Beta-read by Greed720 and HardwinPotter
No one knows who threw the first brick.
Before the parliament building, a wall of police in riot gear barred the way, with heroes looming over them on the marble steps leading up the capital. All Might, shrunken in stature yet head held high, stood before the doors, with sunlight gleaming off the costume that hung limply off his skeletal frame. Izuku stood beside him, rings under his eyes, hair a tangled mess, but back straight. New symbol and old, side by side, standing before the tide that threatened to sweep heroism away.
The angry mob, whipped into a frenzy by Trumpet, clamored and howled and beat at the plexiglass shields blocking the way. But, for the moment, the line held. Peace endured. Society hovered on the brink, just a push away from freefall.
A lone brick hurtled through the air. With the mob as tightly packed as it was, no one knew who had thrown it. It could have been a mother of four, fearing the world her children would grow up in. It could have been the elderly man, disgusted with the system his generation had built up and lauded, only to have its crumbling, rotten foundations exposed in a single day. It could have been the university student, believing that history would see him and his generation as liberators, overthrowing an oppressive regime. It could have been a villain, bored with the mounting tension between order and chaos. It could have been Trumpet himself, striking the flint and setting the world ablaze with his own hands.
So focused on the people howling and banging on his shield, the policeman didn't see the brick until it smacked into his face. As he fell, the crowd sensed weakness in the wall. The frontrunners pushed and yanked at the gap. Men tore through, trampling the officer. The gap widened as those frontrunners tore into the police from behind. Heroes rushed forward, restraining people with ropes, coiled metal, and wreathes of ivy, but for every one that went down, five more surged forward.
From his vantage point, Izuku saw Trumpet at the heart of the crowd, heard his booming voice amplified through seven speakers in his mask, and felt the manic energy that surged through the crowd with his every word. Grappling to a building, Izuku swung over the crowd and dove at Trumpet. A man swelled in size and swatted at him with a meaty fist. Izuku rolled mid-air, felt the hand rush past his back, and landed in a crouch.
"Stop him!" Trumpet shouted as he put himself behind his followers. The others eagerly rushed at Izuku. With not enough room to grapple, Izuku punched and kicked his way through the mob. As fast as he moved, the crowd pressed closer and closer on all sides.
Izuku got his opening when someone tried to blow him away with a breath Quirk. Izuku ducked, and the violent blast of wind knocked aside everyone in front of him. With Trumpet exposed, the MLA member scurried back, but Izuku grappled him from his prone position. As they both flew towards each other, Izuku rammed his foot into Trumpet's mask and shattered it.
All at once, the crowd had the fervent energy sucked out of it. The police lines rallied and fought to reform their lines while the heroes mopped up the stragglers on the parliament steps.
Trumpet, bleary-eyed and blood dripping from his nose, stood shakily to his feet. Seeing the crowd falter around him, Trumpet bellowed, "Fight on! Fight on against the heroes that seek to oppress us!"
Some hesitated, but most assaulted Izuku with renewed vigor. Yet, the pressure let up enough for Izuku to bring out his grapples. He snared ankles, pulled people into each other, and blinded some as they ran at him before dodging aside, letting them slam into their allies. Izuku pressed back through the crowd until he reached Trumpet, who was calling for a second helmet.
Izuku shot the phone out of his hand. "You're under arrest for inciting terrorism."
"Under what authority, kid?" Trumpet smirked. "Look around you. The HPSC is already gone, and the Japanese government's next. The MLA's taking over, and we'll make the world the way it's supposed to be."
"I don't know what kind of world you're trying to build," Izuku said, "But it's not worth what you're putting everyone through."
One chop to Trumpet's neck knocked him out cold. A quiet uncertainty filled the air as the rioters backed away from him.
The police barricade, bolstered by the heroes, pushed back against the mob. Between their leader being taken down and the heroes rallying forward, the crowd drew back, leaving an empty gap where the wounded officers hobbled to their feet.
Next to Izuku, a man muttered, "Damn it! We can't beat the heroes! What do we do?"
The ground shook as a black-skinned behemoth landed in front of the police line. Re-Destro, gargantuan from his Quirk's influence, cast his shadow over the police barring the way between him and the seat of Japan's political power.
"Heroes. Police." Re-Destro, using his Quirk to strengthen his throat, made his voice boom across the plaza. "Jailors of a nation that shackles its citizens. You enforce through brutality and televised shows of strength an unnatural way of living. The strong prosper, and the weak are weeded out. That's natural selection. You've encouraged generations of people to sit idle and let the heroes deal with their problems, and this is the result. No more! Today is our liberation!"
Re-Destro kicked. Plexiglass shattered and bodies went flying as the police line crumpled from his attack. Kamui Woods and Backdraft both attacked him, but Re-Destro shrugged off their attacks.
All Might strode forward. His muscles bulged as the last embers of One for All flared in his chest. A single punch shook the very air around them, but Re-Destro took it in the chest with a soft grunt.
"All Might." Re-Destro rolled his neck. "You were great, once. Stronger than anyone else. But now? Look at you. You're a shell, with all the appearance of strength and none of the substance. Your time is over."
"Maybe you're right," All Might admitted. "But I entrust the future to my fellow heroes."
"Who? Endeavor, with his reputation tarnished? Hawks, the attack dog of the deceased HPSC? Miruko, Yoroi Musha, Ryukyu, still laid up from one villain's attack?" Yotsubashi sneered. "Quirkless Midoriya? Face it, All Might, the era of heroes is over. Even if I fall here today, everyone will remember that their heroes can't protect them. They'll rise up and tear down your system."
"Maybe they will, and maybe they should," All Might admitted, "But you're the last person who should decide what they build in its place."
Re-Destro punched. All Might narrowly ducked aside and threw his own haymaker. The two titans exchanged blows, shaking the earth with every step they took.
Even as their battle raged on, the riot continued, though the civilian elements were more interested in scrambling away from the colliding titans than pressing against the police lines. Despite the imminent danger, a handful of rowdier people took potshots at Izuku as he scrambled back towards the parliament building.
With Trumpet over one shoulder, Izuku ducked and sidestepped blades, punches, and gouts of fire. His free arm threw grapples and snared ankles, tripping anyone trying to take a shot at him. The police, seeing him cleave his way towards them, sent their own forces forward, clearing a path for the Quirkless Hero.
Finally out of the fighting, Izuku stuck an earpiece into his ear and spoke. "He's here. How close is Hawks?"
"About five minutes out," Nezu said over the earpiece. "Keep the line open. I'll have more information for you once I get in touch with Ragdoll."
"Should I help him?" Izuku asked as All Might took a punch to his left side. Even as he coughed up blood, All Might gritted his teeth and retaliated with a swift uppercut.
"They're televising this across Japan," Nezu said. "The riots have quieted down, but that could change if more heroes join in. Whatever happens, the battle between them decides Japan's fate, and I fear Yotsubashi may have stacked the deck. Sweep the nearby rooftops. I can handle the interiors."
Izuku looked around. Buildings loomed over him in every direction, and though the city's zoning laws prohibited skyscrapers within ten blocks of the government building, real estate values encouraged people to build up as much as they could get away with. Worse, the shorter buildings in the area meant that Nagant could have a clean shot from a skyscraper half a city away.
"I'll see what I can do."
After accepting a refill from the police officers, Izuku grappled up a building. A few villains tried attacking him, but Izuku swung around a corner and shot up the wall. Perched high above the battle, Izuku scanned the rooftops. Bulky air conditioners and solar panels cluttered many rooftops, providing hiding spots. Izuku swung around the plaza in a circle, checking every spot, before expanding his search.
While checking, he kept tabs on the battle. The stairs had turned into a pile of rubble, and a cracked water pipe spurted water into the air. All Might wiped blood off his chin as he took ragged breaths. Re-Destro rolled his shoulders, visibly relaxed and breathing evenly.
"Slowing down already? Old age really is catching up to you."
All Might spat a red glob of spit on the ground. "Big words from someone too afraid to face me in my prime."
Re-Destro scowled and charged forward. His fists came down in a rain of blows, but All Might bobbed and weaved with the grace of an expert boxer, diverting blows with his arms and elbows. The moment Yotsubashi overextended himself, All Might threw a fast jab at Re-Destro's jaw. As the MLA leader reeled back, All Might threw punch after punch, hammering his hardened face.
Re-Destro headbutted forward, surprising All Might as his next blow glanced off the man's forehead. Taking advantage of the hero's surprise, Re-Destro threw another punch into All Might's gut, staggering the hero and forcing more bloody coughs out of him.
"I must say," Re-Destro said, "I'm impressed you kept up the charade as long as you did. Even I never knew what happened at Kamino all those years ago, and the Commission did a masterful job drawing attention away from your dwinding activity." Re-Destro rubbed at his nose, checking whether or not it had broken. "But then, if I had moved too early, All for One would have stolen my thunder. So, in a way, I should be thanking you." He gestured at the rubble and ruin around them. "You made this all possible."
"Then I'll have to make sure that possibility never happens!"
All Might feinted left and kicked with his leg. Re-Destro's knee held, but the blow forced him back a step. All Might punched the same knee, hammering it with three quick blows before switching to another face shot. A loud crack boomed across the plaza, but the right cross to Re-Destro's cheek barely turned his head. Re-Destro grabbed All Might's wrist and flung the hero at a building. Policemen scrambled aside as All Might slammed through a brick wall.
As All Might clambered out of the rubble, he eyed the apartment building teetering ominously on half a load-bearing wall. With a flick of his finger, the rest of the wall gave out. Steel groaned and snapped as the building leaned towards Re-Destro.
With a whole building falling on top of him, Re-Destro punched up. Bricks and concrete burst up in a geyser of rubble, showering the plaza with masonry chunks the size of peoples' heads. Police raised their shields to weather the deadly rain, while the civilians scrambled for cover further away from the fight.
Sprinting through the building's husk, All Might slammed Re-Destro through the fallen ceiling. He got in another punch before Re-Destro grabbed his wrist, twisted, and threw a punch into the small of All Might's back.
Staggering away, All Might grabbed a brick and threw it with superhuman strength. It shattered against Re-Destro's shoulder. The CEO didn't even flinch. Two more bricks pelted Re-Destro's chest as the black titan strode through the strewn rubble. All Might threw another punch, and Re-Destro leaned into it, driving his own fist into All Might's chest. All Might spun aside, only taking a glancing blow to his old injury, but the minor jolt still sent another dribble of blood down his chin.
"I think it's time we finish this, don't you agree?" Re-Destro asked. One hand curled around into an L behind his back, giving the silent signal to liberate Japan.
Izuku saw a flicker of movement out of the corner of his eye. Little more than a speck on a distant rooftop, Nagant emerged from under a tarp and morphed her arm into a rifle. Izuku fired a grapple, knowing full well it wouldn't reach from a quarter mile away. With a soft, muffled pop, a single bullet shot across the Kyoto skyline.
Anyone with a good view would have seen the blood fly just as Re-Destro threw his punch. But, between the near-microscopic size of the bullet Nagant had used, the careful angling of cameras recording the fight, and the crumbling, fallen wall shielding most of All Might's back, all that the citizens, heroes, and villains of the world saw was All Might's collapse after Re-Destro's fist rammed into his chest.
Steam billowed as the last vestiges of One for All evaporated, leaving a shrunken man clutching the hole in his side. Blood gushed through his fingers, and a feeble cough sent more running down his chin.
The crowd watched in silent awe and horror as their Symbol bled out on the shattered pavement. Heroes and policemen alike froze, hands shaking, feeling their world crumble underneath their feet.
"At long last," Re-Destro said. "We are liberated."
As Re-Destro raised his bloodied fist into the air, Toshinori curled his hands into fists. Arms trembling, head spinning from blood loss, Toshinori rose to his feet. Dead silence filled the plaza as heroes and rioters, police and villains, all watched him stand tall. A strong gust blew through the streets, and the sunlight flickered as it shone through gaps in the smoke looming over the city.
"So long as there is hope," Toshinori rasped, his voice made audibly only by the deafening silence, "So long as there is kindness, there will always be heroes."
Re-Destro grinned. "Then I'll crush them too. Heroes have no place in a world made for the strong."
Re-Destro raised his fist, reveling in the moment, while All Might stared stoically into the face of the man poised to kill him. As the blackened fist flew forward once more, two grapples coiled around his wrist. Using a fallen support beam as a pulley, Izuku looped himself around the broken skeleton of the fallen building and heaved Re-Destro's arm upwards with all his strength. The resulting punch grazed Toshinori's scalp. Though the blow sent him staggering back, the wounded hero kept himself on his feet.
"Get him to safety!" Izuku shouted at a nearby hero as he shot wires at Re-Destro's face. With the villain distracted by the sticky black strands blocking his vision, sidekicks rushed in and helped Toshinori away from the battle. Once Re-Destro tore the threads away, he hunted for Toshinori, but Izuku kicked him in the back of the head. Even with his suit's strength enhancements and iron-soled boots turning his kick into a sledgehammer, the black villain didn't twitch.
"How arrogant of you," Re-Destro said as he turned towards his new opponent. "All Might, as weak as he has become, has far more power than a meager, Quirkless runt like you. What makes you think you have even the slightest chance of defeating me?"
"Being a hero isn't about defeating anyone," Izuku answered. "It's about saving as many people as you can."
Re-Destro roared and charged at Izuku with a flurry of wild punches. With razor-sharp reflexes, Izuku wove his way through each attack and kicked at the villain's legs every chance he got. All the while, Izuku kept his back to a wall, fully conscious that straying out of cover could open himself up to Nagant's bullets. Masonry flew in stinging pellets as Re-Destro punched through the building while trying to hit Izuku.
Izuku ducked aside as a large chunk fell and shattered on top of ReDestro. As Izuku ran for sturdier cover, he asked in a low voice over the radio, "What's the ETA on Hawks?"
"Ragdoll is in position, and he's keeping Nagant busy. Buy some more time."
Izuku strung wires across buildings and light fixtures. Having shaken off loose bricks and dust, Re-Destro smirked at the tangle of wires and charged through. The first few wires snapped under the force of his charge, but some further in, rather than breaking, dragged the damaged building down on top of him. As Re-Destro tried punching the falling building aside, Izuku shot another wire, tangling his arms just long enough for the building to crash on top of him.
Re-Destro rose from the ruined building with a roar and tore the cable around him in half. Panting more from frustration than any sense of exhaustion, the villain roared, "I've had enough of your games, you pathetic worm! I'll put you in the dirt, exactly where you belong!"
Re-Destro's punches sped up as his skin grew darker and darker. Fast as the villain was, his sloppy technique left Izuku openings just large enough to slip through. Wind brushed his chest and face every time Re-Destro's fists came within millimeters of grinding him into hamburger.
"Ragdoll here." A new voice crackled over Izuku's earpiece. "I'll need a bit of time. His Quirk's protecting every part of his body, so I have to run through other options."
"Will we need Midnight or Eraserhead?" Nezu asked.
"Either one would work," Ragdoll answered. "Do you have any way to suffocate him? His cardiovascular activity has greatly increased, and he's using more oxygen than normal. He'll black out if he runs out of air."
"For how long?"
"Ten… no, fifteen seconds."
"I'll see if we have CO2 canisters we can drop on him. Keep looking."
Grimacing at his lack of options, Izuku drew his hookblades. Though he dragged their sharp edges across Re-Destro's arm after he overextended on his punch, he didn't even break through his skin.
"You disgust me," Re-Destro said as he flexed his arms, purposefully showing Izuku how little impact he had on him. "You had arguably the strongest meta-ability in the world. You could see the future. Imagine how much you could have accomplished if you had used it! Stock investments, business ventures, you could have amassed a fortune that would have made Mansa Musa weep!"
A vicious crushing blow slammed towards Izuku. He dodged aside as concrete exploded under Re-Destro's fist.
"And instead, you spent your entire life pretending to be weak! Holding yourself back, bowing and scraping before paupers that fancied themselves kings!"
The next punch came too quickly for Izuku to completely avoid. It barely clipped his shoulder, but the blow, with the force of a runaway train, sent him flying across the rubble. Izuku flipped through the air and nimbly landed on his feet, resisting the urge to rub his shoulder even though it throbbed painfully.
Re-Destro sauntered towards him, crushing stone like skulls beneath his feet. "Who could have challenged you? All Might's all muscle and no brain, Nezu himself can't outwit someone who can read his every move. Even All for One, who had hand-picked the most powerful Quirks over the past century, fell before you!"
Izuku's bad shoulder screamed as he grappled out of the path of a boulder Re-Destro kicked towards him. He dropped the grapple and rolled just before the villain crashed through his intended flight path. Izuku kicked at his ankle and leapt away before a kick crushed his ribs.
"All that, however, doesn't infuriate nearly as much as what you did with your Quirk!" A vein throbbed in Re-Destro's head as what little light remained in his skin disappeared into inky blackness. "You could have beaten All for One any number of ways. Used any number of heroes with their meta-abilities, any technology conceivable, or ambush him where he least expected it. Instead, you chose to give him your power! Chose to make yourself Quirkless! Chose to throw away the greatest meta-Ability the world had ever seen, greater than even All for One!"
Re-Destro punctuated each shout with an air-rending punch. Izuku winced as powerful claps of air, just shy of breaking the sound barrier, slapped his face and arms. He stuck grapples to the villain's arms to slow down the punches just enough to sprint out of the narrow alleyway.
A shadow passed over Izuku. He scrambled back as Re-Destro landed with a stone-splitting crack. Dusting himself off, Re-Destro glared down at Izuku and said, "Tell me why. Why did you throw it all away? Why do you mock the will of Destro with every action you take, every word you speak, every breath you take! Why did you give up your meta-ability?"
Panting, Izuku drew out the silence as long as he could to give his limbs a chance to rest. He pinged his radio, a silent request for a status update. Nezu said, "Stall for five more minutes. We've got multiple countermeasures en route."
Just before he sensed Re-Destro running out of patience, Izuku straightened his back and rolled his shoulders. "You think my Quirk was great, Yotsubashi-san? It ruined my life. It crushed my dreams, told me I would never amount to anything, and if it had its way, I would've died before I could even go to U.A. I didn't even realize what it felt like to be alive until I stopped using it."
Izuku chuckled despite the devastation around him. "Learning to set it aside was hard. I was so used to knowing everything that would ever happen that suddenly not knowing made me an anxious mess. But, tasting my ice cream rather than eating it, watching a movie for the first time instead of the millionth, sketching art without knowing how it'll turn out, all of that made it worth it."
Re-Destro gave him a look of disbelief. "Are you saying you gave up your meta-ability because… what, you felt like it?"
Izuku shrugged. "I'm far happier without it. Besides, I think it was poetic that All for One was defeated by claiming the very Quirk he sought the most."
Izuku tensed, prepared for Re-Destro to pounce on him. As the silence stretched out, Re-Destro broke it by howling with laughter.
"You gave up all that power to be happy? How nauseating! That's exactly the kind of tripe the Commission would crap out to delude the masses into thinking that it's okay to be weak. I'm going to show the world once and for all that our meta-abilities are the only thing that matter. I'll show you all what true power looks like!"
A pale patch of skin appeared on Yotsubashi's arm. Taking out a small phial of black liquid, Re-Destro pressed its needle against his skin and winced as it shot its dose of Trigger into his veins. The skin around the needle went pitch black, seeming to drink in the light around it. Veins bulged outward, so gorged with blood they looked ready to explode, and his muscles drank in that extra blood, writhing and expanding until his right arm grew thick as a tree trunk.
Within seconds, the transformation coursed through Re-Destro's body. His face grew stretched from his bulging muscles, his grin frozen in a Nomu rictus, every crevice of his skull visible beneath the taut skin. Beady, bloodshot eyes, shrunken into the mass of muscle surrounding his cheekbones, gazed with manic madness upon Izuku.
Ragdoll called out over the radio, her voice frantic. "His weaknesses are fading! Even the CO2 trick won't work, he's running off of anaerobic respiration! What's happening out there?"
"Deku…" Re-Destro rasped. "I will show everyone you are just as worthless as your name."
A/N: boy howdy did this chapter not want to be written. Between getting COVID, mopping up another story in the works, losing another tech on my shift, and plain old writer's block, this took me far longer than I ever wanted it to.
That said, I am satisfied with it. And that's all that matters.
Life's still rough, but I think I can get the next one churned out before the end of this month. Here's hoping. Until then, enjoy.