It hurt Katsuki's throat not to scream, oddly enough. To shout and bellow over a crowd of people far too afraid to stand their ground and show their confidence like he did had become his nature. Too many people were fools, too afraid to speak up and show and bark and bite. No one was pioneering for greatness like him, no one was trying to poke out from the drones of boring and average civilians the way he was. On one hand, it meant he had little to no competition on his way to the top spot of the heroics scene; on the other, it meant he was living in a world of cowards and it would be his responsibility to pick up after everyone else's mess when they proved themselves to be incapable and inadequate.
The pawns that made up his heroics class last week fit that description perfectly. One day watching their quirks and another having to tune out their voices as they dressed like dolls and chat about how pretty they all looked, and not a single one of them presented themselves to be worth a dime. Half of them had weak quirks no matter the situation, and the rest still didn't have what it took to be great heroes — to be real heroes.
And Deku was still there, he assumed. It had been a full week since he was demoted to the General Studies class, exchanging eighteen boring faces and one he utterly hated for fourteen just as dumb looking new faces. It was on his own accord that he took his lunch time to his homeroom while everyone else shuffled to Lunch Rush's cooking. The last thing he wanted to see was that green-haired prick's stupid smug mug any time soon.
His new teacher — a B-list hero he knew as Ectoplasm — had no qualms in introducing Katsuki to his new classmates as an example that poor attitude wouldn't get them into the hero course if they tried for the promotion for the next school year. He mentioned nothing of the blond boy's chance to re-achieve such a placement in a month's time; Katsuki did that himself. He wasn't told not to talk about it, and he didn't care if his new classmates looked pissed and annoyed that he could take back his seat sooner than they could steal it. Tough shit, life was.
"Buncha bullcrap," Katsuki hissed to himself, hunched over his desk and lunch. "That's what it is."
The new pond of weaklings he found himself surrounded by were even more pathetic than the ones he was removed from. Their quirks were either awfully weak or downright nonexistent on their persons. Most of them caved to their teacher's warning of not starting a fight or bothering Katsuki about his demotion, bar one purple-haired, smug-looking bitch boy whose Cheshire grin said enough on its own. He wasn't going to try learning any of their names anyways; once he got out of this class and back into the heroics program, he was never going to see them again. Instead, he was going to waste his time remembering the only face worth the time: Deku's.
It's because of him that Katsuki was dealing with this mess in the first place. It was his fault for twisting the stories against him and making the explosive boy out to be some kind of marauder. For all his self-pity shit in middle school and junior high, for all his crying and whining and weakness, that green-haired punk had tried to paint Katsuki as a villain. Him, the next-coming of All-Might from out of a nowhere town to match the hero's ambiguous origins and the strongest quirk out of every other kid in the whole school. He was the furthest thing from a villain, following in the greatest hero's footsteps.
No, Deku was the villain here. A persistent little weasel who only scurried his way into this school to mess with and ruin Katsuki's path for greatness. He had no quirk, he had no power, he had no will, he had no drive, he had no conviction; he had nothing to qualify for admission into a school he should have begged even a greeting from. And yet here they were, surrounded by a flock of mindless drones that didn't question the green-haired bastard on anything and let him waltz on by to steal the spotlight Katsuki so rightfully deserved. It was through pity he made it into the school at all; no way he passed the exam or had the money to bribe the school board to attend.
Sparks popped from Katsuki's palm on instinct, and the boy snarled as he gripped his hand shut. The principal had shoved him onto thin ice he couldn't blast himself off of. They wanted him to work for his footing again, to scramble to their mercy and tip toe back to solid ground, but they would gladly hand that quirkless piece of shit everything on a platter and leave him be. And he could get angry about it — shout and scream and target the bastard as he always had to prove his resolve and place above him — but now teachers wanted to act like that wasn't how the world worked? Like that wasn't how the hero life would be like?
If he wasn't able to deal with it now, he would deal with it later. If he had until the end of the Sports Festival to prove himself as the best candidate for the hero course, then he would knock two birds with one stone: crush the competition in one fell swoop and put Deku in his place for the whole school and the whole world to see.
If he was ever going to beat it into Deku's head that this fever dream wasn't going to last, then he would have to beat his head in forcefully.
The guy could be a prick that did nothing but glare at the back of his head in class, but Mashirao had to give it to Todorok that his quirk was something else.
Before Thirteen could give an order or act out in defense, the dual-haired boy had parted from the crowd and, in one sweeping spin, splayed ice all around them, coating the nearby buildings, the whole street, and every suspicious character around them, while leaving their group dry in an untouched circle. Even some of the rainwater had been caught an inch from the ground, like little crystal stalagmites.
"It's one thing to watch it happen on a screen," Kaminari muttered, "but it's another thing entirely up close."
Kirishima beside him shuddered suddenly, slapping his arms and running his hands up and down his skin. "And a lot colder," he chattered through his teeth.
Mashirao bristled at the cold, happy he wore an extra undershirt on the off chance he had to deal with Todoroki's ice again. Beside him, Asui shook violently, croaking and breathing out puffs of crystalized breath as she coiled in on herself. Without hesitating, he threw his tail around her, tugging the girl against him and wrapping his arms over her securely. "Sorry about this," he muttered to her.
"'S okay," she shivered back, digging closer against his costume. "The coal s'too mush for me. 'Hank you furr helping." She was slurring her words too, he noted. Mashirao had a classmate in elementary with a salmon mutation who nearly dried up one dry summer day in class; not the best segway into the education about animal mutations and their effects on a person's biology. At least now he knew Asui was like that too for future reference.
Todoroki flexed his body slowly, cracking the ice that formed on his right side so he could move his arm. "This should hold them for a while," he breathed out with a visible puff of air following his words. Then the ice shattered beside them, and one of the villains previously coated in ice from the neck down blew free from his prison as his body grew double in size. "Some of them."
Mashirao tucked Asui behind him as Todoroki stepped forward to throw another layer of ice over the giant, trapping him in a thicker casing of a glacier. Other villains around them struggled to break free like their comrade, but none seemed to have quirks suited for freedom. "We should get out of here before they break free," the tailed boy suggested to his teacher. "Tsu can't be here for too long." The green-haired girl had no words to offer after her shaky croak, but the nod of her head against the tuff of his tail was a good enough signal of agreement.
"We should interrogate them for information while we can," Todoroki argued, stomping off to one of the smaller criminals close by. "This is Yuei. No one breaks in here; ever. Do you think reporters would host a break-in?"
"We can leave the interrogation to the police when they get here," Thirteen marched forward to pull Todoroki away from the encased villain. "Your safety and the safety of your classmates come first. We need to keep moving."
"Run all you want." Mashirao turned his attention to the skull-helmet-wearing man encased in ice closest to them. "The boss isn't gonna let you go far. If that thing is capable of killing All-Might, then you're already dead." The husks of his eyes gleamed a second, before yellow sparks and trails danced around his head. "Maybe he'll let it slide if I do the job myself."
Mashirao launched back as far as he could with only his two feet, Asui clenched tightly against him, and Thirteen threw Todoroki behind her as the sparks began to bloom off the man's face. Before they could fly far, Kirishima and Kaminari jumped forward, and the lightning that erupted from the man's body veered into the blond boy's hands and down his body while the red-head crashed a stone-hardened fist down on the man's face.
"Boys!" their teacher yelled at them, stumbling across the ice and away from the now slumped body of the villain. "That was too dangerous! Are either of you hurt?"
"Not too badly!" Kirishima yelled back, raising a shaky but stoney fist. "His electricity only tickled me. I can still feel my hand."
"At least one of us can," Kaminari grumbled, struggling to flex his fingers into fists. "Gah, that hurt. Least my brain isn't fried fully. I can still make out both of your heads."
The red-haired boy blinked flatly at the other boy. "Kami, I have one head."
"You know, that did sound weird when I said it."
The rescue heroine hissed. "Damn. Kirishima, stay by his side. Make sure he stays on his feet. Ojiro, you'll have to carry Asui for now; we'll take a right out of the city and move towards the front entrance. If they know we're here, they'll know where everyone else is, and that includes your classmates we left behind. We need to regroup with everyone else—Todoroki!"
Mashirao followed his teacher's gaze to the alley they last ran through, as the dual-haired boy bolted between the buildings on his own.
"Now's not the time to go play hero!" Thirteen screamed after him. "We need to stay together!"
"We need to stop them before they get any further!" Todoroki shouted back. "There's no use in escaping if all they do is chase us down in the end!"
"That's not your—" Thirteen's disapproval was silenced as ice shot down the alley, filling the space completely and blocking the path to follow the boy who made it. Asui shivered violently in Mashirao's arms, and the boy worried and tightened his grip.
"Sensei, Tsu can't handle this cold!" the tailed boy shouted to the heroine. "We need to get her somewhere warm before hypothermia sets in!"
The space-suit-wearing hero struggled where she stood, hands clenched by her side and shaking in what Mashirao guessed was frustration. He felt the same; both in watching his classmate run into danger and shoulder their teacher's concern so abrasively, and in the position he was stuck in trying to keep a classmate awake and unable to fight if he would be needed. Once again, Todoroki is the epicenter of his hindrance.
But keeping a classmate awake and quite possibly alive in a situation his dumbass other classmate put them in was now his responsibility. He trusted his partners to shoulder the weight of combat in his place. This was not the rescue training Mashirao was expecting to engage in today.
Thirteen cussed under her breath and turned away from the brick of ice that blocked her path. Mashirao turned with her and his classmates to the criminals shaking and cracking out of their ice captivity. A click sounded from the heroine, she pointed her open finger to the building top beside them, and Mashirao watched as the building tore apart and the rubble flew their way. Just as the first criminal broke from their imprisonment, the heroine clicked her finger shut and the rubble collapsed down on the few men.
"Head this way!" Thirteen shouted at them as she ran forward through the rubble and broken ice. "I'll get you to the entrance and your classmates first, and drag Todoroki back after I know you're safe. Let's move."
"Yes sensei," Mashirao shouted back with Kirishima, as the two held onto their classmates and guided them through the rubble and past the delirious criminals beneath it. The tailed boy grabbed Asui's wrist, finding her pulse present but slow and far too spaced out for his liking. He hoped the rest of his classmates were faring better than they were.
With a bellowing shout and a swing of his arm, Togata had not only thrown back a crowd of villains with the air of his punch, but he had even extinguished all the fire and smoke from the same street, essentially clearing a safe path for them to carry forward and escape.
Momo huffed her hair from her face, fixing her appearance from the mess it became from the strong winds their senior caused before shuffling out of the building. "We shouldn't waste any time getting out of here," she spoke loudly as her classmates followed behind to their senpai. "What's the fastest way out of here?"
"There's an emergency exit deeper into this town" — Togata pointed down the other end of the road where the city ended — "but I'm not too sure it's safe that way. We should regroup with the rest of your class; there's more strength in numbers."
"There's more that way anyways," Jioru agreed with him, an earjack jabbed into the dirt between the sidewalk. "I think they have the emergency exits blocked. They're trying to trap us in here."
"We would do better to recollect with our class, then," Momo agreed with their senior. "Iida and the others at the entrance were unsupervised; they don't have help like the rest of us."
"They'll have our aid not soon enough," Tokoyami brooded and ruffled his feathers in the now darker street they stood on. "We must move before the opportunity to assist has passed."
And move they did, bolting down the street and past the unconscious villains their senior has knocked away with the wind of his fist. Momo wasn't sure how he had managed such a feat for someone she had seen use a phasing quirk she almost mistook for super speed or teleportation upon first witnessing him. The ability to pass through solid matter was one thing, but strength to rival that of All-Might — a man whose punch changed the weather on the news for all to witness — was another, and people with two drastically different quirks were rare to come by. She knew Todoroki had mild fire powers if his ancestry and father were anything to assume from, but the capacity she had seen him use it in was just that; mild. Both of Togata's powers were versatile and powerful, in contrast.
"Hey kids!" a man dressed in a green-checkered suit shouted as he jumped out from an alley. "Want to see som—" Instead of letting the man finish his sentence, a pure black mess of energy shot out from under Tokoyami's cloak and punted the man back down the alleyway.
"I'll do my best to be of service in the dark," Tokoyami announced as the black matter sank back under his cloak and their group continued along the road. "As long as the light here is dim, my Dark Shadow will save your energy for the fights in the light ahead."
"It seems we were paired together to contrast, mon ami corbeau," Aoyama commented beside him. "The shine of my light challenging the opportunity of your darkness would have surely made for a terrible l' association." There was a sparkle in his eyes that somehow worked its way across his entire complexion and around his head, and Momo had to wonder for a moment if it was his quirk adding that effect to his skin.
"My mother was a crow, not a raven," Tokoyami corrected their french-speaking classmate. "Mutation crow quirk; not a real crow."
"We weren't going to ask you about that," Jirou told him with a grumble, face green from what Momo assumed were the same horrid thoughts that passed her mind shortly.
Togata looked back over his flying cape to the teens running behind him. "I was but it was going to be highly inappropriate at a time like this so I was gonna ask later. That's for clarifying that. Tamakii would love to meet you."
"Who is that?"
"Friend of mine, another third year. He can eat food made from animals and transform his body to recreate their body parts. His hair's kinda like yours, and he's got a thing for the Poe-, Shakespear-like vocabulary so I think you guys would get along great!"
"Is this really the best time for this?" Momo huffed a bang of hair away from her eyes as they turned down a street corner and headed for the downpour city simulation center their section of fire and destruction merged into. She squinted at the building tops ahead of them, and the faint reflection of light that danced past her eyes. Was that ice?
"Sir Nighteye doesn't think conversing on the job is appropriate, but Nejire says it's a good method of keeping your spirits up when the going gets tough! I don't think there's a better time than now—Well that's new."
Their group slid to a stop as the smoky air above them transitioned into rain, and not too long down the block did they come face-to-face with a wall of ice that stabbed into the air and blocked the rest of their path forward down the road.
"Wild guess but that's probably Todoroki's work, right?" Jirou threw out her hypothesis, spitting the simulated rain from her mouth and brushing her hair out of her eyes. Momo did her part making them a few umbrellas, though Togata turned the offer down as the other two boys huddled together under one and she with her female classmate. "Uh, thanks."
"I'd hope it's his," their instruction responded, tapping a knuckle against the wall. "I was taking us this way to regroup with Thirteen and her group before we made our way to the entrance for the others. I'm guessing their half of the plan went awry. That's no good."
Shouts echoed down the road behind them, and Momo turned to find some of the criminals their senpai had punched away and a few faces charging their way with quirks flaring about. The tall teenager huffed under her breath and drew from her stomach the best bludgeon she could remember as she prepared to fight. Multi-opponent fights were one of her shortcomings in her home training, but she was ready to put her foot in her mouth and do her best. And she was sure she would have, had her armored classmate not stepped forward into the rain.
Aoyama's stomach flashed brightly towards the encroaching criminals, but he turned his body slightly as light erupted in a beam from his belt piece. "Naval Laser!" he cried out, as his attack pierced and cut through a building like a knife through butter, sending the dislodged section down onto the street between them and the villains. In an impromptu combination, their senior shot forward past the younger blond boy and thrusted his palm at the new rubble, and with a shout of a move Momo had heard All-Might use before, the force of his palm-strike blasted the rubble into the criminals and sent everything flying back down the road.
"Run that way!" Togata shouted over the rain pour, pointing down the left side of the ice wall and to the road parallel to it. "It'll take you straight to the entrance and your classmates! I'll go on ahead to find Thirteen and the others and direct them your way! If anyone tries to stop you, you have every permission to knock them around! I'm entrusting this mission to you, class vice! Do your best to stay out of trouble first, show them you're a hero second!"
"Senpai, wait!" Momo had tried to yell after him, but the blond man had already darted through the ice without hesitation, disappearing through the thick blue wall until the shape of his body was no longer visible.
"I don't want to say it either, but I guess we keep on running," Kyoka noted dryly. "I don't think we can break through that ice after him."
"It and the buildings around it may collapse on us if we try," Tokoyami pointed out after her, shuffling to Aoyama's side as the blond boy scurried back over. "Splitting up like this casts a shadow over our chances of victory but if he succeeds in finding our peers then this effort may turn out more fruitful in the end. Shall we, vice president?"
It took a moment for Momo to realize he was talking to her and that her three classmates were now looking at her, and never before did she consider the class role to thrust that much weight on her shoulders. They had voted and accepted her as one of their class's presidential duo; the expectancy of a role model was added to the laundry list of hopes she already had to live up to. Now she had to be a leader, and in a real-life situation in only her second week at Yuei.
"Follow me." She took the lead, handing her weapon to Kyoka and forming another umbrella from her stomach to use herself as she led them down the road. "Stay as close to the right as you can. We might have to use some more destruction as cover if they find us in this maze. Tokoyami, make sure Aoyama doesn't spend too much of his energy until we get to the exit. If they haven't opened the door, we might need your laser beam to force our way out."
Momo wished she felt more confidence in her words, reassurance in herself that she would be able to take the lead and protect her classmates and friends if it came down to it. This was nothing like what she had prepared for, no matter the years she had spent training to be a hero since she chose this path. She had nearly been killed at a mall before, and still she felt unprepared and unsteady in a whole new life-threatening situation. But now was no time for fears; if they were going to make it out of this, she would have to swallow it all and push on.
If Midoriya was brave to move in the face of danger, then so was she.
The towering man made of clouds stood between them and the entrance, his form bellowing out to the handlebars while it ate slowly at the ground, approaching their feet. The lights overhead continued to die out in increasing numbers, leaving them subjected to the daylight peering through the glass of the dome for their vision. Though a staircase stood between them and a horde of villains, there was no other means for the five of them to escape without meeting a dead end. For all he would give Yuei in its commitment to professionalism and reimagining the real world for their educational experiences, Tenya doubted this was one of their plans. This was a real threat.
"Well this is quite odd," the smoke-made man chimed. "There were supposed to be twenty students attending this class. And not a teacher in sight? Even this is unorthodox for Yuei." A shake rattled their ground beneath them, and Tenya threw his head around to watch ice erupt above the skyline of one city simulation and the flames extinguish from another. "Ah. I see your class began earlier than scheduled. This makes my job easier."
So there were more criminals in the facility than they could see, Tenya reasoned. Their classmates and teachers were locked in combat with other villains scattered about the simulations, which meant they would probably be on their own with this man for a longer time than the engine-legged boy would like to be. The man who stood between them and the entrance to the training facility. Between them and their only chance to feasibly escape and grab the help they could definitely use.
"How the hell did they get in here?" Hanta questioned out loud. "Yuei has an alarm system that should have sounded by now, right? I doubt the cafeteria is the only place with one."
"Don't go holding out for hope, children," the criminal mocked them, his yellow eyes upturned in a taunting gesture. "No one is coming to save you. We made sure to prevent any interruptions for today."
Tenya looked over his classmates for a brief moment. Uraraka and Hanta had backed away from the towering man of clouds, and Sato and Shoji had stepped forward in fighting stances with the blue-haired boy in opposition to the villain. The one thing they shared in body language, however, was the worry that unsteadied them and shook them to varying degrees of concern. With his helmet in the shop to break out the indent from their battle trial, Tenya had nothing to hide the same feeling across his worried expression as he looked back at the criminal.
"That explains the power outage," Shoji remarked, inching away from Tenya and closer to the railing beside him. "The alarm system was disabled. This place is barely running on emergency power." The boy spared a glance to the ceiling and the lights flickering overhead. "This is a coordinated attack. You knew we would be here, and how many."
The hill of clouds shrunk on itself, still overtaking a strip of the walkway from one railing to the other. "I've divulged enough information to you all. My mission was to separate and scatter you about, but it seems the bulk of my work has already been done for me. Although" — his body danced as he grew in height again — "we should have a few foot soldiers scattered about the other facilities. It's their job to take care of you, after all. They may like one or two of you for company."
As the man's form shook and expanded, Tenya shot back, ready to shout and run with his classmates, but the man's smoke never came close as iron bars flew into and through the criminal's form. The villain grunted as Sato ripped another bar from the rails and tossed it like a javelin at the iron neck below the villain's eyes, sparking on contact and managing to jolt the man back. With a growl, the tall cloudy criminal shot his body at the muscled teenager, only to find his target gone as a rope of tape wraps around the boy's waist and yanks him out of the way into Tenya's waiting arms. The engine-legged boy silently thanks Hanta for his quick thinking and actions.
"Irksome little pests," the villain grumbles as he collects himself. "Even in small numbers you know how to be a nuisance. "No matter—" Instead of having the time to finish his train of thought and attack again, the criminal was shadowed and overtaken by a web of Shoji's arms in a tackle from behind, the teen having climbed along the outer side of the undamaged railing when Sato took the man's attention.
"Sato!" the many-armed teenager shouted over the man struggling in his grasp. "Help me hold him down!" The brawly teen nodded, thanking Tenya and Hanta before running to aid their classmate. "Iida! You need to run for help!"
"What?" Tenya responded ludicrously. "I can't leave you all here!"
"And we can't run as fast as you!" Shoji shouted back. "If the power is out and we can't call anyone from here, then we need you to meet them halfway and warn them yourself!"
"And what of the rest of our class? And you and the villains! I can't just leave you to fend for yourself when I can be of help here!"
"Iida." The blue-haired boy turned his attention to his brunette friend. Uraraka was overlooking the facility from the side of their conflict, and the blue-haired teen wondered if she was hoping to see the rest of their class somewhere between the facilities they were hiding in. She turned to look at him, a smile — though wavering and uneasy — pulling her lips and a thumb rising from her fist. "There's no need to worry about us. We believe in you." Her voice bounced in volume, but the smile she wore stayed in its place.
Tenya was torn inside. He had come to Yuei to follow in his family's footsteps and take on the Ingenium mantle and name when he became an official hero. His family had a reputation, and that was a reputation he had to live up to. Ingenium wasn't a hero that ran from the fights; he was the first responder. Ingenium was the hero sent to assess situations and crime and handle it before or until others could arrive. His grandfather had done such when their agency had first been built, and his father after him, and his brother after him, and one day he would do the same. That was the man Tenya was training to become.
Now, however, he was at the problem when it started. The villains came to him and his class, not the other way around. They were trapped, they were outnumbered, and they only had two options; stay and fight or turn and run for help. His family name gripped at his wrists, holding him in place and urging him to stay and help his classmates and teachers and friends continue the fight. To stand his ground, hold his own and prove then and there he could be of use to them against the villains.
It was his family name, too, that worked to pry off the grips on his wrist gently. The encouragement of his father to apply to Yuei and put his speed to the test before the real world got to him. The training from his mother taught him not just how to be fast, but to shift the gears of his quirk to move and react in an instant. The promise his brother made to take the younger Iida into the agency and on every mission once Yuei sent their students out on internships and sidekick work, to offer him the support and the stage to announce to the word that the Ingenium name had generations of speedsters to protect and save them. The whole reason they had come to the Unforeseen Simulation Joint was to practice rescue operations; if leaving to grab the help they needed would save more lives, would that not then be better than staying for a fight they don't know they could handle, much less win?
With the conviction now in his heart and mind, Tenya beamed his brunette friend the strongest smile he could and bolted back to the entrance with a conservative boost from his quirk. He had to work with his classmates in making it out of here all right, and if running off to get their other teachers and All-Might to help them wouldn't be time wasted but time utilized, then he would trusts in their faith in him to make it out of the facility and return with the power they needed.
But the doors wouldn't open.
Despite being automatic, Yuei had invested in thick steel doors for the facility's main entrance, and that pricey and protective investment resulted in Tenya's current roadblock. He couldn't dig his fingers between the doors to pry them apart, and he couldn't push with his weight to slide either side open. "Come on, work with me," he grumbled as he shoved his shoulder into one of the doors, putting in all his effort to finally get them open. "Open, damn it!"
"Stay a while!" His classmate's cries following the villain's shout threw Tenya's head back over his shoulder to watch Sato and Shoji tumble in opposite directions. The man of smoke shook his freed body before zeroing his eyes on the blue-haired boy's form. "If All-Might is late, then so be it. Let him wallow in despair knowing he was too late to save his students!"
With somewhat of a battle cry, the long gaseous form of the villain shot forward, his eyes growing as his body did and his face descending down on the young Iida heir. Tenya had nowhere to run, ledges dropping on either side or blockades of doors or the villain himself in front and behind him. His calves revved with his quirk, the teenager preparing himself to bolt past and over the man at the last second if he could manage the maneuver.
Before the mass of clouds could descend upon his head, he shot back, and Tenya watched as Uraraka held the man by the metal piece visible among the mass of his body and threw him back over her shoulder. Tape shot into the brace and pulled the criminal further back and over the stairwell, and as the brunette brought her hands together and released her quirk, the man's mob of clouds shrunk in an instant and disappeared down the steps with distant sounds of clanks to accompany the man's descent. Tenya could see his classmates visibly cringe at the sounds of the criminal's tumble.
"That should take care of him," Hanta announced as he cut his strand of tape and rushed to Shoji's side, producing another rope to bind the taller teen's wound under ripped shreds of his costume. "You're good to go, Iida!"
"The door's shut too tight!" the blue-haired teen shouted back. "I can't get it open by myself."
Sato groaned as he picked himself off the floor and stumbled to his feet, managing to stabilize as Uraraka gave him a shoulder to hold on to."I gotcha," he grumbled and picked a bag from the pouches on his belt. He dumped the contents of the bag into his mouth — Tenya was uncertain if it was sugar, salt or flour, ruling out the possibility his classmate's quirk worked off a drug — and his body bulged into a mass of muscles down his arms, torso and legs, strutting forward to Tenya and the doo just fine without Uraraka's help.
The blue-haired teen side-stepped as his classmate took his place at the door, and the engine-legged boy dropped into a lunge, ready to run when his path was cleared. His stomach still gurgled in disappointment, still dissatisfied with the plan requiring him to run away and leave his classmates behind. Not just those beside him, but everyone else who were still lost within the facility and fighting criminals themselves.
"Don't worry about us, Iida," Sato grunted as he peeled the doors apart enough to slip his hands between them. The named teen guessed the other boy took a look back at the conflict on his face. "We'll watch our backs. We trust you're fast enough to get the teachers here."
Iida gulped as his shoulders dropped with his exhale."I have to be." His legs revved with power, and he crouched further in his stance, ready to dart ahead
Sato threw his arms out and ripped the doors apart. "Then run on and don't worry about looking back! We'll get everyone back together when you return!"
When the sunlight hit his eyes, Tenya silently wished his friends and classmates good luck on staying out of trouble. As much as he wanted to stay and help them fight, hubris and ego were only attributes of a downfall; if he could get them the numbers and power they needed to win, then he would have to go. He let loose the flames in his legs, shifted his quirk up a gear and shot forward with speed, the world turning from solid colors to smears in seconds as he ran along the border wall of their campus back the way they came to the USJ.
He had failed before to save Uraraka from the zero pointer in the entrance exam and fainted when there was still time on the board. He had failed to make do with a flawed team in the battle trial and prove his strength and training to his friends and peers. And still he was given another chance, to use his quirk to its fullest and traverse the school campus to bring the help his class needed. He wouldn't slow until his part was played.
The Iida name is not one I can let down, Tenya chanted to himself. We were born gifted with speed to save people. If running for help will save my friends, then I will prove myself worthy to be an Ingenium. Just hold on for me, everyone.
Izuku would apologize later for body-checking Ashido to the ground, but the criminal with a battle axe aimed for her required more of his immediate attention. The blade banged against his bat, and the weight of the man higher than his own pushed Izuku down to a knee to keep it from digging into his shoulder instead. The brawny man snarled a grin down at him, and made the mistake to pull his weight back for another strike. Their weapons barely disconnected before Izuku flung them to the side with a swing, throwing the man off balance and stumbling him into the waiting vines around his feet that grasped his ankles and flipped him into the air. Izuku shot back to his feet after the man and with a downwards swing struck his bat into the man's chest and crashed him back into the ground.
The green-haired teen didn't settle long on watching the man heave from the hit and blink between consciousness and sleep, nor on the villains spotted around their clearing all in similar states of defeat, as Ashido lunged for his sleeve and yanked him along. "Thank you," she huffed as they ran to follow Shiozaki and the others ahead of them, but not before throwing acid on the trees around them and leaving them to collapse. Izuku hoped that would work as the distraction she was intending for it to be.
"Is anyone hurt?" Aizawa called out over them, to which the girls around them answered with tired reassurance of their health or of the tiny scrapes and cuts from their fights. Izuku didn't feel any wounds on his own body, but his perspective had failed him before so often that he wouldn't be surprised if the skin on his back was missing. Sparing one look over his shoulder to find the other side of his body as intact as his front side, he gave his teacher a delayed but positive response that he was okay too. "Good. Keep moving and keep your head low. Thirteen and Togata should meet up with us near the foot of the stairwell, and hopefully your classmates at the door have already left to get assistance." The man grumbled into his floating scarf. "Leaving them alone was a mistake."
"Do you think everyone's alright?" Kendo asked him over his hushed last sentence.
"Thirteen and Togata are capable fighters and heroes. We won't allow any of you to get hurt. If everyone's smart, they'll meet us at the front entrance and we'll work back to the main campus from there. It will alert the rest of the staff to our location."
Izuku grumbled from the back of his throat. "Communications broke, we're split up across the building and someone hijacked the power. How many do we think broke in?"
"More than should have been able to get on campus grounds, much less here." Their teacher stopped and perched himself atop a branch as they skidded back and joined him. "If they broke through the U.A. walls, they would have triggered an alarm and we would have been notified of it instantly. A few of the staff should have been here by now. How did they get in here without alerting the school?"
"Would someone be able to break in from above without alerting the campus security system?"
"The ceiling would have a hole in it." Eraserhead looked to the glass dome overhead, its lights blinking in their struggle to stay on but otherwise unharmed. "And the city surveillance would have noticed someone digging a tunnel from below without authorization. What does that leave us with?" He stood tall on the branch and surveyed through the thick of the trees around them, barely opening between the trunks to the middle clearing and the neighboring mountain range simulation.
Ashido gasped loudly as she caught her breath and straightened out on her feet. "Shouldn't we keep moving, before anyone else comes out and finds—"
Izuku had heard it as quickly as his classmate was cut off, turning his attention to her and the man who jumped out from the bushes behind them with claws the length of swords thrown over his head. The villain's strike never met its targets, as Izuku threw his body into a swing and his bat into the man, cracking through his claws and batting the man head-first into and then through the nearest tree. The criminal and the upper half of the tree had collapsed on the ground before Tsunotori could scream out in surprise at his appearance.
The green-haired teen pulled back with his classmate in his arm and their teacher jumped in front of them, assessing the unconscious man before turning back to them with a half-hearted glare. "More restraint than that, Midoriya," he chided the teenager. "Any harder than that and you might have cracked his head open. Think defensively, not aggressively."
"Could've been worse," Izuku defended himself as the man began guiding them along again. "I could have swung up between his legs. And I was just aiming for his claws."
"I'll put you on target practice when we get out of this. Good reflexes."
As Izuku shouldered the brief compliment following his teacher's assessment and the quick lean against him Ashido gave 'her savior,' he let his thoughts dwell silently as they ran. He was just aiming for the man's claws; he didn't lie about that. It was his intention to parry the man's attack and hold out on defense until they could render him incapacitated, not to break his quirk and ruin some nature with the man's temple. Now wasn't the time to throw his quirkless-quirked strength into this whole mess.
It didn't help that his teacher's reaction was concerning, to put it lightly. If there was anyone who was supposed to think what he had just done was out of the ordinary, it was his teacher who knew he was labeled quirkless. Watching him smack a man through a thick trunk should have put his sensei on the offensive, questioning immediately topics Izuku still hadn't fully worked out himself. But the man shrugged the action aside and treated Izuku like it was normal. Was Eraserhead as convinced as Shoji about this 'super-strength' he had? Their teacher should have seen the entrance exam footage first hand, just as the rest of the school staff did. Did his multi-armed classmate tell him the truth about that day?
His mulling ended as they cleared the forest area and stepped out between it and the mountain range simulation area, only to find itself replaced with a worrying acid settling in his stomach at the sight of the center of the facility.
"I think those" — Kendo pointed to the group of costumed criminals assembled before the fountain — "might be the people in charge."
Most of them didn't look the part if they were, Izuku argued in his head. But after climbing behind the nearest hill to get a better look, two men — or what he assumed were men between the hands covering one and the bird-shaped face of the shirtless individual beside him — stood out to the green-haired teen as the most associated with one another, and possibly the most dangerous if their looks were any indication. Those probably were the ones in charge.
"That's quite likely," their teacher agreed, sparing a glance towards the front entrance of the facility, where Izuku saw dark clouds and steel pillars fly about in what had to have been a scuffle between his classmates and some criminals. Where Uraraka and Iida were last. Izuku clenched his bat, ready to run their way and help, until his teacher's hair floated up, the purple smoke shrunk in on itself and a human-sized form tumbled down the stairwell. He almost felt bad for the villain as he ragdolled every other step.
"Take that path" — their teacher pointed into the mountains and a path that cut between them — "and stay as left-side as possible. It'll take you to the base of the stairwell through the trees down beside it. It will keep you from going deeper into the facility and encountering villains where I can't see them. I'll deal with these men myself. Get out and get to safety; that's your mission now." Before he or any of his classmates could get a word of argument in, Izuku watched Eraserhead dart to the cloudy villain laying at the base of the stairwell and struggling to get back up.
Izuku wanted to say he made the smart move. He wanted to say he followed his equally hesitant classmates down the path their teacher instructed them to take instead of helping Aizawa with the villains. He really wanted to say he didn't ignore his classmates calling his name as he ran off after neither group and worked back through the forest, closer to the center of the facility and the group of villains surrounding the stand-out duo that were most likely their leaders.
He lied best when he didn't say a word.
Shouta had a method to his madness. Teaching in a high school was never his dream future profession, and not even at the school he had graduated from. Nonetheless, he took the job and slipped right into his place, playing his part and educating teenagers on how not to die. That last part was his special touch to teaching, placing the importance of his lessons on his students' lives. The profession of heroics was a dangerous one, and only those who could stomach the challenge and act rationally on the scene could be trusted to protect the lives of the people. Not every hero was like that, but it didn't mean he wasn't supposed to try and make it more common with each passing year of graduates.
But his students were still students, and though he would have to trust them to fight and defend themselves from the low-life criminals breaking and entering into their school campus, mitigating the amount of fighting and struggling they had to go through was his first priority. Taking on the heads of the operation would come after they were a safe distance away.
"You've bitten off far more than you can chew," Shouta mocked the cloud-bodied figure pressed beneath his knees and stuck in the binds of his capture weapon. His body was a mutation genome — the violet smoke would have disappeared under the hero's quirk — but whatever else he was capable of was still unknown. "Not many people who break in here get this far, but none of your cellmates would believe you if you told them that."
The villain trapped under him coughed as he tried raising the wisp that was his head. "Your school's level of security measures are well known to the public, Eraserhead," he coughed out, the use of the hero's name alerting him more than his presence did. "Most strategies require brute force to make their way inside, and the alerts those would send across this campus would diminish any hopes of pillaging your school further. To break in without alerting anyone but our targets would give our words weight if the underworld were to know what it took to get in—" The criminal's taunts were finally cut off as the binds around him tightened.
"You can explain your master plan to us when we've pulled you in for interrogation." Shouta strained to keep his eyes open a little longer. He had hoped the fall would have knocked the villain unconscious and saved him the trouble of dealing with his quirk. His first hits to the man's head didn't find the spot to knock him out, and cutting off enough air supply to knock him out wasn't working because of his gaseous form making air flow source predictions impossible. "Make sure to attach your failure to accomplish anything onto your stories in prison."
"Bold words from a dead man."
It was a mistake to blink — to think that his capture weapon had the man handled, and no matter the quirk, he could spare his eyes a moment of rest. One moment, the villain is beneath him, and the next moment he's overcome by darkness before he can get a clear sight of the man again. He's falling before he realizes his feet are no longer on the ground, and then it's back and rushing towards him before he even gets to think about where he just went through.
Shouta landed, analyzed the dirt beneath his feet — he was still inside the Unforeseen Simulation Joint — and looked in front of him. He's first greeted by the backs and turning heads of new villainous characters, the man with hands decorating his body standing just a bit past them, and the stairwell of the facility now dozens of meters away. He cursed beneath his breath, activated his quirk as many try to use theirs on him, and jumped into the crowd of villains with a kick.
Teleportation, he summarized internally, swiping over the crowd with his eyes to stutter their attacks and their focus. Damn cloud man could teleport. It at least explained how so many people could make it beyond the security monitors undetected, though that still left the system's malfunction to someone else's job. It also helped to make sense why he hadn't thought of it sooner, as the only two publicly known quirks of instant transmission were from childless men who had been labeled deceased for a few decades. Capturing him was going to be a pain.
Shouta threw his scarf around the torso of a skunk villain he socked in the jaw and swung him like a sack of potatoes into the man's allies. A woman with machine turrets for hands jabbed the spinning barrels his way, but a locked stare with his quirk and knocking her down with the man locked in his weapon rendered her down for the count. That took half a dozen down, and there were still plenty more left for him to handle.
There was no way for him to run from this, and that was probably why he was sent here. He could try to run back to his students and ensure their escape but he would need a good line of sight on the teleporter, which was easier said than done with a horde of other villains clawing at his back in the meantime. Thirteen and Lemillion could probably disarm and incapacitate the villain together and make the escape while he continued the fight until their offered assistance came to his aide, and while not his preferred approach to this unforeseen situation, he would have to make do with putting his faith in his allies without a means to share the plan.
"So you can stop people's quirks, huh?" a man shouted, and Shouta turned to find a man rushing towards him with two right fists raised. "Try stopping my raw strength!"
"No need," he countered verbally, sidestepping the man's punches and launching one of his own into the man's face. He was an enhanced mutant; he'd take the hit with his skull intact. "Thanks for saving me time." His scarf shoots around the man's ankle, and Shouta sends him swinging into a trio of mutant quirked men trying to charge him from behind. He wouldn't be able to handle the crowd forever, but he could hold out long enough for help to come and keep them from harming any of his students. As long as they stuck to the safety guidelines and made it out together, he'd be just fine watching their point and giving them the time.
And then one villain had to go flying into another from out of nowhere, and Shouta had to snap his head over and find Midoriya standing between two villains, his body untwisting from the swing he just made.
"Huh," the green-haired boy muttered, looking at the two men flanking either side of him in their wide and surprised eyes. "You guys go flying pretty easily. How low is your BMI?" Instead of answering him, the villains caught their composure and launched their fists and claws at the kid. It probably didn't help that with the intervention of Shouta's quirk at the sight, the two men stood little chance against a baseball bat that parried their blows and countered with strikes across their heads. "Wow, rude."
"God damnit, kid!" Shouta shouted at him, launching back into action as the villains continued their assault. He did his best to keep his student within his peripheral vision, barely watching the teenager hold his own against the bigger and older criminals that tried to pin him down. "You were supposed to leave! The hell are you doing here?"
"Helping you!" the teen shouted back after dodging a punch to his head and jabbing his bat into the woman's stomach. "Running won't work if there's only one guy holding all these back! Thought you could use some help, and I'm just the freak of nature to offer it!" Another villain tried tackling the boy to the ground, but Midoriya kept on his feet as the man wrapped his arm around his waist, and with a downswing of his bat had Midoriya pried him off and dented him in the dirt beneath his feet.
That was not the Midoriya Izuku he remembered, Shouta noted. The kid he knew last week wasn't open about his feats of strength in the slightest and his showcases of them were seldom seen even in battle. This kid now had no qualms throwing his weight around, tossing men twice his size as though they were sacks of potatoes and breaking solid ground with their bodies. For someone who put on an act about his normality in the week prior, he looked unperturbed taking a few scratches and knocking bigger men off their feet in a few short swings. Shouta wasn't sure what gave the kid a change of heart in his acting, but now, watching his bat swat fists like flies, he couldn't help but wonder if it did have some properties that helped the kid achieve everything he had before.
One villain with gorilla arms was fast enough to catch Midoriya's arm before the bat could connect with him, even grabbing the other boy's arm when the teen tried to hit him off with that. With his hands tied with two other villains, Shouta could only watch as the man chose not to use his strength and rip off the boy's arms, and instead grew his head to match that of a silverback gorilla's and headbutt the kid's face. But when he went in for a second Midoriya met him halfway, ramming the top of his head into the man's nose and the single hit sending the man on his back, unconscious. Maybe it wasn't just the bat, Shouta reasoned, if at all.
"You are pretty cool, Eraserhead," a raspy voice told the man from behind, and Shouta spun on his heel to jab at the hand-covered man with his elbow. "But your ult is running out of power." Shouta hissed and cursed as the man's fingers dug into his elbow, and the underground hero watched in shock as his uniform began to dissolve at the touch, and his skin beneath the opening cracked and shattered to reveal the muscle underneath. Shouta threw his other fist into the man's stomach to knock him back and make some space of his own.
His arm hung by his side, pain spiking too high if he tried to bend the wound. The villain had jumped in at the right time to strike him between uses of his erasure, and the hero was pretty sure he was commenting about it in his slang. Shouta was only known publicly as Yuei staff member and teacher Aizawa, doing his best to keep his hero uniform out of pictures tied with the school and maintain some anonymity. Not only did they have a quirk power he'd heard so little of, but they had seemingly done their research for this break-in. This was a deeply orchestrated attack, and seeing the man's quirk in action, Shouta suspected the news reporters had help in last week's break-in.
"It's chip damage, but the lasting effects will drain your health points before too long," the man dressed in hands continued commenting. "We weren't expecting your party to be spread across the map already; I hate those kinds of strategy games. Those bots should have made work of your secure points by now." The man's gaming terminology aside, Shouta acknowledged the man's plans and hoped Thirteen and Lemillion held their own better than that.
"So who's the NPC?" The lanky man's attention turned slightly to Midoriya, the green-haired teen catching his breath while surrounded by fallen and unconscious criminals at his feet.
The green-haired teenager took a moment to notice the stare directed at him, furrowing his brows in returning the gesture. "I'm the class president," he responded, Shouta pleased he kept his name to himself. If they didn't already know who he was, they didn't need to. "Who the fuck are you?"
"Someone with a higher level cap than you." The man's voice was displeased in tone, and Shouta activated his quirk on the man if he attempted to rush his student. "Nomu. Get rid of him."
As the bulkier, bird-headed man turned to Midoriya, Shouta turned his sights to stop him short too. But the man was gone in a blur, and the hero heard the slap before he saw it: the giant villain in place where his student was, while the latter flew back into the forest with a loud crash from the beast's backhand.
"Take him out too, Nomu."
Shouta had no time to react as his own center of gravity was thrown off balance, his head now grasped tightly in the big man's fist and rammed into the ground before he knew he was moving.
"I think we've played around long enough." The handy man strutted his way, lurking over the hero stuck beneath the other villain's hand. "All-Might would have come right to us if he was here already. The event is bugged." The air around them blew softly, and the lanky man turned around. "Kurogiri." Shouta followed his gaze through the fingers to the cloudy figure hunched over behind the villains. "What are you doing back here? You had a side-quest."
Kurogiri grumbled in his breath before looking at the other villains. "One of the students escaped," he reported. "They are better prepared than we expected. He was a speedster as well; he will be back any minute now with the other heroes behind him. I won't be able to chase after him."
"You let a child escape?" the other man hissed back. His fingers curled and clenched at the air between them, but he growled and pulled his hands away before he made contact. "If you weren't our transport, I'd dust you. We can't handle the other heroes without a weakened All-Might. Master will be displeased."
"This wouldn't be a first," the cloudy man defended, before turning his yellow eyes on Shouta's stuck figure. "We should retreat before we lose ourselves and the Nomu to their efforts. Let's at least leave them with a parting gift."
Shouta felt no easier as the man with many hands peered through the fingers of his face-hand-mask down at him, and his increased efforts to break free from the bigger man's hold still gave him no room to escape. "Fine. Nomu, crush him."
The beast barked and raised Shouta into the air by his head alone, his grip tightening briefly. The hero tried using his quirk to lessen his strength, but the beast never faltered for ever a second, stopping his climb when his arm could stretch no further up. They shifted as Nomu made to crash him back into the ground, and Shouta could only close his eyes and brace for the impact—
Instead of going down, Shouta found himself flying sideways, the hold moving off his face and holding him in a carry. Red flapped in his vision as it returned, and the beady eyes beneath a visor looked down at him with worry. "Sensei! Can you hear me?!"
The underground hero tried to respond with words but all that came out were coughs and threads of blood. The third-year student set him down gently and fixed him so as not to choke on his breath. "Lemillion…"
"Sorry about being late, Eraser," Togata apologized. "Sent off the kids with me to the entrance with everyone else. Thought I should check around for any other suspicious behavior, and saw them." The teenager looked back over his cape to the trio of villains, and Shouta watched the big man who was holding him stare blankly at his empty hand. "They're the only ones still standing. You held out well."
"Midoriya," Shouta breathed, looking back to the forest where his student had been hit. "Nomu...hit him back...one punch…"
The blond boy processed the man's words for a second before his own worried gaze snapped to the sea of trees. "Shit, that's not good."
"A goddamn boss phase." The two heroes turned back to the three villains, the man decorated in hands whining and scratching at his neck. "Of course the boss fight has multiple phases. Our own luck."
"Now should be the time for us to retreat," Kurogiri warned him.
"No, we're staying. Nomu was designed to kill All-Might, what's two little heroes to us? We'll wait for him to come, let Nomu kill as many as he wants and weaken the number one for Sensei. Nomu! Kill the heroes!"
Togata shot to his feet to fight, but Shouta was unable to pick himself up. "I can't erase that one's quirk," he warned the student hero, his breath catching up to him. "They have...teleportation, disintegration and superhuman abilities. We have to run. Find Midoriya and leave."
"Sorry, teach, but I can't leave you here to die, either." Silver bolts of energy pulsed around the blond boy's costume. "And I can't phase you too if we try to run. Try to hold on a little longer for us. I'll hold them back as long as I can for more help."
Neither of them had time to bicker longer as the beast of a man strode their way, fist curled back to strike them both. Togata met him halfway with a blinging fist of his own, and the strike of the two blows resulted in a shock wave that nearly threw Shouta back from the wind alone. The hero cursed as the student hero took on the hulking villain, barely knocking him back with strikes that ripped his bare purple skin. All Shouta could do was crawl away with what energy he had to the forest, unable to peer through the wind to use his quirk and only focused on his wounded student beyond his sight.
Then the air around him dropped and all he could feel was cold.
Mirio was grateful for the advice and mentorship All-Might and Sir Nighteye blessed him with over the past year. Had he still been a freshman — heck, if he was still a second-year student — he would have approached a break-in of villains far more passively. But with confidence in his heart and One For All flowing through his body, Mirio was prepared to launch himself and his fist into the Nomu villain's countering punch, and plant his feet to keep from flying back with the resulting shockwave.
"Well, that's new," the blond teenager commented as the bulky villain failed to budge at his punch. He was able to throw All-Might in combat training before, but this man not even flinching at the power of the passable quirk was introducing himself as another beast entirely. Instead of replying with his own banter, the beast of a man roared like the wild animal he represented and threw his other fist in a fast punch to Mirio's head. The blond boy let the punch pass through his head uselessly before throwing another punch of his own to the criminal's chest. His purple skin rippled upon impact, but like the hit before he didn't move back an inch. "And that's not good."
"Damnit, Nomu, just kill the bastard!" one of the villains from the side shouted; the hand-covered villain, if Mirio remembered his voice correctly. "He's just a student; it shouldn't be that hard. Kurogiri! Grab Eraser and bring—"
"Sorry!" With his mentor's quirk coursing through his legs, Mirio shot through the big purple villain towards the smoky purple villain and punched the latter into the ground with a solid punch to his visible metal brace, denting into the dirt beneath them. The handy villain was given little extra time to act on his partner's takedown before the hero student swung his foot through the hand on the man's face and kicked him back too. "Can't let you touch him again!" The simple solution to his worries would have been to carry Aizawa away himself, but if that big guy could handle his quirk's power then Mirio worried he could match the speed too; and it didn't help his permeation didn't affect other people when he used it.
A crash shook the ground, and Mirio turned around to find the big villain encased in a massive glacier, with a bi-color-haired boy standing at its lowest point to the side.
"There you are!" Mirio shouted to Todoroki, phasing through the earth to launch himself to the boy's side the way he knew best. "I was looking for you and your group earlier. Shouldn't you be with Thirteen?" The spacesuit heroine was nowhere to be seen, and while a second surprise reveal would have been cool, the older teenager didn't find the practicality in it.
"They should have left for the entrance already," Todoroki breathed out, ice crystals slowly forming on his left side. "One of the villains talked about this 'thing' that could kill All-Might, so I wanted to see it for myself and stop it before it could get the chance."
Mirio mulled over the boy's words before looking at the monster stuck in the ice again. "This guy is probably him, then. He's shrugging off my punches like they're nothing, so he'd probably give All-Might a hard time too. Probably wouldn't beat him, though. As brave as it is of you to come here, I kinda need you to follow your class and get out of here as quickly as you can. And get Aizawa to safety for me since you're here" — he pointed down the glacier to the teacher lying face down near the edge of the forest — "while I hold them off. Midoriya's somewhere in the forest too. Get him to follow you if you can find him."
"Do you really think you can take three men on your own?"
"Weren't you going to try the same?"
Bantering with the younger student was cut short as the glacier before them suddenly cracked down the middle. More and more cracks webbed out from the first until the massive block of ice shattered apart and the monster in its center flexed free from the ice prison. He turned his body back the students' way and screeched at the top of his lungs before he lunged at them. Mirio didn't spare a second as he grabbed Todoroki by the scruff of his shirt and tossed him towards his teacher and away from the barreling villain. "Get them out of here, now!" the blond boy shouted to the younger boy as One For All sparked to life across his body.
Silver bolts of plasma danced across Mirio's eyes for a brief second as he cocked a fist back. Instead of meeting the monster of a man with his own punch, the third-year student leaped through and over the fist aimed where he was prior. Focusing all his strength into his right arm, Mirio announced the name of one of All-Might's moves that began with Pennsylvania and shot his knuckles down into the man's beak-like mouth, embedding him face first into the ground. Mirio guessed the man's skin is the only material of his body capable of dispelling blows.
"Sorry about this but I need you to sleep for now." Phasing his hand, Mirio plunged his arm into the man's head, canceled his quirk as briefly as snapping his fingers, and pulled his arm back. A tricky technique his best friend had thought up in theory but that Mirio alone could pull off in action. It wasn't the most ethical of actions, stuttering brain activity to render people disoriented or unconscious, but he had heard ghost stories of worse choices the hero commission had let heroes make in the field; at least his methods left criminals alive.
The Nomu villain took to the former of the two outcomes, sluggishly struggling to rip his head free from the earth while trying to swat Miro off his back. The blond boy was prepared to take another shot at putting him to sleep, until his head began to throb and movement caught the corner of his eye. What he found was the villain dressed in hands booking it across the field to the first-year student trying to lift his beaten teacher into his arms, with his back turned to the approaching man. Mirio launched off the bulky man quickly towards the two, swinging his arm wide and slapping the handy villain in the chest, clapping him back and away from the younger student.
"Hurry on, Todoroki!" he rushed the boy. The dual-quirked boy followed orders, coating a thin path of ice on the ground and pushing his teacher down to slide away from them. Instead of following his teacher, however, Todoroki turned on heel and ice flared across his foot and spiked on the ground where he crouched. Mirio phased through the ground and jumped out behind the boy as ice shot out and caged the handy villain's arms and legs.
"Thank you, senpai," Todoroki breathed out through a small cloud of frost. "I didn't hear him approaching at all. He's quiet."
"And slimy," Mirio continued, as the ice ecasing the man's hands cracked and crumbled away. Aizawa did say one of the villains could disintegrate; it made sense it would be his. With a boost of One For All to his legs, he leaped at the still stuck villain in an attempt to knock him out properly. Unfortunately, the Nomu man had gone and freed himself, nearly tackling Mirio short of reaching the other man.
Mirio phased through the two as the big man broke the ground with his fists and threw the other villain out of the hero student's path of attack. "Damn side characters," the lanky villain grumbled. "They were supposed to be underleveled. Nomu. Don't stop until they're dead."
The beast of a man growled and snapped his teeth at the smaller man. He stared blankly at the first-year student silently before turning his head around and boring his eyes into Mirio and snarling. The blond boy grit his teeth and ran One For All through his veins again. Guess they weren't going down as fast as he wished, Mirio lamented.
"Holy shit, they actually killed one of the kids."
"Honestly, dawg, I thought that kid was fuckin' with us when he said that beast was strong. Gonna be all bark and no bite."
"I'm pretty sure that guy's hands are bigger than your head?"
"Both of them. They'd both kill you. They'd kill all of us themselves if we weren't doing this work for them."
Four voices; he could make out four voices around him. Four different men, that he didn't recognize the voices of, surrounding him. Four criminals he couldn't talk to because he didn't know them. Four villains who had found him in a heap on the ground. Four villains Izuku had to play possum for in the hopes they'd think he'd died and leave his body how they came across it.
Whoever that Nomu guy was and whatever quirk he had, his fist hit like a semi-truck propelled by a second semi-truck strapped to a rocket. Izuku had barely registered the man's movements as a fist was thrown into his chest, only getting his bat up in time to eat the impact before flying off to who knows where. He was pretty sure he landed head first into some wall, and was lucky his neck didn't give in the landing. His ears rang like a bitch, though, until he was found dead in Miami by four men who he guessed were friends of the villains he'd been running across.
"I'm still half tempted to kill them first. That lousy fuck is barely paying us anything for this job. I made more money selling on the streets than he offered."
"Well if he ain't meetin' your 401k, then what the fuck ya' still doin' here?"
"Killing some kids isn't going to raise your profits on selling crack to middle schoolers. They'll probably turn you in if you flaunt it to anyone."
"I don't sell crack; I sell weed. Gardening's a good pastime."
"Have any on ya' now?"
Izuku was half tempted to open his eyes just to make sure they worked. He could still feel his everything, he just had no idea whether or not it was all in working condition. The men's voices still made it into his ears, the dirt beneath his back was coarse and rough, his bat was still grasped between his fingers, he smelled of sweat and there was a nasty copper taste on his tongue, so at the very least he still had four of his senses. If they could just walk away and leave him be, he could test his sight and get back into fighting condition. He was hurt, but he wasn't down-for-the-count hurt.
Maybe he could just get up and fight them now. What were they gonna do; stop him?
"Damn, the big guy is really putting in the work."
"Propose to him, why don't 'ya? It's not like he speaks to begin with; I thought you were into mutes."
"Go fuck yourself. And I thought we were here to fight All-Might or some shit. Who the hell is this kid catching hands with that freak?"
"You tellin' us someone's going toe to toe with that monster? S'That why it's so cold in here?"
"Nah, some other kid is making all that ice. Some taller blond guy is taking the big guy's punches like a champ. More entertaining than watching some shouta sleep all day."
"The boss told us we were supposed to deal with the kids. I wanna make sure this on doesn't get back up and give us any trouble."
"The kid's missing a chunk of his scalp. What, are you worried he'll get up and turn you into a zombie or some shit? Fucking forget him."
Izuku waited stiffly for the men to finally give up on surrounding him and shuffle away, but he took even longer before he risked opening his eyes to the sight of a leafy sky above him. He had returned to the forest; great. Back where Mina had ripped down trees in an attempt to draw attention away from them earlier, and he was probably found by the poor saps who fell for the trick. The green-haired teen peeked from the corner of his eye to find the four men in question, all standing with their backs turned to him, facing where clouds blew from and roars could be heard.
Izuku sat up as quietly as he could, looking down at himself and finding little wounds to address or worry about. His bat, on the other hand, had a nasty set of dents that molded to the knuckles of the fist that shot him back into the trees. He was going to need another replacement bat for his costume. How expensive were they to make? Maybe he could order one that wasn't hollow just so it wouldn't break so easily in the future, but how heavy was that going to be for him to handle?
Eh, he threw someone through a tree earlier; he could probably swing around a thick piece of metal without problems. He'd have to test that another day.
He picked himself up from the dirt, wiping the dust off his jacket and shirt while he regained his balance. A flash of color caught his eye, and the teen looked to the tree beside him, decorated in a streak of red that nearly started from his head height all the way down to the roots. That looked like it came from something nasty. Wait, didn't one of those guys say something about a head wound?
"Not much we can do about this, can we?" one of the villains continued talking through the smoke that blew past them from the fight ensuing up ahead.
"You're either frozen solid or smeared all over the walls from their punches," a deeper voice commented. "You wanna fight those kids, be my guest. It's your death wish."
"Any of 'ya reckon we could finish off that raggedy hero?"
Izuku snapped his head away from the tree and to the backs of the villains, eyes focusing on the accented one speaking out.
"I didn't take you for a sloppy seconds kind of man," the fourth one joked in mirth, basking in the frustrated growl of the third, lanky man beside him. "You sure that's even a hero? He looks like a bloody hobo."
"He's an underground hero," the first man corrected them. "I recognize him; bastard staged a drug bust against my old pals a couple weeks back. Don't know what the hell he's doing at a school, but today's his unlucky day. Who wants first bite—"
Izuku didn't bother letting the man finish his sentence before crashing his bat down on the man's head and sending him face-first into the ground. He looked past the other men jumping back to the fight they were watching, finding himself watching wind and chunks of ice fly around as two figures in the middle of the clearing clashed. Todoroki had to be somewhere in the mix, he assumed from the giant glacier that formed off to the side. And looking the other way showed him his teacher, down on his face and resting on a trail of thin ice that originated from the facility center. He was pushed away from the action, so definitely Todoroki had come by.
"Holy shit!" one of the men to his left nearly yelled in his ear. "He put down Varney with a single hit!"
"I thought we didn't have to worry about the kid coming back to life!" the man beside the first one shouted. "I think I can see his brain!"
The single man to his right took less time to collect himself, growling and stepping closer to Izuku. "I don't know how the hell you're alive, punk, but—"
Izuku didn't listen to him either, circling his bat into the man's side and not bothering to check behind him to see where the man went after the hit. The sounds of crashing didn't go for long, though, so he assumed the villain wasn't too far gone. At least his actions scared the other two villains even more then before. He was going to prioritize getting his teacher to safety over dicking around with lackies.
"Don't bother fighting me," the green-haired teen announced for the men beside him to hear as he strode towards his teacher. "I don't have time to waste on people like you."
A sudden gust of wind alerted Izuku to the sight of the glacier breaking before he even heard it crack, and he barely gave it a glance as he made his way to his fallen teacher. Though he didn't need it, that brief moment did give him an even more brief glance from the corner of his eye, of the loud villain charging at him with an enlarged punch. Izuku blocked it with the brunt of his bat and reinforced it against his shoulder to stop the strike short of his own head.
"I dunno' how the hell you're still standin', kid, but I'm—"
Izuku had no hand in flipping the man off his feet and dropping him on his back, but he did take the opportunity to jab his bat into the man's head and knock him out cold. He glared over at the last man, frozen in place and with his hands in the air by his head.
"I'll lie down," the man pleaded, falling to his knees and laying on his stomach. "I won't fight you. You do you, man."
The green-haired teenager gave the man a moment to stay in his position before he decided to go along and leave him be; the cops or his teachers would deal with him later. His eyes instead followed the two floating horns as they dislodged from the clothes of the man down at his feet, and flew back into the forest and onto the waiting head of Tsunotori not too far away. He gave her a grateful nod before he turned back to and sped to their downed teacher, his classmate not too far behind.
"I thought you left with everyone else," Izuku questioned her as they dropped by their sensei's side. "Did they come with you too?"
"I came alone," the horned girl answered, wincing as they examined their teacher's wounds. His face was bruised on the sides and his nose beaten in, and though the rest of his face was still in good condition, his exposed and crusted elbow was slowly bleeding into his tattered uniform. "I was fast. We were worried about you, but Kendo want to make sure we got out first. They yelled at me too."
"Thank you for helping. I would have asked you to stay with them, but now I need someone's help carrying Aizawa to safety."
"I can help. I'll grab his upper body, you grab—"
"That's not what I meant." With a heaved sigh, Izuku rose back to his feet while Tsunotori was gently trying to lift their teacher into her arms. The green-haired teen looked to the fight in the courtyard, flinching slightly as an iceberg rose from the ground only to be shattered apart a few seconds later. "Take Aizawa to the entrance with everyone else. Togata and Todoroki are still fighting the leaders of these villains, and I'm going to help them."
"What?" The American student's meek voice stood out among the loud clashes and shouts of the fight before them. "You're not going helping?"
"I can't. Todoroki and Togata are fighting some strong guys. They need all the help they can get." The ground rumbled beneath their feet, but Izuku stood strong and gripped his bat tight. "I was going to rush Aizawa back, but if you're here, you can get him back faster on your own. You came to me alone because you're fast, right?" He looked back over his shoulder to his wide-eyed classmate. "Then you can get him to safety faster than I can."
Though they were fast, Izuku did spot the bigger villain fighting their upperclassman across the now battlefield when he looked back. He was pretty sure he could feel the wind of their punches flick his hair around, even the graveyard of ice chunks rolling away from the major conflict. They were students and so much of this attack read like a plan, no matter the hiccups they made to foil it. There was no reason to stay and fight real criminals when he had the choice to run to safety, when that was the whole point of their teacher leading them back to the entrance.
But he ran in to fight before because their teacher wasn't leaving with them, and it didn't sit in his stomach to leave him behind. Now he had a classmate and a senior schoolmate he couldn't leave without.
Tsunotori, however, latched onto his arm before he could take a step towards the battle. "I came to bring you back!" she announced in English. "I don't want to lose a friend to the villains. Please, just come back with me!"
Understanding it all, Izuku quickly turned on his heel and slapped his free hand over hers, peering into her glistening eyes as he dropped to her level. "Then listen to me as a friend and your class president," he replied in his own English. "Take Aizawa to the others. Hand off to Shiozaki and Kendo to carry him. Lead everyone out of here. I will help Togata and Todoroki hold them off until help comes. And I will come back to you, I promise. Make sure everyone else is safe too. Please."
"But" — Tsunotori quivered and her eyes darted across his face trying to lock gaze with his own — "you're injured—"
"I am fine. I barely feel it. Now go." Izuku moved his hand on her shoulder to stabilize her, before acting on the impulse of his brain and yanking her into a hug. He kept his head from falling on her shoulder and giving in to her please, and leaned to her ear. "I trust you. Save him for me. I'll be right behind you when I can."
He felt weak having to pry her off and move her back to arm's length, but it seemed his promise worked in settling their debate. Wiping her eyes for a brief moment, she nodded with newfound determination and scooped her floating horns under their teacher's arm. She took his legs in her own hands as she lifted him off the floor with her strength and her quirk, and gave Izuku one last look and nod. He returned the gesture before she ran back through the trees with Aizawa in her hold.
With a heavy sigh and a drop of his shoulders, Izuku turned back to the fight between his schoolmates and the head villains of this break-in operation. The only thought that ran through his mind as his feet kicked forward and his body bolted into the fray was that of sending these criminals back with a message.
They made a mistake thinking they could fuck with their class and get away with it.
Shoto never hated his mother's quirk. The strength of her ice powers proved useful and powerful in his hands. He made it worth its weight in gold in the years training just to get into Yuei. He would make it all he needed to defeat villains and save lives when he graduated from the hero high school. The only problem he had yet to overcome with her quirk was the limitations of the cold his body could manage.
The downside of living with his father's quirk hidden within his blood, he guessed.
He couldn't heat his body fast enough in a fight to combat the shivers that came with overusing his mother's quirk. Working around that problem by resting and slowly reheating his body was easy; constantly keeping the heat running while he fired ice cap after ice cap in battle without hindering the power of either simultaneously was much harder to work out. Uninterested in ever diving further into using his father's quirk might have been the leading problem in this, but he was training his mother's quirk to be fast enough to take down villains before he ever overclocked his body with it.
Shoto seethed as he threw up another wall of ice as he jumped back, but his defensive measures lasted little time before the handy villain cut through the block with his fingers like a knife through butter. The criminal's disintegration powers were nowhere near the level of versatility as his mother's ice powers, but Shoto was losing his grasp on its fullest capabilities as the man continued to chase him down. The ice he generated was growing smaller and smaller every time, and the man he was facing wasn't slowing down to make it easy on him.
He had no time to look away, either, as the wind brushed past them and the earth shook beneath his feet from the other battle happening at the same time. Togata had been engaged with the big villain the instant it charged the teenager, and the scale of their battle had almost been distracting from the start. And while it meant Shoto wouldn't have to deal with the bulkier villain, he was left to deal with the other, surprisingly fast and still dangerous villain on his own. His upperclassman had entrusted him to take on and take down one of the leading villains of this break-in operation. He had every intention to do so, for their criminal actions and bold threat to take down All-Might, and if capturing the head of the operation with only his mother's quirk would send a clear message to his father, then he was fine knocking two birds with one stone.
"Slippery little shit," the handy villain hissed as he tore down another wall of ice between them. "Where was this information before entering the dungeon? How the hell is your level so damn high for fodder?"
"It's your own fault for thinking you could ever win," Shoto snapped back with another kick that lurched a chuck of ice at the villain. "Scum like you should have known you were doomed from the start."
Unluckily, the lanky man vaulted over the ice block without hassle, even dusting it with a swipe of his hand as he passed over it. "A useless spawn does not get dialogue like that."
Shoto cursed internally as he continued to fail in making ground between them. Not only was his mother's quirk reacting slower and slower to his command, but he himself was slowing down as ice crystallized over his right arm and leg the more he summoned them. This criminal barely reacted to the continuous use of his own quirk, fingers flexing at was probably just the constant cold touch he had to deal with. How was he going to capture a villain who could undo his mother's entire power?
"Todoroki, duck!" Shoto barely registered his upperclassman's shout before he hit the deck, barely missing the big purple body that flew over him and towards the villain he was fighting, presumably crashing into the smaller criminal while Shoto's back was turned to them. The bi-color-haired teen kept his grumbles to himself over his senior's sudden intrusion, but stopped quickly as a hand clamped down on his shoulder. As he turned to look back over it, he was greeted with the sight of the handy villain smiling under his hand mask and the skin of his own shoulder crack and dissolve under the criminal's touch.
"You're too slow, you damn brat—Ah! Fuck!"
Fire erupted from Shoto's left side and the two shot away from one another, both clutching their new wounds. Shoto screamed in pain and clutched around the exposed muscle and tendons in his shoulder, his fingers slowly applying ice around the edges where the fire had just hurt himself most. His father's flames had barely been active a few seconds before flicking out before they could have boiled his wound. Even through the pain, Shoto yanked the back of his costume over the spot and slowly applied ice to hold it in place. He needed to see Recovery Girl, if his now spotty sight was anything new to worry about.
"Todoroki!" Togata announced his rush to Shoto's side, resting the boy on his right side and kneading gently around his temporary bandage. The younger teen winced as it still pinched at the wound beneath and only stained his blue costume in more deep red. "Ah, crap baskets, that's not good. We got to get you out of here now." Shoto peered up at his senior classmate, prepared to give him a 'no shit' look through the pain, only to watch as the brawly villain loomed over them both and swung its mighty fist down towards the blond's head.
Togata was quick to react to the new shade and Shoto's words, twisting on his knees and swinging up both his arms to meet the villain's hammering arm just less than halfway. The big villain took the upperhand, pressing Togata down on his knees and even ripping the sleeves of his uniform just from the impact alone. Dust kicked up from the wind and silver bolts of lightning danced from Togata's arms and around Shoto's body, but the downed boy didn't not fly off from the sudden boom of their clash; it almost felt like it dug him into the ground.
Now both boys were trapped under the monster of a man's fist, Togata struggling to hold it up and halt it in its tracks and Shoto unable to find the strength to move. His ice pricked at his skin but it failed to respond to his pleas of coating and encasing the large villain. The young Todoroki child had no energy to crawl out of the fight's way, and his upperclassman did not have the chance to phase through the villain's attack without it following through and hitting Shoto; even adjusting the positions of his arm, the third-year student found the strength of the fist consistent and continuously pushing down on him. The big villain didn't even strike with his other arm yet, baring his teeth at the two teenagers in some twisted form of a smile as he continued to push against Togata's blocking arms. When the bulky man finally did chamber his other fist by his head, Shoto felt the small prick of fear in the back of his head watching the fist aim his way.
That prick pulled away as Midoriya Izuku — half his face coated in blood, his bat held high above his head, and his eyes wide with rage and intent — stomped his foot down on the big man's shoulder from atop his back. And smashed the villain's beak in two with a single swing.
"HAH!" Midoriya's bat nearly caved the giant man's face in, while successfully shoving him off of Togata and stumbling him away from the teens. The green-haired boy rolled over the pair and tumbled off behind them, grunting slightly as he hit the ground.
"Midoriya!" The senior student snapped his head to the other teen, leaving Shoto to watch the bulky criminal stumble and claw at its shattered mouth while it screeched in pain. "You're all right!"
"More or less," Midoriya responded. "Still sore. Still mad. I'll be just fine." He was gasping for air in between his sentences. "Don't worry about it."
Shoto looked on in disgust as the monster choked and hurled and spat out what remnants remained of its mouth, before its head shook wildly and a wholly new and intact beak popped out where the last one stood. The villain scraped off the gunk and mucus of his new mouth, tapping against the solid material and pointing it to the sky and basking in the glass-tinted light at his recovery. He barked like a bear at the sky and flexed his muscles, the notion he was even human slipping away as the seconds went on by. Super strength and super healing capabilities, Shoto groaned internally as he struggled to pick himself up to his knees.
"I asked Tsunotori to take sensei to the entrance with everyone else," Midoriya informed them as he stalked their way and came up between them. "Thanks for saving him. I take it this fucker did that to him?"
"And he would have done more if I wasn't fast enough," Togata answered, rubbing his bare arms and the newly spotted bruises they sported. "He's as strong as he looks, and apparently he can heal himself." The blond boy spared a glance at the shards of the villain's previous feet at his own feet. "I was going to have Todoroki get you and Aizawa out of here when he told me you were in the forest, but these guys are more persistent than I thought they were gonna be. I can't lead them further into the school, so we're kinda stuck here holding them off while we can."
"Do we even know if help is on the way?"
"Not like we can call them," Shoto gasped out his remark, barely glancing at the green-haired teen standing to his right. "If everyone else can't leave and call for help, we're on our own." He activated the heat of his father's quirk gently, spending his time to breathe and balance himself out as he had hoped.
"I knocked out the guy who should be a teleporter," Togata added, looking briefly to where the smoky villain stayed put in the earth where the blond boy had planted him. "Until he wakes up or we get help, it's just us and these two. With you here, though, I think our numbers might actually take them down." Midoriya's body turned to look at Togata, some silent conversation going on between them that left Shoto out of the loop and alone to continue watching the two villains in front of them. The lanky villain — now cradling his newly burnt hand — stomped over to the bigger man, hissing some slurs and insults the hero student couldn't make out from the distance but understood well enough from the man's hunched back and how the back of his good hand would hit at the monster's stomach to get him to listen. Shoto wondered why the bigger villain took orders so subserviently from such a smaller and emotional man who acted like some big shot. Was he actually somehow more dangerous than the man who was supposed to be there to kill All-Might?
"We can talk later," was the message Midoriya finally left Togata with as he stepped forward, hauling his bat over his shoulder. "Iida was at the entrance. If he got out, then we'll get help in no time. I'm fine taking these guys down before then if we can. As long as they hurt no one else."
Shoto looked up the rest of Midoriya as the green-haired teen, ready to spit out what he knew about their quirks and even just to tell him off for thinking he could take them on so abrasively, until his tongue caught in his throat as his eyes focused on the other teen's hair. Where a chunk of green curls should have been to match the rest of Midoriya's hairstyle, there was an empty space on the left side of his head that was nothing but blood and muscle where blood trickled down his face and neck, staining the collar of his costume. A two inch diameter wide patch of scalp had been ripped off, and Shoto thought he could have pointed out a section where his skull beneath the crimson was visible. "Mido—"
"Oi, Big Bird!" the delinquent-dressed teenager shouted through his chest, earning the stares of the villains on him. Midoriya lifted his bat in front of him and pointed it at the brawnier man of the two. "You gonna keep jerking it in public or are you going to try to kill me for real this time?"
"How the fuck are you here?" the handy villain spat out in confusion. "What the hell is with all these bots and their levels? Why can't any of you just stay dead? This isn't a wave battle stage." He slapped his good hand's knuckles on the bigger man's bicep as the monster turned its whole body to the green-haired teen. "Nomu, finish him for good."
Nomu's right arm rose to his side, shaking slightly before bulging larger in a flexing motion as he charged their way. Midoriya swung his bat over his head and chambered a swing behind his head, and Togata leaped to his side with his fist bursting with light and silver bolts. Shoto called upon his mother's quirk yet again, finding it slow to respond even though it wasn't chilling his body as badly to use again. He never got to do a thing, however, as his two schoolmates met the monster's fist in the middle. The resulting explosion had Shoto thinking he went deaf and blind as he barely covered his face in time from the shockwave of dust that kicked up.
He cursed, wiping the dust from his eyes and coughing out what was working its way down his throat, and looked back to the three that classed. There they stood, stiff as boards where their swings had met, as though time had stopped on impact. Midoriya stood strong, feet planted flat and his bat unwavering against the monster's fist. Togata stood tall beside him, arm steaming with strength and pressed just beside Midoriya's bat, flat against the villain's much larger fist. Nomu hunched over the two boys, it's giant knuckles like rocks against the two teens' strikes, and his forearm — from the wrist down to the elbow — folded like an accordion with blood and bone sprinkling out in every direction.
Unflinching at the results of their own actions, the two teens continued their forward assault. Togata phased forward through the bigger man's fist and, with a shout of power, launched a glowing fist up into the enemy's jaw and clocking his head backwards. Midoriya sidestepped the other way, stomping forward to Nomu's side and swinging his bat into the villain's stomach to ripple his skin, and with another step throwing the man back in the follow-through of his swing.
Shoto watched in silent disgust and awe as the villain tumbled away and the two teens collected themselves ready to go again. He had paid some attention to his classmates prodding the older boy about his similarities to All-Might and began to wonder some of the same about him, which only dug deeper as Togata went toe-to-toe with the villain claimed capable of defeating the number one hero. The starting comment on Midoriya's connection to the hero was a note even Shoto brushed aside at first, but with his memory of his classmate's defeat of the Zero Pointer added to watching him inflict the first (and quite massive) wounds on the hulking villain, the dual-quirked boy was placing both other teens on the same scale. And Midoriya had a chunk of his head missing; how was he even standing, much less fighting?
"You…" The lankier villain stuttered in his step to his fallen comrade, his hands convulsing and flexing. "You damaged my Nomu! You weren't supposed to be able to do that! How the hell did you cheat that?!"
"Am I supposed to understand any of that?" Midoriya announced back, swaying slightly as he stepped towards the villain with his bat swaying at his side. "He hit me, so I hit him. He's capable of regenerating, right?" He looked to the fallen villain, and Shoto watched with him as Nomu's broken arm stretched out and began reforming and reshaping itself back to normal. "I wonder if that healing power of yours has a limit. You really that eager for a test run?"
Nomu stayed incapable of human speech, screeching at the top of his lungs at the green haired teen and charging him again, leaping and throwing both his hands down in wide swings. Finding his footing, Midoriya dived out of the way and left the ground to crumble at the blow in his place, bouncing to his feet and swiping his bat to smack away the monster's hand that flew at him. Their fight turned into a game of swings and parrys as the green-haired teen knocked away each fist the villain tried to send his way. He struck back hard with his bat, even knocking off a few fingers that just grew back seconds later.
Shoto felt useless on the floor, watching as the lanky villain charged at his classmate from behind but was intercepted by Togata half way. The two teenagers pushed through their own wounds just fine and continued to handle the villains with ease, all while he did nothing but watch without even pulling on his father's quirk. Where the hell did these two find this kind of strength and stamina? Why couldn't he keep up with them?
Midoriya immediately came skidding back to his side, his bat held up defensively with several dents starting to flatten out one of its sides. The green-haired teen grunted and looked over his weapon with a brief glance of surprise before glancing at him and the big villain stalking its way over. "You dying on us, Todoroki?"
"I look dead to you?" he spat in response.
"Could'a fooled me. Good thing you ain't; would rather what I do not be for naught."
Shoto glanced at the boy's head wound again. "How the hell are you even standing?"
"Adrenaline, I think." Midoriya squinted his eyes briefly before he stepped back towards the approaching villain. "Try not to hurt yourself and pass out. Can't have even one of us dying on me. Can you get up?"
Grumbling at the other teen's uninteresting tone, Shoto was finally able to push himself off his knees and stagger onto his own two feet. "Yes, I can."
"Good. Anything you can do to help?"
The dual-quirked boy tried to summon ice from his mother's quirk, but his right side shook in agitation and small shards barely formed around his foot. "I can't use ice. It's not responding to me. I have nothing."
"Can you at least use your fire?" Shoto's eyes snapped to the back of the boy's head in surprise, but the green-haired teen continued closing in on Nomu and meeting the giant man half way. "Saw you burn the other guy with it. Think you can use that at all?"
The scarred boy scoffed at his classmate's words, replays of his father's demanding voice flickering in the back of his mind. "I'm not using my father's quirk."
Midoriya and Nomu finally met face-to-chest, the tall villain bending at the neck to bore his eyes down on the teenager. Midoriya, however, stayed straight in looking ahead at the bigger man's torso before he looked back to Shoto with a scrutinizing look. "The fuck do you mean you won't?"
The monster villain didn't hesitate to raise his fist and punch down where the teen stood, but Midoriya had virtually no problem in side-stepping the fist. The punch drilled through the dirt, and the green-haired teen spun on heel and slammed the hilt of his bat into the villain's exposed brain. Nomu blinked and stumbled to the side, but the teenager gave him no wiggle room to recover as he winded up another swing and knocked the villain across the head, shooting him away and across the indoor lake to be lost underwater before he could crash into the cruise liner.
Midoriya spent barely a second furrowing his brow and judging where the monster sank before turning his gaze back to Shoto. "Run that by me again. What do you mean you won't use it?"
Shoto scoffed back at him, biting his own tongue as he looked out at the large, motionless lake. "I don't need to use his fire," he repeated himself. "I can take him down with just my ice if I could just-"
"I can take him down with my strength but your ice ain't gonna do shit." Midoriya pointed an accusatory finger at the other boy and he stomped towards him. "Most you can do is jump in the water and reenact Titanic with that cruise ship. You just said your ice doesn't work."
"Give me a minute to heat up and I'll be able to use it again," Shoto hissed back.
"Oh, so you can use your fire? The hell are you going on about?"
The dual-quirked boy grunted and his right side dialed up the heat coursing through his body. "What does it matter to you? Why does how we take him down matter if we do stop him?"
"I don't care about how we take him down, I care that we try to!" Midoriya jabbed his finger into Shoto's head, glaring up at the other boy past his arm. "These are real fucking villains! We should be giving it out all to take them down! Did that big bastard give you brain damage or something? You think this is a game or some shit?"
Shoto smacked the other boy's hand out of his face. "I know this is real, don't patronize me. I don't need his fire to take down villains. I'll be fine using her ice alone to be a hero."
Midoriya stared up at him with a twisted look of bafflement and confusion before he threw his hands up in the air with a tired groan. "Ojiro's right, you are a prick. Last time I ask you for help."
The dual-haired boy glared into the back of the green-haired boy's head and sluggishly stomped after him. "I am not useless."
"Well you aren't any help, either." A screech followed the plume of water that bursted out behind the cruise liner, which itself rocked wildily as the soaked Nomu villain landed atop it. "If I can hurt him again, you could sear the wounds and might ruin his regeneration enough to give us an advantage; unless he's mad enough to rip his whole arm off—"
Brushing the green-haired teen's absurd and disgusting idea, Shoto called upon his mother's quirk once more, extending it towards the water and using the lake to bottleneck the ice and completely encase the water, the cruise liner, and the villain all in one encompassing wave.
And that was the last of his energy.
Shoto collapsed, feeling and weighing like a sack of bricks as ice formed in chunks on his right side. His vision hazed over, even the dirt in front of his face nothing but a tanned blur that greeted him. His mother's quirk worked well in abusing the molecular compound of liquids and solidifying the substances, but it was just as taxing on his body to perform as any other move. There was nothing he could do now; not like he was needed with the villain encased.
"And there you go nearly fucking killing yourself." Shoto's right ear worked just fine enough to hear Midoriya scold him as he tried to pick up the dual-quirked boy by his right side. "Would that have happened if you just used your damn fire?"
He didn't have the strength to talk back. Using a more solid substance than the air itself to crystalize and solidify created denser ice, which would mean the Nomu villain was trapped in a thicker block of ice. If Midoriya and Togata's attacks had done anything to weaken the man, he wouldn't be breaking out of that prison any time soon. Though he could make out the details of Midoriya's face, Shoto tried to share with him a weak smile he couldn't help but dip some smugness in; his mother's quirk was enough to win.
And then Midoriya was gone.
Shoto didn't register the lack of a grip on his arm. He didn't notice when he began falling back down. He was barely aware when he was tackled by their teaching assistant. He couldn't process the sight of the cruise liner snapping in half and the iceberg that had contained it falling onto the frozen lake in a shower of broken shards.
All his eyes would replay for him was the sight of Midoriya's blurry face — his right side dirty and looking down at him with disapproval, and his left side being caved in by the giant purple fist of the Nomu — before his green-haired classmate was removed from the picture entirely.
"They...have that handled, right?" Sato asked aloud, teetering slightly on his feet from the shockwave that passed them.
"I don't know if there's much we could do about it," Hanta remarked dryly through his helmet.
"Doesn't mean I don't wish we could," Uraraka followed up, holding onto the railing as another blast of air shot up the stairwell.
Mezo silently agreed with his classmates as they watched the battle in the courtyard from afar. The clash in the courtyard was an intense one, as some hulking monster of a villain traded blows with their teacher's assistant and two of their classmates that could shake the facility. There weren't many options for their group other than to run out the still opened doors or wait for everyone else to come back, and while following their speedster classmate sounded like a good idea, the four hero students made a unanimous vote to keep an eye out for the rest of their class and provide what extra help they could.
So far, that responsibility fell on Mezo's shoulders. With his growing appendages and the eyes he grew on them, he took the task of the lookout to spot his classmates through the multiple simulation grounds. He found Thirteen leading a good majority of their classmates through a destroyed city to his left for just a brief second, all butting heads with a few criminals chasing after them. To Mezo's right, he caught even less of a glimpse of the girls that made up Aizawa's group ducking between the mountains and hills and narrowly avoiding even more villains around the corners. Midoriya, Tsunotori and Aizawa himself were missing from the pack, but Hanta had spotted them briefly in the clash in the facility's center as the latter two ducked back through the forest simulation and their green-haired classmates jumped into the battle before them.
"Everyone else will be here soon," Mezo informed his group, one of his arms transforming into a mouth. "Unless there's another way up, they should be coming to the bottom of the stairs."
"I'll meet them at the base," Sato announced, pounding a fist into the palm of his other hand. "Give them some help in case more villains try to chase us up. I can't help with that fight" — the muscular classmate glanced to the center as another gust of wind blew past them — "but I have plenty of energy to spare. I can't handle standing around doing nothing for much longer." Taking another second to hype himself up, the yellow costumed began his jog down the steps to meet their class halfway.
Mezo thinks he would have done the same, had he not caught sight of his brunette classmate faltering in her own steps to follow after their sugar-powered peer. "Uraraka?" he called out her name, retracting his arms as he approached her side. "Are you all right?"
"Eh?" The girl sputtered as she turned to look at him, and Mezo got a good look at the haze over her eyes before she tried to shake it away. "Sorry, Shoji. I was just spacing out, that's all." She tried to laugh it off, but the nervous jumps her voice made didn't frame the picture she wanted.
"I'll be fine."
"But are you right now?" he pressed, his hands hovering by the shorter girl's shoulder. "Are you hurt at all? This is serious, Uraraka."
The brunette had muttered something to dismiss his worries, but their tape-quirked classmate shuffled to their side. "What's up guys?" Hanta interjected, his helmet-covered head looking at Mezo and Uraraka. "Is something wrong?"
Uraraka waved them both off, shaking her head as wildly as her hands. "Guys! It's fine; I'm fine. I'm not hurt, okay? I swear. I'm just…"
Mezo watched her face fall with her voice, caught in the act of trying to warp her vocabulary. "Just what?" he asked softly.
She hung her head in shame, a long drawn sigh pulling her down in a slump. "This is...it's just been a lot to take in. I'm just worried."
"Oh, believe me, I know what you mean." Hanta shook his head and crossed his arms over his chest. "Our second week in and we're already facing villains. Yuei is gonna be absolutely wild."
Mezo gave the other boy a critical and unamused look, as Uraraka herself mumbled under her breath with a shiver. "Yuei didn't make this happen," he chided Hanta.
"Yeah, I know, I know. That's not what I mean. I'm not trying to insinuate something about the school—"
"Not just this," Uraraka interrupted them. The beans on her fingertips drummed together nervously, and her eyes watched the dirt on her boots intently as their attention turned back to her. "The Zero Pointer, the media breaking in, Bakugou…" Her finger pinched together gently and rose to her chest. "Hero school is a lot more unstable than I thought it was going to be."
Mezo finally rested his hand down on her shoulder, sharing a sigh in sympathy with her worries. Yuei was a school unlike any other he had attended before, for better and for worse. He was several blocks away from the Zero Pointer during the entrance exam, watching it shoulder buildings from a safe distance, but he still felt worry in his throat watching it destroy the fake city. The press breaking into the school and triggering the school's alarm, mixed with the loud and hectic crowd of other students running to the safe rooms, nearly gave him sensory overload had he not followed in his classmates' footsteps and climbed on the table to avoid being dragged along for the ride. And Bakugou's expulsion just felt too sudden; Mezo knew he was missing information to understand why a boy with what should have been one mark on his record from the battle trial got the boot from their class. This time last year, the only thing he had to worry about was bumping into small door frames after his sudden growth spurt.
"It's been a lot more to take in than I was expecting," Mezo simplified his thoughts and condolences to the brunette's worries.
"A lot has happened, huh?" Hanta eased down his jovial tone, lifting the glass of his helmet to reveal the triangular frown and furrowed brows he wore. "It's almost strange how different the year is already from what I thought we were going to do. I came to Yuei specifically to learn how to best use my quirk in tying up and catching bad guys. Best hero school around; teaching's gotta match, right? I was hoping we'd get the chance of trial and error a few more times before we had to fight real villains. It's a good thing we took the high ground."
Urakara's shoulders bounced with a soft and choked chuckle. "I did too. I'' — her body stiffened a moment and then eased back with a controlled breath — "just want to make this easier on my parents. To be a hero and help them live better."
Mezo's cheeks pinched under his mask at Uraraka's desire, shouldering Hanta's grumbling comment about how inferior his motivations felt in comparison. The brawl out in the courtyard had died down in sound substantially, and in its silence did Mezo ease his beating heart to a calm bumping repetition. "You'll get to one day," he told the brunette hopefully. "Iida will be back with All-Might and our teachers, and they'll take care of these guys for us. You'll get to support them when we graduate." He punctuated the 'when' as he slid his hand back, giving her the chance to straighten up and raise her head again.
Uraraka swiped her eyes against the sleeve of her costume and looked up to Mezo with a small yet bright smile. "You're right, Shoji. Iida will come through. Thank you guys."
"Yeah he will," Hanta agreed with her comment about their classmate. "All-Might's gonna waltz in and kick their asses; like Mike Tyson taking on three hundred toddlers."
Mezo left the other two sputtering with laughter as the tense air around them thinned, and he went to stand at the top of the staircase. Sato had met with the rest of their classmates and teachers converging at the base, their unconscious homeroom teacher being passed on to lay in a bed of Ibara's thorns and everyone ushered up the steps with Thirteen watching their backs. Off in the distance, Togata was knocking one of the villains around while Midoriya and Todoroki were locked in some conversation beside the frozen lake, and there was no sign of the other, bigger villain around them to worry about. They were going to be fine, he sighed to himself.
"Shoji," Hanta called out to him, "is everyone all right?"
Mezo turned back to him, leaving only one eyed appendage focused on his classmates before him. "Sato finally reached them, and no one's following. I think we-"
A sudden shockwave nearly knocked the three of them off their feet, and Mezo only turned around after something had come crashing their way. That something had crashed into the railing of the stairwell, nearly hitting their American classmate and breaking the railing and some of the steps where it connected before spiraling into the forestry below their platform. The multi-armed teen looked at the broken section in shock with the rest of his class, and turned his eye back to the courtyard. The head count stayed the same, but whose heads he counted had changed.
And a piece of rubble doesn't squelch on impact.
"No, no no no no no no," Mezo muttered, expanding his arms and rushing to the railing by his side. Eyes popped out at the end of each of his wrists and searched through the treetops vigorously as he slid back and forth along the railing.
"What the hell was that?" Hanta shouted, running up to his side and peering over the railing with him. "Was that one of the villains? Did they throw something at us? Did they come to fight us?"
Mezo didn't respond to his questions, focusing every second he had flicking through his new eyes and picking apart the colors. That wasn't a rock thrown at them, and there was no rock with moss that bushy growing on it. Nor was there a rock that would hold a baseball bat.
"Shoji?" Uraraka's softer voice called out to him, the girl slowly inching closer behind him. "What is it? Who is it?"
He grunted and smacked his hand against the railing, his search taking far longer than he wanted it to without results. "It's Mi—" And then he saw the black and red poking through the leaves and cut himself off. He blinked his eyes sequentially, retracted all but the one that had spotted what had crashed near them, and stretched his arm even further, just enough to brush past some leaves and give him a clearer picture — even if the picture became more blurry the further his arm extended.
And there was his classmate, prone on his back, a dented and beaten bat laying by his side, both coated in blood and dirt, and the teen staring vacantly to the sky as the left side of his face poured out blood.
"It's Midoriya," Mezo finally answered them, "and he's dying."
"Wait, what?!" The other two teens nearly hurled themselves over the railing to look for their classmate themselves. Mezo almost thought Hanta was going to twist his neck with how wildly fast he was looking around. "That was him? One of the villains threw him at us?"
"What do you mean he's dying?" Uraraka asked instead. "What happened to him?"
"We need to get to him." He didn't answer either of them, retracting his arm and frantically working ideas in his head before he snapped to the brunette beside him. "Use your quirk on me. We have to go down there."
Uraraka didn't hesitate for a second to slap his back and herself, immediately removing their gravity and giving Mezo a moment to float up with the new sensation he felt. He grabbed the railing with one hand and pulled her close with the other arm, and swung them both around to float down the side of the wall. Hanta followed them, wrapping his tape around the railing and hopping down the wall like a mountain climber and dropping through the branches to land beside their fallen and beaten classmate.
"Oh fuck," Hanta had muttered as they landed, and Uraraka removed the effects of her quirk from Mezo and herself just to stand and stare at the bloodied body of Midoriya in equal horror. Mezo wasted less time to gawk and ran to the boy's side, dropping to his knees and looking over Midoriya's most exposed wounds to see just how badly he was hurt. He was no stranger to gruesome sights, as the many times he detached his limbs just to see how far they could stretch before he stopped feeling the pain was part of his training; all that experience didn't make it any easier to see his classmate look like a corpse before his eyes.
Midoriya's pulse was low and quiet, but Mezo was able to find it as Hanta and Uraraka finally joined his side. "We need to leave," the multi-armed teen spoke loudly. "Let's hope Iida's bringing Recovery Girl along with them." He slid his arms under the boy's body and legs, and gently lifted him off the ground.
Only to watch the left side of his face fail to follow the rest of him.
"Shit!" he hissed, setting the boy back down and fumbling to hold the skin of his face against his skull where it was supposed to be. Disembodied hands lying on the ground were one thing, but watching the skin and muscle of his classmate's face peel off and expose the cracks along his skull beneath churned his stomach like a tidal wave. Hanta and Uraraka had similar reactions, the boy having to remove his helmet before he puked all over the glass and the girl shuffling to the side to hurl rainbows into the bush.
"Is he still alive?" Hanta asked softly, and Mezo nodded fervently as his hands held Midoriya's face together.
"His pulse is weak but it's there," he explained. "We can't wait for Recovery Girl to get here, have to go. Now." Throwing away what was left of his hesitation, Mezo ripped his shirt apart, stretching and lengthening the fabric. His medical practice was minimal, given he could simply regrow his appendages when they were removed, but they needed something to stop Midoriya from falling apart. He thanked Hanta for stepping up and providing his tape to hold the makeshift head wrap in place.
Uraraka coughed out her lunch and picked herself back to her feet. "I'll—I'll go get some help," she sputtered to the boys. "Hanta, can you help push me up?"
Spending the last tape needed to hold Midoriya's bandages down, the black-haired boy scurried over to the girl as she stumbled back to the wall of the staircase. "You need to sit down. You look like you'll pass out by the time you get back up there. I'll get someone."
"I'll get up there faster if you give me a push," she argued, wiping her mouth of the rainbow puke from her chin. "I'll rest when I know Midoriya will be okay."
"Send her up," Mezo pitched into their conversation. He scooped Midoriya back into his arms gently, cupping his head against the wing-like base of his appendages and choking back as the green-haired boy continued to trickle blood through his bandages. "I need your tape to get back up there. We can't take the stairs and risk running into more villains. See if you can get Sato and someone else with a strength quirk to pull us up."
Uraraka answered with a thumb raised, and Hanta conceded to the two-on-one decision and helped to throw the brunette up the wall as he quirk activated. Mezo toed slowly to Hanta's side, adjusting their shorter classmate in his arms until he stopped fumbling from each step and wouldn't threaten to fall loose. The tape-dispensing teen peered over the arm-hammock and deepened his frown as Midoriya laid motionless. Mezo shared in his despair at the sight of their classmate — quite possibly their strongest classmate in raw power — at death's door.
"He's gonna make it, right?" Hanta asked aloud meekly.
Mezo's arms tensed at the question, his classmate resting in them unbothered by the movement and still as a brick as he laid. "He will," the multi-armed teen responded in a tone even weaker than the other boy's. "I won't let him go."
Without commenting on Mezo's declaration, Hanta took the strand of tape he had used to descend down the wall and wrapped it around his waist tightly; he even added a second layer to make sure it stayed on. "Get comfortable," he told the taller boy, and Mezo lifted his arms as Hanta shot tape from both his elbows to wrap around his waist and latch on tight.
"How do they curl around on their own?" Mezo couldn't help himself from asking.
"My mom could curve bullets with her quirk," Hanta answered, unbothered by the sudden question. "Dad's the tape. Gives me a bit of loose control like that."
"Hanta! Mezo!" The two boys looked up the wall, finding their yellow-suited classmate leaning over the railing to shout down at them. "You guys still down there?"
"Yeah, we are," Hanta shouted back for them. "Do you mind pulling us up by the tape? I kinda got us ready to do that already."
"Is it safe?"
"As long as you pull it and don't yank it. That'll snap it in two. I don't want to drop back down here a second time."
Sato sounded off his compliance, pulling at the tape slowly and lifting Hanta off the ground first. "Are you going to be fine holding us both?" Mezo asked him as he continued to rise.
"Tape should hold no problem," Hanta shrugged. "It won't rip off your skin when you take it off, don't worry about that. I'll hang on to you guys no proOOO—" His voice pitched and gargled as Mezo was finally picked off the ground, hanging his arms down to cradle Midoriya below him like on a stretcher. Hanta grunted and gripped at the tape still protruding from his elbows, struggling to keep himself from hanging upside down as the weight of the other two boys finally fell onto him. "Oh, this is gonna be a hell of an arm workout."
"You okay?" Sato shouted down at them again.
"Yeah, we're fine, just don't stop pulling!" Hanta yelled back even louder.
Mezo watched Midoriya rest as they made their ascent. His right eye was left exposed between the strips of Mezo's tattered shirt, but there was little light to be found in it. It unsettled Mezo to no end to stare at his classmate and find him staring back blankly, but closing someone's eyes was what people did when they died in a film. He wasn't doing that to Midoriya.
A few seconds later, they were back at the entrance platform, and the sight of the rest of their class did little to quell Mezo's worries. Uraraka was curled over the other railing and puking down the side; Asui was huddled by her classmates and shaking from hypothermia; Tsunotori was down on her knees and sobbing against Ashido; Kaminari was dazed on his own two feet and held in place by Kirishima and Jiro; their teacher was resting in a bed of thorns held by a tired Shiozaki and tended to by a fervent Yaoyorozu; everyone looked like hell.
It probably helped none of them to see how much worse their classmate in Mezo's arms fared.
"Midoriya!" Yaoyorozu shouted when she turned to see them, applying the last patch to their teacher's face before she pushed past their classmates to fall in front of Mezo. The worry that painted the class's vice president's face as she first saw them deepened in horror as she fully took in the sight of their class president. "Oh my god." Her voice turned hoarse and her hands gently prodded at Midoriya's body, feeling around his chest for any more wounds than what was hiding beneath the bandages on his head. "What happened to him?"
"One of the villains did this," Mezo answered. "I don't know who or how, but he was in the courtyard fighting them just a moment ago." Yaoyorozu laid a hand on Midoriya's neck, checking for the weak pulse the other boy had found earlier. Mezo wasn't sure if what he saw was of his imagination, but he could have sworn the green-haired boy's hand twitched slightly at the girl's sudden contact. He was still alive, they at least knew that. "He's badly hurt. We need to leave and find Recovery Girl before—" A strong gust of wind picked up and blew past them, but this wasn't one that came from the courtyard; it came from the entrance.
Mezo turned his head slowly with his classmates to the big man whose shadow casted over them through the open entrance of the facility. The antenna of his hair wavered in the wind, and the overcoat in his hand fell to the man's feet as his hands relaxed a moment, just to clench hard a second later. His beady blue eyes glowed from the dark pits beneath his golden eyebrows, his white button-up tensed and his tie was ripped from his neck as he stepped towards them, and his bared teeth clenched together in a hard and wide frown that fell across his face.
Mezo hadn't been a fanatic follower of his work, but he had never seen All-Might sport a look of rage and disgust that strong ever before in his career.
Today was a day of events that never needed to happen.
Toshinori did not have to waste his energy in the morning and miss out on training the next age of heroes as he had promised. He did not need to hear Mirai throw scrutiny on Midoriya's name from nothing but a lack of information. He did not need to spend an hour listening to Nedzu consider their student like a science experiment to dissect and study for their answers. He did not need to start arguing with the two men on how to treat an innocent child from his own house of glass.
Toshinori did not have to see Iida's face of fear and worry, on the brink of tears and a hoarse voice that directed a rejuvenated All-Might to the USJ.
He did not have to arrive at the scene and find his students staggering on their feet, holding each other up to stand and struggling to keep Midorya's head from falling apart.
The hero dashed to his students immediately, crouching down with them to assess the fallen teen himself. "Who did this?"
"We don't know," the tentacle-armed teen admitted, his voice wavering weakly. "He cracked his head open on the railing below. Togata and Todoroki are still fighting the villains in the center; I didn't see who did it. I just saw…" The boy's words trailed off as his main set of eyes lingered on the classmate cradled in the wings of his arm. A single tentacle with an eye at its end continued to look out to the USJ's center and the small scuffle that had seemingly paused. "The villains—"
"Young Iida informed me enough about the intruders," Toshinori interrupted him, setting a hand on the boy's shoulder. "Villains searching for me, specifically. I'm sorry I was not here sooner to confront them right away. This was a result of my own faults and mistakes." He looked down at the boy with his head wrapped in the tatters of another's shirt and a classmate's quirk of tape, and the hero looked into the one lone and open jade eye staring back into his own shaded sapphires. Much to Toshinori's relief but still fueling his bubbling rage, the boy's eye still shone with life through his wounds, and the symbol of peace saw it flinch in a silent question he believed he understood. He had a title to live up to for these children; he had peace to enforce.
"I will deal with these criminals myself," the man announced as he stood. His hands passed across the students, clamping down on their shoulders and backs as he met all of their eyes. Not a single one of his students looked even relieved to see him here, and some looked even worse for wear. The most life still left in his students shone when they rushed to the sides of their wounded peers. Midoriya was surrounded by hands helping to lift and lay him in Shoji's arms; Tsuyu was huddled by her classmate's in Ojiro's grip to keep her warm; and Aizawa…
Toshinori stopped by the pair of girls holding their teacher gently in their vines and big hands. His elbow was wrapped in bandages and his face was littered with bruises; Yaoyorozu had done her best to treat what wounds she could, but of course her quirk was limited. He placed his hand over the man's chest to check his steadily beating heart and then moved both his hands to the girls' shoulders. "Recovery Girl should be on her way; make sure she tends to him and Midoriya as soon as possible. Thank you for keeping him safe." Neither girl gave him a vocal response, but their nods of confirmation were enough for him to trust his ally's life in their hands.
Thirteen stood at the back of the crowd, the last line of defense between the students and the villains still clashing in the middle of the facility. "Apologies for my tardiness," Toshinori greeted her. "I might have tried teaching in my other form had Nedzu and an old accomplice of mine not made a visit to my office. It's still my fault this morning for missing out at all. Thank you for protecting them and making way for an escape."
"Todoroki and Togata are still fighting out there," the heroine informed him, shedding light on the roars and rumbles ahead. "I saw Midoriya fighting by their side earlier, before one of them sent him back here. Is he…"
"Breathing, but wounded badly." Toshinori peeked over his shoulder to the students as they fell against each other for support and wails of seeing them again. "I don't know the extent of his wounds myself, but Chiyo is on her way with the rest of our staff. If I don't see you back at her wing with the rest of the students, I'll assume Majima is holding you hostage in the Development Studio."
The suited heroine laughed quietly, her body drooping with ease and comfort. "He wouldn't be Higari if he wasn't overprotective. I'll be fine all the same. Will you be?"
"I've rested for long enough since this morning. I'll manage." Without another second to waste, Toshinori stomped forward, the ground cracking slightly beneath his step until he reached the top of the stairwell. There was a large chunk down the left side where the railing bent downwards and part of the closest step was missing, and thinking of how vague they had been about Midoriya's return to their side and how close the multi-armed boy was holding him to the left side of the platform, Toshinori could paint the grim picture all on his own. How the boy was still alive didn't matter to him, just that he would in the end.
"Young Iida will be returning with more heroes in tow." He made his voice loud and clear for the whole facility to hear. Even the fight in the distance came to a stop at his presence. "You are all safe to leave now; meet them halfway and make sure Midnight and Cementos make it here for these punks' arrest. I'll make sure they're prepared for police transport."
One For All worked in mysterious ways. There was once a time in Toshinori's life when no transformation was necessary for his work. He continued to grow in size and one day, he woke up smaller and with the ability to enlarge his body back into the muscles he had worked so hard for, long before his injury. After that fateful day, he found himself limited to a few hours at a time that shortened in quantity as the years went on. He judged his work policy by the hours he could perform before his immune system gave way, and then he was able to find the shortest amount of time it took for the energy of his quirk to replenish was just shy of twelve hours; it was such six years ago, and it stayed that way even to today.
Toshinori bent at the knees, crouching at the first step and digging his feet into the stone beneath him with a single flex. It may have been only an hour of rest, but it would be enough to deal with a few measly thugs.
With a silent promise to see Cementoss's pay increased, he shot from the steps like a rocket, fist chambered behind his head. The wind blitzing through his face did little to falter him in connecting his punch with the big purple villain boring down on his successor and student, skidding the man back to give them plenty of space for the number one hero to stand between both parties.
"My old age is slowing me down," Toshinori chided himself loudly, clutching at the tie still wrung around his neck until he tore it off. "I might have to invest in a Wii Fit like Nedzu suggests. They aren't exactly cheap these days."
"All-Might!" Togata shouted behind him, an ice-covered Todoroki cradled in his arms and stared up at him with shock. "You came! Is everyone else on the way?"
"A good few of us," the hero informed his prodigy. "Just enough to handle these goons and however many stragglers are hiding away in here. Take Todoroki to the entrance with the rest of his class and get him to Recovery Girl, stat. That bleeding worries me."
"Yes sir!" The cackle of their shared quirk tickles Toshinori's ear before a gust of wind signaled the two boys had launched away from them.
The villain with hands decorating his tatters of a costume gargled and spat at his own two feet. "Nomu, after—"
"And what about me, young man?" the bulky hero interrupted the lanky villain standing behind his cohort. "I heard from my students that you're here looking for me. Why prolong our fateful encounter any longer?"
Tiny, beady red eyes peered between the fingers of the hand that rested on the younger man's face as he hissed. "You've kept us waiting, All-Might. You deserve to do the same."
"I deserve answers. If you wanted to see me, you should have come knocking on the school door shouting my name. I would have gladly put you in your place for the public eye to see." Toshinori bulged his muscles as wide as he could, his button-up silently crying as the fabric strained against his form. "Trying to go through my students to get to me is a fatal mistake you don't get to make again. You have me now. Don't squander your last chance to say to me what you want."
Physically, the villain looked unresponsive to his taunts and his threats, but Toshinori could hear the man's ragged breathing quicken and growl. "Boasting your strength like you're invincible. You're not even taking us seriously. What kind of hero flaunts himself to the enemy?"
"The kind that has had enough of your games," Toshinori answered him. "And make no mistake, I take your vile treatment and the harm you've put these children through very seriously. Do not misinterpret my lack of amusement for the pain you've inflicted as anything less."
The man twitched to reply, only for a gust of wind and a cloud of dust to roll past them suddenly and cause the man to grumble. "You again."
Toshinori looked to the blond, young man standing beside him, dusting himself off from his sudden entrance. "You're using Permeation less and less for your entrances," he commented. "I quite liked the surprise it brought."
"Well the class thinks I'm related to you already," Togata jovially replied. "I don't know which would be worse; being more like you so they stop hounding me about it and think it's true or if I act less like you and they think I'm trying too hard to hide it."
"The staff are no better about that. Vlad accidentally sent me the link to their betting pool; I thought the press were bad enough with their conspiracies. And I thought I told you to leave with the class."
His apprentice beamed a nervous smile up at him. "Sorry, sir, but I thought you'd take all the help you could get. This big guy is a bit of a nasty one." The brawly villain in question made no reaction to being mentioned, hunched where it stood and boring holes into Toshinori's skull with its dead, wide eyes. "The other guy mentioned he has a Shock Absorption quirk, and he's also got a knack at healing himself of bad wounds. Midoriya tried to help us put him down, but he keeps getting back up."
Toshinori analyzed the purple villain more consciously, how his arms bounced with energy and his fingers flexed with an uncontrollable tick. His torso rippled with his breaths, skin jutting with bumps as it reshaped itself with every exhale. The exposed brain paid no mind to the open oxygen intake and how that should have affected him, as his eyes stared unblinking at the hero who glared back. So this was the brute who had hurt the teacher and the student. And with two quirks, to boot?
"You were just thinking in the wrong direction, young Togata," Toshinori bellowed as he took the first step forward. "If you're planning to help me, then go right ahead. And pardon the oddity of my question, but have you ever eaten too much food before?"
His successor took to walking beside him, his body cackling with silver bolts of energy as One For All activated. "Once, yeah. Felt incredibly sick afterwards. Why do you ask?"
Toshinori activated the quirk passed down to him by Shimura Nana so many decades ago, his fists emitting a soft golden glow while yellow sparks danced between them. "You said his quirk was Absorption, not Nullification, correct? I think I'd quite like to test the limits of such a quirk."
The bird-headed villain roared like a beast over whatever the other villain was shouting at him and threw itself at the shared quirk duo, but Toshinori and his apprentice were more than ready for him. The hero blocked one fist as his protege handled the other, and with their other hands free, launched a dual strike to the villain's chest that sent a ripple across his body. And the villain stumbled, ever so slightly, but slightly enough for the number one hero to see, and enough for him to know there was a chance.
Teacher and student wailed on the monster with their fists, stopping the villain's own in their tracks and using the openings in between to rain hell down on him. With each punch Toshinori rammed into his gut, Togata followed up with a hook into his chest, and vice versa. They punched in on either side of his ribs together, they pummeled on his shoulders together, they beat the man so hard his feet were dragging back through the ground and a steadily increasing pace; it was the only time All-Might knew of One For All fighting alongside itself in the history his own mentors had retold him. As if he needed any more reason to be proud of his successor.
With a joint uppercut to the villain's jaw, the two blond men sent him toppling backwards. "WASHINGTON—!" Toshinori shouted, reeling his fist back with energy. His apprentice followed, shouting the same name as he caught on, and energy transmitted between their hands as they rocketed their fists into the villain's stomach. "SMASH!" The purple man curled in on himself like a dodgeball and shot back like a bullet through the facility, crashing through the construction environment and sending unfinished buildings collapsing down on him.
"Nomu!" the lankier villain shouted at his ally, staggering on his feet to keep him from following after.
"Guess I was right," Toshinori commented, "he does have a limit. Lucky me. That would have felt like a wasted effort otherwise."
"You should see what Midoriya did to him," Togata huffed out as he caught his breath. "Little guy could toss him around like a doll too. And he's fully aware of his strength, if I heard him right."
"Is that so?" Useful information, Toshinori noted, but one that would have to be tucked away for a later date. "I'd hate to think what would be left of this criminal if he were to be here with us now. I'm glad he's our ally."
His successor had caught the meaning of his words seemingly instantly, as he chortled and laughed happily. At least he understood there was no need to question the boy's intentions anymore. "I'd hate to be on the receiving end of one of those swings, too."
An animalistic roar shook the rubble while the Nomu ripped itself free and ran at them on all fours out from the dust cloud. "I'm not keen on running this battle too long," Toshinori informed the younger man beside him. "Do you still have enough energy in you to help me?"
As heavy as his exhale was, Togata's smile shone brightly with the determination Toshinori had seen ever since they first met. "Always, sir."
"Then I hope you're good at volleyball." Channelling power through his legs, Toshinori launched himself at the oncoming villain. He tailed his arm behind himself and flattened his fingers together. As the villain threw a punch to his head, Toshinori fell to crouch beneath it and swung his arm into the man's head. "SALEM SLAP!" With an ear-shattering clap, he connected with the side of the villain's face, stopping his forward momentum and spiraling him wildly back through the air.
Togata, bless his heart, wasted no time in being slow as he tackled the villain midair. His arms coiled around the bigger man's waist, and with the power of One For All turning them around in the air, the third-year student chucked the villain even higher. "CAROLINA CHUCK!"
Using his crouched position to his advantage, Toshinori bolted into the air after him, stopping short of the facility's dome roof before falling back down to meet the rising villain. The number one hero clasped his hands together, brought them over his head, and with a booming shout of, "SACRAMENTO SPIKE," drove his hands into the villain's chest with a sickening crack and blasted him back into the earth where a crater formed upon his impact.
One For All rode into his arms like a tidal wave as he used their upswing to send himself back down to the ground like a rocket, slamming down on his feet. The purple villain had bounced back into the air and his arms hung uselessly by its side like a doll, and his once focused eyes now shook with uncertainty and shock. Togata landed down on the other side of the still airborne villain, and Toshinori met his successor with a smile. "Time to set an example of this school's motto, my boy!"
The young man beamed at him with equal energy. "Right on, sir!"
Each of them lowered a fist to the ground, the power of their quirk focusing its fullest strength into their hands as they came side-by-side beneath the now falling villain. The criminal's eyes finally turned back to focus on them, just in time to watch as their fists caved in his stomach.
"DETROIT SMASH! PLUS ULTRA!"
The villain's torso was overtaken by a blinding light for a brief second upon contact, and when it died down the villain was gone. In his memory, a hole five times his size had formed in the ceiling of the facility, and sprinkles of glass littered down on the number one hero and his successor with their fists steaming and raised to the exposed sky. Toshinori's muscles tensed and the steam that poured from his body was much thicker than Togata's, but Toshinori did not feel the strain of his quirk break under the pressure. He could keep fighting on.
And there was still a villain left.
"You...you beat my Nomu…" The lanky villain remaining failed to stay on his feet, falling to his knees and grasping at the air where the other villain had disappeared. "You just punched your way past his Shock Absorption. You were supposed to be weak...you're supposed to be weak! Where the hell did you get this strength from?!"
"Wouldn't you like to know?" Toshinori openly mocked him, turning his body to stand tall above the last villain. "I don't know where you got your information from, but it's either outdated or misled you about who you were up against. If he was all you had to take me down, then I'm almost sad to have ruined all your fun so quickly. Almost."
"His quirk's some form of disintegration," Togata warned him, standing by and catching his own breath where they had defeated the Nomu villain. "Uses his real hands. He needs full finger touch."
"I'll make sure Midnight and Power Loader apprehend him appropriately," he called back to his apprentice, before turning his full attention to the writhing villain. "For your own sake, I hope you're prepared to come in quietly—"
Toshinori was allowed only a second to see the dark glare the young criminal gave him before a swirling orb of purple gas encapsulated him. The ball of smoke churned on itself before the number one hero, and two glowing streaks opened on the surface like eyes glaring at him.
He scoffed and dropped into a fighting stance, ready to punch through his own smoke and continue the battle. "I thought you said his quirk was disintegration?" he asked his successor.
"It is!" Togata shouted back. "I think this is another villain's quirk. I knocked him unconscious a while ago; guess he finally woke up."
That explained the face that decorated the orb, peering at him and his apprentice warily. "Anything you can tell me about his powers?" The smoke grew in size slowly, growing taller and taller before it reached his own height.
"Teleportation, if Aizawa was telling the truth."
"Quite a rare nuisance. Stay on your toes and get ready to move. Your own quirk should be useful to—"
"Hello again, All-Might."
With a single ripple did the orb of smoke vanish without a sound, fading into the air and leaving empty space where the hand-covered villain had previously been. Almost a solid minute of silence followed before Toshinori and Togata could conclude they were alone. The younger man tip-toed to his mentor's side, looking around the open space critically. "Do you think they actually left? Just like that."
Toshinori stood slowly, arms relaxing to his side and shoulders easing from their height. "We're alone," he confirmed for the younger man. "They ran."
"Damn," Togata spat. "Right when we had them on the ropes, too. There might still be a bunch of grunts still about the facility; should we make sure they don't escape?"
He knew that feeling in the air, before the warp villain had vanished and taken his ally with him. Two men with rare and unique quirks were rare but they weren't impossible. A single man with more than a single quirk was surprising, but dual quirks like what Todoroki had could pass as a feasible excuse. But that aura — that sense of dread and fear and death that punctured the air and ripped at his throat? That was something unmistakable. That was something Toshinori knew all too well, and only for the worse.
"Tell the others when they get here to keep their eyes open and search the place thoroughly for any stragglers," he instructed his successor. "The police should be on their way and will take them in for us. I'll contact Nedzu myself, have the cameras around campus look for anyone remaining. Then meet me outside around the west hall when you can; I fear we may have a conversation on our hands. I was hoping to postpone it indefinitely."
"Is it an apology basket for Cementoss and Power Loader?"
"I wish it were that simple."
"Steady yourself!" Recovery Girl screamed, knocking her cane against Tenya's armored arm.
"Sorry ma'am!" He shouted over his shoulder to the woman hanging onto his back. He dialed down the gear in his legs before he came to the next corner, and kept that slower speed as he kept running forward.
"And try not to run too fast!" a more gravelly voice growled after him, as Hound Dog rounded the corner behind him with other heroes saddled on his back and the rest following behind him. "We can't have you running back into danger by yourself. Let us lead the charge into battle."
Tenya looked past the old woman on his back to the beast of a teacher with a pleading look. "My apologies, sensei, but they're my classmates and friends! I need to make sure they're okay!"
Recovery Girl tugged at his hair and snapped his head back around."You need to be watching where you're going! Look forward!"
It was suffocating, having to run through the main building and gather with all the heroes the principal called out of class before he could return to his friends. All-Might had stopped him in the halls and booked it to the USJ when he heard the word villains, but Tenya wasn't given the same privilege to run by his side and reconvene with his classmates as soon as he wanted. The rest of his teachers were going to be impactfully helpful in handling the situation, he didn't doubt that, but the longer he waited the more danger his friends could be in without him even getting the chance to help them.
"We should be at the USJ shortly!" Midnight shouted from atop Hound Dog's back. "Mic! You get the first crack at them!"
"Ah hell yeah!" the Voice Hero cheered from behind the animal-quirked therapist. "I'll soften them up for y'all, don't worry about missing out!"
"I worry I'll lose ma' hearin' first," Snipe grumbled beside him. "But I get the jist. Make sure none of 'em get out. Get the students outta there, first things first."
Make sure everyone got out, that was all Tenya had to do now. With the chance to fight no longer an option the teachers allowed, his only job was to get Recovery Girl to the most wounded students and help everyone to a farther corner of the school. It wasn't much compared to what the rest of his classmates had to do to hold out for help, but Tenya would take the honest responsibility of helping them all.
"Careful!" The beastial hero sniffed at the air and growled. "I smell blood! Someone's around the corner! More than one!" Tenya kept his momentum strong, steeling his nerves to tackle down whatever villain tried to attack them and push forward. He wouldn't let anyone stop him.
But then the first person to run around the corner towards them was his horned American classmate, and Tenya felt his heart burst through his armor.
"Tsunotori!" he shouted to her. The girl stumbled, fazed for a moment as she stared back at him plainly, but that placidness soon blew into realization and relief as she sped up right into him. Midnight shouted behind him that it was just his classmates, but Tenya tuned most of their voices out almost instantaneously.
"Iida!" The American girl crashed face-first into his chest with a hug, stopping both their momentums and nearly toppling them over as Recovery Girl shouted for stability. Tenya worried she had hurt herself when he started crying against him in their embrace, but that hadn't been the case. "You got help. You did it. Thank you. Thank you so much." Her hiccups made it harder to understand her speaking English, but her tight hold on him spoke loud enough on its own.
Recovery Girl climbed down his back and rounded about the duo to examine the girl. "Are you hurt anywhere?"
Finally pulling her head back, Tsunotori shook a no to the short woman. "I'm fine," she choked out in Japanese. "Others hurt more than me. They need help."
And just like that, the rest of their class came rounding the corner like a flood. Their teachers ushered past Tenya and Tsunotori to intercept them, assessing their states of well-being as the engine-legged teen did the same from afar, pinpointing his friends. Other than having a tinge of green to her cheeks, Uraraka was unharmed; Yaoyorozu was sweating and panting with barely a scratch on her; Kaminari looked dazed but otherwise fine; and Ojiro was clamped by a group of the guys and girls, all of which seemed to be attending to the Tsuyu girl curled against the tailed boy's chest.
Then the tailend of their group came around. Todoroki was dead on his feet, covered in ice and barely standing with Kendo supporting him. Aizawa was just as bad, lying peacefully — though his battered face said otherwise — on a bed of vines Shiozaki lugged behind her. Worst of all to see was Shoji, shirtless, spotted with dried blood, ushered past the others by Thirteen, and carrying in his arm a baseball bat and a mop of green hair.
"Midoriya," Tenya breathed out hoarsely, finding no strength in his lungs to shout out. Tsunotori's already iron-tight grip strengthened, so he had to haul her along as he pushed forward to meet the multi-armed teen half way. Recovery Girl was right behind him, passing along her tupperware of gummies for the less wounded students to chew on as the other teachers tended to them.
"You did it," Shoji greeted Tenya as the blue-haired boy finally got a good look at his friend in the taller boy's arms. "All-Might is dealing with the villains now. Togata's still with him. Your timing couldn't have been better."
Midoriya looked absolutely awful. His costume was in tatters, his bat was absolutely wrecked, and his head was wrapped up in a black fabric drenched in blood that left Tenya to imagine the horrific wound beneath. Tsunotori didn't look with him, trying to hide her head against Teyna's armor. "Then why is he like this?"
Shoji's optimism dipped with his body as the teens dropped down to show their wounded classmate to Recovery Girl. "A villain got to him just before All-Might arrived. He's alive, but just barely. We tried our best, but—"
"Your best is enough," the doctor heroine thanked the boy. Her lips shot onto the exposed portion of Midoriya's face, and when they retracted, Tenya could see the color filling back in. "That will spend what energy he may have to start patching him up. Hurry him to my wing. I have my students waiting for you all anyways, and we'll take a look at his wounds ourselves to see what you can do. Thank you for doing what you could."
While Recovery Girl scurried on to Todoroki and Aizawa, Tenya took his friend's wrist in his hand. His pulse was actively beating, the pace speeding slightly by the second. Tenya's own beating heart calmed, knowing his closest friend was still alive. Recovery Girl's quirk was absolute magic, and he knew her medical skills and the help of her nurses would be enough to keep him—
"GUHH!" Midoriya's hand clamped around Tenya's wrist, and the green-haired boy shot awake, nearly toppling Shoji over as he jolted. His other hand clawed at the air wildly until he found his bat and tried to sit himself up.
"Midoriya!" Tenya nearly had a heart attack at his friend's sudden awakening, throwing his other hand onto the boy's shoulder to hold him down. Shoji looked absolutely shocked, doing his best not to teeter and fall or let Midoriya go, and Tsunotori finally let go of Tenya the instant she heard the green-haired boy wake up. The three worked together in keeping Midoriya from climbing out of the tall boy's arm, but their class president managed to put up a fight. "Midoriya, calm down!"
The boy in question snapped his head to look at Tenya, and the fight he was putting up halted suddenly. There was an uncomfortable silence around them as their outburst wasn't exactly quiet. Tenya didn't look around to everyone else's reactions, though, holding his friend's gaze as he tried to push him back down.
"It's all right, Midoriya," Tenya whispered to him. "We're out of the USJ. All-Might's dealing with the villains now. We're not in danger anymore. It's okay." His friend's harsh breathing steadied and slowed by the second, and Midoriya was the first to break the staring contest as he looked to Tsunotori beside the blue-haired boy.
The American girl was freely crying, her Japanese and English words slurring together while her hands gripped at the shoulder of Midoriya's jacket. Midoriya dropped his bat without a word and shook his hand over to hers. She only bawled harder at the touch.
"You're going to be okay, Midoriya," Tenya told him quietly. "We'll get you better, okay? Just relax. You don't have to fight anymore. It's done."
A shadow passed over Tenya's side, and the teen looked over to the tall man standing beside him, peering down at Midoriya. Sir Nighteye had been on campus not too far behind All-Might when the heroes approached Tenya earlier, and had helped to gather the teachers to follow behind the number-one hero. The emotionless stare he gave the green-haired teen lying beaten in Shoji's arm without even looking at the hero unsettled Tenya, but all the man did was pat Shoji's shoulder.
"Hurry him along to the medical wing," he ordered them. "We shouldn't stall treatment any longer. Make sure the nurses look over you as well; there should be enough available for your whole class."
Shoji looked up to the hero as the hand was removed from his shoulder. "Yes sir. Thank you." Tenya and Tsunotori helped him to stand back up, steadying his arms as Midoriya eased himself back to lying down. One of the green-haired teen's hands fell on Shoji's arms, just shy of one of his hands, and he patted the taller boy's wrist weakly in what Tenya read as gratitude.
"Hound Dog, guide them back to her wing," Midnight shouted at the white-furred teacher as she pulled along a few of the other heroes with Nighteye. "See if you can get Lunch Rush to make something for them while they're being checked on. Power Loader, head back and check on the school's surveillance and electrical system; check for any other part of the school not working and none of the villains are trying to sneak around. And kids." The dark-haired heroine flashed the students a smile before she followed the heroes to the USJ. "You did well. You all deserve a good rest. Now go."
Hound Dog led the trek back to the main building, scooping up the still-rigid Todoroki and the bawling Tsunotori while the rest of the students filed behind with Thirteen, Power Loader and a few Ectoplasm clones watching their backs. Tenya stayed right by Shoji's side, vowing to defend him if any villains dived at them to finish the job. Yayorozu came up to Shoji's other side, and Tenya flashed her a nod and a grateful smile that she returned as they ran.
It bothered the Iida boy only slightly that his class had managed to escape before the help he tried to bring even made it to them, but he shot down those egotistical thoughts as soon as they came up. They were out, they were hurt, they needed to rest and he got to see them again; that was all that mattered. All-Might had made it and was holding the villains back, Recovery Girl coming along had been the right call to make, and they had the teachers to protect and help them now. Tenya's actions weren't for naught and his friends were going to be okay.
To rest and heal were all they had to do now. He wasn't going to let anyone hurt them anymore.
Toshinori coughed violently into his sleeve as he rounded the corner, his body bursting with steam while it shrank down to his weakened form. "There you are, stress, you cruel mistress," he hacked out. The building beside him made for great leaning support as he caught his breath and spat out the blood that swam its way back up. He kept his work period to a three hour minimum because of tolls like this; it had dwindled his timeframe by hours in the past few years each time he strained before, he could only wonder how much this would cost him.
"Don't die on me today, Toshi." The lanky man nearly shot a foot in the air as his detective partner threw an arm over his shoulder and joined him against the wall. "I don't want to explain to the paramedics why a pile of bones wearing clothing quadruple his size is suddenly hacking up his stomach around here. We don't need the news suing this school over mistreatment of its staff."
"We trouble the students more than we abuse the teachers here," Toshinori coughed out in bursts. "Expulsion in the first week, a school break-in the day before and a villain attack a week later. These children are facing the worst of it. Don't be too surprised if we get strongly worded letters and send the cruder ones your way."
"I'll keep a file ready for investigation," Naomasa told his friend with a soft smile. "The children are fine, for the most part. A few wounds and scrapes, and the worst of them should be with your school's doctor. The ones still available and steady enough to talk are emotionally and mentally wounded more than they are physically, but you and the other heroes did a good job keeping their pain off the surface. Your words helped them a lot more than you might think."
"I wish I could feel the same." Toshinori pushed himself off the wall slowly, grasping his colleague by the shoulder to balance himself upright. "I wasted all my time this morning and arrived too late to the scene. I should have been there from the start; taken these thugs on the instant they stepped foot onto this campus before they hurt a single one of them." Aizawa's battered face and the hastily bandaged head of Midoriya flashed harshly in his eyes. "Today did not have to happen this way."
"You can't predict the future, Toshi, and I don't want to hear you use Nighteye as an excuse." Naomasa smacked his friend in the chest with his hat. "You came the instant you knew and scared them off pretty quickly, from what that older student told us. You got there before anyone was lost. You're not omnipotent."
"Tell that to WNK News," the Symbol of Peace grumbled, his friend's laugh alleviating some of the pressure on his chest. "All I did was scare off the villains; it's up to Chiyo now to save the lives in danger."
"The three children and their teacher in her ward, right? I haven't seen them myself but I can take a guess at the numbers we have still running about. Todoroki, Tsuyu, Midoriya and Aizawa. She's saved and fully healed multiple people at once before, I trust she can do it again. She knows to call for more hands if needed; she's not that kind of stubborn, luckily. She's not in the right profession for that."
Toshinori nodded silently, mulling in his thoughts over his wounded students and ally. Chiyo was a wonderful doctor, he didn't doubt that. With the small class of nurses she taught at the school, she should have enough hands on deck to heal them all. A few of them may sport scars when they were healed, knowing the limit of her healing quirk. Toshinori knew people who felt burdened by the reminders they carried on their skin, so he could only try to be there and reassure the students-
"Wait," he interrupted his thoughts and raised an eyebrow at his partner. "Did you just insult me?"
Naomasa pinched his lips in a line and looked away. "Is it more insulting if I meant it or if you thought I meant you specifically?"
Toshinori's response was jabbing his bony knuckles into the cackling detective's side.
"You assault an officer like that again sir and I'll have to take you in." Togata came phasing through the corner of the building beside the two men, his tattered costume still clinging to his body. "Everyone out there would have a field day watching me arrest a salary man along with the rest of the villains."
The number one hero grumbled at the detective before looking to his successor. "Any of the stragglers giving the police a hard time?"
"Not with Sir, Midnight and Cementos helping them," the third-year student answered. "They're not that strong and a few tried hiding out in the zones where no one was sent, but none of them tried to break out and escape. None of them opened the emergency exits, or none of them looked like they were opened since no one has been seen coming out the other ends."
"That is odd," Naomasa commented. "I don't doubt Nedzu has his cameras running everywhere outside of the facility, so I'll check with him later for the footage. Maybe one of these crooks can shed light on why nobody tried to leave. Detective Naomasa Tsukauchi, by the way." The detective met the teenager half way and grasped his hand in a firm shake. "Given you're unfazed by this old sack of bones beside me, I take it you're the kid he keeps talking about."
"Aw, you talk about me, sir?" Togata cooed with affection to the unamused and grumbling Toshinori dragging up behind the detective. "Togata Mirio, at your service sir! I hope my sensei has only told you the good things about me. How did you come to know him like this?"
Naomasa flashed the kid a charming smile. "I'm his work wife." And for his actions, he received another weak punch to his side from the deflated hero.
"I don't need you throwing around English phrases to people who don't know them," Toshinori chided the detective before addressing his successor's surprise expression. "He's actually married to a nice woman. It's a 'working partners' expression used in America. And the one time he comes overseas with me for a case, I come back with a prick in my side."
"Can you blame me?" the black-haired man laughed at the hero. "You spent five years in America with Shield; I thought you had moved on from me. I'm jealous."
"I only worked with David twice while I was in America. He keeps ghosting my text." Last time he talked with his old support device provider, they took a vacation to Vegas and the man had drunkenly asked Toshinori to marry him in one of their quick chapels or whatever they were called just so Melissa could have a functional pair of parents to look up to. He was certain David Shield kept silent out of shame from the morning after. And probably due to the embarrassment that came with the pictures of the number one hero carrying around a lightweight spewing out wedding vows reminding him of the night to begin with.
Togata waved a finger between the two men. "I'm kinda sad you didn't tell me about this earlier. I could've teased Nejire for months without telling her about this."
"I'm still alive," Toshinori remarked dryly. "You can now if you want, but you're not bringing her to the agency. Either of them. Tamaki too. That part doesn't change."
Togata pounded his chest with a false frown before giggling. "Damn, so close."
Toshinori looked at his old partner before looking at the student again. The thoughts in the back of his mind needed to come forward. "See if you can bring Mirai over here," he ordered the teenager. "That thing I wanted to talk to you about concerns the four of us and a few others. Make sure none of the police follow you."
The air darkened around them, and Toshinori shouldered the detective's shocked expression as Togata looked at him with concern but nodded. "Be right back," he responded before disappearing through the building back towards the commotion at the Simulation Joint.
"What's this about, Toshi?" Naomasa asked the hero quizzically. The man in question only looked at the man with a more somber gaze in silence, his hand coming up to cup against his shirt where his old wound twitched. "What's going on?"
"I hit a villain into the sky earlier," he told the detective dismissively. "Purple skin, head like a bird, has his brain exposed at the top. I don't know if he's landed anywhere yet, but when he does, make sure he's taken into Tartarus; it's not safe to lock him up in general."
"Yagi, what does that have to do with this? Is that it?" The detective toed around the man, his hands dancing over where Toshinori's hand laid over his shirt. "Did he open your wound? Are you bleeding? Do you need to see Recovery Girl?"
The hero waved the man's arms away. "I'm fine, he didn't land a hit on me. And I need you to check if the Otsuka Apartment No.44 is still standing in Toshima-ku. And that's not where I think he'll land."
"Yagi. Tell me, what is going on?"
Nothing was left when that purple smoke villain had disappeared, but Toshinori had made out the faintest of figures in the storm before it was gone. And he knew that slimy smile they wore more than he liked. "The worst case scenario," he cryptically replied. He held the detective's gaze as the seconds passed on, up until his successor came back through the building and, rounding the corner behind him, approached Toshinori's old sidekick.
"Lemillion told me to come quickly. What—" Mirai's voice trailed off as he looked between the three, and his eyes landed on Toshinori and how he was cradling his wound. "Yagi—"
When he had ordered Kurogiri to teleport him over, All For One did not expect to find himself in the bar he had bought as a business front, with his servant by his side and his successor gasping and wreathing on the ground by his feet. This was not a school facility riddled with bodies and a grieving All-Might. These were not the sights he was expecting to see.
"Kurogiri," he called his handyman's attention. The smokey, clothed figure flinched as the man turned his way, and he bowed his head to the suited man. "What is the meaning of this?"
"My apologies, Master," the cloudy man announced. "But we had little other options. Facing them then was beyond our capabilities."
"All-Might is no trouble for me," All For One waved away his excuse, "you know that. He wasted precious time this morning; he was weak enough for us to handle. For me to finally kill." He gazed around the room, feeling for the presences surrounding him. "Where is the Nomu?"
"Lost in battle. All-Might and another hero bested it in battle and...launched it into the sky. We were unable to land a decisive blow to the man and secure yourself the time to overtake the situation. I feared we had no advantage despite the effort they spent in dispatching the Nomu."
The old man sighed through his glass prosthetic mask loudly, enough to recoil the bowing servant beside him. "On the brink of killing himself and he still finds a way to overcome the challenge." He tapped the side of his glass helmet, the phantom pain of a fist the size of his head crashing into him flaring up suddenly. "Do we know which hero aided him in combat?"
"A younger hero," Kurogiri explained. "The student who was accompanying the staff for the class. I can provide you with a facial composite, but he looked closely similar to our enemy."
All For One would know if All-Might had a child; details like that were not easily missed. A carbon-copy of the number one hero? Of course he had to test his luck. "And his strength?"
"Equal to his."
All For One grunted and strained his power, dragging a bar stool to his side and flattening it with a single downwards shove. "He's already found a successor. Time is against us. I give him patience, and my time is repaid in defeat." He let out an aggravated sigh and tapped against his makeshift headpiece. "More patience I must give, then. If we are to emerge victorious, then we must plan according to the provided information. Our assault was made with insufficient data, and we have paid the price. We will have to devise our next move carefully, lest we end up with the fodder."
He had spent too many decades acting in anger over his brother's generations of followers fleeing with the power he so rightfully deserved back, all in their attempts to upturn his plans and his future. Too many rash decisions were made hunting them down to retain One For All only to find the fleeting ghosts of it remaining within their corpses, the power already passed on to another. If it had found a home in another, younger and healthier body, then he was in no state to take it back, even in a surprise attack. From All-Might's wounded, mangled form, maybe, but from the next successor? He was still unprepared to handle that.
"Do not bother yourself with self blame, Kurogiri. You made the right choice—"
"Bullshit!" Tomura bellowed, swiping at the floor and cupping up handfuls of dust in his wail. "We had him! The Nomu was supposed to win! How were those fodder overleveled?!"
"Ease, Tomura." All For One dropped his hand onto the younger man's head, sneaking his fingers between the hands that already decorated his successor's dome. Both the boy's real hands were wounded, one red and crispy, the other bloody and with a finger hanging limp. "Had I lost you too then that old fool would never see his comeuppance justily wrought down on him. Do not let your anger fuel you. Compose yourself."
The boy struggled to follow his words, heaving his breaths as he sat on his knees. "The Nomu was supposed to resist direct attacks. It had an invincibility shield. How did they manage to break it? How did they keep knocking it around like a ball?"
"You'd be surprised what that old fool is able to manage with his strength," All For One told him with venom. "If he can survive those wounds still, he can prove himself formidable in battle. Double so if he's already found his own successor—"
"They were not the only ones." Kurogiri's interjection stopped All For One short, and the taller man turned his mangled head the other man's way. "A younger boy capable of creating ice was able to freeze and slow the Nomu repeatedly for the fight, and another" — the yellow bolts of his eyes flickered and squinted — "could bat away the Nomu with a single blow. Literally so, with a baseball bat for a weapon. He and the one that assisted All-Might in the end managed to work around its Shock Absorption and break its body on more than one occasion."
"Another child…" That was odd. Two children boasting strength compatible with the still-standing highest ranked hero, in the same school and attending the same class? One For All had never branched its evolution to maintain stay in two people fully at the same time, but in all his decades alive, All For One had witnessed plenty to reeducate his views on the full stories of quirks. Improbable, maybe; but impossible, this change was not. "Provide me with details later. I'll have the doctor do some digging for their records in the meantime. We'll have their identities soon enough, and if my theory holds true then we will have to act accordingly."
"Right away, Master."
"And fret not, both of you." All For One pulled his hand away from his pupil, stalking across the bar counter and tapping his hands along the wooden surface. "Failure is inevitable for everyone's firsts. I've gone through plenty of trial and error. To succeed just means we will have to try harder next time; be smarter, be more aware, and be quicker to act against the enemy. Victory will be ours in due time, rest assured. Patience must be maintained." His smile picked at the wrinkles of his cheeks, scrunching together the layers of scars that danced up to the top of his head. "Yuei can only hide information from us for so long until they slip right into our hands. We will kill them when the time is right. All-Might will fall, and we will change society for the better."