Toshinori was on his knees, knowing he was about to die, killed by a monster who had been alive for more than one hundred years.
One for All was still trying to spread through him, to give him the force to at least stand, but Toshinori's own body was too weak to exploit it. His strength had left him as he was hurting from a thousands wounds, broken, and helpless.
''Thank you for such a wonderful comedy,'' All for One said, a smile on his lips as if he was amused by the efforts exerted by the One for All user.
While red lightning was dancing all around him.
All for One raised his hand and brought the end in its absolute certainty while All Might was too weak to prevent it.
Toshinori woke up in his bed, his fists clenched, air blocked in his breath. He stayed between the dream that was still clutching him and the reality of his safe home, slowly convincing himself that he wasn't about to die even though the adrenaline in his system didn't quite agree.
He sat up and passed a hand though his air, focusing on his lungs. His side hurt, which was usual with such vivid memories, even the fabricated ones.
Nightmares were also usual. Toshinori had seen so much. He had made so many mistakes, failed to save so many people. He could usually live with that, reminding himself that he had saved more, and made more right decisions. But his subconscious didn't always care about that.
Maybe this time, it was different. Maybe it was provoked by guilt. He had tricked a kid into telling some deeply personal information about himself, using his literal hero worship to his advantage.
He had been partly right, but it still didn't feel right.
Toshinori got out of bed and dragged himself to the kitchen. His throat was parched, and he had a class with the Third Years in several hours. He needed to go back to sleep if he hoped to keep up with almost-heroes.
They were all very good. Most of them had field experience, they mastered their quirk almost perfectly, and all of them knew their motivations, and they would be great addition to the hero force. And this made his choice so much harder.
Being strong wasn't enough to inherit One for All. There was something else. A powerful quirk was almost secondary, a good physical form was a requirement, but it went beyond. A motivation. An ideal.
At least, none of them will need to fight All for One.
His thoughts were interrupted when he tripped on something and the Symbol of Peace suddenly had to fight against the traitorous gravity. A fight he won, of course, for All Might never lost.
His house was warm and a mess, though a generally organized one. That was one of his constant dilemma : did he really need that much space ? He lived alone, didn't have any family to invite, and he didn't have a housekeeper that could help him manage all the space. But now, he was used to his oversized nest and the idea of moving out just tired him out.
Maybe he needed a pet.
Except he wasn't home enough to keep an animal fed.
He felt a sharp pain in his lungs, and this time, it wasn't brought by a memory. He rushed to the sink. Blood splattered the chromed surface.
He sat as soon as he could, a bottle of Coke in his hand, and feeling feverish. He was getting more and more tired as days passed.
One of the advantage of teaching was that it had least limited his use of One for All to the classes, to his physician's relief. If he could have, the good doctor would have prevented Toshinori to ever use his quirk again because of the strain it put on his body.
A strain more and more intense as days passed, if he had to be honest.
Izuku was living in an intense state of regret ever since he had came home, took a nap, and realized he had revealed his secret to the most popular man of the country.
All Might had been perfect. He had told him everything he wanted to hear.
But things changed, and it wasn’t like they were equals. If All Might revealed his secret with even a hint of disapproval, Izuku’s career was at risk before it started. While if Izuku revealed anything about One for All, he would get categorized as crazy or as bitter. They weren't on an equal footing.
He had spent the whole week-end obsessively training, and had even beaten his previous speed record by pretending he was running away from his problems. He didn't dare to talk to his mother about what happened. He didn't even brought up the Sport Festival, even though it was only a week away.
But when he went back to school on Monday, the doors let him pass, his classmates didn't ran away to save their quirks or something, and when he saw All Might incognito, he smiled at him, warmth reaching his eyes, which confirmed him that maybe, just maybe, Izuku worried too much.
Their schedule had been freed during the afternoon. They had normal classes in the morning, but after lunch, they either had the possibility to train their quirks with Cementos, Midnight, and Snipe, or they could use the free time to do as they wished. Officially, it seemed to be to accommodate people with special quirks who had what they needed at home, but Izuku was semi-convinced that it was because Aizawa-Sensei wasn't in shape to train them.
People from every classes were invited but almost none of them came, which somewhat confirmed his theory.
Neither did Izuku, at least for the first two days, until his mom had enough and reminded him how excited he had been at the idea of making friends, and how socializing at school might be a more successful approach than 'hiding in deserted places playing with your quirks'.
So, on Wednesday, he stayed and followed the rest of the group to Ground Beta, Uraraka and Iida overjoyed that he had decided to join them.
His plan of staying near his two friends failed before it had the time to begin. First, Iida's training consisted in running everywhere, and though he could have followed him, Izuku didn't quite wanted to shadow him. Second, he had completely underestimated how serious Uraraka was when it came to training. Talking to her while she was making rocks float wasn't an option.
Also, she was so focused her eyes were terrifying, so Izuku chose a nice spot, slightly elevated, definitely far away from everyone, and he put on his phone a playlist of special moves he wanted to try.
From his elevated vantage, he could see the others, but this time, it wasn't the quirks that were drawing his attention. Not only the quirks. Even with Ashido and Kaminari, who were playing around, there was a new intensity in the way they were using their quirks. The USJ accident had left its mark.
He understood, of course. Being in competition with each other was one thing. Realizing villains wouldn't wait for them to progress before attacking was another.
Quirk manifestations all around were distracting him. His secondary ability wasn't often triggered because the quirk regulation law usually kept people from using quirks in public spaces. He had noticed that during the entrance exam, but didn't think about it later, haunted by the possibility that UA could send him the bill for their giant expensive, and at the time pulverized, robot.
I will have to work on that.
Meanwhile, he took earbuds and put music, distracting himself from the quirks and allowing himself to immerse himself into his physical and mostly quirkless training.
He realized a little too late someone was calling him.
Izuku's feet touched the ground again and he took of his earbuds, panting, to see the red-haired teenager down the little plateau he was using. He looked almost sheepish, and coming from Kirishima, this was just strange.
''Sorry, I didn't hear what you just said,'' Izuku smiled.
That seemed to reassure him.
''Do you want to spar ?'' he repeated.
Izuku jumped, down, and at the chance of finally having fun, landing in front of Kirishima. ''Yes ! With pleasure !''
Izuku activated Speed. He wouldn't use Strength for now, not until he knew how much Kirishima could bear. This was a great opportunity because Kirishima was a melee fighter, and this was something Izuku wasn't used to. Even better, he could withstand blunt force traumas.
Unless his quirk only protected the external layer of him, like Resistance. Then enough strength would turn his insides into mush, which was to be avoided.
Let's find out.
But he waited for the usual quirk-attuned alarm in his mind to ring. Or at least to see some skin hardening.... And waited... And waited...
''You're not using your quirk ?'' Izuku finally asked.
''Oh, I thought we would just fight. If you hit me with your bare hands and my quirk is activated, you could hurt yourself.''
Izuku smiled, touched that he would worry about him: ''I am going to use my quirk, so it would only be fair for the both of us.''
And so much more interesting.
Kirishima agreed and took of his shirt, but without activating his quirk yet. There was still a wound on his shoulder, red and ugly. Izuku would have to make sure not to touch it.
Izuku put himself in position, arms raised, light on his feet. Kirishima was ripped, so he had weight and power on his size. No matter how strong Izuku was, physics didn't change and if he caught him, he would have trouble getting out since he could hardly hurt him.
Kirishima's skin hardened in front of Izuku's very eyes, taking the consistence of sharpened stone, and the red-haired boy lunged at him, all in power and passion.
Kirishima stumbled down, but managed to remain upright, so Izuku helped him find the ground with a light kick behind the knees.
Izuku circled around the fallen fighter, careful.
''Your quirk is cool, but I am not a wall. You can't break though me.''
Kirishima kicked him from the ground, trying to reap his leg, but Izuku had seen the shift in his balance and easily avoided him, but was caught off guard when Kirishima jumped at him as if he was built on springs, and the next punch passed too close for comfort.
I am underestimating his speed because all I see is a Toughness quirk. Not everyone relies completely on their quirk like me.
He took advantage of Kirishima's still extended , and hit him in his unprotected ribs, reminding himself at the last moment to use Durability.
It was like hitting a wall of bricks. Kirishima was right to warn him, because if Izuku had just hit him, he would have scrapped his knuckles. Since he didn't use any Strength, it wasn't enough to make Kirishima fall, but he definitely felt it.
But it didn't stop Kirishima, of course. He kept trying to hit him, a goofy smile on his face as he was having fun, and he never stop attacking.
He never landed any hit either.
Cooldown was now constantly activated to allow Izuku to keep using Acceleration.
''No wide movements,'' Snipe ordered from the sidelines. ''It makes you slow.''
Kirishima did a double take when he saw one of their teacher and a demi dozens of students watching the fight, having somehow missed them.
Izuku didn't took advantage of his distraction to attack, a fact Kirishima noticed.
Seriously, dude ? he seemed to ask silently.
''I thought you were going to use your quirk, Midoriya. Why are you not attacking ?''
His knuckles hit each other, producing a spark.
''… I was wondering how long you could held your quirk,'' Izuku admitted.
He wasn't going to wait until it stopped, but he was a little curious to see if Kirishima would get more and more tired as Izuku made him run around.
''You little...'' Kirishima joked and he tried to hit him again.
Izuku avoided again, but this time, he lowered himself, punch him in the chest, and surged behind him. Kirishima kicked him in reverse, and a quick and discreet Slide and Glide saved Izuku's hip.
''Kick his... bottom, Kirishima !'' Ashido screamed.
''Midori ! Fight !'' Hakagure yelled.
''Both of you do your best !'' Iida screamed, not wishing to take a side.
''Aren't you supposed to be training ?'' Snipe asked.
Several variations of ''We're taking a break'' followed.
Izuku got closer, hands raised, hoping to block Kirishima's hand in order to punch him in the face. He quickly realized the other fighter hit like a mule, and as Kirishima threw one mean punch, Izuku managed to block it, but not the power behind it so he accidentally hit himself in the face. Ouch. That's why I usually don't get that close.
He got away but Kirishima chased him. It was the first time he managed to somewhat land a hit, and he wasn't letting Izuku go.
Ashido cheered from the sides.
Don't chase after speed, a voice from a long time ago echoed in his mind. It's timing, control and fluidity that you want. There is no need to get somewhere fast so long as you get there at the right time.
He parried, avoided, searching for the right opening. Take your time. Kirishima was hitting faster and harder than before, tired of seeing Izuku only playing defense, maybe. No, he was still cheerful, happy because like Izuku, he felt alive and happy in those moments where they could use their quirks without worrying about the consequences.
And for a moment, he let his enthusiasm get the better of himself. He had been watching his balance and his guard since Izuku had taken advantage of it, but for a moment, he forgot about him and started to lunge at Izuku again.
He got sloppy, because for this brief moment, he thought it wouldn't matter.
Izuku jumped and kicked, almost flying. His foot connected with Kirishima's unguarded chest and it propelled him through the hair. The red-haired teenager went airborne and landed roughly on the ground.
A little too roughly.
''Are you OK ?'' Izuku yelled, already rushing to him.
Kirishima put a thumb up while trying to breathe but didn't made any attempts to move more than what was strictly necessary.
''I regain the ability to breathe and we're doing that again,'' he warned Izuku.
One thing which was always underestimated by any PE teacher was how hungry teenagers could become after using their quirks. Fortunately, UA teachers and Iida Tenya had it covered and at one point, the whole class, minus Todoroki, Kacchan, and Yaoyorozu, took a collective break and converged towards the snacks.
Izuku himself grabbed some chocolate bars, and satisfied his craving for sweets away from the crowd, like a greedy squirrel. However, it was without counting the overly friendly Kirishima who walked to him and brought him a can.
They drank orange juice in a comfortable silence
''Can I ask you a question ?''
Since Izuku's mouth was still full of half chewed chocolate, he nodded.
''Friday, when you ripped into this white-haired guy...''
''I did ?''
Izuku didn't remember it like that. He just talked to the 1-B boy.
''Oh yes,'' Kirishima confirmed. ''You were really intense a real change compared to your sunshine personality.. You're also intimidating when you use your quirk.''
Izuku just freaked out silently about it. Was he rude? He didn't remember being rude, only annoyed, but he didn't scream or anything.
When Kirishima continued, his voice was flat and he wasn't facing Izuku: ''What I mean to say... Despite what you say, I didn't save you at the USJ. I appreciate it but I am the only one who didn't do anything. Except being taken hostage.''
Izuku could perfectly remember the USJ. The fear subdued by the need to act, the pain, the wait for the heroes, and at one point, some warmth which had grounded him. He drank a little orange juice, giving himself time to think. He knew what he wanted to say. Now, he just had to find the words to express it.
''You remember when Todoroki stabbed the noumu and I managed to go back to you ? I was in shock, in pain, and generally in bad shape. You asked me if I was OK. Then you put yourself in front of Todoroki and I to protect us. At that moment, knowing someone had my back... it meant the world to me.''
Next time Izuku looked at Kirishima, the boy was hiding his smile behind his orange juice can, and relief flooded Izuku.
Afterwards, they sparred together again and this time, Izuku used more quirks. It might have been because his mind finally had the occasion to relax with some friendly interactions, but Izuku realized something that should have been obvious right after his conversation with All Might, but panic had made him stupid.
All Might might know about the nature of Izuku's quirk, but Izuku knew a secret more valuable than the nature of his quirk : his time limit. It could easily be proved, and All Might couldn't deny it.
He was safer than he thought.
Sadly, his mid-fight revelation kept him from noticing one incoming punch and Kirishima made him fly.
Izuku got out of training early, and went to buy delicious food as a bribe, so his mother would be in good dispositions this evening.
The meals were usually his mother's responsibility. Izuku could technically cook, but the management of working in a kitchen simply didn’t agree with him. His mind wandered, He could, and liked, being distracted by his own thoughts, but when that happened while cooking, things tended to burn. So he was in charge of cleaning while his mother was the Chef. But when she got home late because of work, she did appreciate when she had nothing to do.
She might have sensed the ambush when she came home to a spotless apartment and a meal composed of all her favorite foods already on the table, while Izuku was already waiting at the door.
''Did you crash the car we don't have or something ?''
‘’I would like us to talk about the Sport Festival.’’
''Let's eat first. Then, we can talk.''
They actually had a pleasant meal. Izuku talked about his classmates and about the teachers. His mother told him a story about a client with a mutation quirk which didn't let him pass through the door, and there was no housing that could accommodate him, so one of her coworker took a hammer to several walls.
And as soon as she finished the last pork bite, Izuku attacked.
‘’The Sport Festival isn’t just an event particular from UA. Pro heroes will Watch it, and they will propose us internships, which I will need for school. Later, I will need it when I work.’’
His mother made a face.
‘’So this is necessary to be a hero ?’’
‘’But the problem is that you took this exam without consulting with me. And you already knew that I didn’t like the idea of your quirk being broadcast.’’
‘’My strictly enhancer quirk that I spend months refining ?’’ he reminded her.
If she was scared people would know about Transfer, this was taken care of.
‘’And all those other quirks that I am sure you love to use,'' she added.
Lies. Izuku was barely interested in quirks. Everyone knew that.
His mother grabbed his hands and looked at him with real concern in her eyes, which sobered him up instantly.
''You trained all your life use to the right quirk in the right situation. So I need you to be frank with me. Will you be able to resist not using them ? There are fights in this tournament. If you feel in danger, are you sure you won’t grab your opponent’s quirk to make him stop ?’’
The five quirks taken to the noumu were burning within him.
''I won't grab any quirks. I can promise you that. As for using those I already have. You're worried about someone realizing I have several quirks ? Is that it ?''
If it was all there was, he could deal with that.
His mother hesitated for a brief moment. Izuku noticed it but didn't comment on it.
''Yes, that's my concern,'' she said.
Izuku put his palms on the table and took a deep breath.
He went behind her back by taking the hero exam. He didn't tell her about the quirks he stole. He couldn't keep ignoring what she thought. It was unfair.
''If it can reassure you, I think I can get by the first trial by using only passive quirks. Especially since I have a Shock Absorption quirk now. I will forfeit for the one on one. I just need to be seen. But next year, when I have more experience and training, I would like to do the full event.''
His mother smiled.
''I was about to let you do it, Izuku. I am realizing I can't always overprotect you.''
She was about to accept ? Why did I open my big mouth ?
''But it's true that for now, especially with the villain attack that attracted everyone's attention on the First Years, I would be more at ease if we did that.''
Then, it was worth it.
N : [How are you supposed to participate in the
Sport Festival without using your quirk ?]
Me : [ With panache.]
N : [How are you supposed to NOT BE ELIMINATED IN THE FIRST
FIVE MINUTES of the Sport Festival , then ?]
Me : [I am working on it.]
N : [What about your speech ?]
Me : [I am working on it.]
N : [You have no idea of what you’re doing and
you’re just saying yes to everything so you can
participate in this stupid event, aren’t you ?]