Izuku never reached the cafeteria after his conversation with Todoroki. He sensed the dread creeping up on him, and he realized the crowd of people talking about the incoming tournament wouldn't be good for him.
There was a wooden zone inside UA, not far from the stadium. It was calm, almost peaceful, so Izuku sat on the grass, his back to a tree, and he texted Urarara and Iida to warn them he wouldn't arrive anytime soon. Which caused much screaming from Iida because he estimated that Izuku might pass out from skipping lunch or something.
Izuku sat in the middle of the silence, mentally checking on his quirks.
The counting grounded him.
He wasn't unsettled because of the talk with Todoroki. Or by his mistake during the cavalry battle. This was probably just a general excess of everything finishing to well up. Izuku could be perfectly fine for weeks and suddenly feel numb and empty.
The fact you can't reveal too much at the Sport Festival or hiding for a year your intention to go to UA despite your mother's wishes, probably didn't help.
But it always passed, and this time was no exception.
Izuku took his phone in his bandaged hand, noticing that Iida and Uraraka had sent him messages reminding him not to be late. He scrolled though his contact list and after hesitating for a moment, called his mother, who answered in the second.
''Izuku ? Are you hurt ?'' she immediately asked.
Which was quite vexing.
''Not that I'm aware of. Can't I call my mom unless there is a problem ?''
''Never. You usually text.''
It was incredibly hard to bluff against someone who knew you since birth.
''It's just that the one on one are about to start,'' Izuku admitted, ''And I want to know what you think about it.''
His mother hesitated : ''I think you should do what you think is right for you.''
Izuku brought his knees to his chest and put his face on them, but carefully controlled his voice in order to not show any hint of anxiety. She would worry, it would worry him, and that was a cycle difficult to break.
''Please, don't tell me what you think I want to hear. I know you're worried. But I also know that I won't slip up. And I know I can manage not to get hurt. Do I have to worry about anything else ? I won't be disappointed. I won't give you the sad puppy eyes. I am simply asking for advices.''
Izuku wanted certain things, but he wasn't ready to sacrifice too much for it, and his mother shouldn't have to pay the price.
At the other end of the line, her mother took a significant pause.
''Izuku, you're on a road where you will fail if you keep worrying about being found out. It's OK. The risks are minimal. I trust you.''
Those last three words finally managed to make him smile.
He sighed, realizing just now he had been holding his breath for quite a while.
''I love you, mom. I will try not to be trip on my own foot.''
''I love you too, Izuku. Do your best.''
To everyone's surprise, Ojirou and another student from 1-B had forfeited because he had almost no memory of the cavalry battle. And since the team's rider looked like a purple cat who'd just eaten the canary, Izuku could guess how it had happened.
1-B decided between themselves, and at last, a girl with vine for hair and a boy with an interesting softening quirk were chosen. Tetsutetsu, the boy Izuku had talked to, declined because he thought they had a better chance to make 1-B win.
As for the fights in themselves... Izuku wasn't expecting the tournament to be easy, but he was at least hoping for Todoroki and Bakugou to weed each other out.
The universe laughed at him.
Midoriya vs Honenuki and Todoroki vs Sero.
Kaminari vs Shiozaki and Iida vs Mei.
Uraraka vs Bakugou and Kirishima vs Shinsou.
Aoyama vs Ashido vs Yaoyorozu and Tokoyami.
Well, that's interesting.
''Midoriya, you have to fight at least two recommended students,'' Mineta noticed.
His face was still a mess of bruises where Yaoyorozu had repeatedly hit him during the obstacle race.
''I'm aware,'' Izuku simply answered.
Behind them, Sero, who would be affronting Todoroki in his first match, sighed.
''I understand your point but that's still a little insulting, guys.''
Izuku pivoted towards the tape boy, the swift moment making him raise his eyebrows.
''Sero ? Please, win so I don't have to fight Todoroki,'' he asked, completely serious. ''I want to fight you, then Uraraka. That's all.''
Mineta, Sero, and Izuku looked at Uraraka who was still pondering on the fact she would have to fight someone with an extremely powerful quirk and an instinct for fighting worthy of a war god. In turn, she looked at them and there was something really scary in her eyes.
''You know that I wouldn't go easy on you, don't you ?''
''Uraraka will beat us with her bare hands if she has to,'' Sero joked.
Except Uraraka seemed completely serious when she nodded.
''I wouldn't expect any less,'' Izuku smiled.
''Then, it's a promise, Midori,'' Uraraka smiled back.
They fist bumbed, Sero joining a moment after. Mineta didn't join, calling them crazy but it didn't matter.
None of them were as confident as their words would imply, but they were all taking All Might's advice at heart.
Fake it until you make it.
Izuku advanced on the cemented arena, deeply conscious of all the stares on him. During the two first events, he had been lost in the crowd -at least until the two explosions he had provoked, and afterwards, he had been distracted from the stares- and in the middle of his team. Now, all those gazes were piercing at him.
''ON THE RIGHT ! HONENUKI JUUZOU ! RECOMMENDED STUDENT AND ONE OF THE TWO HOPE BRINGERS OF HIS CLASS !''
''Calm down,'' the monotone voice of Aizawa-Sensei said.
Honenuki Juuzou. Recommended students since he wasn't on the list of students who took the entrance exam. And a softening quirk. He needed a contact point for his quirk to act during the cavalry, so like Todoroki, it came from him towards the exterior.
Which meant Izuku had a window of opportunity.
Don't get distracted.
He had underestimated Iida because he thought he knew his quirk and this had almost cost everything to his team. He wasn't doing that again.
''May the best win,'' Honenuki mouthed, repeating the first phrase of Izuku's speech.
Was that sarcasm or playful banter ?
Did it even matter ?
''ON THE LEFT, MIDORIYA IZUKU, THE MAN WHO DOMINATED THE FIRST EVENT !''
''Let's have fun,'' Izuku answered with a shy smile, still burdened by all those eyes looking at him.
An amused glint passed in Honenuki's eyes.
''READY ? GO !
Honenuki stomped on the ground, starting to soften it.
Izuku had already jumped, and as his opponent quirk's activated, he kicked in mid air.
Jump, Aim and Air Pressure combined into an air blast that directly hit his opponent who never had the time to dodge. Honenuki flew backwards.
By the time Izuku touched the ground and landed just outside the quicksand Honenuki had started to create, the recommended student had landed outside the arena and lost.
And the whole stadium had gone completely quiet.
''Midoriya wins !'' Midnight announced after a moment of stupefied silence.
Izuku went and checked if Honenuki wasn't hurt.
''… AND IT'S A WIN FOR MIDORIYA ! SOMEONE IS NOT HERE TO PLAY AROUND !'' Present Mic screamed as Midoriya walked towards the white-haired boy. They talked for a moment. As they did, Honenuki's fist unclenched, and finally then they both slightly bowed.
In front of his television, Sorahiko smiled.
The quirk was good, but the timing was even better. This kid had known when to hit in order to secure the most efficient victory.
Which meant a some solid training.
He grabbed another taiyaki without looking and bit it in half. This year was going to be interesting.
As he was going to his match, Shouto gritted his teeth, still annoyed by what had happened.
Some things about Midoriya didn't make sense. You didn't get so good just by working out by yourself. People panicked, froze, and hesitated when they weren't trained. They didn't almost die, then immediately went back into a ruthless fight without a pause.
And powerful quirks didn't come from nowhere.
Maybe Midoriya had lied to Shouto, though he didn't think so, but now, he had to focus on how to fight a quirk so similar to All Might's.
He remembered vividly the USJ and how Midoriya's nose had started bleeding. He was powerful, but there was a limit, and since he had barely used his abilities during the FIRST two events, it might be a time limit. Shouto could play the clock but it wasn't at his advantage either because of the risk of hypothermia.
But first, Sero.
Shouto frowned when he realized his old man was waiting for him, his flickering flames making the shadows in the hallway move. Shouto should have noticed that before Endeavor was in sight. Being absorbed in his thoughts was a dangerous habit to get into.
Of course, he had to be here. How else would he remind everyone who's creation Shouto was ? He couldn't escape his name, his blood, and he would have to live with the title ''The son of Endeavor'' for the rest of his life.
''You're disgracing me, Shouto,'' the number 2 hero said and Shouto almost smiled at that. ''You could have crushed both the obstacle course and the cavalry battle if you'd used your left side.''
Shouto didn't look at him. He didn't even slow down.
''It's time to grow up and to stop this childish rebellion. You have a duty : to surpass All Might.''
For a time, Shouto hadn't given a damn about his so-called duty. But now, it was his goal too. Surpassing Endeavor. Surpassing All Might. Make everyone forget the name of the flame hero so the very memory of him would die, and all his stupid ambitions would be shattered.
''Do you understand ?'' his old man continued. ''You're different from your siblings. You're my greatest creation.''
A creation, not his son. A weapon created and honed to destroy a rival who would never acknowledge Endeavor as such.
Not that being his child was better.
''That's all you have to say to me ?'' Shouto asked but he didn't expect an answer. He knew that he was nothing more than his father's creation as far as he was concerned.
Anger was burning within him, and the fact he could get so aggravated by this man only made it worse. This was the proof Endeavor had a hold on him. And it was intolerable.
''I'll win this with mom's power alone. And I will never use your power in battle.''
He wouldn't let him gain more ascendancy on him, and smothering those flames were the first steps in this direction.
Endeavor scoffed at that. Shouto wasn't looking at him but he could perfectly picture the disbelief on his face.
''That may be good enough while you are at school, but you'll reach your limit soon enough.''
One day, you will have to use your flames and you won't be able to control your quirk because you ignored half of it, Midoriya's voice said once again.
Shouto didn't answer. He didn't need to when he was about to show them what he was capable of. He would beat Sero. He would crush Midoriya. He would surpass Endeavor.
He walked into the fight in a dream-like state, his mind still on his father, a little on Midoriya's inability to understand what he had tried to explain, and he managed to focus back on his opponent only when Sero's tapes made him move.
''Sorry,'' he said because that seemed like the polite thing to do before unleashing his quirk.
The ice Todoroki had created almost reached the front rows, which included Izuku's seat. He was suddenly reevaluating some of his life choices. Todoroki's greatest strength had always seemed to be the control he had on his ice, but now he could also simply throw icebergs at people.
Acceleration would have to save his skin because if he was trapped in ice, the cold would get to him even if he managed to break free.
''The Abyss is calling your name, Midoriya,'' Tokoyami declared.
''Is that your way of telling me he is going to turn me into a popsicle ?''
Izuku winced, and it didn't disappear as Todoroki started to melt the ice around Sero. He leaned forward on his chair, and this time, it wasn't because of the beautiful quirk Todoroki refused to use fully.
Among the awe and the admiration of the spectators, and their compassion for Sero, something about Todoroki seemed really sad.
Eijirou had walked into the fight with Ojirou's warning still ringing in his ears, and he had still managed to walk out of the ring without being able to do anything. Now, he was hiding in the bathroom, ashamed and horribly frustrated because he had missed his chance, despite being warned and only having three opportunities to prove he had the potential to be a hero.
Before the tournament, he hadn't quite understood why Ojirou and Shoda had forfeited. But now that he had went through that quirk, he could understand the frustration which came with the violation of being turned into a puppet, unable to do anything to fight back. He had started to answer as his friends were insulted, then he had been out-of-bounds.
Eijirou had wanted to scream, to fight, to do anything really, just not be stuck as powerless, as too late for his own fight. Instead, he had been left with all this restless energy.
At least, when he sparred with others, he understood why he lost. He knew he did his best. He knew he could progress. But how was he supposed to fight against something like that?
This is a frightening quirk, he had thought for just a second. He couldn't help it. Almost too frightening for a hero.
Then all the students in Gen Ed had cheered for Shinsou.
And the expression on Shinsou's face... It was like he couldn't believe it. Like he had never expected it.
It had made immediately made Eijirou reconsider a lot.
Eijirou lost. It hurt. But he lost because his opponent was, if not stronger, better than him.
He passed some water on his face.
He couldn't show his disappointment.
Kirishima walked out of the arena and he lost without a fight.The red-haired boy was trying to hide it but he was extremely disappointed. When interrogated afterwards, he admitted he had no memory of what had happened. Since it had happened right after a conversation, the gen ed boy's quirk had to be voice based. Siren-like quirk, maybe.
Mei destroyed Iida but forfeited, making Izuku wince in empathy for his friend during the whole match. He was a little too honorable for his own good.
Shiozaki won against Kaminari, and the latter had to be evacuated as his quirk had temporally fried his brain. The fact his quirk couldn't protect him from his own electricity was concerning and Izuku's noted it for when he would pick up the electric quirk Nagisa had found for him.
Finally, Izuku didn't stay for the match between Ashido and Aoyama, especially since he already knew Ashido would win since she had better results in physical tests and Aoyama had told them the weakness of his quirk on first day. Instead, he wanted to talk strategy with Uraraka, but she wanted to do this on her own.
If Izuku hadn't known the reason why she was so driven during the training, but Uraraka explained why she was so determined to have her hero licence. She told him about her parents, something Iida was already aware of.
This put things in perspective.
A lot of his fellow students were determined to win. They had this drive that Izuku was missing, and that was what would make the difference.
Izuku assisted to Kacchan and Uraraka's match, completely calm as the crowd was getting more and more worried and judgmental.
The fact that they didn't realize Kacchan's playing offense was because Uraraka was a worthy opponent was one thing. The fact that even his classmates were started to comment about Kacchan's being a brute quickly was something else that got on his nerves.
So when Izuku talked, his voice cut through the talks of 1-A and 1-B.
''Pitying her is disrespecting her.''
He took advantage of the second of stunned silence he had provoked.
''Uraraka is strong and determined. Kacchan has no other choice than to be careful, and that's not a sign of cruelty on his part, but a sign of strength on hers. You're missing something important here.''
A moment later, Aizawa-Sensei was chewing out pro heroes - who would have thought Izuku and him would have similar ideas - and Uraraka quickly showed she wasn't only driven, but also had a strategical mind as debris Kacchan hadn't noticed because of his own smoke fell from the sky.
It ultimately failed but it was still an incredible move.
''How could you not notice the thousands of rocks above their heads ?'' a blond kid in 1-B asked.
Izuku chose to shut up about since he had been monitoring the quirks his two classmates during the whole match, so he didn't notice as much as he got curious of why Uraraka's quirk was being used.
''We were focused on Bakugou trying to barbecue Uraraka,'' Hakagure explained, probably with a pout.
As he left Uraraka and went to the prep room, Izuku met Kacchan who was walking up the stairs, his hands in his pockets. He was oddly calm.
Izuku quickly realized it was because he hadn't noticed Izuku yet.
''What do you want ?'' Kacchan barked like an angry Pomeranian. ''Looking to die, scum ?''
Izuku took two steps back, a reflex, really.
''I'm up next so I have to go to the waiting room... Congratulations on your win,''he threw before starting to flee.
Well, at least tried to.
''You love messing with me, don't you ?'' Kacchan accused him, making him stop. ''You're the one who gave this crazy plan to Round Face, aren't you ?''
Why do people keep underestimating Uraraka ?
''I didn't. Uraraka came up with this plan. So if there was anyone messing with you, it was her.''
The blond teen paused for a brief moment.
''Are you even going to fight seriously ?'' he finally asked.
''Why wouldn't I ?'' Izuku asked, not understanding the question at first.
''Because you never take anything seriously, and you keep playing around. You're worthless. It doesn't matter who wins between Half and Half and you. I could obliterate the both of you.''
Izuku just stared at him.
You never take anything seriously.
Izuku was constantly training. He dedicated his time and energy on looking for quirks, on making them better. He dedicated years of his life to better Transfer. He had made so much efforts, despite his doubts, his worries, and he was always careful, always, because his mother and him were at risks.
But Kacchan wasn't talking about that. He was talking about how Izuku seemed to hold back.
Izuku held back because he took things seriously. Because every time he took a quirk, he had the obligation to control it and not to let anyone be hurt by it. Despite mutations and people being sturdier than before, human beings were ridiculously fragile. One bad hit on the head, one infected open wound, one hit at the wrong place, and they could be severely injured.
Winning was easy. Being ruthless was simple. He could win against Todoroki by blasting him and half of the stadium, but he wouldn't survive. He could neutralize Kacchan's quirk permanently by breaking his wrists, and he could have won in the test if he hadn't been worried of badly hurting him.
But Izuku knew about the risks one bad move could lead to. He had to, in order to survive mastering his donated quirks, and the knowledge never left him.
Throwing his power around was reckless, for himself and for others.
The threats were typical, but this... This touched a nerve Izuku didn't know he had. Maybe because he was almost expelled while Aizawa- Sensei didn't seem to see a problem with Todoroki's lack of flames. Maybe because he was tired.
So, he immediately thought about something that would annoy Kacchan in return. He was strong, but also defined by his pride. And there was one thing he hated above else : people not taking him seriously.
So Izuku put on an All Might grin on his face before cheerfully saying : ''Yes, but can you do this ?''
He did the finger guns and used Slide and Glide to hover backwards and into the waiting room, before closing and blocking the door on a dumbfounded childhood friend.
The roar Kacchan made after one long moment of stupefied silence was worth it.
A powerful quirk but not All Might's, Izuku's quirk warned as he was walking towards the stadium and a Todoroki determined to beat him.
It was a common knowledge that only villains used their quirks in public, but Izuku couldn't decently judge people for that. Too much hypocrisy wasn't good for one's health, after all. However, it didn't meant that he didn't have Air Pressure ready just in case since the presence was walking in his direction.
He almost jumped out of his skin when he realized it was Endeavor, clothed in flames. The teenager froze like a scared baby rabbit, his mind full of Todoroki's previous revelations.
''There you are,'' Endeavor simply said, confirming that this wasn't an accidental encounter.
Izuku stopped, and waited, uncomfortable but trying not to show it. Endeavor had always been intimidating but it was incredibly worse so close to him. He was taller and larger than life, a bear of a man. Though All Might was probably taller, but the number 1 hero made an effort to appear reassuring, while Endeavor's presence was crushing.
''I saw what you did out there,'' Endeavor continued. ''You have an amazing quirk. It even seems on par with All Might's.''
Izuku squinted at him.
Please, don't accuse me of being a Lost Child.
Apart from that, it almost seemed like a hero congratulating a promising student. But this didn't reflect in Endeavor's eyes.
It looked like he wasn't even seeing Izuku.
''My boy, Shouto, has a duty to surpass All Might. His match against you will prove a valuable test.''
It was like everything clicked at this moment.
''So give it your all. Put up a good fight with him.''
Once upon a time, Izuku had obsessively created a quirk similar to All Might's thanks to a patchworks of him, pretending to be his idol, pretending to be as strong as him in a time when he had never felt so powerless.
But it never worked.
As much as he loved quirks, they weren't something that defined a person. He had enough of them to confirm it.
''That's all I have to say,'' Endeavor said while started to leave. Izuku took a step on the side, not because he was scared, but because he didn't like the idea of being too close to real flames. ''Sorry for my bluntness.''
Don't forget to play your part. That's why Endeavor came to see Izuku.
''It's true that my quirk is similar to All Might's. But I am not him.''
Endeavor seemed surprised.
''It goes without saying,'' Endeavor said, frowning.
''Then, you understand that Todoroki isn't you,''
He didn't wait for an answer. He crossed the hallway, emerged in the stadium and under the hundreds of stares, and he made his way to the arena. He didn't try to smile like All Might told him, he didn't look at his classmates in the crowd to find courage.
''Are you ready ?'' Todoroki asked.
Todoroki wanted to beat him without using his fire.
Endeavor wanted him to do his best so his son could prove his skills.
Todoroki put himself in position, right leg and right arm first, so he could use his ice without Izuku taking advantage of the blatant weak spot that was his left side.