“I suggest…” he started before trailing off weakly. “...We alternate our personalities into something we’re not. Something unexpected, or...enough to gain hesitation.”
“Are you suckers ready?” Bakugou asked in the locker room. It felt strange- eerily quiet and somehow oppressive. Bakugou wanted to clench his jaw and bare his teeth and snarl at the rusting bleachers: Here I am, the villain you demanded of me!
Shinou scoffed quietly, the noise amplified by the desolation of the locker room. He looked so strange, dressed in snug clothing formed by multiple overlapping seams. Each crease of fabric lay perfectly, intentional in its array. Shinsou wasn’t muscular or fast, but muscle definition only defined his history and strengths. Thick cords in strange locations; kicking, punching, struggling.
Shinsou’s armor looked like fluid plates, serrated scales slotted on his outer thighs and calves and forearms. No more dangerous than a defensive hedgehog. It reminded Tokoyami distantly of a pangolin, an Asian animal with long claws and timid heart.
“Not going to lie, I’m a bit freaked,” Shinsou confessed. He breathed quickly, running one hand through his hair before he tugged his facial mask up high. Snug it rest across his cheekbones, custom made through silicone modeling to contour to the precise ridges of his cartilage and bone. Secured in place, Shinsou’s eyebags morphed into black fabric, all expression lost before it began.
“I am as well,” said Tokoyami. He adjusted his collar, the microphone, and speaker resting tightly across his throat. His custom outfit, with dark shapeless silhouettes and reflective industrial camouflage, felt villainous to wear.
“Oh stop being a chicken-shit,” Bakugou growled, tugging up his own mask. His at least better encapsulated his personality, embroidered with vivid white shark-tooth grins. A jack-o-lantern, or Kirishima’s worst snarl. Bakugou’s mask rested low, barely brushing the bottom of his nostrils and really only served to isolate his lips and effectively imply a gag. It felt unnatural to look at the normally explosive teeth and see such a restraint.
“This is really fucking weird,” Shinsou blurted behind his cloth. On cue, the speakers behind both Tokoyami and Bakugou’s ear chirped near simultaneously: This is really fucking weird.
Bakugou rolled his eyes, the whites yellow compared to the stark embroidery. He said, “Yeah well, this is the fucking finale, boys. This is fucking it!”
Shinsou giggled again, a tad hysterical. His hair couldn’t stand up any worse with how often he ran his hands through it. “I can’t believe we’re doing this.”
“Yes,” Tokoyami said, shifting under his shawl. “It…is odd.”
“I’m so fucking ready for this,” Bakugou growled. His eyes were wild, hands contorting and making muscle ripple out of his forearms. Bakugou could kill someone with one fist. And with his quirk.
“You ready?” Shinsou asked Bakugou warily, “We’ve practiced a few times, but I want to make sure-.”
Bakugou reached up and ripped down his mask, flashing white teeth, and his sneer. “We’ve been over this! Just fucking do it!”
“Fine!” Shinsou growled, concentrating on something just left of Bakugou’s words. He snared it, grabbing tight between both hands before slowly- he released. One by one, until only the smallest touch remained, a single nail pressing into skin-
“Okay,” Shinsou breathed slowly and opened his eyes to see his work. He could feel it more than see it- his hands shifting and sculpting Bakugou’s expression into what he wanted.
Bakugou’s face went slack, eyes dull and wrinkles smooth. His jaw dropped, breathing slow and calm. Less, and Shinsou withdrew one hair more.
“That’s enough prune-douche,” Bakugou snarled in a disorienting juxtaposition of a monotone. Tokoyami shuddered visibly, averting his eyes as Bakugou’s expression remained flat and apathetic.
Shinsou winced, pressing one hand to his forehead. The connection wobbled slightly, then steadied itself. It would take a while before Shinsou felt comfortable enough to stretch it, testing sudden withdrawing and rising over again.
“All good, fuck-weasel?” Bakugou intoned like a zombie.
“Fine, you’re just a goddamn headache,” Shinsou grunted. Bakugou made a truly disturbing bland laugh: Hah.
Tokoyami clicked his beak, unwilling to watch the grotesque experience.
Shinsou tugged up his facemask, aligning it and the microphones into position, his watch came alive and began to configure itself with the map they all downloaded ahead of time. The trackers in each of their suits would show live-time location.
“You’re ready to go?” Shinsou double-checked, making sure all of the reinforced ridges of his outfit were in proper orientation. If any of the metal inserts shifted wrong, a single kick would end up hurting him.
“Yes,” Bakugou echoed eerily. “My grenades are ready to fuck shit up.”
“This is…incomparable,” Tokoyami settled with another shiver. “I have my projectiles ready.”
“Right,” Shinsou exhaled warily. “The projectile trackers- we all know the drill. We’ve run through it like, nine times. You find him, you stick him, we bitch him.”
“Yes.” Bakugou intoned flatly. “We will make him our bitch.”
Tokoyami muttered something that could have been a prayer.
The three of them sunk out into the zone, already aware of the situation. For equal fairness, the setting and environment had been modified so neither party had an advantage. As per their request, no additional aid was provided beyond that of third-year firewalls as Midnight gave permission for.
Midnight signed off, the rest of the staff agreed, and along the high ceilings a dozen silent camera drones watched their movements.
They sunk through the zone, quiet and breathing slowly. Hearts racing in their throats, pulsing in their arms.
“Okay,” Tokoyami said quietly. “I am departing for cover.”
“Good luck,” Shinsou offered, keeping an eye on his watch as Tokoyami’s signal spread further from their location. “Bakugou, we’ll head for higher ground and stay low.”
“I know you idiot tuber,” Bakugou said. It felt like a computer reading from typed font. A poor narrator, a machine. Shinsou felt his neck turn into goosebumps.
They ascended as quickly as they could. Their dark form-fitting clothing wouldn’t disguise them well in the bright lights. Their only benefit would be the intense padding, protection, and hidden weapons.
A buzzer echoed distantly, and a large door slid open.
The final test had begun.
Aizawa stared at the paper in sheer disbelief. It wasn’t forged- let alone nobody would be stupid enough to forge this, but it was…ridiculous.
“It looks like you have quite the students,” Midnight taunted, her grin wide and eyes bright. “If I didn’t know better, I’d think they’re holding a grudge!”
Faculty challenges weren’t common, but they weren’t unheard of either. Often the third years, those on the cusp of graduation would succumb to their curiosity and file for challenging. A hero fight, the chance to test their full capabilities against a tried and true official. More a rookie spar, but often they turned sour first.
This was different, because yes the paperwork was correct, but this was…his students.
“I can’t accept,” Aizawa said. “I’ll hurt them-.”
“They were quite persuasive,” Midnight countered. “Principal Nedzu already signed off, I’m just here to tell you personally.”
Aizawa rubbed his eyes and felt numb. “No, their exam is over. It just finished-.”
“Ah, about that,” Midnight said. “This has been in the works and approved for months now. Before the exams, although I’m sure they’ll be pleased to know that you passed them anyways. Without this affecting that.”
Aizawa hung his head into his hands. “Nemuri, I can’t-.”
“You’ll break those children,” she said. “Or you’ll break their confidence. Pick your fight, Shota. Knock out teeth or expel them, there’s no in-between. The moment you selected them based on quirk discrimination, you were drafting for this fight.”
“I didn’t pick them!” Aizawa argued. “It was assigned already. I couldn’t manage any alternative exam which filled the requirements better, I didn’t have an argument-.”
“Then you better figure out your gameplan, mister,” Nemuri clicked her tongue and shook her head. “I’m the proctor for it. You’re given third-year clearance.”
Aizawa froze. “You’re kidding me. I’m given third-year protocols? Why on earth would I call in rescue teams- are you telling me there's victim actors arranged?”
“No, none of those. But you do have the resources for calling in rescue teams or a perimeter. Just so you know how serious this is.”
“I already know,” Aizawa said. “Remember, Bakugou, Tokoyami, and Shinsou aren’t your students. They’re mine.”
When the buzzer rang and Aizawa walked into the stadium, he wore his goggles and gear and prayed no student would be harmed beyond reason.
On a rooftop, Shinsou braced himself against a rooftop and told his team, “I have a visual.”
Aizawa cursed under his breath when he came across the distorted figure of something unimaginable.
He had seen many horrible quirks in his life, some physical amalgamations of flesh and bones or sensory organs too distorted to ever work. He had seen horrible things, monstrous things. Tokoyami crawled towards him with six limbs and reversed bones howling a shrieking nose of something feral.
(He thought he was fighting his children. Not this. Never this.)
He had fought Todoroki and Yaomomo but he knew those students- here was nothing like then. Here Tokoyami scuttled around like a freakish animal, long claws tearing across cement and powerlines where they collapsed and danced across the ground like venomous snakes. Aizawa could do little to stop him- he could only dodge and evade and watch as this…thing hunted him.
“Tokoyami!” He shouted, because what happened?
The thing- a mixture of Dark Shadow and his student, or perhaps the individuals warping one another into something else, howled and shrieked at him with rattling cries. The creaking of a door hinge, the tapping of cat claws across his kitchen floor. A collection of sounds with no humanity and Aizawa moved.
His eyes burned, and the shell receded enough to recognize that Dark Shadow was the manifestation- and still, Tokoyami flung forward wreathed in a shapeless dark mixture of fabric or skin or-.
And he broke line of sight behind a breaking billboard and failed to emerge from the other side.
Aizawa refused to break composure. He settled on a lamppost, crouched at the ready with his capture scarf prepared to whip. “Tokoyami.”
Beyond the billboard crawled a creature unknown to man. The 6-legged spider walked with crushing care, to the monster Aizawa was the meat it was meeting. A simple matter of matter to be consumed just as fear and horror consumed him.
It spoke to him in a chattering animal noise, a mimicry of his voice: Tok-Oh-Ya-Meh?
Aizawa whispered, “good God.”
Tokoyami crawled towards him, a twitching black rippling thing twice the size of the usual boy.
‘No, that isn’t him,’ Aizawa concluded. ‘It has to be Shinsou’s doing.’
A single firm hit was all required to remove the control, but with Dark Shadow’s cloaking, he’d have to be frighteningly close to make contact. In Tokoyami’s confusion, there would be enough of an opening to subdue him from the fight.
Tokoyami made a horrible rattling noise, reptilian or…like something long extinct. One long hooked claw made of shadows extended, gripping and shredding metal as it descended down the front of the billboard. Aizawa steadied himself on his lamppost. If Tokoyami’s higher thinking had been suppressed (how had Shinsou done that?) then the boy would attack him in a clear obvious way. He had to activate Erasure timed, counter the child into the ground, and subdue him.
“Easy…” Aizawa murmured quietly. He wasn’t called often to instances like this, where body modification quirks went wild. Let alone his student.
(Something about this…bothered him, to his core.)
Tokoyami (Dark Shadow?) opened its long hooked maw and screamed.
It jumped at him, long claws outstretched. Aizawa activated his eyes, lifted his arm into a firm counter and hurled Tokoyami into the ground.
The boy scrambled at him, claws (hadn’t he removed his quirk?) tore against his shirt and scraped against his reinforced body armor. He counted four limbs, kicking and clawing against his throat and shirt and neck.
Tokoyami was thrown to the ground, already scampering away behind a broken wall. Aizawa steadied himself for the counter attack-…
…and it didn’t come.
“The tracker was successful,” Tokoyami reported in, sounding faint of breath and exhausted. Bakugou and Shinsou instantly looked at their watches, scouring the rough map until the glowing location of Aizawa appeared. One of the ten trackers had landed, hidden under each of Tokoyami’s claws (nail extensions applied like fake nails. Bakugou wheezed over the stupidity of it) and on the tip of each shoe. If this plan had failed, they would be well and truly screwed.
“Glad to hear it, brave bird,” Shinsou drawled although his genuine emotion was obvious. “Take a breather but keep moving. I’ll keep you notified if he starts chasing.”
“Thank you,” Tokoyami said through heavy breathing. “Where is the explosive storage compared to my location?”
“One block north of you, you useless pigeon,” Bakugou sounded like a GPS.
“Ah,” Tokoyami paused. “Thank you, Bakugou.”
“Go lay an egg,” said Bakugou flatly.
Aizawa didn’t move until a few minutes had passed. He spent a short while securing a perimeter, clearly unaware of the tracker that had been lodged somewhere in his reinforced body armor. With any luck, they would keep the element of surprise a while longer.
“Alright, he’s on the move. Heading east, towards the overlook for a vantage point. We’re staying low but keep going, when you get to the fuses let us know.”
“Understood. I’m moving as quickly as I can.”
“Over and out,” Shinsou said. He slumped down, laying as flat and silent as he could next to the equally silent Bakugou. They stared straight up, waving halfheartedly at the cameras watching their movements.
Keeping an eye of Aizawa’s movements (uncomfortably close to their position) they watched Tokoyami get into the proper position. The pinch point would be directly between the two locations, hopefully where enough of the upper balconies could provide cover.
They only had one shot at the plan, after all.
“I’m in position.”
“Good,” Bakugou said plainly. “Broadcast it, chickidork.”
Over the communications, they could hear Tokoyami breathing before it cut off to silence. The microphones were muted, his speakers swapped for the alternative- Shinsou’s hero costume heavy speakers stashed with all the stored grenades. That, and the loud recording of Bakugou destroying a watermelon.
Tokoyami couldn’t respond, but they could all hear the distant high pitched outrage of Bakugou’s pre-recorded screaming.
“Eh?? Get back here you fucking-.”
A grenade detonated once, and then the rest began in a series of loud violent explosions. The recorded speakers performed well, distorting slightly under the crash of nitroglycerine.
Bakugou nudged him sharply, jamming a pointy elbow into Shinsou’s stomach. He nodded blank-faced at his wrist, where Aizawa’s signal was moving…fast. Very fast.
‘It’s easy to forget he’s a pro,’ Shinsou thought, wincing at the slow rate of Tokoyami’s escape as he manually connected his speakers back. Every second was valuable now.
Aizawa was practically on top of Tokoyami when the speakers and mic came back online- it was pure luck that Shinsou could shout “Stop moving!” and the other boy heard.
For a few horrifying seconds, Aizawa was right on top of Tokoyami, and then…he slowly moved on.
Bakugou noticed the problem as well. “Don’t move, featherfuck. We need to come to you and change the pinch point. Do not move.”
Tokoyami didn’t respond. Shinsou scrambled to his feet, thankful for the heavy boots, and began to sprint.
Bakugou’s lack of shouting was more uncomfortable than anything. They breathed in sync, keeping an eye on Aizawa and making sure they would be well out of eyesight. Once the man moved a bit further, more between them than on top of Tokoyami.
“Let’s do this guys,” Shinsou breathed as a confidence boost. “Let’s get this bread.”
“I can’t have bread,” Tokoyami said in a strained whisper.
“You two are fucking idiots,” Bakugou said nearly pleasant.
They all drew silent, they arrived at the plaza.
The pinch point had been determined long in advance. A tiny open clearing with plenty of high walls on three sides. A few open balconies and railings in fake apartments. Of course, utilizing heights and vantage points was dangerous since Eraserhead was skilled with his capture weapon, but Tokoyami had practiced scaling vertical surfaces and Bakugou could fly. Shinsou was dangerous enough on the ground and…well, he still had his secret weapon.
“Tokoyami, I’m still linked with Blasty. If worst comes worst, are you alright for a shift?”
“You have my consent.”
“You won’t need it,” Bakugou said. “I’ll fucking kill you all.”
“Have I mentioned I really hate this goddamn thing? Bakugou is freaking me the fuck out.”
“Agreed. It will be effective against the enemy.”
Bakugou scoffed but it sounded like a breathy sigh. Shinsou hated this.
They were in position, Shinsou sticking low to the ground under a shaded alcove as Bakugou scaled upwards to a middle platform as quickly as he could. Tokoyami was approaching from the opposite direction, Aizawa roughly only three buildings away from them. Closer than they wanted, but far enough for the plan.
“Alright, Bakugou, you ready to scream?”
“Fuck you,” Bakugou said, which was a yes. Shinsou closed his eyes, dug his nails the slightest bit tighter, and felt his body move without physical reach. Lift up. Lower the mask. Turn off the microphone.
Bakugou’s yell was a horrific bloodcurdling noise, raspy and wailing that cut off the moment Shinsou demanded it. Then, he withdrew as quickly as he could and left Bakugou with full control beyond that of facial expression.
“My fucking voice, you shit-stained purple-.”
Stop. Shinsou smiled as Bakugou’s voice cut off sharply. “Oh dear, my bad. Won’t happen again.”
“Please remember the mission at hand. Eraserhead is within eyesight.”
“Shit, thanks for the heads up. You’re going first then?”
“Yes, Dark Shadow and I will perform more…uncoordinated.”
“Sorry in advance for the bruises,” Shinsou said.
Tokoyami emerged on the ground with disproportionate limbs and a shuddery style of walking. It had been a lesson in patience, trying to work with Dark Shadow to cloak itself in such a way to construct a shell. Tokoyami made a noise, loud and uninterrupted. At once, Eraserhead lifted his head in confusion, his need to ascertain what the hell had made it.
Eraserhead knew it was Tokoyami- the creature, but something compelled him to make sure. He didn’t want to, but an unspoken sense of resignation forced his neck to turn.
He saw the thing, heard its scraping claws and snapping beak, listened to the octave of its new whining. He saw it crawling and breaking concrete with its foremost legs. As it reared up and shrieked its many cries, its legged snapped outwards no more than a hands width.
Aizawa leaped to the ground, handling his capture weapon like a lasso and Tokoyami the anguished beast uncomfortable in its shape.
One hand raised, the other dropped low. Erasure burned bright like fire and Dark Shadow screamed as it melted away, Tokoyami rattling with his hooked beak and blank expression. Aizawa grimaced with what had to be done.
“You’re doing good,” Shinsou soothed, trying to inspire some sort of confidence in his teammate. “Really great job. Rotate another 90 degrees, get his back to face the pink building, then we can move to the next stage. You’re doing fantastic.”
Bakugou spoke low and flat and dull. “Show your fucking teeth, you goddamn feathered velociraptor.”
Tokoyami surged lower, tilting his head like a parrot, rattling deep and inhuman and oh the noises his beak could make. Inhuman and disjointed they sang like funeral bells.
Aizawa grimaced, holding one hand low and outstretched. They turned, pacing slowly, herding the man into position. “Tokoyami…”
“Bakugou, go on and freak him the fuck out!”
Bakugou couldn’t smile, but he gave the impression of it with his sharp stiffened movements. He jumped off his balcony with a stumbling chaotic slouch, falling more than flying. The uncontrollable tightening of his muscles- it had taken a long while to achieve such a thing.
“Bakugou-,” Aizawa paused, evaluating the situation quickly. He shifted into a battle stance, prepared to fight front and back where Tokoyami’s stuttering crawl grew back its legs and shell and Bakugou stood like a twisted marionette. Serrated teeth sewn into a smile, his face had no recognition or familiarity.
“Bakugou, Tokoyami…” Aizawa said slowly, looking quickly between the two. His confusion was obvious, as was his slight stress.
“Hah,” Shinsou scoffed. “Bastard doesn’t know what I can do. Bakugou, I’m going to twitch your limbs a bit, I’ll release if there’s anything fast.”
Bakugou took one step on his free will, a careful acknowledgment that Shinsou utilized at once. From there, every movement consisted of contorted rotations, a possibility and lingering doubt that the joint would stay together. Bakugou moved with his head fixed on a sideways tilt, fingers wriggling like snakes under his skin.
“God,” Aizawa muttered, activating Erasure on Bakugou. It did absolutely nothing.
“Hah, okay guys, I think it’s time to ramp up the party. Go for it.”
Tokoyami skittered back with a hiss as Bakugou stepped forward with all the terrifying demeanor of a horror film. His hands curved as if in pain, and he let sparks detonate.
Aizawa’s face turned grim. “So you figured out how to use his quirk…”
Bakugou clumsily attacked, overswinging and twitching away. It was demeaning, embarrassing. Shinsou knew the boy would only put up with so much before it was his turn to make a fool of himself.
Bakugou took a strong hit to his stomach, his mask slipping down and revealing the emotionless blank face. Aizawa’s face shifted slightly, taken aback. Shinsou’s control was consensual, it wouldn’t slip under attack.
“Alright, I’m coming in now. Bakugou, drop!”
Bakugou would give him shit beyond the end of the world. Until then, Bakugou slumped with open eyes and went entirely limp. Aizawa staggered, overwhelmed and freaked.
“Sensei!” Shinsou crooned with no voice modifier. It cracked like a goddamn prepubescent boy- Shinsou could feel Bakugou trying to laugh, fuck him- “Sensei…”
Aizawa spun around, evaluated the situation where Shinsou swaggered about as if drunk (or incredibly exhausted), mumbling illegible things under his breath (his most recent grocery purchases, not like the man could hear him). He dragged his feet across the ground, the steel toe making a horrible scraping sound as if dragged. Shinsou crooned like Bakugou and Tokoyami made him practice off the internet videos of the creepy blood-drinking villain. “Sen-sei.”
“I don’t…” Aizawa trailed off, looking very alarmed, Tokoyami clicked his beak for emphasis.
Shinsou took three steps forward, then swung his arm. Aizawa instantly countered, then hissed in pain as the metallic edges caught and tore clean through the man’s uniform and bit into his skin like barbed wire. Shinsou babbled going on and on about the most ridiculous things (“The sky is so loud all the drones- duh ronessss...wave hi sensei say hello say hello sen-sei…”).
Another wide swing of his arm, better deflected, so this time Shinsou rammed his knee into Aizawa’s thigh and rammed his elbow into the man’s ribs hard enough to break.
Things escalated, faster than they anticipated. Aizawa had never gone full out before, and it was clear he wasn’t now. The three of them, even with all their planning, had no chance against a pro. They were forced to rely on a few factors and skills, things they had carefully cultivated over the entire match.
First, it seemed as if Tokoyami was, for better reason, inhibited of complex thought. Originally it seemed like Shinsou’s quirk had evolved further, now allowing others to operate while under his control.
Second, it seemed as if Bakugou was fighting against Tokoyami, therefore, they were all fighting each other.
Third, Shinsou was acting odd which implied when he controlled another, his own cognitive abilities declined.
Fourth, Bakugou was motionless suggesting only one person could be controlled at a time.
The wonderful part was that none of these factors were true.
(“Let’s give him fucking hell.”)
It all came down to a very simple thing that had taken months and months to learn and practice, something beyond any of their imagination until it worked.
Bakugou attacked forward, and due to his previous inactive state Shinsou let himself flop to the ground. He was dismissed, ignored due to a set of rules they falsified.
Bakugou leaped forward with an explosion charging, Aizawa very cleanly avoided the strike and let it pass by his side.
Tokoyami intercepted the two, Dark Shadow flashing in the small gap between Bakugou and Aizawa in a single well-choreographed movement.
Aizawa’s eyesight now completely blocked, and Bakugou facing the entirely wrong way to provide an attack-
Shinsou focused, shift your arm, Bakugou’s arm shifted, rotate the wrist, rotate the wrist, aim at something I can see, aim at something Shinsou can see.
Remote control, not controlling Bakugou, but working with him.
Bakugou’s face contorted into a snarl, a violent wild expression of wordless delight. Shinsou felt sweat on his brow, the ringing migraine in his ears-.
Eraserhead couldn’t deflect an impossible blow, after all.
Aizawa assigned Tokoyami, Bakugou, and Shinsou to play as the villains in the end year exam against the rest of the class.
Aizawa accounted for Bakugou's rage, Shinsou's asshole tendencies, and Tokoyami's self-esteem.
Aizawa did not account for the pure, unholy wrath, of three very petty teenagers who like to make a point.
(and who end up winning in the process.)