Blue flames appeared through Dabi's will, their heat licking his skin except in the places where he was too burnt to feel it, the death of his nerves a good thing in this case. The fire spread through the trees, running through the wood with gluttony, and he kept kindling it as he walked through the forest.
Soon, it would turn to ash, and so would anyone who didn't have the sense to run for their lives.
And this rotten society would realize that no one was ever safe.
In the meantime, the villains started to move through the darkness. Waiting for the little mouses who would soon flee the forest and who would run right onto their fangs.
They smelled the smoke before they even realized there was a fire, but soon, blue flames started to dance on the horizon, just as Yaoyorozu and Izuku were walking in the middle of a very flammable forest, full of very flammable students.
''Yaoyorozu, you who is friend with Kendo, tell me that someone in 1-B has an illusion quirk or a blue flame quirk.''
He didn't wait for her answer and they both started to go back on their steps, strangely calm about it. Maybe because they were both tired because of the training. Maybe because of the sheer shock of witnessing the start of a catastrophe.
''No, but any flames can turn blue if heated enough. Though, it's unlikely that Todoroki could do that accidentally.''
As she talked, she was raising her shirt, and she created two smoke masks
''Villains?'' Izuku asked, already knowing the answer but that didn't mean he wanted to be right.
''Villains,'' Yaoyorozu confirmed as she created a new item: a metal baseball bat.
They put the smoke masks on and then, they both started to run.
''Holy fuck, what the fuck is that?'' one of his students asked, and surprisingly enough, it wasn't Bakugou.
Shouta was about to tell Ashido to calm down when he saw what she was looking through the window.
His blood almost turned to ice in his veins.
Shouta barked at Vlad to stay here as he rushed out the classroom just in time to see half of the forest catching fire, with thirty four students inside.
''Hello, Eraserhead,'' a voice behind him greeted him.
Izuku wasn't using any quirks as he ran, not wanting to distance Yaoyorozu, but that didn't mean they weren't fast. There was nothing like actual fire to make someone go Plus Ultra.
At least, until he realized that students weren't the only ones outside this night, and he almost stumbled as he looked behind him, realizing he had no way to know if a defenseless boy was out there, trapped by the fire.
''What's happening?'' Yaoyorozu had the time to say as Izuku was trying to calculate the probabilities of an upset child deciding to stay way too late outside.
''Kouta,'' he explained. ''Kouta has a secret base on the mountain.''
Behind the forest and the fire that was devouring it.
''Do you know where it is?''
''Yes, but I don't know if he is there.''
They both knew he had to check anyway.
''You're the fastest,'' Yaoyorozu reluctantly admitted. ''I would slow you down.''
And she pulled up her tee-shirt right in front of Izuku, to his horror, at least until he realized she was using her belly to use her quirk and he kind of accidentally took a look at the quirk in action, and that was fascinating because there was something akin to transmutation going on that...
Yaoyorozu gave him a jacket and a second mask, a smaller one.
''Fire-resistant jacket, not fire proofed, so don't burn alive please. Don't worry about him. Just find Kouta, or confirm that he isn't there, and get back.''
Well, Izuku didn't need her blessing but that was still a good thing to have.
''Stay safe,'' he asked even though he had no right to, and he started to run.
Speed. All of them.
And as soon as he started, a blinding flash of pain exploded through his skull, and he stopped, breathless, something starting to drip from his nose. He didn't need to check to know it was blood.
How many quirks did I use today? And for how long?
''Midoriya?'' Yaoyorozu called, worry in her voice.
He didn't look back so she wouldn't see the blood that he was removing from his face, and he showed her his thumb up, before leaving again, activating his Speed quirks one by one. It hurt, but nothing like what he had felt earlier.
It would have to be enough.
One moment there was darkness and the expectations of fear, then blue flames had claimed the night, forcing them to flee.
And then, everything happened so fast. Shouji's arm pushing him just as something white was about to pierce into Fumikage. Just when they thought they were safe now that they were away from the fire and protected by the shadows.
Shouji's arm cut away, a blood almost black flying through the air.
And for a moment, just a tiny moment where he wasn't watching himself, as horror and guilt crashed into Fumikage, Dark Shadow already at his side, he lost control.
A mere moment was enough.
People were still using their quirks, and Izuku had no time to stop as he was circling around the fire and running as fast as he could, the warning signs of his quirk being overused flashing in his head.
He didn't care. He couldn't afford to. He kept spreading his senses, using Transfer to keep an eye on what was happening.
Because either Kouta's quirk was surprisingly strong for a child, either he wasn't alone on this mountain.
Himiko was so excited at the idea of meeting new friends, maybe even cute boys. People to talk to, people to laugh with, people to mimic.
People to love.
She ran in the darkness, away from the fire summoned by Dabi -a little too much in her opinion- and she looked for students. She had to find at least three, but she wanted so many more than that.
And she stopped when she sensed something. A sixth sense born from her training was whispering to her that there was something else in the woods, something dangerous, and she hid behind a tree to make sure it was just one of her teammates.
Instead, she saw something enormous in the shadows, and she heard a beautiful scream.
Maybe someone died. Maybe there is blood.
But Himiko didn't want to take the risk of being killed, so she decided to find friends somewhere else.
Kouta took a step back, fear roaring in his veins.
'' … You hear me, Kouta?'' Mandalay's voice kept ringing inside his head. ''You have to go back to the camp. I am so sorry, Kouta, I don't know where you are. I can't come to you, so you have to get back!''
Muscular, the man who had killed his parents, tranquilly followed him while complimenting him on his hat.
Slide and Glide. Jump. Balance.
Izuku was running on the cliff, the same way Gran Torino was able to run on walls and any solid surfaces. The quickest way.
Around him, the darkness, and below him, the emptiness that wanted him to fall.
''Hey, Glasses,'' the man with a lizard quirk called Tenya, pointing his sword made of swords at him. ''You're the one who precipitated Stain's fall!''
Mandalay and Tiger put themselves between the two villains and the students who hadn't gone in the forest yet, while Tenya was grabbing his remaining classmates and making them go towards the camp.
Kouta had tried to flee, but the villain appeared in front of him, jumping through the air, already raising his fist.
''Let's play together!'' he laughed.
The quirk shined even more as their holder was preparing themselves to use a lot of power, and Izuku realized he wouldn't make it in time.
As death was coming for him, Kouta's mind was filled with his parents. His mom, his dad, how they had experienced exactly that, the sorrow and abominable pain their death had brought, how it was over.
While Muscular was laughing, because he was about to finish what he had started with the Water Hose.
And suddenly, Kouta's feet weren't touching the ground anymore, and something was holding him and hurling him through the air like the scariest roller coaster ever invented, and Kouta felt himself swirling, then gently brought to the ground. Miraculously, his legs accepted to carry him so he didn't drop to the ground and start crying or throwing up. One or the other.
And in front of him, Midoriya. Pale, blood on his face, and so small compared to the the villain in front of them who had an amused smile on his face, as if he had found something he would love breaking even more than Kouta.
But Midoriya's eyes were burning as they were looking at Muscular.
''Kouta,'' he called, not looking at him but this simple world rang trough the child. ''Run.''
Usually, confronted with a S-ranked villain with a muscle fibers quirk and with a very small child to protect, Izuku would have called every back-up he could think off. Heroes, his classmates, the police, the firemen, hell, even the scouts and tactical air support. But when he had grabbed Kouta, his phone had flown, and he had been too busy trying to use Shock Absorption -a last minute inspiration to act as a cushion so Kouta wouldn't break any bones- to save it.
So now, his phone was in pieces, and Transfer had been gently nudging at him to take a nap for a a while now.
Izuku glanced at Kouta only to see the child's huge eyes staring at Muscular, a deer in the headlights. No sign of intelligence here, only the freeze option of the Fight, Freeze, Flee response. Izuku could hardly blame him.
''It's going to be fine,'' he smiled despite the pain inside his skull. ''I am here to save you.''
It made Muscular laugh, his quirk keeping to tug at Transfer, pink fibers spreading on his arms. His quirk was strong, so interesting and terrible at the same time, because that was the kind of power one obtained by going beyond his limits again and again.
''Only a hero student would say something like that.''
Izuku's fingers clawed, itching for a quick solution even though Kouta was here.
''You're Midoriya Izuku, aren't you? You're on my kill list but I think I can take my time. Tell me: will you bleed?''
Muscular ran at him, pink fibers all over his arms and hands, almost as fast as All Might, but Izuku was already in movement, meeting him halfway -away from Kouta- and he avoided a mean punch by dodging under his arm, and slapping his hand on the villain's forearm, Transfer moving to grab the quirk.
And nothing happened.
Pure panic flooded him as his quirk wasn't working, the same way others might have panicked when it had been stolen from them, maybe. Muscular's quirk seemed too far away, or blocked by something, like almost but not exactly that. It doesn't make sense, I usually don't touch mutation quirks but I got Tsubasa's wings once, it should work, what is wrong this time....
Muscular took advantage of his confusion to swipe him off his feet, and he grabbed his ankle right above his red sneaker, only to smash Izuku into the ground, under Kouta's horrified scream. The shock rattled Izuku to the bones but that was what three Shock Absorption quirks were for, and still mid air as the villain was about to do that again but against the side of the mountain this time, Izuku flicked both his fingers at the villain's head, Air Blasts in tow.
The double Air Blast stunned Muscular but didn't make him go down, and his horrible steel-like fingers gripped at Izuku's leg, as if he wanted to break his ankle. Resistance, Durability, and Shock Absorptions laughed at this idea, and Strength fueled his next kick, his heel smashing into the almost unprotected -at least compared to the rest of the bio armor- fingers, forcing the villain to let him go.
Izuku fell, his hand finding the ground, and he did a flip to come back to his feet, Jump and Speed allowing to ram into Muscular, whose whole body was turning into a thick armor.
It didn't matter.
Izuku was at his limits, so this had to end here and now.
Red lines were dancing on his skin as he hit the villain, with all the quirks he had once used to destroy the zero pointer. To protect Uraraka. Because that was what it was about. Protecting Kouta, making sure they stayed alive and went home.
Muscular was smiling when the punch connected with his torso.
Kouta screamed as the shockwave of the fight was sending him flying above the cliff, his quirk useless, his hands desperately trying to reach out to something, anything, only for someone to grab his wrist at the last second.
He blinked, only to see a very ruffled Midoriya holding him, blood on his face, and dark circles under his eyes. Kouta was just just as relieved that he was caught before falling to his death as he was to confirm this insane and incredible boy who had had been extremely mean to, had survived.
Midoriya brought him back on the ground, with one hand and without showing any sign that Kouta had any significant weight.
''You defeated him...'' Kouta started, but didn't know how to finish his line of thought.
That had never been a man to him, but a monster. A symbol of everything wrong.
''I suppose,'' Midoriya nodded slowly, still watching where Muscular had landed, ''but he probably heals quickly so there is no need to stay here longer than necessary .''
He took one step back and stumbled. Kouta was about to catch him, but the older kid found his balance again and pretended that nothing had happened. But he was horribly pale, and his nose was bleeding, and he looked sick.
They had to go back to the camp. Midoriya might have fought like All Might, but something was obviously wrong.
''It's nothing. I am just starting to get a little tired.''
A mad laugh answered him.
''You're good,'' Muscular grinned as he got back to his feet, absolutely delighted. ''I knew you would be, but damn!''
Izuku waited, letting him talk, and not because he wanted more information.
But because he needed to freaking breathe as his whole body was screaming at him to stop what he was doing.
''Now that I think about it, you wouldn't know someone named Bakugou?''
Next to him, Kouta froze, obviously thinking about Kacchan. He looked at Izuku, worried, probably wondering why the villains were targeting him -trying to find the student with an literal explosive temper didn't seem like a good idea- but Izuku wasn't about to confirm where he was.
''He left for the hospital this morning,'' he said to Muscular with a straight face. ''Food poisoning.''
Muscular stopped, frowning, before tilting his head, as if he was wondering if Izuku was serious.
''Puking and everything. Awful,'' Kouta confirmed instead of listening to Izuku and running for his life.
It made Muscular laugh, and he changed his eye prosthesis like it was nothing, while Izuku was slowly backing down with Kouta. To the woods, to the exit.
Not that they could outrun him. He was fast, and with his back completely exposed, and Kouta in his arms, Izuku would be at his mercy. If anything went wrong, they would both be dead.
''Well, it's not like I care,'' Muscular added as Izuku was trying to control the pain. Even the light of the blue fire on the horizon was hurting his eyes. ''I am here because I like strong people. And you could be one of them. But you tend to announce your punches. And worst of all, you lack the drive to fight.''
He stopped. And he pointed at Kouta, smiling like a beast that had his first taste of blood in years, and who now wanted more, at least enough to bathe in it.
''This kid... I am going to kill him,'' he promised. ''I am going to break him easily, and then, we will see if that puts you in a serious disposition.''
Behind Izuku, Kouta made a sound that could have belonged to a scared kitten.
Izuku was weakened. His quirk was acting out. He was in pain.
But this simple sound, the delight it was bringing to Muscular... it unleashed something dark and screaming that he had caged all his life. It spread through him, making him light-headed, and even though it didn't diminish the pain and the exhaustion, he suddenly didn't care anymore.
The beginning of a smile started to bloom on Izuku's lips, but there was no joy in it. Fear had taken a hold of him, merciless because there was no way to circumvent this problem. He couldn't steal the quirk, the organic armor was smothering the force of his attacks, and he couldn't outrun him.
But fear wasn't the only dark emotion unleashed. For there was rage. Rage that Muscular thought this was a game, rage because he loved scaring a child and he would have loved to kill him too.
The world became glacial.
''Kouta, run,'' he said quietly. ''I will stop him.''
Kouta hesitated, obviously not wanting to leave him, but he finally obeyed, sobbing.
''Walk away,'' Izuku said to Muscular, and he barely recognized his own voice. ''Just walk away or you will die.''
Muscular's grin widened, probably because it was exactly what he wanted to hear. He wasn't looking at Kouta, couldn't when all he wanted was a strong foe and Izuku would be his last opponent even if it killed him.
''I knew you were going to be interesting,'' Muscular grinned, his skin bursting into a living armor, so much speed and power, and worse of all, unlimited energy.
That wouldn't save him. Because Izuku wasn't allowed to fail.
''MIDORIYA!'' the villain roared.
Muscular went at him, literally a mountain of muscles, and as Izuku hit, he could only halt the villain. It felt like trying to stop a tornado with his bare hands. He kept pushing, his power screaming through his veins, desperately blocking the villain's momentum, just holding on, second after second.
Izuku was the only rampart between Kouta and a certain death.
Everything will be alright.
His foothold was slipping. In term of weight, he just wasn't enough to cancel Muscular's momentum and by the time his hold broke, even with Shock Absorption, he would be crushed against any solid surface.
I won't let him hurt anyone.
Izuku shifted like water, flowing to Muscular's side and out of his way.
Letting him continue his mad charge towards Kouta.
Before Izuku kicked the blood beast in the back, putting all his strength, all his speed, all his fear and all his rage into the kick. Every chain he had placed upon himself, every fear of hurting someone, every fear of hurting himself, shattered.
Muscular was driven into the ground like he was hit by a train.
Izuku didn't wait to see in what state he was.
He punched him again and again, his quirks roaring inside him, driving Muscular further into the ground. Because as long as he could move, he was a threat.
I won't let you kill us.
He could feel things breaking under his fist, underneath all those muscles, but Muscular was still desperately trying to get up, screaming, trying to get up to murder him.
Izuku never let him. At one point, he changed the arm he was using, not because it hurt, but to keep the same amount of earth-shattering strength.
He stopped only when Muscular stopped moving.
And at this point, the villain was embedded into the mountain ground.
Izuku hadn't checked if Muscular was still alive. It didn't seem to really matter at the time, not when he knew the villain couldn't go after them for now.
He could feel the blood which had splashed on his hands and sneakers, horribly warm on his cold skin. He had tried to at least wipe his hands on his shorts, but he hadn't been especially successful.
Despite Zoom and Night vision, the teenager didn't manage to find Kouta until the child called him weakly, and he actually found him hidden under a bush. Not a hiding spot an adult or a teenager could use, and it was probably smarter than running.
Izuku knelt just as the exhaustion hit him. Truth to be told, he would have given anything to just drop on the ground, curl into a ball, and sleep. But he couldn't, not when they were in the middle of a villain attack.
Instead, he kept the anger close to the surface. Hidden, but it was the only thing giving him strength for now.
''It's over, Kouta,'' he called, aiming for a kind voice but only managing a flat one. ''Everything is fine now.''
Kouta crawled out of his hiding spot, and Izuku was about to give him his space when Kouta grabbed him by his shirt. He was shivering as he got to his feet, and he didn't let go.
''… You don't even know me. Why would you do that for me?''
Izuku draped the fireproofed jacket around Kouta's shoulders, with no idea of what to say. The clothes made in Momo entirely covered him.
''I knew you could have kicked any villain in the balls, so I took mercy on them,'' Izuku finally answered very seriously.
Kouta laughed or choked, definitely one or the other, he called him a moron, and he -oh miracle- gave him a quick hug. Maybe there was some warm feelings under all this spite and bitterness.
They walked back to the cliff, but nowhere near where Muscular was.
If he was that close to the fight, all he could hear were screams and something being punched with a lot of strength, so he wouldn't have been able to know who was winning between Muscular and I. It must have been terrifying.
''We need to go back to the camp,'' Kouta finally said while Izuku was pretending he wasn't seeing him wipe out his tears. ''How did you arrive here?''
''I ran when I was about half way through the assigned road, in this direction,'' he explained while pointing to show him.
For a moment, they both looked at the forest that was a little too on fire for both of their tastes.
''Well, I have to admit that there was less fire when I passed through there, but I am sure it will be fine.''