The morning Izuku packed his bags for his first day at U.A. felt surreal. His mother wept tears of joy as she rounded up his textbooks and school supplies, and as if the tears were contagious, he started crying with her. He felt guilty, knowing he would disappoint her on the first day, after they had splurged on katsudon to celebrate.
Worse still was the feeling of dread that had been building up in him since he had woken up that morning. His new future was murky beyond his imminent expulsion from the hero course, possibly a side effect from having the future reset on him, but he knew that U.A. would get attacked by villains at some point, and further beyond that, villainy would rise in the background of his new life. The news would cover villainy attacks on a daily basis, people would shun the streets out of fear of being the next victim, and the heroes would stretch themselves thin, fighting a losing battle to save a society tearing itself inside-out. Izuku hoped it wouldn't take long to get back to normal.
Letting the goodbyes and tearful hugs drag out as long as he could, Izuku took the latest possible train to U.A. Arriving late as he did, he only had to slip by a handful of students before making it to classroom 1-A. Anyone that saw him was too busy making sure they weren't late to their own classes to bother him.
The timing of his arrival couldn't have been better. Kacchan and the guy with glasses that had called him out on mumbling to himself during Present Mic's explanation were in an argument over the merits of their respective middle schools. Uraraka made a beeline straight for Izuku, introduced herself, thanked him profusely for helping her during the exam and congratulating him on passing, which drew the attention of the entire class. Some students smiled at him, some studied him impassively, but most had sour frowns that promised hostility.
Kacchan was halfway out of his seat when their homeroom teacher cleared his throat. Everyone stared in shock at the bedraggled man in the yellow sleeping bag as he scooted his way over to the teacher's podium, stood up, and unzipped the sleeping bag like a moth emerging from its chrysalis.
Even having the benefit of knowing the teacher's face ahead of time, and knowing he had to be a pro hero, Izuku's search through his hero journals and online forums had come up with nothing on him. That narrowed it down to the underground heroes, which had proven difficult to research given their tendency to avoid the spotlight.
"Eight seconds. That's how much time you wasted before being quiet." Their teacher pulled a sack of uniforms out of his sleeping bag and tossed it on his desk. "Put on your track suits and meet me outside."
The other students gawked as Izuku stripped out of his clothes right there in the classroom, threw on a track suit, and sprinted out to the training grounds. His Quirk gave him the benefit of knowing exactly where he would find his teacher.
The teacher glanced at his watch as Izuku ran up to him. "That's a new record."
"Heroes need to respond quickly to emergencies." Izuku answered. He knew the answer would get a subtle smile from his teacher, though it wouldn't stop the inevitable outcome of the Quirk Assessment.
Kacchan had made it seconds after him, the shirt of his track suit on backwards, winded from trying to beat Izuku outside. Spiky red-hair and guy-with-tail weren't far behind, followed by a large clump of guys, one of whom was carrying a short kid with bulbous hair under one muscled arm, holding him easily despite the smaller boy's furious attempts to head back inside the school. The girls made it outside two minutes later, most giving purple-hair disapproving scowls.
"One minute and thirty-six seconds," their teacher said. "That's the time of the first student to arrive. Five minutes and thirty-five seconds. That's how long it took all of you to arrive."
One of the girls stepped forward. "You expect us to get changed in front of that creep?" she asked, pointing at the shorter student.
The teacher gave the offending kid a stern frown, but he said to the class, "Forty-eight seconds. That's the average time it takes for a mugger to assault their target and make their escape. Depending on their Quirk and the surrounding environment, you might not even have half that time."
A girl with jacks sticking out of her earlobes stepped forward. She couldn't quite meet the teacher's eyes. "Still, asking us to change in front of the boys…"
"I'm not asking you to go that far. From now on, I expect you all to get changed in your respective locker rooms." With another glare at the bulbous-hair-boy, he added, "I will not tolerate any form of sexual harassment in my classroom, and should I receive complaints, I will expel you. Is that clear?"
His stern tone compelled nods out of the whole class. Glasses held a hand high in the air and asked, "May I speak, sir?"
The teacher sighed and said, "Go ahead."
"Aren't we supposed to be at orientation right now? That's what the syllabus says we're doing today."
"An illogical waste of time. I have three years to teach you how to be heroes, and I'm not going to waste a single second on something so frivolous as introductions. Do it on your own time."
"I see. Then what are we doing out here?"
"I'm glad you asked Iida." The teacher tossed Kacchan a baseball. "You had to do fitness tests in middle school, correct? This time, you'll be using your Quirks. Once you know where you start, you know where you can improve. So, go ahead and give it a try."
Kacchan's explosion-powered throw went 750 meters, to the amazement of the crowd. The students grew excited. When the pink-skinned girl gushed about how fun it was going to be, the teacher frowned. Izuku braced for what was about to come.
"Looks fun, huh? You think this is just a game?" The teacher's insidious grin chilled the whole class, Izuku included. "How about this? Whoever comes in last place across all eight tests will be expelled."
At first, the class stared at their teacher in shock. Gradually, heads turned towards Izuku. A few people grinned to themselves, no doubt imagining the same result Izuku already knew was coming.
"Expelled on the first day?" a kid with yellow hair asked. "Isn't that a bit much?"
"This is U.A. The teachers here are given free rein to teach how they see fit. The way I see it, it's better to have you expelled than killed by some two-bit villain." He gestured at the nearby track and said, "We'll start with sprints. Get moving."
Izuku's work over the summer had paid off, for in each event, he had set a new personal record. Despite the progress, months of pushing himself couldn't compete against the years of rigorous training the other students had. He came dead last on the sprints and hovered in the bottom five for everything else, while everyone had at least one test they excelled in, from using acid to slide across the 50m dash to asking a bird to carry the baseball. Even students without beneficial Quirks, such as the invisible girl, outclassed Izuku with pure physical conditioning.
By the last event, the ball toss, it became evident to the whole class that Izuku wouldn't make the cut. Ochako and the others with acid and hardening Quirks cheered him on as he stepped into the circle, but the rest heaved sighs of relief. Meanwhile, the teacher watched him, impassive, no doubt having already decided to expel the Quirkless failure.
Izuku buried his rising anger and shame, resolving not to let himself cry. He knew he wouldn't, not when he had seen this coming before he had even started. As Izuku raised his arm, he realized that he couldn't see himself throwing the ball clearly. Everything up to that point had been crystal clear, everything after the toss hazy, like a dream half-remembered as he went for a glass of water. Gritting his teeth, Izuku wound back and threw the ball with everything he had.
Black. The repository of future knowledge went dark, as if someone had yanked a television's cord out from the socket. Izuku froze mid-throw, the ball flying limply from his fingertips to land a measly ten meters away. Deprived of the knowledge his Quirk offered, he couldn't be sure, but he could have sworn it was supposed to be a fifty-meter toss.
For once in his life, he had no idea what to do. Terror set in. He felt the world spiraling out from under him. His breathing quickened. His heart thumped against his ribcage like a trapped animal. Sight and sound were muffled until the present moment threatened to slip away like his future.
Izuku could feel the eyes on him. Judging, questioning, mocking, pitying. He had to do something. Say something. He turned towards his teacher. His hair and scarf hovered around him, revealing glowing red eyes and a pair of yellow goggles. The hours spent on internet forums came back to him, and in a moment of clarity, he had figured out what had happened to him.
Izuku stammered wildly as he said, "You're Eraserhead."
Mr. Aizawa's eyes widened with surprise, but he didn't blink. "How do you know that name?"
As the teacher grew suspicious, Izuku felt his brain melting. Izuku cursed the fact that, out of anything that could have possibly come out of his mouth that moment, he had to have picked the worst possible thing to say. Now Eraserhead had to know he had a Quirk. A Quirk he had hidden from the Quirk registry. An illegally unregistered Quirk that he had used to cheat his way into U.A.
Izuku took a deep breath and clenched his hands. Eraserhead couldn't keep his eyes open forever, but until he blinked, Izuku had to salvage the situation. Somehow. He made himself make eye contact with the teacher, though the stammer stayed in his voice and his thoughts remained in disarray. "Sorry sir, I was trying to figure it out throughout class today. I knew you had to be a pro hero of some kind, but I didn't have any idea who you were. I figured you were an underground hero, though I didn't know for sure which one, because there's not a lot of info out there on underground heroes, that's kind of the point, and–"
"You're rambling," the teacher cut in. "Don't waste time."
Izuku felt himself blush. "Sorry. Bad habit. Anyways, I figured it out mid-throw, and I, um, kinda got surprised."
He could feel the raw skepticism in his teacher's expression as he raised a single eyebrow. "You just figured it out? Right now?"
"It's the goggles," Izuku said, pointing to the eyewear hanging around Eraserhead's neck. "They're to keep villains from knowing where you're looking at any given moment, so they don't know whose Quirk you are erasing." Izuku wondered if it was wise to mention Mr. Aizawa's Quirk, whether or not it would make him look more suspicious if he mentioned what that Quirk is or hope that his teacher will think he didn't realize Eraserhead has a Quirk-erasing gaze. Since it's what the hero's most well known for, Izuku decided to include it.
The teacher held his gaze for what felt like an eternity. Izuku felt himself wavering before the teacher's cold, calculating expression. "I see," Mr. Aizawa said. He closed his eyes. Izuku felt the future come rushing back in, like a river that broke its dam, and nearly wept with relief. Mr. Aizawa tossed him another baseball. Startled, Izuku fumbled the catch. "Since I would like an accurate baseline of your physical capabilities," Eraserhead said, "And I would like to think you can throw a ball more than ten meters, you may try again. Don't waste any more time."
There were a few snickers from the crowd as Izuku wound up another pitch. This time, Izuku got the fifty meters he had previously predicted, a personal best, but still at the bottom of the class.
As the class gathered around Mr. Aizawa, expectantly waiting for the test results, Izuku braced himself for his impending expulsion. His vision of the future rushed forward, giving him vertigo as he tried to make sense of the information overload. Eraserhead displayed the results, showing Izuku in dead last, as expected.
"Alright, let's head back to class."
Those weren't the words Izuku remembered. Raising a shaky hand, Izuku asked, "Um, excuse me, Mr. Aizawa, what about me?"
"Didn't you hear what I just said? Head back to class."
Kacchan's hands popped with miniature explosions as he glared at the teacher. "What, you're not going to expel the worthless shrimp?"
"Nope. I was lying about the expulsion."
The class erupted in an uproar. Izuku, for his part, was too stunned to say a word. What had happened to the outcome he had seen before his Quirk was erased? Now that he felt calmer, he could see the future take shape, a future where he stayed in the hero course, despite his failure. What had changed? How? Why?"
"Silence, all of you." Eraserhead's words cut the chatter like a knife. "It was a logical ruse to draw out your full potential. Anyone who can't operate under pressure doesn't have what it takes to be a hero. Now let's go."
Izuku could feel himself breaking on the inside. As his future crept outward, he was five again, rolling on the floor as ten years of bullying and a death by suffocation played out while the All Might video played on loop above him. Two fingers on his left hand snapped, and he could feel shards of bone grinding against one another as he moved his hand. Izuku choked on his scream. Desperate to break away from the crowd before the pain got worse, he took the out his Quirk showed him. "I – I need to use the restroom. Is that okay?"
Eraserhead studied him carefully, with an emotion on his face that Izuku couldn't read. "Make it quick. We have work to do."
Izuku sprinted to the nearest restroom, locked the stall, and collapsed onto the toilet seat. Sobs broke out of him, and tears ran down his face as the future spread outward. A dull echo of the pain from breaking fingers lingered in his left hand, and his right itched from a burn. As his future crept outward, exhaustion deadened his muscles, making him too weak to move. Each day of his new future weakened him, until he felt a bone-deep exhaustion that made him want to close his eyes.
The panic he had held back with everything he had came rushing in full-force, a feeling of helplessness and confusion from having his entire future ripped out from under him like a tablecloth. He couldn't imagine how people could live like that, not knowing what their every action would entail, how to speak, how to act, where to walk, every minute detail laid out for him in a picture-perfect script. The anger and fear of the present grappled with the exhaustion of the future, sending his heart into an arrhythmic patter.
The future had changed. Again. He still wasn't sure what had happened the first time, but this time, his Quirk had been erased. For just a moment, he couldn't see what he was supposed to do. He had messed up. He had given in to panic, and now, Eraserhead knew he had a Quirk, a Quirk Izuku wasn't supposed to show him, and somehow, it had changed what was supposed to happen.
Anger simmered inside Izuku. For the first time in his life, he felt that he could hate a hero. Even Endeavor, for all his sour attitude and rudeness, could be respected for his tireless efforts to apprehend villains, but his teacher changed his mind about how much Izuku was worth because he had a Quirk. He was supposed to expel him, bottom of the class, Quirkless, weak loser he was. The only thing that could have changed his mind was his Quirk. It explained the sudden shift in his future perfectly.
As he huddled into a ball on the toilet, chest bursting with anger and hysteria, his new death came to him. Swirling black void, villains on a ship, a nightmarish monster with unfocused eyes, a hand reaching for him from darkness, the classmates and heroes gathered at the center plaza, safe, the villains ready to retreat.
Izuku felt his skull ripping itself apart. Each fleck of skin, flesh, and bone that turned to dust drove another lance of pain through his head. Izuku stuffed a hand in his mouth, stifling the scream that tore itself from his throat.
After what felt like an eternity, the pain stopped. Izuku picked himself up off the bathroom floor with shaking arms, breathing deeply. Tooth marks bit painfully into his hand, almost drawing blood, but the pain was distant, numbed by his having felt it already.
Two weeks. He had two weeks to prepare before villains will attack his school and try to kill his classmates and his teacher. He didn't have time to cry. He washed his face in the sink and let his hair hang low to hide his puffy, red eyes. On his way back to class, he took a detour to the library and checked out a book on sign language.
Izuku hoped that, this time, that the future wouldn't change on him.
Once Shouta had the rest of his students back in their seats, he told them, "I need to speak with the principal for a bit. Pick your class representatives before I get back."
"But we just met each other!" Momo said. "We don't even know each other's names."
"Then fix that."
As he left, he heard one student ask, "Did he even say when he'd be back?" Shouta didn't trouble himself to give them a time limit. If they couldn't handle being left alone, he'd just expel some of them.
The teacher's lounge was empty. Half a pot of coffee was left in the machine, lukewarm and gritty. Shouta drank it anyways. The influx of caffeine did nothing for the sheer emotional exhaustion he felt at that moment.
He sank into a chair and rested his head in his hands. Thinking about the expression Izuku had as he froze his Quirk twisted a knife in his chest. He had seen countless reactions to Quirk erasure over the years – anger, shock, even fear – but never had he seen someone look so lost, so terrified, so close to having a full-blown panic attack that he had readied his capture scarf to keep him from collapsing.
As a teacher, he knew he had to instill respect, sometimes even fear, in his students. Despite what the media portrayed, the world was not a kind place to heroes, and any that weren't ready when they left his care would have their throats slit within a month, their deaths buried underneath the latest news report on All Might. The thought of seeing one of his former students left in some garbage bin in an alley kept him awake some nights.
He had seen traumatized students, some even in his own class, shaken by a close encounter with a villain or a class exercise gone wrong, but never in all his years teaching at U.A. had he ever personally traumatized one of his students. It made him feel sick inside. Worse, was the visible, herculean effort Izuku had shown forcing that terror back, mustering every scrap of courage he had to meet Eraserhead's Quirk-erasing gaze head on. Shouta had never been so simultaneously horrified and awestruck to see someone so young and so small stand tall in the face of debilitating fear.
After seeing that kind of courage, how could he expel him?
After forcing some drops into his eyes, Shouta went to Nezu's office. The principal already had a cup of tea waiting for him. "You just had to do it outside, didn't you?" Nezu asked. "Do you realize I don't have good camera angles out there?"
"You were right. Midoriya has a Quirk."
"You're sure about that?"
"Midoriya reacted the instant I erased his Quirk," Shouta said. He tried not to think about the slow, dawning horror that twisted Izuku's features as the ball flopped to the ground.
Nezu tsked. "Well, there goes my theory."
"What do you mean?"
"Think about it. If Midoriya could foresee the future, like Nighteye, wouldn't he have known that you would erase his Quirk?"
Shouta washed the coffee grit off his tongue with a mouthful of tea as he pondered Nezu's point. "So, if his Quirk isn't foresight, what is it?"
"Hard to say. Either it's a foresight Quirk with mechanics not immediately obvious, or his Quirk is something else entirely. Maybe an intelligence Quirk. I really hope it's an intelligence Quirk. I've been looking for someone to play Go with. Chess is too boring." Nezu sighed and sipped his tea. "Either way, we'll need to do more tests."
Nezu paused. "Is something the matter?"
"Whatever I did terrified Izuku so badly he looked ready to pass out." Shouta closed his eyes and took a deep breath, calming himself so he wouldn't start shouting. "I don't think I can do that again."
"Unfortunate, but I trust your judgement." Nezu tapped the edge of his teacup. "Terrified? Is his Quirk always active, or was he using it at that precise moment for some reason? What was he doing?"
"Throwing a baseball. He was winding up for the pitch when I used my Quirk. Made him fumble the throw."
"Smart. Not sure yet, but probably the former. Hard to say given the lack of data."
Shouta shifted in his seat and adjusted his scarf. "I think Midoriya needs counseling."
"We can't. It would single him out, as there's nothing obviously wrong with him, not to mention we don't even know what his Quirk is. We can't help him if we don't even know why he needs help."
"He was almost certainly bullied."
"Unless Midoriya comes forward with that information himself, we don't have proof. I can't just assign someone therapy because I suspect something's wrong, or I'd have half the school seeing Hound Dog on a weekly basis."
Shouta gave the principal a skeptical look. "Half? Really?"
Nezu sighed and sipped his tea. "Todoroki Shoto, domestic abuse, Bakugo Katsuki, dangerously egocentric, Tokoyami fears his own Quirk, Yaoyorozu has low self-confidence, Koda has anxiety issues, and the less I say about Mineta, the better. And that's before we get into what Hero training will put them through." Nezu set his cup down and stared thoughtfully at his tea. "If you're that worried about Midoriya, I'll arrange for counseling with the first compelling excuse I can find. And who knows? Maybe he'll open up to Hound Dog."
Izuku was back in his seat when Shouta returned from Nezu's office. The red eyes and hunched expression as he read his book didn't go unnoticed by the teacher, and he immediately regretted not pressing Nezu harder on the counseling. Guilt wormed its way into his heart, and he found himself wondering what he could do to make it up to him. If he couldn't help him overcome his past traumas, maybe he could help him get physically stronger.
"I take it you've decided?" he asked the class.
Iida rose his hand. "Yaoyoruzu-san and I were chosen to represent the class. We will do our best, sir."
"Good. Yamada-sensei will be here in a bit for English. I'll see you all at the end of the day."
Shouta didn't normally bother to check in on his students at the end of the day. Doing so was an irrational waste of time. Today, however, he needed a private word with a student. After Shouta dismissed his students, Midoriya lingered behind, perhaps already aware of what he was planning to ask. Bakugo lingered as well, glowering at Midoriya with an expression Shouta recognized all too well, but after a glance back at the teacher, Bakugo evidently decided to leave without making a scene.
Once they were alone, Midoriya closed his book. Shouta caught the title before he shoved it in his bag and wondered how sign-language had caught his interest. From the barcode on the cover, it was from U.A.'s library. Shouta mentally shook himself, resolving to investigate it some other time, and tried to put on a friendly expression for Midoriya. Friendly expressions were not his forte.
"A word, if you don't mind."
Midoriya glanced at him with smoldering eyes and a clenched jaw. Aizawa felt his heart twist at the sudden anger, but it was only logical that the boy hated him after what he had put him through.
Shouta took a form from his desk and handed it to Midoriya. "If you're serious about becoming a hero, you'll need to work on your physical conditioning. I'm willing to coach you after school hours. You'll need parent approval, and–"
"Thank you, Aizawa-sensei." His words were blunt and cold, betraying controlled anger beneath them. "I'll have my mom sign it tonight."
Nodding, Shouta said, "We'll start tomorrow, then. Meet me at Gym Gamma after class. Bring whatever weapons you're comfortable using."
As Izuku left his classroom with his backpack clutched in his arms, an old habit to keep him from being grabbed by its straps, Shouta wondered if he could ever earn the boy's forgiveness.
A/N: woke up the morning after posting the first chapter to the sound of my phone exploding from all the site notifications. Not going to lie, seeing this story get this many favorites, follows, and reviews in such a short period of time is one hell of a motivator. Thanks to everyone for the show of approval, I'll do my best to deliver on your expectations.
This chapter made me have a long internal debate with myself about using Japanese naming conventions and titles. I had originally intended to do away with it entirely, and just use the plain old English conventions I'm comfortable with. That was before I wrote Iida's first name and internally cringed. Calling him Tenya feels so wrong somehow. Izuku is perfectly fine, Mr. Aizawa made me mildly uncomfortable, but Tenya? Nope, that's where I draw the line. He is and always will be Iida-san or Iida-kun.
As for reviews, I won't respond to each and every single one, but I will reply to some of the bigger reviews in Author's notes like this.
To My-English-Is-Broken, the first chapter was a little shorter than the usual chapter length I'd used for my last story. Last time around, I had resolved to make no chapter no shorter than, 4,000 words in length, and I had fulfilled that promise to the letter. In doing that, I had learned that it was a stupid idea. Often, I found myself shoving extra words into a chapter for the sole purpose of meeting that arbitrary goal. Sometimes, it actually led me to create fun and entirely new scenes, but more often, it just felt like I was padding the chapter. This time, I decided to let the chapters decide how long they want to be, and that first chapter felt just right the way it was. This chapter is exactly 3,995 words in length, a smidge longer than the first, and I'm not adding the extra five words to make it meet my old standard. As to All Might being a jerk in giving Izuku an autograph after saving his life, such was not the impression I wished to leave, and I'm not entirely sure how that passage is doing it. I may tweak it depending on how this story goes, but for now, it'll remain unchanged.
My muse is very much with me for now, and I can promise the next chapter within a week. After that, I can only hope it'll stick around.
Thanks for reading, and see you all next chapter.
A/N 2.0 (7/26/20): made a fairly significant change to this chapter, tweaked how Izuku's Quirk works and made what's to come a bit clearer. If you're reading this, feel free to ignore the excerpt added to the end of Chapter Seven.