AN: enjoy.

Chapter 13 - Sports festival

"I am sorry! I am truly sorry! I am so sorry!"

Bowing from the waist at an almost 90 degrees angle, All Might's face lacked its usual radiant smile. All Might did not raise from his bowing posture for 1 entire minute at the press conference that took place a day after the USJ incident.

In truth, people could not hold him responsible for the disaster that happened at USJ - All Might had been dozens of miles away at that time. It was the Villains' fault, they were the criminals. However, the fact that UA High had been targeted by the League of Villains because of him could not be ignored either. Nevertheless, Mineta Minoru's parents aside, nobody else was pained by the boy's death as much as All Might. He could not stop beating himself over his negligence.

'If I had been more careful and monitored my muscle form's remaining time with more attention, it wouldn't have gotten to this. If I hadn't stopped to admonish that Quirkless boy, maybe I could have gotten to USJ in time to stop the villains.' he thought bitterly as he watched the first-year students of UA entering the stadium where the Sports Festival was going to take place.

All Might's eyes were involuntarily drawn to a first-year student with wavy green hair and a rather innocent face that greatly contrasted with his well-built body. Midoriya Izuku was partly responsible for All Might running out of time and becoming unable to get to USJ when the League of Villains attacked. Back then, All Might had witnessed the scene where the boy smashed his metallic staff into the gigantic villain's nuts, incapacitating him.

Although nearly one year had passed since their first encounter, All Might had not forgotten Izuku's face - after all, it was partly because of Izuku that the Sludge Villain had escaped that time too! - so he knew that he was quirkless. Once the Police took the unconscious villain into their custody, All Might scolded Midoriya Izuku for nearly 15 minutes straight for his recklessness, for getting involved in such a dangerous situation despite being quirkless. In the meantime, his Muscle Form ran out of time and the rest was history.

'This boy...'

Mixed feelings surged in his heart at that moment. On one hand, he could not bring himself to dislike how earnest and dedicated (or maybe obsessed was a better word?) Midoriya Izuku seemed to be about becoming a Pro Hero. All Might was not blind to the transformation his body had gone through over the past year; he understood that the boy must've shed plenty of blood and tears to get that physique in such a short time. His self-sacrificing disposition and disregard for danger were worthy of admiration too - and those were some of the most important characteristics of a Hero. But on the other hand, somehow, Midoriya Izuku had distracted him from doing his duties properly twice already and every time All Might got distracted, someone ended up dying. First, it had been the Sludge Villain. Now, it was Mineta Minoru.

Thinking about the Sludge Villain, All Might's mind involuntarily went to the other boy that had been at the centre of both incidents too: Uzumaki Naruto.

'I still don't see how young Uzumaki could have killed the Sludge Villain... But that is of no consequence anymore.'

In the light of the recent events, after seeing Naruto's relentless and unbending will despite being faced with a hopeless situation, All Might was compelled to reassess his opinion of him. Uzumaki Naruto had put his life on the line and fought until the bitter end for the sake of protecting his classmates. He was not a villain in the making. He was a hero through and through.

Speaking of the fox boy, All Might could not find him among the several hundred first-year students that had lined up orderly in front of the stage. Given Naruto's unusual appearance - after his Fox Quirk's second awakening he had 3 large fox tails at his back - he should have been very easy to spot.

'Is he perhaps not participating? Is he not interested in the sports festival?'

His musings stopped when the school principal, Nezu, began to speak. It was a short speech that condemned the deeds of the League of Villains and expressed support for Minoru Mineta's family. Nezu ended his speech by saying "Let us all take a minute of silence for Minoru Mineta's unfortunate passing" while a picture of a smiling Mineta appeared on all the screens on the Sports Festival Stadium.

Being watched by several thousands of people, of which many were pro-heroes, should have been a harrowing experience for someone as timid and insecure as Izuku... that is if Izuku had been the same as a year ago. Nowadays, his disposition was a far cry from the past. Working out and gaining muscles had done wonders for his confidence and his gruelling combat training with Naruto had changed him too. Last, but not least, his encounter with the giant pink-skinned villain had lit a fire into his soul.

Kamui Woods, a top 10 Hero, and Mount Lady, a famous rookie hero with a very strong Quirk had been helpless to deal with the situation. They had had no way of defeating the villain while he was holding those three civilians hostage. However, Izuku's intervention had turned the tides completely. His "Florida Smash" attack had sent that villain to the Shadow Realm while also (most likely) eliminating his ability to reproduce. And if that villain still managed to get a kid in the future, the ghost of the trauma he had suffered from that Florida Smash was something that even the third generation after him would be able to feel.

'I can do it! I can be a hero too.'

Izuku had not let his recent success go to his head - he knew that in a fair fight the pink-skinned giant could kill even 10 of him without breaking a sweat. But the fact that his intervention had saved the lives of three people was undisputed proof in his mind that he could become a Pro Hero too in spite of being Quirkless.

'All Might rebuked me for saving those people. He said I could've been killed or that I could've gotten the hostages killed if I had failed. He told me that without a Quirk, it's only a matter of time before I get killed by a villain...'

Remembering the scene of All Might scolding him for being reckless made him scrunch his eyes close. It hurt that his idol did not believe in him. It hurt that his role model had rebuked him so harshly. It hurt badly.

'...I will show him. At this Sports Festival, I will show him and everyone else just how far can a Quirkless person go.'

The euphoria and the happiness that had flooded his being after saving those three people had made him surer than ever in regards to his dream. Even if his idol, All Might, told him that he had no chance, he was not going to give up. Becoming a hero was no longer something that he desired only because he admired All Might. Izuku did not want to become a Pro Hero only because he thought it was cool. Not anymore. Saving the lives of that family of three had made him understand just how much even his meagre strength could mean for a person in need.

His hands clenching into fists and his eyes burning with determination, Izuku unknowingly entered a very special state.

"Dang, we're late," Minato said in chagrin when he saw on the large screens of the stadium that the first event of the Sports Festival had already started.

Then, shouting at the same time, Minato and Kushina pointed their fingers at each other: "It's your fault!"

"Hah?! My fault? You're the one who jumped on us and-" Kushina began.

"That's because you were hogging Naruto all to yourself! I'm usually at work and don't have as many chances as you to spend time with him. You should be more considerate!" Minato cut her off.

"Hmpf! First come, first served! Besides, we both know that I'm Naruto's favourite parent. He's a mama's boy through and through!"

"HAH?!" Minato exclaimed scandalized. "You take that back!"

His golden fox ears flat against his head, Naruto covered his face with both hands in embarrassment. His parents were arguing like an old married couple with no regard for their surroundings. The reason for their argument was just as embarrassing too.

"Mom! Dad! We're in public!"

The two adults had the decency to stop their bickering and at least look sheepish.

Fortunately, the crowd's cheering was so loud that no one else heard them. Unfortunately, less than half a minute after they stepped into the stadium - the three of them were looking for some empty seats - Naruto's face suddenly appeared on one of the immense screens in the centre of the stadium. A moment later, his startled face appeared on every single one of the remaining screens.

"Oh my! What is this? Ladies and gentlemen, there he is, Uzumaki Naruto, in the flesh!" a very loud voice reverberated - Present Mic's voice was unmistakable. The hero's excited voice was so loud that Naruto felt some discomfort even despite the ear mufflers that he had stuffed inside his fox ears to protect himself from extreme sounds. That, however, was nothing compared to what followed next:

"Naruto! Naruto! Naruto!"

It was when several thousand people started chanting Naruto's name that it finally dawned on Minato and Kushina just how popular their son had actually become. Naruto himself too was overwhelmed by their reception. People were cheering and screaming his name almost as if he was All Might.

Someone unexpectedly patted Naruto's shoulder from behind and said close to his ears for him to hear them:

"Don't just stand there frozen. Wave your hand at the cameras or at least smile. The whole country is watching you right now~"

Turning around, Naruto was surprised to see who it was: long white hair and rabbit ears, dark skin, very long and athletic legs, wide hips, a tiny waist, an impressive bust, and a large grin that was so infectious that Naruto involuntarily found himself smiling back at her in spite of his befuddled state. It was none other than Rumi Usagiyama, or, how most people knew her as, the Rabbit Hero, Miruko.

When Rumi waved at the camera and Naruto followed suit, the crowd's roars exploded in volume. Even the students that were in the middle of crossing the canyon with ropes could not help being distracted and stopped, momentarily overwhelmed by the crowd's reaction.

With Miruko making herself visible, Naruto's name was forgotten as the crowd started chanting the Rabbit Hero's name instead.

The commotion lasted no less than half a minute. But once things went back to normal, the cameras returned to the students participating in the first event of the Sports Festival: the obstacle course race.

With the Rabbit Hero leading them to the VIP booths reserved for UA High school's staff and important guests, Naruto and his parents finally found some empty seats. But only a few seconds after they sat down, Kushina suddenly shoved a notebook and a pen into Miruko's face and bowed her head low while almost shouting:

"Miruko-san! Please give me your autograph! I'm a huge fan!"

The Rabbit Hero snickered, seemingly in very high spirits as she signed Kushina's notebook. In the meantime, Naruto flushed in embarrassment at his mother's fangirlish behaviour, especially when he saw her taking a diadem with a pair of white rabbit ears seemingly out of thin air and putting it on her head. Naruto's embarrassment only increased when his father - albeit with a reluctant face - also put a pair of rabbit ears on his head.

"Kyaa! I was hoping to meet you today but I've never thought I'd actually get to speak to you face-to-face! Miruko-san, you're the best! My favourite hero! Girl Power!" she shouted and pumped her fist into the air.

'You're almost 40 years old, mom, for the love of god!' Naruto thought as he buried his face in his palms for the second time that day. Minato was not that different either - imagine an intellectual-looking middle-aged man being forced to wear a pair of girlish rabbit ears. Minato wanted to just dig a hole somewhere and die. But he had no choice.

'If I ruin this moment for her, I'll be sleeping on the couch for a month. No, not even the couch, I'll end up sleeping on the front door carpet,' Minato thought. He could only grit his teeth and endure it. He would make sure to get back at his wife soon though.

"Ahahaha!" Miruko laughed out loud again and said to Naruto: "Your parents are amazing!"

In spite of her laughter, in Naruto's eyes, her face seemed to say "pls help".

But Naruto had no way of helping her. As a fellow martial arts practitioner and enthusiast, Uzumaki Kushina had always been a big fan of the Rabbit Hero because not only that she was a woman that kicked major butt but even her name - Miruko - was a homage to one of the best and most exciting kickboxers during the golden era of kickboxing and one of the legendary pioneers of Mixed Martial Arts too from a few centuries ago, Mirko Cro Cop. And, to top it all off, Miruko had also ended up saving her precious son's life less than 2 weeks ago.

To make a long story short, in the present, Kushina's fangirlism towards Miruko bordered veneration.

The Rabbit Hero was fearless and relentless, a force to be reckoned with in a fight... ...but even the fearless Miruko could only take a step back and engage in a strategic retreat - running the hell away - in the presence of the rabid monster that was Naruto's mother. Thanking the gods above and underground that her smartphone suddenly rang, Rumi took the chance to excuse herself without appearing to be rude and left the spectators' stand.

As she quickly slipped away, she also grabbed Naruto by his arm on her way out. Considering that Miruko could deadlift a ton without much difficulty, Naruto was as light as a feather to her. As for Minato and Kushina, they did not notice his absence right away as they were too absorbed in watching the last segment of the first event - the minefield.

Now, the two of them were alone in a corridor, the cheers of the crowd watching the Sports Festival only a distant hum. Miruko's usually playful grin gradually disappeared as she fiddled with her phone. Looking over her shoulder (the Rabbit Hero was quite short, standing at only ~160 cm) Naruto's eyebrows rose when he saw what she was reading.

The layout of the app she was using was unfamiliar to him but it seemed to be a forum app of sorts. The title of the thread was - "Hero Killer, Stain, spotted by a restaurant's back-alley camera in Tokyo". He feared that the phone would become a crumpled ball of metal when he saw the way her forearms bulged as she clenched her fingers around it.

Letting out a sigh, Rumi's rabbit ears sagged a bit as she said in an almost whiny voice:

"Ah, what should I do? I wanna go after him!" Then, answering his unasked question, she said: "I'm supposed to stay here and crown the winners of the Sports Festival. But that's sooo boooring!"

Normally, it was one of the teachers or alumni of the school that did the crowning. Specifically, All Might was the one who usually crowned the winners of the Sports Festival. That year, however, All Might had turned down said task. Although Miruko had not studied at UA High, the principal of the school contacted her and asked her to take All Might's place that year. The reason for that was not difficult to understand - it was a tactic he employed in order to diminish the backlash of the public at the fact that the Sports Festival was still being held in spite of the USJ disaster. After all, currently, the Rabbit Hero's popularity was off the charts, the public absolutely adored her.

Rumi's conundrum - if it could even be called that - did not last for long. Barely a few seconds later, she showed a toothy grin and threw her hands in the air.

"Eh, who cares about some Sports Festival! I won't miss out on this opportunity to catch that asshole!"

Looking at Naruto with her red eyes sparkling in excitement, she said:

"Whaddya say? Do you wanna tag along?"

"Me?" Naruto asked, surprised at her unexpected offer. "Um, I don't think-"

Miruko just laughed and grabbed him by the arm again. It looked like her question had been mostly rhetorical, she did not seem to care what his answer was going to be.

"We're gonna have so much fun! And you'll get to see a Pro Hero in action with your own eyes too. Win-Win if you ask me~"

"Wait, I can't go. I've gotta let my parents know if I'm going somewhere and I'm also not sure yet if I want to- gyaah!" he began to say only to let out a startled cry when Miruko suddenly hoisted him in the air and put him on her shoulder as if he was a sack of potatoes.

"W-Wait a minute!" Naruto cried out.

It was the first time that he and Rabbit Hero had met after the USJ incident and she was already taking him on some hero adventure to catch a metahuman serial killer. He had not even made a final decision on whether he wanted to still become a hero or not yet! Things were moving so fast he having trouble keeping up.

But his mind became blank when only two seconds later he found himself outside of the Stadium, still on Miruko's shoulder. Before he had the chance to protest again, something akin to a sonic boom exploded as the air was suddenly displaced and Naruto almost fainted from the abrupt acceleration.

Despite carrying a boy weighing over 70 kilograms on her shoulder, the Rabbit Hero started running so fast that she broke the sound barrier.