A/N: Just a reminder, new chapter here officially means new chapter over on the P atreon now, where my patrons are currently voting on the future direction of this story!
In the end, just because Thirteen hadn't told Izuku he couldn't use his Quirks, didn't mean he should. And on top of that, using his Quirks to subtly help Ochaco would only detract from the young woman's own efforts. For these two reasons, Izuku ultimately decided to sit tight and play the role he'd been given. No Quirk Usage in the form of assistance, neither overt nor subtle. He was a civilian here, not the Pro Hero in Training Izuku Midoriya.
As such, he decides to get into character. Hopping up and down, he begins calling out to Ochaco, waving his hands in the air.
"Hey! Hero! Over here! Help me, please!"
He watches Ochaco jolt, nearly missing a step and getting swept away by a particularly rough part of the landslide. She looks at him with wide eyes, but Izuku doesn't miss a beat, hollering all the louder for her from where he's trapped.
"Please, Hero! Please save me!"
He cheats a little bit here. Not only is he an exceptional actor, but he does use a little bit of his Quirks to really sell it, to make it seem like he's actually afraid for his life. He'd only decided not to use his Quirks to help Ochaco after all, but that didn't mean he couldn't use them to really ham it up. As Ochaco sees real, honest fear seemingly appear on his face, he can see the moment in which she's torn between panic… or determination.
Izuku can also see that it truly is a coin flip for her. She's still young, after all. There's no helping it, not when Ochaco is still so new to this life. They're both still training to be Pro Heroes, but Izuku definitely has a ton more experience than her and most of the rest of their class.
And yet… the coin lands face up. Ochaco does not give into her fear, she does not panic. Instead, determination and resolve crystallize on her face as she grows more focused than ever before, her jaw clenching and her efforts to reach him accelerating. When Izuku sees this, he doesn't keep calling out to her. After all, the civilian version of him would probably quiet down as well, right? More than that, he wanted to reward her show of willpower properly.
It's a few minutes later of being surrounded by rushing rock and earth on all sides, and then Ochaco is on the same bit of semi-stable land with him at long last. Panting heavily, very clearly out of breath, she has to put her hands on her knees for a second as she breathes in and out.
"N-Never… fear… citizen. I'm h-here to help."
Izuku, staying in character, reaches down and grabs her by her shoulders, jerking her upwards so he can look her in the eye.
"How?! What can you do? How are we going to get out of here exactly?"
Ochaco's determined gaze sweeps around at their surroundings… only to vanish as she blanches at the view. The faux landslide has actually gotten worse in the moments since she reached Izuku's side. Likely because Thirteen is controlling things from behind the scenes and decided to ramp things up for the second 'phase' of the Rescue Trial, rather than anything natural.
The results are the same though. The path Ochaco took to get to him initially is entirely unrecognizable at this point, and also unusable. There's no way they're going to be able to get back that way safely. At the same time, with the increase of speed and strength of the landslide, Izuku's little safe spot is no longer safe… they're very much on a time limit now, with their piece of undisturbed land slowly shrinking by the second.
To her credit, Ochaco whips her head around, not in a panic as it might seem at first glance, but because she's very clearly searching for options. And also to her credit… she finds one.
Izuku's eyes widen not entirely in feigned surprise as Ochaco grabs him by the wrist… and drags him right off of his safe perch into a part of the raging landslide. Its not terrible here, and he allows himself to keep his footing. He might have stumbled and feigned being dead weight if he wasn't certain that it would immediately destroy Ochaco's chances and send them both sliding down with the landslide.
He wasn't using his Quirks, sure, but that didn't mean he was going to outright sabotage her either. Instead, he plays the best helpless civilian in need of rescuing that he can, as she drags him through the rock and loose ground beneath their feet, over to a downed tree that's been fully uprooted out of the ground but has caught upon a large rock jutting out of the earth.
For a moment, Izuku assumes Ochaco's plan is for them to just ride out this whole situation on top of the rock. He's not sure Thirteen will let them get away with it, but he's also not in charge here. What Ochaco wants to try, goes.
However, his assumption runs counter to Ochaco's actual actions as the brunette turns to him, a certain glint in her eyes.
"Do you trust me?"
Izuku blinks, before flushing slightly.
"T-That's a really intense look on your face, Ms. Hero…"
Reaching out, Ochaco growls (cutely, he might add) and grabs him by the collar.
"I SAID DO YOU TRUST ME?!"
Over the roaring and rushing of dirt and rock all around them, Izuku just nods frantically, wide-eyed and swallowing thickly. For a moment, Ochaco looks like she might just kiss him from the way she's eyeing his mouth. The adrenaline is clearly getting to her. That, or one too many tv shows or what have you. Either way, in the end she thinks better of it… and touches him with the pads of her fingers.
Izuku immediately begins to float as her Quirk Zero Gravity activates on him. Yelping, he flails around in the air as he starts moving inexorably upwards. That's a problem though, because as far as he knows, Ochaco's Quirk ONLY lets things float up. She can't move them with her mind any further than that, right?
Right… except, Ochaco never intended to move him with her MIND, Izuku belatedly realizes. Reaching down after sending him up into the air, Ochaco grabs the massive uprooted tree with both hands… and uses her Quirk on that too. In a moment, the young woman is doing a very impressive strongman routine as she seemingly lifts the incredibly heavy-LOOKING tree up into the air… and gives him a savage grin.
She strikes him with the tree a moment later. Both he and the tree are weightless, so the impact feels like nothing, barely a feather touch. However, the result is that he goes flying across the air, all the way past the landslide to the free and clear ground beyond it. Its not a nice landing by any means, especially when Ochaco cancels her Quirk on him by tapping her fingertips together… but he is saved, even as he lands hard and rolls a few times to diffuse his impact on the ground.
That said, while Ochaco has managed to save him, she can't exactly save herself. And as Izuku picks himself up, he watches her seem to realize this… and smile, apparently at peace with that fact as she closes her eyes and waits for the landslide to take her.
Obviously, that doesn't happen because this is all a simulation and not a real disaster event. Instead of the landslide sweeping Ochaco away and injuring or even killing her, the whole thing comes to an end, Thirteen turning off the Zone a few moments later.
"Midoriya, Uraraka. To me."
Thirteen's voice comes over the intercoms before the Space Hero hops out of a control booth and begins making her way across the Zone to them. Perking up, both Izuku and Ochaco move to meet her, ending up standing in front of her at the exact same time. For a long moment of silence, Thirteen looks between the two of them. Finally, the Space Hero focuses on Ochaco.
"You saved the civilian, but I think we both know it was at your own expense. You might have survived, but not without injury. In the end, you replaced one helpless civilian in need of saving with another… yourself."
Ochaco flushes at that and ducks her head. Thirteen gives her a second to process those words before asking a question.
"Your use of your Quirk was stellar, don't get me wrong. Midoriya ended up a little worse for wear, but nothing he couldn't walk off clearly. However, your Quirk was obviously a bad match up for this operation, since you can't use it on yourself and therefore can't save yourself. What do you think you should have done differently?"
Silence falls, though Ochaco is very clearly thinking of an answer. As seconds turn into minutes, her eyes dart back and forth, she fiddles with her fingers, and her lips move as she speaks silently to herself. Izuku watches her along with Thirteen, both of them patiently giving the brunette all the time in the world to come up with an answer.
"… I'm sorry, I don't know if there is anything I would have done differently. Yes, I couldn't save myself… but I managed to save Izuku. I consider that a worthwhile trade. Risking ourselves… that's what being a Hero is all about!"
Rather than immediately respond to Ochaco's statement, Thirteen swivels to Izuku.
"And you, Midoriya? What would you have done differently in Uraraka's position?"
Straightening up, Izuku frowns for a moment before answering honestly.
"I would have called for back-up and hoped that someone with a more applicable Quirk could be called onto the scene before the situation got entirely out of control. And then… if no one else could get there in time, and the situation WAS getting out of control… I would have done exactly what Ochaco did. Save the civilian. Even at the expense of myself."
Obviously, its all a thought experiment for Izuku. He's so far beyond being in danger of simple landslides it's not even funny. Hell, HE is the 'someone' that Ochaco should have called as back up if this were a real disaster situation. He was never truly in any danger of the landslide, thanks to his Quirks.
Thirteen slowly nods, looking back and forth between the two of them silently, the space suit themed costume not giving very much away.
"… Very good. You pass, Uraraka. Go and get yourself cleaned up. Midoriya, stay behind for a moment."
Ochaco glances his way, but ultimately trudges off to the showers, having ended up positively covered in dirt as a result of the exercise. Izuku himself is a little dirty, but not nearly as much as she is. Soon enough, its just him and Thirteen alone in the Landslide Zone. Wordlessly, the Space Hero beckons him over to the smaller, more contained control booth.
Once they're safely ensconced inside, Thirteen turns to him.
"Why didn't you help her? Why not use your Quirks?"
Izuku almost doesn't catch it immediately. The s on the end of the word Quirks. Maybe he heard wrong. Maybe it was some sort of mispronunciation. Either way, he's suddenly a little on edge as he answers her as honestly as he can.
"I didn't want to hold her hand. If this were real, then obviously I would have acted differently. If this had all happened for real, I wouldn't have needed saving to begin with. I wanted to let Ochaco succeed or fail on her own merits, or else she'd never learn."
Thirteen nods, humming for a moment.
"… I see. You're going to be the top Pro Hero, but you're not going to be the next All Might, is that it?"
Izuku is even more on edge now, as he resists the urge to clench his hands into fists. Where was this coming from?
"I don't know what you mean."
"Simple, really. You'll be at the top, but rather than it being a tower, you want to make it a pyramid. Is that it? Everyone looked up to All Might. Everyone treated him like he was the only one who could save the day, because more than half of the time, he WAS the one who saved the day. You're different though, aren't you Midoriya? The Pro Hero World you're going to build… it will be different. More responsibility for more people. Stronger foundations."
What was she talking about? Before he can ask for clarification, Thirteen lets out a sigh.
"I suppose there's no point in beating around the bush any further if your father told you all about me already."
Reaching up, the Space Hero unlatches her large helmet and carefully pulls it off her head, revealing young woman with short hair, her cute features poking up just over the rim of the opening of her space suit themed costume. Holding her helmet under one arm, she holds out her other gloved hand for him to shake.
"Anan Kurose at your service. Not sure what all your father might have told you about me, but I'm happy to answer any questions you might have. I'm looking forward to us working together… for a brighter future."
His father? HIS FATHER?! What the fuck, dad! Izuku doesn't let any of it show on his face, but internally he's absolutely reeling. Apparently, All for One hadn't told him everything he needed to know before asking Izuku to kill him. Not if there were literally Pro Heroes like Thirteen on All for One's payroll!
… The thing was, Izuku didn't know how he wanted to play this. Thirteen, or rather, Anan Kurose as she'd now introduced herself, hadn't been something that he and his dad talked about at all. Izuku only knew Thirteen was even female because Nana had told him so earlier this morning!
Obviously, Anan had taken Izuku's earlier probing use of the term 'ma'am' as some sort of indication that he knew about her and his father's mysterious relationship. The fact was, Izuku knew nothing of any arrangement that she and his father had going on.
But did he want HER to know that? He could come clean, admit that he knew nothing save for her gender, and have them start from the top.
… Or he could play it cool, use his Quirks to continue maintaining the calm and collected façade he had on right now, and find out what she knew while keeping the ruse in place.
Either way, he had to decide soon. She was still holding her hand out expectantly to him, and though it'd only been half a second, too much longer and she'd begin to get suspicious either way.
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