Chapter 28

.:. Tournament Continues .:.

The match between Yoarashi Inasa and Honenuki Juzo could barely be called a match. The only reason it didn't end instantly was because Honenuki managed to sink his legs into the stone tile with his Quirk. Otherwise, he would've been blown out of the ring immediately by the gust of wind. Even then, he didn't have time to brace himself for Yoarashi to deliver a flying punch at his face, knocking him out.

The next match could also barely be called such, but for totally different reasons.

"Oh no," Izuku muttered as Todoroki entered the arena, feeling his face drain of color. His friends turned to look at him with concern.

"Midoriya, is everything okay?" Iida asked. Izuku couldn't respond, gaze focused on Todoroki. He wore what looked like a harness with some sort of rectangular backpack attached to it, a stubby turret of some sort mounted to his right shoulder, wrap-around goggles, and a few other technological odds and ends. All of them bore the same minimalist color scheme and slightly bulky construction. It was an aesthetic that was all-too-familiar to Izuku.

"Bakugou?" he heard Kirishima say behind him.

"Fuck," Bakugou choked from the row behind him. "He can't be that stupid, can he?"

As if to confirm their worst fears, Hatsume bounced onto the arena with a jaunty wave to the audience. Snipe intercepted her, their voices too quiet for the cameras and crowd to pick up. His mask made it impossible to tell his thoughts. The bright, unflinching grin on Hatsume's face told Izuku enough though.

"They wouldn't," he whispered, starting to shake. "They—they wouldn't let her, would they?"

Snipe threw up his arms in exasperation as he turned to stalk back to Cementoss's side, and Izuku knew. "They would," Bakugou whispered.

Izuku whimpered as he watched Hatsume go to the arena. "Kacchan, I'm scared."

"Me too," Bakugou said quietly, fists tightening on his lap.

"Well folks, Todoroki is apparently sporting some new gear, courtesy of his own opponent!" Mic announced. "This is unusual, but they cleared it with Snipe! So the match will go on!"

"Begin!" Snipe called, and Hatsume grinned as she turned—not to Todoroki, but to face the audience. Surprisingly Todoroki made no move to attack her, just stood patiently, and Izuku realized then that he must be in on whatever was happening.

"Hello, everyone!" she greeted, her voice echoing around the arena clearly. Some of their classmates jolted in surprise, but Izuku and Bakugou remained petrified. "Prepare for a grand exhibition of my latest and greatest inventions!"

Izuku smelled burnt sugar as Bakugou's palms began involuntarily smoking in response to the perceived threat. Izuku's own hands clutched harder around his notebook, the two of them both seeking comfort in their own ways as they watched the demonstration of the very things that haunted their nightmares.

"—and Kendo is responding fast, but is it enough?"

Mic's voice echoed from the television in the waiting room, Ochako watching the screen tensely. Todoroki and Hatsume's match had ended with the inventor forfeiting after using Todoroki to demonstrate all of her inventions, and the tournament moved on to Kendo and Yaoyorozu.

It was an intense match, Yaoyorozu producing a bo staff to fend off Kendo's flurry of attacks. Kendo had snapped it easily enough, and forced Yaoyorozu to change strategy to something more ranged. At this point the arena was littered with landmines, one of which had already nearly launched Kendo out of the arena, forcing her to choose her foot placement carefully. Yaoyorozu now carried a handheld baseball launcher, loaded with acorns of all things. She used it to keep the other girl constantly moving to try to avoid the onslaught of acorns, dancing around the arena and mines.

Ochako knew the match wouldn't last much longer, and once it ended, it would be her turn. Her heart pounded at the thought, nervous and excited at the same time. She didn't know her opponent at all, so she was going in blind. Still, she could do this. She'd faced far scarier things than another teenager.

On the screen Kendo finally misstepped onto another one of the landmines, causing a small plume of brightly-colored smoke to erupt as she was knocked back towards the edge. Yaoyorozu then threw the acorn launcher itself at Kendo and it hit her right in the stomach, catching her just enough off-balance to push her the rest of the way out of the arena.

"And Kendo is out of bounds! Yaoyorozu wins!"

As the crowd cheered Ochako rose from the bench to make her way to the arena, knowing her turn was next.

Cementoss didn't need long to repair the arena; the landmines were weak, and Kendo had only triggered three of them. The damage was gone as if it never existed by the time Ochako reached the gate, waiting for Snipe's signal to stride into the light. She held her head high as she strode onto the arena, a blond boy with gray-blue eyes approaching from the opposite side with similar confidence. And for some reason, he wasn't wearing shoes.

Monoma Neito. Ochako had heard his name from Kendo and the other 1-B students at the dorms, but she hadn't heard much. She'd considered asking about his Quirk before the match, but given he was representing their class in the festival, she'd decided to not put her friends in a difficult spot deciding if they should tell her or not. All she knew was that it was probably transformation-type or emitter given he lacked any obvious mutations.

He flashed her an unworried smile that didn't fully reach his eyes. "From what I've heard, you performed quite admirably during the entrance exam. I hope you won't mind me stealing that spotlight for myself."

"You're the one who's going to lose," Ochako countered, fire in her eyes as her fists clenched at her sides.

"Begin!" Snipe announced, and Ochako charged. Even if she didn't know what his Quirk was, she couldn't just play it safe and keep her distance until he showed it. In an empty arena with nothing loose to use as a weapon, Zero Gravity would only work at close range. Her best bet was to use her Quirk to make him float and shove him out of the arena as fast as possible.

Monoma was ready though, side-stepping her lunge and turning his skin a shimmering silver color as he flung his arm at her side. It wasn't a punch or anything refined, just his forearm colliding with her side, but she cried out as it felt like metal slammed into her. The impact had her stumbling and falling onto her side, her ribs smarting from the hit.

"Hope that wasn't too hard," he taunted, and Ochako grit her teeth as she quickly got back to her feet. He was already charging at her again for another hit, and she tapped her own arm as she kicked off the ground, shooting out of his range. She couldn't hold it for long, and she quickly descended to land a short but safe distance away from him. Even as she did his body lost its metallic sheen, returning to its original peachy hue.

Okay, so he could turn his body into metal. That made close-range combat much more difficult—

"Oh crap," she whispered, rapidly paling when his arms then rippled with green scales. A second Quirk! She yelped as he swung his arm and sent off a volley of scales, dodging out of the way as they sliced through the air where she'd stood. His aim wasn't perfect, the scales flinging in a wide and vastly uneven arc, but she still winced as one of them managed to nick her arm.

Okay, so he could turn his body into metal, and grow very sharp scales. That made two Quirks that he could use at both short and long range. This would be way harder than she thought. She braced herself as he charged again, the scales vanishing as he stomped a foot against the tile—

"WHAT THE ACTUAL HECK?" she blurted as the tile suddenly rippled around his foot like mud. She recoiled and staggered back, more shocked than anything else. Three Quirks? He had three Quirks? But how? She thought people went Kaijin if they had more than two! It could be related to one of his other Quirks, but she seriously doubted it.

The ripple in the ground shot forwards, spreading towards her at a rapid speed, and in her shock at seeing a third Quirk it didn't register right away. By the time she did it was too late, jolting and trying to dodge only to yelp as her feet sunk into the stone. Not too deep, but enough to catch her off-guard.

Another stomp had the stone hardening, the neat grid-like tiles no longer quite so neat or smooth as before. It also trapped her in the stone, her left foot stuck up to her ankle. She managed to pry her right foot free, unfortunately having to leave her shoe behind, but it would take a lot of effort to free the other one.

Her gaze snapped up to stare at Monoma wide-eyed as he approached her with a smirk, casually strolling at her at a nonchalant speed. "How?" she sputtered. "How are you—?" She stopped short, not even sure how to phrase her question.

"How am I using three Quirks?" he asked. "A good question, but one I'd rather not answer. After all, I don't want you telling whoever else from your class I might face in the next round." Even as he spoke his skin shimmered and his whole body turned silver, gleaming in the sunlight as he charged.

Ochako's mind went blank as she saw him lunging, body held low and arms out for a classic tackle. As he approached, her own hands reflexively shot out to grab his shoulder and under the opposite armpit, and then her body twisted, her hip jutting against him as she did. Her left foot ached as she turned it at the most awkward angle with it still trapped, the full weight of her body pressing down on it, but she barely noticed.

Monoma's body rolled over her shoulder, her right leg lifting to hook around his own right leg. He flung through the air with a stunned look, Zero Gravity sending him careening away from her and right into a wall. He still looked absolutely stunned even as the wall cracked and chipped under his metal body, jaw hanging open.

"And Monoma is suddenly out of bounds!" Mic announced. "Uraraka wins!"

The crowd erupted even as Ochako stood in shock. Thank you self-defense classes, she thought, before suddenly registering the sharp pain in her ankle that had her crying out and dropping to a crouch. Ankles were not supposed to turn like that, and she'd put her entire weight on it.

Lesson learned: reflexes rocked, but also sucked when they didn't account for your immediate surroundings.

Five minutes in, and Izuku's match with Tsuyu had basically become a game of tag.

Crash gave him a speed and strength boost, but Tsuyu's Quirk made her incredibly agile. She easily leaped out of the way of Izuku's charges, hopping around the arena like, well, a frog. Izuku was fortunately used to dealing with highly mobile opponents thanks to his training with Gran Torino. That didn't make it any less tiring though, especially since she kept using her tongue to try to shove him out of bounds which forced him to constantly dodge.

Their skills basically made them a surprisingly even match. In the end, the match became a matter of who could push the other person out of the ring first. So, yeah, they were basically playing tag. Very destructive tag, as he kept diving out of the way with Crash and breaking tiles in the process.

A good chunk of the arena had been chipped, cracked, dented, and otherwise damaged by the time Izuku finally managed to tackle Tsuyu out of the ring. His shoulders heaved and he panted heavily as Snipe called the match and Mic announced his victory, thoroughly exhausted.

"Good match," he managed to gasp out, holding a hand to Tsuyu where she'd hit the ground. She took it without hesitation, allowing him to help her up.

"That was, very good, kero," she agreed, also a bit breathless and having to pause to catch her breath. "Tiring, but good. Kero." Izuku smiled, too tired to say anything else in response. He hadn't expected his first match to play out like that, but it was still a good fight. Even if they didn't actually do much actual fighting.

"Well folks, we'll need a few minutes for Cementoss to fix up the ring, so now's the time to run to the bathroom, grab snacks, or anything else!" Mic announced over the loudspeakers. "We'll be back in ten minutes for the final match of the first round!" Izuku and Tsuyu filed off the field together, using the same gate to leave the arena since they'd go to rejoin the rest of their class anyway.

As expected, their classmates were waiting for them eager to congratulate them on a job well done. "That looked fun!" Ashido exclaimed. "I didn't think watching people just jump around could be that fun!"

"Yeah, I thought it'd be kinda boring, but it wasn't," Kaminari agreed. "We were all shouting every time there was a near miss! Like, 'Woah! So close!'"

"It looked exhausting," Komori groaned, uncharacteristically gloomy as she slumped in her seat. "I'm glad I didn't make it to the last round now."

"Komori-san, that is hardly a fitting attitude for a hero in training!" Iida scolded, but she just sank further into her chair with another whine.

"I can't help it! I like being a hero and I know I'll have to fight, but I still don't like doing sports and stuff like that! My Quirk's long-range anyway, so I won't have to move that much."

"You'll get over it eventually," Awase said with a dismissive shrug, and some of the others snickered while Komori whined and protested. Izuku ignored it and collapsed into the empty seat between Uraraka and Tsuburaba, slumping with a tired groan.

"You okay, Deku?" she asked, and he offered a tired thumbs up and a smile. He was still waiting for his breath to come back.

"You really tore up the ring," Tsuburaba commented, and they all glanced down at the arena where Cementoss was busy fixing it. Izuku was surprised to see the extent of the damage. While inside the ring it hadn't looked too bad, but from here he could see he'd torn up a good quarter of it. A few tiles looked like they'd been ground close to dust, though Cementoss fortunately didn't seem to have much trouble fixing them.

It kind of reminded him of when his mom first activated Crash. All she'd done was trip and bump her arm against a wall, and it made a big hole. Sometimes, he forgot how destructive the Quirk could be.

Still, fighting Tsuyu had exposed a lot of weaknesses and areas to improve. Crash didn't have the flexibility—both literal and figuratively—provided by Frog. It had one primary ability, the power to propel himself in a given direction, complete with a protective forcefield that had durability proportional to his momentum. It had very clear limits and couldn't stop instantly once he deactivated it; he was still subject to laws of physics.

But, maybe if he trained enough, he could manifest that protective forcefield separately? It protected him well enough when crashing into stuff, it would be useful for defense as a standalone power. Except since the forcefield's strength was proportional to his speed, it wouldn't be too strong if he was just standing still with it. Maybe if he did a tiny burst of speed, like one step, and activated Crash and grew a barrier then—

His thoughts halted as he heard Tsuburaba chuckle beside him. "Midoriya, I'm sorry, but it's really funny hearing you mumble while out of breath," he said with a grin. "You just keep pausing and wheezing super quietly, and I don't think you even notice it!"

Izuku blinked but then realized he felt a little more breathless than before, so he settled for a shrug and sheepish smile. Usually he'd be more self-conscious about his mumbling habit, but he could tell Tsuburaba wasn't making fun of him like his former classmates would. He seemed genuinely amused by it, and that felt... oddly nice. Maybe because it was a sign of acceptance.

He pushed the thought away as he turned to Uraraka, feeling he'd replenished enough oxygen to finally speak a few sentences. "Hey, what was that? When you flipped Monoma?"

He'd wanted to ask her right away, but she'd had to go to Recovery Girl for her ankle, so there hadn't been time for them to talk before his own match. While he'd of course expected to see some martial arts and other non-Quirk-related combat skills, they hadn't learned how to flip people like that in the hero course. And Uraraka hadn't shown any definitive martial arts skills like that in training, either.

She sat up a bit straighter at the question, looking a bit surprised. "Oh, that? That was nothing."

"Nothing?" Shinsou snorted from her other side, leaning forward to smirk at her. "You basically threw him through the air. And don't try to say you got lucky."

"That looked automatic like you've practiced it a lot," Izuku added with a nod. "Like you didn't even need to think about it." The throw had been so smooth and fluid, it had clearly been a deeply embedded reflex.

"Yeah, have you been holding back on us?" Tsuburaba teased with a grin.

Uraraka looked flustered at the attention, squirming in her seat. "No, I just did a lot of self defense training is all," she said, tapping her fingers together. "My parents enrolled me after... some stuff happened, when I was a kid. I didn't learn much about fighting, just self defense, and it was years ago. I stopped during middle school. When I saw Monoma charging, I guess some of the instinct just automatically kicked in though."

"Yeah, well, your instinct was awesome!" Ashido exclaimed, having apparently tuned into the conversation. "And that guy looked so shocked when you threw him!"

"It was pretty impressive," Kodai declared with a nod. And something about her saying it made it feel all the more true and factual.

Uraraka's face flushed as she smiled, ducking her head bashfully. "Thanks, guys," she said. "I still don't think it was that impressive though. I'm pretty rusty at it. But anyways, looks like Cementoss is almost done." She nodded at the arena, which sure enough was almost back to its original state. "Who do you think will win the next match?"

That had everyone going into analysis mode. "It's that green-haired girl from 1-B and the bird boy from 1-E, right?" Tsuburaba asked.

"Bird boy sounds like Tokoyami," Shinsou commented, making the boy in question briefly glance their way before returning to his own conversation with Shouji, Awase and Satou.

"Yeah, Tokage and Kouda," Izuku said, recalling the names. He twisted in his seat to face Todoroki, who was sitting next to Jirou and Yaoyorozu in the row behind them. "Todoroki, you mentioned while we were planning our strategy that Tokage was a recommendation student, didn't you?"

"She is," he confirmed with a nod. "From what I remember, she can split apart her body and move all the pieces independently."

"So like, she can send a literal flying kick with her severed foot?" Shinsou asked, and Todoroki shrugged.

"I guess, though she didn't do that at the recommendation exam. I don't know much about it, I just remember seeing her head fly across the finish line."

That would have been quite the sight to see if one wasn't ready for it. "Okay, so assuming she can fully control all the pieces of her body, that gives her a lot of options," Izuku said with a nod. "And then Kouda-kun..." He trailed off with a frown.

The sight of the massive flock of birds blotting out the sun had certainly left an impression. However, that alone didn't reveal what, exactly, his Quirk was. "The birds attacked the pole his team was after and parted for him, so there's some sort of control aspect. Is it telepathic, maybe? Is it restricted to birds, or can it work with any animal? Or what if he basically possesses them like a hive mind? Does it work similar to Brainwashing with the commands, or does it basically just nudge them into action?"

"Huh, I never thought I'd hear my Quirk used to analyze another Quirk like that," Shinsou mused.

"There's also the question of whether he has another Quirk," Izuku continued. "His head's shape is pretty distinct and his body is pretty stocky, which makes me think a mutant-type Quirk, but it's hard to say whether it's just a cosmetic mutation like Tokoyami's head or Ashido's horns." He frowned, rubbing his chin before twisting in his seat to look towards Tokoyami. "Hey, Tokoyami? Do you know anything about Kouda's Quirk? Or if he has a second one?"

Tokoyami fortunately heard him despite the distance between their seats, and turned to answer him. "I do not. I had no inklings of his plan until it came to fruition. I do not know how his control over nature works precisely, only that it is a power with a very vast potential which should not be treated lightly."

So that provided little to work with. "Well, at the very least, the birds might be a bad match for Tokage," he decided.

"What do you mean?" Uraraka asked. "Wouldn't it be kinda easy for her to avoid them crowding around her by just splitting up?"

"It would also make it easier for the birds to eat up pieces of her," Izuku replied absently. After all, splitting up would make the pieces of her body smaller, and thus easier to fit inside a bird's beak. Especially if it provided access to her internal organs—

"Oh gods," Ashido cut in faintly, and Izuku stopped abruptly upon realizing he'd been muttering aloud. A glance showed his friends and other nearby classmates looked a bit queasy and horrified.

"S-sorry!" he squeaked, but the damage was done. His friends were now haunted by some very vivid mental images of how the next match could unfold.

Yaoyorozu, who'd also been close enough to overhear, leaned forward with a reassuring (if somewhat sickly) smile. "Um, I don't think we'll have to worry about anything like that. Tokage is very intelligent from what I saw. And I don't think the staff will, um, let students actually maul each other in the ring."

"The fact that is a sentence that can be said in all seriousness is kinda horrifying," Shinsou declared flatly, and got some nods of agreement. Still, Yaoyorozu's words had done their job and reassured them that they wouldn't be witnessing any particularly bad carnage.

By the time Kouda and Tokage stepped onto the ring a couple minutes later, the air was full of tension and anticipation. Tokage had her head high and a confident grin on her face, while Kouda looked hunched over and nervous.

"Alright folks, last match of the first round!" Mic announced. "Tokage versus Kouda! One of 1-B's recommendation students versus the boy who stole the show at the end of the King of the Hill! It feels like this one could go either way! But only one can make it to the next round! Who will it be?"

Mic knew his job well. The crowd was going wild, sufficiently excited and amped up by his words. Kouda seemed to shrink even further, appearing smaller than Tokage despite being almost a foot taller. Snipe stepped between the two, offering the usual introductory spiel before stepping back.

"Begin!" he announced, and Tokage surged forward towards Kouda with a vicious grin.

And then, halfway towards his spot, she froze. Her steps came to a skidding and abrupt halt, her cocky smirk wiped off in an instant to be replaced by first shock, and then...

"Fear?" Izuku whispered, leaning forward as he watched her face contort with what could only be described as utter terror.

And then a second later, he felt it.

A sudden wave of fear crashed over him like a tidal wave, making him freeze up. A shiver ran across his whole body, his heart suddenly pounding a little faster, and he knew from the quiet gasps around him that he wasn't the only one to feel it. A good portion of the stadium went quiet, and the cheers in the upper stands softened into murmurs of confusion.

In the arena, Tokage fell. Not even to her knees, but just fell as her legs gave out under her. She shook violently as she stared up at Kouda, mouth fluttering a few times as she tried to form words. For his part Kouda grimaced, shoulders still hunched, but when he took a step forward Tokage flinched back violently with a look of pure panic.

Her mouth moved rapidly, and Izuku couldn't hear her from the stands, no one could. But he could tell from her body posture that she was growing desperate and frantic, squeezing her eyes shut as her volume began rising.

"F-f-forfeit... Forfeit, forfeit, forfeit! Forfeit!" Her voice rose into a shriek on the last word, closer to a wail than a shout as it echoed in the hushed stadium, and had Izuku wincing sympathetically.

And just like that, the effect lifted.

Izuku suddenly felt the tension drain from his body all at once, his heart slowly returning to its regular pace. And at the same time, he noticed Snipe jolt on the sidelines of the arena, hand snapping away from where it had been resting on his holster. He realized then that Snipe had been affected too, and so had Cementoss judging by how he'd literally crushed the arms of his chair with how tightly he'd been gripping them. The two of them were just better at working through the fear than Izuku and his classmates.

Snipe stepped forward and raised a hand to gesture to Kouda. "The winner, by forfeit, is Kouda Kouji!" he announced. And for the first time since the festival began, his voice carried clearly over the now eerily silent stadium as the crowd remained quiet.

As Izuku stared at Kouda Kouji's cringing form, he thought he had never seen a victor that looked so despondent.

And Round 1 of the tournament is over! And we're finally getting to why we couldn't just skip over this arc despite loathing it.

Izuku and Bakugou's reactions to Hatsume are being humorously exaggerated by the authors. Mostly. (Admit it, you'd probably be terrified too.)