now."
"To amend this, we'll be keeping the groups the same but rotating you through our supervision," Thirteen continued for the man. "Each simulation has a pre-set course for you all to work around and they'll only work one time each. There are enough for us to run through them all and allow the fourth group a round to rest while the others work. While more hands can always help, real world disasters and dilemmas will usually call for a set group of heroes and sidekicks to step in for assistance. Others will be needed elsewhere or to stay back in case any other troubles occur, so consider this a simulation of that too."
Togata stepped forward to Aizawa's other side and beamed at the hero class. "Think of it as an opportunity to bond! If you haven't gotten to know everyone in your class, this will be a great chance to make more friends and learn how to work with each other. You'll have the next three years working with each other at best, might as well strap in for the ride and share your names with your partners! Same for you guys who get to wait while everyone else works; you'll have the time to wait and prep and plan together without worrying about the clock like the others. That sound good, sensei?" The blond man looked to the black-haired man for praise on what must have been an on-the-spot suggestion, and the man gave an affirmative hum while the anonymous heroine pulled walkies out from her suit and went to work connecting them.
Izuku felt pretty comfortable with an exercise like this. In name, rescuing someone sounded simple, but the execution was a matter that muddled it all. Izuku had seen it first hand, when heroes stood to the side as a slime monster tried to burrow its way down Katsuki's throat, and again when Izuku had to body-check a child to prevent her from being shot. Hell, blitzing from the Zero Pointer with Uraraka in his arms was just that. He had been successful — to varying degrees — plenty of times to give him confidence. He was going to be just fine.
It was with reluctance he bid his circle of friends farewell as he was placed in a group with four others of his classmates he needed to get to know and followed their homeroom teacher down the longest stairwell Izuku had ever seen. His thoughts from the week prior prodded at the back of his mind, but he quelled them as best he could. He could play detective in his free time; now was the time to focus and stake his place in the class as someone they could trust beyond the lie they didn't know.
It was probably best for Momo that she got to go to the burning city simulation over the one drowning in pouring rain, especially with this much exposed skin. She had thought of wearing her cloak again, but it felt more of a nuisance than a keeper of dignity in the battle trial. She left it in her locker without a moment's hesitation before joining her classmates on the journey to the USJ. At least this way she wouldn't be sweating bullets and dragging along a blanket for the exercise.
Her other classmates, however, were not as lucky.
"It seems fate has deemed me prey to target for the high hour of the day," her bird-headed classmate muttered beside her, dressed in a cloak of his own, as their group followed Togata down the road. "The darkest of our lords below have provided me to you all at my weakest. I am at your mercy for this trial of sweat and blood."
"You won't have to ruffle your feathers for even a second, mon compagnon," Aoyama reassured Tokoyami with a twinkle in his eyes and a supportive pose to boot. "Keep up by our side and you'll sparkle even in the darkness you revel in."
The bird-headed boy turned his head behind them to the blond-haired boy. "Aoyama, you're struggling to walk." Said boy was currently sweating bullets down a face struggling to maintain its positivity, and Momo wouldn't be surprised if the boots of the boy's armor were already puddled below his knees with sweat.
"Why did we have to go here of all places?" the shorter, purple-haired complained by Momo's side, fanning her heated face and pulling on the collar of her shirt to breathe. "Was the cruise line off limits? It'd be better than dying of heat exhaustion." Jiro looked up to Momo out of the side of her eye, a grumble emanating from her throat. "Are you even going to be alright in that? What was wrong with the drape you had last week?"
"It's a cloak," Momo corrected, "and it isn't imperative to my costume to wear it at all times. I may tan a bit, but it's a small price to pay compared to overdressing and overheating. Though I do agree as to why this of all places. Is there a reason we were sent to this simulation station, senpai?"
"It's entirely intentional," the young man leading their group down the road shouted back over his shoulder. "Your sensei wanted us to start the exercise with a setback course for your first run and then go up from there. Your classmates are all going through the same right now, with the group back at the entrance having the set back of less experience; probably Aizawa's way of saying you'll have to face circumstances and dangers you aren't always prepared for. The teams aren't completely imbalanced for you all to have trouble with your surroundings, but you'll have enough troubles ahead of you to make up for it. C'mon, it's cooler inside."
The vacant building he led them in was much cooler, with its windows intact and the air conditioning completely functional to the relief of the entire group. The tall girl gave the ground floor a once-over to its empty and open space, void of amenities or supplies to even wear a facade of ever being used as a work space before its current fate surrounded by fire.
"If the exercise is in here, I have no more complaints," Jiro panted out as she fell to the floor. "Leather was a bad idea."
"Then why did you choose it?" Tokoyami asked her from the pillar he leaned on.
"Sue me for having taste in fashion."
"Don't get too comfortable here," Togata warned them. "This is still class time, and we've got three runs to put you kids through. Four if you count the waiting period as one too. And as funny as obstacle course running sounds for a place like this, you all know what we're doing today; dummy rescue training."
"So our goal is to find the doll and bring it back?" the horned, pink-skinned girl asked their teacher as their group of five followed him through the woods.
"There's more to it than just that, Ashido," Aizawa began explaining. "We couldn't hire sidekicks soon enough to combat against as fill-in for villains and Power Loader has no designs of bots that work in enclosed spaces that don't result in knocking down walls and causing mass destruction, so we've laid traps and obstacles throughout each section to provide you with a challenge. Originally we would have you all running through each course as a whole class, but god forbid Nedzu lets me live a day without a headache, so consider yourselves the first testers of this exercise format."
"I feel both honored and absolutely terrified," Izuku muttered aloud. "I can't wait to be dead in a ditch in the middle of the woods. That's only every horror story I heard about in middle school."
"Sounds funny," Tsunotori giggled.
"Two kinds of people."
"Where do we have to bring the doll?" the orange-haired girl questioned their teacher, side-eyeing Izuku and the American exchange student by his side. The green-haired boy only shrugged at her and the vine-haired girl by her side giving an equally unamused stare. It's not like he was wrong.
"Thirteen and Ectoplasm should have set up markers from the doll to where I'll be waiting," Aizawa explained. Their homeroom teacher stopped them in a slightly open space between the trees. "This will be your starting point. You'll have to head in that direction to the doll, and the further forward you go I'll be waiting. The traps are nothing lethal; just capturing and roadblocking. I'll give you the signal for when to begin, so stay here." With little else to say, their teacher darted into the woods like a man on a mission. Given Izuku had seen the man's giant yellow sleeping bag, there was one guess as to what that mission was.
"Can someone relay that to me again?" Tsunotori asked their group in English. "I don't think I caught all of that."
"Find our teacher's doll and bring it to him," Izuku translated for her in what words he knew. "Traps will annoy, no hurt. I hope." He looked to the sky — or at least the hatchwork of glass above their heads. "Not today, please. Thanks."
Ashido slid her way into him, barely teetering the boy upon collision. "So, class prez," she asked him sweetly, "got any plans?"
The green-haired boy looked down to her, finding her face just touching his nose-to-nose as his head turned. He said nothing as he got lost in her eyes, intrigued by the golden iris rings surrounded by black sclera. He hadn't met a lot of people whose eyes were vastly different from those of the average human's and even those with animal quirks had normal eyes. He wondered if the girl's eyes affected light and color perception in any way.
"What color is my hair?" he elected to ask her.
She looked at him confused, and rightfully so given he hadn't even bothered to answer her question. "Uhh, green?"
"Neat." He turned back to the ocean of trees before them. "And no, I have no plan."
The acid-creating girl fell like slime against him with a loud whine. "C'mon, prez. You're the leader of the class; you gotta have something to direct us."
"There is only so much I can do against trees," he admitted, trying to be as gentle as possible to peel the girl off of him. "I haven't been in a forest for like a decade. My mom and I don't hike all that much."
"I think I have a few ideas," the orange-haired girl piped up being the two. "My dad's taken me outdoors more times than there are trees in this place. I might have an idea how to navigate and what to look out for if the traps aren't so obvious."
The green-haired teen looked back to Kendo, the pink-skinned girl he had pried off himself going from wailing on his shoulder to slumping into Tsunotori's waiting arms. The Equus-quirked girl was confused by Ashido's over-dramaticness, but played along to the side of their clearing while fake crying with the other girl. At least they were getting along just fine, Izuku thought.
"I'll take whatever you have," Izuku told Kendo. For a moment he had thought of offering the class prez position to her, either seriously or jokingly, but bit his tongue as he remembered Iida's encouragement. Probably wouldn't help getting to know his other classmates if he thrusted his responsibilities onto their shoulders. "I got no problem following your lead. My ankles are in your hands." There was probably a net or rope trap set up somewhere out there. "What'd you got?"
"A few ideas. Shiozaki." Kendo turned to their vine-haired classmate standing off to the side, alone in her own attempt to peer between the trees for their objective. "How far are you able to stretch out your vines?"
"I can stretch a single vine almost one hundred meters long," the green-haired girl answered, the vines cascading down her back rising and lapping over her shoulder after she spoke. "And if you're hoping to use them to trigger the traps, I can detach them from my body at will if they get stuck."
Izuku furrowed his eyebrows. "Does that hurt any?"
"Luckily, no. But when we do find the dummy, we might lose points if my thorns stab into it. I don't have perfect control over contracting and controlling them."
"That's fine," Kendo reassured her, enlarging one of her hands in a determined fist pump. "You can leave the carrying to me.
Then suddenly, the lights above went out, and the five students shot their heads to the sky, watching the bulbous lamps across the dome flicker on and off before returning to their brightness setting. The two girls embraced on the ground shot up to their feet with a startle, and the two others standing near Izuku dropped into stances ready to move at a moment's notice. Izuku kept his eyes unblinking at the ceiling, darting them to one light that struggled to stay on with the rest of them.
"Was that the signal sensei was talking about?" Ashido asked out loud. "I thought he would do something more subtle…"
"That wasn't me." The five of them turned back to the woods, their teacher perched on a branch with the scarf around his neck stretched out and floating around his head. "And that's not the only problem."
"What do you mean it's missing?" Thirteen shouted into the speaker on her wrist.
"I mean exactly that," Aizawa's voice informed her. "The traps Ectoplasm set up have been disabled and destroyed and the dummy is gone completely. No traces of what happened to it or who took it. You're sure no one has been in and out of here since you arrived?"
"Not to my knowledge, no," the spacesuit heroine responded. "The log-in at the entrance showed no activity before I arrived. Do you think this is Nedzu throwing us into the old plan?"
"That rat likes to give us the warning if he makes last minute changes. This isn't him. Get the students ba-."
The line cut into static suddenly, and Thirteen bashed away at her wrist to get it working again. "Eraser? Aizawa?" The connection never came back online, and Mashirao was certain he heard the woman cuss under her breath. The heroine looked down both lanes of the road doused in a downpour from the simulation before looking back over the five students behind her. "This way!"
Mashiro grumbled as he hiked his gi over his head to keep the water out of his eyes. Asui — Tsu as she asked to be referred as— was completely unfazed by the water cascading down her body, but the three boys behind the tailed hero-in-training sounded as displeased as he felt. His costume wasn't exactly designed for damp conditions.
"Are we the rescue simulation?" Kaminari asked over the loud crashing of the water on the street as they crossed and dived down a less soaked alleyway. "I thought we were supposed to be practicing that."
"You were!" Thirteen shouted back at them. "Something's gone wrong. Someone hijacked the course and ruined our equipment and we don't know who. Best case scenario, one of the senior hero course teachers is just playing a prank and Nedzu wants you to learn from them and their class directly and forgot to tell us."
"Well that isn't manly!" Kirishima shouted back with a huff. "Sensei looked annoyed enough that All-Might wasn't able to show up today; I don't think a prank like this would make him any more happy." Todoroki flanked the end of their line, mumbling something about their homeroom teacher Mashirao couldn't quite make out.
The heroine in the front of their group stopped them as they came to the other end of the alley and shrugged. "He's usually the one who makes them, though he calls them rouses. Eraser can be a bit weird but he's a nice guy; you're lucky to have him as your teacher."
Mashirao shook the water off his tail into the sputtering face of Kaminari beside him, muttering an apology as he wrung what water he could from his costume. "If this is supposed to be a prank then it's not all that funny. We should have seen someone by now telling us that, right?"
"Sensei," Asui asked before Mashirao could get an answer. "What if this isn't the best case scenario?"
For a pair of eyes on a pitch black surface, Thirteen emoted sadness and worry exceptionally well, Mashirao noted. "Then we need to hurry. Stay close to me."
Running out into the street didn't take them far, as from out of the next alleyway came a new figure, tall and shaded by the darkness and the rain and wearing a skull of a helmet over his head. And with him, crawling out of the surrounding buildings and stalking out in the downpour were more men and women Mashirao was certain were not with the school.
"I guess we found the targets, boys," the skull-helmet man shouted down the road. "You know the job."
While Tenya would have happily thrown himself into conversation with his group and gotten to know the three boys paired with him and Uraraka that he wasn't as close to, the brunette dominated the introductions with her bubbly atmosphere and personality so strongly that the blue-haired teen felt relegated to the sidelines. For someone who he believed to be the meekest of their group of friends, Tenya had to edit his categorizing of her as she slipped into shared interests with Sato, Hanta and Shoji. He wondered where the tonal shift came from when she acted so reserved and as a follower when their other friends were around.
Instead of melding into their talks and getting to know his classmates personally, Tenya took to the edge of the platform they stood on where it at the stairway met and looked out across the Unforeseen Simulation Joint's many sections. He had seen the rest of their class part ways at the fountain in the lower center and made their ways into the forest and the two ruined city simulations, which left nine other sites untouched and available for the next course. If the class's schedule went as planned, they'd have to run through three of the stages one after the other, and there was no guarantee which order they would be in. if they were to form any plan for the circumstances specifically, they'd have to keep track of each and every plan they formulate. Not to doubt his classmates' intelligence but even Tenya had to admit that would be too much.
"Everything all right, Iida?" The blue-haired teen gazed over his shoulder as his tall, multi-armed classmates came to his side, one hand morphed into a mouth as he came to stand beside him at the top of the steps. "You look a bit troubled."
Tenya rose a hand to the boy and smiled. "I'm fine. Thank you for asking, Shoji. I am just thinking about the exercise. I've studied up on rescue training before but I've had little hands-on practice with it. My family taught me more about navigation than adding people into the mix. I'm...not too sure I'll do our team justice today."
"I think you'll do just fine," Shoji reinforced him. "I was there at the entrance exam, with you and Midoriya and Uraraka." He pointed back at the girl seated between the other two boys, drawing shapes in the air with their fingers as they talked. "I saw the two of you step in to save her from the Zero Pointer together. I was trying to hide atop a building during all that. To have the bravery and heart to step in and do that when everyone else was trying to run and hide — you're probably the best one here to lead us as an example."
Instead of accepting the compliments, Tenya dropped his head in shame. "A poor example I am." He remembered that day with a sour taste: how he had seen Midoriya run in to the defense of a helpless examinee turned good friend, tried to step in and aid the green-haired teen, and ended up unconscious for the end of the exam having barely made any ground in his efforts. He had woken up in the hospital ward of the school with Midoriya and Uraraka present and mingling in a hushed conversation of introductions. All Tenya knew was they were fine in the end and he had done little to contribute to her safety. "Thank you for the kind words, but I am not sure I can live up to that expectation."
"You already have, with the heart to step in like that," the multi-armed boy pushed. "You and Midoriya seem to have the same humbleness. I'm honored to have the two of you as classmates; I hope one day to be as good as you already are."
Iida opened his mouth to refute the other boy's words and offer his own words of encouragement, but his jaw snapped shut as the lights overhead flickered on and off for several seconds before calming back down. The two boys looked to each other in confusion and shock before turning back to their equally surprised classmates.
"What was that?" Sato asked aloud. "I didn't just imagine that, right?"
Hanta shook his head. "No, the power almost went out. Did someone mess with a breaker or something?"
"I don't know," Tenya admitted, looking at their surroundings worriedly before swiping the radio from his hip. "Senseis! Can you hear me? Is everything all right?"
"Iida?" a voice called back through static. "Ca- y-u he- -e? S- ri-ht -re y- -e! We- b- t-—"
"Sensei?" he screamed into the device as the static took over the noise until it was all that remained. "It's no good. The connection isn't working. Is something jamming the signal?"
"Maybe Kaminari accidentally hit something in the exercise?" Uraraka offered, though her voice wavered weakly in her assumption. "What else would cause a problem like…"
The brunette's voice died in her throat as she looked forward with wide eyes. While the other boys approached her and called her name to get her to respond, Tenya followed the trail of her gaze and found the sight that stopped her, sittin in the center of the Simulation Joint. In front of the fountain sat a dark violet plume of smoke billowing outwards into a large could, and out from it stepped one man. And then another. And then another. And then a whole host of characters in costumes until a crowd of people the blue-haired boy weren't heroes in uniform stood at the base of the stairs, with two figures in the back standing shoulder-to-shoulder standing out in designs that left the teen uneasy.
"Villains," Shoji breathed out in shock.
"Get back!" Tenya ushered his classmates away from the staircase, back towards the entrance to try and make an escape—
"Do watch where you walk." The five students jumped and turned on their heels to find the purple smoke at their doorstep. Yellow streaks for eyes peered from the top of the cloud, boring down on them with a sinister chuckle. "We can't have you running off too far. We need you here if we are to flush All-Might out to his death."