Chapter 1: Greetings of a Cryptid
Izuku was struggling to understand how he had even managed to get here, seated before the archvillain of Japan with only a sense of dread to keep him company. All Might sat concealed in an observation room, of the firm opinion that he could only aggravate the prisoner and he sent Izuku off with a strained smile. A vague haze hovered over Izuku’s memory. It started with a simple conversation gone astray on a long drive home.
“So, who is All For One? Do we know anything about him beyond what you told me before? He’s been imprisoned for months now.” Izuku remembered asking All Might from the backseat of the car as Detective Tsukauchi leisurely drove along a sprawling highway.
Playing on the car radio was an aftermath report of a villain attack in downtown Tokyo. Izuku caught the phrase “liquid body” from the female reporter before Detective Tsukauchi changed the channel.
“Nope. Still nothing. No one really wants to speak to him,” All Might had replied brightly. “He gives off polite airs, but he’s a piece of work.” All Might’s mostly obstructed shoulders in the front seat shrugged. “Not much you can do with someone like him. Everything that comes out is a threat or taunt.” All Might carefully waved his hand in a circular motion towards the side of his head.
“No one’s even made it through a full interview with him, from what I’ve heard,” Detective Tsukauchi added from behind the wheel. “He plays mind games with them. The prison also has a “no recent events” policy on any discussions with him as well. Just in case he ends up with ideas or has some means of communicating. Given that people only want to ask him about current events, it doesn’t leave much to talk about.”
“Wait, they still don’t know what Quirks he has?” Izuku asked exasperatedly. “They can’t if there’s still an information block on visits.”
“Nope. We have no idea what he can do. They can run DNA tests, but it’s not like anyone apart from him even knows how his Quirk works. They could get matches with any number of people, but if they’re not in a database then we can’t cross-reference them anyway. Even if they run an analysis, the data doesn’t mean anything without the ability to interpret it,” All Might gestured with a skeletal finger. “It’s a waste of time after the initial tests were conducted. They weren’t game to MRI him either, given he’s definitely got a Quirk that creates metal components.”
“No one’s bothered to ask him anything about… anything?” Izuku asked, dumbfounded. “He must be around two-hundred years old and people can’t think of a single non-current affairs thing to ask him?”
In some ways it was unfathomable that they’d let a potential resource go to waste. On the other hand, said potential resource had blown up a city, murdered numerous people and terrorised Japan for over a century. At the very least.
“Well, I tried to ask him about Shigaraki, but he didn’t say much of anything really. Some garbage about you being too dependent on me and him letting Shigaraki run wild and how he just wanted to be the ultimate evil,” All Might shrugged again. “He spends too much time talking about nothing.”
Izuku shifted his head onto his arm. “But, that’s not really nothing, is it?”
“What do you mean?” Izuku had the feeling that All Might would have been looking at him with the you’re about to do something stupid aren’t you expression that was thankfully becoming less common.
“Well, he clearly doesn’t know anything about us, All Might, if he thinks that you’re just going to let go of me after not even two years of being taught. Maybe Shigaraki was dependent on adult figures, but I don’t even remember my dad and mum’s been busy working and keeping the house together. I’ve never had a lot of adult supervision before,” Izuku laughed nervously. “I had to find ways to keep myself entertained. If anything, I’m on the disobedient side of the scale.” All Might outright giggled.
“I’ll say, especially after what happened with Overhaul. I’m surprised your mother let you leave the dorms again after that.”
“I’m surprised she didn’t withdraw and ground me until I was thirty.”
“Oh? That strict?” Tsukauchi asked.
“She has her moments,” Izuku smiled fondly. “Do you think she’d agree to me asking the archvillain of Japan about his Quirk?” Izuku asked, only partially joking. There was an itch at the back of his head, a feeling of something missing that poked and prodded at his senses.
All Might coughed and sprayed the dash with a fine red mist. “Absolutely not! I forbid it!”
“That’s exactly why I’m asking her and not you,” Izuku grinned from the backseat.
“He’s ancient. You honestly don’t wonder about the sort of things someone with that life experience and Quirk would have run across to end up the way he did?”
“Nope, he made it perfectly clear that he always wanted to be the supreme evil,” All Might snipped through folded arms.
“Yeah, and I’ll just take his word for that, won’t I?” Izuku grinned. “If he does nothing but lie, then that’s probably one too, but there’s a grain of truth in there somewhere.”
“What would you even do? Harass him into telling you his life story?” All Might sighed.
“Not when I can kill him with kindness. Who knows, it might even be poisonous for him.”
“You’re explaining this to your mother. Teacher or not, I’m not being on the receiving end of this one.”
Izuku blinked for a moment. “You’ll let me?”
“I’m not entirely for it, but any prospective information on what influenced Shigaraki can only be a good thing. If anything goes south we can pull you out pretty easily. Just be aware of who and what you’re dealing with.” Struggling, All Might turned a serious look to Izuku around the side of the seat. “Only if your mother gives the okay.”
The conversation turned to school for the rest of the way.
It might have been curiosity or it might have been the nagging sensation that chewed at his brain for the three weeks that he researched the subject of the conversation. All For One was a cryptid. Mystical in more ways than one, he was only a rumour on a network that was two-hundred years old. There were whispers of a shadowy figure who once ruled Japan, intermingled with a string of conspiracies and fragmented events.
Izuku had even braved the dark web, poking and prodding at some of the seedier elements of the world wide web. The internet had rumours, but the dark web had stories.
An implied yakuza wrote about his grandfather who lost a fire manipulation Quirk and his sanity without any reason. His grandfather had been institutionalised, crying and repeating “he took it, he took it” until his dying days. No one could console him.
Another user spoke of a nursing home where a room full of dementia residents inexplicably became docile and no longer used their Quirks on the increasingly disturbed staff. The nursing home erupted into flames just before a court case against them commenced.
A user with neon pink text spoke of how their great-great-great-great grandmother with a longevity Quirk had simply aged rapidly one day and passed away in her sleep, her face a mask of terror. No cause had ever been found.
A hacker provided a grainy CCTV recording of a heist and a scanned collection of documents from over a century ago, where there was a flash of light and entire bank vault had been emptied. What separated it from the usual robbery was that it contained a list containing confidential information on the Quirks of the First Generation. Izuku had greedily snavelled up and saved the video and documents to an external hard drive.
Paging through, Izuku saw someone recount how their Quirkless uncle had developed a warp Quirk and gone from rags to riches under a mysterious benefactor. A decade ago, the uncle had simply disappeared.
Numerous and terrifying, the stories were scattered nuggets of gold hidden across the web. They’d never last long, vanishing within hours of posting. Izuku bounced from proxy to proxy, fleeing from a series of deletions that seemed to follow Izuku’s aliased postings across snitch.ru, rabbit.az, aconspiracy.xfiles and their compatriots.
After thirty-two identity changes (all carefully logged in a separate notebook), a large amount of feigning communal interest in a lucky tabloid article on All For One which had been released at the start of the first of the three weeks, Izuku hung up his tinfoil hat and called it a month. He haphazardly tossed a bulging notebook into his bookshelf and lodged his hard drive in a gap containing seven others and went to dinner.
It took another week to present his research to All Might and Tsukauchi, whose jaws reached the proverbial floor.
“We never found any of this,” the Detective Tsukauchi exclaimed. “How did you find all of it?”
“I asked the right people. Turns out criminals have very long and very unforgiving memories,” Izuku explained through sunken eyes. “There’s more than this that could be linked to him, but these ones seem to be the most obvious.”
“They would do, you can’t be head of the underworld without making an army of enemies,” All Might agreed. “You know, if you can get any more information about these events, I think you’ll give people a lot of peace of mind.”
“Provided mum agrees to it.”
“Only if she agrees to it.”
It took another month to convince his mother, who eventually gave in once All Might provided an extremely comprehensive schedule of how the visitations and any resulting research would be carefully balanced against Izuku’s schoolwork and internship.
The day of the visit finally arrived, four months after the initial conversation, much to Izuku’s dismay.
Izuku remembered how he had arrived, with the Detective and All Might escorting him through its sterile, white innards. A list of rules rattled off at the gate, “no current affairs” was chief among them and an assertion that he’d be dragged from the room if need be if Izuku was to breach any of them. No smuggling of communication devices, no weapons, no Quirks, nothing that could compromise the prisoner’s secure status.
Heavily armoured and drilled guards leading him underground into the deepest bowels of the Tartarus complex.
Izuku understood the rules, dressed casually in a cotton t-shirt with “Shirt” printed across it in haphazard English and clutching at a carefully screened and utterly blank notebook.
Across from him, behind reinforced glass, the archvillain of Japan was bound and unmoving.
“Hello,” Izuku initiated uncertainly. His skin had been crawling the moment he crossed the threshold, a memory of the encounter and escape at the Kamino Ward months ago.
“Ah, All Might’s disciple,” drawled All For One, “is he too cowardly to come himself? Yet I don’t hear the garments of a hero.” With hardly a word out, All For One had already lunged for the figurative jugular.
A stray thought of how does he know who I am if he’s blind and isn’t familiar with me? whispered its way through Izuku’s head.
“Oh, no,” Izuku corrected hastily, almost relieved at the lack of any pretence, “I asked if I could talk to you. This isn’t exactly hero related.”
“I’m surprised he said yes.” While there was little by way of expression, Izuku could just about sense the contempt dripping from the prisoner’s tone. It wasn’t anything he wasn’t expecting. Kacchan had already said worse to him in earlier years. Water off a duck’s back.
“Well, he’s not my legal guardian, so I think you should be more surprised that mum said yes. She’s stricter with these things than All Might,” Izuku corrected again. “Mum gave the okay, but that was a stressful discussion.” And there it was, a miniscule twitch from the man opposite. A spasm more than anything else. Interesting. Pinned down as he was, the prisoner oozed irritation.
“At least your mother is a wise person. I wonder why the student doesn’t heed all of the advice of the teacher.” All For One’s tone didn’t indicate a question, so much as an implicit statement that All Might wasn’t worth listening to in any capacity. Kacchan would have hated the comparison, but the hostility had an almost comfortable familiarity. “He no doubt warned you off speaking to me, overprotective as he is, but here you are.”
Izuku found himself smiling at the thought of Kacchan’s outrage if he ever found out about the mental comparison as he replied. “I don’t think it’s normal for anyone my age to listen completely to their teachers. We pick and choose and run with what works best for us. He warned me, but I’m still here. Mum warned me as well, but I think she cared more about the time management aspect of it."
“Is that a recent development?” All For One probed.
“Not really. My old homeroom teacher told me not to bother applying to U.A.” His mother’s beaming face had carried Izuku through the cheerful and resolute signing of that application form.
“I see you followed their advice to the letter,” came the snide, dismissive reply.
Izuku hoisted up his legs and sat cross-legged in his seat. Leaning slightly forward as he did so as to better prop up his notebook.
“You’re a walking contrarian, aren’t you? All Might told me about his run ins with you. What someone does or doesn’t do really doesn’t matter to you, you’ll just find a way to rationalise it as a negative and go on the attack anyway. What you’re currently doing is drawing attention away from yourself and focusing it on me so you can withhold information.” Izuku flipped open his notebook and put pen to paper. “You’ve got something fairly big to hide and you diverting attention exposes that motivation as existing anyway. The only real questions here are what and why?” Izuku paused in mortification as the man opposite’s lips parted. “I just said that aloud, didn’t I?”
Of the responses Izuku had expected, it wasn’t laughter. Unrestrained, Izuku would have expected a violent outburst. In this situation, he would have expected another scathing comment. Instead, All For One laughed breathily, leaning into his bonds. Wheezingly he spoke, “I’ll have to change tactics, if that one’s too transparent for you. How refreshing.”
Doing his best not to glow a blinding red and simultaneously pale at the interest, Izuku carried on. “I add it to the list when you do. I’m not emotionally involved enough to really be impacted by what you’re saying. I know about you in theory, but that’s it. Maybe All Might has a history with you, but I don’t really know enough about you personally to…”
“Care,” All For One supplied, somewhat subdued as he struggled to breathe. “You’re only here to satisfy your curiosity as to whether or not the stories were true.”
Izuku nodded, scratching at his notebook with his left hand. “Yes and no, I’m actually here to ask you about how your Quirk works.” For now.
Another chortle, more restrained that the last.
"What makes you think others haven’t already asked?” Had All For One been unrestrained, Izuku could imagine the stereotypical scene of the villain confidently leaning back in some overblown chair in a secret lair, drink of choice in hand, if the tone of voice was any indication. Deflections aside, the man easily rose to each comment.
“Whether or not they asked it’s irrelevant if they can’t read the answers.” Answers didn’t matter if the people involved were too attached to read into the answers. If none of the interviewers had managed a full interview, then it seemed unlikely that any sort of effort was put into understanding the villain.
“And you think you can? What expertise do you hold above theirs?” Doubt and reprimand weighted the words. Oddly enough, had Izuku been any younger he could have mistaken the man for a disapproving parent rebuking an overly ambitious child. Albeit an extremely evil one.
Izuku inhaled shortly and went for it. “If there’s something I know, it’s Quirks and how they work. Maybe I don’t know you, but I don’t really need to. Quirks fall under broad categories of function. You can take and give, consent doesn’t seem to be a factor. You either can’t “see” certain types of Quirks or you need to have prior knowledge of it before you take it with what I know about your brother. Despite your nom de guerre, because we both know it’s not your real name, you have a history of giving multiple Quirks and causing brain damage to the receiver. You clearly aren’t impacted by those same restrictions, so it must either alter your brain mapping or adjust functions to allow for simultaneous use and storage. It also must isolate or categories the Quirks you stock, because from the few people who do remember you, you creating certain Quirks is always in the context of giving them to someone else meaning there’s probably an inherent immunity to stop it from tainting your own Quirk with a mutation,” Izuku mumbled, almost to himself. “The only thing really in question about your Quirk is the finer details and whether or not you need to maintain those features or if they’re inherent and your hard limit for holding Quirks.”
There was silence, for only a moment. “If only my hands were free, I would clap for such a thoughtful assessment. Clearly you’re not all brawn,” All For One positively purred. “Speculate away.” A wide and slightly unhinged smile was directed at Izuku.
It was all Izuku could do not to wince at the eagerness. An image of a nervous All Might, hidden in the observation room above with the grim-faced prison staff, came to mind.
“I note that you said thoughtful and not correct,” and Izuku breathed and unsteadily jotted it down in his notebook. “You don’t seem bothered by the guess.”
“Few people live long enough to question my Quirk, let alone have the talent to guess so thoughtfully at its functions. It seems we share a hobby.” There was something terribly keen in that voice that hadn’t been there before, twisting itself through the compliment.
“I suppose it helps that you’re playing along out of boredom,” Izuku verbally dodged, unease uncoiling itself from the back of his mind.
“I was playing along out of boredom,” All For One corrected smoothly. “Now, I’m curious. Admittedly, my prior assumptions of you weren’t generous, but I’ve been too hasty in my assessments before.”
“I’ll pack up and leave now if that’s the case,” Izuku replied with only half an ear on the conversation as the words on his page began to drastically expand to distract himself from the building anxiety.
“Sarcasm, so you do have characteristics of a normal teenager. Your willingness to maim yourself has often left me wondering…”
“You’re deflecting again,” Izuku observed. “I’m not sure if that’s a nervous habit for you or if you’re doing it because I’m close to being right about your Quirk. That being said, I don’t think you know what a normal teenager is if Shigaraki is any indication. He’s about seven years too late for his rebellious phase.”
“I’m hurt and offended,” came the amused reply.
“By how Shigaraki ended up or your parenting? You only have yourself to blame for both of them.”
“How harsh. Shigaraki is a product of society that birthed him. I can’t take credit for all of the hard work,” All For One laid out invitingly. Perhaps someone else would have risen to the bait, but Izuku was already packing his mental bags and heading for the door.
Clearly the prisoner’s anticipation had registered poorly with someone in the observation room, because a voice rang through the air. “Time’s up Midoriya-kun.”
“Okay!” Izuku called back and etched out his last thoughtful of words, untangled his legs and rose to his feet.
“What a shame, my visitations are always so short,” All For One spoke mournfully.
“Well, you did blow up half a city. They could have just let you suffocate instead. Same time next week, then?” Izuku offered brightly, notebook stuffed into a pocket and was followed out the door by wheezing laughter.
It was only after he had made it safely back to the communal room where All Might waited did he allow the spring to fade from his step and discard his nervous smile. Shuddering, he turned to All Might whose face was set in a grimace.
“I won’t say I told you so,” All Might offered, perched on the edge of his couch like a misshapen vulture.
“He’s… not really what I was expecting. I was expecting someone, more openly evil.” Izuku allowed himself to collapse into the leather of the seat. He shakily reached for the warm tea that had been clearly been prepared the moment Izuku left the cell. “I suppose he does it to lull people into a false sense of security. I didn’t understand how someone with only half a set of expressions could have “villain” written all over them until I met him.”
“He’s always been like that. He feigns concern and sympathy to lure in society’s outcasts. They’re easy targets,” All Might said through a mouthful of biscuit.
“Has he ever tried it on any of the One For All successors?”
“Not really, but you might have accidentally given him the incentive for it. He never had access to any of the One For All wielders while they were young.” All Might snorted, “not that it’ll make a difference with you”.
“I think he was trying to gauge me for a world view before the wardens ended it. I need more time to work out his response to the stuff on his Quirk.”
“He’s conversation starved since it’s solitary confinement. If what the people monitoring his brain activity said was true, you’re the most exciting thing to have happened to him in months. He replied after you left, said he was looking forward to it.”
“That’s pretty sad."
“It’s even sadder that we’re the only two members of the public who have had anything to do with him. Stain gets a pile of mail from his “fans”, but All For One has nothing,” All Might waved a tea spoon. “That’s what he gets.”
“Let’s get out of here and tell Detective Tsukauchi how it went.” Izuku gulped down his tea and headed for the exit, with him and All Might reaching it at roughly the same amount of time.
“At least your mum’s making katsudon for us tonight," was All Might's only optimistic comment.
Anxiety was still ebbing over Izuku after Tsukauchi had been debriefed in the car.
“It seems we share a hobby.” Haunted Izuku on the drive home. As if ripping someone’s Quirk from them and leaving them lying traumatised on the ground was just a fun pastime and not an act of grievous bodily harm.
And he’d be dealing with him again in another week.
Chapter 2: Quirk of a Cryptid
Another week, another attempt to find out more about All For One's Quirk.
It took three days after Izuku’s encounter with All For One for him to find the time to review his notes. Two days were spent struggling through a backlog of homework. Day three was struggling through a leg injury caused by sparring. Todoroki practicing his martial skills to compensate for such heavy dependence on his Quirk was great for Todoroki. It was less great for Izuku who was on the receiving end of it with a new collection of bruises and profuse apologies. That left only two days for Izuku to question and analyse the wisdom of the dark web and cross-reference conventional news articles before the next visit.
Once again, the dark web carried the most pertinent information. Swathes of users had, almost gleefully, recounted rumours of disappearances or people drifting into unexplained comas. Every witness was a witness of the aftermath, with the victims never being the same as they were prior to the theft. Again, the nursing home took centre stage, a furious debate erupted between users over the timing of the fire. Other snippets drifted in, some delivered encoded, others were emailed to a dummy account.
The coma in particular didn’t seem out of line for what had happened to Ragdoll, but why she was left naked on the floor was another question. A nagging question in particular that almost seemed to be snapping at Izuku in irritation for not making a connection.
There were still questions as to whether or not the coma was an inherent response to having a Quirk stolen or if it was a side effect that could be enhanced or diminished for a greater sadistic impact. It was a question again if All For One used another Quirk still to cause that effect prior to taking the Quirk. It would allow him to sedate them and then take the Quirk without a struggle.
Too many permutations spawned from Izuku’s questions and too few answers to all of the questions that came with someone who was capable of anything. No one could give Izuku an answer.
Someone gave Izuku a link to a news article and an untitled video. Izuku’s heart sank as he read the URL’s extension from the Japanese Times - missing-middle-schooler-in-mustafu-police-come-up-with-nothing.
Izuku dutifully saved it and resolved to review it before the visit next week. He crawled into bed at 4am, aching, sore and thankful that no one else in the dorm was awake.
Almost before he noticed, it was time. A grumpy, sleep deprived and sore Izuku was escorted through the same sterile halls and All Might retreated to the observation room. He caught a strained smile as the guard swiped open the door.
“Hello, again. I’m Izuku Midoriya, by the way, since last time you went straight for the throat instead of waiting for an introduction.” Izuku limped to the seat and dropped unceremoniously into it while withdrawing his crumpled notebook. “But I get the feeling that you know a lot more about me than I know about you.”
All Might had been fairly clear about the amount of trash All For One talked about All Might’s teaching of Izuku. All For One had been keeping some sort of eye on All Might’s teaching at the very least.
“I’m sorry, Izuku, for not providing my name, since the odds are you wouldn’t use it anyway,” All For One uttered in a dark tone of voice.
“Isn’t a bit unfair for you to use my first name, without an honorific either, while I don’t even know a fragment of yours?” Izuku asked, it coming out a great deal more pained than he planned. It was unnerving, given that the use of his first name implied knowledge of him. The only other person who used his first name was his mother. No one at school certainly did.
“Not particularly,” came the almost cheerful reply. Perturbingly bright, All For One’s chuckle was evident in his delivery.
“I don’t care enough to argue. Where were we last time? Quirks, I think,” Izuku asked more to himself as he flipped to an appropriate page to continue note taking. Grating, but livewithable.
“Is yours why you’re limping? Your gait doesn’t sound the same as last week. You’re dragging your right leg rather heavily,” All For One dived onto the injury with the priority of a drowning man struggling for air.
“Yes and no.”
“No elaboration? No cause? Surely you can tell me that much.” An eager, all too helpful note threaded the deep voice.
“You haven’t grinded out enough reputation with me to unlock that conversation option,” Izuku deadpanned. “If you reach my maximum reputation level, you might even unlock my tragic backstory.”
“So that’s how it’s going to be, then,” All For One stated mirthfully. “How unfair. I don’t have the time to employ such strategies.”
“You know Shigaraki, you’ve no doubt heard about him complaining about weekly quests. Make the most of it,” Izuku stated without a shred of sympathy.
“It will kill you one day.” All For One shoved, evading Izuku’s change of topic. “Every time you use it it tears you apart. How long do you think you can manage it with your weak and fragile form? You weren’t made for having a Quirk.”
“You know what else can kill me? Shigaraki throwing a temper tantrum. A random villain walking past could kill me. A random machinery failure could kill me. Some hack doctor could refuse to tell me about a terminal illness. Practically everything can kill me. I’m only human. That’s with or without a Quirk. That’s the world you created.” Matter of fact and indifferent, Izuku ploughed straight through All For One’s suggestion. “My doctor told me not to bother with hero school, you know,” Izuku said, hand trembling. “I gave that advice the attention it deserved and yours can have the same.”
“I’m only trying to help.”
Not for the first time, Izuku found himself questioning even attempting to pull information from such an entity. Morality as it existed in this room had no meaning. An abstract idea that was bounced around to suit All For One’s conversational needs. A bog-standard tentacle monster had more conversational manner than the person in front of him. For starters, it probably had elementary manners and followed polite naming conventions.
“Yes, yourself, same as he was. Maybe it helps him sleep at night, but I’m not about to care about it or your views for the same reason. I’m here to ask about you. There isn’t really any point here in me talking about me when you probably already know half of it.” Izuku tried not to wince at the thought.
“Alas, I think I’ve been leaning more on the side of neglect when it comes to you. I know very little about you,” All For One defended.
Izuku ignored it carried on where his notes left off. “All Might clearly damaged your ability to use your Quirk. Gran Torino said you’ve changed your Quirk loadout since your injuries. Quirks are a biological function, so whatever injuries you’ve experienced would no doubt make it harder for you handle any Quirk strain,” Izuku proposed.
“There’s little point in me denying it. He ruined me,” All For One sighed theatrically. “I’m a shadow of my former self as far as capability is concerned.”
“That’s still not a confirmation of the limit, though,” Izuku jabbed.
“You seem awfully fixated on the idea that I have a limit,” All For One chided. For a moment, Izuku wondered which façade in All For One’s arsenal Shigaraki must’ve been privy to for him to end up with such devotion to the man.
All For One may as well have been a conspiracy denier that frequented the hero and Quirk boards Izuku had long surfed on. So much doubt weighed every word, but never any expansion on the reasons for why there was doubt. Kacchan had reasons for his behaviour. All For One wasn’t so coherent. Yet. Izuku was dreading that "yet" being corrected.
Every action by the man was an emotional play. He hardly felt it really. Going on sixteen years, Izuku struggled to remain anchored to any concern he should have felt at the tactics. His tired brain filed it away for later reference, his unsteady hand had it noted and his over-extended emotions remained moored on a sunny, white beach in some distant country, fruit drink in hand as the waves rolled into shore. For a two-century old fiend, Izuku had honestly expected more malice. This is nothing compared to Kacchan. He hasn’t even told me to jump off a building, yet.
“Then why the Noumu?” Izuku accused, closing on All For One with the tenacity of a steel trap. “There was no indication of you using them so extensively prior to your injury. Maybe you were in prime enough condition not to feel the strain of your limit in earlier years, but the Noumu are basically confirmation that you have a limit. After you were injured it must have lowered your threshold before you start feeling side effects. Both the skills you can use without injury or fatigue and the hard limit on how many Quirks you can have before it does you damage. You also made a comment indicating that you’re low on stockpiling Quirks, so were the Noumu an accidental creation to get around your lowered Quirk holding capacity or were they a response to your limited combat ability? They were certainly important enough to be kept in storage and for you to take Ragdoll to that specific facility before you took her Quirk,” Izuku mumbled. “I’m still not sure if her catatonic state was due to the Quirk being stolen or a prior injury, or a separate Quirk entirely. More data is required for that conclusion. Either way, it ended up both as far as the Noumu go. You must have a limit and I’d hesitate a guess and says it’s a more dangerous limit, like your Quirk’s isolation or activation capabilities breaking down.” Izuku exhaled deeply, scratching furiously at his notebook. “You were game to risk physical death in taking on All Might, but that’s an injury you can recover from if what happened last time is any indication. Sorta. Ending up brain dead by function of a Quirk is nowhere near as reversible.”
Across from him, All For One sat in contemplative silence for a long, agonising minute. His mouth sat in a straight line, before erupting into a broad, toothy smile. “How ever did All Might even manage to find you? You may have been Quirkless, but clearly even that wasn’t enough to deter a dogged pursuit in Quirk analysis. Even within my lifespan, you’re something of a rarity with that knack of yours.” There was that odd tone again, pervading the prisoner’s voice, a twist of irritation and something else that snarled through tonal values. “A connoisseur of Quirks, yet lacking one yourself. Perhaps All Might and I should have swapped students,” All For One pushed.
“I don’t think that would have worked out too well for me. I lack certain key characteristics for it to have worked,” Izuku found himself insisting halfway through another set of notes and a rising surge of frost creeping along his veins.
“Like?” All For One stretched the word out, rather more doubtfully.
“My ability to behave myself,” Izuku mumbled from around the end of his pencil, holding his braced right arm slightly closer to himself as he slowly turned red. “I’m flattered and somewhat weirded out that you think so highly of it, but I think Aizawa-sensei would be making some stern corrections about that assumption,” Izuku laughed nervously and cringed.
Principal Nedzu wasn’t even aware that one of his staff members and a student had skipped off to a high security prison for extra-curricular research. There’d have to be divine intervention for both of them to survive Aizawa-sensei finding out about it. Especially if any of them learnt about Izuku’s revised bed time.
All Might probably wouldn’t ever recover from Principal Nedzu’s retaliation. A stack of paperwork, forty feet high, with every page on a different topic and needing a signature hovered in his mind’s eye.
“Yet you’re still in the Hero Course at U.A., as opposed to helping Kurogiri buff the bar and stack glasses. For such a free spirit, so unheeding of advice given to you, you still lick at society’s morals.” Pondering, a thought whispered aloud at a maybe, as if the man was considering a real possibility that had skipped him by. “For how poorly society treats the Quirkless, I really do struggle to understand why you would want to protect them in any capacity.” Another invitation for clarity.
Izuku outright snorted before he could contain himself. “As if you’re any different to them. Weren’t you the one attacking All Might’s teacher for being weak, even though she had a Quirk? You’re a parasite who takes the Quirks of others to cover for your own lack of imagination. Everyone else manages just fine with one. There’s nothing to suggest you’d treat the Quirkless any different to her if it’s all about strength to you.” Providing All For One wasn’t lying, and there wasn’t anything to suggest that he hadn’t been twisting the truth with every response, Izuku was fairly confident that he was full of it.
Beyond the biting tone of voice, Izuku struggled to inject additional venom into his reply. It was another appeal to emotions that floated so far aware from him. Everyone in Class 1-A would have made a fantastic villain if they had the stomach for it. For what their Quirks could do, it was a given that any of them could do serious damage if they put their mind to it. Why All For One expected Izuku specifically to rise to the bait eluded him. There was too much missing information. Izuku, attention wandering, couldn’t bring himself to care.
All For One recoiled, lips twisting into a smirk. “Did I hurt your feelings?”
“Not particularly, but I think I just hurt yours. Better add that to the hypocrisy dot point,” Izuku mumbled under his breath. “Can’t handle other people having different standards to him.” Had All For One still had eyes, Izuku suspected that the slight shift of posture would be indicative of closed eyes and leaning backwards instead of allowing himself to hang limply in his bonds. “Back to the point though.”
“Of course, carry on.” All For One was lucky there was glass, because there would have been a lingering temptation to toss a ball of paper at him as the seconds ticked away.
“You can’t breathe without the respirator, so I’d assume you can’t use any Quirks which would act as an ignition point?” Izuku scribbled down yet another note. “It’d be a very painful and explosive death at the least. I suppose that’s why Endeavor was taken down so quickly?”
“A logical conclusion. Admittedly, it stung more than some of my other losses.” A twitch that could have been an inclination of a scarred head and the beginnings of a frown. “I was rather more fond of some of my elemental Quirks. One in particular had substantial value to me.”
“You’re lucky that you can use any after those injuries. Did you lose any actual Quirks? Your Quirk is brain based and I don’t see how you could come away from it without an acquired brain injury given you were pronounced dead at the scene.”
“On second thoughts, what about a career in medicine?” Izuku didn’t dignify it with a response.
In the ensuing moment of quiet as the captive composed himself, Izuku took the time to briefly stand and stretch his aching arms and legs as his brain eventually caught up with his mouth. If All For One was dead at the scene and the fight never made it to the media, then who was responsible for disposing of the body? Who helped him escape and cheat death? Izuku froze.
“Oh, had a realisation, have we?” All For One’s seeming inattention was just that. Seeming.
“Yeah, but we’ll have to talk about that another day.” Izuku stretched again to disguise an anxiety fuelled spasm, then fell back into his seat. “I’d like to do some more research before asking about it.” Hopefully after Detective Tsukauchi had time to thoroughly dig through all members of the pipeline which had been responsible for the disposal of All For One’s supposedly dead body. Preferably with anyone involved behind bars beforehand. “You’re deflecting again.”
“Huh, I like to think of them as happy tangents,” All For One reflected quietly. “My ability to act generally was hampered by the injuries caused by All Might.”
“Does that include psychological injury? Almost dying is traumatic. You did say that you have nightmares. I’m guessing that you still have them with another near-death experience,” Izuku asked hesitantly. Trauma was an uncomfortable subject at the best of times. Even more problematic was if there was the risk of asking about it being turned back onto you. That was definitely something All For One would do.
“Again, are you sure you don’t want to pursue medicine? Your skills would fit comfortably in just about any specialty.” This time there wasn’t the whimsical tone that accompanied the diversion. It was a simple question wrapped in a guarded tone. “You seem surprised by my response.”
“I’m kind of surprised that you didn’t use that as another attempt to mine for information.” It was a very dull surprise.
“Well, I haven’t unlocked that part of your backstory yet,” All For One softly murmured.
Before Izuku could answer, a voice from above spared him. “Time’s up!” Floored with relief, Izuku shoved his pencil and notebook back inside his pockets and limped towards the door.
“Well, that’s it for this week.”
“Oh, and Izuku?” The prisoner called.
“Try not to maim yourself,” All For One innocently suggested.
“We’ll see. Same time next week?” Izuku allowed the door to slam shut without a reply.
Hearing the seal closing, Izuku took off in a dead sprint towards All Might and their usual room.
Skidding around a corner, legs protesting, he burst through the door. All Might leapt to his feet.
“Young Midoriya, what’s wrong?” Concern. Rightfully so.
“Us - car - now!” Izuku gushed out, gesturing for the exit.
With roughly the same time it had taken Izuku to reach All Might, Izuku and All Might had bolted for Detective Tsukauchi’s car and sped off with the smell of burning of rubber.
“We have a huge problem,” Izuku heaved.
“What?” All Might asked anxiously.
“You thought All For One was dead, right? Who took his body after you defeated him? Who was meant to dispose of it?”
Detective Tsukauchi slammed on the brakes, nearly rear-ending a line of cars sitting stationary in peak hour traffic.
“Shit,” All Might stated succinctly.
“God, we had a team for that. I was there. There were paramedics and a doctor and everything. He was pronounced dead at the scene.” Tsukauchi groaned. “No one thought to check.”
“I didn’t want to say it there, but he must have allies inside the medical field to cover up him surviving,” Izuku hurried. “Probably the police as well if no one followed up or witnessed the procedure.”
“And the odds are whoever helped him is still active,” All Might concluded grimly. “His Quirk’s a minor issue at this point. More than the League of Villains are running around helping him.”
“That mask he was wearing was some type of life support. He would have needed someone with current medical registration to even attempt to order any of the equipment let alone the medication. Japan’s always been strict with it.”
“How would he even have that many contacts in the medical profession?” Tsukauchi asked rhetorically.
Cog by cog, Izuku’s mind turned. All For One’s other alias was “Sensei” according to Shigaraki’s screams as he was teleported away. Sensei was an honorific reserved for teachers, lawyers, politicians, authority figures generally and… doctors. If All For One was a registered doctor or had connections to them, then it’d explain how he escaped disposal. He would have a name to go with that title, even if it was a fake one, but it was still something.
“I just said that aloud, didn’t I?”
“Good,” Izuku giggled hysterically. He needed to research. He needed to sleep.
“So, uh, who wants to audit two-hundred years of medical records to see if we can find All For One and friends?” Tsukauchi asked nervously. “We’re going to have to put together a dedicated team to get through all the registrations alone. This guy’s a nightmare.”
“Don’t forget orders for medical equipment, we might be able to trace where All For One’s mask came from. His clothing too probably.” Pencil and paper reappeared, Izuku’s hand covered in a smear of graphite. “It all has to come from somewhere and if it’s from nowhere then we know a Quirk or the black market is involved.”
“You sure you still don’t want to be in the police, young Midoriya?” All Might asked in wonder. “I think they’re missing out.”
“If Sir Nighteye can manage intel work and hero work, then I can too,” Izuku declared and iced over as the nagging feeling from before came screaming back with a vengeance. “Detective, All Might…”
“Aren’t people normally stripped naked before full medical examinations?”
All Might swore and Tsukauchi applied more force than strictly necessary to the accelerator as they gunned it for the police station.
And so Izuku prepared notes and questions for the following week, the unwatched video still floating at the back of his mind.
Chapter 3: Motivations of a Cryptid
Izuku had read about All For One's atrocities. He didn't realise he'd lived through one as well.
By far the most soul-destroying experience Izuku had encountered was the police debriefing that followed the visit. All Might, Tsukauchi, the Chief of Police and Izuku had crammed into the latter’s office. Three steaming cups of tea, a bottle of whiskey and twenty-six horrified interjections later, the meeting concluded. Dozing throughout it, Izuku was glad he relayed his suspicions early on. Numerous sympathetic glances pointed in his direction, his head lolling in his chair. All Might had been kind enough to carry him back to the car, as he’d cheerfully explained to a mortified Izuku.
Even as the car coasted to a stop, Izuku floated in a comfortable and warm haze.
“That went surprisingly well,” Tsukauchi whispered, pulling up in U.A.’s carpark. “I’ve had my suspicions of a leak for a while, but I wasn’t aware that Tsuragamae thought the same. As bad as the possibility is, it made that meeting easier. The higher ups in government might still be a problem though. Running an in-house frame up for why we’re looking into the medical profession is gonna be a challenge. We obviously can’t openly say we’re looking for collaborators.”
“Everyone suspects a spy everywhere, but it doesn’t seem like anyone’s being proactive,” All Might hummed, resting his pointed chin on a spindly arm. “I’ll have to talk to Principal Nedzu about it. It’s kinda scary that it’s taken a student to realise that something was amiss with All For One’s survival.”
Momentarily, the words rolled over him, then Izuku jumped back to awareness. “Wait, what spies?” Flailing upright from his slump, Izuku stared at the back of All Might’s head.
All Might gulped. “Uh… You didn’t hear that.”
“Is that why we were moved to the dorms? There’s a spy in U.A.?” His head throbbed dully.
“We suspect that there might be one, but there’s no solid proof yet,” All Might offered consolingly. “As to who it is, we really have no idea. Hopefully this investigation of known associates gives us more of an idea. Look, you worry about All For One’s Quirk, we’ll worry about U.A. and any spy problems and we’ll let you know if we find anything.”
“That’s not making me feel any better.” There were so many people who had access to U.A.’s campus, but who had access to sensitive information? Who had a Quirk or access level that’d let them get away from it. Who had a connection to the villains?
“Sleep on it,” Tsukauchi advised, before the questions could leave Izuku’s mouth. Nimbly bouncing out the car, Tsukauchi held open Izuku’s door as All Might followed along behind him.
“Thank you for your assistance,” Tsukauchi bowed.
“I will. Thank you All Might, Detective Tsukauchi!” Izuku flushed, All Might gently tugged him up by a half-asleep arm.
Dragging himself from the car to the dorms from that point onwards as All Might peeled away to distract Nedzu, Izuku passed his curious classmates by with a polite greeting, entered his room and collapsed into bed without changing. Guilty relief surged through him when no follow up knock to the door followed.
“The fuck is his problem? Deku’s been looking like a zombie all fucking week. He been getting extra training or some shit?” Kacchan’s voice floated from downstairs, bringing a tired giggle to Izuku’s lips.
Izuku sunk into his pillow and drifted off to the frantic flapping of phantom, leathery wings.
He awoke at midday the following day, thankfully being an unusually serene Sunday. Uraraka left a note on his table explaining that they had gone out for the day and the class had opted to let him sleep. A minor explosion rocked the building and Izuku sighed as Kacchan’s enraged voice and Todoroki’s muted tones reached him from below. Something about doing the dishes.
Exhausted, Izuku hauled his lethargic limbs from his bed and stumbled out of his room. Forty minutes later he stumbled back into his room, freshly showered and with a second steaming cup of coffee.
Booting up his computer, Izuku set about opening the article. He gasped, mug almost dropping from limp fingers.
Heading the top of the page was a photo of a round boy with sprawling red, draconic wings. Eyes curled shut under short blond hair, he beamed at the photographer from the huddle of his family.
A familiar old man with tinted green glasses stood to the rear of the photo, gazing blankly at the camera, at odds with the cheer of the family. Distaste tweaked at Izuku’s senses. Dr Tsubasa, grandfather, the caption read as it listed his family across the bottom of the image.
Missing Middle Schooler in Mustafu: Police Come Up With Nothing.
Tsubasa, Kacchan’s friend from school who never ended up attending Orudera Middle School. The boy with wings who bullied Izuku and then disappeared. Kacchan said he’d moved schools, but Izuku wondered…
Missing on his way back from school. No trace of him. He was eleven.
The police searched for months. Police incompetence cited as a reason for the lack of leads. Public outcry. His family didn’t know anything and his grandfather was no longer contactable. No longer contactable rolled through Izuku’s head. Dr Tsubasa. Give up.
Izuku entered the doctor’s name into the search. Nothing. His clinic had closed years ago, but when? An archive search… A match, a date not long after the article.
It was then Izuku opened the accompanying video and gagged.
Someone had recorded part of the incident with Stain. A Noumu with red, draconic wings dived from above and snatched Izuku from the crowd into its talons. Filled with people, it still targeted him. It targeted Izuku in the crowd. Him. Tsubasa. Stain paralysing and ramming his knife into its head. Tsubasa’s head?
The video ended on a black screen, a single line of white text. Look familiar? It read.
Izuku dived for his bin and retched. Coughing, he spilled his breakfast into it. Sobbing, Izuku sat there and held onto the bin for dear life. How was he going to tell Kacchan?
Not long after, his door flew open with a bang.
“What the fuck are you crying about this time, Deku?” Kacchan snarled and Izuku trembled, tears once again pouring down his face. Izuku couldn’t answer, he couldn’t breathe. Kacchan glared, silently fuming as he eyed off the bin. “Shit, where the fuck is Half and Half?”
Kacchan’s yells for Todoroki echoed down the hall, pounding footsteps followed.
“What’s wrong with Midoriya?” Todoroki’s voice faintly asked. A hand wrapped itself around Izuku’s shoulder and another one turned his head, forcing a pale Todoroki and Kacchan into Izuku’s sight.
“Fucked if I know. You find out what’s wrong. I’m getting a fucking teacher. That shit’s not normal.” Kacchan stormed off without bothering to close the door.
“Midoriya, what happened?” Todoroki’s voice gently asked, patting Izuku’s shaking back.
“There was a boy Kacchan and me went to elementary school with. His name was Tsubasa. Just. Just look.” Izuku pointed a faltering arm to the monitor where the single line of text still hovered.
Todoroki’s reluctance was clear, but he pulled away, leaving Izuku seated on the floor. Todoroki read and he watched and turned to face Izuku, paler than before. “I’m so sorry,” he whispered. “Do you want me to…” Todoroki gestured towards the direction of Kacchan.
“Someone has to tell him. Tsubasa was his friend,” Izuku hiccupped.
Todoroki nodded sympathetically, his fingers digging unnaturally into Izuku’s shoulder. “Come on Midoriya, let’s get you cleaned up while we wait for Bakugou to come back with a teacher. Where’s your clothes?”
Within the next fifteen minutes, Izuku was led to the bathroom and Todoroki waited outside as Izuku took a second shower and changed. Time washed away, Izuku stood below a a torrent of steaming water and eventually pulled himself back to the present. With some effort, he dressed and headed for the exit.
A glass of water was forced into his hands and Todoroki pointed Izuku towards the stairs. “All Might is waiting downstairs. He was the first person Bakugou found.” Izuku seriously doubted that All Might was the first person Kacchan had found. Aizawa-sensei was a bloodhound for this sort of situation. “If you have any suspicions, and knowing Bakugou, it’s probably better if you tell them at the same time. May as well get it over with early and spare yourself the headache.”
Izuku nodded, inhaled and started his journey as the bearer of bad news.
It went about as well as expected.
All Might’s jaw hung slightly open, frozen in an expression of wordless horror as the video played on a tablet and a printout of the news article was shown to him.
“I’ll pass this onto the police,” All Might assured, giving Izuku one final look of utmost concern as he sandwiched Izuku, Kacchan and Todoroki into a particularly tight group hug. “If any of you need to talk about this, please let someone know. We have counsellors on standby for this sort of thing. And even if you don’t, I’ll them know anyway just in case,” All Might clung to them.
Kacchan’s silence heralded a far deadlier response, his eyebrows drawing together in a sharp point and his lips peeling back to show clenched teeth. Even as he was trapped in All Might’s arms, he grimaced.
Eventually they were released and they all staggered back to their respective haunts. Apart from Kacchan who didn’t so much stagger as immediately stalk over to Izuku just as Izuku had reached his own room.
“Oi Deku,” Kacchan yelled.
“Yes,” Izuku stuttered through teary eyes, fingers closed around the doorknob.
“Don’t fucking cry about this shit. It’s fucked, but don’t cry.”
“Don’t get upset. Get fucking even. The moment that motherfucking shitface sticks his head out from prison, with that pasty-faced prick and mist lad, I’m going to rip every single one of his insect infected teeth out and shove them so far up his ass that even divine intervention won’t save him from them being embedded in his fucked brain,” Kacchan raged, every second word punctuated with a loud explosion. “I’d rip his fucking face off and beat him to death with it, but All Might beat me to it first.”
Izuku could only nod, pulling away from the searing heat emitting from Kacchan’s hands.
“I fully fucking expect you to be there helping break every single bone in his fucking body while I do,” Kacchan demanded. “Can’t let that sort of bullshit danger to society run around loose if he gets out.”
“Okay,” Izuku replied dumbly.
“Fucking great. I’m glad we had this conversation.” With that Kacchan marched off in the direction of his own room, profanity following him as he went.
The revelation never went further than those present and Detective Tsukauchi. Izuku for reasons of his extra-curricular research, All Might for a similar reason, Todoroki for privacy and Kacchan for plans involving pre-meditated murder. Another secret in the dorm as the police investigated.
It didn’t stop Izuku from at least partially taking Kacchan’s advice as he loaded up his dark web browser for another night of research and meticulous notetaking. It carried on into the next week and the next meeting.
Izuku felt particularly sorry for the Tatarus guard who sat before him in the lounge All Might and Izuku normally frequented before leaving. The poor man looked like he was about to wear a hole into the floor fiddling with his feet, Izuku’s unusually stern face staring him down from across the table.
“What did he say before he was placed in his cell?”
“He asked where he was… said he used an Infrared Rays Quirk and his other senses to gauge his surroundings since he was blind. Said the sensors were interfering with it, so he couldn’t see,” the guard stuttered. “He apologised for it as well,” the guard added.
“Right, thanks for that detail. Thank you for your time, but I better get to it,” Izuku bowed to the guard and set off to the cell with the usual contingent of guards shadowing him. All Might was already waiting in the observation room.
Izuku strode in and hurled himself downwards without preamble. His notebook folded open to pages crammed with hostile handwriting and clippings.
“One of the guards here told me that you said you’d been relying on an Infrared Quirk to sense your surroundings,” Izuku tapped rhythmically.
“No greeting? I wonder what I’ve done,” All For One seemingly asked himself.
“Answer the question and you’ll find out,” Izuku said curtly.
“I’ll humour you, what of it?”
“I’m curious as how to someone with the ability to sense heat completely misses the five teenagers a relatively short distance away from them, but can sense All Might’s aerial arrival from a point five kilometres away. By my, admittedly rushed maths, he would have been travelling at about six-hundred kilometres per hour yet you had no issue sensing his arrival. That’s about one-hundred and sixty-sevenish metres per second, but you had no issue responding to that even while blind. So, is there any particular reason you opted not to obliterate us with Best Jeanist and the others?” Tapping the paper rapidly, Izuku doublechecked his calculations and circled them with his stubby pencil. “There must be something else in your arsenal for that sort of range.”
Three meetings in, Izuku was starting to recognise a pattern in All For One’s behaviour from the deflections to the hypocrisy, to the distractions, to the lies... and most distressing, the perverse glee he seemed to experience at being verbally dissected by someone immune to those tactics. Almost unhinged, All For One’s rasping and uncontrollable mirth left little imagination as to his thoughts on the question.
“You really are extraordinary, aren’t you? Every week you come prepared to blindside me with something new.” Arching his spine through the straightjacket, his head turned to Izuku as if mimicking the reflex of long lost sight. “I strongly doubt anyone so much as noticed that contradiction, let alone took steps to act on it.”
Izuku blinked. “Did you just admit to lying?”
“Yes, you are not suffering an acute, sleep deprivation related hallucination. I did indeed concede a contradiction.”
Perched on the edge of his seat, Izuku leaned forward. “So why didn’t you add us as collateral? Shigaraki didn’t have problems with killing students at the U.S.J. to provoke a response.”
“There wasn’t a need. All Might and I already share a long and vengeful history without the need of collateral damage. Shigaraki lacked that connection until recent times.” All For One explained, as if to a small child.
“You didn’t have a problem with targeting civilians while he was in range. We’re higher value targets than those same civilians, if you had to prioritise damage for maximum emotional impact. You had enough of an opportunity to talk to Bakugou, but not add us to the body count? The only thing separating us from you were the remains of a wall which you somehow didn’t destroy.” Izuku thankfully corrected Kacchan’s nickname to the full name without a fumble.
“Izuku, you do realise that you’re critiquing my villainous technique? What if I escape and actually follow it?”
“I’ll reassess your motivations then,” Izuku dismissed. “Provided I’m not dead,” Izuku added as an afterthought. “There’s other inconsistencies as well.”
“Ever pragmatic. What other inconsistencies await me this time?” All For One sighed.
“You said Transmission’s capacity is in its ability to bring things to you and send them from you, with the proviso that you’ve got a close relationship to the target.”
“Yes,” All For One murmured.
“So how is it that you used it on Bakugou? You transporting the League of Villains is one thing, but Bakugou arrived before Shigaraki did, even without you supposedly knowing him. Under your explanation, especially since you referred to it as a fresh acquisition, you shouldn’t have been able to use it on Bakugou without any prior knowledge of him let alone snatch him first.” Izuku was dreading the discussion that was to come, bile bubbling in his stomach as he squared himself up for what was to occur next.
“What makes you think I didn’t lie about its limits?” All For One dismissed.
“You didn’t have a reason to lie and this,” Izuku almost snapped and held up the printout from the Japanese Times, hand shaking. “Years ago, before I went to middle school, a boy Bakugou and I went to school with went missing. It made the papers even if I didn’t know it at the time. He was friends with Bakugou. Tsubasa was his name and he had red wings that let him fly. Months ago, a Noumu with wings that looked exactly like his tried to fly off with me.” Izuku couldn’t help the edge that crept into his voice, or the tremors that wracked his body.
“And this is relevant to me knowing Bakugou, how exactly?” All For One asked flatly.
“It’s relevant because Dr Tsubasa, his grandfather, vanished from his clinic at roughly the same time. He closed his clinic and disappeared. The paper doesn’t state it, but the archival web records correlate with him disappearing at roughly the same time as his grandson’s disappearance. He was also the same person who diagnosed me as being Quirkless and had knowledge of all of the children in the neighbourhood,” Izuku almost snarled, pocketing his printout. “Now given Tsubasa’s disappearance, the reappearance of his Quirk in a Noumu, providing it wasn’t outright him who was used as a base and his grandfather vanishing… I think it’s fairly safe for me to assume that his grandfather is complicit in whatever you’ve been doing for the last sixteen years at the very least, probably longer. It’s going to be easy for you to know about Bakugou when you have Tsubasa’s grandfather to scout the Quirks of children in the area and his grandson who was friends with him. You could pull the other League of Villains members without prior direct contact, so why not Bakugou where you had plenty of second hand information?” Does that mean he lied to All Might about not knowing me?
It was an effort, struggling against the simultaneous red-hot surge and the wintry blast which fought for release. Either way, if Izuku’s conclusions were correct, Tsubasa hadn’t made it to middle school. Either he’d been robbed of his Quirk and discarded, or Stain had ended Tsubasa’s life to save Izuku’s from whatever fate awaited him. Used as fodder at age eleven with his grandfather’s consent.
An image of Ragdoll, whose features melted away to show Tsubasa’s horrified face. Tortured screams of a winged monstrosity before Stain pierced its brain and ended the suffering.
“The only thing that really puzzles me here, is why you’d choose him and potentially alienate his grandfather when it’s not like his Quirk is particularly rare,” Izuku bit out. “It could have drawn attention to you as well.” Like it did years after the fact, once someone had cared enough to go digging.
All For One, to Izuku’s relief, wasn’t displaying the usual air of contempt riddled amusement, but a far more reserved, serious "face".
“I’m almost afraid to respond to such a vicious dissection, Izuku,” All For One spoke cautiously. “So many connections you’ve drawn to conclude that I knew of Bakugou beforehand. If only the team investigating that boy’s disappearance had been so thorough…” He trailed off into a contemplative silence, head slightly inclined.
“You don’t need to confirm or deny it. All we need to do is run the DNA of that Noumu against a relative of Tsubasa and there’ll be enough there anyway,” Izuku’s furiously scratched at his notebook’s pages, graphite tip flexing dangerously. “What do you gain from effectively torturing a child to death, let alone one that’s related to a subordinate?” Izuku pushed.
“I’m surprised you’re taking this so personally. You said for yourself that he wasn’t your friend.” It was odd, but All For One actually sounded genuinely surprised to Izuku’s ears.
“Yes,” Izuku dripped venomously, “because I’m going to approve of you running around torturing people to death just because I don’t have a direct interest in their lives. He was eleven. What did he do to deserve that?” There was a desire to borrow a leaf from Kacchan’s book and abuse him in graphic detail, but prior experience made Izuku consider otherwise. He’d shrug off those tactics anyway.
“A pertinent question, but not one I’ll answer,” All For One allowed. “I’m fully aware that my omissions fuel your searches, but I doubt you’ll find the answer to that one without my assistance,” All For One smiled wryly. “Ignorance is bliss.”
“You can add it to the doubts I’ve already cleaved my way through.”
All For One’s animation had dropped since the raising of Tsubasa. Silently watching on, keenly observing Izuku’s fury from behind the safety of the glass. It was the silence that scared Izuku, the ever-lingering threat of the man coming to a conclusion that Izuku wouldn’t like. “Also, you’re not blind,” Izuku dropped succinctly to fill the void.
“I thought heroes were meant to be sensitive of people with disabilities,” All For One somehow managed in a hurt tone, moments after a near admission to murdering a child.
“Not when the person with supposed blindness can apparently determine whether or not someone is smiling. Infrared doesn’t give you that degree of distinction in the image clarity. You can’t have both a weak Infrared Quirk and still be able to perceive All Might to not be smiling at Kamino Ward. You might compensate with your hearing, but that doesn’t explain it either. Whether or not you have your natural eyesight is irrelevant. It’s clear that you can still see in some capacity. You also commented on All Might’s clothes when he visited as well,” Izuku pointed out. “You also recognised me after a single sentence and I doubt you’ve heard me speak often enough to be that quick.” Unless Bakugou wasn’t the only one mentioned. Izuku shuddered. “The raid on the bar also had a camera I doubt you’d need without eyesight. Ragdoll’s Search would explain how you knew All Might was coming from the bar, but it doesn’t explain your grasp of facial detail so soon after stealing it. I’m sure Ragdoll would confirm it lacking that functionality as well unless it tallied in as a weakness.” It was petty despite being relevant to All For One’s Quirks and they both knew it.
Long and drawn out, All For One’s breath carried through the air. “You are hostile today, aren’t you? I could have mistaken your speculation for legal submissions at a trial calling for my execution. So much condemnation for acts which ultimately benefited you. Aren’t you ungrateful.”
“I’m a teenager,” Izuku stated blandly, clamping down on the urge to snap back in response to the bait. “And you still haven’t addressed what I’ve said about your sight.”
“I’m at far more of a loss without my usual loadout of Quirks than without my sight,” All For One gave after a long pause. “Although that damage has caused its own problems.”
“I suppose we’ll be able to find out what damage after Dr Tsubasa is hunted down,” Izuku brightly reflected.
“You’re such a spiteful child,” All For One lamented, struggling to stretch in his bonds. “Can’t let anything go.”
“I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t,” Izuku pointed out, stretching a scarred arm.
Izuku received another tortured noise from the man. “At least you’ve recovered from your limp. If only your attitude would follow.”
Izuku rolled his eyes and made another note. He doubted Japan’s archvillain would be forthcoming about anything else today.
“Midoriya-san, times up!” A cheerful voice chirped across the intercom with its usual uncanny timing.
“Okay! Same time next week?” Izuku asked with his broadest, toothy smile as he stood.
“The price I pay for human contact.”
“You could always, have, you know, not terrorised society for over two hundred years,” Izuku suggested, reaching for the handle. “That helps with human contact.”
“Does it? It seems like the most stimulating conversations only happened after I was imprisoned.”
Izuku let the door slam shut. Shaking, he bypassed the lounge and headed for the carpark where an irate All Might and annoyed Tsukauchi stood waiting for him.
It was a quiet drive back to the campus.
You guys write the best comments. Thank you.
Chapter 4: Hobbies of a Cryptid
Japan's archfiend had a disturbing number of interests. Who knew?
“Oi Deku,” Kacchan snapped.
Izuku jumped from his dozing position on his desk. “Yes?” He slurred.
“There’s something I need to tell you about. It’s connected to Tsubasa.” Kacchan kicked out a foot impatiently. “Sooner we get this over with the better.”
Izuku flailed upright. “Coming, coming!” With that, Izuku bolted out the door after Kacchan’s retreating back. Two steps at a time, he bounded down the stairs and skidded to a halt on the ground floor. At a far more sane pace, he followed Kacchan outside as they strode further and further away from the dorms into the inky night.
“I don’t want noodle ears listening in on us. This shit is private. It’s sort of about Tsubasa,” Kacchan spat, kicking out at a protruding tree root.
“Did you remember something?” Izuku hesitated.
“Yeah, when those League of Villains bastards kidnapped me… I told them to go fuck themselves. Those pricks wanted us to all to hold hands and dance around the asshole campfire.” Izuku felt himself lean away at the stream of profanity and spray of spittle. “I said no and that hand fucker referred me to that faceless fuck for his “wisdom” in persuading me to join up. That shit isn’t even the strange part.”
“What was the strange part, then?”
“It’s how fucking eager he sounded to be sharing whatever the fuck that persuasion technique happened to be. You said before that faceless wanted Shigaraki to grow the fuck up, but he sounded way too keen on something that was probably torturing me into submission. Instead of letting Shigaraki try for himself, unlike that effort he pulled out his ass earlier, he just happily swooped in on the offer. If it was about a learning experience, he would’ve told hand fuck to fuck off and do it himself.” Kacchan slammed the tree root again. “He also didn’t seem the least bit uncomfortable in speaking to me after he fucking snatched me from the bar for someone who doesn’t know me.”
“You think All For One leapt on it because of what he did to Tsubasa,” Izuku whispered, dawning horror blossoming in his half asleep mind. “He knows Tsubasa, he knows you… But that’d imply that whatever problem he had with Tsubasa he likewise had with you. I wonder if he persuaded Shigaraki to go after you…”
“Who cares? That boat’s sailed. It’s also not just me, idiot, because if he knows me and he knows Tsubasa then he sure as fuck knows you.” The penny dropped and Izuku felt his stomach drop with it. “That’s guilt by fucking association. I’ve been trying to get in touch with the extras from primary and middle school that we used to hang out with,” Kacchan growled. “I couldn’t find one of them. After what happened…” Kacchan spun and hammered the tree with an explosive hand and flaming bark hurtled through the air as Izuku ducked. “I reported it to the police, but keep a fucking eye out, Deku. That faceless prick might be in prison, but his overgrown brat isn’t.”
“Thank you, Kacchan,” Izuku stuttered through all-encompassing dread.
Kacchan grunted, turned on his heel and marched off back through the gloom towards the dorms. Izuku felt like throwing up and slowly ambled back to his room.
Izuku cornered All Might the next day at lunch and passed on Kacchan’s warning.
“He has a point, young Midoriya.” All Might had an unusually grave expression carved into his skeletal face. “If you are a potential target then you shouldn’t be speaking to him.”
“But it’s weird,” Izuku mumbled from around a mouthful of noodles. “If I was a target then I’d be a lot easier to go after than Bakugou or his friends. All For One’s problem with the Tsubasa family and Bakugou must have started in middle school somewhere or even earlier. I didn’t have a Quirk and there wasn’t any extended family or friends who would have been able to stop him or Kurogiri from dropping in… Why would he even care about that? It’s so petty.” Izuku would have carried on, if not for the uncomfortable expression on All Might’s face. “Uh, All Might? Everything okay?”
“Yes, yes, it’s fine young Midoriya. Nothing to worry about for me.” All Might made an exaggerated peace sign that did little to mask the discomfort showing on his face. “You do raise a good point though. If All For One did have a problem with you it’d show more readily. The prison staff have records from the medical sensors showing that his mood improves when he speaks to you.”
“That’s really really invasive and creepy,” Izuku winced. “But if he had a problem with me I don’t think he’d be volunteering any information about anything. He’s evasive, but he’s still talking. It’d be easier to say nothing which is exactly what he did with the interrogators.”
“True,” All Might agreed, biting into a violently pink cupcake emblazoned with a stencil of his own face. “He didn’t seem to think highly of Endeavor either when I spoke to him. His prediction about the public discontent of Endeavor being number one was disturbingly accurate. Absolutely no minced words there.”
Izuku blew heavily on his noodles. “He called the public outcry? I wonder what he based it on.”
“May as well ask him. What he’ll say is anyone’s guess, but it can’t hurt,” All Might gestured. Izuku doubted anything would hurt as much as realising that a childhood friend was a victim of the man.
“Time for more research on Endeavor then. Has there been anything on Tsubasa or his grandfather?”
All Might nodded. “Not yet and there’s not much else you can do. Tsukauchi’s been pulling his hair out over getting the taskforce together over it and keeping his sister out of the records. I didn’t even know he had one until he lost it on the phone a couple of days ago.” All Might shrugged with spindly shoulders. “Keep doing what you’re doing.” The bell rang and both of them hobbled back to class.
As it so happened, there wasn’t much about anything on Endeavor. Typing in “Endeavor commentary” got him almost exactly nothing. Thumbing down his search engine, there was nothing but a string of takedown and removal notices extending down the screen. Clicking on a cached link, Izuku was greeted by a forum complaint at Pop Heroics by tickledpink5.
tickledpink5: what the fuk is going on here man. i made like 1 comment on endeavor’s bad pr and i got fuking banned. what is this #$#%. what happened to freedom of commentary. u guys suck and your sellouts. i’m going elsewhere. btye
Clicking on the current link revealed a deleted thread. Izuku blinked. Censorship. That was… new? Or was it? Izuku honestly couldn’t remember. Endeavor had never necessarily been one of his favourites. Nowadays Izuku had seriously considered donating his merchandise of Endeavor to the homeless, but he doubted that they would want it either. Maybe for a bonfire in winter?
Clicking through the pages of results, the same pattern repeated. Complaints of removals, takedown notices, numerous articles of the editor of Heroes Weekly being sued by Endeavor for the umpteenth time.
There was a curious lack of video commentaries on the numerous video sharing sites as well. Gobble.com.au had a series of videos critiquing Endeavor in English by one conspiraciesMATE. Izuku suspected that they were only still up on account of them hosting their website in Australia where the law was notoriously… indifferent. To Izuku’s lack of surprise, not a single flattering comment was to be found in the broad and drawling accent of the host. Izuku flushed pink at the three-minute mark as a deluge of swearing and select four letter words filled his earphones. “He can endeavor to stick his head up my-” was hurriedly muted before it could blurt out. He’d have to pass on the link to Todoroki later for a second opinion.
The host was clear in his dislike of the lawsuits launched against Endeavor’s critics. Defamation, breach of personality rights, infringement of copyright and trade marked symbol breaches and the list went on. Censorship in its purest form. Izuku carefully wrote vexatious litigant into a spare notebook and hit print on a selection of articles.
Izuku didn’t want to think about the previous week. He hoped All For One wasn’t, either.
“Hello, Izuku. Are you limping again?” All For One’s disapproval rang out as soon as Izuku placed an unsteady leg over the threshold.
“Always a critic,” Izuku shook his head and limped to his seat.
“My criticism is nothing but constructive,” floated through the glass. “If you keep maiming yourself then you’ll one day lose use of your legs and arms. You won’t be of use to anyone as a cripple.
“It didn’t stop you from blowing up half a ward, did it?” Izuku snarked. “What about my constructive criticism?”
“If I had paper, I’d write notes.” It was oddly airy, as if Izuku wasn’t the only one feeling the weight of the previous week.
“If you had paper you’d probably find a way to stab the guards with it.” Izuku flipped open his notebook which had become increasingly heavy. A tongue of stapled in research flopped out and hung limply in midair. Izuku sighed and stuffed it back in with some effort. He could’ve sworn he heard a snigger through the glass.
All For One cocked his head. “That too. Or scratch the itch on my back with it.”
“Why didn’t you run from All Might when you had the chance?” Izuku quirked an eyebrow. “You could have taken out Bakugou on arrival, activated Kurogiri’s Quirk and piled everyone through the gate before All Might even arrived. What stopped you from running?” It was actually incredibly fortunate that All For One hadn’t taken the opportunity that sat so clearly in front of him. With five more prospective hostages so close by, it wouldn’t have been difficult to cover the escape.
“Goals change, Izuku. As you would know.” All For One knowingly tipped his head towards Izuku as he spoke.
“Then you ending up here wasn’t originally part of the plan. You let yourself get captured in exchange for what, then?” What would compel Japan’s oldest villain into effective surrender? Shigaraki had no inherent value at an objective level. Izuku supposed there was some value in Shigaraki acting as a living spit in the face for All Might, but even that degree of pettiness had its limits. Childish desires trapped in an adult’s body, Shigaraki was hardly the archetype of person All For One would place such a degree of trust upon given the inexperience. Shigaraki was ignorant of a large component of All For One’s grand strategy… which meant that that-
“-Information,” All For One candidly cut through Izuku’s thoughts. “My needs changed as the encounter wore on. It was more than simply antagonising All Might.” And there it was, almost freely given.
“Really?” Izuku asked sceptically, even as the idea of a grand strategy floated to the forefront. “You’re all about antagonising All Might. Elaborate.”
All For One’s breath could be heard for a contemplative few moments. “Why did you provoke the younger Todoroki into wielding both aspects of his Quirk? Had he only used his ice, you would have achieved a comfortable victory in the tournament. From your stunt in the first part of the Festival, you were intending to win with little regard for your wellbeing,” All For One gently coaxed.
Clever, but transparent. The real question was hidden within. All For One’s real question sank its teeth into the core of Izuku’s priorities and planning, wrapped neatly around a pre-requisite for All For One’s own answer. An exchange of information would supposedly mitigate weaknesses exposed, but it was hardly fair given All For One’s age and life experience. It was the prisoner’s knowledge that made him dangerous, not his Quirk.
“You were watching, then. I wondered…” Izuku allowed himself to trail off and was rewarded with a smug smirk.
“Yes, I was curious. Shigaraki made mention of a boy with a skillset similar to All Might. Fortunately, U.A.’s Sports Festival has always been rather exposed.” All For One allowed stress to fall on the final word. “With a public broadcast, who was I to say no?” Carefully subdued, All For One was almost placating in tone. “There’s been little else for me to do in the last half a decade,” All For One muttered bitterly.
Izuku carefully noted down that particular reply, because what else engaged someone who ran a criminal empire for a living? Where else would he be spending his time? It raised the uncomfortable possibility that All For One was more than an ideology and his influence spread beyond the criminal underworld.
“Initially,” Izuku reluctantly answered, taking the plunge.
“What changed?” Curiosity. Kacchan’s warning was fresh.
“After the Cavalry Battle he told me why he wasn’t using his fire side,” Izuku carefully explained. It wasn’t his story to tell after all. Adding to All For One’s extensive knowledge based arsenal wasn’t a particularly great idea either.
“The explanation wasn’t good enough,” Izuku said bluntly, an image of Todoroki’s rage filled face springing to mind; Sero obliterated in the tournament matchups. “We’re going into a field where we deal with people like you on a daily basis. They don’t care about our personal issues. Everyone’s doing their best for a reason. If Todoroki lets spite hold him back then…” Izuku winced. “Stain didn’t care that we were children. He was going to kill Native and Ida regardless. Shigaraki didn’t care either even earlier than that, so I had to say something.”
Something that had left Todoroki completely incapable of fighting back against Bakugou. Something that led to Todoroki saving the lives of Native, Ida, Izuku and himself in a joint effort. Something that had placed Todoroki in Hosu to save them in the first place. Izuku’s tiny ripple in taking a dive had caused a crashing wave across the pond. Just like All For One’s capture and All Might’s defeat. Defeat in battle to win a war.
“In a society of tragic backstories, they cease to be of special consideration. That’s why I’m here instead of being rehabilitated,” All For One smirked. “But your intervention, in a roundabout manner, saved your life.” Izuku shuddered at the conclusion. “If Todoroki hadn’t been persuaded to see sense, Stain would have likely killed your classmates and left you as the sole survivor. Your loss was a calculated move to assist Todoroki and in the process you benefited from it. Perhaps you didn’t win the tournament, but it left Todoroki in a position to provide support in a more tactically important encounter,” All For One explained with a broad smile, a faint movement of a hand visible beneath the restraints, almost as though he would clap in appreciation. “If he hadn’t used his full potential, the outcome wouldn’t have been anywhere near so beneficial for the both of us. It’s amazing how such a little stone causes such large waves,” All For One leered.
Paging through his notebook, Izuku allowed himself to stew on the megalomaniac’s conclusions. Part of it was to escape his opposite’s ravenous appetite for information on Izuku himself. All For One wasn’t wrong though. If Todoroki hadn’t accepted his fire, then he wouldn’t have interned with Endeavor. If Todoroki hadn’t interned with Endeavor, Izuku wouldn’t have been able to contact anyone in the immediate area for help. Ida and Native would have died and Izuku probably maimed to prevent him from pursuing Stain. By losing in the tournament, Izuku had secured a longer term win in persuading Todoroki to confront his father and fully use his Quirk. Therein lay the answer to All For One’s motivation in taking a dive.
“You have excellent intuition,” All For One complimented. “A trait to be feared in time to come. Perhaps you didn’t plan so far ahead as to account for Stain’s appearance or your presence at Hosu when you threw the fight with Todoroki… but I wasn’t meant to be in Kamino Ward covering Shigaraki’s escape either. Hosu wasn’t a situation you necessarily foresaw directly, but you did foresee the possibility of the class of situation and acted accordingly.” Both bright and sinister, it left little doubt that All For One really wasn’t regretting his imprisonment. “You turned your mind to the future and benefited from an opportunity. My actions were not dissimilar and here we are.”
“So the information you wanted was more important than the legacy you’ve palmed off to Shigaraki,” Izuku half stated, half asked of himself more than the prisoner. “So there is something more important than your feud with All Might and the government.”
“If you say so.”
Izuku flexed an aching arm and leg and fished for another topic far away from a boy with wings.
“Why did you come to the conclusion that Endeavor’s promotion to the top hero would be met with instability after All Might’s retirement?” All For One looked taken aback by the abrupt change in topic. Good. “Him being unpopular prior to the promotion was common, but I’ve been having trouble finding information as to why he’s unpopular because the speculation keeps being removed,” Izuku remarked, observing a list of removed search results. “All Might had piles upon piles of speculation and commentary, but Endeavor has just about nothing. Most of these sites have takedown notices on them.”
“Being Endeavor, I’m surprised you found enough ask me about it,” the resident mastermind chuckled. “He has a long and fruitful history of taking down content which disagrees with his heroic status. A highly litigious individual,” All For One added in a conspiratorial undertone.
“Then you didn’t get all of your information from the publications then, did you? I mean, numerous outlets have reported on his… uh,” Izuku hesitated, searching for a phrase that could adequately describe the current top pro hero.
“Utterly deficient personality,” All For One smoothly inserted and Izuku hastily stifled a hysterical giggle. Ouch. “I had the benefit of reading the publications prior to any retractions. A handy benefit of print media.”
“That’s a bit rich coming from you, but let’s run with that,” Izuku allowed after a sizable gasp of air.
“I never used my relatives as part of a eugenics experiment, at the very least,” All For One bounced back.
“No, just the relatives of your subordinates instead,” shot from Izuku’s mouth, almost involuntarily.
“You wound me, Izuku.” All For One’s illusion of hurt was somewhat damaged by the mild quiver that seemed to pass through him, voice and all. “The implication that I should care…” Breaking into another chuckle, All For One didn’t sound the least bit remorseful.
Izuku rolled his eyes and clenched a fist. “Moving on from the villainous posturing… What gave you the idea that Endeavor’s lack of popularity was about eugenics and his utterly deficient personality?” Izuku sharply poked. And if you know about it, why didn’t anyone else who knew step in for his children?
Resting his scarred head forwards, a subtle twitch of his bound limbs and Japan’s archvillain was silent. A mild hum, as over two centuries of memories arranged themselves into a coherent order. “Where do I start in a deduction stemming from context clues?” All For One directed to Izuku. “Understand that my conclusions were drawn over decades and are somewhat voluminous.”
“How about the first place you saw suggesting a Quirk marriage? If the journalism was up to scratch then they would’ve mentioned reasoning for their suspicions,” Izuku offered, even as he made a careful note of All For One’s imperfect memory. “You can add to the context after that or I can go looking for myself.”
“If I’m not mistaken, I believe it was issue 46 of Heroes Weekly,” All For One murmured with an air of concentration as if there was a struggle to retrieve the memory itself. “It was only a relatively new industry magazine at the time, and a rather contentious one which flirted with the anti-Quirk laws relating to information gathering. One of their dynamic and enterprising journalists managed to catch Endeavor’s schedule and lack of appearances with his family. She raised numerous concerns about the health of the family given Endeavor’s rather lacking… skills,” All For One sneered. “In recent times, I also quite enjoyed their articles on Ragdoll’s Quirk,” All For One finished cheerfully.
Izuku refrained from addressing the last jab. Memorising issue numbers was a little more than Izuku had expected. “Let me guess, Endeavor’s family never attended events, never received publicity, never appeared in public, never announced births, were never seen with the in-laws, never were seen carrying out domestic duties, he never talked about his family and they basically didn’t seem to exist outright,” Izuku groaned. “Likely because of the injuries his wife would have received. I don’t think she would have been feeling well enough to manage public events.”
“Indeed, that was also what the evidence provided, to the point of teetering on the edge of legality due to Endeavor effectively being stalked. As far as I’m aware, Mai Maki, the journalist involved, attended the same school as the senior Todoroki.” Izuku had a feeling that the sentence would have been followed with a distinct side eying and a wink with the subtle turning of the prisoner’s head. If All For One still had eyes, that is. “Then again, if his intention was to carry out a highly misinformed eugenics experiment, as Maki inferred from the outward conditions of the Todoroki household and her own knowledge, it wouldn’t have been difficult for her to trace the thread using her prior experiences. You’re too young to have seen the intial defamation action he took out against Maki and Heroes Weekly for that series of reports. You’re also, fortunately for you, too young to have seen the birth of Quirk marriages.”
“I remember seeing the anniversary article on both though. Convenient that they were in the same issue,” Izuku dripped out the sarcasm. “I think Maki is the editor now. They’re still going strong even with a defamation action against them in court every other week,” Izuku sighed. “With how the court works, unless there’s criminal charges, they make more money out of the surrounding articles than what Endeavor can sue them for. Standard civil court actions haven’t had a lot of reform with the focus on Quirks.”
“What’s impressive is that even the automated bots flagging the articles can’t keep up the sheer amount of content in their weekly editions. The use of bots to automate law suits and takedown notices for online breaches is an evil even I couldn’t have conceived.”
“Only because it’s one of the few things around that’s older than you.”
“It doesn’t mean that I won’t happily benefit from it. Endeavor’s desire to hide and suppress those reports are part of what convinced me that a Quirk marriage took place. Prior articles made quite clear as well that his only interests were in himself and his advancement, not marriage,” All For One explained, mouth angled into a grimace.
“What was the other part?”
“Having lived through the popular period of Quirk marriages, I still remember the signs.” All For One didn’t seem to remember them particularly positively if the flat tone of voice accompanying the statement meant anything. “This information, while perhaps not widely known among your generation, would be known among the parents of your classmates as Endeavor’s marriage attracted a great deal of discussion at the time. It’s only natural that there’s distrust relating to his promotion. Endeavor isn’t exactly inspiring of confidence in the system with his hypocrisy.”
Izuku nodded without thinking and blinked upwards to see All For One’s feral smile.
“It would be a terrible terrible shame if someone were to release those articles into the wild again,” said All For One conversationally, as though discussing the weather. “It might be enough to utterly destroy the current number one’s sterling reputation.”
“I don’t know, if I made a forum post about even you not liking him, I think that’d damage his reputation even worse.” Izuku frowned. “On the downside, I’d probably have twenty-six hero agencies and the police turning up at my house wondering how I knew that.”
“Take out a subscription to Conspiracy before you write the forum post,” All For One idly suggested. “No one would look twice at it. Provided you haven’t already, of course,” he added as an afterthought.
Izuku fumbled and almost dropped his distressed notebook. “How do you know about Conspiracy?”
“We do share the same hobby, so presumably we share the same sources for the hobby,” All For One grinned.
“But Conspiracy? You actually read something as niche as Conspiracy?” Struggling to close his jaw, Izuku gaped. It should have made sense that All For One was aware of Conspiracy’s existence, the tiny, shadowy publication that whispered about a Quirk that could give and take other Quirks. A tiny shadowy publication that was the sole magazine to speculate about the criminal underworld to survive in modern day Japan. A tiny publication that All For One apparently read.
“Careful, Izuku, or people will wonder as to why an aficionado of heroes is likewise a regular reader of a magazine generally reserved for the criminal population.”
“I read it for the articles on Quirks,” Izuku pointed out.
“That was my excuse too. No one believed me,” All For One lamented. It was all Izuku could do not to choke on his saliva.
“I don’t suppose you also read that contributor article about a Quirk capable of stealing and giving Quirks?” Izuku asked sardonically.
“Whatever gave you that impression?” All For One asked through unsuppressed laughter.
“That part where it noted that “such a Quirk would function to gather all powers in sum for one individual”, which totally isn’t suspicious if you’re a subscriber.” Izuku held his head in his hands and felt as though he’d been tossed sideways into another reality. The last two weeks merged and Izuku found himself buckling under their combined and surreal gravity. “You know what, I think I’m done for today.” Izuku staggered to his feet, weight falling heavily onto his left leg.
“Don’t be like that, Izuku. I haven’t even mentioned my fondness for the Heroes Mirror or Quirk Focus yet,” All For One poked.
“The Mirror?” Izuku groaned as he headed for the exit, the prison announcement curiously absent. “They should attach a sign outside warning the guards about you for that alone.”
“It’s only the Mirror,” All For One insisted. Of course All For One would insist, the Heroes Mirror was his media company equivalent for the tabloid press.
“Coming from someone who’s blown up a city, I’m not surprised that it’s “only the Mirror” to you.” Izuku paused. “Oh… don’t tell me that’s where you noticed the lack of Endeavor’s family appearances…” Izuku stared, aghast.
“The Mirror is very informative about public appearances of celebrities,” All For One defended.
“I’m going to have nightmares about this conversation,” Izuku muttered to himself as he opened the door. “Maybe I shouldn’t come back next week.”
“I’ll live with that so long as you don’t cripple yourself,” All For One chimed while laughing and Izuku slammed the door shut while shaking his head.
Izuku bypassed the waiting room and staggered out to the car where All Might and Tsukauchi stood in a huddle.
“Ah, young Midoriya,” All Might bounced excitedly. “I should have known he was a Mirror type. He always had that look about him.”
Izuku frowned and shook his head. “All Might, what was the last thing you two spoke about before you flattened him?”
All Might’s mirth instantly died and colour seeped from his face. “He wanted to know if you were the one I gave One For All to and criticised me for being a poor teacher.”
Goals change… Izuku shuddered and they piled into the car for the drive back to campus. Kacchan’s warning hung at the forefront of his mind.
I've always wondered how AFO stayed so informed about all the events in the hero world... and came to the conclusion he must've spent a lot of time digging through the media and online commentary.
I also apologise for the delay, but I have a family member in hospital that I've been doing chores for while they've been ill.
Chapter 5: Politics of a Cryptid
Even a cryptid has its beliefs.
There was a tangential awareness in the dorms that Izuku was up to something. Thankfully no one had figured out exactly what or Kacchan probably would have burnt the building down in a fit of rage. It didn’t stop the whispers that stopped when Izuku approached or the curious looks every Saturday when Izuku was escorted by All Might from the premises. Even Izuku’s explanation of a research task replacing club activities did little to persuade them. They were concerned, but not quite enough to directly ask him about it.
They thought he was too withdrawn and that was enough for them to speculate. Jiro was of particular concern, the perfect eavesdropper who could listen on his audio research as well as his mumbles if he wasn’t careful to keep his mouth shut. So Izuku hid his notebooks and hard drives in the general clutter of his shelving and hoped for the best. He wasn’t really expecting anyone to raid his room, but Kacchan was always a wildcard.
Aizawa-sensei and the other teaching staff weren’t completely in the know about the visits to All For One either, which also made them a risk. It was a testament to All Might’s years of leading a double life that he successfully diverted attention from their joint project without any overt suspicion. Expert deflections and excuses were provided to Nedzu and the rest of staff, wrapped neatly in the proposition that it was a good idea to foster better relations between future heroes and the police. All Might, along with Detective Tsukauchi, assured the faculty of Izuku’s assistance being in the investigation of the Noumu and their Quirks due to his knack for Quirk analysis. They both may have forgotten to mention the root investigation being into the creator of the Noumu, but the faculty could live without the information.
Izuku thought his classmates probably had the right of it, but they didn’t spend their Saturday’s walking on eggshells and paths of thin glass. A single misjudgement and the arrangement with All For One would shatter. If Izuku ever wanted to find out what happened to Tsubasa or all of All For One's victims, he would have to keep playing the game and playing it at least somewhat well. Coming into the arrangement sans the two centuries of experience needed to have a level playing field wasn’t helping either. Mitigation of All For One's schemes was just as important as socialising with friends and Izuku could only hope that everyone apart from Kacchan would see it that way.
At the same time, finals were rapidly approaching. Research for the week had to be shelved in exchange for frantic studying and training as they geared up for another encounter with the teachers. Provided the teachers didn’t subcontract out the exams and, given Shigaraki’s increasing attention to the students, it was becoming more likely. All For One was dangerous and attending an interview without something to keep the man on the backfoot was even more so dangerous. It was like feeding sharks without a cage to hide in. One mistake and Izuku would very rapidly become food for thought.
Injuries from the physical exam preparation were slowly mounting and Izuku was left with a sort of dull ache that permeated his whole body and a persistent tingle in his sinuses. He couldn’t quite pinpoint what exactly was wrong, but it ached and even Recovery Girl’s Quirk couldn’t quite fix it. Izuku sneezed and carried on packing his bag for his regular visit, stuffing in a pack of tissues.
Izuku could either attend and place himself at the non-existent mercy of All For One without anything to defend himself, or he could take a week off from visitation. Eying off the coffee machine in the common area of the dorms, Izuku poured himself the strongest shot he could physically make and hoped Plan B would work. With that, he made for the car.
“Uh, you could always take the day off. We wouldn’t blame you,” Tsukauchi suggested as he zoomed down the road, All Might again in the passenger seat. “Exams are stressful at the best of times. A week off won’t hurt.”
“I’m not worried about missing it directly, but if he was petty enough to kidnap Nana Shimura’s grandson for a screw you to All Might then I think avoiding a provocation is the better idea,” Izuku explained through a simultaneous ache and buzz through his head. “Two hundred years and he can’t do anything better with his time.” Izuku shook his head. “What a waste.”
“I’m stealing that one if he tries to kill me again,” Izuku heard All Might mutter to a sniggering Tsukauchi. Izuku was too strained to smile.
On arrival, Izuku peeled himself from the car seat with some effort and made his way to the usual waiting room. If any of the guards later noticed the jumbo sized black coffee as they led him to the cell, they were kind enough not to mention it. They cracked open the door to All For One’s cell and Izuku felt himself melt into the seat.
“Izuku, you look wretched. Both a limp and debilitating fatigue. Are you sure you’re cut out for U.A.?” All For One asked more leisurely than any high security prisoner had the right to be.
“You’re not even going to wait for a hello?” Izuku half-heartedly rolled his eyes. “We’re doing revision for finals,” Izuku sighed without waiting for a response. His notebook had been replaced by his prison issued paper cup of jumbo coffee. It was a triple shot long black and even then it didn’t feel strong enough. “If you’re lucky I might be able to scrounge up a hypothesis, but don’t get your hopes up.” So came Plan B, colloquially known as making it up as he went.
“Ah, of course,” All For One tweaked his head knowingly. “I don’t see you struggling with the exams. Well, at least not the written portions,” he added in an undertone. “I’m less optimistic about the physical portions.”
“You know, for all my digging on what you’ve been up to over the years, I’m honestly still at a loss for why it bothers you.” Izuku had forgone pulling out his increasingly unwieldy notebook, but even then a reserved page holding that note sat blankly without mental addition. “You sent Shigaraki to be pulled apart by All Might at the U.S.J., so it’s not like you have a general concern for the wellbeing of anyone if you don’t care about your so-called successor. You didn’t care about Tsubasa either,” Izuku added darkly. “Why attack All Might over the Quirk’s injuries?” Government staff aside, Izuku didn’t feel particularly inclined to tell them the true nature of One For All. Government employees didn’t mean trusted employees.
“He’s directly responsible for the injuries caused to you.” As it turned out, All For One didn’t seem particularly inclined to give that secret away either. Odd, but Izuku could work with it. “Given your status as a fairly late bloomer, it’s obvious that your body is incapable of managing the recoil. It was…” All For One paused, as though fishing for wording. “I would use the word irresponsible but it feels too mild. How about entirely incompetent?” All For One sampled the wording. “Yes, entirely incompetent in his handling of it.”
“Yes, but why do you care? Apart from Recovery Girl and mum, no one seems too bothered by the damage it causes. They didn’t really feel the need to interrupt until after the fact. They have their reasons, but you’re… you,” Izuku finished lamely. “If it’s an attempt to put me off using it then it’s a fairly mild one given your preference for maiming, death, torture and prolific manipulation.” All For One’s warnings were more nagging than anything else. Where was the blackmail and extortion? The ultimatum or threat of injury? The outright lies All For One fed Shigaraki after he murdered Nana Shimura? It didn’t seem characteristic for the person in front of him to be so mild. “It’s not like I have an option when the alternative is horrible death.” As the encounter with Overhaul and company had proven.
All For One breathed out in a long, agonised stream of air. “What about the option of not being involved in the first place? There’s no need for children to be dealing with criminal matters. Society in Japan has plenty of able bodied adults who should be dealing with these matters instead of deferring to children. Yet there are almost no pathways into heroics beyond juvenile cadetship programs offered in high schools.” There wasn’t any mistaking the hostility slowly unwrapping itself in All For One’s voice, a prowling reminder of the first week.
“That didn’t stop you from capitalising on Tenko Shimura’s circumstances. You indoctrinated him as a child for the sole purpose of getting at All Might,” Izuku pointed out through half a mouthful coffee soaked biscuit. “You’re attacking the government for something you do yourself.”
“What makes you think it was purely about attacking All Might when Shigaraki’s my successor?” Curiosity oozed through in waves, further enhanced by All For One inclining forwards as he spoke.
“I have a lot of reasons which I’m going to save for another day, but the teaser basically amounts to it being a strange decision for someone who hasn’t so much as been hinted at wanting one in the previous two-hundred plus years. Or needed one,” Izuku added. “It’s also patently strange that you’re on first name basis with me and not him if you really cared about the successor aspect of it. A topic for another day.” It was a topic so large it occupied numerous sections of Izuku’s notebook. It certainly wasn’t something he’d be covering on three hours of sleep and more caffeine than was probably safe for human consumption. “You were saying?” Izuku prompted with a gentle sway of his paper cup.
“I eagerly await your conclusions.” It was another point to All For One’s general creepiness that his interest sounded genuine throughout these discussions. “As to the previous point, the government did it long before I did, Izuku. The hero system and its method of indoctrination existed a substantial period of time prior to Shigaraki coming into my care.”
“Really,” Izuku stated flatly. “Well, if the government does it I suppose we can eject all moral standards out the window and follow their lead.”
“I thought it was your intention to become a civil servant?” And there it was, the continuation of the poking and prodding which the prison staff had been kind enough to cut off in the first meeting. Izuku almost sighed into his coffee.
“Working for the government doesn’t mean that I agree with every single thing that they do,” Izuku pointed out, feeling like he had made a real life misclick and entered a Heroes vs Villains sub-forum populated by twelve-year olds. “I have different opinions on different policies. Some areas, like Quirk regulation, could definitely be handled better if the intelligence of the population was respected. But they’re politicians, what do you expect?” Izuku shrugged. “The very last thing they do is actually listen to public opinion, and the majority of the voting public are too intelligent to get involved in party politics with how it currently stands. Everyone’s heard the rumours of what happens behind party doors.”
All For One positively beamed at him, teeth glinting and Izuku wasn’t sure if he’d stepped into a trap or neatly avoided one. A happy All For One was an unpredictable All For One. “Ah, so you’re not a mindless follower then. What a relief. Since the criminalisation of Quirks, the world’s various governments have developed a great fondness for child soldiers. Children are easily indoctrinated and pliable… Generally,” All For One dipped his head towards Izuku, “but your disobedience is a noted exception. You pursue your goals with little regard for the judgement of others.” Izuku really hoped it wasn’t appreciation that he was hearing saturating the deep voice, but if it was then it was more effective at making Izuku reconsider his career path than anything else he’d heard so far.
“Depends on who the judgement’s coming from.” Izuku sniffled and swallowed down another sneeze.
“If you say so,” All For One purred and continued without a skip. “What you attend is in reality a military academy disguised as a high school. You’re a cadet with a provisional licence allowing you to engage in combat while supervised. When I was your age it would have been unthinkable for adults to offload military action to children, even with the appearance of Quirks. Now it’s the norm,” All For One expertly sneered. “Children are now effectively subcontractors to the military with U.A. allocated a substantial portion of Japan’s military spending allowance. Indoctrination through the labels of hero and villain allow for an easy crop of children willing to be maimed for the right cause. The only thing that separates me from the government is that I’m not the government.”
“All I’m hearing is that there wouldn’t be a difference if you were in power. If the rumours are correct then you already had substantial control over the government at some point in time.”
“And?” It was meant to be a light tone, but a razor thin edge destroyed the affect.
“Nothing changed,” Izuku delivered bluntly. “I’m not Shigaraki and if that particular rumour is true then all it proves that you’re no different to the people you’re complaining about. Quirks are still heavily regulated and, provided what Shigaraki’s parroting is straight from you, then that’s not something you’d agree with. Here we are with those same laws after your influence. You decided to unperson yourself instead of change the culture of how Quirks are looked at by people.”
It’s amazing that only two hundred years ago that All For One would be a prime government defamation target for having a Quirk in the first place. Now, two hundred years later, he was still a government defamation target, but now for having the wrong sort of Quirk. All For One’s long criminal history aside, Shinso’s crime free experience told an unflattering tale of the discrimination that ran rampant in society. Criminal status hardly mattered in Japan. Perceived potential criminality was the only thing that mattered. The government skewing exams to favour the openly flashy category of Quirks like Kacchan’s only made it more evident that certain categories of straightforward people were preferred rather than the subversiveness of Quirk reallocation or brainwashing. All For One had no legal means of existing in either world and neither did Shinso without taking advantage of a tiny, high risk loophole in U.A.’s own system. Izuku, not having a Quirk, likely wouldn’t have made it into the General course, let alone the Heroics course. Not all people are born equal.
“It’s a system that enslaves people to its will and does away with those who it can’t control. The moment they perceive you as a threat to them, they will target you as well,” All For One warned in a disturbing echo of Izuku’s own thoughts. “Even if your speculation was correct, any proposal from me wouldn’t have been accepted as the government has already made strides to taint public opinion against deregulation. They have long argued that some Quirks are too inherently dangerous, rather than offering lessons to control those Quirks. It would take numerous lifetimes to undo the damage done to how the public perceives certain Quirks and their wielders,” All For One bitterly concluded. Interesting. Society seemingly hadn’t changed too much in two hundred years, which might explain why All For One was still here all that time later. Another point in the mental notebook.
“I suppose it’s a good thing that I’m not in it for the system then,” Izuku murmured, wiping his nose. “I’m already aware that it’s unfair for people without Quirks or less flashy Quirks to be dismissed for that alone. It’s just another type of class ranking these days. I’m not really in it for the reputation either, now that I think of it.” Until All Might had asked Izuku to become the Symbol of Peace, Izuku would’ve been content to remain a nobody, helping from the shadow with almost no public attention. One For All had changed that, as had Kacchan’s provocations.
Unnatural stillness caught Izuku’s attention. All For One fixed him with an eyeless stare, more statue than person. It was at that moment, Izuku realised he’d made a series of grave mistakes as he lifted his cup for another sip. The first was not noticing that his coffee had gone cold. The second was not using it as a decoy to leave early and avoid the blatant probing.
“Aren’t you now?” All For One asked, lowly. “Why did you choose to pursue heroics? The option wasn’t even available to you from the beginning. Why not leave it and do something else? You’re not incapable by any means.”
Izuku groaned and felt the onset of a literal and metaphorical headache. “I don’t even have that good of a reason for it, really. I wanted to help people.”
A shadow of a smile, thin and edged. “Why?”
If All For One was expecting a deep and thoughtful reply, he was about to be disappointed. The longer Izuku dwelt on it, the surer he became of his answer. “Because I’ve never expected anyone to help me.” Izuku cringed at how All For One positively perked up. “When Shigaraki spoke to me at the mall, he seemed caught up on the idea that All Might couldn’t save everyone. As if that’s ever been a good reason to condemn someone. Shigaraki’s parents must’ve spoilt him rotten as a kid if he thought that there was ever a chance of All Might personally saving him.” Izuku couldn’t understand Shigaraki at a fundamental level. Shigaraki wore entitlement like a cloak even well into adulthood. All For One was used as a shield from consequence and Shigaraki never seemed to feel the need to step beyond his grasp. It was beyond comprehension for a four-year-old Izuku and not much had changed for Izuku over a decade later. It was a non-existent luxury in a single parent family.
“Interesting. Shigaraki didn’t mention his consultation with you at all, but he was somewhat fixated on you prior to it from Kurogiri’s observations.” With his expression set in careful blankness, Izuku thought that All For One had the look of someone about to smack a child over the knuckles with a ruler. Shigaraki’s visit wasn’t Sensei Approved then, but did that mean that Shigaraki didn’t know about One For All or All For One’s history with it? Did Shigaraki not know about Izuku’s involvement? What exactly was Shigaraki carrying on if All For One hadn’t told him about the real legacy? Another set of questions for the notebook that Izuku couldn’t be bothered taking from his bag. A dull pulse through his skull as Izuku shifted in his chair.
“The reality is that heroes are more celebrities than anything else. They’re not everywhere and they have lives outside of heroics. If a poor Quirk matchup stopped them from saving Bakugou, then why would I get my hopes up about them saving me?” Izuku frowned. “I wasn’t worth a thank you, nevermind almost dying to the same villain minutes earlier. Nobody cared and I… didn’t want to be like them even before that happened. The hypocrisy is self-evident.”
That same stillness hovered about them. “You were involved in that incident?”
Izuku smiled blandly. “I was his first attempted murder of the day. He was going to try bodysnatching me to hide from All Might. I wasn’t expecting anyone to come then either, but All Might saved me at the last second.”
“It was sometime after that, wasn’t it, that it manifested?” All For One prodded. There was something about his voice that sent cool chills running through Izuku. A dangerous, hostile note that seemed to skip over Izuku.
“About ten months after it,” Izuku answered with caution.
“How are you still alive?” Again, an unnatural calm. “You haven’t even had access to it for a full year.”
“Well, after years of Bakugou and his friends, I’m relatively good at judging which limbs I can live without,” Izuku offered flippantly. “Recovery Girl helped out a lot as well.” In reality, the constant chasing of battles between heroes and villains had been educational in theory as well. Applying it in practice was something else though, as Izuku’s trembling arms chose to remind him of as his caffeine induced high started to fade.
“I stand by my original opinion of their treatment of your Quirk,” All For One delivered so frostily that it wouldn’t have surprised Izuku if his coffee had simply iced over from latent airborne malice.
“We’re back to where we started. Why does it matter?” Izuku asked with a raised eyebrow.
“It wasn’t always the case that society allowed children to maim themselves, but now it’s acceptable if it’s for the right cause,” All For One leered. “Even now you’re here while injured and no one saw fit to stop you from coming. I can hear you tremble and hack from here. It’s a wonder you even reached the point of making it here.”
“Did Shigaraki ever complain about you being so overbearing?” Izuku found himself involuntarily asking.
“Not nearly as often as you do, but as someone who seems to have operated with no supervision for the last fifteen years, one can see why you would think my views are strange. Utterly inept. What exactly is wrong with you this time?” Izuku figured there’d be an arched eyebrow in there somewhere if All For One still had them.
“Uh,” Izuku fumbled, “random aches?”
“Eloquent,” All For One tartly replied. “Have you seen anyone for the aches?”
“Did they tell you that you likely have the flu given the sniffling and sneezing?” All For One asked in a tone suggesting that Recovery Girl should be dropped from nursing staff as soon as humanly possible.
“No, surprisingly,” Izuku realised through a fog. He didn’t remember telling Recovery Girl about the sinus issues, though. She usually checked for overt injuries, not what All For One was proposing. Izuku couldn’t really remember anyone going to her with the flu.
“That, Izuku, is because the flu doesn’t usually permanently maim someone and they think you can afford not to care about it. Why correctly treat an illness when the option to field them again as soon as possible is an option? Remarkable healing capabilities aside, she’s not capable of prompting the immune system to fend of viruses otherwise we would have had a rather in-depth article finding a universal cure to cancer,” All For One delivered in a deceptively light tone of voice.
Izuku blinked. “Your point?”
All For One sighed and inclined his head towards the cameras in the room. “All Might, do yourself a favour and remove him from the room before he passes out in it. It'd be unsightly if it were to happen.”
Izuku hauled himself to his feet and made for the exit at a deliberately aggravating pace. “I’m not that far gone, you know.”
“It’s not you I’m commenting on,” All For One snarked.
“Next week then?” Izuku asked with false cheer, half out the door.
“Only if Endeavor makes the front page of this week’s Mirror.”
Snorting, Izuku allowed the door to shut and, as expected, found an extremely pale All Might lurking out of sight of the viewing pane.
“That was really creepy,” Izuku confessed, as they rapidly made their way to the carpark.
“He’s never spoken to anyone about that before,” All Might confirmed in a restrained tone of voice. “Shigaraki talked about the government having a monopoly on violence, but it seems like his ideology is a pale shadow of All For One’s beliefs.”
“If he’s against the methodology then why use it against you?” Izuku wondered.
“I have no idea. The only thing I ever cared about with All For One was putting a permanent stop to him.” All Might irritably jerked his head in the vague direction of All For One’s cell.
“I’m starting to think that might be part of the problem…” Izuku mumbled.
All Might only made a humming sound in response.
All For One was a person prior to being All For One. It was that person who had become All For One. If there wasn’t a historical record of All For One beyond shadowy rumours, then perhaps there was a record of the real All For One that wasn’t hiding behind the nom de guerre. Maybe it was time for a visit to one of the more legitimate historical researchers. Maybe Tsukauchi had a recommendation since formal investigations were his thing.
Thank you so much to everyone for all the kind comments and speculation. I'd love to reply to you all but I'm afraid of giving the game away too early. It really brightens my day when I see a comment.
Chapter 6: Interlude of a Successive Cryptid
Izuku had a life outside of conversations with All For One.
A bright, sunny Sunday followed Izuku’s sniffle filled Saturday. Todoroki and Izuku sat opposite from each other on a simple wooden bench on campus grounds as midday approached. Izuku’s nose tingled furiously as he watched Todoroki’s hands clench and unclench.
“Thank you for coming on short notice, Midoriya,” Todoroki nodded, facial expression strained . “I know that you had to stay away from the class outing for us to speak privately.”
“It’s okay, I have the flu anyway,” Izuku laughed nervously through his dripping nose. “I’ve been given a ban from all outings until I’m recovered.” As it turned out, All For One had a legitimate point about Izuku prospectively passing out in the visitation area. Secondary infections weren’t to be messed with according to an unusually contrite Recovery Girl. As far as Izuku was aware, she also wasn’t in on the project, but whatever vague explanation All Might had offered had seemingly done the job well enough for her to put her foot down on Izuku leaving the campus.
“All outings?” Todoroki asked hesitantly, a shade of colour disappearing from his increasingly narrowed expression. “Are there any exceptions to it?”
“I… I really don’t know. Is everything okay, Todoroki? What happened?” Izuku inched slightly forwards on his seat to peer at Todoroki through the glare.
“It’s the annual PR ball for Endeavor’s hero agency on Monday night,” Todoroki dropped unceremoniously. “I would have asked you earlier, but you’ve been even busier than the rest of us. Catching you in a free moment has been difficult.” There was a definite note of awkwardness to his voice and a slight twitch of his eyebrows.
Izuku groaned and held his head in his hand. “I completely forgot about the public relations events. You’re forced to go every year, aren’t you?” The Heroes Mirror had a notorious recaps issue that they published in the lead up to the events. For a moment, Izuku had a vivid image of a hazy faced, pre-injury All For One flipping open to the Confidential section and hunting for anything remotely Endeavor related. For some reason, he could imagine the resulting sneer perfectly.
Izuku wanted to violently bang his head against the table. He didn’t really have to on account of the furious and pulsating headache he already had, but figured the thought would count. Every year agencies would hold public relations events to celebrate changes in rankings or to hype the year’s work. It was a given that one would have been organised for Endeavor moving up to the first rank even if the man wasn’t happy about the circumstances. It was all about the appearance of celebration and given the appearances the man had been maintaining for longer than Izuku had been alive, he really shouldn’t have been surprised.
“Yes,” Todoroki said shortly. “This time is different though. Maybe.” Todoroki’s features were as close to anxiety as Izuku had ever seen them.
“What’s different this time?” Izuku gently prodded, attempting to shelve the previous day’s attitude.
“I’ve been allowed to bring a guest and chaperone since U.A. moved to a boarding arrangement. It’s a safety concern since we’re not travelling together,” Todoroki uttered bitterly.
“Sounds about right,” Izuku agreed with shared irritation. “Guess he didn’t see the point before?”
“He’s been noticeably more concerned since the Stain incident.”
“Typical. So, uh, do you want me to come?” Izuku cheerfully asked, an idea spinning itself into shape even as Todoroki searched for an appropriate response.
“It would be greatly appreciated. None of the rest of the family has received an invite this year since I’ve formally been in heroics. It’ll be him, me and every paparazzi within South East Asia if someone else doesn't come.” Todoroki’s voice dripped venom. Izuku honestly couldn’t blame him. It seemed like Endeavor was attempting to claw back some dignity by having his son surpass All Might’s legacy. After the topic of the conversation from the previous day, it made Izuku’s skin positively crawl.
“I might have the flu, but if we take the right chaperone we should be fine for clearance,” Izuku smiled a smidge more sharply than he intended.
Todoroki gave Izuku a strange look. “Like?”
“Do you think All Might would enjoy a night out? It’s been a while since he’s done any sort of public morale boosting.” Izuku grinned as best as he was able with a splitting headache. “Surely the former number one has to be there to congratulate the current number one.”
Todoroki’s face flickered through a series of escalating expressions, before settling on an extremely mild smirk. “It can’t hurt to ask him. He has been a bit shy since the fight with All For One. But, just realise that you can’t go as you are if you do get permission to attend.”
“Oh, it’s a black-tie event, right?” Dread filled him in ways that even All For One couldn’t manage. “I don’t think I have any clothing for that…” Izuku’s wardrobe had always been suspiciously empty of formal wear for as long as he’d been alive. For some reason, his mother almost seemed repulsed by the thought of it the older Izuku became. Izuku’s wardrobe was happily filled with as many dorky and quirky shirts as his mother could find, but not so much as a non-school related tie to be found.
“You also don’t have the haircut for it,” Todoroki added with a faraway expression. “Not to be offensive, but you don’t quite have the right look for it. I can help with that,” Todoroki assured. “Some of the girls can help with your hair and my sister can get you a suit once we have some measurements. First we need to get you clearance to attend. Even if it’s only for an hour or two, we can use it as an excuse to leave early.” Todoroki nodded to himself. “We can make this work.”
Izuku braced himself and nodded encouragingly.
“We’ll manage, Midoriya. I saw All Might around the common area before we left, we may as well go ask him now. Do you think he’ll say no?”
Izuku thought back to All Might, hidden away in the observation deck, watching on as All For One candidly spoke of Endeavor’s theorised child abuse which should be evident to any dedicated housewife or gossip following supervillain. “I honestly can’t see him saying no to it.”
“I hope so.” With that Todoroki helped a struggling Izuku to his feet and they made their way back to the common area.
All Might’s bright, eager grin was almost blinding. “Young Todoroki, I would be thrilled to act as chaperone for you and young Midoriya!” All Might’s form momentarily shifted into his old superhero form to deliver a thumbs up. “I’ll get a clearance from Recovery Girl for young Midoriya as soon as possible.”
“All Might, no!” Izuku attempted to interrupt, but was cut off by a spray of blood and a swift reversion.
“Sensei, I agree with Midoriya. There’s no need to overexert yourself,” Todoroki added as he stabilised the gaunt man.
“It’s been months since anyone’s asked me to attend anything like this,” All Might reflected mildly, dabbing away the red staining his lips.
“I don’t know why, it’s not like you haven’t got an entire career of experience behind you,” Izuku mumbled grumpily.
“People like Endeavor have always had an issue with All Might’s popularity. All Might’s never had many formal invitations from the more popular heroes because it takes media attention away from their agencies. There was an American hero by the name of Captain Celebrity that took All Might’s good reputation particularly poorly and it showed in his attitude,” Todoroki grunted.
“I remember that name. They called him Captain Troublemaker once the court cases in Japan started for negligence and endangerment, didn’t they? He dropped a building on a college student that was saving someone’s dog if I remember the forum posts about it.” Izuku frowned. “What happened to him?”
“He vanished, around the time of the court cases. They didn’t so much as find a sign of him,” All Might gently coughed. “He had a lot of very angry people looking for him.”
“His Quirk was something flight related, wasn’t it?”
“Something like that,” Todoroki blandly answered. “He wasn’t around long enough to actually become much of a celebrity. Endeavor had some choice words about his reputation reflecting poorly on Japan’s registration board for allowing him in after the cases in America.”
“Better add that to my list…” Of people All For One has probably abducted. Izuku sighed. There weren’t enough hours in a day for the seemingly random bits of information that Izuku tripped over on a daily basis that had a suspicious smell to them. Every missing person was a prospective Noumu at this point in time. It might be worthwhile to cross-reference the missing person’s register against the DNA identification being conducted on the Noumu. Izuku would have to tell Tsukuachi about it later.
“As young Todoroki said, it’s always been an issue. But since I retired and my Quirk went with it’s been more, noticeable,” All Might finished lamely.
“I can imagine. Not having a Quirk makes people treat you like you’re made of glass. They either handle you with kid gloves or attempt to shatter you,” Izuku grimaced at the lurking memory of middle school.
“Are you speaking from experience, Midoriya?”
“I was a very late bloomer,” Izuku confessed.
There was something oddly endearing about Todoroki’s expression of poorly concealed contempt and All Might’s look of disgust.
“Right, clearances!” With that, Izuku was hooked by one arm, Todoroki hooked by the other and they were almost dragged to Recovery Girl’s office.
Izuku really wasn’t sure to think about Ashido’s glee. “Are you sure it’s okay?”
“Don’t worry so much, Midoriya! I’m just going to give you a trim. When I go dancing, costumes, hair and makeup are all part of the production,” Ashido exclaimed brightly. “Doing the basics is something we do all the time even for hip-hop and breakdancing. No makeup this time though.” She wagged a finger teasingly within Izuku’s line of sight.
“So are you going to style it… or?”
“The struggle is real, eh, Midoriya? Don’t worry, I’m just going to trim your woolly locks so they’re a bit shorter. Long hair still isn’t in for formal fashion, right Yaoyorozu?”
“Indeed, shorter hair is still a requirement for formal events,” Ashido’s partner in crime affirmed as Izuku heard pools of material spill to the floor. “If it was longer it could be tied back, but curls don’t tend to lend themselves to that manner of styling.”
“It’s so fluffy! You need to come over and give it a touch before I cut it!”
“Maybe next time,” Yaoyorozu’s voice promptly replied somewhere to the back of Izuku, much to his relief. “I need to make this suit in a fairly short period of time since we didn’t have time to acquire a tailored suit from Todoroki’s sister. Obtaining a clearance took longer than was expected. Normally I wouldn’t be allowed to do this, but this is for private use and it’s an emergency.”
“Thank you so much for this, both of you.”
“It’s a pleasure to be of assistance.”
“No worries! With hair this soft I’m happy to volunteer.”
Izuku’s face burned. Unfortunately, fusing with the chair and dying wasn’t an option until after the ball was over. The impending snip snip of Ashido’s approaching scissors wasn’t helping either.
An hour later, a thoroughly spiffed up and red faced Izuku stood with Ashdio and Yaoyorozu before a mirror as they critically examined their handiwork.
“I put a great deal of effort into making sure that it was tailored for your exact measurements,” Yaoyorozu explained. “I considered a blazer jacket, but it was slightly too informal for a black-tie event, so I settled for a more open cut with a bit of give in the material in the event of any incidents. I weaved Kevlar fibres throughout to provide some high impact resistance. The slacks are likewise the same. There’s additional pockets just about everywhere. The shoes are formal, but sensible enough in case you need to use them. I’ve lined the soles with iron for some extra utility.” Yaoyorozu paused and collected herself. “As this is a black-tie event, I included a fairly standard black bowtie. Since families with young children have been invited, not too many people would complain if you were to pocket it after the formal group photographs of the attendees are taken.”
Izuku stared without shame. “You’ve put an incredible amount of thought into this, thank you!” Izuku dipped into a bow, eyes threatening to water. “I don’t have a lot of experience with these things, so thank you so much for helping.”
“It’s no issue at all. I’m happy to help in an emergency.” Izuku rose from the bow just in time to see Yaoyorozu glow a bright red as she turned her face away.
“I wish mine was that impressive. I just trimmed down your woolly curls so it’s a bit neater for the ball,” Ashido teased her hand through Izuku’s hair and with a couple of strokes it seemed to approach Izuku’s uncut style. “You have a surprising amount of hair, you know?”
“I think that’s why mum gave up on haircuts. It’d grow back too fast.” Izuku gave his shortened hair an experimental prod. It felt strange after so many years of long hair.
“With hair that adorable, it’s easy to see why she wouldn’t want you to cut it,” Ashido beamed. “This sort of hair isn’t that common anymore in Japan, so be happy. When Quirks popped up the styles and hair itself got pretty wild.” Ashido floofed Izuku’s hair one final time. “All in all we dressed you to be pretty forgettable. You can make your PR debut when you’re not sick, so be polite, keep your head down and be careful. There’ll be a lot of journalists prowling for juicy gossip,” Ashido lectured.
Izuku nodded vigorously. “That’s part of why I thought All Might was a good pick for chaperone. They’ll be too busy looking at him for them to pay us any mind.”
“What was the other part?” Ashido asked.
Izuku grinned. “A salvageable night out for everyone. All Might hasn't been invited to any of these events since he retired.”
“Ahuh,” Ashido nodded. “Well, try to make the best of it.”
“Such events are usually obligatory, but all you can do is make an effort,” Yaoyorozu added, her face still turned away. “Let’s see what everyone thinks of how you look.”
With the two girls flanking him, Izuku was shoved out the door and towards the stairs.
“Hey everyone, check out our work!” Ashido waved.
Izuku heard a glass shatter. In a crowded common area, All Might’s unusually pale face stood out in a sea of excited faces. Glass littered the ground in large chunks as he stood, mouth partially hanging open. The rest of the faces faded as Izuku rushed over. “Are you okay?” All Might recoiled and pulled away.
“The fuck?” Kacchan helpfully added. “Get a grip, All Might. It’s Deku, not some scrub journalist.”
“Midoriya’s research skills put many journalists to shame, but to imply that he’d lower himself to consort with tabloid sorts is unacceptable,” Ida sliced the air with a pointed hand.
“I never said that, fuck off,” Kacchan snarled.
And the spell was broken, All Might blinking to awareness.
“Wow, he took that really personally,” Izuku mumbled to All Might as Ida and Kacchan screamed at each other from across the room. “Are you okay?”
“Fine, young Midoriya.” The quiver was audible in his mentor’s voice. “I don’t quite know what happened.” All Might patted Izuku on the back in a comforting manner. Somehow, it felt like the situation should have been inverted.
“Do you still feel up to going?” Todoroki asked from over All Might’s shoulder. “If you feel unwell I can tell my father’s secretary that no chaperone could be found on account of everyone being busy.” Todoroki’s grimace painted an unpleasant picture of the results of that phone call.
All Might straightened his bowtie. “Of course, I don’t want to stop both of you from having a good night out.”
“Only if it’s acceptable for your health,” Todoroki almost scolded as Izuku violently nodded his approval.
“I’ll be fine, shall we?”
“I’ll take care of glass you guys, take care and report back on whether or not any hot chicks turned up!” Mineta gestured goodbye with a free hand as he hoovered over the pile of glass with another hand full of his sticky balls. Izuku momentarily paused to watch him delicately dab up the shards with the purple orbs.
“I wouldn’t have thought of using them like that.”
“The trick is not detaching the flooring along with the glass,” Tsuyu observed. “Don’t you have somewhere to be?”
Izuku almost squeaked and bolted from the room as the rest of 1-A called their goodbyes.
“If we’re late, I’m never letting you live it down that we were late because you stopped to admire a Quirk,” All Might chuckled as he shifted the car into gear.
Todoroki’s amused snort only made Izuku want to sink even further into the seat.
They were even faster than Izuku or Todoroki had planned for or expected.
“Is that All Might?”
“He wasn’t on the invitations list, was he?”
“He must be here to congratulate the new number one!”
“Who cares? Someone get an interview!”
“Who’s the suave looking green haired kid? That’s Todoroki’s son with him but I don’t recognise that one.” Izuku sneezed sheepishly and held back a sniffle.
“Boys, get ready,” All Might whispered. “We need to get in for the group photo before they mob us.”
All Might’s Quirk might have left him, but his media prowess certainly hadn’t. All Might almost strutted down the red carpet, Izuku watching from his position under one arm. Looking to his left, Izuku spied an extremely smug Todoroki as a torrent of journalists poured from within the building to shoot photo and scream questions at the trio.
“All Might, are you here to congratulate Endeavor on his promotion?”
“Why do you have students with you?
“Todoroki-kun, are you looking to surpass your father?”
“Green haired kid, whose brand are you wearing?”
“I’m wearing Yaoyorozu & Ashido!” Izuku called back into the scrum and heard a woman squeal in glee.
“The famous Yaoyorozu family? Who’s Ashido?”
“After the group photo, please, ladies and gentlemen of the press!” All Might called back.
The rest of the questions were ignored as All Might swanned into the staging area and was immediately set upon by twelve different photographers who angled themselves around the mass of guests. A barrage of flashes and clicks assaulted them as they posed in a rough approximation of a group hug kneeling at the front of the mass of people, a sour faced Endeavor positioned behind his son. Before long, they moved away.
“That was exciting, I haven’t done that in a long time.” All Might positively preened. “I’ll take care of the media. I’m sure you two can find something to keep yourselves occupied.”
“All Might!” A voice called and he vanished into a sea of people and cameras.
“Midoriya, I’m glad I brought you,” Todoroki nodded approvingly.
“That was even better than what I expected.” Breathless from laughter, Izuku thought it’d been well worth embarrassment of the girls dressing him. He could only hope the attention they received from the plug was positive.
“It’s shame I’m not going to see the look on his face once he gets home. He should have been more specific about the chaperone,” Todoroki smirked.
“Boys, that was beautiful,” a feminine voice purred from behind them. Press badge glinting in the chandelier lighting, Mai Maki seemingly hadn’t aged a day past her first court appearance for defamation over twenty years ago. A spot on the short side, her hair was pulled back in a professional bun and her modern glasses framed keen eyes. “I’m going to sleep well with the knowledge that Endeavor got upstaged at his own promotional event.” A noise of bliss. “I’m Mai Maki from the Heroes Mirror, pleased to make your acquaintance.”
“We’re not giving interviews,” Todoroki cut in.
“I don’t want an interview sweetheart, I want to congratulate you both on a job well done. We both know why All Might hasn’t been on the invite lists for these events and I think it’s wonderful that you two snuck him in the backdoor. My kids are going to be thrilled.” Maki beamed at them. “My boss will be as well, but he’s less important. I only have to live with him for deadlines,” she winked.
Izuku and Todoroki blinked at her. “I’m somewhat disturbed that it’s an open secret and no one’s called him on it.” Todoroki pointed out, standing firm.
“I tried honey and I still do, but you can only juggle so many lawsuits and my in-house legal is going to have an aneurysm if I pile any more onto him for this year. Your father is an appalling human being, but you don’t need me to tell you that.” Maki sharply gestured with an open hand. “I understand if you don’t want to discuss with me, it’s hard enough to deal with without the whole world looking at you. You two can scoot off to the buffet and dig in.” Maki’s eyes narrowed as she gazed at the small gathering around Endeavor. “I suppose I better get to work.”
“Uh, Mrs Maki,” Izuku hastily interrupted, “I have some questions for you if you don’t mind. I’m a fan of your exposé, but I’ve been having trouble getting access to it.” Izuku exchanged a look with Todoroki. “It’s okay, I’ll be here if you need me.”
“Okay, Midoriya, I’ll leave you to it,” Todoroki nodded sharply and slunk away with more stealth than most people with his hair colour.
“It’s the series of articles on Endeavor, isn’t it?” Maki asked without preamble.
“Yep. I’m Izuku Midoriya as well,” Izuku introduced himself. “I guess I’m a vicarious fan of your work. I say vicariously because the articles of Endeavor have been sealed away due to court action.”
“I’d love to rerelease them, but only our staff can legally access our archives to review the articles. Any sort of dissemination would land us with contempt of court charges for breaching the injunction.” Maki made a humming noise. “There might be a way around it though…. What exactly is your interest in it beyond the obvious?”
Izuku rolled the words carefully around his mouth before he spoke them. “I have a source that’s been informative on the topic of Quirk marriages,” Izuku murmured. “They rose the possibility of Endeavor being involved in longer standing,” Izuku paused delicately, “unethical and colourful activities given his promotion of his youngest son and the lacking appearances made by the rest of his family. I also spend a significant portion of my time engaged in Quirk analysis, so it’s also a matter of looking at how external treatment causes Quirks to develop or not develop.” He wasn’t telling anyone about this conversation. Ever.
Maki almost drooled, a hungry expression on her face as Izuku was scanned up and down. “Interesting. What have you had access to?”
“Your previous editorials within the last ten years, as well as archived excerpts from the last fifteen and knowledge from being a family friend.” Izuku listed as impersonally as he could. “It hasn’t been enough because only your original article listed your sources.”
“Mate, didn’t know we had a regular reader around at one of these stiff events,” a familiar voice boomed from behind Izuku in heavily accented English. Izuku and Maki jumped.
“Midoriya, meet Zachary Smith. He’s the leading editor of the Australian Heroes Mirror,” Maki beckoned to the gruff looking, bearded man who easily stood over six feet tall in an attire that could only be called formal in the vaguest possible sense. A square of flannelette blatantly hung out from a corner of the man's jacket.
“I watch your videos on Gobble! I didn’t realise that you were the editor.” Izuku blurted out before he could contain himself.
“Just Zach, mate. First names between mates. Gobble’s a sidey to the main job. You here to see if Endeavor’s become less of a prick as well?” The man excitedly asked at the top of his voice. No one in the vicinity so much as blinked.
“I don’t know if that’s physically possible,” Izuku whispered.
“Yeah, he’d have to pull his head out of his arse first. Fat chance of that happening. Hopefully whatever crap he comes out with gives us some material for the next few weeks. That chronic dickhead is the best thing that ever happened to our sales,” Zach swigged from a glass of something amber that decidedly wasn’t champagne.
“How he carries on at these events isn’t even the worst of it,” Maki snarled. “To be sued over doing my job and doing it well.”
“He’s too useful to the government for them to get rid of him. He has the highest number of logged rescues and captures right behind All Might. Getting rid of him now would destabilise the government’s perceived control over the criminal population. They have to stick with him even though his popularity crashed through the floor at the same time he got married. He might be a brute, but he’s an effective enforcer that doesn’t strongly question the government’s policies in the same way other heroes do,” Izuku ambled while squinting into the brightness of the dance floor.
There seemed to be a pack of journalists congregating around Endeavor. There was a shock of red and white hair rapidly approaching Izuku’s direction as well.
“Fuck me, you’re a smart kid,” Zach clapped Izuku on the shoulder with a huge hand and sent him stumbling forwards. “You nailed it, they’re too scared of not having a brute force solution if some nasty bastard pops up. It’s more of a problem in Japan than Australia because Australians have the tendency to just not see when the local villain has the shit kicked out of them in spite of regulations. Funny that.” A pause. “Fancy a job?”
Izuku choked on his ropey saliva. “Excuse me?”
“That’s not a bad idea actually, we’ve been looking for some fresh perspectives to give us some more sophistication. Endeavor can’t sue us for political opinions or commentaries or someone ragging on him for using his Quirk poorly,” Maki and Zach alike eyed off Izuku. “How about it? I don’t expect you to decide now, but have my business card and I can leave open the offer.” Maki flicked out a plain looking business card which Izuku took with more grace than he felt.
“I’m flattered, but my schedule is packed. School has been rough and I sort of like my privacy.” He wanted the floor to swallow him whole.
“If you give me a call next week we can meet up and organise some flexible work arrangements, complete with your own pen name,” Maki murmured as she made an entry in her phone diary.
“So long as passes legal, you can call Endeavor a dickhead as much as you like and we’ll pay you for it,” Zach smirked.
Izuku sighed. “I’ll keep it mind.”
“Cheers, kid, working with you is gonna be a blast.” Another clap to the back and Izuku was starting to regret engaging them in conversation in the first place.
Before he could correct Zach, Todoroki skidded to a halt in front of him.
“Midoriya, I need a favour.” Huffing, Todoroki looked like he’s just left a marathon. “In private, please.”
“Sure. Nice meeting you two!” He waved to the journalists as they raised their wine glasses to him in a mirrored salute. Izuku slid the business card into one of his suit’s front pockets.
“I need you to, uh, hide in one of the side rooms for ten minutes.” Todoroki insisted through heaving breaths as they stood beyond earshot of the other guests.
“Why, why happened? Was it Endeavor?”
“He’s made some public statements I need to… correct. Vigorously. In front of the media. I don’t want him or them to think that you were involved, so can you please stay out of sight for ten minutes?” Todoroki gestured to an inconspicuous side door used for catering.
“Are you sure?” Todoroki was going to be in for a world of unpleasantness for whatever he was about to say, but from what Izuku understood, it was already the case. With the boarding school arrangements, Todoroki had an avenue of retreat that wasn’t previously available to him. It smelt of a plan.
“Positive,” came the prompt response. “I’d rather get it out the way now instead of letting him carry on with this farce.”
“If you’re sure.” Izuku nodded, received a thumbs up and parted their separate ways.
Just before entering, he pocketed his bowtie and ruffled his shirt collar to something slightly more comfortable even as he sniffled. A cloud of black mist and white hair greeted him from an arm’s reach away.
“Shigaraki, I wasn’t aware that you were gatecrashing. You should have gotten into the group photo, it would have livened it up,” slipped from Izuku’s mouth in a snider tone than he usually reserved for public even as a somewhat detached part of him began to panic.
He didn’t receive a verbal response. Shigaraki stared at Izuku, eyes widening. Unbidden his hands snuck upwards and began to scratch at a neck concealed by a trench coat and hair. Kurogiri’s yellow eyes had also comically widened, flicking between Izuku and Shigaraki.
Outside, he heard Todoroki’s voice raised in a furious, muffled yell.
“I have absolutely no intention of being your media pawn in my professional life! My achievements are mine, not yours!” Floated through the closed doors as the seconds ticked away. A muffled whoop of approval from what would have been an attentive audience member.
Ten. Twenty. Thirty seconds of pained silence, Shigaraki stood staring at Izuku and tearing at himself. Thirty seconds of Kurogiri likewise paralysed with indecision as Izuku calculated the trajectory of a kick that wouldn’t collapse the building’s foundations while avoiding Shigaraki’s hands.
“Tomura Shigaraki!” Kurogiri finally barked.
“Kurogiri, why, why, why does he…?” Shigaraki’s trembling pupils never left the perplexed Izuku, his voice quivering uncontrollably.
Izuku raised an eyebrow at the both of them. Without a word, Kurogiri almost apologetically looked at, almost through Izuku, and vanished in a cloud with Shigaraki who only at the end clawed a hand towards Izuku as he was forced to leave.
Izuku’s phone showed that only a minute had passed since Todoroki had begun his public dressing down of his father. Izuku watched apathetically as another nine minutes slipped away and he left the room in a daze once the shouts ended, searching for All Might’s glowing blond hair in the sea of media crowding the room that was split between the present and past firsts.
“All Might,” Izuku murmured in a daze.
“Yes, young Midoriya?”
“I just had a momentary run in with Shigaraki and Kurogiri in a catering room. They’re gone now, but I think I accidentally made Shigaraki have a nervous breakdown.”
Without pause, All Might marched through the crowd, Izuku snagged under one arm. In a short period of time, Todoroki was caught unresisting under the other as they headed for security’s onsite office. “Gentlemen, we’ve seem to have had some gatecrashers that one of my students spooked off for you. It might be a good idea to inform the police that the League of Villains was on the premises.” Todoroki did a double take at Izuku who could only shrug helplessly.
“Ten minutes, Midoriya. Ten!” Todoroki whispered in a strangled voice.
“You suggested the room,” Izuku pointed out through a dizzying whirlwinds of what ifs being bandied around the room.
Todoroki’s response was unbecoming of heroics royalty.
At least security had the decency to blush as they frantically dialled the police and cleared the building. Tsukauchi’s unimpressed expression really said it all. Endeavor’s agency had provided the security, after all. Maki was going to be ecstatic.
“Oh hey, it’s the regular! Hi Midoriya!” A cat headed police officer’s ear visible twitched upwards at the small group’s approach as they dragged themselves through the entryway of the police station.
“Being a regular isn’t a good thing, Tamakawa,” Tsukauchi remarked as they were swiped through security. “He doesn’t even get paid for it.”
“Well, we’re not meant to invite victims of crime out for the regular coffee meetups. Next best thing, eh?” Tamakawa bobbed his head.
Leaving All Might behind them, Izuku and Tsukauchi entered the interview, a tired sigh between them.
“Here we go again,” Tsukauchi groaned. “It might be easier if I just snuck you onboard as a consultant so we can cut down the time on interviews. We’re lucky that Todoroki’s sister took him back to campus, it would’ve been a pain doing paperwork with his father breathing down our throats.”
Izuku shrugged and the grilling over the actions or lack thereof of Shigaraki at the ball commenced.
Forty minutes later they both staggered from the interview to find All Might slumped in a rickety chair that was far too small for such a large frame, head tucked into his chest.
“Uh, All Might, they called my mother.”
All Might grunted and shifted without waking.
“Let’s let him rest. He had a busy night with media circus. Off to the carpark for now and he can catch up.”
Leaning against the sidewall of the police station, they waited.
“While you have a moment, you mentioned something about finding an academic on our way back to U.A. yesterday?” Tsukauchi asked, hands tucked into pockets.
“Yes, I want to find someone who can point me towards All For One’s more legitimate interactions with the government. The history books might not record him directly, but I’m thinking that some of his ripples must be apparent.” If All For One himself couldn’t be found, then maybe the actions he carried out could be traced.
“You want to trace him through cause and effect. Interesting strategy, but there’s gonna be a lot of sifting through useless information. That’s also a neat way of finding the sort of people implicated in the conspiracy.” Tsukauchi visually perked up at his epiphany. “I’ll raise it with the chief as well. It might help us with IDing some of the Quirks in the Noumu we captured if we can establish a pattern of the sorts of people he was taking.” Tsukauchi’s tired face broke out into an equally tired smile as he fished out his phone and expertly began note his revelations.
“On the topic of the Noumu… do we have results back yet?” Izuku had threatened All For One with the knowledge. Not calling the bluff was more dangerous than simply ignoring it.
Izuku’s face fell at the shadow which fell over Tsukauchi’s face. “Unfortunately, you were right. We DNA tested one of Tsubasa’s cousins and it came back with a not insignificant match rate for a relative. There’s an extremely strong likelihood that it’s him. We couldn’t identify the other strands mixed with his, but seems to be the case that he was the basis for the Noumu and not just farmed for his Quirk.” Tsukauchi’s face twisted, his lips peeling back. “I’m sorry that you had to be the one to find this lead. The police are meant to take care of these matters to shield people affected by the crimes but…” Tsukauchi’s face crumpled. “If you need counselling we have it on offer.”
“I’m alright.” Maybe. “You’re understaffed, underpaid and heroes get all the budget and glory. It’s okay Detective, I don’t blame you for it. All For One is a nasty piece of work and the government never really cared about missing person reports even before he was a problem.” They both exchanged a helpless shrug.
“Thank you, Midoriya. As a sort of consolation, it just so happens that my sister is a keen researcher of early hero history and sociology.” Tsukauchi seemed torn between a grimace and a sigh. “I hope it’s not presumptuous, but I took the liberty of arranging a meeting with her for you on Sunday morning. She might have some friends with her for their usual meetup, just so you’re aware.”
Izuku hastily closed his partially hanging open jaw. “Wow! I didn’t know you had a sister let alone a researcher.”
“I like to keep her out my work because she’s too curious for her own good, but I don’t think this’ll be too much of an issue. I think you two will get along just fine.” Tsukauchi scratched the back of his head. “I’ll give you a lift.”
Burning, Izuku bowed. “Thank you! I only expected a recommendation, not…” Izuku struggled and was cut off by All Might’s guffaws as he made his way over.
“From young Midoriya’s tomato like appearance, you told him about your sister’s profession? I’m sure you two will get on like a house of fire.”
“I hope so, I’m really excited to see what a researcher thinks. She’d have access to a bunch of databases and archives that the general public can’t touch due to the privacy laws.”
“We’ll see.” Tsukauchi paused. “Ah, there she is.” A police car was neatly parked by a driver made indistinct by the tint. Izuku’s mother hurried out of the car, jaw set and a familiar expression on her face.
“Mum!” Izuku expected his mum to have run over for an embrace as Tsukauchi stood back to give them space in the police station carpark. That’s not what happened. Like All Might, Shigaraki and Kurogiri, she stood frozen, staring at him with her mouth slightly agape. Agitated, Izuku carefully approached her. “Mum, are you okay?” Hesitantly, he extended a hand towards her shoulder. As he made contact, the trance broke. Déjà vu washed over him.
“Oh, oh it’s nothing, Izuku. I’m just being silly.” His mother waved him off with a gesticulating of hands and an unsteady laugh.
“Are you sure? You look upset.” An understatement, Izuku’s mother looked more like she was desperately fighting the urge to bawl her eyes out as she leaned in for a stiff hug. It was the briefest hug he’d ever had from his mother.
“It’s nothing, don’t fret,” she smiled with watering eyes. “Let’s get you back to the dorms where you’ll be out of trouble?” She ushered him and All Might towards the waiting police car.
As it pulled away, all he could feel was something nameless that twisted at his insides that lingered after his mother’s cool, terrified hug.
This chapter is so long that I've had to split it in two. I'll let you guys be the judge, as always. I'm trying to include and give depth to more of Izuku's classmates, but it's slightly tricky in this format.
Chapter 7: Exasperation of a Cryptid
There's only so many surprises a cryptid can take.
Being up at five in the morning was an ungodly time for someone with average sleep patterns. For Izuku and Todoroki who’d returned only just prior to midnight, it was a catered type of torture. Neither had slept comfortably and had stumbled into each other in the stairwell. Izuku followed by phantom wings and Todoroki by scorching heat.
“You know,” a bleary eyed Todoroki commented around a slice of toast from his spot at the kitchen table, “if I hadn’t taken you to the ball, there’s a very real chance that Shigaraki would have attempted to kill my father. Our timing couldn’t have been better.”
“Should I apologise?” Izuku asked from behind his own stack of jam toast and cereal. “I mean, the two of you don’t exactly…”
“No, it’s alright. I’m satisfied with public humiliation in front of the media and his peers. I dislike Shigaraki more at any rate. I haven’t forgotten what happened at the U.S.J. and what they did.” Todoroki aggressively jabbed his fork into a small stack of bacon and eggs.
“I only heard the start of what you said to Endeavor, but what exactly did he say?” Izuku braced himself.
Todoroki snorted. “You wouldn’t have heard it past Shigaraki’s panic attack. It was the usual.” Izuku blinked. “Instead of surpassing All Might in the flesh it’s about me beating his legacy now,” Todoroki sneered. “Telling the media how the new generation and how especially me would surpass the old one. It’s fanciful at best. The generations of pro heroes vary with quality as he well knows. I suppose it’s what he keeps telling himself to sleep at night. He still hasn’t visited my mother after what he did to her. No apology, no visits, no remorse.”
“How can he just ignore what he’s done to you? It’s…” Izuku flailed for some description, but there was nothing. Izuku had one loving parent and the other… well, who cared, really? It’d been years since his mum had so much as had a phone call from the man. Izuku didn’t know anything about it. His mum was enough. Endeavor was different. Izuku’s mother had never worried about her finance disappearing out from under her, or physical abuse. At least as far as Izuku was aware. The more time went on, the less she seemed inclined to even mention her absentee husband.
Still, Izuku had never had to live with someone so downright abusive and hopefully never would.
“It’s like that, isn’t it? I know you don’t talk about your father. I won’t ask why,” Todoroki clarified with more sympathy than Izuku wanted. The situations weren’t really comparable. “People generally have shame. Endeavor just wants vicarious validation because he couldn’t beat All Might. The only saving grace is that his promotion was by default instead of earning it. The look on his face was the only good part about what happened.”
Izuku nodded agreeably. “So… what did you say to him?”
Todoroki smirked. “You know how I said we weren’t giving interviews?”
“I said we weren’t giving interviews. Not that I wasn’t giving interviews.”
Izuku choked on a spoonful of muesli. “You didn’t…” Part horror, part awe, Izuku’s anxiety danced on the line. Even while swaying towards awe, the penalty for it would be great. Thank god they were boarders.
A vague thought drifted in. The whoop of glee from a room away… “That person cheering was Zach, wasn’t it?”
“I won’t spoil it. You can read the transcript in the special edition of the Heroes Mirror. They’re doing an exclusive on the ball, security, my interview and the gatecrashers. I may have given the interview within earshot of Endeavor.” Todoroki’s predatory expression caused Izuku to outright gag on another spoonful.
A thump on the back and he coughed. “Are you alright, young Midoriya?” All Might asked from nowhere, rustling a bag of groceries up onto the table.
“Fine, All Might,” Izuku wheezed.
“Must’ve been shocking news to cause that so early in the morning. I did see something strange this morning though,” All Might continued in a sickeningly chipper manner. “A guy wearing a flannelette shirt hovering outside the gates asked me to give you this,” All Might presented a flat, paper wrapped package. “Said it was from a Mrs Maki.”
Izuku stared at the package, then turned to stare at Todoroki. “You don’t think…?”
“This fast though? They must’ve called in all staff for it. Have a look.”
Izuku tore open the packaging to find a white cover sheet with a Heroes Mirror letterhead.
I was meant to fly out today but that train wreck of a ball kept me back to supervise the editorial staff we had to call back overnight. It’s been a pain in the arse. The guy’s a royal bastard, but we can’t afford to be late on covering the news. Time is spondoolie. Even legal ran with it when he saw what happened. (Strange bloke, seemed a bit too keen to ruin Endeavor’s life this time if you ask me. He normally rides our arses on this shit.)
Mai asked me to drop this off for you and your friend to look at. It’s the rough draft for the special edition due out on Wednesday. We plan on donating all of the profits to a charity for victims of domestic abuse. Give your mate Todoroki a squigee at it for us. We’re happy to have constructive criticism from you and him on the contents.
P.S. If you think this is a bribe to get you into the office, you’re probably right.
The bottom of the letter had both Zach and Maki’s contact details shamelessly circled and underlined several times in bold black. Peeling the paper away revealed a signed copy of the magazine with Maki's looping swirl and Zach's chicken scratch.
“Midoriya… were you offered a job while I was gone?” Todoroki asked from over Izuku’s shoulder.
“Maybe we should set up an auction for the highest bidder,” All Might hummed with a broad smile. “You’re very popular.” All Might fondly patted Izuku on the head.
“I… need time to think about this, and maybe a second opinion or six.”
“Understandable, Midoriya. Now, the transcript is on page eight…”
Two near adult students and a teacher crowding and giggling around a draft gossip magazine shouldn’t have felt so refreshing, but it did. Izuku wanted a second shower.
Strictly speaking, Izuku wasn’t really meant to be here on this particular Saturday. Izuku’s bag still bulged with the contents of half a jumbo box of tissues and his notebook. Unfortunately for Izuku, Endeavor had made the front of the Mirror, even if it wasn’t quite the one All For One probably expected.
Izuku hardly had a foot in the door before it started.
“Does mine Quirk deceive me, or did you have an encounter with Shigaraki and Kurogiri on Sunday night?” All For One hadn’t even waited for the door to close. Izuku suppressed a groan at the obvious glee.
“That was quick. Search at work, I’d say?” All For One gave Izuku a winning smile in response to Izuku’s blind stab. “I guess the prison can’t detect all of your active Quirks with how much you have going on upstairs.” So much for All For One not knowing anything about Shigaraki. The pleased expression he received from the prisoner really said it all. There was probably a stampede going on upstairs and a selection of heavily armed guards waiting outside the exits from that statement alone, though. All For One’s Quirks were meant to be off limits and Izuku doubted they were willingly allowing him to use that Quirk. Without someone like Aizawa-sensei on board, Izuku really didn’t see them doing much to deter it.
“I figured you’d lie to All Might about Shigaraki’s location. Though I am curious…” Izuku allowed his statement to linger as he gingerly took his seat, now provided with a padded cushion courtesy of the prison staff and hoisted out his deteriorating notebook. “Ragdoll’s Quirk relies on you seeing someone before the tracking takes effect. For just how long were you watching us for you to have seen me to use the tracking? I’d need to confirm if a photograph would work, but why would you even have that? You lost your natural eyesight, which Search is presumably dependent on, about seven years ago when I was nine. You must have seen me at some time prior to that.”
All For One shrugged at him. Always a troubling sign.
Izuku snorted. “Did you seriously not have anything better to do with your time?”
“Not particularly.” Non-committal, indifferent. Out of character for Tartarus’ smiling assassin.
“Two centuries of criminality was getting a bit boring for you was it? Quality playground drama better than reality TV?” There should’ve probably been more bite to his voice, but Izuku had the feeling he was too accurate on all counts.
“I’m not a fulltime criminal, Izuku. I do occasionally take holidays. You’re not wrong though about the quality of reality TV.” All For One’s mildly offended voice had Izuku reaching for his nearly complete notebook, a heavily inked All Might etched into its cover. Izuku’s All Might artwork was doing its job, because no one had looked sideways at its decidedly more incriminating content.
“Yeah, two hundred years of accrued long service leave as the official thorn in the side of society,” Izuku grumbled to All For One’s abrupt ringing laughter, making note of the responses.
“The government was a thorn in my side long before I was one in theirs,” All For One brightly observed. “Do you want to know why?”
“Not really.” Izuku cut in. “I can work that out in my own time without your bias.”
“For shame, Izuku, refusing free knowledge.” All For One’s voice held audible disappointment, but was it because Izuku wasn’t playing or because Izuku refused the opportunity? More likely, it was because All For One still hadn’t answered the first question.
“You don’t have the physical, emotional or intellectual capability of giving anything away for free.” Izuku raised an eyebrow. “So you have known me far longer than I’ve known you. Why is it that you’re missing so much information? Not that there’s much there anyway,” Izuku mumbled to himself.
“Negligence,” All For One succinctly dropped in a toneless voice. “My apologies.” A slight drawl.
“Your usual level of informative,” Izuku remarked through a furious motion of scribbling, a prickling at his neck.
“Negligence as a term implies that you owe me a duty of care,” Izuku pointed out through a suppressed sneeze. If only his immune system would hurry up and get rid of the flu. The headache from a week before still wasn’t fading. “That’s a fairly specific thing.”
“Don’t we all owe each other a duty of care?” All For One reflected in a grandiose manner.
“Great, I waive whatever yours supposedly is to me. I can live without it.” Izuku underlined negligence and bolded it. Negligence was a civil and criminal penalty, depending on the relationships between the parties. Maybe Mai Maki’s beleaguered in-house legal would be willing to offer some theoretical insight. “The last thing I need is you trying to hold something like that over me.”
Izuku would have expected a chuckle, some form of amusement, not the uneasy silence that followed. All For One’s breaths echoed off the walls, mingling with Izuku’s unrestrained sniffling.
“Why would you think that I’d hold it over you?” All For One asked, more muted.
“Exhibit A: Shigaraki. Not a prime example of you sending an adult off into the world with no strings attached. If Shigaraki’s the puppet then Kurogiri’s the strings you use to marionette him with. Without Kurogiri, we’d still be cleaning up the pieces of Shigaraki from the U.S.J.,” Izuku remarked with a broad flick of his pencil. “Whatever dependence he has on you has permanently clouded his critical thinking skills to the point where he’s going to have a nervous breakdown once he realises that there’s cognitive dissonance present. Namely that he’s a means to an end and nothing else.”
“A harsh assessment,” was the level response.
“Well, when the name of your game is to make All Might miserable then I somehow get the feeling that Shigaraki’s or even my ongoing mental health and emotional development aren’t at the top of your priorities list.” Maybe All For One wasn’t used to being picked apart, but that worked in Izuku’s favour. “My waiver stands.”
It was here that All For One chose to laugh, a quiet, almost bitter chuckle that did more mockery than anything in the weeks prior. It wasn’t a happy sound to Izuku’s ears. If only he knew why.
“You know, I remember telling you to only come if Endeavor made the front page of the Mirror,” All For One diverted.
“He did!” With that, Izuku slapped his signed copy of the special print of the Heroes Mirror up against the glass for All For One to divine. “As you can probably guess, the front page features Endeavor filled with impotent rage. I know it’s almost identical to his normal expression, but the angle of his frown is slightly greater than standard.”
All For One whistled lowly. “You certainly were busy. On your day off as well.” There was the jab Izuku was expecting. “How exactly did you manage to cause such an unmitigated public relations disaster for the current number one at such short notice?”
“We got told to bring a chaperone.”
“And?” Expectant. Too eager.
“We took All Might.” Izuku shrugged. “He had fun, we managed to get him into the group photo.” Izuku stuffed the magazine away, hopefully before the headlines could be read. Todoroki didn’t need his family woes aired to villain number one.
“Lateral thinking at work, I approve,” All For One nodded eagerly. “When weighing the pros and cons, I suppose All Might’s momentary happiness is an acceptable payment for the government’s vicarious embarrassment.”
“I’m glad you didn’t pass on that sentiment to Shigaraki, because he might otherwise spend his time terrorising heroes people actually care about.”
“Oh not to worry, Izuku. In due course he’ll probably pick it up from you,” All For One assured, voice breaking as tried to suppress a chortle. “You’re not exactly subtle with your dislike of him.”
“You know,” Izuku’s tongue began to unwillingly move, “I’m not sure who I should nominate for Dad of the Year for the national poll. You or Endeavor. Competition’s close,” Izuku bit out. “You’ve got being a career criminal behind you and large amounts of emotional abuse, but Endeavor might slightly edge you out for physical abuse, emotional abuse and participating in eugenics experiments. I think I need more data for a definite conclusion. What do you think?”
“I take comfort in knowing that, for all I’ve done, at least I’m not Endeavor.” Izuku winced. It probably wasn’t a good sign for Endeavor that even All For One seemed to have, rather cheerfully, joined the Endeavor hate club currently led by Zach and Yoarashi. “At the same time, I am still rather curious as to your encounter with Shigaraki.” All For One prodded.
“That’s nice.” Izuku stated apathetically. “What’s in it for me?” If Izuku toed the current affairs line too close, any future chance of gathering information would go down in a blaze of fire. In the same way Endeavor’s lawyers had rocketed out the office with gag orders for the Mirror last Monday, so too would Tartarus administration in stamping the revocation papers for visitations.
“Scratch my itch for the events of Sunday night and I’ll tell you how Shigaraki came into my care.”
Izuku did the mental weighing up. There wasn’t much information in the encounter with Shigaraki and All For One was already aware of it happening. Even if All For One’s exchange was a brazen lie, Izuku could fish for the grain of truth.
“It wasn’t much of an encounter,” Izuku dismissed with a mild sniffle.
“Oh?” Izuku really didn’t like the irritating, disbelieving tone the man increasingly used each visit. “I thought current affairs were off limits?”
“Not the ones you already know about. It wasn’t that eventful, either. I walked in on them while they were in a side room. Shigaraki tried to scratch a hole into himself at the sight of me and Kurogiri shoved him into a gate after staring at me in horror for thirty seconds.”
“Did you do anything to prompt this response?” All For One asked after a period of steady breaths.
Search had it limits then, but Izuku doubted that Ragdoll had conquered that trauma to the point where he could ask her about it. Izuku inclined his head. Had he done anything differently? Nothing was coming to mind. “I had a trim and dressed appropriately. Unless Shigaraki had a traumatic experience in the meantime, it can’t be something I did.”
“They ran at the sight of a haircut? Clearly I’ve been doing something wrong with my life,” All For One remarked in a tone of quiet wonder. “Not a reaction I would have expected from him.”
“Honestly, mum, All Might, Shigaraki and Kurogiri all had a strange response to me. I can’t think of what they’d have in common,” Izuku shrugged helplessly. Looks of contempt and disgust? He was used to that. Apprehension and fear? It was a new and unpleasant experience.
“An aversion to trims,” All For One immediately deadpanned and shrugged.
“What sort of aversion would make Shigaraki tear a hole into the side of his neck?”
“I’m at a loss. Quite a few things make Shigaraki claw at himself.” All For One sounded it as well, but there was something awfully careful about the wording that sent skitters along Izuku’s spine. “When I catch up with the Mirror, I’ll have to hunt down a copy for a look since you managed to sneak into the group photo. Maybe that’ll provide more clues as to the response.”
“Since you’re going to outlive everyone here, the when’s pretty much a given, isn’t it? That’s also provided Endeavor doesn’t burn all of them first or sue them into oblivion. Mai Maki had a front row seat.”
“Indeed, a hazard of the Quirk,” All For One murmured at a level hardly audible through the glass. “Auction websites are a valuable resource, Izuku,” All For One assured Izuku in a louder and more sinister manner. “What exactly happened for a special edition to run? That hasn’t happened to him since he had his first child.” Fortunately, the follow up didn’t have the same vibe to it.
Izuku thought for a moment. “I’ll tell you if you tell me.” All For One was already aware of the prospective skeletons hanging in the Todoroki family closest.
A dark chuckle. “I’ll play along. Endeavor, while accosted by media at his public relations event, decided to tout his son as a successor that would surpass All Might’s legacy. In using this justification, he rationalises his past of abuse of his family and can avoid unfortunate and inconvenient feelings such as remorse or shame. In the process of glorifying his child abuse, his son overheard and decided to correct his father’s assumptions by denying any future possibility of him doing so by refusing formal ranking.” All For One grinned, teeth glinting. “He did that while in front of a sizable media pack, including one Mai Maki who decided to capitalise on it being a public event. The end result is a public scandal as well as a special edition full of material that she can’t be sued for on account of it being materially true.”
Without feeling the least bit surprised, Izuku gave the man an indifferent thumbs up. “Sounds about right.”
“Is that how you found Shigaraki?” Straight to the point, yet again.
“Todoroki asked me to keep out of sight just before he lost it. I was hiding in one of the catering side rooms and almost tripped over Shigaraki. You know the rest.” Izuku sneezed.
“Here I was mistakenly thinking you’d have a quiet night off. I should have known better with your history.” Another mumble. “Utterly incapable of minding your own business.”
“What history?” Izuku probably should have felt less offended at the last comment, but the implication carried a sense of terror with it.
All For One’s mouth twitched. “Stain,” he said, as though it explained everything. “He evaded the pro heroes for years, only to be taken down by three teenagers. The embarrassment for the authorities if that were to ever get out. You’re fortunate that Endeavor was given the responsibility. The government wouldn't have taken to children disposing of one of Japan's longest uncaught serial killers very well when even they haven't managed as much.” Izuku paused, wrote serial killer in bolded letters and underlined it twice.
“I’m aware,” Izuku stated in the blandest voice he could muster with a running nose. “So, Shigaraki?”
“I found Shigaraki in a pool of his father’s blood. All that remained of the father was a hand. He’s been in my care ever since.” All For One was quite possibly the least informative person on the planet.
“Wonderful, do you have a rough age for when that happened?” When in doubt, press for more information.
“I’m not going to spoil all of your fun, Izuku. Do some digging. I’m sure the answer will come to you with time.” All For One’s sinister smile wasn’t particularly encouraging.
“You do realise that’s going to come back to bite you, right?”
“If you say so,” All For One bobbed his head ever so slightly. “I’m starting to think that perhaps consulting would be more your area of expertise.”
“You don’t need a consultant. You need a five-year old to proof read all of Shigaraki’s evil schemes,” Izuku snarked, as he rose to his feet.
“Leaving so soon?” All For One’s disappointment was always an odd thing that carried in his voice.
“They’re refusing to serve me coffee here.” Thanks to you. “Take it up with the prison authorities. See you next week.”
“Until next time.”
Izuku let the door slam shut and found himself face to face with a corridor lined by armed guards.
“Unless you’re employing someone who can nullify Quirks, you’re not going to be able to deal with a form of clairvoyant telepathy,” Izuku remarked.
“We’re here just in case,” the guard assured him.
“If he was free, you’d probably be dead. The guy levels city blocks at will,” Izuku pointed out.
“With all due respect kid, you punted a city block into the stratosphere,” a rough voice called from the back of the pack.
Izuku blinked. “All that means is that I’m qualified to comment on it. Good luck.”
Izuku hobbled out to the carpark.
“So Shigaraki’s father was killed?” All Might pondered.
“By what is the question. I don’t doubt that he’s dead given who’s involved. Either Shigaraki’s Quirk activated and killed him on accident as with little Eri, or All For One decided to wipe out the rest of the family on his Tuesday off. The latter’s more likely. It’s not terribly probable that he’s going to stumble across your teacher’s grandson and help him out of the goodness of his non-existent heart,” Tsukauchi observed to All Might from the driver’s seat.
“Agreed. The odds of that happening accidentally are astronomical. But it’s valuable information.” Izuku wished it wasn’t so valuable. The implications…
“Shigaraki wasn’t intended as a successor. He was a ploy set up to hurt your feelings otherwise he’d be substantially more developed than what he is now. Shigaraki is a decoy, not a replacement.” Izuku drummed his fingers. “All For One probably plans on having him run distraction while he finds a way to recover. With someone like Eri or Overhaul around, that’s not a difficult thing to achieve, especially when he has a two-hundred-year buffer with Eri. That's why he's not bothered by imprisonment, but it also seems like he's lining up a break from criminality for some reason even after he's recovered.”
All Might hacked and coated the dash in a mist of blood. “Shit.”
“Too right,” Tsukauchi agreed. “We didn’t consider that aspect of it. Do you mind if we make a quick detour to put an alert on the system? We can set you up as a consultant at the station to streamline reports, too.” Izuku felt the audible bump of Tsukauchi flooring it.
“Cheer up, Midoriya, you have breakfast with my sister tomorrow.”
Izuku didn’t think that Tsukauchi meant to make that sound so threatening.
Someone asked about my update schedule. I'm hoping to get a chapter out every two weeks at least, unless work gets in the way.
Chapter 8: History of a Cryptid
Every cryptid has its history.
“Okay, we’re here,” Tsukauchi announced, coming to a brisk halt in a drop off zone.
“Anything I should know?” Izuku tugged his bag out of the car.
“Not that I can remember. She does have a long memory though,” Tsukauchi smiled. “Call me when you’re done and I’ll give you a lift back to campus.”
“Sure, thank you again!”
“No worries, Midoriya.” He sped off, leaving Izuku to his fate.
As it turned out, Makoto Tsukauchi’s idea of an early morning breakfast was at a time closer to 6am than anything else. She stood and waved Izuku over and before long the five of them were camped outside a café, a fanciful breeze passing them by. Their drinks sat steaming on the table before long, along with six bottles of an amber substance.
“I’m sorry that this is so early, but we all have work or university classes starting at 8:30am.” Makoto Tsukauchi tapped her own notebook somewhat authoritatively, dark hair swaying as she did so. Izuku could see the family resemblance. Sort of. It was just after six in the morning. He sniffled.
“Are you trying to kill the kid?” An older man grunted, cracking his knuckles. “It’s an ungodly time of morning for everyone. And it’s a Sunday. I don’t know why I agreed to work on a Sunday. It’s not like they pay me for it.” He took a generous swig of one of the unlabelled bottles of amber
“Hey, it’s too early to be drinking!” A girl with pinkish red hair snapped, waving a hand in front his face. “Put that down.”
“Don’t fight, it’s too early,” a young man with a near vintage All Might hoodie groaned into arms as he lay face first on the table. It looked like the one that was released in Izuku’s birth year.
“Uh…” Pulling his eyes away from the hoodie, Izuku nervously raised a limp hand. “Who are your friends?”
“Takeshi Kuroiwa, janitorially expert and asskicking engineer.” The older man introduced himself with another swig. A cigarette materialised in his hand and he took a long drag on it.
“Kazuho Haneyama, I just started university this year,” the girl with the glasses bobbed her head, struggling for Kuroiwa’s beer bottle as she spoke. “I’m thinking of transferring to Theatre Arts!”
“Kouichi Haimawari, I’m a social engineer, I work in government planning mainly doing boring stuff,” came a muffled voice. “I wanted to work at a hero agency, but there were complications.”
“And you already know who I am. Makoto Tsukauchi, I’m a university researcher in the social sciences department. As my brother would have told you, I’m studying the origins of vigilantes and the hero and villain dynamics we see today.” The female Tsukauchi adjusted her glasses as they slid down the bridge of her nose. “I think the better question is who are you and why did you want to speak to a researcher?” Prompt, with no nonsense, the resemblance grew as she leaned towards Izuku.
“I’m Izuku Midoriya from U.A., nice to meet all of you. I’ve been doing some extracurricular studies on Japan’s most notorious and mostly unknown supervillain,” Izuku half bowed from his seat. “I’ve been trying to trace his origins, but I’m having difficulty given his alias and sizable history.”
“The eternal struggle – research,” Haimawari moaned pitifully. “So much sleep lost.” Izuku found himself nodding sympathetically. “Good luck.”
“What exactly do you need to know?” Makoto had extracted a notebook.
Izuku hummed. “The main thing I need to know is what gave rise to the system of heroes and villains. School was vague as to the details that came before the system arose and the situation that caused it.”
Makoto’s predatory expression explained the early meeting time. “Right! Before the pro hero system was implemented, Quirk usage was informally regulated by vigilantes who stepped up during a period of unrest. People with Quirks were heavily discriminated against, so vigilantes not only protected those without Quirks from criminals but people with Quirks from the masses who weren’t particularly happy about the emergence of superpowers.” As she spoke, Makoto’s haggard pen sketched a flowchart into the notebook before her.
“Hate crimes were a problem then?” There was something itching along Izuku’s spine, a familiar chill.
“An epidemic,” she confirmed.
“Yeah, it was pretty bad. The worst cases were in America,” Haimawari added, lifting his head and giving Izuku his first look at the dark rings under his eyes. “You had mass rioting and the police outright refusing to get involved where Quirks were being used. If a suspect had a Quirk they called in the military and didn’t get involved. It started a giant witch hunt where even people without Quirks were being accused, hunted down and… well, think America’s Salem trials.” He grimaced. “That’s where the vigilantes came in. There wasn’t the distinction of heroes or villains, just a group of people with or without Quirks trying to keep some sort of order in a giant ongoing riot.”
Izuku blinked. “Wait, without Quirks?”
“Yeeeeeeep,” Haneyama flicked back a strand of pinkish hair. “It was a free for all. If you were a relative of someone with a Quirk, you were a suspect as well. A lot of Quirkless people ended up becoming vigilantes in the general sense of the word to protect their family members or themselves at the very least.”
“How did we get from that in America to here in Japan?”
“America’s a cesspool, that’s how,” Kuroiwa growled. “We imported their garbage system into Japan and ruined it for everyone.”
“Well, plenty of academics would agree with you there,” Makoto intervened. “The hero system began in the state of Rhode Island in America. Rhode Island had one-hundred-and-eighty-nine Quirk wielding vigilantes active at that time. Of that number, only seven were formally allowed to be licenced and recognised as pro heroes.” She sighed. “My research from years back was to find out why those seven were specifically chosen.” Makoto’s shoulders dropped.
“The conclusion sounds like it was disappointing,” Izuku said from behind his own notebook.
“They were chosen because of their flashy Quirks and their excellent public relations with the community. Their actual heroism wasn’t important, but their perceived heroism is what made them so appealing to recruit to the side of the government.” Her sigh deepened. “It was an extremely shallow means of picking them in hindsight and it still persists today.”
“What happened to the rest of the vigilantes?”
“Quirks were basically criminalised and all of the non-licenced vigilantes who refused to accept the government’s declaration became the first villains,” Haimawari mumbled from around a steaming cup of coffee. Izuku gagged on his tea and swallowed painfully. “The seven official heroes were then required by law to hunt down their friends and family who were still acting to protect the peace as vigilantes. Seven people isn’t a lot of people in a region of a million so you had massive coverage problems where the official heroes just couldn’t keep up with demand. Vigilantes were trying to fill that gap and the government brought the boot down.”
“Which brings us to Japan’s adoption of America’s system.” Makoto continued in a businesslike manner. “It happened basically the same way, but Japan’s vigilantes didn’t go quietly. You see, unlike Rhode Island, Japan’s vigilantes were organised around a central figure.” Izuku trembled. “Overnight, all of Japan’s vigilantes became Japan’s greatest villains with this central figure at their head. We don’t know who this figure was, but they had enough sway to severely disrupt society for an extremely prolonged period of time. This mysterious figure rebelled against the laws restricting Quirk usage and started a war with the government and its nominated heroes. Japan, for this reason, has always had an unusually high number of villains.”
“Just how long do you mean by prolonged?” Izuku almost didn’t want the answer.
“Around two hundred years, give or take a couple of decades. In the last twenty years or so there was a noted decline in the pattern with the appearance of All Might, but in the last seventeen years or so it started to rebound back up to astronomical levels,” Makoto nodded throughout her explanation. Izuku wanted to take the question back. He almost wanted to take the whole meeting back.
“We saw it around here,” Kuroiwa snarled. “A bunch of drug dealers popped up around five years ago, distributing a nasty drug called Trigger. It’d enhance Quirks and send people on rampages. The mastermind would give it to the unsuspecting plebs on the street or use a patsy to inject them. You had people with weak Quirks turning into monsters in an instant.” A second bottle appeared in his hands. “The fallout is that moron Stain, or Stendhal as he was known back then, went around murdering the victims injected with Trigger to tie up loose ends. If any of them were interviewed, they would have told the cops about the patsy, Hachisuka, who in turn would’ve led to the mastermind. He killed them without questioning his source and that girl vanished off the face of the planet when the cops closed in on her.” A familiar pattern as Izuku had ever seen it.
“Quirk enhancing drug, you say?” Izuku edged forwards on his seat, hand flashing furiously across a new notebook for the occasion. “What were the effects?”
“Hmm, the main one was gigantification. A lot of them turned them pitch black as well, which isn’t surprising since Trigger itself turns the tips of users’ tongues black,” Haneyama held up her phone. Slideshow playing, a series of grotesque and almost familiar figures flashed across the screen, blackened skin, bulging muscles, mindlessness, were almost intimately familiar after the events of the previous year. “There was a lot of damage, but after Hachisuka vanished, the incidents just stopped.”
“Did missing persons reports happen to fly through the roof after the incidents stopped?” Izuku’s mouth was an autopilot, but he had a feeling that he already knew the answer.
“My brother complained of it, certainly,” Makoto agreed. “It seemed to be more small-time criminals, no one of note or great reputation. The reports were mainly made after they didn’t report for their bail or parole conditions more than a family member reporting it. He referenced that a lot of the regulars weren’t showing up to the station and the reports of his I snuck a look at along with the statistics seem to confirm it.”
“So they were people no one would miss…,” Izuku whispered to himself. But not me. Why?
“Societal outcasts. If they had a rap sheet and no real support network, they were a target. You think the mastermind was conducting the experiments in private after she got caught?” Kuroiwa jerked his head sharply in Izuku’s direction.
“I think it’s all the same person, in all honesty. I know the person I’m hunting for information on has been involved in a huge amount of Quirk related experiments. Preying on the helpless public is something he’d do,” Izuku groaned.
“Any chance of me punching his teeth in?”
“I wish, but All Might already did that and more.”
“Yeah, you’re telling me.”
“Can you tell me anymore about these Trigger incidents?”
“Sure!” The pink haired girl bounced to attention.
An hour and a half later, Izuku made the phone call. “Hey Detective, All Might’s busy, so can I ask for a huge favour?”
All For One shouldn’t have been lucky enough to receive two visits in the one week, but it didn’t stop Izuku from positively sailing through the door in an almost ballistic trajectory.
“Weren’t you just here yesterday?” All For One’s voice teetered on the edge of joy and… something that decidedly wasn’t joy. He leaned forwards towards the glass.
“Yep. I have questions.” Izuku bounced and sprang into his seat, a new and empty notebook extended. “Or accusations.”
“What is it this time?” Mock exasperation rolled neatly from the prisoner’s tongue. “Especially for a preemptive visit.”
“You’re not actually Japan’s most prolific supervillain.” Izuku practically vibrated on the edge of his seat.
“Then what am I?” An almost annoyed response.
“You're Japan’s most prolific vigilante,” Izuku dropped.
A pin could have dropped on the other side of Japan and Izuku would have heard it.
“And where did this idea come from?” That other emotion was definitely apprehension. The same sort that haunted the conversations about Tsubasa. How apt.
“See, before Japan implemented the hero system, it had an extremely powerful group of organised vigilantes. That group was held together by a leader who glued the group and its operations together. Their grandmaster of planning so to speak.” Izuku rocked from side to side. “By accounts, there weren’t a terrible lot of complaints as to the service they provided due to the rampant discrimination and witch hunts emulating America’s situation.”
“And this is relevant to me how exactly?”
“You’re not getting out of it that easily,” Izuku chirped. “When the hero system was created in Japan, like America, less than one percent of all vigilantes were permitted to act legally as a licenced hero. They were picked for shallow, flashy reasons and Quirks that were straightforward and not at all subversive. Quirks that were good for public relations. Your polar opposites, really.” Izuku smirked as All For One’s lips curled downwards. “All of the vigilantes at that point became Japan’s de facto villains and you, as their leader, became Japan’s de facto king of evil through no other reason than you weren’t flashy enough to qualify as a pro hero in the government’s fairly pathetic estimations. One judgement and here we are.”
“You wound me, Izuku, are you seriously suggesting that I wasn’t good enough for the government?” All For One drawled, dripping with sarcasm.
“Oh, you weren’t, but your brother was!” Izuku beamed, bouncing.
All For One openly winced. “Just when I thought you’d put me out of my misery…”
“Nope. It gets better! Like America, the relatives of Quirk users were being targeted in addition to the Quirk users themselves. Your brother was one of them. You gave him that Quirk so that he could defend himself from the masses. Only it didn’t stay that way, did it?” The tremor that twisted along All For One’s restrained body did little to deter Izuku.
“No,” he murmured.
“Your brother, having a relatively flashy, but easily controlled Quirk was accepted into Japan’s pro hero licencing scheme. He wasn’t all that strong and was easily controlled if he were to ever rebel against the government’s new totalitarian measures for those who held Quirks.” Izuku breathed. “You weren’t. You level city blocks by thinking about it hard enough and you weren’t agreeable to the plan. You wanted Quirks to be permissible, not banned. You could take Quirks from the government’s agents, but you couldn’t take his. He was easily controlled, but you’d blow up the government building and call it a day.” Izuku carried on, his notebook bouncing up and down on his lap. “It created a rift between you.”
“I think that’s the mildest way in which I’ve heard it described,” All For One conceded.
“The government’s first order of business was for your brother to hunt you and your compatriots down.” Here Izuku paused. “And that’s why the feud started. He agreed to it, even though he knew that they couldn’t cover the field in the same way you alone could. They actively hunted down people who were trying to manage the situation. He attacked you and you became more extreme in your retaliations.”
All For One’s strained sigh was more of an answer than the man probably intended.
“Only he couldn’t manage it, could he? Your brother’s health was never great, so he passed on his legacy to the next person with the instructions to hunt you down,” Izuku continued.
“Chinese whispers,” All For One quietly added. “With each successor the picture grew more distorted and the attempts upon my life more vicious.”
“Then All Might comes along, the most vicious legacy holder to date. I know he’s the most vicious, because he’s done the most damage to you so far if your waning criminal schemes are any indication, but that didn’t quite stop you, did it?”
“Are you done?” It was a tired voice.
“Almost. All Might injures you, you’re down for the count. You get Dr Tsubasa to conduct experiments with Trigger on random citizens using Hachisuka to develop a means of creating effective Noumu to compensate for your injuries. From the incidents I could discover, Dr Tsubasa started experimentation with Trigger at about the same time he abducted his grandson. Convenient timing, eh?” Izuku flipped the page of his notebook. “You’re also aware of Stain’s history as a patsy on account of Hachisuka utilising him to dispose of evidence during those experiments by having them kill the victims. You let Shigaraki walk into a public relations trap when Stain’s entire reputation would be obliterated with the simple revelation that he’s a run of the mill serial killer, rather than someone with any actual objective purpose. He always has been your average serial killer.” The cogs were turning and All For One’s silence was lengthening. “All in all, this entire thing started because of a disagreement in how the hero system was implemented…”
“Done?” All For One bit out.
“Now all I need is your name and I’m good to do some more digging,” Izuku brightly concluded.
All For One froze. “You don’t want my name,” he assured Izuku in a careful tone of voice.
“For the same reason you don’t want to know why Tsubasa was specifically chosen and Bakugou was kidnapped,” All For One uttered darkly.
“I suspect they were partially chosen because of their appalling treatment of me if your prior actions are any indication. Hate crimes a pet peeve?” Izuku prodded.
All For One’s echoing laughter was cold, but not indifferent. “Humans haven’t changed in centuries. When Quirks first appeared, it was those who had them who were oppressed by the Quirkless majority. Now, as time has moved on, it has inverted itself. Bakugou himself was a purveyor of your misery on that same basis, was he not? People haven’t changed at all,” All For One concluded. “Cruel children become cruel adults. They’re of no value to anyone let alone you or me.”
“If everyone is so pathetic and hopeless then why bother with trying to subvert them? I mean, if you didn’t care then surely you wouldn’t involve yourself with any of it, would you?” Izuku tossed at him. “You’ve clearly picked up a longevity Quirk from somewhere to persist with the feud. Why even bother with facing All Might? You could have just waited for all of us to die of old age. It’s not like you had to be involved. You’re involved because you care enough to make a point about it.”
“I suppose our definition of care differs. It’s not anyone’s interests for me to simply wait.”
“Semantics. You’re still emotionally involved.” Describing All For One as emotionally involved was something of an understatement. Emotionally compromised seemed more accurate from the rage colouring the man’s voice.
“Our emotional involvement is less dissimilar than you think, Izuku. You, born Quirkless in a Quirk filled majority, are considered a useless freak. Helpless, beneath notice and utterly worthless.” All For One’s mouth twisted into a sneer, distaste clinging to his words. “Yet you were the only one to intervene on Bakugou’s behalf when he was surrounded by people society considered far more capable. Instead of being praised, you were scolded, in spite of your response only being required due to their ineptitude. To your credit, you are more than simple ideology,” All For One praised to Izuku’s consternation. “You are there in spite of the expectations of those around you because you want to be there, no more no less.
“Your involvement is… because you want to?”
“Essentially.” The usual amount of detail provided.
“I can hedge a guess as to what your equivalent experience would be for why you got involved, but…” Izuku trailed off.
“Why guess when you can hear it from the horse’s mouth? To think I offered this information yesterday and you said no to it, how times change.” Japan’s pre-eminent villain smiled, almost indulgently. “You were considered irrelevant for your difference, but we were feared. Our differences and our Quirks created uncertainty and with it came fear that we would use them to influence the so-called powerless. We were useless to society because we had power which was useless as it could not be controlled. My efforts were to alter that status quo and for the most part I was successful. Until All Might came along,” All For One scowled.
“Self-preservation does tend to be a strong factor in these areas,” Izuku nodded, making notes. It wasn’t quite a confirmation, but it was close enough.
“For everyone apart from you, it appears,” All For One snarked back. “What fuelled both responses to minorities was disgust. Quirk or not, neither of us will ever truly have a place in society. You for having no inherent Quirk appear and being considered useless as a result. Once you ruin yourself, you will resume that state and they will be repulsed by you once more. Me on the other hand, they have always rejected for having a Quirk which can make anyone become like you. As if Quirks are the only facet that matters.” All For One shifted in his bonds.
“So why be the archvillain of Japan? It’s not going to help you in the long run.” There was something missing. Pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that hovered out of reach.
“I did it because I could. There was no other reason,” All For One smoothly purported.
“Oh, so it wasn’t the advocacy of live human experimentation, removal of human rights from Quirk holders, refusal of medical treatment, alienation, government bans on basic necessities, public contempt or the witch hunts which were applied quite readily to Quirk wielders?” Izuku asked, infusing as much sarcasm as he could manage on a full night’s rest. “I’m sure those weren’t factors at all.”
“You don’t believe me. What have I done to deserve such mistrust?” All For One’s voice full of mock hurt as he seemed to swallow down a chuckle.
“I’m not All Might,” Izuku sighed and suppressed a sneeze.
“Of course you aren’t,” was the matter of fact and almost insulted reply. “In no universe would All Might dedicate part of his weekend to visiting me and holding a civil conversation. I had abilities and I wished to use them.”
“That doesn’t explain your current hatred of All Might though. Apart from the injuries he caused to you, ideology wise he isn’t any different to his predecessors.” Why was All Might so hated? All For One had confessed his hatred of the man, but not specified precisely why he above all others had earned that hatred.
“He took something from me,” All For One growled, low tones reverberating through the glass.
“But what did he take then? Terrorising your operations is something all of them have done. What has he done differently to deserve the sort of dedication you put into ruining his life? You just killed Nana, you didn’t rake her over hot coals like you’ve been pulling on him. Even Tenko Shimura was just another avenue of attack for All Might, not Nana. You don’t really seem to care about Nana.” Izuku tapped the notebook. Had All Might made it personal? If so, how? Why? When? Who was All For One and was why he so eager to hide his name?
“You’ll understand when you’re older,” utmost finality lacing every word and sank he back into his restraints with a strained expression
“You’re in pain,” Izuku realised, eyes widening as All For One’s shifting movements took on new meaning. "I didn't realise..."
“When am I not in pain?” All For One seemed to ask himself, brushing Izuku off. “Albeit, these conditions hardly help. Guantanamo Bay was better,” the man muttered almost inaudibly. “I have nothing more to say to you for today, Izuku. You might have forgotten your condition, but I haven’t.”
“…I was really hoping you’d forgotten about that,” Izuku cringed.
“Not likely. Out.” All For One shooed Izuku without aggression.
“See you next week!” Izuku left much the way he’d entered, with a bounce in his step, All For One’s sigh following him as he left.
The drive back to campus was oddly quiet without All Might and Tsukauchi’s banter. Izuku, face first in his notebook, had little to say.
Arriving at the dorms was somewhat more noisy than Izuku remembered.
“Midoriya,” a pale faced Ashido greeted him.
“What’s wrong? What happened?” Izuku pushed, stepping into the lobby. As he did, Yaoyorozu and Uraraka stood to the side, equally pale.
“Did you tell the media that we were operating a fashion label?” Ashido whimpered.
“Uh, I think?” Izuku hesitated.
“We’ve just received two hundred orders for men’s formal clothing,” Yaoyorozu whispered from behind her hands. "How on earth are we meant to deal with that?"
So Izuku finally meets the main characters from Illegals... I'd strongly recommend checking out BNHA's spinoff.
Chapter 9: Approach of a Cryptid
One must always approach a cryptid with care.
Izuku didn’t think there was a point in his life where he’d been more mortified. “From the beginning, what happened?” They had moved to the common area, huddling around a low set coffee table.
Yaoyorozu was wringing her hands. “My parents were contacted by the media two days ago to ask about the suit I made for you. They told the reporter that I was the designer, and…” Struggling, she waved a hand.
“They ran the article and you got two-hundred requests because yours was the only publicly listed address people could find,” Izuku concluded. “I’m so sorry, I didn’t think.” He groaned. “If you decline, they’ll just run another article attacking you for it, but we don’t have time to do it. You’re not allowed to use your Quirk to make more and, correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think anyone here can sew well enough to do the orders.” Izuku sighed. “If only we could outsource… Suits are simple to design, we just need the base pattern, a quote for materials and labour and someone else could make them…”
“Midoriya, did you say you needed a quote and materials?” Uraraka had inexplicably brightened up.
“Yeah, but I have no idea how to do that,” Izuku deflated. “I don’t know enough about manufacturing to organise a pipeline for it.”
“I think I can help.” Uraraka flushed a dark pink and coughed. “My parents are builders and they manage supply line type stuff for construction. It’s essential to it. The process is sort of similar. I can give dad a call and see if he has any contacts for the textiles industry, since I live in a pretty small place…” She flailed. “But, we’d need capital to get the supplies and pay the workers…” She trailed off.
There was a brief pause. “If your parents can organise a supply line, I can produce the designs along with Ashido and perhaps ask my parents for a small loan to get the business started,” Yaoyorozu tentatively suggested. “I still have sketches of the designs. I just need help converting them to patterns.”
“I can handle customer relations too,” Ashido bounced. “We can setup a website and official order form. I’ll write back a general response to all of the paper letters we got, asking them to use the form. With any luck, some of them won’t reorder because of the inconvenience.” She made a peace sign. “That way we can deflect some of the orders without outright declining them and keep Yaoyorozu’s reputation alive and well.” She concluded with a brief victory jig. Ashido might not have been book smart, but she had social relations down pat.
“I can get dad to get a quote for that too!”
Slowly, the collective sense of doom was fading from the room.
Izuku flipped to the back of his notebook. “We’re going to need an accountant and lawyer to handle business structuring. None of us are legal adults yet which means we can’t legally operate a company or take on responsibilities without it either being held on trust or a puppet heading it. Yaoyorozu probably has some family assets, we need a structure to minimise taxation since she’s more likely to incur a higher bracket off the bat.” Silence. Izuku looked up to find a sea of taken aback faces. “What?”
“You know a lot about business structuring,” Ashido remarked with a shrewd expression. “Are your parents involved in running a business?”
“Something like that,” Izuku shrugged. His dad was supposedly overseas doing something, but Izuku’s knowledge had more to do with an attempt to trace All For One through his shell companies than any parental contributions. So many company searches, so many dodgy search results that could have just as easily been one of Izuku’s neighbours as All For One.
That being said, the longer Izuku spent at the school the stranger his father became. He’d married Izuku’s mother a year or two before Izuku had been born. He’d vanished overseas not long after Izuku had been born. He’d stopped phoning or VOIPing entirely by the time Izuku was three. Izuku had no memory of him.
After that, there was nothing but the steady stream of money inbound to the joint account held by his parents. Yet there was an uncanniness to the money itself. The amount was never consistent, always enough for precisely whatever his mother or Izuku himself desired as if his father knew in advance exactly what was to be asked for and allocated accordingly. All without a single phone call. Creepy. Seven years ago, communication dropped off entirely, but the finance remained, almost aggressively so, having increased in amount.
Izuku didn’t even know his father’s name, it’d been that irrelevant to him. He didn’t know what the man did for a living either. He had one parent, had only needed one, but the more time went on, the weirder it appeared. Everyone else with married parents, no matter how hostile or estranged, still communicated and spoke or were in some way involved with their children. They knew where the other parent was and what they were doing. Why would someone stay married, pay for their family and never communicate? At that point, if distance was preferred, why bother with getting married in the first place?
Unless, like All For One, a seasoned criminal, he had something less than legitimate to hide from the family. It’d explain the strange income stream. Izuku sighed despondently. Better put it on the list.
“My family can provide lawyers and accountants,” Yaoyorozu was saying as Izuku recovered from his thoughts, colour steadily reappearing back in her cheeks.
“We can put the sales under one of the existing companies and transfer assets once something more permanent has been put in place,” Izuku nodded.
“Uh, there’s one more thing,” Uraraka held up a hand. “What do we do with the money? We’re marking up prices for profit, right?” She cringed as she spoke, a hopeful expression on her face.
“Why not just sign on employees and get paid a cut?” Izuku shrugged. “We need to pay back whatever capital loan we’re given so we have to work for profit. Ashido in consumer relations, Yaoyorozu as a designer, Uraraka in inventory and me…” Izuku came to halt. What was he good at?
“You as the CEO, since you literally just pulled this idea out of thin air,” Ashido giggled and slapped him on the back.
“Don’t CEO’s get paid absurd amounts of money?” Izuku frowned. Uraraka was practically salivating.
“Yes, but it’s also the most stressful job due to the management requirements,” Yaoyorozu chipped in. “CEOs are the masterminds of the company and plan and path the company.”
The girls looked at him and he looked back.
“I get the feeling that this is going to get worse before it gets better.”
“Probably. Welp, better draft that template letter. Good luck boss man!”
“That’s usually the case with any new business venture. I’ll find my designs.”
“I better call dad!”
“I’ll be regretting everything in my room if you need me.”
It was a relief that none of them laughed. Between the morning he’d had and this, he didn’t think it’d be much of an exaggeration.
In theory, it was a Monday night like any other. In reality, an explosion tore through the Heroics classrooms, reducing them to molten slag and sparking wreckage. Izuku didn’t hear it through earphones full of Australian profanity, but it was hard to miss Mineta barging into his room and screaming in high-pitched terror on his way to the common room.
Class 1-A gathered in the common area with Aizawa-sensei, still clad in his sleeping bag. One of his eyes ticked menacingly. Class 1-A heaved a collective sigh of relief. Not a villain attack then.
“Someone blew up the Heroics classrooms.”
More than one set of eyes landed on Kacchan.
“Don’t fucking look at me, I was sleeping. Fucking extras,” he grumbled.
Mineta coughed suspiciously, but didn’t look away.
“That’s enough,” Aizawa-sensei cut in. “Someone in the Support Course was testing a distribution platform where and when they shouldn’t have been and it’s destroyed most of the foundations in addition to the buildings. Classes will be cancelled tomorrow for the Heroics department until we can clean it up and find out if they accidentally killed anyone. Go see family or something.”
As instructed, Izuku took a leaf from Todoroki’s book and found himself knocking on the door to his apartment the following morning. “I’m home!” Izuku called, tossing his shoes to the side and padding over to the kitchen where his mother’s back faced him.
“Izuku, what are you-!?” Déjà vu stole over Izuku, his mother frozen, staring through him, detergent dripping off her hands.
“Mum, it’s me,” Izuku reached over to give his mother a hug.
“I know, but,” she paused, tears starting to pour.
“Sit down, take it easy, I’ll get you some tea.” Izuku tugged the gloves off his mother’s hands and led her to the dining room table. What was causing that reaction?
Izuku busted out the tea set in record time, a steaming mug finding its way into his mother’s hands, as he sat beside her.
“Mum, do you want to talk about it?” Izuku asked as he reached for her hand.
Time passed, his mother clearly hesitating. “You look like your father,” she mumbled through red eyes. “When I saw you at the police station… It was a shock.”
“I can understand you being surprised.” I am too. “But why are you afraid? He didn’t… do anything, did he?” Izuku asked as tactfully as possible. If his father had done something…
“No, it’s not like that,” she reassured him. “It’s the whole thing, him not being there for us, for you, not speaking to us. I wondered what I’d done for him to leave, but…” Crashing, hideous realisation washed over Izuku.
All those years ago, his mother hadn’t been apologising for Izuku not having a Quirk. She was apologising for marrying someone who had lied to his family and absconded, leaving both his mother and Izuku without any of the support of a normal family situation.
“You don’t know where he is, do you?” Izuku faintly whispered. “What’s his name?” Izuku winced, in hindsight, not knowing his father’s name should’ve been a giveaway that something was terribly terribly wrong.
“No,” his mother sobbed into a bundle of tissues. “Hisashi Midoriya. He said he was going overseas just before you turned three and never came back. He didn’t seem happy about though, said he’d be back as soon as possible. I never should have married him,” she wailed. “Maybe if I had’ve married someone else…” My child would’ve been happy, Izuku mentally finished for her, an uncomfortable lump forming in his throat.
Izuku rubbed circles into his mother’s rocking back. “The name he married you under was Hisashi Midoriya?” Who on earth names their kid “a long time ago?” Huh, guess that’s where the kanji in my name comes from. “Does he have any family that he told you about?”
His mother nodded. “His parents and younger brother are dead. He doesn’t have any other family, he said they disowned him and he was estranged from them when his brother died.”
“Friends or contacts?” Izuku gently probed. Come on, hold back the waterworks Izuku.
“Only Tsubasa, the doctor who said you were Quirkless. That quack,” his mother spat through a sob. Izuku almost choked on his saliva. Oh no. “He said that he was more familiar with this area, which is why we moved.”
“That’s awfully convenient,” Izuku carried on in a strangled tone of voice. “There’s no one left to confirm he is who he says he is if he forged documents. And if he forged documents then the marriage isn’t valid anyway.” And the only independent contact Hisashi Midoriya had was directly connected to All For One, who was quite happy to send immediate subordinates to their demise as cannon fodder. Was his father still alive, even? Who was responsible for executing the will? “Why not get a divorce if he was so distant?” It was never that simple, but he had to ask.
“He wasn’t always so distant. Before you were born he was the most charming person,” she smiled fondly, “you look just like him. I don’t have any photos to show you, he hated being photographed. I couldn’t get him to stay in for the wedding photo. We blinked and he was out of frame.”
“But why not after he stopped talking entirely?” When his charm didn’t mean anything after years of neglect.
“I couldn’t have supported you,” Inko wailed through her hands. “I was fostered out and don’t have anyone. It was either this or going to a shelter.”
Izuku relatched his jaw. “You were fostered?” Dumbfounded didn’t quite cover it. Why didn’t you tell me?
“You were stressed enough, I didn’t want to make it worse.” Izuku hadn’t meant to ask that aloud, but couldn’t really fault the logic. His poor mother, a bird in a gilded cage. All of a sudden, his mother’s entire attitude made sense.
“What about divorcing him now?” Izuku owed Todoroki lunch or dinner at his place. His classmate was a fountain of information on marriage legalities. “Why did he even get married come to think of it? If he’s not here I doubt he cares so he should be fine with a divorce.” Maybe. Izuku hadn’t ever heard of someone who walked out on a marriage while still staying married and, seemingly, cheerfully paying every expense even before it arose. It was generally a lot more bloody and fraught. “Either he responds and reveals himself, or he doesn’t and we can leave anyway. Even if we can’t find him, we can get a divorce through a default judgement if he doesn’t respond.” Also from Todoroki, he knew what her answer was going to be in advance.
“How am I going to pay for you to go to school if I leave him? If that’s not his real name then I don’t have any hope of a property settlement.” She threw herself into Izuku’s arms, gushing tears.
It was all Izuku could do to cradle her until the tears ran out.
“I… I think I’ll go shopping,” she mumbled. “I need a moment.”
“That’s okay mum, do whatever you need to do.”
His mother hurried out the door and Izuku was left to do the dishes, simmering with a burning, malevolent heat that curled it’s way through him.
He was sure that his mother had some financial records over in that cabinet, maybe a quick peak wouldn’t hurt?
It was a quiet Tuesday. Not a sound came from the apartments around his and the outside world was silent. Perfect for tedious record analysis.
The floral Western style tea set of his mother rested on the dining table, ready for his mother’s return. She’d called to say it’d only be another thirty minutes while she bought pantry supplies.
Izuku attempted to temper his shaking and failed dismally. The records didn’t make sense. Where was all of this money coming from? At least his mother had the forethought to put some of it aside, but the amount for a supposed salaryman was absurd. It was more akin to a corporate director than anything else… How much control did he have over the finances if it still wasn’t enough to leave?
A whisper of air in the still room and Izuku lunged. Shigaraki’s head popped into being and Izuku’s enhanced hand closed around his throat in a death grip. Izuku yanked. Shigaraki was pulled from Kurogiri’s mist. Clamping down, Izuku ignored the frantic gasps, blood rushing. As Shigaraki crashed to the floor, the last tethers on Izuku shattered.
“Shigaraki, if you so much as think of moving, I’m going to tear your head off your shoulders,” Izuku stated far more calmly than he felt. Izuku’s free middle finger sparked ominously. Why are they here!?
“There’s no need for that, Midoriya.” Kurogiri hurriedly materialised. “We’re here to have a civil conversation.”
“If you so much as twitch in my direction, Kurogiri, you’ll be cleaning Shigaraki off the walls.” OhmygodI’vejusttakensomeonehostage, screamed through a distant part of Izuku’s mind. A surreal calm honed over the stress of the previous months settled over him. “People wanting to chat knock and use front doors, not attempt to get the drop on someone while they’re having tea on a Tuesday morning.” About to have tea, close enough. How did they know he was here? U.A.’s spy? Who knew Izuku was visiting his mother? All For One would have known from Search, but there was an almost non-existent chance of him being able to send a message.
Shigaraki was gasping desperately, arms hanging limply at his side. His face was changing colours. Izuku still didn’t feel like letting go. A single touch and Izuku would be worrying his mother with yet another injury. Provided she wasn’t burying him instead.
“Questions…” Shigaraki gasped.
“You weren’t particularly nice to me the last time you asked me questions,” Izuku pointed out. “You asked them while half strangling me.”
“Not… like… last… time,” Shigaraki struggled.
“Oh, really?” Izuku dripped poisonously. “I’ll just take your word for that, won’t I? Didn’t you threaten to kill me and thirty other people last time this happened?”
“He’s being sincere, Midoriya, please let go!” Kurogiri flinched backwards as Izuku tightened his grip.
“I’d be doing everyone a favour if I just held on a little bit tighter.” Izuku flexed dangerously, Shigaraki’s frantic heaves of air growing fainter. Ohgod. “Which argument should I use? Community service or self-defence? Self-defence should be fine.” Just a little bit longer, I need more time.
Izuku threw Shigaraki towards the front door. He watched for the split second it took for him to tumble and bounce. Shigaraki smacked into reinforced wood with a solid THUNK and a gasp. “You can have twenty minutes of my time. Every minute over and… Well, I’ll leave it your imagination. Leave your shoes at the door and don’t touch anything.”
Izuku blinked into the kitchen with the assistance of One For All and inhaled deeply. His phone was in his room. No time to retrieve it. Shigaraki would have his breath back within ten or so minutes. His mother was going to be home within half an hour. The longer Shigaraki was strung along the more exposed Izuku’s mother was to walking in on a serial killer and his babysitter. The shorter Shigaraki was strung along, the less information Izuku could provide to Tsukauchi and All Might about Shigaraki’s goals. Why are they even here?
This wasn’t how he wanted to spend his unexpected Tuesday off. His mother was going to be even more of a wreck.
Izuku filled the kettle, dropped it onto its element and flicked the switch. Keep it casual. Keep it indifferent. Deep breaths. He had months of practice, he could do it.
Resisting the urge to groan, Izuku made his way back to his “guests”. “Still breathing?” Izuku quirked an eyebrow. Mum would’ve slapped him for being so rude. As soon as she was done slapping Shigaraki and Kurogiri first.
“No thanks to you,” Shigaraki gasped, doubled over at Izuku’s dining table. Kurogiri’s yellow, glowing eyes were wider than usual as he hovered at Shigaraki’s side.
“Push your luck and I can fix that.” Hostility would keep them on their toes and at arm’s reach. If Shigaraki was spooked the last time, then he had to stay spooked this time. It seemed to work for All For One, Izuku thought with a mental shudder. He wasn’t ever mentioning this encounter to the man. Never.
“You weren’t like this last time,” Shigaraki husked.
“Three strikes and you’re out Shigaraki and you’ve already technically reached the third with Stain. You don’t warp into someone’s house and expect the same response from them as though they were in public.” Shigaraki had threatened thirty innocent people last time while Izuku was off guard. Those shields against action weren’t here this time around. If it came down to it, he’d only need a single finger. Hopefully mum would forgive him for trashing the apartment.
“I see,” Shigaraki whispered in sudden calm.
“Wonderful, I need tea. Any preference?” Izuku glared pointedly at them.
“None,” Kurogiri briskly cut in, reading the airs.
“Great.” Izuku retrieved the china within an eye blink and ducked back into the kitchen. Izuku spooned black tea leaves into the pot and generously added water.
“What’s his problem?” Shigaraki griped none too quietly from a room away.
Izuku stacked a tray with the pot, cups, sugar and milk pulled from the fridge.
“We have experienced difficulties with Midoriya before, Tomura Shigaraki,” Kurogiri explained. “We’re fortunate you’re still breathing.” If Kurogiri had expected Izuku to act violently, then what had possessed him to bring Shigaraki here in the first place? Shigaraki couldn’t even look at Izuku without tearing himself to pieces from the look of him. What had changed so much in such a short period of time to make Izuku such a threat to them? Overhaul’s takedown was a one off with Eri’s help, but did Shigaraki know that? Izuku hoped not.
Why are they here? What were Shigaraki’s questions if they had to be discussed in private without any collateral? Shigaraki was afraid of Izuku for some strange reason and the longer Izuku could convince him of it, the safer he’d be. But Shigaraki, while being frightened still came here. What was so important?
Izuku sailed back out with more swagger than he felt, teapot, cups and biscuits in hand and unceremoniously placed them on the table with the respect his mother’s china deserved.
“I’m hoping that you’ll choke on them, but that might be wishful thinking on my part.” It was the sort of petty thing All For One would say, so it’d hopefully do the job.
“Why are you even in heroics?” Shigaraki grunted. Weird, Izuku was hardly going to be doing anything else.
“Why not? I’ve always wanted to be in the industry. It’s not like anyone was going to fix my problems for me.”
“That’s not true,” Shigaraki sounded almost hesitant through the rasp, a slight twitch running through him. “Sensei-”
“-Wasn’t there,” Izuku clipped. Not that Izuku would expect someone like All For One to have the remotest concern about his wellbeing. “No one was there. My family wasn’t there. My doctor wasn’t there.” Don’t think about it. “My teachers weren’t there. My classmates weren’t there. The government wasn’t there. All Might wasn’t there. Dad hasn’t ever been here I certainly wasn’t expecting any help from him. What makes you think I had any expectation of people being there to help me with that sort of precedent?” Not that he blamed any of them (apart from All For One and his father), they had more important things to do with their time. Shigaraki didn’t need to know that, though. He had to keep him on the backfoot.
Izuku didn’t think a living mist cloud could pale, but Kurogiri seemed to come in more than one shade after all. The longer he went on, the wider Kurogiri’s eyes became, mist colouration shifting ever so slightly. Shigaraki himself had frozen, three fingers resting on the handle of the mid-air rose patterned cup.
There was something wrong, because those statements shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone. Well, whatever worked. Izuku wasn’t in a position to be fussy.
“What do you mean by “no one was there”, Midoriya?” Shigaraki jitteringly mumbled from around the lip of his teacup.
“The literal meaning in that I was left for dead beneath a bridge and was saved by dumb luck more than anyone acting on a personal concern for my wellbeing.” Shigaraki didn’t have to know that it was deserted at the time. If All Might hadn’t been there, Izuku wouldn’t have walked away from the encounter. It would’ve been someone else wearing his bones. “Your precious Sensei wasn’t there to save me. Bonus points in that he was directly responsible for encouraging that near death experience due to him stirring the criminal pot over the last decade.” Kurogiri and Shigaraki flinched, Shigaraki’s fingers caught in a spasm. “All Might on the other hand, who I never expected to lift a finger to save me, was there,” Izuku emphasised slowly and deliberately.
It only seemed to perturb the man child more. Shigaraki hands wandered upwards and Izuku lunged forward in an enhanced slap. “No, scratching,” Izuku snapped, catching a glimpse of already existing, red raw rake marks. Shigaraki recoiled and slunk backwards into his seat.
“He saved me though,” Shigaraki almost seemed to wonder aloud.
“I’m glad you didn’t have a sixteen year wait for the local mass murderer to show you a shred of concern,” Izuku oozed, “but that’s honestly something I can live without.”
“Surely some concern is better than none?” Kurogiri raised. He’d been unusually quiet in this arrangement. Why did these people expect All For One to care? Kurogiri probably would have known about any prior history with Izuku if he assisted with the creation of the Noumu, but even then he didn’t seem to have all of the information. What was All For One hiding from his own minions if Kurogiri had also felt the need to attend? More importantly, why was Izuku involved?
“Can’t miss something I’ve never had. Too little, too late.” Izuku laid on the ice and Kurogiri’s eyes twitched. “You get used to it.” Which is why All For One’s faux concern was so easily dismissed.
In the momentary pause, Izuku took the time to really look at his guests. Shigaraki was trembling, eyes unseeing. What a pedestal All For One must have been on for Izuku’s snide side remark to cause that affect. Kurogiri was surely in the same boat, the way he leaned backwards, misty fingers clawing in on themselves.
The most mind-blowing thing was that All For One, someone so deplorable, could command so much loyalty that his minions actually expected a known supervillain to be charitable to a complete stranger. Past causes or not, All For One was a pale shadow of what he had been if Izuku was going to so much as contemplate a kinder interpretation of the man’s history.
“I don’t know what magical expectations you’ve had for the people in my life, but All Might’s the only one who went beyond them,” Izuku drummed his fingers on the table. “I was the very last person I expected him to save.” All Might was a celebrity to end all celebrities. Why would he be there to help a Quirkless nobody like Izuku? Shigaraki flinched. “Everyone else though?” Izuku shrugged his head. “Not worth mentioning.”
“Would you be where you are without Sensei doing what he did?” Shigaraki floated, leaning away from Izuku as he spoke.
Better not disappoint him.
“Yes, Shigaraki, I really appreciated it when he abducted and used my childhood friends as part his bioweapons experiments. You never wondered why he was so keen to “help” with Bakugou after all that garbage about independence? Bakugou would’ve been on your side at the end of it, alright, but probably not in the way you expected.” Izuku felt like he was going to strain his vocal cords with how heavily he was laying it on. How on earth did All For One do this so naturally?
It didn’t have quite the impact he was expecting.
Kurogiri dropped his spoon with a chink, openly staring. Shigaraki’s fingers were in another spasm, him speedily setting down his teacup as he gaped at Izuku across the table.
“I don’t know why this surprises you. You’ve actually had the misfortune of dealing with him multiple years. Where did you think his source material was coming from?” Izuku sighed.
“Oh,” Shigaraki murmured looking more like a lost child than anyone his age had the right to be.
“He’s been ruining my life for as long as it’s been running. There isn’t a universe in existence where I’ll ever care about his opinion or feelings,” Izuku dropped as bluntly as possible, attempting to hammer the point home. He had to get rid of them, his mother would be home soon. “You’re wasting your time talking to me about these things. I. Don’t. Care.” Izuku enunciated slowly. “If he died tomorrow, I wouldn’t care.” Well, the lack of closure as to the investigation would be a cause for concern. “Does that answer your questions?”
“Not entirely,” Kurogiri answered in a faint voice, pulling himself to his feet. “Come along, Tomura Shigaraki. Our time is up.” Kurogiri was actually five minutes early. Thank god.
“But, why…? He wouldn’t…” Shigaraki rocked from side to side.
Kurogiri’s mist enveloped the trembling Shigaraki whose cries faded as he was warped away. Izuku watched Kurogiri linger for a moment. “Don’t you have babysitting to be doing?” Izuku jabbed.
Yellow eyes gleaming oddly as one last look was shot at Izuku and the man vanished.
Izuku exhaled, his heart beating erratically and collected the table load of china and headed for the sink. Then he bolted in a dead sprint up the stairs to retrieve his phone.
“Hello, Midoriya, what’s up?”
“Hi, Detective, Shigaraki just dropped in for tea.”
Something strangled echoed from the phone along with a sputtering cough. “Midoriya, if this keeps happening I’m going to assign you armed bodyguards. We’ll be right over. For the love of god, don’t have anyone else over for tea in the meantime.”
“I’m just glad mum wasn’t here when they appeared.”
“Me too, do you think they’re coming back?”
“Not after I almost strangled Shigaraki.”
Tsukauchi paused. “We’re gonna need a blow by blow report for this one.”
Izuku sighed. “Fine.”
With Shigaraki gone, it was again another boring, empty Tuesday.
Izuku’s mind turned back to his other problem. What am I going to do for money? And it clicked, oh so obviously. He reached for his phone and a business card still lurking in the depths of his wallet.
“Hi, Mrs Maki? I’ve had a think about what you said. Can we arrange a meeting sometime this week?”
After that phone call, Izuku didn’t need to imagine her glee during Todoroki’s interview.
Another case of a chapter being out early because it was already mostly done.
Chapter 10: Corporations of a Cryptid
Cryptids had to get bread on the table one way or another. Why not through enterprise?
Signing on as a consultant to the police could’ve gone substantially worse. Detective Tsukauchi had sent an advance squad of police to deter any repeat visits while he went to retrieve All Might. In the meantime, his representatives had arrived with a stack of documents Izuku carefully read before signing. He could skip the interviews now, but he’d still have to report to Tsukauchi. Thankfully in a location of their choosing instead of an interview room.
For now, the police stood waiting alongside Gang Orca who, from his retelling of it, had just about been dragged into a squad car by Tsukauchi on his lunchbreak and sent over with notice of Shigaraki’s attendance.
Gang Orca, or Kugo Sakamata as he’d introduced himself to Izuku’s white and trembling mother, was patting said woman on the back as he calmly walked her through the security measures the police would be looking at once Tsukauchi arrived. Patrols, deployments of heroes, security systems involving atmospheric pattern recognition… It sounded comprehensive, for an average criminal like Shigaraki.
On the other hand, Izuku didn’t think that it’d do much against Kurogiri short of placing the most twitch sensitive hero he knew in the house and hoping for the best. Kurogiri, for being a warper, didn’t have the best reflexes or combat abilities for someone who was meant to be a career villain. Someone who was paranoid enough to jump at every shadow could easily counter him if they were positioned nearby. Izuku didn’t think Endeavor or his mother would be particularly happy with that arrangement. There wouldn’t be an apartment left to go back to by the end of it.
“Your son’s a bright person and responded promptly to Shigaraki’s home invasion. If he hadn’t, your apartment would no doubt be worse for wear.” And your son probably would’ve been kidnapped and his body dumped in the nearest ditch a few weeks later, Izuku glumly concluded. His mother had been early. If Kurogiri hadn’t left so early there would’ve been a real risk of her walking in on them.
“Midoriya, would you assist me with making tea?” Gang Orca maneuvered his bulk towards the kitchen.
“Sure!” Izuku floated back into the present and bounced from his chair as he hurried over to assist. Gang Orca was already hovering over the sink when Izuku skidded to a halt in the kitchen.
“Your poor mother, Midoriya. I really don’t think I need to tell you about the sort of luck you had to have Shigaraki off-guard in his own ambush,” Gang Orca commented through the rush of the tap. “From the summary you gave to us on arrival, Shigaraki was probably looking to retrieve you rather than outright dispose of you.”
“That’s what I don’t understand. They turned up wanting questions to answers, but it was just noise to me,” Izuku shook his head, scrubbing tea leaves from the strainer. “They were asking me about All For One. I don’t know why they’d think I’d have anything to do with him.”
“What do you mean?”
“My assistance with his interrogation was supressed by the police. No one knows about it apart from All Might, the Detective, the Chief of Police, the prison staff and now you,” Izuku continued to shake his head. “Shigaraki doesn’t have a reason to think that All For One would be showing me concern. At least not in connection to the interrogations. It’s out of the blue.”
Gang Orca hummed. “When did Shigaraki start behaving erratically?”
“I seemed to spook him more than normal at Endeavor’s ball, but I can’t understand why. I mean, I have a suspicion at this point… but…” Izuku jerked his head in the direction of his mother. The last thing his mother needed was to hear this discussion.
Gang Orca casually increased the tap’s pressure and flipped on the kettle element.
Without further ado, Izuku accepted the invitation. “Shigaraki was asking questions which seemed to suggest that All For One should’ve been present in my early years.” Izuku caught the mug that Gang Orca dropped. He’d been expecting that, having already dropped one himself before the police arrived.
“That was my response, but it seems like my father, Hisashi Midoriya, was a close contact with Dr Tsubasa who’s a known affiliate of All For One and likely one of the people involved in the creation of the Noumu.” Izuku frowned. “I did a brief look over the family finances while I was waiting for you guys to show up and his wages don’t make sense. It’s an astronomical amount of money for anyone let alone a supposed common salary earner. Corporate director? Maybe, but he can’t disappear off the face of the earth and be one of those.”
“You think he’s directly connected to All For One,” Gang Orca murmured, hardly above the rush of water as moved onto another small stack of dishes. That was nice of him.
“I just don’t know how. Tsubasa as a doctor and researcher makes sense, but I don’t know what my father looks like let alone what he does for a living.”
“You need a police warrant to trace the money.”
“Yes, I think that’s the only option here really. I’ll talk to Detective Tsukauchi about it, but I’m fairly sure that dad’s a career criminal. The scary part is that he’s involved enough with All For One for Shigaraki to have expected All For One to be making regular visits or at least be keeping an eye on me. Shigaraki was distressed when I said that All For One just about did the opposite.” Izuku shuddered, settling a shining teapot on the sideboard, the image of All For One lurking in arms reach settling in his mind. “From what happened with Tsubasa, he was watching but he didn’t seem to be actively intervening until Tsubasa was taken. I still don’t know why Tsubasa was taken, but All For One didn’t seem to appreciate his attitude towards me very much…”
“So the question we really need to ask is who is Hisashi Midoriya and why was his involvement important enough for the boss of the villains to be keeping an eye on the family while he was out of the picture presumably doing work for All For One.” Gang Orca’s eyes flickered shut and he heaved a long-suffering sigh that would have done Tsukauchi proud. “This guy is a nightmare.” Izuku was starting to think that calling All For One a nightmare was a standard response.
“All For One hasn’t exactly been lost for opportunities to kill me with Kurogiri on board and they would’ve known from at least as far back as U.S.J. that I was in the Heroics Department,” Izuku added. “He also passed on the opportunity to take us out along with you guys at the Noumu factory. He knew we were there the whole time.”
“So your father’s important enough for the villain boss himself not to be inclined towards taking you out… You’re going to have to tell your mother about this eventually, you know,” Gang Orca thumped Izuku on the back with a large, damp hand and sent him staggering.
“After we have the evidence,” Izuku squeakily confirmed after he regained his balance. It was an in vain attempt at stalling and perhaps offering his mother the closure she deserved after sixteen years of an absentee husband. Dr Tsubasa’s involvement heralded the end of her marriage even without the rest of the evidence, but it was all Izuku could do to make sure it came to clean conclusion. Even if the end was a default judgement on a divorce.
“I’ll ask around and see if there are support services for people in your mother’s position. I know a few social workers who might be able to lend a hand. Your mother unfortunately isn’t the first person to be placed in such a position. Or yourself for that matter…” Gang Orca’s sympathy was reinforced with an uncharacteristic pat to the head. Izuku felt himself turning red. It really wasn’t necessary… was it?
“Oh,” Izuku whispered distantly as his brain finally understood Gang Orca’s actions. “I’m related to him too, aren’t? I forgot about that. It doesn’t matter though, I don’t know him from a bar of soap,” Izuku assured him.
Gang Orca snorted. “Whether or not you ever knew him is irrelevant to the people who’ll harass you over it. The moment those people find out you’re related to someone that’s in cahoots with the boss of the League of Villains, you’re going to get trouble for it. Even with my hero rank, my appearance has encouraged all sorts of nasty comments from parents and their children. It didn’t stop with them either. It’s one of the key reasons I haven’t been able to progress up the rankings or been allowed to attend educational programs.” He fixed Izuku with one eye. “People will judge you for the most petty things, especially in our profession.”
“It’s so shallow though. You’re a perfectly nice person regardless of how your Quirk makes you look to some people,” Izuku frowned. Unwillingly, Izuku’s mind drifted back to All For One’s loss at a popularity contest centuries ago.
“It doesn’t matter to people like that. The very last thing you do is give them additional reasons to doubt you.” Gang Orca’s voice was resigned, his shoulder slumping slightly. Izuku’s mind wandered back to Shinsou and his woes.
“I’d honestly prefer them not to be miserable human beings if that’s how they treat others than attempt to be an unobtainable standard,” Izuku nervously put forward. “We’re only human. If they can’t give people the benefit of the doubt, then I don’t understand why anyone should go out of their way to meet their standards. It’s unfair,” Izuku finished with more confidence. Because it was unfair. It wasn’t Izuku’s fault that people had discriminated against him for being Quirkless. It wasn’t Gang Orca’s fault that people judged him for appearance. It was the fault of the people who had bullied them in the first place. It was the fault of people like Kacchan whose behaviour had caught up to him with Shigaraki’s abduction of him.
“Life’s not fair,” Gang Orca exhaled.
“Yeah,” Izuku pointed out, “because of people like them. They get away with it, everyone else is thrown under the bus. Didn’t we just call that discrimination back in the day? Instead it happens and the government sits around twiddling their fingers instead of doing something about it. If anything, they encourage it.”
“Careful Midoriya, you’ll start a revolution with that attitude,” Gang Orca snorted as he hoisted up the fresh tray and teapot. “If you need help handing out educational flyers on discrimination though, I’m available.”
Izuku found himself smiling at the mental image as he left the kitchen. Up until he remembered who else had started a revolution over the same issue some two hundred years prior. Oh.
“Here you go, mum. More tea.” They deposited the tea and biscuits onto the table.
“Thank you,” his mother blubbered from around a small mountain of tissues. “How’s school been?”
Uh oh. What had Izuku done lately that wasn’t life threatening? Izuku exchanged looks with Gang Orca who shrugged helplessly. No help there. Izuku cast a line and fished up the tamest thing he’d done in recent weeks. “I started a fashion line with some friends from school,” blurted out. Ohno.
His mother’s sobs screeched to a halt. “Fashion line? Izuku, what do you mean by a fashion line?” Well, confusion was better than distress. If only the butterflies would stop eating away at his stomach.
“I think I need to hear this story,” Gang Orca eagerly chimed in.
“Well, it was sort of an accident…” Izuku regaled the both of them with the events of the ball, carefully omitting Shigaraki’s presence in his recap. He was fairly confident that his mother was already thinking of the last encounter with Shigaraki. “So after that we decided to do some research on getting a pipeline ready for mass production, but we need someone to operate the company as a director since we’re too young.” Izuku shrugged, but was given his mother’s almost waning attention. The longer he’d spoken for, the more distant her gaze became, almost as if her thoughts had wandered off midway through the explanation. It was a dreamy expression, she almost seemed to stare through him. It wasn’t something he’d seen before.
“Have you picked an accounting firm or lawyer for structuring yet?” She asked, her voice quivering.
Izuku flailed. “Not yet, Yaoyorozu said she’d see if she could loan the family lawyers and accounting firm, but I know almost nothing about them. I have no idea what I’m doing. Everyone knows what they’re doing in their area apart from me.”
“You’ll be fine, Izuku, it’s not too difficult. She probably shouldn’t do that with the firms though,” his mother picked up, voice strengthening. “If you’re only starting a small then you probably don’t want the big firms involved. Your investment capital will leak away on paying fees for a service they don’t need to provide yet because returns will be so small until you’re established. They’re terribly expensive for a small enterprise,” his mother gently explained to him. “If you run with some of the smaller firms you can have a quality service for a fraction of the price and break even more quickly.” Inko reached for a notepad. “Firms which take care of hero agencies are notoriously overpriced. I remember from when we went to that All Might convention and one of the sleazy accountants from Endeavor’s agency tried to hit on me. Their fees were outrageous.” An edge slipped into his mother’s voice.
Izuku’s mouth sagged open. His eyes moved to the notepad, to her, to Gang Orca who was likewise closing his jaw, to her again. Gang Orca mouthed “Did you know?” to which Izuku frantically shook his head.
“Yes, sweetheart?” His mother asked idly from behind her notepad where she was outlining a flowchart.
“How do you know about company structures?” Izuku asked, feeling the floor drop out from under him the second time that day.
“Oh! I never told you,” she blushed a light pink. “I met your father while working in corporate. I don’t think a day went by where he wasn’t disgruntled about a regulation. He was always in my office complaining about it,” she smiled fondly. “Everyone else was sick of it, but we found some loopholes to get around the importation laws for regulated substances. He was a fiend with detail work.” Izuku could hear the words, but they weren’t registering.
Izuku’s mind was perfectly blank. “You had an office to yourself?”
“Of course I did! I worked before I had you. I was always so busy cleaning up after the Logistics Department’s stock. I miss it a lot but nobody wants to employ a mother who’s been out of work for sixteen years,” she sighed. “I worked with the directors to enforce policy and to get around some of the more tricky legal issues. One of my old colleagues who was a lawyer works at the Heroes Mirror now, but I haven’t spoken to him in years. He was your father’s friend, so it was a bit awkward…” She trailed off. Izuku didn’t need to hear the explanation for why talking to her husband’s friend while not having spoken to her husband in years would have been an awkward situation.
Izuku only knew of one in-house legal that worked at the Mirror. The same lawyer he was meant to meet this Sunday. It couldn’t be…
“So is running the company of kids in your scope?” Gang Orca asked from around his choc chip cookie. “Sounds like you were just about part of the executive before you had this one.” Gang Orca bobbed his head in Izuku’s direction.
“I’m a bit rusty,” his mother hesitated. “I think I could manage, but I need to review some of the corporations legislation.”
Izuku’s mouth moved before his brain caught up. “Why not? I mean, you’ve been wanting work again for a while, right?”
His mother positively glowed red, smiling more widely than Izuku had seen in a long long time.
When All Might and Tsukauchi walked in twenty minutes later, only then did Izuku manage to find the words to explain how his day had been.
“You know, young Midoriya, your mother isn’t what I was expecting,” All Might nodded at the end of Izuku’s explanation. “I can see where you get it from.”
“Quirks and heroes for me…” Izuku left hanging.
“Corporate overlord policies for your mother,” All Might grinned. “You have to admit, she does look happy. It’s a shame she’s been out of work for so long. That can’t have done good things for her self-esteem.”
“All Might,” Izuku cautiously floated, “is it normal to be more frightened of your legal parent than your career criminal father?”
“Normally no, but I think that’s probably why he married her, in all honesty.” All Might clapped Izuku on the shoulder and Izuku nodded without words.
It was one of those days.
It said a lot that Izuku pulling out a notebook in front of All For One was the most normal part of his current week.
“So…” Izuku uncertainly began.
“Has your week really been that bad?” All For One lobbed.
“Is it that obvious?” Izuku cringed.
“Yes,” was the tart reply. “Surely Shigaraki dropping in wasn’t that traumatic.”
“I figured you were going to ask about that,” Izuku remarked, “but believe it or not, that actually wasn’t the worst part of my week.” Not even close to the worst part of his week. That easily went to the physical portion of the exams. His neck and back ached. Why did this always happen?
“How exactly did you manage to trump attempted murder?” Izuku was at a certain point in his understanding of All For One’s voice where he could make the assumption that Kurogiri hadn’t owned a bar for his own personal benefit with the agonised, exasperated air that carried through that single question.
“It was an attempted kidnapping, not murder,” Izuku corrected.
“A what?” All For One asked slowly and clearly. Izuku could just about see All For One’s mental cogs come to a screaming halt. So Shigaraki wasn’t behaving as expected, interesting. “How did you avoid it?”
“I got the drop on him as he warped in. He picked a bad time because I heard the pressure shift when Kurogiri opened his warp gate.” Izuku took a breath in preparation. “Shigaraki had a lot of questions about why you weren’t more involved when I was growing up,” Izuku rushed out.
All For One shifted in his restraints and responded after a delay. “Why would I be involved in your childhood? Overthrowing a government is time consuming, sensitive process,” he added somewhat more sarcastically.
“Great question. Can you answer it? We both know you were loitering out of sight. You pretty much confirmed that you had an issue with the younger Tsubasa’s behaviour and subsequently caused him permanent brain damage,” Izuku pointed his pencil at him. This felt more familiar.
“I could answer it,” All For One brightly explained, “but I’m not.”
“You know, I used to wonder how Shigaraki grew up to be so woefully misinformed about everything, but that really says it all.” Izuku curled up into his newly upgraded armchair. If he was going to interrogate evil, he could at least do it in comfort.
“You wound me.”
“This is the first time you’ve had someone give you criticism in years. How exactly is it wounding you?”
All For One laughed at Izuku. “If only you knew.”
“Well yes, I’m asking, but you’re not saying anything. Let’s change topics.” Izuku really wasn’t looking forward to this one, but there wasn’t anyone else that All For One would speak to so candidly.
“How exactly are you connected to Hisashi Midoriya?” Izuku dropped as bluntly as possible.
Silence. Complete silence apart from the rasp of his unsteady breathing. If All For One had eyes, Izuku was sure he’d be in receipt of a dumbfounded stare.
“Why would you think there’s any connection?” All For One was tiptoeing around the issue again, vocals carefully muted in an artificial calm Izuku himself had used earlier that week.
“Shigaraki wanted to know why you weren’t there for me and mum made it fairly clear that Hisashi Midoriya was a contact of Dr Tsubasa.” Izuku inclined his head. “It lines up when I think about it. Shigaraki is what, five to seven years older than me? You must’ve had him from a young age to have indoctrinated him so thoroughly, which means this ball’s been rolling for a while and would explain dad’s disappearance. Dad vanishes off the face of the planet before I have permanent memories of him and goes out of his way to hide his appearance and erase himself from photos, almost as though he knew he shouldn’t have gotten married. Has me, then promptly leaves “overseas” while not getting a divorce and giving absurd amounts of money to the family finances. Finances, I note, which were pre-emptive of the money mum needed for just about anything, which means someone was keeping an eye out on the family situation. But he doesn’t communicate. At about the same time you got maimed, the finances increased, almost as though there was panic involved. What about that doesn’t scream career criminal?” Izuku asked himself. “Do you see what I mean?”
“I see what you mean,” All For One’s quiet murmur came after another period of prolonged silence.
“I personally don’t care, but him not being there didn’t do great things for mum,” Izuku carried on. “She never recovered from it.”
“I can assure you that it would’ve been substantially worse with him present.”
“Really?” Izuku pressed. He had to know. “Mum said he had involvement in corporate type matters, which makes sense when you’re seemingly made of money. How exactly would it have been worse if he was present?”
“Guilt by association,” All For One inclined his head. “Perceived criminality has never been seen particularly well in Japan, but the implementation of the heroes system worsened the situation for the families of the accused. It’s better to not be involved,” All For One stated with complete certainty. “You wouldn’t have made it through the front doors of U.A.’s background checks and nor would All Might have wanted anything to do with you had this been known ahead of time. It’s not a pleasant state of being for anyone to be in, especially with the family not complicit in any... rebellious actions.”
“So you’re saying that his wilful negligence in getting married, having a kid and running off without a word was more beneficial to the family than him not getting married in the first place?” There was as much doubt as Izuku could load into the sentence without it coming off as being overly snippy.
“You are aware that you wouldn’t exist without him getting married, yes?” All For One asked far more dryly than he had any right to.
“And? If I didn’t exist I wouldn’t be complaining about him, would I?” It was obvious answer to an existential crisis.
“Thank you. It also means that I wouldn’t have just had a week of exams which is an added bonus,” Izuku mumbled to himself. His back and neck still ached.
All For One coughed derisively. Izuku didn’t give him the opportunity to follow on from the mumble.
“More to the point, if you theoretically ran off, got married and had a kid, how would you conceal your cashflow from your corporate executive wife who traced resources for a living?”
“With intense difficulty,” All For One seemed to swallow a laugh. “Offloading through shell company accounts is generally the simplest manner. Once the company dies, traceable accounts die with them providing they were never publicly published. Avoiding the government is simple. Avoiding a dedicated professional is substantially more technical.”
“I guessed as much. The government hasn’t stayed on top of its bureaucracy with the focus on Quirks. They’ve been lax with corporate oversight and identity checks for directors.” Izuku flipped back to his notes on money laundering. “The other question is whether or not you’d provide your hypothetical family with laundered money and risk a trace or if you’d be involved in legitimate businesses to avoid a police probe?” Izuku hummed. “Amounts over ten thousand dollars USD are subject to review before transfer and it was only on very rare occasions that we ever saw amounts over that. Usually it would sneak in below the threshold…” Izuku etched into his page with his pencil.
“Did you mother provide you with the information on these processes?” All For One’s curiosity was back in force.
“Nope, I had no idea she was involved with it until Tuesday,” Izuku winced. “I should’ve asked years ago, but she never liked talking about work. Probably because of dad, ruining everything for her as usual,” Izuku frowned. “You know, I think he’s the one person I’d delay in saving.”
“Isn’t that a bit petty?” If Izuku hadn’t just learned that his mother was a corporate fiend who made adults weep, he probably would have taken All For One’s comment more seriously.
“He wasn’t here for sixteen years,” Izuku defended, eyes still glued to his notes. “I have better things to do.”
“Anything.” Izuku maybe had a half ear on the conversation at this point, but even then it wasn’t difficult to miss the quiet exhalation that separated itself from the rest. “Once the trace goes through, I’ll have more of an idea how exactly it was done.” And more importantly, whose name would be on the records.
“There are some things, Izuku, that you are better off not knowing,” All For One spoke carefully. “Once something is known, it cannot be unknown. At least not in your lifetime. You need to be more careful of the questions you ask.” There was the oddly stilted voice he was used to hearing in this context, almost as if the man was attempting to reign someone back from pitching themselves from the nearest high-rise.
“It’s a bit late for that. The moment you sent in the Noumu and the connection to Dr Tsubasa was uncovered this was going to happen,” Izuku neatly etched a point into his notebook. “Once some enterprising person in the media works it out, it’s already a done deal for me. Whatever’s the case, I’d rather be the one to tell mum instead of her finding out from the media.” Izuku looked up to see what looked like a snarl forming on the prisoner’s lips. “In all honesty, if someone’s was going to ditch their family and instead opt for a life of crime, it’s wonder why they’d bother having a family in the first place.”
“It’s called optimism, Izuku. One would have a family, expecting to at some point return to that family.” All For One hung his head. “I shouldn’t be surprised at your lack of understanding. The longer we’ve spoken the more I’ve become convinced that you’ve rarely had enough happiness in your life to even be familiar with the concept of optimism.” Flat and affectless, it couldn’t even pass for a jibe.
Izuku shrugged. “You’re probably not wrong. Sir had a go at me for not having a sense of humour.”
“People in our positions tend not to find much humour in life. Abuse by society at large tends to have that affect on people, who knew?” All For One’s dark sarcasm dripped through the glass. Izuku itched.
“Why do you keep doing that?”
“Lumping us into the same boat.”
All For One inclined his head. “As you’ve just discovered, we’re in the same boat whether either of us like it or not. If you think being born wrong,” All For One’s distaste clung to the word, “offends society’s most inept, then I can guarantee you that being deemed to have criminal connections is substantially worse. Consider it forewarning.”
“Why would you bother to warn me at all? Isn’t it more beneficial to you if it’s exposed and All Might’s legacy goes down in a blaze of fire and wreckage?” Who was Hisashi Midoriya for All For One to express concern, however unwanted?
“You’re not All Might. You’re not Nana Shimura. You’re not like any of those before you,” All For One smirked. “While I might wish misery upon All Might for his actions, I don’t have the same desires as far as you’re concerned.”
Izuku froze like a deer in the headlights. “I… don’t know how to feel about that.” And he really didn’t. All Might had hyped the final conflict with All For One… but as they approached an encounter, All For One (if he was to be taken at face value) had no intention of reciprocating. There was an absence of emotion.
“It’s not what you’d be expecting, I understand. You know, it’s odd, most people treat me with substantial fear, but not you,” All For One quietly reflected. “It’s been a refreshing experience. Would these conversations be the same if you weren’t behind glass?”
Izuku slowly blinked. Would he be afraid of a freed All For One? Kamino Ward had been terrifying, but All For One himself was a cripple and no doubt doubly crippled by the restraints of the prison. He wouldn’t be walking away from muscle atrophy so easily.
Now, for their conversations, all Izuku could attribute to the man was a poor taste in reading material and a warped sense of priorities. Even All For One prospectively murdering him wasn’t all that frightening a prospect with the suspicion that he’d been avoiding doing direct harm to Izuku for some strange reason. If Kurogiri dropped by at 4am, it wouldn’t be terribly difficult to make sure that Izuku never woke up again, but none of them seemed to ever pursue that avenue. Fear was a more distant feeling than it had ever been. Well, apart from one source that was closer to home.
“Do you want the honest response?” Izuku uncurled himself from the chair and stood, wincing as his neck and back protested. He stretched to the best of his ability and made his way to the exit.
“If you and my mother turned up at school one day and I was called to the office, I’d be infinitely more terrified of her than you.”
The rasping and hacking guffaws of Japan’s archvillain followed him out the door. Izuku could only hope he didn’t accidentally kill the man, he still needed to know about Hisashi Midoriya before someone else got to it first.
The offices of the Heroes Mirror weren’t normally open to the public on the Sunday, but Mai Maki was drastic in her employment overtures.
“As you’ve probably guessed, Heroes Weekly is one of our subsidiary magazines. I started my career with the Mirror there when it was new and slowly worked my way up the food chain to the main publication,” Maki detailed, leading him through corridors lined by glass. “The owner of the Mirror greatly admired my work ethic. I imagine, with you being the bright boy that you are, that any of our Quirk or analysis type opinion pieces would be right up your alley. Does that sound okay to you?” She ushered him forwards as Izuku turned to stare at a dartboard with a familiar face decaled to it as they passed a brightly coloured office.
“I’d need to see the format, but I think I should be okay for it.” Izuku hoped his discomfort at being here wasn’t too evident. “I don’t particularly want my names on the articles since I’m in the industry. It’ll be awkward…”
Maki didn’t miss a beat. “You can choose your own pen name. So long as you’re giving someone hell, I don’t care about the name you choose. I need to introduce you to our legal guy and he’ll put you on the straight and narrow for how we do things around here as far as names, guidelines and content goes. His appearance can be unsettling, but he’s nice.” Maki’s stride was more strut, but her comfort in her territory was evident.
Before long, it wasn’t the Mirror’s standard corridor, the glass replaced by wooden panelling and a solid looking door that might have been oak resided at its end. Whoever he was, he had something to hide to not be a resident of the glass hallways. As they approached, Maki rapped sharply on the door.
“Shū, you have a visitor!” She called and they entered a dimly lit room lined with shelves that spiralled upwards to the rafters above. A single light dangled from a retractable cable, swaying back and forth as if moved by a rush of air. “This is technically our archives but Shū uses it as his office since light does bad things to his skin.”
There was a moist slap and the sounds of something being dragged along one of the supporting beams in the ceiling. A laborious groan, a ruffling of papers. “Who have you brought to see me?” An almost decaying voice rasped, rippling through the air.
“Izuku Midoriya, new freelance writer, meet Hideyuki Shū, our resident in-house legal and troublemaker,” Maki beamed. “We like making each other’s lives difficult.”
“Midoriya?” A tentative pause, a wet inhalation of air. “Any relation to Hisashi Midoriya?” Shū’s faceless voice whispered from on high.
Maki had mentioned that he was unsettling, but to be so averse to light… It made Izuku wonder. “He’s my father. Mum said you all used to work together?” Izuku couldn’t help the small voice.
The light was gone, an unravelling of tentacles touched the ground in a swirl of flicking light and darkness. Hundreds of glowing yellow eyes set in a Cthulhu-esque face fixated on Izuku as the towering figure leaned in to take a closer look. Robes flapped around the tentacles as they moved the light in to better examine Izuku.
Izuku frantically struggled against the urge to reach forward and see if Shū had suction cups on his tentacles or gills or other signs of an amphibious Quirk. It was such a peculiar Quirk to remove someone so far from baseline bipedal form. With the faint rainbow gleam bouncing of the man’s skin, it was a shame he was so light averse, because it wouldn’t surprise him if there was some aspect of camouflage to the Quirk.
“Little Midoriya, I didn’t think I’d ever meet you. Hideyuki Shū, pleased to make your acquaintance. You’re quite right, I did indeed work with your parents.” The man approximated a deep bow.
Izuku hadn’t been wrong. A bog-standard tentacle monster did have better manners than All For One.
The comments have been amazing, thank you so much!
Chapter 11: Fear of a Cryptid
Even if a cryptid was afraid, how would you know about it?
The moment Maki had left the room, Shū had politely inquired if Izuku would run the gauntlet to the staff break room and bring the man back a strong mug of coffee. Apparently light sensitivity was a real and painful issue for the man who had the misfortune of it being a born mutation instead of a developed one. Shū coughed and suggested that Izuku get himself a strong cup of tea while he was at it.
“I haven’t been sleeping particularly well since she told me that you were coming,” Shū confided to Izuku in an undertone. “I wasn’t expecting to ever meet you in all honesty. Your father was a very private person.”
Nodding his assent, Izuku made it to the break room and back in record time. Private property, after all, meant that there was no restriction on the use of Quirks and Shū chortled as Izuku skidded to a halt.
“You aren’t hesitant with your Quirk, are you? Your father’s favourite party trick was superheating a pot full of water to the point it generated a pressurised steam explosion. It wasn’t that impressive though, because he never bothered to attend any parties to show it off.” Shū snorted as Izuku settled the tray. “Now I know I’m meant to be showing you the ropes, but you have questions and I have some fragmented answers.”
Izuku twitched under the force of the man’s multi-eyed stare. Scanning in its intensity, roving up and down as if checking Izuku up against another reference.
“So, uh, you never expected to meet me?” Izuku spoke in a small voice. Shū’s facial expressions were only vaguely similar to a standard person, but distorted, as though viewing it through a warped lens.
“The fact that you exist, little Midoriya, is a testament to the mystery that is how your father ended up married,” Shū almost indifferently stated. “For someone so utterly woeful with his fellow human beings, it’s a wonder how he ended up with a child in the first place.” That… hadn’t been quite what Izuku was expecting. At least he was frank about what he thought.
“He wasn’t good with people?” Hisashi hadn't spoken to his family in thirteen years. If anything, Izuku was generously understating it.
“He was a strange person,” Shū inclined his head. “Despite looking like the youngest person in the room, he consistently sounded like the oldest as far as running the business went. You’d think he’d lived through numerous wars with some the cynicism he came out with at times. He was the owner of the company, so no one questioned him.” Shū’s shimmering tentacles glistened as he waved them through the air. “He was directly responsible for hiring your mother, though I don’t think she ever knew that the decision came from him.”
“That must’ve caused some distance with the rest of the staff. No one wants to upset the boss,” Izuku added with a slight jitter.
“That’s the funny thing, nobody knew he was the boss until he stopped working there once he was married. He still owned the company, but stepped down from the management part of it. Everyone thought he was some eccentric nephew that the owner had shoved in to be rid of the man.” Shū smirked. “They were in for a surprise, weren’t they? He casually mentioned it halfway out the door as an afterthought and mass panic ensued. It was chaos.” Izuku thought that Hisashi Midoriya sounded rather absentminded from that description. Either that or he was brilliant.
“If dad was so hopeless with everyone else, then what was he like with mum?” Izuku stirred his tea carefully, noting the explosion of paper across the lawyer's desk.
“Your mother was a corporate secretary for the company and part of upper management. He spent most of his life in her office instead of his, making idiotic expressions at her.” Izuku couldn’t have missed the peeling back of Shū’s lips as the man swallowed a laugh. Definitely absentminded. “Your father was somewhat perplexed as to what to do about your mother,” Shū remarked from around the rim of his mug.
“Perplexed? Wasn’t he head over heels for her if he was always in her office?” Izuku raised his eyebrows.
“Ah, to be a young, fluffy, bright eyed person again,” Shū sighed, a trace of wistfulness. “Your father felt much too old to be in a formal relationship with your mother. Instead of asking her out, he would spend all manner of hours in her office whinging about the latest scandal or policy or government action and what to do about.”
Izuku groaned into his hands. “He didn’t…” Maybe it was a good thing after all that his dad had no involvement in his life. “Please tell me it wasn’t the only thing he talked about?”
“He did. It was the most amazingly embarrassing thing I’ve seen in my entire life. It’s like he’d never set eyes on a woman before in his life.” Shū’s tentacles moved in something vaguely akin to a shrug. “Instead of an anguished declaration of love, it was an exasperated declaration of whose life in public policy he’d be ruining for the day. It was very peculiar. It made Inko laugh, certainly.”
“If he had no idea what he was doing, then how did they end up married?” Izuku didn’t think there was a television show on, current or otherwise, that had this level of social ignorance in it.
“I put him out of his misery,” Shū stated rather bluntly. “He said that he felt too old for her, so I told him that he looks like a stupid twenty-five-year-old, sounds like a stupid twenty-five-year-old and most certainly behaves like a stupid twenty-five-year-old and that asking a lady, he cleared enjoyed the company of, out was perfectly normal for a stupid twenty-five year old.” It was spoken so nonchalantly that anyone passing by the open door of the archives would have mistaken it for a commentary on the weather.
Izuku blinked. “And how did he respond to that?”
“Much the same way you just did. He blinked, said that I had a point and vanished out the door without another word. Three months later they were married and you were on the way. I was the best man at their wedding.” Half of Shū’s tentacles had snuck sideways, lifting a stack of paperwork and hoisting them over to a cluttered and distressed desk which sagged under the weight.
“How?” Izuku asked, feeling oddly blank. Izuku was starting to see why his mum never talked about his dad. “How does that happen in a three-month period?” It wasn’t often that Izuku questioned his mother, but the more he learnt about Hisashi Midoriya the more he wondered why his mother would leave such a high paying career for someone who sounded like he’d escaped from the local secure ward.
“He asked if she wanted to get married and she said yes, presumably.”
“Well, apparently long-winded complaints about the current political situation were very romantic for your mother,” Shū moistly sniggered, tentacles slapping against his robes as he did so.
“You’ve got to be kidding me.” That can’t have been all it was, surely.
“That’s just my take on things, especially as your father was chronically unable to actually talk about his feelings. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if she proposed to him with how closed lip and utterly incapable he was with his personal life.”
“You know,” Izuku struggled out, “I don’t think I’ve ever felt so vicariously embarrassed in all my life. I’m not… great with people, but this…” Izuku threw up his one free hand, the other clutching his teacup in a death grip. “Isn’t the first step of a relationship communicating that you… like the person?” Izuku asked, uncertainty gnawing at him.
“Well yes, but your father was very much an employer. Most of his relationships were business related, not romantic. I half expected him have me look over a marriage contract before proposing to her to have me check it for loopholes on property settlement in the event of any bumps, but he never did."
“Oh.” Izuku could feel his eyes water. “Is that why she never divorced him when he didn’t come back? She had no claim to his assets?” Was it entrapment that kept his mother married for so long?
“Oh no,” Shū laughed brightly. “Your father was a stupid twenty-five-year-old, yes? He didn’t bother with a prenuptial agreement and had me draft a will leaving all of his possessions and assets to her and any children.” Izuku’s jaw dropped. “He was very prompt about it too.”
“But they hardly knew each other,” Izuku’s strangled tone of voice causing Shū to break down into helpless giggles. “He was a corporate fiend like her, wasn’t he? Since when have people like him just given their stuff away? It’s a lifetime worth of work.”
“He was a sentimental corporate fiend. Vicious to his enemies and likely to horrifically maim anyone that remotely looked at him and his let alone caused harm. While he made use of his money, beyond dressing cleanly and paying the bills, he wasn’t particularly extravagant with it unless he was handing wads of it to your mother. He was a very unconventional suit,” Shū nodded. “Not at all attached to his wealth. Very attached to people though.”
“Was any of his limitless bank account legal?” Izuku asked far more bluntly than he should have, but at this point he was beyond caring. Hisashi was associated with All For One through Dr Tsubasa, but All For One hardly seemed like the sort to have the village lunatic as a close contact regardless of how much money was in the bank. The man sounded downright irresponsible and impulsive. If Izuku was the local supervillain, he’d have run a mile at the thought of someone like Hisashi being part of the local organised crime scene let alone working closely with the chief genetics engineer for his bioweapons program.
“Of course,” Shū responded without a hitch. “He owns this company after all. Him owning it is why I have this job. My Quirk is… distressing to some people, but your father never thought poorly of me for it.” Sheets of paper shuffled around the desk as Shū’s much abused ballpoint pen streaked across the pages with the assistance of three yellow eyes.
“Dad’s a media baron who owns a tabloid,” Izuku repeated faintly. “Is there any particular reason why nobody in my family talks about the fact that he’s made of money if it’s legal?”
“He owns more than one tabloid, although he refused to tell me which ones specifically,” Shū hummed. “I always wondered if he had a hand in Conspiracy with some of the topics he spoke to your mother about.” Shū nodded. “As for why no one talks about, I don’t think anyone knows.”
Izuku felt a surge of nausea. Conspiracy, the Heroes Mirror and the Heroes Weekly were all publications where All For One had expressed his fondness. Was it because his minion owned the publications and acted as the man’s mouthpiece? Did that mean that Hisashi Midoriya likewise owned Quirk Focus, the other mentioned publication that Izuku also read in years gone by? No wonder All For One had almost jumped for joy at Izuku’s familiarity with Conspiracy. They were most likely used for laundering All For One’s own illicit finances.
“I’m not sure his full income was entirely legal, but the income sent to your mother was definitely legitimate.” Shū outstretched several tentacles to give Izuku a threefold pat on the back, almost sending him face first into the table. Izuku wouldn’t have minded if all nine currently visible tentacles had given him a bone crushing hug with the goldmine of information Shū had just provided.
Settling his cup down on the table, Izuku reached upwards and gave one of the tentacles a gentle stroke and watched it quiver. Warm! Izuku thought with wonder, gently prodding it and watching multicoloured swirls dart across the surface as the weight of Shū’s explanation began to settle on top of him.
“Huh,” Shū, every single eye squinting at Izuku.
“OH!” Izuku flailed, hurriedly retracting his hand, turning bright red. “Sorry! I didn’t mean to…”
“Don’t worry about it. Your father had much the same reaction. From the way he looked at my Quirk, he looked more likely to propose to me than your mother,” Shū idly reflected. “Almost nothing had him out the door faster than seeing an unusual Quirk. He only breathed fire himself, but good lord the man could move. You’d blink and miss him.” Shū grinned, exposing a mouth full of fangs on every surface. “You remind me very much so of him.” A slight inclination of his head. “Admittedly, your social awareness is much better and your solution to poor government seems more refined than simply setting the problem on fire from what Maki told me.”
“Thanks?” Izuku said in a very small voice as something far more sinister crept up on Izuku’s from Shū’s shadows. Perhaps Hisashi wasn’t simply the financier of the arrangement after all… Izuku crushed the thought for the moment, he could ask the source himself later. “How do you know that all of mum’s money was legitimate?”
“Your father left me in charge of directing the company’s payments to the joint bank account. We haven’t spoken in a very long time, but every second Friday, without fail, I receive a handwritten note on my desk with the amount that was to be deposited in the account for the coming Monday.” Shū held up a simple piece of paper, a number scrawled across it in illegible handwriting.
Narrowing his eyes, Izuku could only just make out an amount that matched the previous bank records he’d snooped through earlier. “Is that his handwriting?”
“No, it isn’t always his handwriting. It used to be up until seven years ago and from then on it wasn’t always his.” Shū’s voice dropped. “I did have concerns over that time period because when he did start writing again, his handwriting had changed.”
Something spikey moved along Izuku’s spine. “How?”
“It was him, but off, like he was learning how to write again.” Shū frowned as a tentacle glided into a desk draw and emerged with a small stack of paper. Huh, I wonder if they operate as a type of sensory organ as well. He didn’t use his eyes for that, Izuku idly reflected. Waving a tentacle, Shū deposited the paper onto the coffee table in front of Izuku. “I don’t know how much experience you’d had with… less legitimate clients, but it concerned me because the way he writes reminded me of someone who’d had their hands utterly shattered and was undergoing rehabilitation,” Shū voiced carefully in an undertone.
“You think someone he associated with injured him?” Izuku breathed. But why? What had happened to cause injury? Was it All For One after the encounter with All Might, lashing out? Was it someone All For One was embroiled in a feud with? Was it a punishment? Who was Hisashi Midoriya?
“Quite possibly. I knew that your father was most likely a colourful figure from what he used to talk about… but…” Trailing off, Shū’s features had scrunched together.
“But?” Izuku gently prodded, apprehensively watching on as Shū’s face began to wobble.
“He was the only one who would employ me because of my Quirk. I didn’t have the heart to tell your mother my suspicions, because-”
“-You were afraid of losing your job and not getting another one,” Izuku concluded and Shū’s eyes began to freely drip tears. Self-consciously, Izuku leaned forward and angled himself to pat the man supportively on the shoulder. “It’s okay, I understand exactly where you’re coming from.” Quirkless, useless, hissed a young Kacchan’s voice from the depths of his memories. “People are afraid of what they don’t understand.”
Before Izuku knew it, he was embroiled in a crushing embrace. Feet dangling off the ground, he could hear Shū’s sobs. “Thank you. I couldn’t talk to her knowing that, I couldn’t tell her.”
“It’s okay,” Izuku assured him in a strained tone of voice.
“No it’s not.” Shū wept, “We haven’t even looked at the employment contract yet either and now I’m dripping everywhere.”
It was all Izuku could do to hand over a nearby tissue box and nod to Shū, rescheduling the contract for the following Sunday.
“Do you want to come over for dinner?” Izuku tentatively asked through wet eyes of his own as he was lowered to the ground.
He shouldn’t have asked, because the sentient mass of tentacles promptly started crying again.
It had to be a sign that there was something was terribly wrong that Izuku was almost comforted by the fact that he knew exactly what he was in for every Saturday.
“Are you sure you don’t want the day off?” All Might asked Izuku from the front of the car as they sped towards the prison complex. “Your workload is a little bit too ambitious at this point in time. Knowing what I do about your mother…” Izuku thought he saw All Might wince, or at least his shoulder shifted in discomfort.
“Can we talk about it on Monday?” Izuku asked through drooping eyes. “I really need to ask him about what Shū told me last week.”
“Just keep it in mind, young Midoriya. He’s not worth the effort. It might be better if we moved to a fortnightly arrangement so you have more time to get other things done,” All Might explained.
“It’s not him that I’m doing it for,” Izuku murmured as he sank into his seat for a powernap. He had to find Hisashi before someone in the media did, especially with so many of them linked to All For One.
“Busy week, Izuku?” All For One observed as Izuku unceremoniously fell into his chair thirty minutes later.
Class assignments, meeting Shū, having to sit in the same room as his mother with that terrible knowledge hanging over his head, article deadlines, Tsukauchi’s regular phone check ins, the reports back from his classmates about their progress with the pipeline for the impromptu fashion label… “Yes,” Izuku offered shortly.
“You can’t keep running yourself ragged like this, you’re a sitting duck for any villain let alone Shigaraki,” All For One carried on. “When was the last time you so much as had a day off?”
“Years.” Izuku tugged out his notebook. “Last time I tried to have a day off, Shigaraki gatecrashed it and wasted my entire day with police reports.”
“But years?” Disbelief colouring the prisoner’s voice.
“You don’t get into U.A. by having a life. If you don’t have the results and you can’t pass the exams…” Izuku shrugged.
“There’s not much point in attending the school when all it’s going to do is result in your early demise,” All For One pointed out.
“If you had’ve misjudged at Kamino Ward, that also would have resulted in my early demise a lot sooner,” Izuku retorted. “I need more hours in a day.”
“I can arrange that.” All For One perked up.
“For shame, the things you could do with a time manipulation Quirk,” All For One almost purred and Izuku fought back the urge to recoil. “Imagine what you could do with a time stop.”
“It’s not like you’d have difficulty finding a time manipulation Quirk, what, with practically owning the Heroes Mirror, Quirk Focus and Conspiracy.” It was a risk, Izuku wasn’t certain about the latter two, but Hisashi was definitely involved in the former. “You use them to scout for Quirks, don’t you? I know for a fact that Hisashi is the owner of the Mirror. Why incriminate yourself directly when you can issue staff directives for stories on the next greatest Quirk? I don’t know how anyone didn’t attribute it to you sooner, it’s so simple.” Izuku shook his head as the cogs clicked into place. “So much information, so little risk and all of the protections of confidentiality to go with it. And it explains why the Mirror is so anti-hero in its reports. The reports about Endeavor didn’t start with Maki, they started with you.”
“Oh, and how did you work that out?” Izuku probably should’ve reserved that accusation for the end of the conversation, because All For One’s initial openness was gone in a wall of indifference. He’d have to make it quick then.
“I did a company search,” Izuku gave to him blandly. Mainly to hide the fact that it was physically entering the company and asking the in-house legal about it. He’d searched the company alright, just not in the legal sense. “It was very informative.” There was still the very real risk that word would get back to All For One about Izuku’s new job at the Mirror, especially if Hisashi primary purpose was as an informant and not a financier. Izuku honestly didn’t think that anyone connected to All For One would have a problem with throwing relatives under the bus with what had happened to Tsubasa. So why then was Shigaraki so horrified by the prospect of All For One’s negligence? Why was Hisashi different to Dr Tsubasa? Is that why Shū had been kept so ignorant, so as to prevent a trace to All For One?
“You need healthier hobbies, Izuku,” All For One minutely shifted his head in the approximation of a shake.
“What exactly are you frightened of? Everyone who’d know your name is long dead.” Izuku gestured with the tip of his pencil. “There’s so much obfuscation surrounding someone who is supposedly too old for anyone to know, but every time I mention it you run for cover.”
“Not everyone. There are many weird and wonderful Quirks around, granting longevity and them helping the government establish further information on me isn’t high on my list of priorities,” All For One inclined his head. “I enjoy my privacy.” Seemed like privacy was a commonality in All For One’s criminal ventures.
“Yet for all those weird and wonderful Quirks, you’ve never gone after the more esoteric ones that aren’t reliant on cellular regeneration to heal yourself,” escaped Izuku’s mouth before he could stop it. Between Chisaki and Eri, there were two people in the almost immediate vicinity who could’ve either regenerated All For One or had their Quirks stolen to facilitate it. All For One wouldn’t have even needed to leave the country. “If you’re so indifferent about stealing Quirks, then why not one of those? We both know that Shigaraki is a decoy and there’s plenty of potential victims around.”
“You’re being pedantic again, Izuku,” All For One warned, a strange note in his tone. “The Quirks you’re referring to are high risk and require a great deal of skill to use. It would take longer for me to learn an effective application than it would to use other methods.” Did that mean that All For One was on the clock? Why? It’s not like he was personally invested in anything beyond making All Might miserable.
“So you don’t gain an instinctive use of the Quirks you steal,” Izuku mumbled, scratching furiously into his notebook. All For One’s comment about Best Jeanist suddenly made sense. All of the Quirks in All For One’s arsenal that Izuku knew about were straightforward enhancements. Had All For One lost the fine control he required to use the other more nuanced Quirks when All Might injured him? Shigaraki didn’t have the skill to understand complex Quirks, but it was All For One’s bread and butter. According to All Might, his skillset had changed drastically, and this was probably why. “That makes sense actually. Still, you have all the time in the world so why not learn more sophisticated applications?”
“High sophistication, high risk,” All For One allowed.
“According to you, you were already more dead than alive. Are you even really living with how it left you?” Izuku queried, because why would All For One hang around for the sake of a feud? It was an empty, hollow existence. “Why not take the risk?”
“Unfinished business, Izuku. There are many matters I have to keep an eye on myself.” Again, it was that strangely subdued tone. For anyone else, it would have been a casual statement. For All For One it was like raking the man over hot coals. It still didn’t answer Izuku’s question.
Was anyone All For One dealt with even remotely capable of talking about their feelings? Shigaraki was a mess. Kurogiri didn’t seem to have a life beyond chauffeuring Shigaraki. Dr Tsubasa had just about murdered his own flesh and blood to satisfy All For One. Hisashi, from how Shū described him, was embarrassment on two legs with his inability to discuss personal problems. Izuku doubted there was a single functional person in the organisation.
“Then why not regenerate to better do it? That’s what you were implying earlier, that you were planning to heal yourself? If we lived in an alternate universe and I took up a life of crime, I somehow don’t think I’d be leaving anything needing personal attention in Shigaraki’s hands.” What Izuku needed to know, was why All For One had, it seemed, sabotaged his own healing process. Almost as though him being unrecognisable was something he was taking advantage of, especially when All Might himself had only shrugged when Izuku had asked about All For One’s appearance.
“Shigaraki in a management position is a far safer alternative than my exposure.”
Izuku raised an eyebrow. “What makes people knowing who you are so dangerous? If you had anything close to your old strength, you’d have wiped the floor with All Might. It was the oxygen deprivation that got you in the end, not him.” He allowed the sentence to linger and then it dawned on him with a frightening clarity. “But it’s not you you’re worried about, are you? You can defend yourself, but who do you associate with who can’t?”
All For One smiled in a manner that conveyed a type of bitterness that Izuku hadn’t seen since Kacchan accosted him for making it into U.A. “Not anyone I can ever tell about it. Guilt by association after all.”
“But your name wouldn’t matter for association…” Izuku shuddered, an idea nudging its way into his head. “Unless they also had it. You still have family members around, don’t you?”
All For One sank back into his bonds. “Not according to them.” From that point on, he didn’t so much as twitch.
Izuku sighed. “I won’t push my luck. See you next week.”
It was strange, leaving in complete silence, All For One’s breathing quiet behind him.
All For One still had family around with his name, but was it his direct family or his brother's descendants?
On the immediate Sunday following his regular visit to the archfiend, Izuku found himself stumbling from the Heroes Mirror offices in a daze. The contract which Shū hadn’t gotten around to having him sign the first time, had finally been completed. It was a lengthy, beastly thing, but it comprehensively outlined the obligation of the company and its agents to maintain Izuku’s privacy as a source and freelance writer.
In turn, Izuku had signed a utterly monstrous non-disclosure agreement which had almost reduced him to tears from the length alone. Shū had insisted it was only a formality. For Izuku at least, because Hisashi would materialise and set Shū on fire if he ever tried to enforce a legal document against the man’s son. Unfortunately for Shū, that left Izuku in actual tears and Izuku did his best not to watermark the paper as he read and signed. Izuku really didn’t want to think about his father.
Izuku’s head pulsed. Izuku wasn’t sure if it was the lack of sleep, reading the contract or both. He almost fell out of the elevator and made his way through the glass lobby.
Stepping from the building, Izuku glanced upwards. An angry gathering of clouds overhead rumbled ominously and sheet lighting shot through the sky. It was unseasonal but he didn’t know of any heroes or villains off the top of his head that could generate storms.
In hindsight, Izuku would blame the storm for not hearing the footsteps of the person who dealt a blow to the side of his head.
The good news is that you'll probably have another chapter in time for Christmas. So Merry Christmas now in the event that it's a smidge late.
I'm amazed at how many comments I've had for a story that was a result of me being too lazy to write meta. Thank you so much!
Chapter 12: Condition of a Cryptid
Maintaining the condition of a crypid is difficult given that it's a cryptid.
Young Midoriya was missing. Young Midoriya’s mother had been informed and had taken it about as well as anyone expected her to take it.
“I don’t blame you, All Might,” Inko Midoriya had told Toshinori, patting him gently on the hand in a remarkably familiar manner as she sat outside of Nedzu’s office on her own. Garbed in a dress suit, Inko Midoriya’s homely appearance may as well have grown lines of razor sharp fangs for the difference it made. “You aren’t responsible for the signing in and out of students. He as the head of administration, on the other hand, is most definitely responsible for it.” Toshinori only just managed to mask his wince. In all honesty, it was a wonder this scenario hadn’t happened sooner, with a corporate parent demanding satisfaction from the school. Even the government funding couldn’t protect them from what was to come, if the woman’s rediscovered reputation meant anything.
Toshinori nodded, “I still feel responsible though. There must have been something I could have done.” Like tell Nedzu about the extracurricular activities young Midoriya had taken on.
“It wouldn’t have stopped Izuku from going, even if you had’ve banned him from leaving the grounds,” she sighed. “Izuku doesn’t trust his father’s income and he would’ve been at that office regardless of what the school or even I told him to do. He’s always been independent, much more than he should be for his age.” Even All For One, with his limited exposure, had almost enviously noted that about young Midoriya. A quality that the arch evil’s supposed student so readily lacked.
Unlike Shigaraki, young Midoriya was perfectly capable of taking care of himself and opted out of any rules he saw as being wrong, such as the ones which should have prevented him from rescuing young Bakugou. For all of Aizawa’s chewing out, Toshinori had little doubt that it would happen again as young Midoriya saw fit. Especially as young Midoriya had been entirely correct in his assertions that his assistance was required. Nobody watching the conversations with Japan’s cryptid wondered why All For One lamented not swapping students. The ease of the rapport spoke for itself, as did the faculty’s knowledge that calling young Midoriya a villain didn’t so much as make the boy miss a step when it crippled so many others. In anyone else, it’d have been a dangerous quality.
“Ahem, Mrs Midoriya?” Snapped both of them back to attention, Nedzu’s snout poking out from behind the door.
“Ah, that’s me.” She told the Principal. “Don’t worry about it, All Might.”
And Toshinori wasn’t worried about himself, because the glint in her eyes was for Nedzu alone as she entered his office with the air of someone who owned it.
Later in the day, Toshinori’s teeth bit sharply into his lower gum. Tsukauchi’s sole free hand gesticulated wildly as he sped down the highway, yelling into the phone Toshinori held up by his ear.
“Where was he last seen?”
“Why the hell was he at the Heroes Mirror offices on a Sunday? All Might, did you know about this? Did the school?”
Toshinori emptily shook his head. “We only knew that he was going there the Sunday before for a job interview. Nothing about yesterday.” Why had young Midoriya been at the office of the tabloid? As far as Toshinori was aware, the introductory meeting had been the Sunday the week before. Perhaps the job offer he’d received from the editor required his further presence, but a Sunday was unusual when tabloids usually had specialised weekend editors. From what Toshinori knew, it was the editor of the Monday to Friday releases who sought the boy’s services, unless they were making an exception to fit with young Midoriya’s extremely packed schedule.
A Sunday meant less security at the premises. Isolated and remote to the local entertainment district, a tired and sleep deprived young Midoriya would have been an easy target. Something All For One had repeatedly mentioned and that Toshinori would never admit to agreeing with.
“Did you get the CCTV footage of the area?... The cameras were obstructed?” An uneasy sigh. “Not good enough, scour the whole city if you have to. There has to be some trace of him somewhere and us not finding it means we aren’t doing our jobs. Look for anyone who was in the area in the lead up to the abduction. They must have scouted the area for CCTV placement which means we aren’t dealing with total amateurs. Check as far back as two weeks ago and be quick about it.” Toshinori only briefly caught a high and reedy voice. “I don’t care if the afternoon shift has to work overtime for it, just do it.”
Another pause and Toshinori saw Tsukauchi’s face flush to a deep red, veins pulsating on his forehead. “Oh, you don’t think that searching for a child abductor is a good enough reason to budget extra resources?” There were some warning sign that Toshinori had picked up throughout his life and Tsukauchi losing composure was a good as sign as any that it was probably time to run. If that had’ve been possible without him throwing himself out of a moving car.
Another pause and Toshinori braced himself. “WHAT DO YOU MEAN WE SHOULD JUST HAVE A HERO DO IT? IT’S BECAUSE OF YOUR DIVISION THAT THE ONLY HERO WHO COULD’VE DONE IT IS CURRENTLY ATTENDING THERAPY WHILE MISSING HER QUIRK,” the Detective yelled into the phone, swerving around the traffic in front with lights and sirens blaring. “You know what, I will raise that with the Chief of Police. I’ll be sure to let him know that his own Deputy is obstructing the search of a child because he’d rather place the staff end of year party above doing his job properly.” Reaching over, Tsukauchi smashed the end call button with force, almost knocking the phone from Toshinori’s hands.
“That sounds like it could have gone better,” Toshinori almost hesitantly spoke. He didn’t really have the power to tread on anyone’s toes anymore and get away with it. One of the bright parts about being All Might was the ability to shield himself from the politicking surrounding heroism. Those days were long gone.
“That was Ichirou Takahashi, one of the Deputy’s penny pinching pawns in Organised Crime Prevention,” Tsukauchi explained through clenched teeth, zooming by another car. “Thinks he’s the next big thing if the current Chief gets the boot for incompetence. There were government directives issued to the police about bolstering the reputation of heroes by having them take on more and more typical policing work. Last I checked, that didn’t involve specialised investigatory work that we Ds do.”
Through the haze, a light blinked on, snapping Toshinori back to awareness. “Are they still trying to compensate for what happened to young Bakugou? Without draconian security measures, there’s very little we can do to protect students without making them prisoners.” Sounds about right though.
Through it all, even without One For All, Toshinori was still intimately familiar with the politics due to the amount of meetings he or Sir had attended over the years. So many suppressions or suppression attempts had passed unnoticed by the public, as young Midoriya had observed. The public had never been told about the real cause of the sporadic villain attacks in years gone by, because pretending that Trigger didn’t exist was easier than educational projects warning off the public. All For One’s experimentation had flourished as a direct result. Toga likewise had escaped public scrutiny from those same suppressions, even though she was a seasoned serial killer. Censorship did far more harm than good, especially when ignorance was exploited by these criminals. Toshinori had spent the last few months attempting to lobby against the government’s habitual suppression tactics, but reason hardly seemed like something they wanted to any degree.
“Short of physically holding the hands of all of the students, there’s not much we can do,” Toshinori added.
Young Midoriya’s case was different though, he should’ve had a guard after the latest school policy changes. The school logs of sign ins and outs were devoid of any note particular to young Midoriya. It was quite likely that the boy had forgotten and simply hurried out the front door without thinking about it, as distracted people tended to do.
Distressingly, it shouldn’t have mattered due to the electronic security, but even there he was missing from the records, as though someone had scrubbed his comings and goings entirely… In hindsight, it was probably also the reason why Nedzu had yet to discover their project with All For One. There it was, a nasty hole in security discovered through sheer dumb luck. U.A.’s mole was alive and well, unfortunately, which meant that there was no record of when exactly the boy had left the campus.
“Oh well, nothing for it then.” Tsukauchi held down the accelerator further still. “Let’s see what the Chief says about this latest display of someone not wanting to do their job.”
“When in doubt, have someone else pull rank?”
Tsukauchi glanced over and smiled wryly. “If you still had all of your bells and whistles, I’d have just thrown you at them. Next best thing after that though.”
For the first time that day, Toshinori managed a smile.
Come the Saturday, the police still had no leads. The CCTV footage was clear of anyone recognisable to the police database and witnesses were lacking even during the weekend hours. A dead end that had Tsukauchi and his sister’s friends just about pulling out their hair. It was odd for relative strangers to volunteer, but at the same time, no one was about to deny the extra sets of hands.
Classes had been cancelled that week for young Midoriya’s year and the Heroics Department, despite the best effort of the Principal. Aizawa’s threats of expulsion petered out rather rapidly once a thoroughly infuriated Inko Midoriya had marched down to the school in her office blacks and torn the poor man a new one. At her side was a swirling mass of tentacles and inky blackness which had introduced itself as Hideyuki Shū, the family’s lawyer. As it turned out, Principal Nedzu’s calculations were of little assistance in the face of rapid and aggressive legal action. Instead, Nedzu had grovelingly volunteered the students as part of a wider search team as supervised by the various agencies. It was a never a battle that he was going to win. It really did make Toshinori wonder about Hisashi Midoriya, because those weren’t standard qualities that young men ran after.
Toshinori paced in his apartment and paced some more. He wasn’t allowed to search. If the League of Villains weren’t already involved then the police didn’t want to give them an open invitation. So he paced, drawing up short and drowning in a strained emotion he couldn’t quell.
Until his phone rang, caller ID showing a private number.
Toshinori had always had an odd relationship with his ringtone. Yes, it was his voice, but when he spent most of his day posing as his own secretary then how many other options did he have to maintain his cover? Back then, it was the logical solution. Not that it mattered now.
“All Might,” the cool voice of All For One’s managing psychiatrist whispered over the phone. “The prisoner’s been demanding your presence. He’s quite insistent.”
Toshinori snorted. “I’ve learnt my lesson about listening to anything he has to say.”
“He says he knows where your missing student is and can assist in his recovery. With what we know about Search, we suggest it’s at least worth speaking to him.”
Toshinori slowly blinked and inhaled deeply. “I’ll be right over.”
Toshinori’s feet hardly crossed the threshold of All For One’s cell before the fiend lunged forward in his bonds.
All For One’s teeth were bared in a feral snarl. “Finally, All Might. What took them so long?”
Toshinori almost stumbled as he gingerly sat. “What? How long have you been asking for me?”
“Since your student was abducted, going on a week. I tried to tell them and those idiots didn’t so much as contact you, did they?” All For One’s irritation was almost tangible, permeating the room in a malevolent cloud. Killing intent from a prisoner shouldn’t have oozed so far in so little time, but Toshinori’s frail frame felt every beat of All For One’s outrage.
Toshinori leaned forward. “What’s it to you?” All For One wasn’t worth manners, now or in the past.
Japan’s most preeminent villain’s lips peeled back and, while teeth were showing, it could hardly be called a smile. “What isn’t it to me? How else do you expect me to spend my time for the foreseeable future?” Of course it was about keeping himself comfortable in prison. Utter scum.
“Rotting away in this cell without any human contact for the rest of your life. I thought that was obvious. Consider yourself lucky that young Midoriya had permission from his mother to attend.” Young Midoriya had conveniently enough forgot to mention to his mother that All For One’s full rap sheet involved destroying cities like it was going out of fashion. The poor woman hadn’t so much as set eyes on a photo of the man or heard him let alone known his full list of crimes.
It was unnerving at times, but sometimes young Midoriya reminded him of All For One. If All For One wasn’t a living font of evil, young Midoriya’s focus on Quirks and cleaned up appearance would strongly resemble Japan’s archvillain. Fortunately, young Midoriya didn’t have that wicked edge. Not that Toshinori ever planned on telling the boy about any similarities. The poor boy was self-conscious enough about his appearance and behaviours. He’d have cried for the rest of the month.
“Not to worry, All Might, I consider myself extremely fortunate,” All For One positively purred. “As much I as I would love to continue, the longer we play games the less likely it is that your successor is to return alive,” All For One shifted again. “It wasn’t Tomura or any of his associates. They’re not anywhere near his location. Whoever the culprits are, they’re not currently accounted for by Search,” he stressed. “Your student’s vitals are fading,” All For One enunciated, slowly and concisely, “and he will die if action isn’t immediately taken. I’m willing to assist you for the low low price of nothing.” Toshinori choked back a sharp cough filled with blood.
“How do we know you won’t be sending us into a trap?” That was All For One’s standard fare after all, lulling people into a false sense of security before getting the drop on them. What he was clearly lining up for young Midoriya as well.
“It’s irrelevant because that’s not my proposal.” Cool, but not collected. “I am more than capable of directly bringing him here.” All For One paused. “Providing of course you use your influence to direct Tartarus wardens to not shoot me as I do so. As limited as it is,” he slipped in.
All Might drummed his fingers on the arm of his chair, young Midoriya’s cushion still in place beneath him.
“You’re not taking this seriously,” All For One stressed carefully, as though Toshinori was a particularly stupid child. “Unlike me, you have no Quirk to see how close he is to a permanent death. He was not taken by someone looking to ransom him. By the time you have a location and organise a taskforce, it will be too late. You will find more of a corpse than what’s already there.” All For One dripped liquid malevolence.
Toshinori grimaced. “We trust you about as far as we can throw you. Where’s the guarantee that the League of Villains won’t be simply dragged over here when you activate your warp Quirk?”
“I’m in a cell lined by fully automatic machineguns, All Might.” All For One pointed out. “Shoot me or them if more than one person arrives. Either you allow it or,” his lips formed an edge, “I’ll find another way.” It didn’t take a rocket scientist to realise that it was a threat. If he wasn’t allowed to retrieve young Midoriya, All For One’s alternative would most likely involve him brute forcing his way out of the prison, the bodies of the dead forming a path behind him. A sense of overwhelming urgency clung to the prisoner’s every word. It was a question of how far he could wrench his way to the surface while being crippled… and it was a terrifying assessment that resulted in Toshinori giving him decent odds.
This was important to All For One, but like young Midoriya, Toshinori was at a loss for why. All For One didn’t have the humanity to really care about another living being as Toshinori had repeatedly stressed to young Midoriya.
Scrunching his nose in distaste, Toshinori stood. “Give me a moment to talk to the staff. I don’t run the place.”
“Be quick about it. Your student has a collapsed lung and substantially more,” he ushered Toshinori away. “He’ll suffocate if it’s not soon.”
The moment he crossed the threshold, Toshinori was greeted by senior staff standing to the side of All For One’s cell. Two men wearing suits flanked a tiny woman wearing a voluminous lab coat. “All Might, we think allowing him to do it might be a possibility,” the woman cut in without preamble.
“On what basis? He doesn’t actually care about young Midoriya, it’s a pretence.” Young Midoriya was a solution for the boredom, no more, no less. All For One being genuine was as an unlikely event as Toshinori could conceive on his good days.
“Not…” The woman hesitated. “Not necessarily. After Midoriya-kun started visiting, we noticed a change in the vital signs of the prisoner. It was anomalous to his usual flatline from previous attempts at interrogation. We looked back into our records and found a correlation.” Aiko Satou, All For One’s supervising psychiatrist and current medical officer assigned to him, had a quiet unassuming appearance. “Six months ago, Izuku Midoriya was involved in the rescue of a young girl and the apprehension of a yakuza going by the name Overhaul. The young girl used an uncontrolled rewinding Quirk to continuously undo the damage done to Midoriya-kun during the encounter. In this same time period, the prisoner registered as being in a distressed state from his body language, increase in pain and his brain activity. When we made retrospective enquiries, Izuku Midoriya was also in a period of substantial distress throughout this period of time. Given the nature of Search as a monitoring Quirk with substantial range…”
Toshinori could feel the little blood he had left in him drain from his face. “Young Midoriya was right.” All For One had known young Midoriya for longer than Toshinori, but why? Young Midoriya hadn’t been involved with Toshinori up until two years ago. He wasn’t exposed as having One For All for a period of a year after. All For One didn’t have a reason for paying any mind to a child with no seeming link to their feud until the previous year. That didn’t stop the man from assuming that All Might had been involved and granted One For All earlier, but how close was his attention to young Midoriya for that assumption to be made? Why were there holes in All For One’s surveillance of a seemingly random, helpless boy?
From the information they had, All For One shouldn’t have had any involvement or attention in any capacity. Yet All For One had targeted the grandson of one of his own agents and condemned him to a fate worse than death before Toshinori’s involvement with young Midoriya. All For One had targeted former classmates after young Midoriya had left for high school in the transitionary period. All For One had encouraged Shigaraki to pass young Bakugou into All For One’s “care” when Bakugou refused to bend to the whims of the League of Villains. Toshinori couldn’t help but wonder how many more of young Midoriya’s former classmates would be rediscovered as Noumu… Bakugou’s likely, unspoken fate for refusing to cooperate. Cannon fodder for the archvillain’s schemes. All For One’s only pause in the revelling of the horrific act was young Midoriya’s discovery of it, as if that bothered him more than the experimentation on the children itself.
But why? Why leave the helpless, Quirkless boy if the rest of the students were targets long before Toshinori’s involvement? Why continue to leave him after All For One was aware that One For All had been passed on, perhaps as early as the U.S.J. and the festival on national television? Why offer any assistance? What were they missing? What was young Midoriya missing? What emotional link would Japan’s indifferent, cold and uncaring fiend have to young Midoriya’s father?
“Uh, All Might?” Satou waved her hand into front of his face.
“Apologies, I’ve just had a very unpleasant series of thoughts.” Toshinori rubbed the back of his head. Unpleasantness was bleeding into a familiar paranoia, but what power did Toshinori have without One For All? He had experience still and that would have to do.
“As I was saying, from the data we have… it’s enough to believe that the degree of concern he’s been expressing over the past few weeks has been genuine,” Satou grimaced. Toshinori grimaced with her. “There still isn’t enough information to guess why. We’re reluctantly willing to allow him to at least make an attempt to recover your student on account of the complete lack of police leads. We really did want this to be a last resort.”
If All For One wasn’t lying, then they were only allowing it because of the insistence of young Midoriya’s certain death if he wasn’t allowed to intervene.
“I’ll let him know, provided his freakish hearing didn’t let hear through the soundproofed walls,” Toshinori grumbled.
He shuffled back into the room.
“Luckily for you, they said yes. Do whatever you’re going to do. If you so much as look sideways in addition to recovering him, they’re going to use you as a new lace doyley.”
“Fair enough.” The words had hardly left his lips when the black ooze appeared in prisoner’s cell. Slowly but surely, young Midoriya appeared. Toshinori assumed it was young Midoriya and he felt his jaw sag as the boy became visible. Black and blue, limbs unnaturally swollen, only his shock of green hair was recognisable through the damage. So much blood, congealed or otherwise obstructed the teenager’s features from view.
All For One had understated the damage. Drastically.
Head lolling, young Midoriya fell towards the ground. Within moments, All For One was partially free. Black tendrils whipped through restraints. A glimpse of flesh and Midoriya was encircled by tendrils, pulled flush against the prisoner, head supported before it could slam into the ground. Another set of tendrils had attached themselves to arms and circle, tying themselves around wrists and fingers. Young Midoriya was almost entirely encircled by All For One’s sharpened tendrils. Unrelenting, even had young Midoriya been awake, there would’ve been no chance of escape.
Toshinori found himself moving towards the glass.
“See? If you want something done, you do it yourself.” A sick aura crossed the enclosed space. Armed guards were attempting to enter the cell, but were paralysed by the surge of killing intent leaking across the room. Toshinori could only watch on, heart frantically beating. He couldn’t do anything.
All For One wasn’t making any attempt to let go. If anything, Midoriya was secured further as the guards screamed their demands.
“Hand him over.” Toshinori was sweating. The malevolence… if anything it was getting worse. “They can get him to a hospital.”
“Where they’ll maim him again with another poorly conceived surgery? Did his mother even give consent for previous surgeries, or did he simply turn up maimed one day because Recovery Girl was too proud to ask other experts for help? You certainly couldn’t protect him.” This wasn’t what they had expected. All For One should have been tossing Midoriya at them, not taking him hostage. And Toshinori was helpless, unable to act.
Then it was gone. All For One slumped, grip loosening, young Midoriya sliding free from uncoiling strands. Guards clawed their way in through the lingering malaise.
Toshinori heaved a sigh of relief.
“The higher ups sedated him,” a guard called through the glass, All For One blocked from sight. “Kid wasn’t kidding, this guy’s a fucking monster. God bless for him mentioning that to us earlier. Where’s the stretcher? If that bastard’s right the kid’s down a lung.”
Toshinori saw a miniscule twitch of All For One fingers and was out the door before Midoriya had even been extracted from the cell.
Tsukauchi’s police car bounced over the crest of a hill as they chased the ICU ambulance carrying young Midoriya. Resisting the urge to fidget, grind his teeth or in some way channel away the unproductive energy was turning out to be a dismal failure.
Dedicated paramedics that they were, they hadn’t noticed the gaunt former hero lurking nearby as they briefed the hospital on what to expect. Toshinori wasn’t meant to have heard what the paramedics said about the damage to young Midoriya’s skull, or the blood loss or the presumption of brain damage. He wasn’t meant to have heard that the boy would held on life support, but that their hopes for his recovery were token. It was for his mother that they would do it and, more distantly, the boy’s father. Nothing but stalling tactics.
He wanted to somehow give the knowledge back, so that a brief ember of hope could have burnt for a little bit longer.
All For One had known the whole time… and if he was to be believed, he’d told the prison staff about young Midoriya’s circumstances as soon as it had happened. The prison’s delay in telling Toshinori about All For One’s discovery had resulted in the boy’s condition. It hadn’t been denied by the prison either, but somehow Toshinori didn’t think the knowledge was going to comfort Inko Midoriya or Hisashi Midoriya, wherever he was lurking these days.
In the end it was Toshinori who phoned Inko as Tsukauchi expertly skidded around a corner and neatly into a parking spot at the hospital’s Emergency entrance. He spoke, she wept and all Toshinori could feel was a weight, crushing him as step by step they approached a waiting area. A second call to his mentor followed the call to the boy’s mother. It was a family matter, Toshinori couldn’t bring himself to call anyone else, but texted the developments to Nedzu with fumbling fingers.
This wouldn’t have happened had everyone involved said no to young Midoriya’s investigation of All For One. And all of them knew it.
More on foot funeral procession than anything else, a stern-faced receptionist directed them to an empty meeting and impromptu waiting room. She offered them tea and Toshinori’s stomach jerked aggressively in rejection of the thought.
It was too late and hours later in a waiting room, Toshinori knew that no positive news was going to be forthcoming. Toshinori, Tsukauchi and Gran Torino, all forming the vanguard for the child’s mother.
His prediction at their very first meeting had come true and he’d been powerless to stop it. He hadn’t kept the promise to Inko Midoriya or his mentor either. Failure, again and again.
Inko Midoriya was still yet to arrive and wasn’t answering her phone. Toshinori didn’t need to speculate particularly hard as to why. Gran Torino and Tsukauchi’s pained expression would have been a pale shadow of the boy’s mother, silent and blank faced. Nobody knew where Hisashi Midoriya was and the hospital had just about admitted they even their staff didn’t care enough to ask given his previous lack of involvement in the treatment of his son.
The three men crammed into the tiny room knew from experience what was coming. Some token effort surgery, a ventilator and young Midoriya would be left to his own devices until his parents came to their decision. There was only one humane decision that someone could really come to in these circumstances. Perhaps with enough wealth, young Midoriya would have a perpetual and empty existence, no different to the experiments of All For One. Hollow and empty. Existing, but no longer present. His father would no doubt be acutely aware and hopefully think better of prolonging it.
It was at that moment, the hospitals lights went out. Toshinori’s phone rang and he didn’t think he’d heard a more obnoxious sound in his entire life.
“Yes?” He grunted into the microphone.
“All Might, we’ve had a situation at the Tartarus complex. It’s about the prisoner…”
Any blood left in Toshinori’s face swiftly drained as the unfamiliar man spoke in a hurried and nearly incoherent manner.
Uh... Merry Christmas?
This wasn't really meant as a cliffhanger, it's just sort of where the chapter's progression had it end as with the last chapter. If you'll excuse me, I'll be hiding in my cupboard until just before New Years Eve.
Chapter 13: Escape of a Cryptid
Never restrain a cryptid.
Toshinori shoved the phone in his pocket and legged it for the surgical theatre. “We have a problem.”
“What is it Toshinori?” Gran Torino huffed from behind Toshinori and the latter took off. Glancing over his shoulder, he could see his mentor and Tsukauchi at his heels.
“All For One left Tartarus ten minutes after we did,” Toshinori held back a wheeze. Shit. He wasn’t cut out for this anymore.
“What? Didn’t they sedate him?” Tsukauchi called from behind. Gran Torino mumbled something distinctly more profane.
“It didn’t fully take. He has a resistance to sedatives. He recovered and ripped his way through the guards as soon as the ambulance left.” Toshinori slid to a halt at the fire escape, where Gran Torino bounced and all three hurtled up two storeys of stairwell. “He’s had hours already.”
“Why only tell us now though?”
“He left a mess on the way out.” Satou was officially missing. They did find a distinct red stain and an identification tag with her name on it in the path of his ascent. Of the casualties, hers by far had been the most gore ridden. She also seemed to be the one with the responsibility of screening All For One’s requests… There wasn’t anyone left to ask about what had happened. "All For One cleared the building in under three minutes and disappeared once he was through the sensors. No one was left to tell anyone until the externals came to check up on the radio silence.” Which meant that All For One had been free for a period of over six hours.
“You think he’s here,” Tsukauchi gasped.
“He has to be here. Hospitals have backup generators. Why didn’t these ones activate? The power outage is a distraction. No lights, no one can see and report what’s happened and who’s here.” As Toshinori spoke, it was confirmed. He tripped, stumbled and staggered to his feet. A trail of unconscious or moaning medical staff sprinkled the corridor, Toshinori’s foot having hooked one of them. “Shit. Young Midoriya’s surgery was in a theatre on this floor.”
“Toshinori, stop!” Toshinori ducked, narrowly avoiding Gran Torino’s flying heel. There was only a slight stumble in his step. “What are you going to do if you actually find him? You don’t have the grunt anymore to take him on. Even if you did you’d flatten the hospital. There isn’t anything we can do and the kid’s already…” If Gran Torino finished that sentence, Toshinori would gladly sacrifice three seconds to turn around and deck him for it.
“Doesn’t matter, even if I distract him, you can grab young Midoriya.” All For One couldn’t have been the prime picture of health. Immunity to sedatives and painkillers meant that he’d be feeling every bit of his prison aided muscle atrophy alone. That wasn’t counting if the bastard had developed blood clots from the restricted movement as well. Toshinori had read up on the historical prison of Guantanamo Bay, enough to know about the conditions All For One had complained about. Tartarus was worse. Much much worse. Hopefully it’d work.
All they needed was enough time to get the boy and run. Six hours was a long time though… but dread clung to what could be prepared for in six hours.
If Toshinori didn’t make it… well, at least young Midoriya would.
“This is crazy even for you.”
“We can’t just sit here and do nothing. Even if other heroes come he’ll turn them into mincemeat,” Tsukauchi agreed, to Toshinori’s blunted relief. “I’ll try and contact Midoriya’s mother, she should’ve been here hours ago.” Toshinori tried not to let what left of his stomach sink any further into his shoes. Six hours was a long time…
Leaving Tsukauchi behind, they slid into the corridor, slamming through double doors and the chamber where Toshinori could vividly remember being asked for any allergies to medication or anaesthesia, even without the lights. Closeting his memories, Toshinori inched forwards.
For a moment, they paused and nudging open the second set of doors into the theatre proper, he peered into the blackness. Toshinori heard a faint rush of air, almost a relieved sound.
“Reduced to lurking, are we, All Might?” An all too familiar voice reverberated through the room and Toshinori shuddered. He hated being right.
“Well, not sure what else you expect me to do. It’s not fair to take on a cripple,” Toshinori prodded, edging his way into the room with Gran Torino splitting off to the side as he did so. Tsukauchi better have made those phone calls.
“I’ll admit, there’s less satisfaction in it.” Something in the darkness shifted ever so slightly, but Toshinori had the impression of someone leaning over what would be the operating table. “But I’m not here for that today,” All For One murmured, almost to himself.
There was something wrong with the bastard’s voice. A hoarse quality that hadn’t been there before. Intermingled with it, was a soft padding, akin to child sized feet, just on the cusp of hearing range from the same vague area.
“What exactly is the point of you being here? You going to kill him faster?” No power meant nothing keeping young Midoriya breathing. If there had’ve been any spark left, it wouldn’t have remained for so long without oxygen. Inko Midoriya hadn’t arrived yet…
“Yes and no. He was kind enough to visit me while confined. I opted to return the favour.”
Movement. Toshinori dived to the ground. Gran Torino bounced off the wall with a THUNK and CRASH of shattering tiles and hit the ground in a heap.
“You already had your time. The wardens were rude enough to interrupt mine earlier.” Any neutrality had fled the fiend’s voice in favour of a steady drip of malice. “They won’t be making that mistake a second time.”
“Yeah, that’s typical isn’t it? You just go around killing your problems, like their lives aren’t worth anything,” Toshinori growled back, edging as close as he dared. All For One’s spatial awareness wasn’t limited by the dark. A natural advantage for someone who was blind.
Toshinori couldn’t even see the bastard’s facial expressions.
“Like how they treated Izuku’s life you mean? That stupid woman wanted to play games with me, you know? To see if she could worm her way into some stunning new development for her latest academic paper,” he scoffed. “I told them from the onset and they delayed… Instead they tried to pry to this result,” All For One hissed. More conversationally, he continued, “but it’s amazing how a teenage boy managed to wring more from me in a matter of months than anyone else has in decades. How it must have eaten away at her.” Relish, the likes of which Toshinori hadn’t heard in recent years devoured the words. Even his gloating about Nana Shimura sounded forced in comparison to the glee Toshinori heard at that instant. Disconcerting when it wasn’t pointed at him, but more so disconcerting was the approval that bled through the words.
Toshinori almost tripped over a trolley, shuffling closer through the debris coating the floor. “… She didn’t pass it on deliberately?” It’d explain why her demise had been so much more distinct compared to the other wardens. What exactly had the woman done?
He could’ve reached out and made a lunge at All For One at his current range. Gran Torino’s coughs from the other side of the room told him exactly what would happen if he did. There was no One For All to cushion the blow. Not anymore.
“She was the one who cut short our first meeting. You would have seen her lurking from your perch in the observation room,” All For One quietly explained. “It would’ve upset her that Izuku had more from me in a one-off meeting than she’d had in the previous months.” Toshinori could sense more than see the silhouette hunched over the table as he crept in bit by bit. It wasn’t any different to approaching a wild animal.
More unnerving than All For One’s proximity was his civility. A preemptive attack would’ve finished and killed both Toshinori and Gran Torino and fulfilled All For One’s long held desires for both of them. “You know, I expected to be more dead than this by now.” All For One’s presence was less vivid than it had been, less filled with his typical malice. Not that there was much to go on when he was covered in shadows.
“You were the designated distraction then? You’re aware that you would have lost your life for an empty husk of a person?” Guarded, but not taunting. It was a new experience for Toshinori.
“It doesn’t matter,” Toshinori shot back. “It would’ve been better off if we had’ve wiped each other out. He wouldn’t have been in this position.”
“As loathe as I am to admit it, he would’ve been in this position regardless of your actions.” All For One sounded pained, as if the words scolded his tongue as he spoke.
Toshinori squinted at the silhouette. “Are you saying… that it’s your fault that this happened?” All For One claimed some sort of responsibility, but that admission traced far further back than mere contempt for handing over a Quirk. It was older than Toshinori’s involvement. Perhaps it was as old as Izuku Midoriya himself.
Silence. A sigh.
“Who exactly are you?” And why do you care?
“A very good question, Toshinori Yagi. I’m still undecided.” Pressure. Toshinori stumbled and fell.
All For One’s lingering presence was gone.
Too late. Gone.
Moments later and the lights blinked back on. Toshinori hoisted himself to his feet, catching the piles of medical staff lining the back wall. Then he looked up and did a double take. “Young Midoriya?”
“What?” Gran Torino groaned, likewise dragging himself to his feet.
“How the flying-”
There laid Izuku Midoriya, breathing deeply, asleep and mostly without injury. His features were tugged into a frown. Pale and scarred, his hand had been loosely draped over the top of his chest. Fingers hanging loosely instead of clawed. Toshinori gaped.
“Where the hell did his injuries go?” Gran Torino barked, shuffling closer.
“You can do a lot in six hours,” Toshinori murmured, reaching over to tentatively touch young Midoriya still relatively short hair and oddly warm scalp. He didn’t feel like a hallucination.
“Seems to have been a benefit here.”
“But if he did this for young Midoriya, then why would he delay doing it for himself for seven years?”
“Hell if know, but I somehow don’t think he’s going to be generous enough to let you pull off happy conversation time for a second run.”
Toshinori hoped there was at least some staff left at the Tartarus complex. There wasn’t a reality in existence where he wanted to be the one to explain to Inko Midoriya that son’s life had been saved by Japan’s most notorious murderer after the prison staff’s delay had caused the injuries in the first place.
There was someone touching him. Izuku didn’t remember when it had started. There were two, no three… hands? One felt odd. As if it was smaller than the other two. At least they were warm. One of the larger hands seemed to be tugging its way through his hair. The other two hands were resting on or in his right hand.
Someone was speaking, a distorted and quiet whisper. People were speaking? Two voices, a low one and a high one. Why couldn’t he hear what they were saying? The high one was inconsistent and almost… hesitant? The low one was… something else. It bounced from calm to irritation but without words registering, Izuku was at a loss.
The high voice was almost gently hushed by the low voice. Two new voices were there, both deep but not as deep at the first voice. And the high one disappeared, tiny hand disappearing off his own. Izuku could smell something that made his nose crumple.
Three voices now, the first voice was odd compared to the new voices. Whatever they said didn’t last long. One final tousle and the first voice vanished in a gust of air. Two voices were left, one sounded fainter than the other. Izuku wondered why.
He drifted off as more voices joined the rest.
“The fuck am I doing this for?” Something loud echoed through Izuku’s eardrums. Izuku wanted it to go away.
“No one else managed to get through rehearsal without crying their eyes out, young Bakugou and the staff won’t be as forthcoming. Please?”
“Why can’t a fucking doctor do it? This shit isn’t me, I shouldn’t even be here.”
“The entire treating team is currently occupying this very hospital. They’ve had to call in the casual pool and the notes aren’t up to date with what happened.”
“What about that Detective Tsukauchi?”
“His team are off investigating a series of murders at a warehouse. It’s rather urgent.”
“Fucking fine, but if he starts crying don’t blame me, because I tried to fucking warn you.”
Izuku opened his eyes. After a moment, they adjusted. Izuku blinked at Kacchan and All Might and they blinked back.
“Young Midoriya, you’re awake.” A broad grin split All Might’s face in two. There must’ve been gunk in Izuku’s eyes, because All Might’s face looked oddly moist.
Izuku wanted to respond, but his tongue felt like a wooden block lined with sandpaper.
“Here, water.” Kacchan held up a plastic cup and angled it towards Izuku’s mouth.
Lifting leaden arms, Izuku made for the cup as he drank, tugging it from Kacchan’s hands.
The silence continued. All Might was edging ever closer to the door.
“Look All Might, if you want me to do this, then piss off and don’t get here for five minutes,” Kacchan growled.
Uncharacteristically, All Might fled without another word.
“What happened?” Hoarse and his throat felt it.
“That’s what I’m fucking here to tell you about because those cowardly bastards couldn’t manage it.” Kacchan drew himself up and puffed his chest out. “Right now, it’s Monday. Some bastard and/or bastards got the drop on you as you were leaving some offices the Sunday before last Sunday. Fucked if I know why you were there, fucked if I care. Fact is you were missing for a week.”
Izuku nodded numbly. “Who found me and why am I here?” And why are you here instead of mum?
“The police sure as hell didn’t find you. All Might enlisted some nasty ass prick from a secure prison ward to get you back. Ragdoll doesn’t have her Quirk anymore so they got this bastard to look.” Izuku really didn’t like the look on Kacchan’s face. Kacchan never had the expression of wanting to be literally anyone else. So why does he now?
“So hospital?” Izuku almost felt like he should be the one comforting Kacchan. There was something very very wrong and Kacchan’s fiddling only highlighted it.
“They got you back somehow, but it wasn’t pretty.” Kacchan’s face was outright twisted into a grimace. “I’m telling you about it because the hospital was gonna do a carpet sweep job on it. Pretend that you being on life support was an accident and not because those fuckwits left you brain dead.”
Izuku dropped his cup of water and hardly felt it spill through the sheets. “I was what?”
“You were gone, Deku. Nothing left. They were gonna keep you alive long enough for your mum and deadbeat dad to make a decision.” Kacchan rocked slightly in his chair as he spoke, eyes focusing anywhere but Izuku. Huh, Kacchan looks a bit wet too. Need to wipe my eyes.
“You know, the most surprising thing about what you just said is that they actually expected him to show up.” And to a lesser degree, the fact that Izuku wasn’t brain dead anymore? What worked on such severe injuries?
“Nah, the surprising part is that he did show up,” Kacchan snorted. “Supposedly. He signed in on a visitor’s sheet at least within the last day or so. Shit handwriting. I don’t know what you remember after the offices…” Izuku blinked. His father had been here? He wondered if the Queen of England had come for a visit as well, given that Hisashi Midoriya’s appearance odds were the same as that of winning the American national lottery.
“I remember looking up at the storm and that’s it,” Izuku cut through Kacchan’s hesitation. “Next thing I remember is being here.”
Kacchan made a noise… of relief? Maybe it was the painkillers. “Probably for the best. Anyway, that’s my job done. All Might can tell you what the fuck’s going on now and the doctors can tell you what's up. Try not to make him cry.”
“Why would I make him cry?”
“It’s fucking contagious, Deku, be careful with that shit,” Kacchan snarled from the doorway. “Get better, you fucking loser.” And he was gone.
Well, that sounded slightly more normal. Once Izuku stopped trying to rationalise the idea of Kacchan visiting anyone in hospital let alone him.
“Ah, young Bakugou’s done?” All Might asked, head overhanging the doorway.
“Maybe Kacchan should stick to his day job and not do hospital visits?” Izuku fiddled with his wet sheet. “His bedside manner needs work.”
“Sorry, young Midoriya, but no one else was up to it.” All Might’s lower lip wobbled for a moment. “We do have something urgent to discuss though.” All Might entered the room and closed the door with a snap. “All For One isn’t at Tartarus anymore.”
Part of Izuku brain came screeching to a halt. The rest of it started screaming. “What? How?”
All Might dragged a chair closer and eased himself into it. “All For One was the one who retrieved you. He was anxious about it. Told staff the moment he felt it happen, but they didn’t say anything until it was too late.” Izuku was fairly confident he didn’t have a stomach anymore. It had dropped through the floor, never to be seen again.
“We don’t know, but he got you back… then didn’t want to let go. All of the security was put on standby while he hoisted you through with his warp Quirk.” Izuku stared at All Might’s bowed head. “So they sedated him, only it didn’t completely take.” A tremor crept into All Might’s voice. “They loaded you into the ambulance and we were gone. Not long after that, All For One regained consciousness…”
“And killed every last person there? He did, didn’t he?” Izuku sat upright, his right arm twinging in protest. That was odd, there was still scarring.
“No no no, young Midoriya, you should be lying down for this one,” All Might insisted, gently pushing Izuku back down. “He reappeared six hours later here.”
The air froze in Izuku’s lungs. “Here? Why? Kacchan said that I was…” Dead.
“As it turns out, by All For One’s standards, you were only mostly gone. The lights went out, I got a phone call and we walked in on him just as he was leaving you. And here you are.” Izuku could definitely hear and see All Might’s face quiver.
All Might shrugged, looking more helpless than ever. “We don’t know. It’s as if you were rolled back to the Sunday before you were taken. The doctors can’t explain it.” Understanding surged through Izuku who tore through the thick fabrics to sit upright.
“Eri,” Izuku breathed. “Does he know about Eri? She can roll people back to previous states.”
Never had Izuku seen colour drain so quickly from someone’s face. “Holy shit.”
“His psychiatrist didn’t mention her by name…”
“But mentioned enough of the Quirk for him to identify her?” Izuku scrabbled to place his feet on the ground only to be rebuffed.
“She mentioned Overhaul by name and the type of Quirk Eri had, that bastard probably heard it through the wall. But the how the-“ Izuku found himself leaning back at the force of the expletive that issued from All Might’s mouth. “Young Midoriya, I need to make a phone call.” With that, All Might positively bolted out the door.
Izuku wondered if the psychiatrist’s demise had been accelerated by giving All For One the means to regenerate that he’d always desired. It was better than being a Noumu at least.
Absentminded and numb, Izuku reached for his remote and flicked the small television in his room on. A nasally voice filled his ears. “Breaking news, a warehouse full of bodies has been discovered by police. The word nightmare is being used to describe the horrors within the inconspicuous building in central Tokyo. Police have entered wearing hazmat suits…” Izuku felt his jaw sag open as the camera at ground zero panned to show a bloody trail along one of the street facing windows. It tapered towards the edge, into five distinct streaks. Another distinctly red/brown marking could be seen near the entryway that police were hurrying to conceal.
“Police are refusing to speculate, but have given notice that an estimated twelve people were involved from the Quirk related damage found at the crime scene. The police department has reported that dental records and genetic analysis will be used to determine the exact number of victims at the premises.” Still images flickered across the scene. Whoever these people were, they had been massacred. Izuku could only imagine what it had done to the poor person who’d made the discovery.
All Might re-entered the room to find Izuku’s mouth still hanging open. “All Might, did you see the news report about the warehouse massacre?” He asked, numbly.
All Might winced. “Well, there’s good news and there’s just, well, news. Good news first I think.” He threw himself into the seat without preamble. “The good news is that Eri is in her room at the hospital and, by all accounts, better than she was beforehand. She said that she met your dad, who asked for a favour to help his son.” Izuku gagged on his own saliva. “Yep, imagine how I reacted to hearing that. Could’ve done without hearing that actually," All Might mumbled.
“Career criminal confirmed,” Izuku felt his mouth move without the consent of his brain.
“At least he cares?” All Might rocked slightly. “I honestly don’t know what to say about that information, but young Bakugou was correct in saying that he was here too. We have the guest sign in to confirm it. Either way, Eri seems to be fine and better than she was before before she assisted you.”
“Does she…?” Still have her Quirk.
“Shockingly enough, yes.”
“Oh thank god.” Izuku inhaled deeply and soothingly. “And the other news?”
“That news story I heard as I was walking in… That wasn’t the work of twelve people.” All Might’s outright grimace said far more to Izuku than words could ever capture.
“So it was one person using twelve Quirks?” Izuku asked, dumbly. “He’s been out of prison for a day and that’s the first thing he does.”
“Here’s the more uncomfortable part. We don’t actually know what the first thing he did was, but we can speculate that it involved your father from what Eri said. That crime scene? The chronology says that it happened yesterday, not long after he was done here. So, uh, the police did some tests…” Long and uncomfortable, the silence spread. All Might didn’t want to be having this discussion.
“They found my DNA, didn’t they?” Izuku asked in a small voice.
“They found some of your hair. All For One would have known where you were held from Search. So uh, it doesn’t seem like there’s much left of anything to hold to account, but we’re going to keep you guarded until we find out exactly how many people were in that building.” Lifting his shoulders into a shrug, the misery was plain on his face. "Results are going to be a while though..."
“Should I feel flattered or horrified that-that-” Izuku struggled, but the words weren’t coming. This was his fault.
“That he seemingly slaughtered the people responsible for your kidnapping? I don’t know young Midoriya, but he didn’t even do that for Shigaraki. I wouldn’t feel too bad about what happened to them if they really were the ones responsible.” An extremely strange tone hovered in All Might’s voice.
“Because if he hadn’t done it, someone would’ve had to restrain me from giving my two cents.” All Might leaned over and dragged Izuku into a constricting hug. Somehow, Izuku didn’t doubt it.
More profound still was Izuku’s mental image of All For One and All Might turning up to savage the same group of people at the same time. What a sight it would've been.
Recovery had gone about as well as Izuku expected. With no memory of the incident and only the incurable right arm, Izuku had been allowed out the door after a week of physiotherapy. In his first session, the physiotherapist had introduced Izuku into a conspiracy. “There’s not much of anything technically wrong with you as of yet, but since the government is paying for your treatment as a victim of crime, we may as well attempt to do something about that arm.” For three hours a day, that’s precisely what they did, but Izuku wasn’t sure if he could feel improvement where doctors had told him that it was too far gone.
In spite of that, it was respite from the buzzing of a sleek new phone that had been delivered to his room, courtesy of his mother. “It’s from your father,” she whispered.
“I have a father?” Izuku asked with a raised eyebrow. His mother laughed uncertainly. Upon turning it on, some seven-hundred-and-ninety-four text messages appeared with an almost equal amount of missed calls. “Is this why I wasn’t give a phone sooner?” She laughed for real then.
“Well, with how many people wanted to visit, the hospital said family only…” And All Might and poor Kacchan who’d been conscripted as the messenger.
Izuku spent that afternoon responding to the concerns of his classmates and the increasingly unhinged death threats of Kacchan which had abruptly terminated the day of Izuku’s visit from All For One. Izuku hoped he was alright.
Todoroki as well had some choice words that would have resulted in Endeavor disowning him had they been discovered. Izuku reminded him to delete the messages at his convenience.
Uraraka was a mess, but there was a dutiful carbon copy of all communications with his mother as they soldiered on with the business in spite of Izuku’s absence. Unbeknownst to Izuku, his mother had already begun to sue someone for trademark infringement.
Yaoyorozu had been fund raising for any prospective treatment. Izuku withheld that he was well beyond conventional treatment when he was found and asked for it to be used for charity instead. Ashido had been assisting her along with Iida who’d apparently almost been left catatonic by the experience, the brother’s wounds still fresh.
The list went on, Mineta having apparently tried to rush the guards to get flowers from the class to Izuku’s room. With more than a little awe, Izuku read the group recollection of it being successful, Mineta pinning the guards with the purple balls as he made the frog tongue assisted leap through the door to deliver the flowers, then the high pitched shriek as Gang Orca and Kamui Woods chased him straight back the way he came. Even more inspiring was Kirishima catching the whole thing on video as they fled the building. A surge of enraged pro heroes following behind them.
It was like watching a first-person heist film, but with more improvisational technique and screaming and threats of expulsion for embarrassing the school. Even better was Kirishima likewise catching Inko Midoriya in action, handing over a proposed pre-filing statement to a trembling Principal Nedzu, in response.
Confusingly was the text message from an unlisted number. You probably shouldn’t answer your phone for a while. Someone gave the media your phone number. This is being rectified. Feel better and see you soon. Izuku rose an eyebrow and tried not to think about the number or what the possible rectification of an entire media would entail.
A week after entering hospital, Izuku finally left it with an honor guard of pro heroes and police. To the rear, Endeavor stood, adamantly refusing to make eye contact with Izuku even as the collective held back the media surge.
Izuku was halfway into the car when he heard it and felt his lips tug upwards. “Oi dickheads,” a familiar voice called over the media bustle, “someone’s selling a pro hero’s sex tape on Yoot Auction!” Within moments, the media was gone. Grinning viciously, Zach waved at Izuku through the empty space. “Hey kid, the boss sends his regards!”
“Was there even a tape?” Izuku asked, once he’d finally closed his mouth and managed to keep it closed with Endeavor’s furious glare at his back. Why had they even fallen for it? Come to think of it, what was Zach’s Quirk?
“Maybe, but we’re the media yeah? Fact checking is the name of the game.” Zach gave a thumbs up and Izuku’s car, driven by Tsukauchi, sped off at astronomical speeds. It really did make Izuku wonder if Tsukauchi had followed a path into highway patrol before he made it into the detectives.
Another week had gone by the in the Midoriya household and his mother had given him the news that Hisashi had opted into parenting again. He was refusing to allow Izuku to attend U.A. until the security had been corrected. Izuku didn’t have the energy to argue, but hopefully would for next week. It still grated on him that someone he’d never met had suddenly started making life altering decisions on his behalf.
As it was, Iida and Yaoyorozu had been streaming him the lessons with VOIP. Crowning the streams was Todoroki utilising his fire on Kacchan, triggering a premature explosion that levelled part of the training ground. Aizawa-sensei hadn’t been amused as he casually extended his smoldering capture device towards the both of them before the feed had been cut. Izuku missed school, but his mother’s teary faced didn’t incline him much towards arguing the point.
Roughly a month and a half after “The Incident”, Izuku found himself eying off the dumpster in the alleyway beside his apartment building after a spate of redecoration. Humming thoughtfully, he looked from his three jumbo garbage bags filled with Endeavor merchandise to the overflowing skipbin.
“I think these can fit…” Maybe a One For All enhanced stomp while no one was looking…
“Will it fit you too? My friends are dead because of you!” Something watery, something familiar burbled. Izuku hardly felt the wet mass close around his legs before a superheated jet of flame rocketed past and an explosion of steam filled the alley. Dropping the bags, Izuku ducked deeper into the alley, chased by the echoing wails of the villain who’d made a pass at Izuku and Kacchan so long ago. Why is he here?
Leaning against the wall, it felt like it lasted an eternity. Unable to leave, hot steam above, withering flames in front, Izuku was trapped. With a squelch, the screams terminated with a final splash.
Izuku's curiousity for the warehouse massacre bled away in an instant.
“You know Izuku, that was every bit as satisfying as I imagined,” a warm and contented voice remarked. “You wouldn’t believe how long I’ve been waiting for him to be in a prime position.” An arm snaked its way around his shoulders and Izuku gagged as he was pulled through a black liquid. “It’s been far too long since our last conversation.”
Well, at least he hadn’t been bludgeoned this time.
You know how I said that the last chapter was the Christmas chapter? Well...
Chapter 14: Greetings of a Cryptid: Part 2
Some cryptids are better off not greeting people at all.
“Hello, Izuku,” were the first words that Izuku heard as he slowly drifted back to awareness in a place that distinctly wasn’t an alleyway. Sounds waivered in and out of his awareness as his balance returned.
Within a moment, Izuku called upon One For All and was met with nothing. “Whose life did you ruin for a nullifying Quirk?”
“Someone in public policy that you wouldn’t care about,” was the entirely candid response.
Izuku sighed hoarsely and finally registered his surroundings. Izuku was in a sitting position on a wooden bench, from the feel of the splinter rubbing up against his index finger and the glimpse of it in his peripheral vision. Leaning against someone, déjà vu assaulted him, the feeling of a warm weight resting somewhat unnaturally across his shoulders and a hand curled partially along his jaw and neck.
“I’m sorry for the discomfort, but I figured you’d appreciate some plausible deniability in the event that I’m recognised,” the same smooth tones murmured.
Blinkingly rapidly, Izuku immediately turned to face his assailant through the hold. Shifting, he was drawn in closer as his attacker adjusted to maintain his current grip.
Izuku blinked and squinted upwards into glare. “Huh, so that’s what you look like.” Izuku coughed. His throat ached from whatever he’d had the misfortune of inhaling earlier.
All For One laughed, distinctly lacking in his usual malevolance. Too casual for someone who’d tortured another person to death only minutes ago. “Too normal?” All For One was indeed almost disappointingly normal looking, his dark, curly hair swaying in a light breeze. His eyes were closed and his head tilted to one side. It was at that moment, in a surge of terror, that Izuku realised what had happened.
“You finally did it,” Izuku whispered. All For One had finally taken the opportunity to regenerate. “I suppose you wouldn’t have had to worry about Eri accidentally erasing you because you’re ancient.”
All For One snorted derisively. “Oh, I was never the concern, Izuku. That poor girl, on the other hand, clearly had issues conceptualising her powers.” All For One’s green eyes lazily blinked open as he nodded at Izuku. “Her capacity to rewind biological functionality is phenomenal. It was moreso introducing her to unit measurements so that we could track the movement of time more easily than moderating power output. Rather like teaching a learner driver the essentials of following the speed limit.”
Latching onto All For One as leverage, Izuku supported himself on his own weight. All For One’s commentary clicked into place. “Are you telling me that part of Eri’s problem is that no one taught her how to tell the time?”
“Essentially yes. She’s a young child with a poor sense of time measurement. You’d think a capable parent would have come along and discovered the issue…” All For One shrugged with irritation, eyebrows forming a frown. “Alas, I was the test case well after her Quirk was a known issue.”
“The other part was the isolation of the separate save states, right?” Izuku sneezed into the grass, feeling a tickle at the back of his throat fade. “Her Quirk wasn’t just limited to global reversions of a person, otherwise we’d both be missing memories.”
“Her doctors certainly didn’t observe it, but she was kind enough to provide the details. They seemed determined to focus on the negatives rather than the positives.” Japan’s oldest criminal shook his head. “What did you think of Overhaul’s scheme?”
Izuku squinted at him. That was unexpected. “I think it was idiotic.”
It earned Izuku a chuckle, All For One’s smirk a recognised sight. “That was blunt. A little more detail?”
“Isn’t it self-explanatory?” Izuku asked, but was met with All For One’s disapproving raised eyebrow. “Is it really the time or place?” When the eyebrow failed to lower, Izuku knew he was out of luck. “His entire plan was about reinvigorating the yakuza. There was a small problem with that plan.”
“Eri’s grandfather didn’t want to be restored as a kingpin when it involved becoming public enemy number one again. I don’t know what planet Overhaul came from, probably the same one as you actually,” Izuku slipped in and copped a mild prod to the ribs for his trouble. “Hey, who else do you know that thinks any publically minded person would approve of a child being tortured to engineer a conflict over supply and demand?”
All For One flicked a speck of dust off his suit. “Shigaraki would.”
“The only thing that’s proving is that you all come from Mars.” Izuku didn’t need to hear All For One’s snigger to know it wasn’t being taken seriously. “Seriously, it’s important.” Shifting his weight and prying some of the pressure off his throat, Izuku turned to face All For One. “You’ve run businesses, you know how PR works. The yakuza have been operating legitimate businesses and orphanages for years both for money laundering and for the tax haven benefits. Some of them do it for genuine communal reasons as well.”
“Carry on,” All For One murmured.
“Eri’s genetic code contains the ability to completely eradicate gene types, which even works on Quirks. It left traces of a unique chemical in her blood. Now, if you wanted to drag your organisation back into notability, then why waste time on a plan that risks not only attention from the heroes and legitimate authorities, but people like you who are attached to their Quirk?” It was oddly liberating to actually reach over and poke All For One in the shoulder instead of doing it verbally. It didn’t stop him from being batted away. All For One’s expression almost seemed to marginally soften from its frown.
“You’re saying the plan was inefficient.”
“It wasn’t just inefficient, it was needlessly cruel,” Izuku insisted. “Overhaul didn’t need to create a supply and demand drama over giving and taking Quirks. Overhaul could’ve taken saliva swabs, replicated her genetic code with modern lab equipment and used it to cure cancer, sickle cell disease, endometriosis and pretty much every genetic disease currently known to man with just about no inertial effects to the removal. We know that because Togata isn’t showing degenerative signs of Quirks that typically mess with genetic codes,” Izuku nodded, remembering his tear-filled searches in numerous biology and genetics journals. They’d actually improved Izuku’s mood a little once he realised it could have been much much worse for his senior. Better to be Quirkless than in a coma. “With a permit that the government couldn’t possible have refused on account of press reporting, they’d have been rolling in money and prestige almost overnight. No torture required. Eri’s Quirk is basically a time-based equivalent of yours in that it comes with containment of effects. Even you could theoretically clone Quirks with it. Instead he does what he does and…” Izuku shrugged, feeling more irritated than ever about what’d happened. “As I said, it’s stupid.”
Because what else could Izuku say about someone ruining a child’s life because of an outdated, self-hating view of Quirks?
Few things about All For One frightened Izuku, especially knowing what he he did, but the unblinking fixation that was currently pointed at Izuku made him reevaluate his current non-response to the kidnapping in progress. “Have you always been like this?” All For One asked, tugging a struggling Izuku closer. “Have you always had this intuition?”
“Uh, yes?” It was all he could do to cringe away from the examination. At least he didn’t have anything that All For One could steal.
“I should’ve thrown Shigaraki at Yagi and taken you and run,” All For One lamented, patting a writhing Izuku on the head. Panic traced through Izuku. When did he find All Might’s name?
“You do realise that it wouldn’t have been that easy?” Izuku flicked All For One’s hand off his head.
“It never is easy,” All For One sighed. “You never were particularly inclined to acts of harm regardless of what people did to you. At the same time, I don’t think it would have made a difference to the authorities now or then,” he continued with a wicked grin. ”It would have been so easy to implicate you in my escape, you know with your detailed critiques,” All For One casually explained, colour draining from Izuku’s face as he spoke. “I assume they were already suspicious of you after my visit, but giving you some space seems to have worked.”
“Is that an admission to stalking?” Izuku could taste bile.
“Supervision is hardly stalking.” That wasn’t the denial Izuku wanted.
“Is that what they call it these days…”
“Not that it did much with the number of times you died while utilising Eri’s Quirk.” Face abruptly darkening, Izuku wanted nothing more to be free from All For One’s strengthening handhold. “Was taking down Overhaul truly worth it? You would have died quite permanently without Eri’s Quirk.”
“I didn’t see anyone else doing it,” Izuku shrugged and winced, All For One’s fingers momentarily clamping down on his jaw.
“You’re a child. It’s not your problem.” Izuku had seen and heard that tone of voice used by other adults before, but never on him…
“Tsubasa being a child didn’t stop you from experimenting on and murdering him,” Izuku hissed, pulling at All For One’s unrelenting fingers. “It didn’t stop you from indoctrinating Shimura. You can’t have one set of standards for one person and another set of standards for everyone else.”
“But isn’t that what you do, Izuku?” All For One abruptly shifting and Izuku was pulled flush, both arms pinned to his side. Oh no. "You do so much for others, but never take care of yourself and no one seems to have a problem with your behaviour. Sick with the flu? Who cares, it’s not career ending. Shattering limbs with a Quirk your build and physiology is manifestly unsuitable for? It doesn’t matter, Recovery Girl who isn’t even a qualified doctor can quick fix it with her Quirk. No one questions it and nor do you take an interest in your own wellbeing.” Lulling and gentle, Izuku had an immediate sense of wrongness.
“Kidnapping isn’t exactly a sign of concern,” Izuku muttered, then jumped as a weight pressed itself against the top of his head. Did he just…? Izuku hadn’t been frightened beforehand, but this wasn’t territory that he knew.
“I have something of a dilemma, one where I’m still uncertain as to what my final solution should be,” All For One explained from a point just above Izuku’s ear. How the inversion stung. “The dilemma remains as to whatever shall I do with you? Even with limited access to One For All, you’re far more of a threat to me than All Might ever was.” Threat or not, it didn’t seem to be doing much to prevent All For One from maintaining as much contact with Izuku as was possible.
Given what All For One’s Quirk could do with skin contact… Izuku fought down a rolling wave of anxiety. It wasn’t the taking part he was worried about.
“It’s not like you haven’t got options,” Izuku couldn’t help the self-deprecating remark. “Ditch, ocean, woods, dismemberment, dumpster behind my apartment.” Izuku paused. “I suppose permanent brain damage is also an option?” Izuku received a sharp rap to the knuckles for his trouble.
“After you were already left effectively dead by society’s finest, what makes you think I’d be willing to enact that?” All For One asked in the most scandalised voice Izuku had ever heard him use. “I went to a great deal of effort to mop up the prison break caused by our wonderful government and that filth’s new-found friends. What excellence among villains to hunt down a child they presumed to be Quirkless.” If All For One had’ve used poison, he would’ve melted the bench and ground surrounding it.
“It was planned?” Izuku whispered.
“Your and Bakugou’s assailant escaped his prison went to a great deal of effort to truly stalk and eventually abduct you, leaving you a shell of a person by the end of their treatment of you,” All For One carefully explained, brushing Izuku's ear. “There was never going to be a ransom, as I extracted from them in my prejudicial visitation,” he purred into Izuku’s ear. “I took my time, not that the police will ever know about it. It was cathartic to say the least. And the one that I missed? Easily resolved.” With a stream of fire so powerful that Endeavor himself would be hardpressed to match it.
“So brain damage is off the table then, but you still have a whole host of other dumping options.” Izuku pointed out. If Izuku wasn’t going to be horribly murdered, then what was the agenda?
“To the contrary, I may only have two options. Can you help me decide?” All For One had shed his evasive, prison mannerisms and so much more was evident in the tensing movements that Izuku was subject to while being restrained.
“Depends on what you want.” Izuku fumbled, unable to reach upwards through the bearhug encircling him.
“I saved your life. Twice. Can I finally hear your tragic backstory?” All For One encouraged.
Izuku groaned. “It’s nothing particularly interesting.”
“You’d be surprised as to what I find interesting.”
Why would All For One even remotely care about any of this information? None of it made sense. All For One himself didn’t make sense, entirely too comfortable with his death grip around Izuku. At the same time, what would happen if Izuku gave him what he wanted? It’s not like he could talk to anyone on Izuku’s side of the fence without them attacking or arresting him.
“Remember my absentee dad?”
“Yes.” All For One twitched.
“It starts with him. Mum married him, had me and that’s where his story ends and there’s the problem,” Izuku tiredly recounted. It was an old, exhausted story. “He supposedly vanished overseas for work, but he doesn’t contact us, there’s no photos, no calls, nothing but the money that he sends. We moved into an apartment because of him at some stage. I didn’t know his name let alone whether or not he was alive. It’s the only thing Kacchan never teased me over.” Izuku hesitated and swallowed thick, ropey saliva carefully. “In all honesty, I don’t really care about him not being there.”
“How harsh.” All For One’s tones were flat, affectless.
“I can’t miss what I’ve never had,” Izuku waved somewhat pathetically with a restricted arm. “There’s nothing to be attached to. The problem is that mum had him, did and probably still does miss him. It was okay at the start. There was the pretence that he still existed. Then I found out I was Quirkless and he was nowhere to be seen. There was no closure, no comfort. Mum blamed herself for me not having a Quirk. She never told me why she felt that way when making me was a joint effort. I don’t think she could understand how she had a kid without a Quirk if her husband was who he said he was, then it just flowed on from there. She blamed herself for marrying him and then just stopped talking about him. She took the money to feed me and lived with the anxiety…”
The grip on Izuku’s shoulder was unrelenting. “I see.”
“But heroes made mum happy. It distracted her from… life, I guess. All Might filled the void that dad left behind. She didn’t have any family or friends to talk to and dad didn’t exist let alone his family, so it was our distraction from the loneliness. The logic was simple. I become a hero and mum’s happy. She had something to look forward to, a goal. It’s not like she could work, not while she was living the lie that dad was still here.”
“Then the doctor told you that you were Quirkless,” All For One finished tonelessly.
“Yeah, and it was all downhill from there. Not everyone is born equal. I knew that at four years old. The dream was gone for mum and she couldn’t cope with the stress of the lie anymore and ended up gaining weight. The bullying started. It wasn’t just at school, either, I was a walking joke to just about everyone. I went from being a relatively normal kid to a useless freak without a future, not worthy of being around other kids my age. You’d know what it’s like if my guess from before is correct,” Izuku shrugged through the crushing grip. “Mum’s marriage was a lie and her son was useless,” Izuku attempted to flick a bit of slime from his sleeve. “And it got to the point where it was a lot healthier for me to not care about what everyone else thought.”
“You carried on with Quirk analysis anyway.” Levelly voiced, All For One wasn’t really giving Izuku any clues as to what was swirling through his head.
“In the vain hope that maybe it would get me a step closer to my dreams and to making mum happy.” There wasn’t much point in having a dream when every single person including All Might himself thought that you were a joke. Izuku wasn't even sure what he would have done with life if All Might hadn't have come along.
“It didn’t,” All For One murmured.
“I suppose it helped in its own way. That sludge villain you just pulverised… that wasn’t the first run in I had with him, which is what I told you before,” and Izuku winced as he spoke, feeling fingers claw into him. “Those notes of mine saved Kacchan’s life. It let him breathe for that moment longer.”
“Bakugou was trapped by him and you intervened while the heroes stood watching on, feeling incapable, in spite of your near death experience. I remember,” All For One uttered, vocals utterly closed. “It was that ounce of slime who corrected the media as to your intervention. They would have ignored you otherwise. One of the decidedly more shameful responses from the media, police and heroes in the recent decades.” Izuku snorted half-heartedly – All For One had gotten around to his media binge in the last month it seemed.
“Bakugou wasn’t his first victim that day,” Izuku stated sadly, preparing himself to finally fill in the picture. “It was a bad day to begin with, everyone talking about high school. All I wanted to do was go to U.A. and help people. Wasn’t good enough for them. Kacchan told me to taking a running leap of the roof and hope for a Quirk in the next life,” Izuku added somewhat indifferently. “It’s funny now that I think about, because he’d probably be long dead if I’d taken him up on that with what Shigaraki did at the camp. Not to mention what would’ve happened if he hadn’t died and U.A.’s admission board found out about it.”
“Shigaraki wasn’t incorrect in his deductions of Bakugou’s personality,” All For One added coolly. “It’s a shame I never got around to rendering further assistance.”
“You’d have ended up turning him into a Noumu when recruitment failed and he would hunted me down and murdered me while still mindless,” Izuku pointed out rather bluntly. “Kinda defeats the purpose of you doing it on my behalf.”
“Provided no one killed him first as you saw with Stain. He would have suffered the whole time and Shigaraki would have learnt the valuable lesson that some people simply aren’t worth wasting the effort on.” Izuku cringed at the almost hopeful tone in the man’s voice and the gentle rock that followed.
“Why do I have the feeling that you’re directing that to me just as much as Shigaraki?”
All For One shrugged, Izuku being pulled along for the movement.
“I was walking home through the tunnel and got ambushed by your third favourite person. Almost died. I could feel myself slipping away and was powerless to do anything,” Izuku tugged at his sleeve and received a light smack to his knuckles. “I never expected anyone to come. No one was there before, why expect anything then? He would’ve worn me like a puppet and I doubt anyone but mum would’ve noticed. All Might saved me at the last moment and that was how I met him. I asked him if I could still be a hero without a Quirk,” Izuku smiled bitterly. “He ran out of time, reverted to his real form and said I’d be better off in the police because it was a dangerous job that’ll end up maiming me. Quirkless people need not apply to heroism.”
“He destroyed your dreams… just like that?” It wasn’t quite disbelief as it was the same sharp, frigid contempt that had permeated all of the previous discussions of All Might.
“Just like that. After what you did to him, that was probably as much of a comment on his career as mine,” Izuku added. “I think you only have yourself to blame for that.”
“Yet it didn’t stop him from giving you a Quirk that is slowly killing you,” All For One tartly hissed from above.
Izuku ignored him. “Then, as I was heading home I stumbled across Kacchan. All of the heroes were just standing there, watching, waiting for someone with a better Quirk to come along while he suffocated. No one tried to help. So I ran and tossed my bag at the villain in the hope Kacchan would get air. It bought him time to breathe and gave All Might the incentive for a last burst of energy. It changed his mind about me not being hero material.”
“You could have died in the attempt.”
“Only mum would’ve cared. No one else seemed to. I’ve had so many near death experiences in the last couple of years and dad’s never so much as sent a text message,” Izuku reflected. “Even Kacchan recently sent some texts threatening to kill me a second time if I got myself killed. That was surprisingly thoughtful of him.”
“Why value the opinions of others so much over your own wellbeing? As you said, you never expected anyone to help you. They did less than nothing for you and attacked you for wasting your efforts on him. Heroics certainly contributed to that line of propaganda.” Suaveness might have worked on Shigaraki, but Izuku knew exactly how this man worked.
“It wasn’t really that. If I’d died, dad wouldn’t have attended the funeral and mum could’ve filed for a one-sided divorce with that as evidence of negligence of the marriage with whatever property the forensic accountants could have forced.” If Izuku hadn’t made it to the ripe old age of sixteen, he couldn’t have imagined his mother to have been in a position to do much of anything without help. With hindsight, it became clearer that an untimely death would’ve completely ruined her.
“She could’ve done something else with her life that actually made her happy, so the logic went. And me? Well, when everyone else doesn’t care about your wellbeing, the apathy rubs off. Logically, I’d be too dead to care. May as well help someone in need in the meantime.” Tears weren’t very forthcoming, it was too old a wound, too numb and too dead. In some ways, it made Izuku feel even worse for voicing it so emptily to Japan’s most notorious serial killer before his could even tell it to his mother. Maybe it was for the best that his mother didn’t know.
A yen could’ve dropped on the other side of Japan and Izuku was fairly certain he would have heard it. The archfiend of Japan stared blankly at him from Izuku's peripheries, as though looking at him for the very first time. “That bad, huh?” There was something horribly wrong with the lack of affect in All For One’s far too young voice. There was simply absence. “I'd never realised that it had gone so far…”
“I never told mum or anyone else, but I think everyone would’ve been happier if they didn’t have a kid. I only ended up with One For All out of dumb luck, and if I hadn’t? Well, statistics suggest that the life expectancy for Quirkless people isn’t great. We’re disproportionately represented in the hate crimes category,” Izuku nodded to himself, feeling All For One’s weight disappear as he did so.
“You’re the only person’s who’s ever actually asked about it and it’s not like you’re in a position to be telling anyone who matters,” Izuku sighed with relief. “I never told All Might for the simple reason that it got better. In the meantime, I used analytics to compensate for the injuries from One For All. I borrowed the techniques of other people to compensate for it and life went on.”
Abrupt silences were All For One’s indicator that something was terribly wrong. If he wasn’t speaking, he was thinking and what tended to come after those thoughts was almost always never pleasant for the subject of them. A longer silence, a more grisly fate, so Izuku assumed from the mounting force constricting him.
“I’ve missed so much. Being a wanted criminal has that impact, I suppose” All For One conceded lightly. “Shigaraki cared about his own wellbeing, which is a stark contrast to you who almost lost arms due to a school festival,” and within a moment it was scathing. Touching, Izuku thought to himself.
“I guess you saw the scars on my hands and arms,” Izuku laughed nervously and attempted to lean away from the man who still wouldn’t let go. “My hands definitely wouldn’t be steady enough for medicine.”
“Oh, I saw those after I retrieved you from your last misadventure. You pulverised your bones for a simple provocation. I have my doubts as to whether or not you’d be mentally sound enough to make it into medicine,” All For One lamented. “I think I can correct your hands though, as something of consolation prize. That much is trifling for me to fix.”
“That really isn’t necessary,” Izuku stuttered out. “I’m fine.” How exactly was All For One planning on fixing anything with Izuku’s complete lack of cooperation was beyond conception.
“You’re in constant pain. Speaking from experience, it’s not fine.”
Finally, All For One let go and Izuku gasped for air.
Izuku called for One For All again, huffing at it’s stubborn absence. “Did you have to get a ranged Quirk nullifier?” Izuku rubbed his aching ribs. “Wait, if it’s ranged, why were you…?” Izuku rocked back and forth. “I don’t want to know.” He was fairly certain that he was going to throw up if he did know.
“My apologies Izuku, I’ll do better this time around. It’s not exactly a level of expertise that you deserve.” This time around? Izuku could’ve run, but the slice of park with the crashing of waves behind them was familiar. There was nowhere to run to, especially with Transmission not reliant on coordinates. Transmission would catch him before he could out range it.
“Do what?” Izuku glared at All For One. “Murder more people from school?”
“Tempting, but no.” Reaching into a pocket, All For One extracted a piece of paper and held it in front of Izuku. Standing out were Izuku’s personal details scrawled in near illegible handwriting across a page headed with Informed Consent and Department of Orthopaedics heading along the top of it. Hisashi Midoriya, Inko Midoriya and a signature Izuku didn’t recognise were at the end of the page.
“What-what is that?” Izuku nearly whimpered. No no no no.
“The consent form to correct your right hand.” No mockery, no satisfaction, no joy in what he was saying, it was like All For One was coaxing an animal into a slaughterhouse.
“Why are you showing me it?”
“Why not?” All For One bowed his head. “I had to sign it after all. I may as well be the one to deliver the news.”
Without ado, Izuku’s brain screeched to a halt.
Three signatures. One was absentee dad, one was mum, one was presumably the doctor.
Hisashi Midoriya had picked up Eri from the hospital, but he wasn’t logged as being in the hospital. Hisashi Midoriya was the person who asked her for the favour. Hisashi Midoriya had signed in to visit Izuku, but conveniently enough there were no recordings of “Hisashi” at either hospital. All For One had conveniently cut all power to the hospital where Izuku was held, leaving god knows how many people adrift from life until he’d finished his business. Because he was healed, a traitorous part of Izuku’s brain whispered, and he had something to hide, didn’t he? Something he didn’t want to tell you about. Something All Might would have seen a second time.
All For One who had both arms torn off by All Might. All For One with brain damage and Hisashi Midoriya who had to learn how to write again for an injury that occurred at the same time as All For One’s injuries.
All For One who cooked the sludge villain alive and eeked every last scream from him for going after Izuku. Hisashi Midoriya who breathed fire.
All For One, premier pursuer of trashy gossip magazines. Hisashi Midoriya who owned at least three of them.
All For One, two century old monster. Hisashi Midoriya who felt too old to be in relationships despite his seemingly young appearance.
All For One, a first-generation Quirk wielder with no significant genetic background. Hisashi Midoriya, a supposedly fourth generation Quirk wielder who somehow had a Quirkless son in spite of his so-called genetic history.
All For One, his brother long dead. Hisashi Midoriya, the only mentioned family the dead brother.
All Might, Shigaraki and his mother's response to his appearance...
All For One’s overbearing concern, his massacre of those responsible for Izuku’s injury. All For One’s reluctance to let go, his immediate appearance at the hospital.
“Oh,” Izuku whispered.
The second time All For One wrapped his arms around him to pull his limp form from the seat, he didn’t need to wonder why.
And they were gone.
“What, why isn’t he here?” Toshinori almost found himself demanding from young Midoriya’s mother from his seat in her dining room.
“He’s with his father,” Inko Midoriya called from the kitchen.
“Young Midoriya has a father?” Exploded from Toshinori in shock with a spray of blood. Whoops. Toshinori dived for the tissue box and began frantically mopping at the table.
“Yes, Izuku’s going in for surgery tomorrow. Hisashi said he’d take care of Izuku and give me a break,” her voice floated out above the pitch of the kettle.
“Isn’t that a bit late after sixteen years?” Toshinori asked, already doubting himself. “The school could’ve taken care of it.”
Inko Midoriya stepped into the room with a flowery tray full of cakes and tea.
“Hisashi didn’t think so. He visited after that prisoner retrieved Izuku and I’ve never seen him so angry,” Inko said in an undertone, face drawn into a frown. “There was so much I wanted to say… but he was at the door and talking about Izuku being injured and there just wasn’t time.”
Toshinori froze with the teacup halfway to his mouth. “Was this before or after we called you?”
“Before,” she confirmed. “Moments before you rang actually.”
What was left of Toshinori’s stomach violently lurched. “How the… Mrs Midoriya, you were the first family member we contacted about young Midoriya.” No one knew… apart from All For One who’d busted out not long after the ambulance left. “What does your husband look like?”
“Hisashi is very similar to Izuku. When he got dressed up that ball he looked so much like his father. A younger version of him,” Inko Midoriya reminisced. “Hisashi couldn’t stand casual wear, he always wore a suit because he said that never truly left work. Izuku’s the opposite, he couldn’t stand formal wear because he hated formality.” She smiled. “Hisashi hasn’t contacted me in years, but I suppose it’s a good sign that he cared enough about Izuku to be here.”
Toshinori stiffly nodded, his mind drifting back to Izuku stepping out from the room, cleaned up and ready to ruin Endeavor’s night. “Was there anything odd about Hisashi?”
“He was always so old-fashioned, it was like being married to an old man. Socially, he was very progressive, but he really didn’t like how the government’s regulations work. Said he’d been complaining about it for two-hundred years,” Inko Midoriya laughed. Toshinori dropped his teacup with a crash.
“He did? What else was there about him?”
“He had an extra toe joint, which he always used to complain about. Said it made him a mutant,” Inko hummed, eyes far away. “Said he never expected to get married because of feuds he had with people due to work.” Her gaze fell. “I guess that’s what he was really dealing with for sixteen years. I don’t think he wanted anyone to know that he had a family. I’m sorry I put Izuku through it…”
“It’s alright, you didn’t know,” Toshinori assured the sniffling woman, even as his heart thundered in his chest. It couldn’t be…
“I’ll give young Midoriya a call. Thanks for the tea.” Toshinori stood, bowed and bolted from the room, reaching for his phone.
“Tsukauchi, do we still have those blood tests of All For One?”
“What, yeah, what about it?” Tsukauchi yawned through the phone.
“We have a problem.”
“Oh for god’s sake.”
Several hours later, Toshinori and Tsukauchi were crammed into Eri’s room. “So, who did you meet when young Midoriya’s father was here?”
“It was just him,” the white-haired girl bounced on her bed, stuffed animal in hand. “He was really nice to me, said he’d heard about me in passing and wanted to know if I could help him help his son.”
Toshinori and Tsukauchi exchanged looks.
“He wasn’t… he wasn’t healthy though,” she added in a tiny voice.
“What do you mean by that?” Tsukauchi asked as gently as he dared.
“Someone ruined his face, he couldn’t see me. He said he couldn’t use his Quirk properly until he was healed and that Izuku was dying. That someone kidnapped him on his way home and that he wasn’t expected to make it.” Eri’s lip wobbled.
The arm of Toshinori’s chair cracked. Oh shit.
“I almost said no, but he said that my Quirk wouldn’t hurt him because he was so old. Said that his wife would kill him if she ever found out his real age,” Eri laughed quietly. “He was really upset about Izuku. I still wasn’t sure…”
“But?” Tsukauchi coaxed.
“He told me that my Quirk was “mind over matter” and that if I could judge time I could judge when to turn my Quirk off. He walked me through telling the time and what the measurements meant in reality and the averages. He said a point of comparison helped so for him I thought about that monument they built seven years ago, the one in the park near the beach dad took me to. So… I used my Quirk and his face healed and he looked like Izuku, but with shorter hair that was black.” She fidgeted. “Did I do something wrong?”
“No, you did wonderfully.” Toshinori didn’t even feel guilty for saying it, because without it young Midoriya wouldn’t have survived the experience. What would All For One have done then? “What happened after that?”
“He said he had to warn his wife about something and that’d he’d be back.”
The second arm of Toshinori’s chair cracked and he hastily rose to his feet. “Sorry, dunno what’s wrong with me. What about after that?”
Eri rocked slightly from side to side. “He came back, just reappeared in the room. Picked me up and we were in a dark room. I couldn’t see anything. He said Izuku was in the middle, that he was dying and that I had to rewind time by a week… So I thought about the weekly television schedule for Sunday afternoons… and I did. It worked,” Eri beamed. “He said that if anyone walked in that I should be quiet because he didn’t want to get me in trouble. Then I went through some liquid and I was back here. He stopped by to thank me not long after. Am… I in trouble?”
“No, you’re not sweetheart,” Tsukauchi reached over and patted her on the hand. “I think Mr Midoriya’s wife is going to string him up from the top of the apartment building though.”
“Not if I get to him first,” Toshinori growled.
“Blood tests first,” Tsukauchi reminded him in an undertone, out of Eri’s earshot.
Toshinori grunted his agreement. Young Midoriya’s limp and lifeless form sprawled on the operating table filled his vision, the elder Midoriya hovering over him as he had been seven years prior, whole, healthy and every bit as dangerous as he'd ever been with his unknowing child in his grasp… He’d never wanted to be more ill in his entire life, even after Hisashi Midoriya had torn a hole clean through the middle of him. Somehow, this was worse.
And so we reach the reveal. Yay, nay? Honestly, this was the second chapter I actually wrote for this story. I've been itching to post it since I started.
Stay tuned for the continuation in Kidnapping of a Cryptid. Make sure you guys bookmark or keep the series page on hand (the series link is at the bottom of the summary) for an alert for the update which should be in time for New Year. New Year... new story.