A/N: Alright, everyone! We've had enough of the sad-sads, let's get with the punchy-punch!
Phase 6: Chapter 1
Kanto ward had devolved into a blood-soaked nightmare, with the dead and dying strewn about like so much trash. Only a handful of people were capable of taking in the horrific site, and most of them were being tended to by masked figures in white robes.
They claimed to be members of 'Humarise', a group which until now had been viewed as a bunch of religious quacks who preached the dangers of the Quirk Doomsday theory- the notion that as quirks evolved and became more powerful over time and through the passing of the generations, there would one day come a time when the powers could no longer be controlled, and would annihilate life on Earth as humanity knew it. They claimed that the only way to prevent this from happening was to eradicate quirks from the world.
Now, it seemed, they were ready to make good on their suppositions.
The bomb that had released the verdant gas into Kanto had proved to be completely ineffective against the few people who did not possess a quirk, though many of them had been injured due to the involuntary release of power from their neighbors. Likewise, the members of Humarise who had come to witness the aftermath were also unaffected, as the majority of the organization's members did not possess quirks themselves.
Only a few places had people who had not been completely consumed by the effects of the bioweapon, and all of them had something in common: they were hospitals with patients who had to take drugs to suppress their powers while they were being taken care of. Unfortunately, many of those same people were not sound of mind, and after realizing that they could use their powers, and that the people who had been forcing them to take the suppressants were either deceased or on their way to the afterlife, they did not respond as one might hope.
They quickly turned their temporary homes into battlegrounds for the insane and desperate, with Itomori Hospital possibly being the worst off, given that every patient within its walls were mentally disturbed on some level. It was about to become the cherry on top for the disaster that Humarise had unleashed, but then something completely unexpected happened within its now-damaged walls.
A few of the patients were making a break for the outside when they heard a sharp series of sizzles and crackling coming up behind them. Two of them looked over their shoulders, trying to see what the source was, but their vision was impeded by the gas that still filled the air. They were about to pass it off as just another patient whose quirk had been released by the gas bomb when there was a violent rush of wind that streaked past them, all but knocking them to the floor as its source came to stand between them and the exit that would lead them to freedom.
As they were trying to regain their balance, a young voice called out from within the swirling haze to say with a cold tone, "Get back to your rooms and wait for things to settle down. This is your only chance to do so without needing another hospital."
Somewhat predictably, none of the people who were interested in taking advantage of the current situation were inclined to returning to their quarters so easily. One of them, a former hero who had been forced to retire after becoming a paranoid schizophrenic, immediately replied by sprouting an exoskeleton of granite and charging at the source of the voice.
"I got a home in the glass, and I'm not stopping until it comes down on all of us!" he shouted as the fog swallowed him up. A second later, he went flying back the way he had come, moving fast enough that he went through a wall and crashed into a room full of cleaning materials, most of his exoskeletal structure having been shattered.
As the others tried to understand what had just happened, some of the more astute among them realized that the crackling sound was back, and what looked like black lightning was filling the hallway in front of them. From within the unnatural storm, the voice spoke again, sounding even colder than before. "Like I said, that was your only chance."
Outside the hospital, there was a handful of Humarise members armed with rifles, all of them waiting to gun down anyone who stepped foot outside. Their leader was a muscular woman who was dressed in the white robes of the order, though hers' were a little more stylized than that of her subordinates. "Remember, this is the first purge," she told her underlings. "There can be no exceptions to the exorcism of the unclean. At the same time, we cannot afford to harm the pureblooded humans inside, so be sure to identify whether your target has a quirk before firing."
"Yes, ma'am!" they acknowledged in unison. These were some of the organization's most loyal members, each of them proud to be among the first to carry out their mission to save humanity. Her words were likely unnecessary, but it never hurt to be sure.
"It sounds like there's already been fighting inside," she continued. "With any luck, the unclean will take care of the hard part, and leave us with easier targets."
Before she could add a reminder to keep an eye out for any quirkless law enforcement officers that could be nearby, there was a burst of dark lightning and thunder from within the hospital that heralded the arrival of a solitary figure. They moved so fast that they had actually gotten past their defensive line by the time any of them realized what had happened, with the group leader being among those who did so. She aimed her rifle at the white-haired figure, who regarded her with cold, vacant eyes that showed no fear of her or her comrades' weapons.
"This takes me back," he murmured, just loud enough for the now-nervous Humarise members to hear him. "Needless bloodshed that fills the streets for the benefit of those with delusions of grandeur…" His eyes narrowed as they locked onto the leader before he growled, "This time, though… we can stop the ambitions of the insane."
"Open fire!" the leader ordered before she pulled the trigger, prompting her subordinates to do the same. Bullets streaked across the air toward the young man who had appeared to challenge them.
Black lightning exploded outward as he swung his arm in a slashing motion in front of him, the resulting wind pressure knocking the bullets off their intended course and flattening everyone within his line of sight. Many of the same people found themselves on the receiving end of the lightning bursts, leaving them as smoking, incoherent messes on the broken street.
Those who were able to keep any kind of track of what was going on around them witnessed tendrils of dark energy descend upon them, each one snatching up a rifle and holding it aloft as the speaker who had so easily defeated them stepped into a clearer line of sight. They were surprised to realize that their attacker was little more than a boy, though if he was maintaining control over his quirk with such finesse in these circumstances, he was clearly not someone to be trifled with. The dark tendrils were coming out of his body in various, seemingly random places, even as the black lightning continued to sizzle across his body. He levelled an impassionate glare at the Humarise members before he raised his right hand and clenched it into a fist, which resulted in all of the rifles being snapped into rough pieces, no longer fit to serve their intended purpose.
"You Humarise people make me sick," he growled, apparently having recognized the order that they belonged to. "Preaching about salvation to disguise your fascist bullshit… I'd snap your necks where you lie, if it weren't for the fact that it would make me no better than you."
"Savor your victory today," the leader grunted as she struggled to get up, her hand going into a fold of her robe, where a dagger was concealed. "You won't be celebrating for long, unclean beast. You already walk in a purified city, the first of many to come. Soon, your kind will be nothing but a nightmare that fades into the annals of history."
"I think not," he answered before a black tendril shot out of his hand and wrapped itself around her arm, breaking her wrist at the joint and flinging the knife far away from them. "Because just like every other villain who has been, and is yet to come, you sycophants fail to account for the tenacity of the heroes that stand in your way."
"There… are no heroes here!" she grunted out in pain. "The only people… in that hospital… are the sick!"
"What, heroes can't get sick?" her captor snorted. "Maybe I should give you some context as to who's in your way." The black energy dragged her up by her broken limb so that she was hanging in front of the boy, her feet just inches off the ground as she struggled not to show just how much pain he was actually inflicting on her. He then forced her to look into his scarred face and smoldering black eyes as he growled, "I am here… to stand my ground."
At that, the woman's eyes flew wide open as she felt the blood drain from her face. She knew those words- everyone in Japan had heard them months ago when the Nomu were defeated in Fukuoka. Everyone knew of the young hero who had spoken them- and the fate that he had suffered on Nabu in defense of its citizens. She wanted to deny what her eyes were telling her, but even with the white hair and lack of a robotic limb, it was clear who had captured her, now that she had half of an idea about his identity. "You… You died!" she protested weakly. "And… your quirk-!"
"I got better, but it had some side effects," he replied with a cold smile that sent shivers down her spine. "Not that it'll change things much, as far as you're concerned. I have the power to keep this from happening to anyone else, and I'll act on it."
"It's too late for the people in Kanto," the Humarise member grunted. "Even if you have the power to defeat us, you can't save any of your kind that are within these borders."
"Not everyone has been killed by what I assume was your bomb just yet," he shot back. "And once the gas dissipates, search and rescue will be all over this place, not to mention the heroes who are gonna throw your asses in prison for the rest of your rotten lives." Done speaking with her, he used Blackwhip to slam her on the ground, head-first, leaving her in just as rough a shape as the luckier victims of the bomb attack.
This gas needs to go so the heroes can do their jobs, he thought as he turned his back on the hospital and ran away with purpose in his stride as he headed deeper into the cloud of deadly gas that had infected the city.
"I understand the situation, but I'm not sending any of my sidekicks or myself in there until that gas dissipates, or we get proper gas masks!" Hawks said with a frown as he held a hand up to his earpiece. "Surveillance showed us what happens to anyone with a quirk who breathes that stuff in. Going in without the right equipment would be suicide, and I'm not about to be part of that."
Tsukuyomi shifted in place uncomfortably as he looked at the city that lay a couple of miles away from them, enshrouded in deadly gas. The Hero's Public Safety Commission had ordered many of the top heroes to assemble at Kanto, but they quickly realized that it would be futile to mount any rescue efforts until the substance had been diluted by the atmosphere itself. Now Hawks was arguing with the people in charge of coordination, as were several of the other heroes who had come to assist.
Among them were the Jet-Black Hero's classmates; Uravity, Froppy, Crescent Rose, and Firecracker, who had come with their senior, Nejire, and their mentor, Ryukyu. The Dragoon Heroine was also having a heated discussion over the phone while her sidekicks and interns looked on with the same level of worry that Tsukuyomi himself felt coiling up in his gut.
"This is horrible," Crescent Rose was saying while her sister put an arm around her in silent agreement.
"I hope Kurai is okay," Uravity said in a lowered tone. "The hospital he's in is apparently just at the edge of the blast radius."
"Wait, for real?!" Firecracker said as she turned toward her peer.
"I just heard from Deku," the gravity girl confirmed. "He, Eri, and Mister Aizawa are on their way, just in case he's out of control."
"I'd prefer him being out of control, ribbit," Froppy commented, drawing the surprised looks of her friends. "It's better than him being dead again," she pointed out when she noticed the looks they were giving her.
"I refuse to believe such dark tidings," Tsukuyomi muttered as he turned back toward the city. "We must have faith in our friend's ability to seemingly do the impossible on a regular basis."
"Yeah!" Crescent Rose said as she clenched her fists. "It'll take more than a little gas to kill him again."
Before the others could voice their opinions on the matter, Hawks tapped his intern on the shoulder and said, "Look alive, Tsukuyomi. Something's happening over there."
"Hmm?" Following the direction of Hawks' pointed finger, the assembled students looked over to see something odd happening toward the center of Kanto Ward. "Wait, is that…?"
"Is it just me, or is the gas pulling itself in?" Uravity asked as she peered harder at the cityscape.
"It's not just you," Froppy answered, her eyes widening as she noticed something else. "It's being absorbed into that tornado!"
Sure enough, the green substance was slowly being retracted into a giant wind funnel that had appeared in the middle of the city, which had rapidly grown tall enough to reach up into the clouds. At first, it was anyone's guess as to what was causing it, but then the UA students started to see something that looked eerily familiar.
"Is that… black lightning I'm seeing in there?" Hawks asked as he continued to watch the phenomenon unfold. Unseen by him and the other awestruck pros, the interns all looked at one another, the blood draining from their faces as they recalled that there was only one person who wielded the raw power to create such a scene, and wield dark lightning while doing so.
Eri and Deku both startled Aizawa by letting out cries of pain as they grabbed at their heads in the back of the car. "What the hell?!" he demanded as he got the car back under control, having nearly lost it when they shouted. "Midoriya, Eri! Talk to me!"
"It's… One For All!" Eri gasped as traces of electricity crackled in her hands.
"The previous holders… We can hear them again," Izuku added as he massaged his temples. Whatever was affecting Eri didn't seem to be hitting him as hard, but it was clear that he was struggling to maintain a cohesive line of thought. "But… they're not talking to us!"
"Who are they talking to, then? Is it-?"
Kai could feel his power increasing by the second as he continued to run in tight circles, drawing in as much of the gas that had spread throughout the city as he could with the resulting tornado. Too much more of this, and he risked losing control of One For All entirely, which could prove to be disastrous in more than one way. Not only would he almost certainly die, the entirety of the Kanto ward could be immolated by the release of such a raw physical force.
Fortunately, he noticed that the air around him was becoming clearer, which meant that the gas was following its natural inclination to drift upwards in the funnel. Still, that won't be enough to disperse it completely, he thought as he continued his efforts, trying to get the poison up as high as he could force it to go. He had an idea, but for it to work, he would need some help. What do you say, Seventh?
'Do what you must to save those who can be saved,' came the reply, leading him to smile.
"All right," he said as he prepared to execute the next part of his plan.
Putting more power into his legs, he jumped straight up, through the middle of the tornado that he had created, only stopping when he estimated that he was halfway through. He did so by engaging the Float quirk, locking himself in place, even in the midst of the howling tempest. Once he was secured, he engaged One For All at maximum strength throughout his whole body, his muscles practically generating their own storm of black lightning that streaked out into the tornado, forming a nimbus of energy that sparked from one random object that had been sucked up to another. This is gonna cause some serious collateral damage, but it's either this or wait a few more hours for the heroes to be able to enter, by which time everyone with a quirk will definitely be dead, he thought as he crossed his arms in front of his body, ready to execute the final part of his plan.
"Here we go; Starkiller SMASH!" He flung his arms outward while flexing every muscle in his body, causing an explosion of air and lightning such as the world had never seen. It proved to be more powerful than even its caster could have predicted, as it actually incinerated a good portion of the gas in the air and scattered the remnants to kingdom come.
The explosion rocked the ground, even where the heroes were on standby, causing many of them to cry out in surprise. Hawks saw that the gas was racing away from the city, and reacted a little faster than his colleagues. "Everyone, take cover!" he shouted. The others reacted without hesitation, those with reinforcement-type quirks moving to shield their colleagues as the air rippled and scattered the gas far and wide.
"That ain't good!" Firecracker shouted to be heard above the noise of the rushing wind. "It's gonna spread the effects of the gas!"
"No, not quite!" Tsukuyomi said as he pointed upward. "Look!"
At his urging, they all observed the windstorm to see that the sheer force of friction and lightning had annihilated most of the dangerous substance, while the rest of it was scattered so thoroughly as to be harmless.
"What the hell…?" Hawks muttered as his eyes settled back on the city. "What coulda done something like that?" Even as they watched the buildings in the immediate vicinity of the explosion begin to crumble from a combined abuse from both the rampant quirks from the citizens, and whatever had just destroyed the gas causing the whole ordeal, there were more blasts of dark lightning zipping between the cascades of glass, metal, and concrete, almost too fast for the eye to follow.
"No hero I'm familiar with has that kind of power, not since All Might retired," Ryukyu answered Hawks, looking worried. "That's assuming a hero did this in the first place."
"It was a hero," Tsukuyomi answered before he could stop himself. "That is a certainty."
"You know something?" his mentor asked, causing him to baulk for a moment. "Hey man, if you know something about what just happened, I need to hear about it."
The Jet-Black Hero looked back toward the city before he answered, "If I am correct in my assumption, we need to get to where that blast originated from. I cannot say for certain what will await us there, though I dare not hope for the best. I find it far more likely that we should go in with our guards up."
"Hey, if it were safe, we wouldn't need to be here, would we?" Hawks smirked. "Seriously, though. What are we in for?"
"Either an old friend of ours' did that, or a crazy guy," Firecracker answered for the boy. "Possibly someone who's supposed to be dead. Maybe all three. Either way, those of us from UA need to get in there, like, right now."
"Why does UA play into-?" Hawks paused, his head swinging back and forth between the city and the students a few times before he asked, "Someone who's supposed to be dead… That isn't who I think it is, is it?"
"Like I said…!" the blond American grumbled as she turned to her sister.
The fastest of the heroes swiftly made their way to the scene of the explosion, Hawks having ordered the others to begin search and rescue while he and Ryukyu went ahead with their teams. Crescent Rose and Firecracker were actually the first to arrive, followed closely by the number two hero, who was looking at the younger of the sisters with a new level of respect. "Not many people can outpace me," he said as they landed in the middle of a city park that had been torn to pieces. "Maybe I should have you come work for me with Tokoyami next semester."
"Sorry, sir, but unless you have unlimited cookies in your office pantry, Ryukyu has you beat," the smaller girl replied as she began to survey the extent of the damage around them. As she said this, Tsukuyomi landed along with Nejire, followed by Uravity, Froppy, and their mentor. Upon seeing the wreckage, Ryukyu ordered her other sidekicks to help her search the area for survivors, though it was clear from her expression that she doubted there would be anyone to find.
"Hikari!" the raven-headed boy shouted as he and Dark Shadow began to look around. "Are you here?!" When there was no immediate response, he shouted louder, saying, "Answer me if you can hear us!"
"Kurai!" Uravity added, her eyes searching desperately for any signs of movement. "Please, say something!"
"AAAH!" the students all yelled in fright as they beheld their friend, covered in bruises and a few cuts, though he did not appear to be seriously injured. Each of them felt their hearts skip a few beats as they realized that there could be no doubt whatsoever as to who was responsible for the dispersal of the gas so that it could no longer harm anyone. This meant that Kurai was capable of wielding One For All's full strength with minimal damage done to his body- which made him incredibly dangerous, should he choose to lash out for whatever reason.
Kai raised an eyebrow at them from behind his loose, silvery mop before saying, "Sorry, had to grab a change of clothes- my hospital getup got shredded by the tornado and exploding buildings. Thought it might be better to present myself in a decent manner when everyone arrived."
"Am I seein' things?" Hawks asked as he stepped forward, causing Kai to eye him shrewdly. "You've been alive this whole time?" He had been one of the heroes who had gone to Nabu Island, which also meant that he had been present when Kurai was officially pronounced as having been killed in the line of duty. However, since he was neither a part of UA nor aware of the true nature of One For All, he had not been informed of the boy's resurrection following Eri's attack on the campus.
"Not exactly," the boy answered flatly. He looked like he was going to add more, but then his face twisted in pain, and he clutched tightly at the side of his head. "Dammit," he growled. "Of course you pick now to fight back…"
"Kurai, what happened to-?"
"Don't interrupt me," he groaned as he cut Uravity off. "Sorry, but as much as I'd love a reunion, I don't have the time or energy to waste… The leaders, or at least some of the higher-ups who were involved with this attack are piled up in front of Itomori Hospital. They're members of Humarise… Ugh!" He doubled over, causing his friends to start forward, but they halted in place when black lightning sparked across his body, erasing any doubts in the minds of the pro heroes as to who was responsible for the riddance of the Trigger gas. "Stay back!" he warned them. "This… seems like it's just the beginning of their plans. You need to figure out what their next move is… Ochaco…!" Kai heaved in a deep breath before he locked eyes with frightened girl and said, "This is important… Todoroki's mother is hiding in Itomori Hospital's second floor supply closet, and… she'll need medical treatment… as will the others who were inside. And make sure… to tell Akarui… to meet me… at the place of the blood oath."
"Kurai, what are you-?"
"Hah!" With a shout and blast of electrified wind that knocked all of them but Ryukyu over, Kai disappeared from their line of sight.
"Wait!" Hawks shouted in frustration as he realized that the boy had already vanished from his view. "Dammit, where'd he go?!"
"That phrase he used at the end," Tsukuyomi muttered as he helped Nejire get to her feet while she rubbed her sore head. "Uraraka, do you know what he meant about a blood oath?"
"No idea," she said with a shake of her head. "But I'll bet that Akarui will know what it means when I tell him."
"Ochaco!" a familiar voice called out before its owner landed in their midst, followed closely by Chronoa, who immediately began to search the area furtively. Deku skidded to a stop in front of his girlfriend before he panted, "We were on our way when we saw the explosion, and Mister Aizawa sent us ahead! Was it-?"
"It was Hikari," Tsukuyomi said before he could complete the question, drawing both his and Chronoa's attention. "He lives."
"It's more than that," Chronoa said as she stepped forward. "Where is he?"
"You guys just missed him," Uravity said as she shook her head in frustration. "He was acting really strange, and then he just took off, and we have no idea where he went."
"He had a message for his brother," Crescent Rose reminded them. "He said that he wanted Akarui to meet him at the 'place of the blood oath.' Any of you know what that means?"
"No," Deku said with a dogged shake of his head.
He turned to Chronoa, who looked equally frustrated by the development. "I have no idea what he's talking about," she answered. "Akarui has never mentioned anything about a blood oath for as long as I've known him."
"Is anyone gonna clue me in on what's going on here?" Hawks asked, starting to look a little impatient with the lot of them.
"Sorry, sir," Tsukuyomi apologized. "Unfortunately, the story is rather complicated, and we're not at liberty to discuss all of the details without Hikari's express permission."
When Hawks' eyes narrowed in suspicion, Uravity turned to her boyfriend and said, "You need to call Akarui and pass that message along. The rest of us have to get to work on search and rescue."
Instantly, Deku's eyes snapped into work mode as he realized that she was right- there were people who needed to be saved if at all possible, and they didn't have a moment to waste. "Right," he said firmly as he pulled his phone out of his belt. "Emiri, help them with search and rescue. I'll join you as soon as I've contacted Akarui."
While the others began to move to do their jobs, Uravity pulled Chronoa aside and asked in a lowered tone, "What did you mean when you said that there was more going on than we thought?"
"It's not something we can talk about until we're alone," the other girl answered in an equally lowered tone. "Right now I'll just say that our mutual friends finally woke up, they're not interested in talking to me at the moment, and one of them in particular is pretty cranky."
Not for the first time in the last ten minutes, Uravity felt the blood drain from her face.
Far away, in a place where the ocean continuously slammed on the coastline, there was a sound of thunder as a white-haired boy crashed into a dark cave that was hidden from casual view. He was groaning as if in pain, which eventually turned into a deep growl that ended when he slammed his fist into the ground, cracking the stone beneath him as he muttered, "That was playing dirty."
"Like I care," said a reflection of his image that spoke from within a shallow pool of water in front of him, though the apparition possessed a robotic right arm and mostly dark hair. Black eyes locked directly onto brown as the shade added, "We need to talk. I'll assume that you've figured out that we're not just a hallucination by now."
"Yeah, though I don't know why you couldn't have just said as much in the first place," Kurai grumbled as he slowly got to his feet, wincing as his bruises ached and his cuts burned from the salt spray in the air. "Might've saved us both some time."
"It wasn't just his call to make," said another voice that rang familiar in his mind, accompanied by the appearance of his best friend in his hero getup. "You need to consider the fact that it took time for this quirk to become acclimated to your body, which was the time we needed to make ourselves known to you in a coherent manner. We also wanted you to change your mind on your own if at all possible, but it's become apparent that won't happen. We brought you here because we need to talk without any chances of being interrupted, so that you can fully understand why we can't have you passing us on to anyone else."
"Anyone else?" Kurai repeated flatly. "What, you think that Todoroki wouldn't make a good vessel for this quirk?"
"It's not his heart that we doubt," said the vestige of All Might as he and seven others started to appear around Kurai, even as the sights and sounds of the cave began to fall away from his conscious mind. "No doubt that young Todoroki would make a fine champion, but it turns out that there is more to the burden of One For All than just the fight against All For One."
"More to it?" Kurai repeated as he looked around himself, studying the faces of each of the previous users with interest. "Do you guys wanna stop talking in riddles at some point, or have you all been dead for so long that you just forgot how normal people talk?"
"You cannot pass One For All on to your friend, nor to anyone else, Hogo-sha," said a man with white hair and dark scars on the left side of his face. "This is not said to punish you. We understand that you have been through more than even most of us here have endured, but we are left with no other recourse. You must understand the very simple fact that you and the Eleventh are to be the final holders of this great power- the ones who must defeat All For One and Tomura Shigaraki."
"Okay, thanks," Akarui said with a scowl before he hung up his phone and shoved it in his pocket. Turning to Mina, who was waiting with an anxious look on her face, he then said, "I got good news and bad news."
"He's alive?" she asked him hopefully, to which he nodded, leading her to sink back into the couch with her head buried in her hands. "Thank God," she sighed heavily.
"Unfortunately, the bad news is that he's gone AWOL," Akarui deadpanned, causing her to look back up at him. "Yep. He used One For All to neutralize the gas with a tornado followed up by a big-ass explosion in the sky that dispersed the stuff so that it couldn't harm anyone else. They just found a bunch of survivors that he apparently managed to rescue during the fallout of his attack. He even stuck around long enough to pass a message on through Uraraka, and then disappeared on them before they could find out what really happened out there."
"Wha-? But… Do you know where he'd go?" Mina asked, the worry back in her voice.
"Oh, that was the message," Akarui replied as he rubbed the bridge of his nose. "There's a place that only he, Shukin, Tensei, and I know about. When we were growing up, we three boys promised that if we were ever in trouble and needed help without anyone knowing about it, we would go back to that place. He's telling me to meet him there."
"So, what's the problem?" she asked impatiently. "Let's go get him! We can bring him home!"
"The issue is that Uraraka mentioned that he was acting strange," Akarui said as he held up a hand to forestall her. "She told Midoriya that it seemed like he was almost wrestling with himself before he took off. Also, he was being a lot more standoffish than normal, like he was afraid that he'd hurt them if they got too close, or something to that effect."
Mina let that information sink in for a moment before she said, "You think that his vestige took over his body?"
"He knew about the location that I mentioned, something that no one else could know, so it's definitely Kurai who was talking to them," he muttered. "But if he went into action against terrorists with One For All that fast with that level of competence, I'd say that it makes sense. They said he was acting weird, so I might almost suspect psychic manipulation, but like I said, no one else would know about our secret place, or what we called it."
"Doesn't this count as psychic manipulation?" Mina asked, leading him to pause for a moment.
Eventually, he shrugged and answered, "I don't think it counts, since it's his vestige's body and mind as much as it is his."
"Well, whatever," Mina said as she moved toward the door. "Let's go get him."
"Uh, you're staying here," Akarui said as he made to follow her out. "Sorry, but this meeting place is for us Hogo-sha boys, only." He was about to say more, but he quickly found himself being grabbed by his shirt and yanked forward so that he was staring into Mina's very dark, very angry eyes.
"I. Am. Going," she stated. "In case you forgot, I promised to spend my life with your brother. That means that it's not just the 'Hogo-sha boys' from now on. You'd better make room for a girl, cos it's not gonna be too long before we're sharing the same last name, pal."
Akarui eyed her flatly for a moment before he asked, "What will you do if we get there and he's not the Kurai you fell in love with?"
"Kinda stupid question is that?" she shot back. "Future vestige or not, he's still Kurai. It's my job to believe in him and help him if he needs it. Right now, he's asking for help, so I'll worry about which version of him I'm talking to later."
Akarui's right eyebrow went up before he said, "Good answer. Now put me down so I can go tell Nezu that we're going on a little field trip."
"This is worse than terrible," Ozpin said with a deep frown as he leaned on his cane in chair as he looked at the monitor that showed Nezu's equally worried face. "It may be worth considering that the Paranormal Liberation Front will make a move in order to combat the efforts of Humarise. After all, their ideals conflict on nearly polar opposite stances."
"It is possible, but I doubt it," the little animal replied as he looked thoughtful. "The Liberation Front would be risking a good deal of their assets if they were to make themselves known to the public before Shigaraki's transformation is complete. They know that we heroes have a duty to stop Humarise's efforts, which should negate any need for their involvement in the coming battle."
"We are talking about a world-level catastrophe that has been made known to the public, though," Ozpin pointed out. "Even they would be hard-pressed not to get at least somewhat involved, for self-preservation's sake."
"Many of their members are pro heroes," Nezu reminded his friend. "When the World Heroes' Alliance does assemble as planned, it is entirely likely that their agents will be among those who fight alongside us. Their dual loyalties would not be compromised, should this be the case."
"Hmm," Ozpin mused as he rested his chin on his cane. He remained that way for a few moments before he stirred and said, "I will see if I can reach out to Raven. Perhaps, given the situation, she may lend us her aid."
"I was under the impression that your relationship with her and her followers was not a favorable one," Nezu replied with a frown. "Had she not turned to villainy?"
"She's never been caught or even implicated in a crime, which of course leaves me unable to act on any suspicions I may have about her," Ozpin sighed. "At the same time, in circumstances like these, it would be rather beneficial to have an ally who keeps tabs on some of the more dangerous players in the underworld. Normally I would have Crow, but it seems that he's rather occupied at the moment."
Nezu cringed slightly, but he accepted the point without protest. "What about General Ironwood?" he decided to ask. "Surely he has the resources the World Heroes' Alliance could make do with?"
"He does, and he has already agreed to lend his cooperation, but I have less reason to trust him than I do Raven," Ozpin said bluntly, which somewhat startled Nezu.
"I thought you two got along famously?" the principal of UA inquired.
"We did, but I may have made a mistake in allowing him to be part of my inner circle," Ozpin admitted. "At least with Raven, I know exactly what I'm dealing with. Ironwood has begun to take… preemptive measures that I worry may further the enemy's plan, rather than hinder them as he intends. My warnings are simply waved aside the longer this goes on, and if I'm being blunt, it's begun to make me question my own judgement on the matter." Before Nezu could say anything to the contrary, Ozpin shook himself and straightened in his chair as he said, "But enough of that for the moment. We must first deal with the threat of Humarise. We'll worry about Salem and Shigaraki at a later date. I will begin consulting with my colleagues in the larger cities across America, starting with New York and San Francisco."
"Lionheart and Arc?" Nezu asked, to which the other man nodded. "Very well. I will assist by sending them Hawks' report of the situation that developed in Kanto."
"Much appreciated," Ozpin replied. "I'll be in touch- and tell All Might to expect Glynda when he reaches the new headquarters." Every time the World Heroes' Alliance was enacted, the headquarters were held in a different country that was selected at random so that no one nation could have an opportunity assert its dominance over the global coalition.
This time, the base was to be stationed in Hong Kong, and many of the world's leading law enforcement officers were already on their way to the location. While not all of them had been made aware of the exact details concerning the threat that they faced, they knew that Humarise was now to be considered a hostile terrorist group with established bases in just about every country across the globe. They needed to be dealt with swiftly, or else there could be permanent consequences for everyone on the planet. Even retired pros like All Might were gathering to contribute to the coordination efforts.
"Please be sure to tell her to take it easy on him, now that he's retired," Nezu sighed in response to the news of Glynda's apparent involvement. "He's not as resilient as he used to be."
"I will do my best, but I can hardly make a guarantee," Ozpin chuckled, which Nezu had to admit was fair enough on his end. "Until we next talk, be well, Nezu."
"Good luck, Ozpin."
The call ended, and the little animal let out a sigh before he raised his head toward the door and saying, "I know you're there."
Immediately, the door opened to admit Akarui and Mina, both of them wearing determined expressions. "I know where Kurai went," the boy said without preamble. "We'd like your permission to go after him."
Nezu raised an eyebrow at that piece of news, as well as the fact that Mina was not in her uniform. He was also intrigued by the briefcase that Akarui was carrying, but he had more pressing questions that needed answering. "If you know where he's gone, why didn't you tell the pro heroes, or at least his classmates who were there when he ran away?"
"I didn't find out about it until he was long gone," Akarui shrugged. "He passed a message to me through Uraraka and Midoriya, but he used a phrase that only meant something to him and I. That tells me that he doesn't want anyone else around, at least for the time being. Given that he seems to be able to use One For All at a level that allows him to essentially disintegrate a poison gas with nothing but aerokinetic force- without shattering his bones- I think it's probably best that we meet on his terms."
"If he wants to meet you alone, why does Ashido need to be involved?" Nezu asked the boy, though he already had a pretty good idea of what the answer would be. He had been informed about Akarui's theory regarding One For All by All Might, which had been all but confirmed when Izuku and Eri became aware of the presence of the other vestiges once again.
Mina opened up her mouth to answer, but Akarui preempted her by saying, "She's as good as family to Kurai and me. That's reason enough for her to come along to find him. That, and I think she'll melt her way out of here if you order her to stay behind when we have a chance to bring Kurai home safely."
"He's not wrong," Mina added as she crossed her arms.
When Nezu didn't give them an answer right away, Akarui pressed on to say, "You need to let us do this, sir. No pros, no tracking our movements- just me and Ashido going to get Kurai back. We can't risk setting him off as he is, for all our sakes."
"I cannot send you completely unsupervised," Nezu said with a negative shake of his head. "It would be unwise for you to go without some kind of backup for if things were to go horribly wrong."
"What kind of backup do you think can handle Kurai?" Mina huffed impatiently. "Eri and Izuku are out, cos for all we know, the previous holders might tip him off that they're coming."
"Yes, and Midoriya has other matters to attend to with Endeavor's Agency, due to Humarise's recent activities," Nezu admitted. "Even so, I will not feel comfortable sending you without at least someone following at a distance."
"We don't have the luxury of comfort right now, sir," Akarui said, his impatience beginning to match Mina's. "Kurai is on the loose, with one of the most powerful quirks on the planet, and it's not exactly clear what frame of mind he's in right now. The best chance we have at resolving this whole mess is if we do not antagonize him, in any way, shape, or form. Ashido and I need to go to him, and we need to go now."
Nezu shifted in his seat, looking supremely uncomfortable before he made his decision. "I want hourly updates while you're looking for him," he told them. "I will be remotely tracking your phones' movements so that if you fail to report in, I can send nearby heroes to ascertain what happened to you."
Akarui scowled, but he relented with the words, "Fine. But unless we fail to check in, no one else sees where we're going. The place is something of a final resort to my brother and me."
Nezu tilted his head at the boy before saying, "While I wish I had the time to discover why that is, we all have more pressing concerns. Ashido, his safety is your responsibility while you are out there."
"Understood, sir," Mina said, looking relieved. "Thank you, sir."
"Thank me by bringing both of the Hikari boys home."
The minute that they were outside of the school campus, Akarui turned to Mina with his hand outstretched and said, "Gimme your phone."
"I'm not chancing the principal screwing this up," he answered bluntly as he continued to hold his hand out. "The place we're heading to is a cellular dead zone, which means that if Nezu has a general idea of where we're headed, and we don't check in on time, he's gonna call Fat Gum or something."
"So what's your plan to counter that?" she asked as she handed him the phone while they turned down the street to head for the nearest train station.
"I made a cloning device for electronics a while back," he answered as he examined the phone while they walked. "I'm gonna copy both of ours' onto a radio-type device that'll react like our phones' GPS signals. He'll be tracking those once I've disabled the tracking in our real phones, and I'll still be able to send him texts and engage in phone calls. My phone will just bounce the signal over to the clone, though I won't be able to keep doing that once we hit the dead zone."
"Isn't it like impossible to actually disable the GPS in our phones without taking out the battery?" Mina asked with a slight frown.
"Yeah, if you're like normal people," Akarui smirked. "I've known how to do this since I was in second grade, and I've kept up the practice in the case that I ever needed to hide out."
"Your skills frighten me, kid," Mina said with a shake of her head. Glancing downward, she then asked, "What's with the briefcase?"
"Just a few toys, in case someone decides they want to roughhouse," he answered with a snarky grin.
"Wow, he really does get that word from being around you."
"Don't worry about it."
The pair spent several hours on a couple of different trains that headed north toward the Aomori region, which Akarui said contained their final destination. They initially boarded a train that had gone southeast, where the boy cloned their phone signals and discreetly left the broadcast device beneath his seat before they got off and began their true journey.
As they travelled, the TV sets on the bullet train showed coverage of the disaster that had struck Kanto. The reporters and news anchors paid special attention to the mysterious figure who had appeared to dissipate the gas and saved hundreds of lives in the process. They also speculated that they had been the one to take down several-dozen members of Humarise so that the heroes could take them into custody for questioning, but the footage of what had happened in the city was fairly lacking, given that only the long-range equipment had been capable of working by the time they had appeared. All of them wondered at the identity of the new hero who had accomplished something that seemed impossible but for the likes of All Might and the late Kai, even as they wondered why he had not yet stepped forward to address the public.
The first time he saw the topic on the TV, Akarui had been forced to stifle his laughter. When Mina looked askance at him, he said, "Sorry, but I can't help it. The answer's staring them smack in the face, and they don't see it."
Mina glanced around to make sure that they weren't being overheard before she whispered, "What do you expect from them? As far as the world is concerned, he's still dead."
"Doesn't make it not funny," he snickered.
Mina rolled her eyes until she was looking out the window as the countryside raced them by. It was a few moments before she said, "I've been thinking about this meeting place for a couple of hours now, and why Kurai mentioned it as a 'blood-oath'."
"Yeah?" Akarui replied, his voice having lost all of its joking tones. "What about it?"
"I had almost forgotten about it, but I remember the night that Kurai and I went to your house for dinner before we left for Nabu," she answered while keeping her gaze fixed on the window. "Shukin mentioned something about a promise that the three of you had made, and how you signed a rock with your blood. At first I thought it was just something a handful of silly boys had come up with, but thinking back on how far you and Kurai seem to be willing to go to keep it a secret, I'm guessing that there's more to it than an extra-special pinky promise."
Akarui was silent for several minutes, nearly to the point where Mina was about to give up on getting an answer. Just as she opened her mouth to tell him to forget it, he started to speak in an unusually subdued tone. "Did Kurai ever tell you why we go by our mom's maiden name?" he asked her without looking over.
"Kinda," she answered with a slight frown, not yet seeing the connection. "He said that you guys did it because it helped to keep you guys from being targeted by villains because your dad was the Police Commissioner."
"We didn't always strictly go by the 'Hikari' name," he replied, still not looking over. "Back when I first started grade school, we still used either of our parents' names in public. About six years ago, Aunt Sakura and Shukin joined our family and the Iida's for a summer trip to the beach- even Tensei was able to get time off from work, so we had the whole gang there."
"I think Kurai mentioned this trip a while back," Mina recalled. "Is that when Tenya threw a fit about being put in the water?"
"That's the one," Akarui answered with a smile, though it was a pretty bleak one. "It was the first time we were going on vacation since Dad had become Commissioner, so naturally, we were all pretty excited. The first mistake we made was putting our reservations for the hotel under our family name."
Now the dots began to connect in Mina's head. "Did someone target you guys?" she guessed, to which he gave a single nod.
"You ever notice how Kurai and I have been left with a distinct aversion to the yakuza?" he asked. When she nodded, he went on to say, "That's not just because we're cop kids, or that one of them killed our uncle. The guys that came after us that day belonged to the Tono gang, on orders from their boss, who wanted to use Shukin, Kurai, and me as bargaining chips in a backroom deal that would see to some of his chief enforcers getting out of prison on 'good behavior'. They followed us to the beach and snatched the three of us up when our parents and the Iida's weren't looking- tied us up and dumped us in a cave about a mile from our hotel."
As Akarui spoke, Mina's eyes had been growing wider, but he wasn't done yet. "Naturally, we weren't about to let ourselves be used like that, so the minute that the group leader left with some of his flunkies to go and confront our father, we fought back," he said, his tone remaining dead. "They didn't know about Kurai's quirk since he hardly ever used it after he nearly melted his brain a couple of years before that, but he didn't hesitate in that moment. He freed me, and Shukin helped him take the four guys down."
"Your cousin can fight?" she asked, unable to help her curiosity in spite of all the new information that was being presented to her.
"His quirk is called 'Memory Release'," Akarui nodded. "He can enact pretty much anything that he's seen someone else do- even if it's from a movie- as long as it's within the physical range of his body's abilities- though it doesn't let him mimic anybody else's quirk. We had just watched a handful of films with that famous old martial arts master, Jackie Chan, so you can imagine how that went."
"So you beat the villains," she surmised with a frown. "I don't get it. What's the issue with that? You used your quirks as an emergency self-defense measure. There's nothing illegal about that, is there?"
"There is when one of the guys you beat up gets killed in the process," Akarui deadpanned, causing Mina's mouth to hang open loosely. "Yeah. It wasn't supposed to happen, but by the time it was all over, three yakuza boys were down, and one was out. Tensei was the one who found us shortly after the fact, having run into the other thugs and recognizing them from his 'person of interest' list. He confronted them and forced one to spill where they were keeping us, but by then, it was too late." Akarui shut his eyes and shuddered as those haunting memories filled his mind for a moment. "By the time we were found, we had all three sworn to keep the identity of the one who killed the guy a secret unto our graves. As it turns out, we didn't necessarily have to do that, because Tensei took the blame for the accidental death. Since he was a popular hero, he had close ties to the police, and children's lives were at stake, Ingenium was pretty much let off with a warning from the Safety Commission. He never even questioned us about which one of us did it- he just took us back to our parents while assuring us that everything was going to be okay. That's what we meant when we said that Tensei, not Ingenium, bailed us out that day."
"But…" Mina's head was fairly spinning at this point. "But you guys were just… I dunno, so casual about the whole thing when you brought it up at dinner. You were laughing when you talked about it, like it was a joke!" She made a conscious effort to keep her voice lowered, but her shock was still evident in her tone.
"We dissociated, Ashido," Akarui replied as he turned to look at her with haunted eyes. "It was all we could do to survive the horrors of that day. Our minds fragmented those memories, compartmentalized them in such a way that we didn't completely lose our heads in the process of trying to understand what had happened to us- and what we were responsible for."
"You dissociated," she repeated, another conversation coming to her mind in that moment. "That's why you seemed to think that it was possible that Kurai might have been developing a split personality back in the hospital- because he'd already done something similar to survive."
"Correct," the boy nodded. "After that, my father made it his personal mission to stamp out the Tono Family, and boy did their boss come to regret his actions. Even so, our parents decided to transfer us to different schools, and we stopped using our dad's family name in public settings in order to reduce the chances of that happening again." Giving vent to a small shrug, he then said, "There you go. That's why that place is somewhere we'd only go if we felt like we had no other choice, and it's why Kurai is very much against killing villains if he can avoid it."
Mina looked down for a few moments in silence before she asked, "Kurai was the one who killed that guy, wasn't he?" When Akarui didn't answer, she pressed on to say, "He was young, he couldn't control his quirk well, he was just-"
"Kurai wasn't the one who killed the guy, Mina," Akarui said with a small shake of his head before he fixed his gaze ahead, refusing to look at her any longer.
His change in body language, coupled with the use of her first name, hit the girl like a hammer blow to the gut. "You?" she whispered. "It was…?"
"Like you said, Kurai wasn't very skilled with his quirk at the time," Akarui said flatly. "You'd think that would mean that he would be hitting too hard, but in this case, he was actively trying not to hurt them too badly, which led to him holding back too much. One of the guys he thought he had knocked out pulled a gun and was going to shoot him when his back was turned. It was dark in the cave, so he didn't see where I had gone to hide, which is how I was able to get in a surprise attack. The floor was wet from seawater, and we both slipped after I tackled him, which led to him hitting his head on a sharp part of the rocks. By the time we realized what had happened, half of his grey matter was washed out to sea."
Mina gagged involuntarily, which only got Akarui to look at her with a bleak expression out of the corner of his eye. "See why I didn't want to explain things?" he deadpanned. "If Nezu knew we were headed there, he'd want to know; why that place specifically? He'd start digging, and I'm sure he'd find the connection, eventually. I don't want to make Kurai relive any more scarring experiences under scrutiny than he's already had to endure."
Mina took a moment to make sure that her lunch wasn't about to come back up before she asked, "Why…? Why did he never tell me about that?"
"You'll have to ask him that yourself," Akarui shrugged. "Just maybe leave it for after we figure out if we're talking to him or his angry vestige."
"Right…" she mumbled, her eyes still somewhat glazed over. "I'll be sure to remember that." After another moment had passed, she said, "Thanks, Aki."
"For the horrifically scarring story?"
"For telling me what I need to know about all this."
"You're welcome, but don't ever ask me to repeat that story again."
"Everyone, listen up!" Endeavor boomed as he walked into the meeting area where his sidekicks and interns had all congregated. "We have orders from the Safety Commission!"
All of his employees immediately silenced themselves and stood at attention, with Bakugo, Todoroki, Izuku, and Weiss being the closest to the towering man. Once he was sure that they were all paying attention, he said, "We've been tasked with taking down Humarise's base of operations here in Japan alongside several other agencies. As it so happens, we also have the pleasure of being the ones to go after their leader, a man who calls himself 'Flect Turn'. We move out at one in the morning, so read up on the layout of our target and get some rest while you can! Other heroes in the area will handle our normal patrols, per the orders of the Commission. Burnin, you and I will be working with the other heroes to organize a roster and delegate tasks to the chosen teams for this joint effort."
"Understood, sir!" the green-haired sidekick said sharply.
"We congregate back here at 2100 hours!"
"Yes sir!" the others shouted in unison.
"Everyone but the interns, you are dismissed!" Done speaking, he allowed his sidekicks to disperse while he approached the students under his care. "You four, come with me."
Wordlessly, the young heroes followed Endeavor to a room that they had yet to see, but now realized was the agency's fitting room, where new costumes were brought in for the pro hero's inspection. This was evidenced by the display cases that showcased some of Endeavor's older outfits, as well as one that looked like something Burnin might have worn at some point. What grabbed and held their attention, however, was the four display cases that contained outfits they had never seen before, yet looked familiar all the same.
"These are new stealth suits I had commissioned after accepting you four as interns," the Flame Hero said to interrupt Izuku. "They're based on your original costumes, but they're made with a material that makes it difficult for most scanners to detect your presence. Radar, thermal, even x-ray sensors won't penetrate them."
Each costume looked very much like the students' chosen aesthetics, save for the fact that they were predominantly colored black. They also looked denser than what they were used to, which might hinder their reaction times by a fraction, but it wouldn't be all that difficult for them to make the switch.
"These are impressive, sir," Weiss said as she appraised the suits with a practiced eye. "Might I ask what the occasion is?"
"You'll be wearing these for our raid on Humarise's HQ," Endeavor answered as he turned to look back at his young wards. "I had originally planned on letting you have them if you managed to stick it out at my agency until the spring had arrived, but it seems more prudent to have you use them now."
"Thank you, sir!" Izuku said excitedly as he moved closer to inspect his own outfit.
"It's about time we got some recognition for all the work we've been putting in," Bakugo growled, though it was clear that he was also impressed by the new costumes.
"We'll use them well," Todoroki murmured, though he neglected to look at his father while saying so. Endeavor, for his part, seemed to accept that this was the closest thing he was going to get in the way of a 'thank-you' from his son, and moved on from the display cases.
"Make sure you familiarize yourselves with those before we set out tonight," he ordered them. He paused by the door before saying over his shoulder, "Deku, the gauntlets on the new suit are based off of your old ones from when you first submitted your application to work here. I didn't have time to order you a new pair based on the ones you have now, so you'll have to make do with those."
"No problem, sir!" Izuku said excitedly. With a slightly sheepish grin, he added, "I'm not sure that the design company you signed on would be able to replicate the new ones, anyway. They're kinda unique."
"Hmph," the big hero grumbled before he left the room.
Once he had, Todoroki turned to his friend and said, "What will you do without the new gauntlets if you get backed into a corner? Didn't Hikari design them to keep your powers regulated?"
Izuku looked down at the armor on his hands that strongly resembled the Full Gauntlet that Melissa had given him on I-island with a little smile. "It's not really an issue," he said as he pushed a hidden button on the inside of his wrists, which caused the two pieces to glow and then retract into a pair of bracelets that looked like wristwatches. "I can keep them stored like this underneath the stealth suit's gloves, and I can activate them if I get into a situation where I need a quick power-up. If I'm stuck like that, I think the stealth factor of the suit probably won't be much help."
Akarui had come to him last week with the new support items in hand, informing him that they were designed not only to absorb the shock of any physical blows he might deal, but would also help keep pressure on nerve points that would assist in keeping his mood stable. Izuku recalled that Kurai's original costume had armored bracers that functioned in a similar manner, but obviously Akarui's skill in design had only grown since then. The new gauntlets also had emitter points in the palm, knuckles, and fingertips, which would allow him much finer control over any laser bursts he might use. The younger Hikari brother had advised him to practice without them as often as he could in order to gain a more natural control over Energon, but he also understood that Deku couldn't afford any mistakes when people's lives were on the line in the field.
"Have you had any word from Hikari and Ashido?" Weiss asked, drawing Izuku out of his moment of reverie.
"Not since they headed out," he answered with a negative shake of his head. "I can feel the presence of the vestiges in the back of my mind, but they're still not talking to me. It almost feels like they're distracted…"
"Maybe they're talking to Hikari," Todoroki suggested. "He used One For All on a level that none of us have seen since All Might retired. Is it possible that he had help from the past users?"
"Maybe," Izuku mused as his face acquired a thoughtful look.
"Hah!" Bakugo snorted derisively. "Five hundred yen says Saiyaman figured out how to use it better than Deku did on his own."
Instead of looking insulted, the thoughtful look on Izuku's face only intensified. "That also might be possible," he mumbled. "He's had to work hard to master a power he wasn't born with to begin with for the last ten years, so another one probably isn't as big of a deal to him as it was to me, especially given that I didn't get a quirk until I was fifteen, which means that our levels of dedication when it comes to mastering a foreign power have no real contest, plus he's naturally more inclined to thinking things through, even when he's put on the spot…"
He was so wrapped up in his thought process that he failed to notice his friends each grabbing their new costumes and leaving.
"This is the place?" Mina asked as she and Akarui set foot onto a sandy beach, the only lighting at the late hour being from the quiet town behind them. The boy had booked them two hotel rooms so that they would have a place to spend the night, provided they were able to bring Kurai back. After emerging from his room, Mina was intrigued to see that he had some kind of metallic, fingerless glove on his right hand, and a utility belt that contained items she could only guess at. He had also brought them a couple of high-power headlamps that they could use when they got closer to their final destination, but for right now, he preferred to move through the shifting shadows of the evening.
"We're close," he said to answer her question. Even in the dark, she could see that he was pale, and his movements were a little jerky, as if his own body was fighting against returning to this place. "About a half-mile along this shoreline, and we'll get to the caves. It might take me a minute to remember which one it is when we get there, but I'll recognize it when I see it."
"The cave mouth looks like two fangs pointing upward where the water enters," the boy recalled before swallowing, hard. "There's a ledge that we'll have to jump to in order to find the path that leads inside since the side that we'll be walking up on doesn't have enough room for a solid foothold once you get inside."
Seeing his current state, Mina turned to him and put a hand on his shoulder before she asked, "Do you need to stay behind? I'm sure I can find the spot on my own if I have to."
"Not a chance," he said with a shaky grin. Cracking his neck, he then added, "Kurai's been confronting his demons in therapy for the last month. What's one little trip down memory lane gonna do to me?"
They walked quickly in silence until they reached the rocky part of the beach where the caves began, after which they turned on their headlamps and began to proceed much more carefully. "What I wouldn't give for Ochaco's Zero Gravity right now," Mina said after they made it across one particularly slippery stretch of stone.
"I should've packed my grapple gun," Akarui muttered in agreement. "At least we'd have something to hold onto, then."
"Wait, how did you forget-?"
"It happens sometimes, okay?!"
It took them another fifteen minutes after that before Akarui stopped in place on a larger ledge that currently rose well above the low tides of the ocean. "This is it," he said, just barely audible over the crashing waves below him. Mina looked over his shoulder when he pointed toward a cave mouth that looked exactly as he previously had described it. "I thought it was further on than this, but I guess getting to places always seems to take longer when you're little, doesn't it?"
Mina looked at him with sympathy before putting an arm around his shoulders and saying, "Come on, Aki. Your brother's in there, waiting for you. Time to bring him home."
Akarui sucked in a deep breath, shook himself, set his jaw, and squared his shoulders before moving on without another word. He didn't speak, hardly breathed, and refused to even think as he and Mina made their way over to the cave that contained his worst memories. He refused to pause at the entrance, knowing that if he hesitated for even one second, he would stop and never be able to move onward.
He didn't stop walking until he had reached a small alcove, one that was hidden to any eyes that would not be searching for it, even with the light from his lamp. This is the place, he thought with a deep shiver. Drawing in another breath, he called out, "Alright, Kurai! You know you suck at hide-and-seek, so I'd appreciate it if you did me a solid and came out of hiding without me having to bother with the search!"
There was no response for a few seconds, but eventually, Akarui's eyes detected movement just beyond the range of his light, so he shifted his aim to get a better look. A wry smile broke out onto his face as he then said, "Good to see your sense of direction is still intact."
"Kurai?" Mina asked as she peered at the approaching, battered figure with snowy hair and wet clothes. "Is that you?"
"It's me," he answered as he came closer, a familiar grin on his face that had been captured on a good number of photos that he shared with her. "It's good to see both of you, though I'm surprised that Akarui would bring anyone else, even if she is my girlfriend."
"Well, she's a future Hogo-sha, so I figured, 'what the hell?'" Akarui replied quickly. He then held out an arm to stop Mina from going forward as he asked, "Before we proceed any further into this conversation, though, I need to know: which Kurai am I talking to?"
"I take it you figured out the whole 'vestige-hostile-takeover' thing, then?" Kurai inquired with a raised eyebrow. When Akarui nodded in the affirmative, the elder brother shrugged and said, "I guess you could say that my vestige and I came to an understanding."
"Just like that?" Akarui asked.
"Well, apparently arguing with me is no picnic, and that's when the offending party doesn't also have nine other angry ghosts backing me up," Kurai admitted as he rubbed his head. "To answer your next question, my vestige won't be doing any more bodily hijacking- he won't need to."
"Won't need to?" Mina asked, her eyes growing wider. "Kurai, are you saying that-?"
"I'm saying that Eri and I will be the last wielders of One For All," he declared, his voice resonating through the cave with a strength nearly forgotten. "I'm saying that she and I will be the ones to end Shigaraki and All For One. I'm saying… that I have come back to stand my ground."
The other two were silent for a long moment before Akarui grinned broadly and said, "Welcome back, Kai."
He was then shoved aside by Mina, who practically bowled Kurai over so that she could wrap him up in a joint-popping hug right before her lips crashed into his with more force than he had thought possible. Seeing this, Akarui rolled his eyes upward and turned his back before grumbling, "Great, another memory of this place that I have to repress." When Mina didn't stop, he called over his shoulder, "Hey, can we save this for later? I got two hotel rooms for a reason, you freaks!"
Kai: Punchy-punch? Really?
Mataras: Sue me, I started a new job, so I don't have as much time to come up with witticisms.
Kai: Witticisms? You call what you've been putting into the author's notes and omakes up to now 'witticisms'?
Mataras: I'll kill you again.
Kai: You think that's gonna scare me anymore?
Deku: So Kai is gonna help us for the World Heroes' Mission?
Mataras: Okay, yes. He will be part of the team again, going forward. This includes the third movie arc, though I won't be following the movie script quite as closely as the last two films.
Kai: Well, without the constant promise of death hanging over me, this should make for an interesting new dynamic going forward.
Mataras: I'm counting on it.
Deku: Next time- Inherited Will
Kai: Time for the heroes across the world to Go Beyond!
Mataras: Plus Ultra!
Starkiller Smash: After powering up to a 100% Full Cowl with One For All throughout his whole body, Kai releases the potential energy in a single, aerokinetic detonation that doubles as both a repellant for incoming attacks, as well as an offensive maneuver likely capable of levelling a city, were it to be used on the ground. Seems to damage the user at his current capacity, though not to the degree of rendering him useless in a fight.
Next time on Your Hero Academia...
"Get ready, we're about to hit the drop zone."
"I already heard 'em on the radio, Icy-Hot!"
"Could you two please maintain some semblance of professionalism while we're on a mission, especially with a coalition?" Myrtenaster levelled her best scolding glare at the two boys who had been arguing while Deku pulled the hood of his new stealth suit over his brow and stood up with a grim look about his mouth. Freezer Burn merely shrugged at the reprimand while Ground Zero muttered something under his breath and affected to look away from the pale girl.
The four of them were riding along with a number of Endeavor's sidekicks in a plane that would drop them above Humarise's Japanese HQ. With the organization's chemical attack on the Kanto Ward, the World Hero Alliance had assembled and declared them an international terrorist group. Now they had heroes in every nation racing across the globe to find all of the bases that belonged to the fascist idealists, and arrest their leaders.
It has to be said that it was something of a novel experience to see the Regal Heroine dressed in all black, the exact opposite of her normal color scheme. It made her look even paler than normal, and her eyes in particular stood out from beneath the cowl on the costume like white-blue pearls that could freeze one's soul if they peered too closely.
"Get ready, newbies!" Burnin grinned at the students, bringing them all to attention. "We're comin' in hot!" Even as she said it, explosions began to echo outside the walls of the plane, causing the pressure in their ears to spike every few seconds and setting their teeth on edge as a result.