"So this plan," Iida-kun looked at me, "Are you thinking about getting one other headband, and then intentionally Down us? Then, if we do not resume play, we will be untouchable and guaranteed to make it to the third round."
"Guaranteed first place," I confirmed. He and Shimooka-san looked surprised, but Hatsume-san just nodded.
"Really?" Shimooka-san asked.
"I am the Golden Snitch," I said sadly, "I'm worth more points than everyone else, combined."
"What's a Golden Snidget?" Hatsume-san frowned in confusion.
"Is that correct?" Iida-kun prompted.
"It's basic math," Hatsume-san countered dismissively. Which prevented me from having to explain about Harry Potter.
"But so quickly," he protested.
"It's a simple sum of one to N progression," I said, "plus the top five except me. I memorized the formula in grade school."
It wasn't that difficult of a formula, and in this case the extra multiplication by five made it a bit easier. But those two again looked at me in amazement.
"It comes up a lot in games," I said defensively, "Either in puzzles, or in XP or skill progressions."
Then I returned to the original topic, "I considered that exploit. And I guess if everyone else wants to go that route, I'm okay with it. But personally I have three reasons I don't want to do it. Maybe three and a half."
"Why not?" Shimooka-san studied me as she asked that.
"First, because this is the UA Sports Festival. Our first one. It is supposed to be our chance to show the world who we are and what we can do. And while I don't think playing smart is a bad thing, I think that route would make us look cowardly, and maybe villainous is a bad idea. Also, we wouldn't have as much of a chance to show off our abilities..."
"And my babies," Hatsume-san interjected forcefully. I nodded, and continued.
"And the half reason is that if everyone tried to do that, it would be pretty boring for the audience. The second reason is that I would wager that if we did it, Midnight-sensei would restart the whole battle, with a new patch to prevent it. At which point we wouldn't be able to use that plan, and we would be even more of a target."
I frowned, and said, "And the last thing is that I don't like that kind of exploit."
Iida-kun looked at me dubiously.
"You are thinking of the first time we did Lions and Gazelles?" I asked. He inclined his head.
"That was different," I pointed out, "The Lions could still tag Gazelles, or avoid them. You and Cassandra both made it through your rounds as Lions without getting pushed out of bounds. And it made most of the rounds short, so we got through a whole set with the broken rule quickly, and then All Might changed it. This cavalry battle is only supposed to be one round in the first place. And since Down teams can't go after active ones or verse vica, there is little either side can do."
"Frankly," I finished, "Unless you all do want to try that, I was thinking of going over to Midnight-sensei, and telling her about it."
"Let's not do that," Shimooka-san said, "No sense annoying any other team that might have the same idea. Especially when we're already the main target. But I don't want to do that. Like you said, we are here to show off our Quirks and our skills. Not that we are so smart that we don't have to do anything."
"Yup, my babies need to go out there and shine."
"I apologize, Midoriya-san," Iida-kun bowed, not quite to ninety degrees, "In that case, what is your plan."
"Well," I scratched my head, "It is somewhat similar, but more fair. And I'm not sure it is the best plan, if anyone has any other ideas to improve it, like things I don't know about your Quirks, or about Hatsume's babies, just let me know. Also, call me Izuku, it's shorter and I'm not really used to being called by my family name. And no need to use honorifics, either."
"Right. I'm just Mei. All of my family are Hatsume, so it's confusing. And it's shorter, too."
"I suppose you can just call me Hikari for now," the photokinetic shrugged, "I get that even a second shouting to your teammate can be a matter of victory or defeat."
Iida-kun didn't make the offer. I wasn't surprised, given his personality. And the 'shorter' argument didn't hold up for his names.
"To start at the literal base, I was thinking Iida-kun and I would be Mounts," I told them, "I would hold my arms back, he would grab them, and you two would sit on there."
"Won't we weigh you down?" Mei asked indelicately. Hikari blushed a little. I held out a hand to Mei, and she took it. I turned my hand up while leaving my arm straight. That alone was enough to lift her feet almost a dozen centimeters off the ground. Her body was rigid.
"With my Tactile TK, as long as we are in contact, I can carry you without using my muscles," I said.
"Okay," she said appreciatively.
"That also is our first secret weapon," I continued, "Because most of them won't automatically suspect that Iida-kun can let go of one of my arms to go after them. The natural assumption would be that doing so would dump the two of you on the ground."
All three of them started to smile.
"As for the main plan... I guess I need to ask you something first, Mei."
"What's that?" she looked at me intently.
"Your drone..." I asked tentatively, "It won't be unbalanced by a few dozen grams of trailing cloth, will it?"
"Nope," she grinned brightly, "Each of the turrets has an independent ammo supply and there is a chance one will run out first. D-Cube has three layers of auto balancing routines. One strut could have almost a kilo of extra weight, before it will throw her off."
"And would you be upset if it got attacked... and possibly damaged?" I prompted. Given how she called them babies, I wondered just how attached she was to them.
Her eyes widened, and she asked anxiously, "Can you really make that happen?"
"Huh?" I grunted. Iida-kun and Hikari also looked surprised.
"I've been trying for weeks to test her under live fire conditions," Mei bobbed her head, "But Majima-sensei keeps stopping me from attacking the Hero course combat classes. He keeps saying it will be trouble."
"You want your... baby to be attacked?" Iida seemed explicably confused.
"Of course," Mei said brightly. Then she frowned and said, "well yes and no. Of course I don't want her to be destroyed. But D-Cube is a rough and tumble girl designed for warzones or villain battles. Danger isn't her middle name for nothing. So better to test her armor and counter measures in something like this not in a real life or death fight."
"You want to tie the headband to the drone, and have it fly out of range," Iida-kun deduced.
"Yes," I confirmed, "As long as it stays within the walls of the arena, the headband will be considered live..."
Mei squeaked. She pulled down her goggles and started typing on what I guessed was a virtual keyboard.
"and I would bet that Mikoto could shoot it down. Or Hikari if she wasn't on our team..."
The photokinetic gave me a sly look.
"Todoroki-san and Komori-san can create platforms to reach it and hem it in. Koda-san can have birds attack it or just snatch the headband. And those are just off the top of my head."
"So similar to making it safe but out of play," he mused, "But as you said, also more fair."
"Right," I agreed, "So my basic plan is that Mei flies her drone around, trying to keep it away from everyone. Hikari also keeps an eye out for anyone who goes after it. You can laser them if it is safe, or just flash a bright light at them to blind them. And Iida-kun and I will keep us moving, so no-one can interrupt Mei or get us Down. Since the two of us are the fastest on our feet."
"Oh?" Hikari raised an eyebrow.
"Your Photon Jumps are exponentially faster," I assured her, "But they are also straight line only, it takes you time to store up the photons, and the way you described it in Heroes vs Villains, you can't really take anyone else along."
"I guess that's true."
"You store up photons?" Mei said suddenly. Continuing to type with her right hand, her left reached back and tapped her backpack. A slim yet broad metal disc came off in her hand. She stepped over and slapped it against Hikari's uncovered back.
"Oh, that's cold," the black-haired girl squealed. Then her eyes widened appreciatively.
"Sun Spot Disc," Mei explained, "I made it for Heroes with plant Quirks since some of them get stronger or heal with extra sunlight for their photosynthesis. But if you use photons I figure it can charge you up too."
"Which leads nicely into my main question for the three of you," I resumed, "Namely, do you want to play this defensively? Or do you want to go on the attack?"
They looked at me thoughtfully.
"We have the points to win," I said again, "So all we need to do is keep them. I think if the four of us focus on that, especially if you have any other ideas, we can do it. Probably fairly easily. But personally, I want to show off a bit."
My eyes flicked over to the crowd. To a woman with wild, pale blonde hair and sharp red eyes. And the man next to her with similarly sharp brown hair and thick rimmed glasses. It wasn't just the Quest. I had a much more personal reason to come in first by a mile. And wreck everyone who stood in my way.
"I already mentioned that Iida-kun's hands will be more free than they seem, so he can potentially grab a headband as we race by. Mei can have D-Cube dive bomb other teams to draw their attention. And shoot them. Maybe. What kind of ordinance does she have?"
"Smoke bombs and knockout gas," Mei said absently, still typing, "Sensei wouldn't let me load the glue packs, flash bangs, or rubber slugs."
"Okay," I was relieved, "And Hikari can blind teams to snag their points. Or maybe, thanks to Mei's baby, even Photon Jump onto another team, grab their headband, and jump back."
Iida-kun frowned at me.
"Midnight-sensei said we are Down if a Rider touches the ground. I would bet that she will also count any ice created the same way. But another team's Mounts? A Rider has to touch them, so they can't be the ground."
"Showing off is definitely good," Mei said.
"I agree," Hikari said, "Also, it would give us a safety net, in case another team gets the Golden Snack."
I didn't correct her. Barely. Mostly because the little smile that played on her lips meant the slip was probably deliberate.
"I would be outvoted anyway," Iida-kun declared, "But I would also rather we do everything we can... On that note, what are you doing, Hatsu... Mei?"
"I'm programming D-Cube to scan the arena boundaries. To stay inside them when she is on autopilot. And to push back if I try to make her go outside when I am in control."
"Autopilot?" I prompted.
"Of course D-Cube can operate autonomously," the she grinned sneakily, "So if we do get Downed I can just stop controlling her and then we aren't doing anything directly to the headband."
"Good idea," I told her.
"Can Midoriya's influence spread this fast?" Iida-kun mumbled under his breath.
"Mei, are there any of your other babies you think might help us out?" I asked, glancing at her backpack thoughtfully.
"Oh right," she said immediately, glancing at her legs, "one of you two should definitely borrow Stabilizing Soles. I made it specially for running on unstable ground like sand or pebbles. And it makes you harder to knock over."
"I have a lot of practice, moving on sand," I noted, remembering jogging and practicing katas with Tsu (once my skills were high enough that I suddenly knew katas), first at Endoru's lake, then on the shore of the island in the Pencil of Solitude.
"And I can use my Tactile TK to steady myself."
"I don't believe they will fit me," Iida-kun added, comparing his feet and oversized calves to Mei's shorter and fairly toned legs.
"They're adjustable," she told him. Then she tapped the side of one boot. Bands of metal uncurled, and she stepped out of them. About ninety percent of the mechanical greave was still on her leg, and what was left standing on the sand looked like a leg brace, only with a thick metal sole. She touched it again, and the sole and bindings both expanded until it looked like it might almost fit Mount Lady. Iida-kun stepped into it, while Mei disconnected the other side from her other foot. The device scanned his leg, the bindings shifted around, and then it locked into place. He looked uncertain for a moment, and then tested his balance. His expression changed to one of appreciation.
"I can feel the improvement in my grip and balance," he told her, and then with his normal gravitas said, "Thank you, Mei."
"I don't think most of my other babies will help here. Maybe Wrap Up Gun would be good but I don't think Midnight-sensei would allow it. And it's more of a single opponent weapon. What kind of grenades did I pack..."
"We should be good," I interjected quickly, "But if you think of anything else during the battle, let us know."
"Will do!" she gave me a bright grin and thumbs up.
"We are almost out of time," Iida pointed out, "We should go over to out starting area."
The screen had assigned each team a number and a color for their starting area. The numbers were on the outer wall, and the area was a square delimited by lasers striking the sand, in the matching color. We walked over to the spot, and an unfamiliar senpai handed us the headband. It was white, with 11360 stitched on in gold.
I noticed the other teams point values were in black.
I held my arms back, and Iida grabbed them from underneath. The girls climbed on, the taller Hikari already wearing the headband and seated in back. Mei was in front, and I whispered for her to leave the drone in place until we started. I wasn't sure if anyone had overheard us, but we were outside of Cassandra's range. I didn't want to give them any longer than necessary to plan.
I wrapped my TK around their legs, holding them up and locking them in place.
"READY..." Midnight-sensei shouted in English, "SET... GO!"
"Ki Q" I whispered.
We took off. As I expected, three of the teams angled towards us. And another three went after Kuroiro-san's team. After all, his 2500 points brought his team's total up to 2565. And he was with the three boys whose names, classes, and Quirks I hadn't learned. But those three all looked nervous. And their headband was a guaranteed minimum of third place, given the remaining nine headbands were worth less than 5130.
I simply guided us to the closest team, the 350 point team of Shishida-san, Kamakiri-san, Awase-san as Mounts with Kodai-san as their rider. They were actually one of the groups focusing on Kuroiro-san, but Kamakiri noticed us and shouted a warning. Then four blades grew out of his back. He only grimaced slightly as Shishida snapped them off, and passed them forward to Awase. Who fused them together into a moderately large caltrop. And then handed it up to Kodai. Apparently being broken off meant the blades didn't qualify as alive anymore. Because she threw it towards us. As she did, it enlarged into the size of a wave breaker.
The increase in both mass and air resistance slowed the falling barrier. Which in turn meant Iida and I were able to easily dart around it. Hikari raised a hand, and a bright flash of light left them blinking. As we raced by, she caught their headband. It slipped off Kodai's head. Hikari smiled at her classmates regretfully, and slipped the headband on next to ours.
Only then did Mei disconnect D-Cube from Charge Charge Station. Hikari actually counted to twenty just to be safe. Then she took off both headbands and passed them forward to Mei. Mei tighten them around opposing struts. Then she dropped the drone, which shot up into the sky.
"What is that?" Present Mic's shout echoed over the crowd.
"Support student Hatsume's registered drone," Aizawa answered dryly, "And typical Midoriya perpendicular thinking."
"Is that legal?" the Sound Hero pressed.
"I don't see why not," Aizawa said, "if a headband buried in the sand is still valid. As long as the drone doesn't travel outside the boundaries of the engagement area, then it is still in play. See?"
Mikoto had already snapped off one of her discs. She drew a bead on it.
"Sniper at eight," Hikari said quickly. Mei's fingers twitched. The drone lurched to the side, but also fired two of its guns in Mikoto's direction. One missed and Mo-chan's Clarent cut the other one down. But both unleashed plumes of smoke that blocked Mikoto's view.
Their team caught my attention for a moment, with their odd formation. Like us they had two Mounts, Cass and Mo-chan, and two Riders, Ami and Mikoto. But Cass and Mo-chan were back to back. Ami was sitting on Cass's left and Mo-chan's right shoulder, and Mikoto on Cass's right and Mo-chan's left. And the Mounts were clamped down on the Riders' legs. It was a stable formation, and let them look in every direction, but I wondered how fast they could move like that.
Except I forgot that part of Cassandra's Quirk was nearly perfect and incredibly precise control over her movements. Which meant she could run in reverse faster than most of our other classmates could going forwards. And since she could read Mo-chan's movements, it was no trouble for her to keep in step.
They might be trouble.
"Tokoyami-kun of team 3 has snagged the 25 hundred plus point headband off of team 6. He passes it up to Rider Todoroki-kun, giving them a lock on second place. Oh, now they are headed for the water. Todoroki is freezing it, and oh, they have an island of ice, anchored to the wall and sand. He is breaking up the bridge, and building up a wall."
"It seems he forgot something," Aizawa-sensei pointed out when Yamada-sensei paused to breathe.
"And what's that?" Present Mic asked.
"Even if she can't make ice," Eraserhead explained, "Mizuno-san can control it."
"Oh, she's pulling the bridge back together. And Misaka-chan's bullets punched through the wall. Kirishima is trying to block Modura's sword, but... Mizuno's water tentacle grabs a headband. But only one and... it's team 3's original 665 pointer. Todoroki creates an ice awning, and Tokoyami's Dark Shadow pushed the ladies back. Oh they are off... but Cain-chan manages to right them, keep them from getting a Down. And team 3 has learned their lesson, they are getting away from the water."
Now that we were not directly carrying a headband, the other teams seemed more inclined to avoid us. We went after Tsu's team for a moment. But they were pretty quick thanks to Ochako making Tsu weightless. And Momo had created some wrist mounted speaker cannons for Jirou. Who blasted us with deafening and disorienting sound when we got too close.
"Izuku Hikari! Mei shouted.
Team 8 was on a platform about 7 meters above the ground. It was one of Tsuburaba-san's Solid Air creations. Hikari tried to blind them, but he created another and Bondo-san sprayed it with his glue, creating an opaque barrier. The third Mount, Rin-san, was watching for anyone else who might have gone after them. And their Rider, Tsunotori-san, had launched four of her horns at D-Cube. Although two of them looked unsteady, she was controlling all of them. I guess she had improved since the Heroes Vs Villains lesson.
Her projectiles also each had a glob of glue on the pointy end. The spun and danced around the drone. And her teammates were out of reach of us. I could have made the jump alone. I might have even been able to carry the other three with my TK. But it would have seriously drained me. And frankly would have made us targets for Tsuburaba and Bondo.
"Hikari," I asked, "Can your lasers break Tsuburaba's Solid Air?"
"He has been making it stronger," she said, "But I'll try."
"Are you sure that won't hurt them?" Iida asked.
"They are over the water," I noticed, "And both Bondo and Tsuburaba can break their fall."
"Damn," Mei cursed as one of Tsunotori's horns got dangerously close to D-Cube.
"Do it," I said.
She nodded. Pointed one finger at them. No, next to them. The beam didn't crack Solid Air, it cut it. Hikari shaved it down, to the point it couldn't support them.
As the platform started to crack, the adhesive on Tsunotori's missile snared one of the headbands, and pulled it off.
Author's Note: No changes to Izuku's stats this time. Also, for those who noticed, Mei's speech deliberately excludes commas. I'm trying to give her an odd and fast cadence.
Oh, and about the cliffhanger, it is not just my normal affection for them. I have three different potential routes for the remaining 10 minutes of the cavalry battle, and I'm still trying to decide which way to go. If anyone is interested in hearing them and weighing in, let me know. Nothing like a poll this time and not binding. But I would interested in getting some feedback.