Chapter 1

Shinsou Hitoshi had no idea how he did it, but he did. By the skin of his teeth he passed the entrance exam and made it into the hero course at UA. Even now, weeks after getting the results from a holographic projection of All Might of all people, weeks after getting the uniform, now actively standing in front of the enormous door to Class 1-A, he felt like he was dreaming.

Part of him couldn't get over how tall it was. It made him wonder just who had used this door in the past to require it to be that big. No doubt someone with a giant mutation Quirk that would be perfect for heroics. The kind of person who had always expected to get in, rather than scrape by and snagging the last spot on nothing but spite and luck.

He shook the thought away. Forget it. He'd made it in. He still had no idea how he managed to pass the entrance exam, but he did and he was here. He'd earned his spot, even if he only barely made the cut.

(Seriously, how did he make it in again?)

"Excuse me. Are you gonna head inside, or are you planning to wait out here?"

Hitoshi startled at the voice and spun to see a blond boy waiting behind him with a mild frown. "Yeah, sorry," he said with a nod, feeling slightly embarrassed that he'd left one of his classmates waiting.

"Let me guess, nervous?" the blond said, and Hitoshi nodded as he pushed open the door.

"A bit, yeah." Given it was still early, not many of their classmates had arrived yet. The few there had already taken their seats, and Hitoshi followed suit, keeping in mind the seating chart he'd been sent. Third column, second row. Close to the front, but still with one person shielding him from the teacher. Perfect.

As he sat down he noticed the blond passed by him heading to his own desk, last column, third row, one back diagonally from Hitoshi's. "Hey, chin up!" he said with a grin as he leaned back in his chair. "You made it through the door, you've earned this."

"Yeah, thanks." Hitoshi nodded back and turned forward as more kids filtered inside, idly scoping the competition. Blondie was right: he'd earned this, just like everyone else there.

One heart attack at a caterpillar-hobo and a trip to the fields later, Hitoshi had some mild doubts about his ability to remain there. "Bakugou Katsuki, you got first on the entrance exam, right?" Aizawa called, and the same blond who'd spoken to Hitoshi strolled over to accept the softball and throw it with literally explosive force and a cry of "Die!"

As Hitoshi watched their teacher hold up a device measuring more than seven hundred meters, he really doubted he could pass the Quirk assessment and not get expelled. Brainwashing didn't really lend itself to physical exercise like this.

Somehow though, just like the entrance exam, he did. He struggled through each test, pushing himself to his physical limit, keeping an eye on the scores the whole time. Without a Quirk to boost his odds, he struggled for last place with a boy named Mineta Minoru. In a stroke of desperation at the ball throw, the last test, he used his Quirk to brainwash Uraraka into throwing the ball to get infinite points. Maybe that was enough to get him into nineteenth place, saving him from the threat of expulsion.

The boy in last place, Mineta Minoru, didn't get expelled either though.

(Hitoshi had a feeling that by the end of the year, this class would come to hate the phrase "logical ruse".)

Hitoshi didn't really make many friends, but for once he wasn't the odd one out. With nearly everyone total strangers here, not many cliques formed right off the bat like they had at middle school. Everyone felt a bit awkward, putting out feelers for who to befriend and who to avoid.

Hitoshi was used to this song and dance. Given he'd shown off his Quirk at the assessment, he expected everyone to avoid him. Uraraka certainly kept her distance, though she looked more uncertain than outright hostile. He noticed Bakugou glance his way a few times too, offering an encouraging smile when their eyes met, but Hitoshi quickly averted his gaze. He seemed friendly enough, but Hitoshi didn't feel like pursuing that particular friendship. Finding out the boy had scored first on the entrance exam made him wary of the blond, considering Hitoshi had barely even managed last place.

Things shifted a bit after the first heroics class with All Might of all people. Hitoshi had to pinch himself a few times to make sure it was actually real. Because the universe hated him, he ended up on a villain team with Iida Tenya, up against Bakugou and Uraraka.

They really didn't stand a chance. With his Quirk given away during the Quirk assessment, Hitoshi had no hope of them falling for his questions or taunts. And he wasn't exactly a martial arts master or anything. Seriously, he had no idea how he got into UA.

Surprisingly though, they did last longer than he expected. Mainly because Bakugou and Uraraka split up to search for the bomb, and Uraraka gave herself away when she laughed at Iida's monologue. They actually stood a chance in the following skirmish, teaming up to keep her away from the bomb, up until Bakugou literally burst through the floor. The psycho ignited an explosion on the floor below theirs to make a giant hole right next to where Hitoshi stood, leading to one painful fall.

Seconds later Bakugou slapped the tape around his arm, and All Might's voice announced he was out, immediately followed by declaring the hero team the winner as Uraraka grabbed the bomb while Iida yelled to check if Hitoshi was okay.

"Sorry if that hurt," Bakugou said as he helped Hitoshi up. "You were really loud when you kept trying to get Uraraka to fall for your trick, so I just tried to aim for where you were."

"Gee, thanks," Hitoshi responded sarcastically, feeling more than a little frustrated he'd lost his first exercise as a hero student. Bakugou clapped him on the shoulder with a grin.

"Hey, don't let it get to you that much! Can't help that we're awesome. But you should get something to disguise your voice. Would be way easier to trick people into falling for your Quirk if they don't know it's you talking."

"I'll think about it." Hitoshi probably should have thought of something like that when requesting his costume, but he'd been so surprised he actually got in, he hadn't really planned out what he'd need. He'd definitely make the request though.

The rest of the battle trials passed in relative peace. With it came a better understanding of their classmates, the partnerships pulling some of them out of their shells. When the next day came around and they had to vote on the class representative, Hitoshi wasn't surprised to see Yaoyorozu win after expertly analyzing everyone's performances. Bakugou coming in second was even less of a surprise for the same reason.

Hitoshi getting zero votes was the least surprising bit of all.

What did surprise him was when Iida sat with him at lunch. Apparently the battle trial loosened Iida's attitude a bit, or at least convinced him Hitoshi wouldn't brainwash him after spending fifteen minutes talking to each other. Or maybe he just wanted to admonish Hitoshi.

"You haven't done much training outside of your Quirk, have you?" he asked.

"Not really," Hitoshi admitted, wary of the other boy's presence.

"That is inexcusable! A hero must hone their body and mind, and not be purely dependent on their Quirks!"

"He's right," Tokoyami agreed as he sat next to them, making Hitoshi nearly boggle the bird-headed boy in disbelief.

Tokoyami's presence wasn't actually new. The cafeteria wasn't big enough for everyone to sit alone, so a lot of them sat in kinda random arrangements. While the extroverts tended to band together easily enough, the same went for the other end of the spectrum, leading to quiet lunch periods spent with Tokoyami, Kouda Kouji, and Shouji Mezo. Shouji also joined them today, but Hitoshi noticed Kouda sitting with Satou, who'd worked with him yesterday.

However, Tokoyami talking to him? That was new. So was Shouji speaking. "You should try to train more now that you're here. Aizawa-sensei seemed serious about the expulsion."

"Shouji's got a point." And the surprises didn't end, because here came Bakugou, dropping his lunch tray at the table and plopping down. "Your Quirk ain't flashy or physical, but it's still got some pretty awesome potential if you use it right. Just like Aizawa-sensei. He gets by on strength more than Quirks. Hell, maybe you should go to him for some pointers."

"Bakugou raises a great point!" Iida agreed with a fierce nod. "Aizawa-sensei's Quirk is most definitely not combat-oriented from what we've seen of it, but he is still a great hero if he is employed by UA!"

"You've never heard of him either, have you," Hitoshi asked.

"I have not," Iida admitted a bit sheepishly, and Bakugou snorted.

"'Course you haven't. Eraserhead's underground. Only die-hard nerds and hero fans know about him. Don't think even the people he saves learn his name half the time."

"But if he teaches here, he must be skilled," Tokoyami mused. "So perhaps you can ask him for advice. It sounds like he's suited for working in the shadows, just like us."

"Hey, you don't have any training yet, right?" Bakugou pressed Hitoshi, and he shook his head. "Great. Then you're a freakin' blank slate. Perfect for sensei to teach you everything from scratch, no un-learning stuff required. Maybe you can even ask him about that capture weapon of his."

Hitoshi just stared, feeling a bit overwhelmed by the friendly advice. After years of being lightly ostracized for his Quirk, he wasn't used to people talking to him so genially and without any obvious disdain of his Quirk. Especially not someone who'd scored first on the entrance exam like Bakugou.

He never would have thought he'd be grateful for an alarm, but he was then because it saved him the trouble of responding. But as he watched Iida float in front of the emergency exit sign, telling everyone it would be okay and that it was just the media, he felt a sense of calmness. Maybe high school really would be different like he'd always hoped, he'd finally find friends and actually belong.

Of course, that all came crashing down when villains began to slink out of the misty portals. Watching the plaza at the USJ steadily fill with villains had nearly made Hitoshi's heart stop, knowing even without his teachers saying so that something was horribly wrong here. This was a rescue simulation after all, there was no need for fake villains.

Watching Aizawa leap right into the fray made his heart feel like it was in his throat. Seeing the misty villain appear in front of the entrance to the USJ then made him feel like he was choking on it. Watching Kirishima lunge at the villain despite Bakugou's frantic pleas, and then get swallowed by a void—he was amazed he could even remember how to breathe.

He definitely forgot when the villain then turned his attention to everyone else, the ground beneath his feet turning into an inky void that had him plummeting.

Smoke filled his lungs on his next exhale before he crashed into hard ground, his whole body reverberating at the impact. He quickly rolled to his feet and looked around to see he was in the center of an urban landscape, the buildings almost blindingly bright as fire blazed all around him. He barely had time to cough before he saw movement come his way, jumping to the side to narrowly avoid a punch.

That was when he realized he was surrounded by villains of all shapes and sizes. Fear overtook him for a moment as he took in the crowd converging upon him, menacing silhouettes against the fiery backdrop of the burning city. "Leave me alone!" he shouted.

"Hah, you really think we'd stop because we asked?" one man sneered. That was enough of an opening, and Hitoshi grabbed onto that sliver of control, the man immediately going still while his comrades continued to sneer and taunt Hitoshi.

"Don't attack me, attack each other!" he screamed in desperation. The man did as told, jaw unhinging as he spun to face his compatriots and sending a volley of glittering needles. Angry and confused shouts echoed as Hitoshi scrambled back, racing for the only opening he could see in the flames, a slim gap between two buildings. As he slid out the other side he found himself having to jump to avoid another body, this one airborne and crashing into the wall.


He never felt more grateful to hear a familiar voice. Ojiro stood in front of two more villains, and had clearly just flipped the guy who nearly crashed into Hitoshi. He turned back to sweep his leg at one of villains to knock him off his feet as the man lunged at him, his tail swinging behind him to crash into the other one's stomach.

Once they were down Ojiro raced over to Hitoshi, grabbing his arm to drag him away. Hitoshi didn't protest, matching his pace almost instantly. Adrenaline turned out to be great at making you run faster than you'd ever run.

From there everything was a haze of desperate fighting for their lives, fleeing and fighting in equal parts. Hitoshi's throat felt raw with how often he'd scream at villains to get responses and command them to attack each other, while Ojiro took a more direct approach. Between the two of them, they somehow managed to stay in one piece until they heard the resounding crash of the doors to USJ slamming open signifying backup.

The villains became panicked as they recognized the noise, and started either scattering on their own or intensifying their attacks since they had nothing to lose. Hitoshi ultimately grabbed Ojiro's arm and dragged him to one of the few not burning buildings, and the two took shelter there until heroes arrived minutes later.

The aftermath of the USJ disaster became apparent as they walked out the entrance. No major injuries for the students, but he heard Asui and Mineta's whispers about Aizawa. Heard Shouji quietly assuring a shaken-looking Sero that Thirteen would surely be fine. Saw Uraraka huddled under a blanket with a paramedic while Bakugou hovered nearby, a blank look on his face as he watched one of the ambulances zoom away.

Needless to say, school was cancelled until next Monday. Hitoshi went home to his parents and spent a good chunk of the weekend in his bedroom staring at the ceiling, wondering just where the hell everything went wrong.

On Monday, the aftermath of that disastrous field trip still hung heavy over the classroom, the atmosphere was tenser and quieter than anything he'd ever experienced. No one seemed to know what to say, everyone hovering together in clusters. Hitoshi felt more alone than ever as he sat down, but when Ojiro arrived he nodded at Hitoshi before taking his seat, one forward diagonally to his right.

Something about seeing him calmed Hitoshi's nerves, just a little bit. After surviving something like USJ, it created a sense of kinship that definitely hadn't existed before. Still, he couldn't help but feel a bit anxious as he glanced around the room, noting how every student arrived except one. Judging from the glances cast at the empty desk, everyone else noticed too.

Soon enough the door opened and the tension evaporated into sheer disbelief as Aizawa strolled in, wrapped up in bandages like a mummy. The fact he came into class like that boggled his mind. The man couldn't even use his hands, as many of his peers pointed out, but he ignored it.

"Everyone, I have a serious announcement," he said. "I'm sure you've noticed one person is not here today. After the events at USJ, Bakugou Katsuki has elected to withdraw from UA."

Lunch felt a bit more awkward than usual. Iida sat with him again, but seemed a bit somber. No doubt he was reflecting over the end of last week and his sudden promotion to vice rep after Bakugou's abrupt departure. Hitoshi found himself feeling just as off-kilter.

Though he and Bakugou hadn't spoken much, the blond had seemed nicer than he'd initially expected of someone who ranked number one on the entrance exam. He had been weirdly encouraging and supportive in a way, with all those little bits of advice he gave. Hitoshi found that the classroom felt just a bit emptier without him. And with Shouji and Tokoyami joining Kouda and Satou at another table, this table felt all the emptier too.

The strange mood didn't last more than a minute before Ojiro joined them, unceremoniously setting down his tray to sit next to him. "We should train together," the blond said bluntly, catching Hitoshi off-guard.


"For the Sports Festival. We should train together. You obviously haven't done much training, and I've been doing martial arts my whole life. It would be good for us to practice together."

"That is an excellent idea!" Iida declared, jumping on the opening to break the awkward tension. "Would you be alright if I joined as well?"

"Sure," Ojiro agreed easily, ignoring the fact Hitoshi hadn't even agreed yet. "The more the merrier. Plus we can probably get permission to use one of the gyms if we have more people. Hagakure already said she's interested too, so we can easily have pairs."

"Do you care if I agree or not?" Hitoshi asked, and Ojiro glanced at him.

"Are you going to refuse?" he asked, and Hitoshi frowned.

"...Not really," he admitted reluctantly. He needed all the help he could get, and he knew it. And besides, he trusted Ojiro. They had survived the USJ together. Ojiro had proven himself a reliable enough ally against all those villains, someone Hitoshi could depend on to have his back if things got bad. Training together felt almost like a step down compared to that.

He didn't dwell on it long though, noticing two more people hovering in the corner of his eye and looking their way. Asui and Mineta had to be one of the strangest groupings he'd seen yet, especially given Mineta's demonstrated perverted tendencies. He figured all the girls would want to keep their distance from him. The two spoke in low tones before approaching, their arrival making the others at the table quiet.

"Excuse me," Asui said. "Sorry if we're interrupting anything, kero. Are these seats taken?"

"No, go right ahead," Iida said. "We were just discussing training for the Sports Festival. Ojiro-kun suggested we approach a teacher about training at one of the gyms. Would you perhaps be interested, Asui-san? Mineta-kun?"

"Maybe," Asui said, setting down her tray and sitting next to him. "And call me Tsu, kero." While Iida's face reddened at the invitation to use her first name Hitoshi noted with mild amusement that Mineta had to hop onto the chair to sit down. He quickly turned his attention back to Asui as she spoke again. "We came here for another reason though. Shinsou-kun." He sat straighter at his name, meeting her gaze instinctively. "Are you and Bakugou-kun friends?"

What? "Not really?" he replied after a minute. "We only talked a few times, so I don't know where you got that idea."

Asui tilted her head. "I see. I was hoping you might be, since I saw him speak to you more than others here, kero. He spoke with everyone of course, but he seemed to go out of his way to speak to you." Hitoshi didn't know if that was an insult or not.

"Why are you asking, anyway?" Ojiro asked with a frown. "Kinda random."

"Forgive me. However, Mineta and I were with Bakugou-kun in the flood zone." That was news to Hitoshi. He'd figured Asui and Mineta had gotten sent to the same place since they were together, but he hadn't known Bakugou was there.

"I see," Iida said grimly. "You two must have gone through quite the ordeal if Bakugou-kun dropped out."

"Yeah, it was crazy scary!" Mineta interjected, bobbing his head vigorously. "We dropped right into the water with all those villains ready to rip us to shreds! Then we got onto the boat, but one of them managed to cut into it and make it sink!" Well, that was also news to Hitoshi.

"Freaky," he muttered. "How'd you guys get out?"

"Bakugou-kun noticed that the villains didn't know our Quirks, and came up with a strategy based on that," Asui explained.

"Yeah!" Mineta exclaimed. "They had me throw a bunch of my balls in the water to make them scatter, and then had Asui leap while carrying us!"

"Before that, he also used his Quirk on one of Mineta's balls to make it explode," Asui added. "He shouted at Mineta to be careful before having him throw them at the water so the villains would think they were explosive and scatter, kero. Then while we were jumping, he dropped one of his gauntlets into the water that had a lot of sweat stored up to make an explosion."

"He could do that?" Hitoshi asked in surprise. He thought the grenade-style gauntlets had looked cumbersome and a bit weird for a hero costume, but if it could store Bakugou's explosive sweat, it made a lot more sense. He felt an inkling of respect for his former classmate.

"Apparently," Asui confirmed with a nod. "Which is why his withdrawal is so strange."

"Yeah, even I didn't drop out," Mineta said with a nod. "And Bakugou was so cool and confident the whole time! He freaked out a bit at first, but then he came up with this plan that just totally worked! He even came up with a plan to help save Aizawa-sensei!"

"He did?" Hitoshi felt like he was just repeating himself at this point, but this was also the first he'd heard of that.

"We ended up near the plaza and found Uraraka-san there," Asui explained. "She actually fell through the portal we did too, but was able to use her Quirk on herself before she hit the water. I saw her when we fell, and she was closer to the shore than we were, so she was able to get to land safely. When the villains in the plaza noticed us, Bakugou told Uraraka to use her Quirk on the villain that attacked Aizawa-sensei to make him float while we tried to distract the other one."

"She did what?" Iida asked in horror, Hitoshi feeling his blood chill. While he hadn't seen it, he knew from what he'd overheard that the big, black-skinned villain with the exposed brain had been responsible for Aizawa-sensei's injuries. He glanced across the room towards where Uraraka sat with most of the other girls from their class, smiling and chatting without an apparent care in the world.

"Bakugou noticed that particular villain only seemed to respond to the other one's orders," Asui said. "He thought that Uraraka might not be attacked if she snuck up on him."

"He didn't do anything on his own," Mineta added with a shudder. "He was like a zombie or something. And even when Uraraka slapped him, het just floated there, didn't squirm or anything!"

"That was still incredibly reckless!" Iida admonished.

"It was, but the other villain noticed us though," Asui said. "He tried to grab my face, but Aizawa-sensei erased his Quirk so it wouldn't do anything, kero. We were involved in the fight anyway at that point. Uraraka making Noumu float might have saved our lives since he couldn't move to attack us when the other guy ordered him to."

"And then Bakugou even slammed that Kurogiri guy into the ground!" Mineta continued, eyes shining excitedly. "He didn't hesitate or anything! It was epic!"

"The point is, it seems very strange that Bakugou-kun decided to drop out so suddenly," Asui commented. "He kept a cool head and didn't seem shaken at all by it, kero. That was why I was hoping Shinsou-kun might know his phone number or address. We asked Uraraka too, since they spoke afterwards, but she didn't have either of them. We want to check on him personally, kero." That made sense. After hearing their account of the USJ, Hitoshi found it just as strange that Bakugou would suddenly drop out.

"Hate to say it, but I don't know anything," he said. "Mostly we just talked about training-related stuff."

"If it helps, I think he's local," Ojiro piped up. "We'd ride part of the way on the same train, so we talked a couple times. He recommended some cheap restaurants to me since I moved here from Tokyo. Said his mom really liked this one place. So you can probably look up his family name, I doubt there's many people named 'Bakugou' around here."

Iida seemed a bit torn as he listened. "I... could ask Aizawa-sensei after school," he offered hesitantly. "It isn't normal to ask for peers' addresses, especially former peers, but as the new vice representative I feel obligated to check on him. Aizawa-sensei might give it to me."

"That would be wonderful, Iida-kun. Thank you, kero."

"Don't thank me yet, Asui. I still can't guarantee he'd actually give it to me."

"You're trying though, kero, and that helps. And please, I said call me Tsu."

Conversation turned to the sports festival after that, but the situation with Bakugou hung in the back of Hitoshi's head the rest of the day. After school he hovered a bit longer than he usually would, waiting for Iida to speak to Aizawa. He waited by the gates with Asui, Mineta and Ojiro until the ever-serious vice rep finally emerged from the school's front door with an air of success. Surprisingly he wasn't alone though, Yaoyorozu following close behind.

"We got the address," Iida announced. "It's not far but the next train for that station will leave soon, so let's hurry." The others nodded as they walked along, naturally asking Yaoyorozu about her presence.

"I heard Iida asking Aizawa-sensei about Bakugou, and I want to come too," she explained. "I feel like as class representative, it's my job to check on him too, even if he's no longer part of the class. I hope you don't mind."

"I just hope this isn't too many people," Hitoshi muttered.

"Uraraka's not coming?" Ojiro asked. "I thought she might want to since she was at the flood zone with you guys."

"We planned to ask her, but she already made plans with Ashido and Hagakure," Asui replied. "They're going to go for ice cream after school. They actually invited me, but I declined, kero."

"They came up with the idea at lunch," Yaoyorozu added. "I know Jirou and Kaminari are going too, and Ashido invited Kirishima so Kaminari wouldn't be the only boy. I declined because I wanted to talk to Iida about class representative duties after school. There's not much yet since it's barely the second week, but I thought we should get on the same page. I still want to talk about that after this," she added, to which Iida nodded seriously.

"Of course! I was hoping to do so as well." Hitoshi quietly snorted to himself, unsurprised that Iida took his new role so seriously. He definitely seemed like the diligent type who valued schoolwork above all else.

The trip to the Bakugou household passed relatively peacefully, the group making idle chitchat the whole way. Hitoshi could tell they were trying to avoid talking about Bakugou or the USJ, and saw how everyone tensed as they heard other passengers on the train discuss the disastrous field trip. By the time they finally reached their stop he felt pretty tense after overhearing so many snippets of conversation about it, and he knew the others were no different.

After getting off Yaoyorozu led the way, expertly navigating to the address Aizawa gave her and Iida. The house was larger than Hitoshi expected, three stories with a large, two-story-tall window above the front door and a well-maintained garden. It had to be one of the most modern-looking houses he'd seen, almost intimidating as it towered above them. Ojiro and Mineta seemed similarly daunted as they lingered on the sidewalk.

Once again Yaoyorozu took lead with Asui and Iida close behind, not hesitating to go to the entrance and ring the doorbell. Hitoshi scrambled after them, glancing at the yard with open admiration. Seriously, did they hire landscapers? They had a small garden hidden behind the fence that had clearly been cultivated over the years, even if it had a few weeds in it.

While he studied the yard Yaoyorozu rang the doorbell again. "Strange, no one's answering," she murmured, drawing his attention back to her.

"Maybe they're at work?" Mineta suggested.

"Yeah, maybe the parents, but Bakugou just dropped out of UA," Hitoshi couldn't help quipping. "It's too soon for him to already be enrolled in another school."

"He might have gone to work with one of them," Iida said. "If he was indeed traumatized, it would make sense he wouldn't want to be alone."

Asui tapped a finger to her chin. "Maybe, but if that was the case, wouldn't one of them ask for a day off to stay with him, kero? My mom offered to take a week off work if I wanted to stay home today."

"So did my dad," Ojiro agreed with a nod.

"My folks did too," Hitoshi felt obligated to add. "Had to talk my mom down from following me back on the train from Saitama yesterday."

"You live alone?" Asui asked curiously, and he shrugged.

"Kinda. Our house is a bit too far to commute to UA. Folks knew someone here with a spare room who agreed to rent it to me for cheap as long as I graduate and become a hero."

"I think it's pretty common," Ojiro said. "Hagakure and I moved from Tokyo because it's easier to not have an hour-long commute every day, and I know a few other people in our class come from other prefectures."

"As interesting as that is, there's still no answer," Yaoyoruzu piped up with a frown as she tried the doorbell again.

"I guess they're out then," Hitoshi said with a shrug. "We can try again tomorrow, I guess?" He didn't really feel like waiting until someone eventually came home, and he doubted the others did either. "Or maybe we can ask Aizawa-sensei for their phone number."

"We already tried, but Aizawa-sensei wouldn't give it to us," Iida responded. "He said that it would be easier to unintentionally harass someone by calling their phone than if we only had a physical address."

"I'm surprised he even gave us the address," Yaoyorozu added. "It seems almost like a violation of privacy, so—"

She was cut off by the sound of the door opening, making them all whirl around expectantly. However, to their surprise no one stood there save for Mineta, who stared at the open door in shock. "Uh, guys?" he said after a moment. "Th-the door was open..."

It didn't take long for Iida to slip into scolding mode. "Mineta, trying to open people's doors is incredibly rude! It's already clear no one is home! You didn't even knock, did you?"

"B-but, that's the thing!" Mineta said, turning to look at them wide-eyed. "I was trying to knock, and it—opened! It, it wasn't even closed all the way!" That had them all pausing, turning to look at the doorway with a renewed sense of wariness.

"It... wasn't just unlocked, but not even completely shut?" Ojiro said slowly, and Mineta bobbed his head. For a moment no one spoke, just staring into the house. Hitoshi frowned and stepped closer, swearing he could hear incredibly faint traces of voices.

"Look, Bakugou's shoes are there," Asui piped up, pointing inside. Sure enough Bakugou's sneakers were still by the door, along with a pair of men's shoes and high heels. Only one pair of house slippers was present, and he had a sudden sinking suspicion they were intended for guests.

He could tell the others had similar thoughts, everyone looking at each other uncertainly. Finally Ojiro took a breath. "Does anyone else think they hear... voices?" he asked, and Hitoshi felt himself grow tense.

"Yes," he admitted quietly, and that seemed to be the final push they needed. Slowly Ojiro pushed the door open all the way and crept inside, everyone trailing behind in silence. The interior looked just as modern as the exterior of the house, the windows providing plenty of light. That didn't take away from the creepy ambiance, the sense of something wrong tingling up Hitoshi's spine. Especially as the voices became much more noticeable, even if he couldn't make out words.

"Hello?" Yaoyorozu called, but got no answer. Hitoshi huffed and pulled his blazer a bit tighter. The house felt unusually cold even with the layers of his uniform, making him shiver. Asui crept towards a nearby doorway and peered through it.

"The TV is on," she reported, and Hitoshi joined her to see she was right. The television was on inside the living room, playing some soap opera. He could tell right away this was the source of the voices he'd heard.

"Who leaves on a television while they're gone?" he asked loudly as he walked inside to grab the remote and turn it off. He regretted it though, because the sudden absence of sound made the house feel that much emptier.

"It does seem like they should be home," Iida murmured with a frown, pulling out his phone. "This is very strange. Maybe we should—"

"G-guys?" Mineta called, voice high and tinged with panic. "C-can you come here? Now!?" That had them frowning and quickly hurrying back into the entrance to find him standing in another doorway, looking very pale. When Hitoshi joined him he instantly understood why.

Kitchens, in Hitoshi's experience, had a tendency to get messy. As far as kitchens went this one didn't even stand out that much at first glance. There wasn't food everywhere, and the sink looked empty. But what caught his eye were the knives on the counter, next to several containers of cleaning fluids. Including a large, white jug of bleach. His eyes lingered on that in particular, feeling an overwhelming sense of dread.

"Iida-kun," Asui said tightly, and he glanced over to find her staring at the fridge wide-eyed. "Call the police. Now." The urgency in her voice had Hitoshi startling, glancing at the fridge instinctively. That was when he noticed the spots of brown on the stainless steel handle, the dull stains breaking the reflection from the kitchen lights.

His dread reached an all-time high and became sudden horror.

And then suddenly there was a scream.

They all jumped at the noise from upstairs, the high pitch distinctly feminine. Yaoyorozu, he thought even as he whirled to race towards the stairs. He all but jumped to the top landing, finding Yaoyorozu standing in the hall supported by Ojiro as they stared into an open door. Her face had drained completely of all color, and even Ojiro stared at the doorway with a pale face.

Hitoshi didn't know why he did it. Why he ran over to their side, why he let himself look. He regretted it the second he glimpsed the first bit of red.

The bathroom looked like a murder scene—no, it was a murder scene. Blood everywhere, splashed all over once-pristine white tiles and pale yellow walls to paint them red and brown. The bathtub had the most red of all, and worse yet—

It had an arm draped over the edge. A pale, bloodless arm attached to nothing, the bathtub visibly empty from their viewpoint.

Hitoshi felt his stomach churn as he registered that, and turned to race for the stairs past Iida and Asui to empty his lunch in the front yard.

Murder mystery time! Thanks to CocoaNerd, Bakubye and Snowyh2o for helping spawn this idea over on our Discord server. I started posting it on AO3 on Thursday right after coming up with it, and decided to bring it over here too. Let's hope this doesn't extend past 5-10 chapters for once! (Also a word of warning to anyone who might be on the Ignite server: the openprompts and longficprompts channels reveal the culprit in the original prompt that spawned this idea. That said, some people say even knowing the culprit makes it enjoyable in a different way since there's just a different mystery~)

Title comes from the song "Smoke and Mirrors" by LittleJayneyCakes over on Youtube. Please check out her music, it's amazing!