Chapter 16: One step forward. Ten back.

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The two days they were given to rest and recover after the Sports Festival went by quicker than Lee expected, and he found himself riding the train bright and early back to school soon enough. As usual, the train car was so packed Lee couldn't move his arms without bumping into someone. He held on tightly to the bar running across the roof as the train swayed and clanked on its way to the next stop - his stop.

And it couldn't have come sooner in his opinion.

Since the last stop a few minutes ago, Lee had been feeling like someone was staring at him. That subtle pressure in the back of your mind that makes you want to turn around to see what was causing. The idea of turning around and seeing who it was flipped and flopped around in his head, but it was his stop next anyway so what would be the point? Maybe he was mistaken in that someone was looking at him. Maybe they were looking at something on him or near him. Either way, it didn't matter because this was his stop.

The train slowed to a halt, and Lee waited to not get caught in the rush of people exiting out of the sliding doors to get to whatever business they had this early. Eventually, he went to exit but something hard bumped him from the back and sent him stumbling out of the train and onto the train station platform.

"Quirkless freak," Lee heard as he quickly steadied himself.

What in the world? He adjusted his bag and straightened up. Who just bumped him like that? And called him out of his name? That wasn't a very youthful thing to do.

He raised up on his toes and searched through the thick crowd of people for a moment before coming down with a shake of his head; he didn't even know who he was looking for. Nobody seemed like they bumped and there were way too many people here to try and figure out who said it too. It wasn't like this was the first time he'd been called a Quirkless freak, and he doubted it'd be the last. Whoever it was must've been too cowardly to show their face. Hmph, typical.

"Excuse me, young man," a woman's voice sounded from beside him.

Lee stopped looking through the crowd and turned to see a short lady with big, round glasses and red painted lips staring up at him with a small smile. Her hair was short and white as cotton with streaks of grey making him think maybe she was older, but her face was still bright and youthful with few wrinkles arcing out from the corner of her eyes.

She wore a thick, grey pea coat that covered her down to her feet and had a matching scarf and a small, shiny grey purse around her wrist. From her ears dangled two shiny pearl earrings.

Lee looked to the side and the other side before back to the lady. "Are you talking to me?"

She nodded, her smile seemed to grow a little wider. "Of course I am. Who else here placed second in the annual U.A. Sports Festival," she said it as if she was an announcer on the TV or radio and Lee couldn't help but smile.

The praise caught him off guard, though. He didn't really know what to say to it.

"Aw," he shrugged a little bashfully. "I just did my best, ma'am."

"Nonsense," she waved away his words. "It's been a long time since I've seen a match that exciting. Gives an old woman like me some hope that the future is in the right hands, Quirk or not."

Lee found himself a few words short of a proper response. His brain kind of fizzled and he looked at her in slight astonishment. "Are you…?" He trailed off as the woman nodded, looking quite proud.

"Sure am. Me, my kids, and my grandkids - all Quirkless," her smile turned decadent. "You, young man, have become a new favorite amongst my little grandkids. They came to get me all excited 'Grandma, grandma they say he's Quirkless like us', and I was curious. Sure enough, there you were competing and winning. I've never seen anything quite like it."

Lee tried not to fidget. He wasn't used to getting this kind of praise from anybody nevertheless a complete stranger. What did he say to that? Thank you would do, right?

"Thank you, ma'am, I was just doing my best," he said. " I didn't win it all, but I'm glad you and your grandkids enjoyed watching the Festival."

"There's more to being a Hero than winning, young man," she said matter-of-factly. "I'll let you on your way, but let me just say this."

She pointed at his chest as the next train rumbled to a stop at the platform. "Keep at it. Second place or first, pshh, that isn't going to matter in a month or a year. You gave people hope that day, young man, and hope lasts a long time. Hope isn't so easily forgotten about. Bringing that to people, people who had none, is what good Heroes do."

The older lady bid him goodbye and he waved back as she stepped onto the train. Lee stood there and watched it leave, letting her words circulate throughout his brain.

Hope? He didn't know how he'd done that or even if she was telling the truth, but he'd be lying if he said the thought didn't make him feel all warm and nice inside. Better than the second-place medal felt.

She was right in saying something like that was only given by the Pros like All Might or Endeavor or Hawks. Pros that were larger than life gave hope to people, Not regular U.A. students named Rock Lee.

Lee checked his watch just to see what time it was and went bug-eyed. He'd spent way too long at the station, and he had to go if he didn't want to miss his chance to talk to Pony before Vlad-Sensei got there. Lee left the train station in a minor hurry never noticing the wide smile that had grown across his face.

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He made it to school and class with no further odd incidents. He stepped into a class chatting away with one another. Some were out of their seats talking to each other, some sat by themselves quietly. It looked like Tetsu and Tsuburaba were playing some game where you flicked a piece of paper between another person's fingers.

Lee felt relieved that the class was at least acting normal.

He sank into his seat and gave Pony a smile and wave that she reciprocated cheerfully.

He put everything that happened at the train station to the side and focused on Pony. She was the girl he was looking for.

"Pony," he said as he sat down. "Can I have your phone number?"

Pony's face went red and her eyes went wide. "Oh um, uh," she stuttered.

He slipped his bag from his back and put it on the desk in a hurry. He'd been waiting all of yesterday to show off his latest gift from Guy-sensei - a new mobile phone. It was something Sensei had gotten along with the TV in a 'youthful deal' at the electronics store.

Lee pulled the phone out of his bag and plopped it on his desk with a clunk. "I got a new phone."

It was rectangular with a touch screen, and protected by a thick, green case with indents on the sides for the volume and power. He knew that because he spent all of yesterday having fun figuring out what it did.

Pony seemed to gulp which was weird. "And you want my number?" She asked as if he'd have any reason not to.

"Of course," Lee answered. "I just got it yesterday and I wanted your number to be the first one I put in it. This way we can talk outside of class. Doesn't that sound exciting?"

Pony went red as an apple and she made a sound like a creaky window, which confused him. Maybe the aspect of it all was too exciting for her? Pony then took a breath, her face got less red, and she took the phone to put the number in.

She quickly tapped her number in and saved it. "There you go," She chuckled, sounding a little nervous as she handed it back. "Text or call me whenever, ha-ha."

Lee smiled and took his phone back. "You bet."

He never noticed Itsuka and Setsuna high-fiving each other.

Then, the door to the classroom opened up, and in came Vlad King in all his buffness and red costumed glory. In his hands, he held a stack of papers. He walked in and placed half of the stack on his desk and kept hold of the rest.

"Good morning everybody. I hope it was two days off well spent. Congratulations on finishing your first U.A. Sports Festival," the class rumbled with excitement but a look from Vlad quieted then down. "Let's get started with today's business."

He began walking through the desks starting from the right, the side nearest the door, the stack of papers in hand.

"I am currently handing out a list with the agencies that have petitioned for you to intern with them for the rest of the week," Vlad said as he pressed one face down in front of Setsuna who was nearest to the door. Facedown was how he continued to pass them out.

Hiryu raised his hand and Vlad called on him as he continued passing out papers to Pony and Shoda.

"I heard that the farther you got in the tournament, the more offers you would receive. Is that true?" He asked. "I was confused when I heard that, so I just would like an explanation."

Vlad gave Yui's hers face down and Kimikori's before answering. "I forget you are from China sometimes, Hiryu. Your Japanese is great."

"Thank you Sensei,"

"But to answer your question yes and no," Vlad said as he started on the next row with Tsuburaba. "It's more so based on your performance than placement. How interested you made the Pros in your potential will be reflected in how many petitioned to have you intern with them."

Togaru raised his hand and Vlad called on him as he gave him his paper.

"So what you're sayin' is that we didn't need to get to the tournament part to get any offers - er, petitions?" He asked, face scrunched in confusion as he looked down at the facedown paper.

Vlad gave Ibarra hers. "Either works, Togaru, but to answer your question, yes and no. The longer you participated in the Festival, the more of a chance you had to impress the Pro Heroes watching. That doesn't mean you couldn't have impressed earlier. It's a safe bet, though, to assume if you didn't make it past the first event, your petitions would be few or zero."

Togaru nodded as his face straightened out.

Vlad gave Lee his and Lee was too nervous to even flip it over. Why was Sensei even putting them face down like that? Was everyone's bad or something?

"Sensei," Itsuka raised her hand and waited for Vlad to call on her. He put her paper on her desk and nodded at her to go ahead. "Why are you putting them face down? Are you trying to tell us something?"

"Yeah," Setsuna said, her paper was still face down on her desk unmoved. "I'm a little nervous to look at it now."

Vlad shrugged and handed out the next paper. "I thought everyone would like the chance to see their results individually before you no doubt share them amongst one another. If someone is disappointed with the amount they received, they would be able to process it independently first."

Itsuka's hand suddenly shot up and she made noises like a monkey until sensei called on her.

"Okay, hear me out," she turned around and looked over the entire class. "What if we turn them over at the same time?"

Monoma scoffed as Vlad gave him his paper. "Why should I have to wait for all of you?"

Itsuka shrugged easily, used to Monoma at this point. "You don't. It's just a suggestion because I'm a little nervous about it too. 1-B didn't exactly make it that far outside of Lee and Pony. So, I just thought if we did it all at once, we'd be doing it independently together."

"I like that idea. I'm for it," Lee said. He thought the idea was great.

As Lee spoke, Vlad had finished handing out the papers and moved to the front of the class to face them.

"Alright, raise your hand if you want to flip your papers over at the same time?" He asked them and hands were raised in the air. He was quick to count them all, and he said, "Alright, now hands down."

Lee didn't get a chance to count them all, but to him, it looked like the majority had voted for this option with a few exceptions.

"Those of you who want to look at them right away, go ahead and do so. Those of you who want to flip at the same time, I'll give you a countdown," He said and there were a few people that flipped them over but Lee didn't try to see who it was.

No, he felt the nervous anticipation folding his stomach over itself like laundry towels. How many petitions had he gotten? A lot? A few? And from what agencies? He wondered what Pros he managed to impress with his Festival performance.

"3,"

Lee grabbed the corner of the paper with two fingers. Maybe he'd gotten some of his favorite Heroes like Edgeshot or Mirko. He'd love to learn from them and get tips on how to improve.

"2,"

Or maybe it was someone he wouldn't expect - like Ryukyu. Oh, that would be so cool.

"1,"

Lee flipped his paper over and read it excitedly. At the top was one agency, the Nighteye Agency. Okay, that was great. He didn't know a lot about the Pro Hero Sir Nighteye, but it was still a whole offer from a Pro Hero's agency. That was a big accomplishment.

He read further down and his excitement melted into confusion. He blinked a couple times. Re-read it again, flipped it over to see if there was anything on the back he might've missed before flipping it back over softly as the classroom erupted in reactions.

"I got how many?" Pony's shocked whisper was loud enough for him to hear. He glanced over and saw her holding the paper so close to her face you'd think she was trying to eat it rather than read it. "This is unreal."

"Aww, yeah," Togaru said, a smile on his face as he read his paper. "I knew I did pretty good."

"Grr," Tetsu growled and slapped his paper back onto his desk. "I'll just get more next time."

"I got 25 Tetsu," Tsuburaba said and leaned over to Tetsu's desk trying to get a peek at the paper. "How many did you get?"

"I get why I got so little," Lee heard Shoda mutter to himself. "But it's still a little disappointing."

"Cheer up, Shoda," Yui consoled. "I did not receive many as well. We'll just do better next time."

"Eh, eh, Kojiro," Yosetsu nudged the big teen a couple times with his elbow. "How many didja get? I don't think anyone in 1-B got that many thanks to us only making it to the Cavalry Battle, but I'm still curious."

"Oh, uh," Kojiro showed his paper to Yosetsu. "Not a lot, but the ones I did get I'm excited about."

As everyone settled with the amount of petitions they received, and began to share them with one another, Lee wanted to ball his up and make it disappear. He felt like a man alone on an island because he had nothing good to share or even anything that made sense to him.

How could it when he only got one petition?

He tucked his lips inside his mouth and felt his throat begin to tighten. He took a deep breath and felt his eyes begin to water, but he yawned to cover up him wiping them. Lee put a stop to his tears right then and there. He wouldn't cry over some stupid petitions no matter how much it hurt. It felt like someone had suckerpunched him in the gut.

All of his hard work was worth only one offer? He wasn't aiming in the hundreds or even 50, but he was hoping for a good amount. It would've been a good payoff for his youthful performance he felt. Sure, he got second place, but that was surely warranted something more than one offer.

He wasn't sure how many the others got, but maybe low amounts were the usual and the Pro Heroes were just hard to impress. He turned to ask Pony what she got because she did have a deep run in the tournament as well, but saw she was already in a conversation with Setsuna.

"How many did you get, Pony?"

"Huh? Oh, yeah I got an...amount."

"How many? I won't be mad, look I'll even tell you how many I and Itsuka got."

"Don't go telling my business, Setsuna. But yeah, Pony, how many did you get?"

"..115."

It was like the classroom fell away and Lee was drifting through space like a lost satellite. He was speechless, didn't have the words to express the influx of emotions bounding their way through him. Sadness, anger, disappointment - it was all a mess. He didn't hear Setsuna or Itsuka congratulate Pony,and he didn't notice Pony's glance in his direction. Lee only heard the number echoing throughout his head like a yell in an empty hall.

115. Pony had gotten 115 nominations to his measly one. Any good mood was chucked out the window like a frisbee after hearing that she got 115 nominations.

Out of every Pro Hero in Japan that watched the Sports Festival, only one was willing enough to send him an offer? He knew it was only for a week, but this was still a huge chance in furthering his Hero career with an agency. Yet, only one wanted him?

Lee nodded slowly to himself and bit his tongue to keep from letting his angry thoughts out. His tongue sizzled in his mouth, as he got more and more angry.

Pony had received 115 petitions, and he'd gotten an insulting one?

Out of every single freshman that participated, he got second. Pony didn't make it to the final four and she received 115? What did she do that he didn't? What did she have that he didn't? The answer came to him as soon as he asked himself the question.

She had a Quirk. They all did, and he didn't.

Lee breathed out heavily through his nose, the air felt hot like smoke.

He needed to get out of here. He raised his hand feeling ready to explode, but another deep breath staved off the explosion.

"Yes, Lee?" Vlad called on him.

Deep breath. "May I use the bathroom?"

"Yes, you may," he said and held out the pass. Lee got up stiffly and firmly stamped not stomped, his way to his Sensei to take the pass.

He grabbed it but was stopped as Vlad Sensei dropped his huge hand on his shoulder.

Sensei looked almost sad if a bulldog could look sad. "Battle Arena 3-A," he whispered. Wait what did that mean? "Go there. Come back after you're done."

And sensei pushed him towards the door. Lee blinked, confused beyond belief, and by the time things started making sense again he was in the hallway. The sound of the door shutting echoed through the empty blue Hero Course hall. 1-A was just around the corner to the right and straight ahead on the opposite wall were windows.

Battle Arena 3-A was down the hall to the left in the upper-year area. Lee didn't know why Sensei was pointing him in that direction, but he'd go anyway. Anything was better than having to sit in class hearing everyone talk about how many nominations they got. Or praise Pony for how many she got.

It took Lee clenching his fist to realize he didn't have the paper in his hands. He'd left it at his desk. He thought about going back but then heard Pony's voice echoing through his head about how many nominations she got. 115. 115!

Lee turned away from his class and began stalking his way to Battle Arena 3-A, wooden hall pass clenched tight in his fist. He hoped whatever was in the arena would help take his mind off the nominations.

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Pony knew she shouldn't have looked at it, but it was face-up on his desk. She just so happened to turn and bam! There it was.

On Lee's paper, there was only one agency listed, The Nighteye Agency. That's what Pony read and she gasped. The cheer she felt evaporated like water under the hot sun. Lee had only gotten one nomination? No way.

With her gasp went any chance at keeping the upturned paper a secret. Once she looked then Setsuna looked at her looking at the paper, and then Setsuna looked at the paper and got angry. Then Itsuka looked and it was like a domino effect for the rest of the class who was way too curious for their own good like Pony was.

"One offer? That's bullshit he got second place," Setsuna cursed.

"Language," Vlad reprimanded, giving Setsuna a look. She opened her mouth to contest, but saw Vlad's look and shrunk down.

"I'm not wrong, though," She muttered as she crossed her arms and turned away.

"She's not," Togaru spoke in her defense. Vlad looked at him, but he didn't look away nor squirm. "Sensei, you know that's not fair."

"It is kind of insulting," Awase spoke up. "Did they even watch the Festival?"

"I couldn't tell you what my colleagues were thinking. The petitions, like I said, are more so how many Pros were interested in your potential based on your showing in the Festival."

"I do find it to be peculiar," Rin said, thinking aloud. "That the one who earned second only got one petition. Sensei, I thought the farther you got in the Festival, the higher your chance of receiving more petitions. Is that not what you said?"

"You're correct, but," Vlad started but was interrupted.

"It ain't right," Togaru said, his brows set in a scowl. "I got more than Lee did, and I didn't even compete in the tournament. I bet you it's cause he's Quirkless."

A few in the class gasped, and Togaru rolled his eyes.

"You big wussies, Quirkless Quirkless Quirkless. You act like it's a curse word or something. Lee is Quirkless and got second out of all the freshmen that competed - including us. If that's not impressive, I don't know what is, Quirk or no Quirk," he said.

Shishida cleared his throat. "Maybe it was for reasons other than, yknow, him being Quirkless? Discrimination is a serious accusation that hold serious consequences, especially for Heroes, Togaru, and to accuse Pro Heroes of it is...I don't even know. I'm not saying it's an excuse but-" he was interrupted.

"Other reasons like what then?" Togaru asked, sitting up in his chair and leaning towards Shishida.

Shishida stammered because Togaru's glare was, admittedly, scary. Luckily, someone helped him out.

"It could be they feel unsuited to foster someone like Lee at their agency," Yui said in Shishida's stead. "I mean no offense when I say this, but logically why would Heroes like Edgeshot or Best Jeanist be invested in Lee's potential? What could they teach him when their fighting styles are so different? A lot of Heroes base their combat styles around their Quirks and recruit those with similar abilities. Look at Endeavor's Agency for example. Perhaps he just didn't fit."

"Perhaps the Lord ordained for Lee a different path than usual," Ibarra claimed. She closed her eyes and pressed her hands together. "I shall pray for guidance and answers."

"Yeah, I see what you're saying Yui," Tsuburaba said looking thoughtful. "But that's a slippery slope, yknow?"

Yui looked confused. "How so?"

"Okay, put me on the spot," he muttered. "Look, it's simple. Heroes base their fighting styles around their Quirks, and usually look for others with similar abilities to bring into their agency's, right? That means it's kind of impossible for Lee to fit anywhere because he doesn't have a,"

"A Quirk, you're correct," Yui said. "I overlooked that even as I explained it. I will endeavor to be more mindful in the future."

"But she's right," Itsuka said. "We can't automatically assume it was because he's Quirkless,"

"What? Are you blind?" Togaru asked, scowling hard. "He got second and only got one offer. How else do you explain that?"

"I don't know," She began to look a little flustered. Before she took a breath and collected herself. "It could be any number of reasons. Pro Heroes are better than some petty biases, and they legally cannot discriminate like that. Either way, they wouldn't let that get in the way of seeing real talent grow."

"Oh yeah," Togaru's voice oozed sarcasm. "One offer from the hundreds of agencies in Japan is really seeing talent grow. If the law stopped people from discriminating, then what do you call the crowd during the finals match? Pfft, typical," He scoffed and rolled his eyes.

"What does that mean?" Itsuka sounded like she was beginning to get angry. "Typical what? I'm just trying to-

"Not see what's right in front of your face is what," Togaru interjected. "Stop coming up with bull shit excuses to try and explain what's clearly discrimination. How many of us got more offers than Lee when we didn't even make it past the second event?"

"Language, Togaru," Vlad reprimanded.

Itsuka's rebuttal was swift. "Sensei said it was based on their interest in our potential. Unfortunately, Lee got one,"

"Yeah, 'unfortunate'."

"But we're talking about Pro Heroes. People that risk their lives to save others. Are you saying they'd do something like discriminate against our classmate just because he's Quirkless? Do you hear yourself?"

"I shouldn't have to say anything when the proof is right there," Togaru's eyes narrowed. "You know, I bet you don't even know what it's like to be treated as anything other than normal. What gives you the authority to say this isn't discrimination? You probably haven't had anyone say anything bad about you your entire life."

Itsuka stuttered and tripped over her words, and Togaru pounced.

"I bet," he said, leaning forward on his desk. "You probably went to some normal little private school with normal little kids. Sheltered and had your every need taken care of. You think people without Quirks are actually accepted? I have a Quirk and I still get weird looks walking down the street."

"Togaru," Vlad only raised his voice a little.

"I'm not wrong though," Togaru continued. "Shishida? Juzo? Pony? Pony you even told me people used to make fun of your horns as a kid."

Shishida looked away and lifted his glasses to rub his eyes. "I'd...rather not talk about it."

Juzo shrugged. "I was made fun of a little - I guess. The area I grew up in was pretty accepting minus a few exceptions, but it happened."

Eyes went to Pony and she had to catch her hands from wandering up to her horns.

"I - yeah, they did," she said. "But that's different from this."

"How so?"

"Because those were kids, not Heroes," Itsuka took over again. "I...don't know what it's like to be bullied for looking differently but-,"

"And you should stop right there," Togaru cut her off. "You don't know so stop trying to act like you know better. You think people were cool with Lee being Quirkless? You think he hasn't been treated differently all his life just for trying to become a Hero? I don't care if I don't have any 'proof', this should be enough."

"I'm not saying he wasn't and I'm not saying this is okay," Itsuka said strongly. "It's not right to be discriminated against, but, like I've been saying, we can't just accuse Pro Heroes of doing it. Like Shishida said, it's a serious accusation to make, and him getting one offer doesn't actually prove anything."

Togaru sat back heavily in his chair, the legs squeaking against the floor. "Fine, whatever you're right again, Kendo. I'm done with this conversation; can we move on, sensei?"

He turned forward and stared straight ahead, stubbornly refusing to look anywhere else.

Itsuka raised up like she wanted to say something more, but stopped, and turned forward herself.

To Pony, the silence was deafening. It swirled the discontent and residual anger wafting off Togaru around the classroom making the air feel uncomfortable. Even if Itsuka got Togaru to stop arguing, it didn't feel like something good happened. If anything, it left the classroom feeling like it was split between Itsuka and Togaru.

Vlad cleared his throat and attention went back to him.

"We still have things to do today, so let's continue. Remember, if you find yourself in difficult situations like these, it's better to come together than drift apart," he said looking around the room. "It's important that you don't fight each other, and instead focus on what's really important. Now, those of you who received zero nominations, me and Aizawa-Sensei from 1-A have compiled a list of agencies willing to have any of you for the week to choose from. I'll begin to hand them out now."

As Vlad passed those out, Pony thought about the heated discussion between Togaru and Itsuka.

She understood Itsuka's side of it more than anyone would considering her dad and mom were retired and still active Pros respectively. She knew what sort of values Heroes were supposed to have and discrimination of any kind of unacceptable. That didn't mean it didn't happen.

She wasn't entirely sure how Quirkless people were treated in Japan, but in America, it was reaching a tipping point. It was partially the reason her family moved, but also why her mom stayed - to help be a voice for equality.

The world had changed so quickly and so fast that those without Quirks were forgotten about or pushed to the wayside - at least in America. Fast forward to today and she couldn't say that the notion of Quirkless people being lesser than those with Quirks wasn't a common thought. If you were different looking or if your Quirk wasn't that strong, you were treated differently and it was even worse if you wanted to become a Hero. She was bullied because of her horns and hooves, but besides that, she didn't look much different than most people.

So, she felt Togaru was right with a lot of what he said. He knew what it was like growing up different than most people, so he knew the signs. He sounded adamant that this fit in with that, and she wasn't comfortable saying he was wrong.

Lee was the most different out of them all even if he looked normal because he was Quirkless. Pony had seen the looks thrown Lee's way, heard the crowd, and recognized it all. That Bakugo boy kept calling Lee names, and no one even batted an eye. Even the crowd was rude, and Itsuka was right there too. So why was she so agains the idea that Lee receiving one offer wasn't anything more than unfortunate?

Pony didn't know, but no matter the justification, it all didn't feel right. If she had worked as hard as Lee and made it as far as he did, Pony would feel more than insulted at only receiving one offer. Anyone would really. How could they not think the person who got second place had a crazy amount of potential?

The only answer that came to her mind was that it was because Lee was Quirkless. Pony had seen Quirkless people be discriminated against in America. Not let into certain schools, not allowed to work certain jobs, called all types of names, and she thought it'd be different in Japan, her family thought so too, but apparently not. But what could she do about it?

As Itsuka said, she didn't have any proof to outright accuse anybody of anything. That was vexing but true. People were innocent until proven guilty - for better or for worse. Discrimination was a serious accusation that was different from being bullied by kids or having the crowd not exactly cheer for you. But she couldn't just let this go.

"We have a few minutes until break," Vlad said. "Spend it deciding on deciding your top 3 choices. You have until the end of today to make your selections and turn them into me."

With his announcement, Pony's thoughts fell to the list in front of her. Selecting three out of 115 was something she could actually do considering her mind was already made up. Pony got a pen out of her bag and marked the agency's she wanted to intern at 3 through 1: 3 being the least and 1 the most.

As she marked them her brain decided to be helpful and an idea came to her. She could ask her dad once she made it home; he'd know what to do. He's always been vocal about equality, like mom, so he might know how to deal with a situation like this.

Pony felt her mood lift but then felt it sink back down as she looked over to Lee's empty desk and one offer. She couldn't do anything about that or how Lee felt currently, but if she could find out why then she could help him do better the next time.

And if this turned out to be discrimination like Togaru felt it was, what a part of her felt it was too, Pony wouldn't rest until it was fixed. Pro Heroes or not, it wasn't right to treat somebody like that. Lee deserved to be here just as much as anybody else, and he proved it time and time again. He had to stand up to people like that by himself over and over again just to get here.

Now, though, he wouldn't have to because she'd be on his side even if Pro Heroes were the ones Lee would have to stand up to.

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AN: We're beginning to see the repercussions of the Sports Festival, and it's changing the storyline - as was always intended. I know some of you want Lee to be involved with the Stain, but I felt it's important Stain is handled like he was in Canon for the development of those characters. Don't worry, Lee's week is going to get interesting with Sir.

Next chapter, Green Beast vs Lemillion! What happens when two students of Hardwork clash? What's Sir Nighteye have to do with it? Stay tuned and find out.

Preview to the chapter is up on my Pat treon tea_jay21 . Just take the extra spaces out and bam. Go check it out if you're so inclined.

I'm also going to be uploading this story onto Ao3 under the same author name. I've been going back and updating the chapters, so that site will have the 'edited' chapters. Don't worry, it's not anything that new. Just fixed the grammar, the flow, and added some details. I'll be updating the chapters on here as well. Till next time!