People saw Mamoru coming but it was too late.
The dark purple gas spread from him, in every direction at once, potent and stronger than it had ever been. Making its way through the place, enveloping people in its nectar-fueled embrace.
Mamoru could feel all of them inside his mist, some of them panicking and running around, other freezing where they was, and some continuing what they were doing, unaware of what was about to happen to them. Some even started filming him, and he let them, a rush of emotions making his head light and making feel more alive than he had ever been.
And soon, they dropped. One by one.
Inko was muffling a yawn, walking home from an extenuating day when she had dealt with the hell of bureaucracy, when she saw something in the air and quickly tracked it down to a middle school student
She blinked, wasting a fraction of second.
And then she ran. She ran so fast and so hard her feet started to hurt as they hit the pavement, searching for some place safe.
The apartment would be safe but was too far. The agency where she worked had had an isolation problem for two weeks now and it would be impossible to keep the place airtight. She was about to attempt to outrun something that could be poison gas when her eyes paused on a real door, and she almost rammed through it, startling the customer of the vintage library inside.
''Villain attack! Gas! I need duct tape or fabric!''
Nobody moved, still trying to understand what was going on, their brain frozen because of the multitude of possibilities, of choices, of ways to react, and instead of choosing one, they were freezing.
Inko didn't have time for this.
''Now!'' she barked, already yanking the scarf from around a woman's neck.
Everyone sprang into action, relieved to have someone who knew what she was doing. They didn't need to know that Inko was terrified. All they needed to know was that every opening had to be closed and sealed just in case.
At least, Izuku wasn't here. He had to go to Furano to give back a quirk, so he wouldn't approach this zone until the heroes arrived.
Now, they just had to arrive in time.
Tsukauchi-san wasn't especially amused to see Izuku again, and the teenage boy was squirming on his seat, uncomfortable because he had used his quirk(s) in public and hadn't even managed to catch Shigaraki.
Although, officially, he had just ran after him. Pushed him away, maybe, in panic. His speed had been limited by the crowd at the time, so it was perfectly possible and Izuku was ready to take advantage of it.
There was a reason why he had so many enhancer and invisible quirks.
Tsukauchi-san himself shot him a look of quiet disapprobation, clearly knowing the truth, but he was more interested in what had happened.
Apart from that, Izuku told him everything. How Shigaraki had found him, how it seemed to be a coincidence. He repeated the conversation almost word for word, and answered as truthfully as possible when the detective asked him for precisions, interested in everything, to Shigaraki's motives, leaps of logics, and so on. He seemed especially interested when Izuku told him Shigaraki had planned for a way out as soon as they had started talking.
There was one thing Izuku didn't mention : how Shigaraki Tomura had not reacted to the All for One name.
Because even though All Might had told him Tsukauchi-san knew about One for All, he wasn't sure he knew everything, and it wasn't his secret to tell. He would just have to confirm that with All Might.
The discussion was interrupted by the beeping of their two phones, which had been placed on the table because they were both dependent on them, and that's how Izuku learned about a massive villain attack.
About how heroes couldn't approach.
And of where it was.
He looked up to see Tsukauchi-san, barely reacting, no, compelling himself to stay calm and in control, but his eyes couldn't lie. They showed the strain.
''It's... It's right in our neighborhood,'' Izuku heard himself say.
Tsukauchi-san said something back. Izuku didn't hear him. Instead, he called his mom. Once. Twice.
He didn’t call a third time.
All of them.
''Midoriya!'' Tsukauchi-san called.
He didn't stop. He couldn’t. He ran and no one managed to stop him, found a window, climbed out, and exited into the streets.
His heart was beating so loud in his ears, and there was a taste of iron on his tongue.
He had forgotten. He had forgotten what it was like to be that scared.
He passed by the roofs. Reached downtown without being seen, but even if pro heroes had noticed him, he wouldn’t have stopped for anyone.
He tried to go to the apartment but it was in the zone contaminated by the fog. With Zoom , he managed to see forms inside the purple mist, most of them limp, but there were people in spacesuit or whatever already evacuating the fallen.
Izuku had no quirk to go in there. No breath-holding quirk. No poison immunity quirk.
His mom still wasn’t answering.
Then, Izuku tried to go to their apartment. Back home.
And discovered it was also in the zone affected by the villain attack. Of course. His mom liked how she could go to work on foot, so it made sense.
At this point, Izuku was breathing so loudly it was the only thing he could hear.
So he waited. Sometimes among the crowd of terrified people who couldn’t go home, or who were waiting for their loved ones to pick up the phones. Sometimes, back on the roof, away from everything as the wind was chilling him to the bone but he didn’t care. He just wanted his mom to pick up the phone.
All Might tried to call him. So did his classmates, everyone asking if everyone was alright.
Even Aizawa-Sensei left a message.
And at some point, it stopped. Everything was saturated, and no cell phones could pass because everyone in the zone must have been trying to call their loved ones.
Izuku went back into the crowd. Let his ears pick up any conversations, any news, and instead, he got only hopes and fears.
And then, he realized videos had dropped. The villain who had done that had been recorded by several phone cameras, and Izuku watched everyone of them. It was awfully blurry but he took note of the middle school student uniform. Of the boy's height compared to the building and other geographical marks Izuku was familiar with because he lived there.
Of his quirk. Purple gas, not unlike Midnight's, but the color was different, and so were the effects.
Izuku studied everything because not doing anything was eating him alive.
Then, the word spread about the government putting a list of who had been retrieved from inside the fog. The site was also saturated, but Izuku persevered until he was able to check the list. Refreshing it again and again to know who had been evacuated.
Until he found his mom's name.
Some people hated hospitals but Izuku had never been one of them. It was just a place. If something bad happened there, it was because of the accidents, of the diseases, and in this case, because of the villains, who had send people here, not because of the hospital in itself.
He had cried when he had arrived. He had just confirmed that his mom was indeed here, and tears had started to flow because now, he had found her. It was like he was lost in the fog and he couldn't see anything beyond the next step.
And now, he needed to wait to access the step after that.
And this waiting devoured him from the inside, emptiness spreading through him. Technically, it shouldn't have been different from when he had waited to know if his mom had been inside the fog. But now, it was real. Now, the answer to his questions was close.
Either she would be alright. Either she wouldn't.
I can't lose someone else.
If he could have used Vanish, he would have. But he was exhausted, scared, angry. Instead, he waited among the crowd of terrified people, standing because he had left his chair to someone who really needed it and he had a stamina quirk that would allow him to wait as long as necessary.
It's my mom and I. We are here because we can count on each other.
Nurses asked him questions about his mom. Were nice to him. Other people tried to comfort him despite their own pain, despite their own fear. He answered on auto pilot, almost annoyed by their interruptions. He aspired to oblivion, and every time someone was concerned for him, he was pulled back to this horrible reality when he risked being all alone.
What if she...
This thought circled around in his mind again and again, but he never let himself finish it.
Finally, someone told them what the hell was going on. By that time, Izuku was only standing because he was inside his hoard, surrounded by the golden warmth of his quirks.
Izuku was starting to hate that word.
In her hospital bed, in the empty white room, Izuku's mom didn't look like she was sleeping. She was pale, looked tired even though she was unconscious. She looked so fragile Izuku didn't dare to touch her for too long. Sometimes, he held his hand, trying to warm it up. Most of the time, he was curled up on the chair, using Stamina so he would stay awake despite the emotional exhaustion. He knew this wasn't good and that it would mess with his ability to stay aware of his surroundings, but he needed to keep an eye on her.
He needed it because he couldn't quite get free of this feeling that if he looked away, she would disappear.
That's how he missed someone entering in the hospital room. He actually vaguely registered the sound of steps coming this way, but it's when the shadow of the newcomer touched him that he actually looked up. And then, kept looking up because of the height.
What are you doing here? he wanted to ask but he didn't manage too. Too tired.
A solid hand touched his shoulder, anchoring him to reality.
''Young Midoriya,'' All Might said, an incredible sadness following the hero, ''I am so sorry.''
He hugged him carefully, as if he was afraid Izuku was going to break.
Izuku allowed himself to lean into the embrace.
He didn't made a sound as he wept.
When he was done crying, he felt better, like always. Crying always made him feel better and he was too tired to be embarrassed about doing it on public.
''If there is anything I can do, tell me,'' All Might said.
Izuku closed his eyes, so tired but calmer than before.
The medical bills wouldn't be a problem. They had money, and his mom had made sure Izuku could have access to everything.
Asking about the villain... wouldn't be wise.
It only left one thing, but he hesitated.
All Might saw it. ''Anything,'' he repeated.
Other people still need help.
''If you see a camera somewhere, can you say how this isn’t about a villainous quirk but about an individual? It would really help.''
All Might didn't want him to stay alone but Izuku convinced him, explaining him that he wanted to stay with his mom.
To have no fear, for it would be fine.
And as soon as he left, he activated all his quirks.
Nemuri felt the vice of animosity closing in as soon as the news of the gas attack spread.
She had forgotten what it felt like. To see a villain with a similar quirk hurting people, so other people starting to see everyone with the same quirk as a threat. No doubt that in a few hours, the resentment against anyone with an ill-omened quirk would peak.
Also on the backseat of the car driving them to their destination, Yamada touched her shoulder, drawing her attention, and he showed her his phone. On the screen, a video of All Might who had appeared in some journalists' reach, to their delight.
''… What happened today was a tragedy, and my heart goes to the victims and their family. But we must remember that this is not the act of a quirk, but of an individual who wanted to hurt people. We can't let him divide us and fall into resentment. We stand together and no one can be left behind.''
It was the first time All Might had ever say something about an on-going case.
Does he realize what he just did?
People would listen to him. They had to, he was the Symbol of peace. And maybe, just maybe, people with similar quirks wouldn't be looked at with open distrust and scorn.
Yamada smiled to her without saying a thing and she bumped shoulder with him, silently thanking him.
Then, Yamada, Nemuri, and Kamui Wood, arrived to an unassuming house in a quiet neighborhood, their gas mask already on, and Kamui Woods was kind enough to immediately kick the door for them, making a woman older than scream. She had the same gray's hair as her son.
Because honestly, between the quirk, the age, and the uniform, it was a wonder Watanabe Mamoru hadn't just screamed his name and address for everyone to hear.
''Hello,'' Midnight asked, anger piercing into her voice despite how she knew she had to show nothing but calm, ''is Mamoru home?''
Nagisa was a selfish woman, for the first thing she did when she heard a massive attack was to hope that the villain wasn't someone whose quirk would be traditionally associated with villainy. That was the first thing, the first worry that passed through her mind.
Then it had hit her.
She had called everyone she knew. Every member of her family. Her classmates. Midoriya. And the bug was the one who hadn't answered. The one she couldn't track down because she had helped him obtain phones that couldn't be found, even by her.
As soon as she saw the name of Midoriya Inko, she got out and drove, but even there, she didn't find him.
So when he knocked on her door a few hours later, his eyes empty, she didn't know if she wanted to strangle him with her bare hands for worrying her or hug him, wrap him into the softest blanket she had, and tell him everything would be alright.
Instead, she invited him, guiding him through the house without touching him. She was under the impression that startling him would be a bad idea. He was giving off the impression of a bare blade : she would cut herself if she touched him without care and he would get damaged if he kept himself in this state for too long.
She was also certain he was using several quirks just to keep standing.
''They know who he is,'' Midoriya said without looking at her. He sounded so tired. ''He is younger than me. A kid who loves Stain and who took the risk of overdosing on Nectar to make his quirk more powerful. Deadly.''
She knew that. But she wanted him talking. She wanted him to show something that looked like an emotion because if he kept holding everything in, it would devour him from the inside.
''Did you look for him?'' she asked.
If it had been one of her cousins or any members of her family, she would have snapped this bastard's scrawny neck, so nothing he could say would shock her.
''To throw him in the first secured laboratory I would find. He has the quirk responsible of putting all those people into a coma. They need to study it to find an antidote and since he probably half overdosed on Nectar, it's a different quirk than the members of his family. He needs to be found for my mom to be healed quickly.''
It wasn't being good or bad. It was Midoriya being coldly efficient. He had a problem, and he needed to take the steps to solve it.
''And how are you right now?''
Stupefaction flashed in his eyes. Finally.
''You want to know how I am? Really?'' he asked, not mean in any way, but dangerously calm.
Midoriya exploded. Nagisa wasn't scared in any way, but the brutal change from the quiet and tired boy to someone far more angry, far more dangerous, startled her.
''How dare he? And how dare they?'' he snarled, never raising his voice, but his eyes were shining with something that looked like wrath. The kind born from something so unfair there was no real outlet. ''He wasn't influenced. He wasn't brainwashed. He woke up one morning and decided to hurt people. And now, do you think people will blame him? Do you even think they will blame Stain? They will blame people with ominous quirks as if every quirks weren't capable of hurting someone!''
Nagisa killed the very same fear that had been blooming inside her all day. She couldn't let herself contaminate her with her own worries, no matter how true they were.
''I mean, about your mom...'' she corrected herself.
And just like this, the anger was gone again. And Midoriya's sad smile was the most heartwrenching thing Nagisa had ever witnessed.
''It's not like I can do anything. Actually, it's not like anyone can do anything. She might die in a hospital bed...''
Midoriya's voice broke, but he was too worked up to stop.
''… If not, I don't know when she will wake up. I don't know if she will wake up. A normal healing quirk won't work, because this is poison, and she is too weak so bear the strain on the Healing quirk she would need. All because some bastard decided to wake up society, and now, my mom is gone too.''
He paused, shivering. He might not even realize it.
''I don't want to be alone,'' he finally admitted.
Nagisa rose. She approached, starting to raise her arms, silently asking for the permission, and when he didn't react, she hugged him carefully, letting him the possibility to quietly refuse.
He didn't, and his own arms wrapped around Nagisa, his hands resting on his back, so she hugged him tighter.
''You're not alone, bug. Not anymore. You have friends. You have me. I won't let you fall.''
Watanabe Mamoru, nicknamed Mustard, hadn't been found yet, but he would be. The whole country was looking for him, his family was being interrogated right now, and the police and the heroes were working together to find him.
Now, Toshinori had to deal with the aftermaths.
Aizawa-kun and him were in Nedzu's office, trying to deal with everything what happened today. All of the three men were feeling the weight of what had happened. If Toshinori had been here, or even Aizawa-kun, this tragedy could have been avoided.
The peace Toshinori had worked for was starting to crackle. He needed to do more.
''I underestimated the problem of the nectar,'' Nedzu admitted, holding his cup of tea without drinking it. ''A drug that can power up any quirk and with no side effects at the time... I hope none of the hero students are using it.''
''Some must,'' Aizawa-kun intervened. It's even possible some of our own use it. Hero schools were never easy, and that was before the villains started targeting our students.''
The mere thought was chilling Toshinori to the bones. He couldn't quite believe their students would count on such dangerous products to walk down the path of heroism. They were all good and smart kids.
But Aizawa-kun had a point of how the USJ attacks had weakened the trust of the nation in UA. And the students were amidst it, 1-A having even witnessed the killing intent of several villains.
''Even today,'' Nedzu sighed, ''Midoriya-kun was approached by Shigaraki Tomura. Thankfully, no one was hurt but this could have led to a catastrophe.''
All Might had a clear picture of what would have happened if Young Midoriya had tried to apprehend Shigaraki with the same power he had showed against All Might. Or more specifically, a clear image of what would have happened to the people around them and to the mall in itself.
It's probably a good thing he didn't manage to catch him.
''Did he use his quirk?'' Aizawa-kun asked.
He did. Toshinori didn't even ask him but he knew the boy and he knew several quirks must have been involved.
''The police said that he didn't,'' Toshinori answered carefully.
Unfortunately, the Eraser hero saw straight through his misdirection.
''Midoriya already showed at the USJ and at Hosu that he wasn't afraid to use his quirk without permission, so they're probably covering themselves.''
As long as Young Midoriya isn't punished for using his quirk in self-defense...
''What's important is that his mother is a victim of the attack,'' Toshinori reminded them, ''and he can't return to his home as long as it's not decontaminated.''
The authorities had quarantined the zone and were studying the remains of the gas, having already confirmed that it was still toxic, and no one was left in until it lost its potency. They thought it would take a day or two, and because of that, the town had created zone to welcome people who couldn't go home.
Aizawa-kun glared at him. Or simply stared. It was hard to differentiate his expressions.
''You left him alone at the hospital?'' the teacher almost growled.
… It was a glare.
''He didn't want me there. Young Midoriya... He can be someone extremely private.''
Which was quite the understatement. If Young Midoriya had been happy to see him at first, he had quickly chased him out. His pain wasn't something he was willing to share and Toshinori had preferred leaving him a couple hours to breathe for the time being.
Aizawa-kun nodded. He didn't like it but he understood. ''Tsk. I can take him in.''
''But there isn’t enough place in your apartment,'' Nedzu reminded him.
''Hizashi can sleep on the balcony,'' the Erasure hero declared without even hesitating, while Toshinori was furiously thinking.
I can take Young Midoriya in. I have the space.
''Fortunately,'' Nedzu intervened before Toshinori had the time to talk and before Aizawa-kun had the time to kick out Mic from his own room, ''in all my years of leading this school, I have mastered the fine art of shoving misplaced students in the home of family who have the means to take care of them. I already called someone.''
Like when Young Uraraka had been attacked. She was now slowly but steadily being adopted into the Yaoyorozu family, and Toshinori wondered if Nedzu had planned to place Young Midoriya there. It might be better for him to have more people to lean in, and parents had to know how to take care fo children, unlike the Symbol of Peace who wasn't quite sure of how to keep them alive.
Someone knocked on the door.
Toshinori activated One for All so fast he almost got whiplash and Aizawa-kun grabbed a file and wave it around to get rid of the steam provoked by the transformation.
Someone almost as tall as Toshinori made his way in Nedzu's office.
He was covered in flames.
''What did you want to tell me?'' Endeavor asked. ''Is it about Shouto?''
Aizawa-kun and Toshinori shared an uncertain look.
Izuku was taking an accidental quick nap on Nagisa's couch when someone calling yanked him away from his slumber. He tried to sit, realized that several blankets had appeared on him, as if someone had been trying to trap him into a cocoon. Since Nagisa was wearing her innocent face, he could guess who.
The teenager managed to fish out his phone from the maelstrom of blankets and pillows, only to see that All Might was calling, probably worried that he had decided to sleep on the floor of the hospital room. Izuku took the call and was about to tell him he had a friend who was willing not to let him sleep under a bridge when All Might got his attention.
About Nedzu making arrangements so he could live in a classmate's house. Well, into a classmate's parent's house.
''Endeavor ?'' he repeated.
Like the Hero who investigated on the Nectar supply. The Number 2 hero who would probably be charged of the investigation.
The one who could lead him to whoever had committed this attack.
''But I am perfectly willing to...'' All Might tried to say, but Izuku had already made up his mind.
''That seems like a great idea. Do you have his number? I have to thank him for his generosity.’’
Mamoru couldn't breathe and he couldn't even scream because when he had been hiding at a friend's vacation house, the man who had found him and who was currently dragging him by the hair, had smashed his head against a wall and broken his jaw.
He had tried to beg for mercy. Tried to explain he was just a kid who had made a mistake. One look from the masked man in a suit had stopped him dead, as he understood that drawing his attention, more than necessary, meant more agony to come.
It didn't prevent him to try to fight back. He couldn't help it as he was dragged on the floor of a place he didn't recognize, vats and strange forms inside them, a smell like a hospital. His quirk, polished by Nectar, refused to work. The hold on him, only fingers in his hair, refused to be broken despite all the teenager's squirming.
Until he was dropped on the ground, and he curled into a ball, desperately trying not to move. Trying not to be seen because he knew that whoever had found him, it wasn't someone who would abide by the rules of civilization.
''What a lively specimen!'' someone old said.
Mamoru opened an eye, terrified. A short bald man with glasses and wearing a white lab coat was looking at the villain without daring to say a word. There was something on his lap, like the most deformed black cat ever known to men.
The man in a suit didn't answered. He walked to the giant vat, his fingers changing because of his quirk, long black tendrils reaching inside and pulling something up. Mamoru's eyes was too blurry to exactly see what it was, but the man wearing a helmet touched it before dropping it down. It made a splashing noise.
''Work on this,'' the man said, his voice chilling Mamoru to the bone. It was the first time he heard it, having been beaten in a perfect silence, but there was nothing in it. No warmth, no anger, no indication that it belonged to a human being. ''I want an antidote as soon as possible.''
''Of course, milord.''
The villain, who seemed even bigger than before, reported his attention on Mamoru. Black tendrils wrapped themselves, pressing painfully into his flesh and a second later, his broken face was pressed against the vat of one the vats, making him weep in pain.
''Now, no need to be afraid, Mustard-kun. After all, soon enough, all of them will be your siblings.''
The fingers in his hair tightened, the order clear.
So Mamoru obeyed. He saw what was inside. And even if there was nothing wrong with his eyes, the thing was so alien and so strange that his brain could only analyse it in flashes, selecting details to analyse them but unable to comprehend the whole thing.
Black bruised skin. Rippling muscles. Exposed brain. And suddenly, it opened golden eyes.
The thing inside the vat screamed, but the sound was muffled by the liquid in which it was trapped, bubbles forming.
When Mamoru followed its example, he didn't have this handicap.