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Rivals

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Chapter One: Hate

Katsuki Bakugo

I'd always hated Deku.

Wait. No, that was nowhere near enough.

loathed him. I despised every fiber of his being. Every time I saw his face, smiling, laughing, breathing, something snapped inside me and sparked a rage so deep that I couldn't control it.

I hadn't hated him as much when we were kids. Sure, he was a constant thorn in my side and was useless at everything he did, but I had expected him to get some kind of quirk. A worthless one, most definitely, but at least he'd have one.

But when he was announced quirkless, everything changed. Suddenly, I was the one that was on top, who was going to be the next All Might. Suddenly, Deku - stupid Deku - wasn't going to be in my way.

And yet he kept chasing after me. Wherever I went, whatever I did, he was always there, taking notes on my quirk and nagging me with all kinds of annoying questions.

As we both grew, my quirk improved while he grew even more pathetic. It wouldn't have been so bad if he wasn't so smart. He wasn't physically strong, sure, but he could hold his own longer than I liked.

I soon pushed those thoughts away. Without a quirk, he was a joke- to me and to everyone else. Just another annoying bug I could crush just as easily as anything else.

And then things, with no sort of warning, changed. When he'd tried to rescue me from that sludge villain, not caring if he had a quirk or not, I finally saw something inside him I'd never seen before. Something that made me afraid, however briefly. Because the real fact was that Deku wasn't completely worthless after all.

Of course, if anyone asked me otherwise I wouldn't hesitate to burn them into a crisp.

Because Deku was Deku, and Deku meant weak.

His dreams of applying to U.A. had always been one big joke, as no quirkless loser could ever hope to get in. But when he'd got accepted along with me, I could hardly hold back my rage. For years he'd been keeping secrets from me, telling lies, and hiding that he had a quirk. Suddenly, he was All Might's little pet and his quirk only improved, even if it meant breaking his own limbs.

I was furious. All my work and dreams had been snatched up and destroyed by some stupid nerd who didn't deserve it in the first place. It just wasn't possible.

I took it out on him any way I could. Yelled at him. Taunted him. I even went so far as injuring him in our first training match at U.A. together. Still, the nerd kept getting back up again. Getting back up and showing me that he wasn't the same useless kid anymore.

"For now on, Deku is the name of a hero!"

It never occurred to me that I was doing something wrong. How could I be? I was supposed to be the next number one hero and Deku was just going to be an annoying memory. He didn't matter.

But now, looking down at him as he lay shivering on the ground, I realized that I didn't want him to die. That was the limit. Saying I wanted to kill him might have seemed harmless at first, but in reality, I'd learned it was a much darker thing. Death was cold and ugly and in these last few days, I'd learned the real consequences of it.

Even now, I could feel it in the air, hovering like a storm cloud as it waited to strike. And once it did, I knew there was no turning back. For Deku…

Or for me.


TWO DAYS EARLIER

I hadn't wanted to get paired up with Deku, but it seemed like Aizawa had had other plans when he'd announced the teams. I was brimmed up with anger when Deku was planned to pair up with me. When I'd swiftly refused, Aizawa had only told me that if I didn't agree with him I'd fail the training exercise and be possibly suspended.

No other choice, I angrily obliged.

But no way was I going to make this easy for Deku. We'd pass the exercise, sure, but I was going to make it hell for him along the way.

The training itself was almost laughable, but Aizawa had explained that it was more of a test of skills than strength. We would have to spend two nights out in the woods and be back by noon on the last day. Simple.

Or so I'd thought.

As Deku and I slipped our backpacks on as we exited the bus, I shoved myself past him and was glad to see when he stumbled. "Oh, h-hey, Kacchan!" he squeaked out, rubbing his shoulder as he ran back up to me.

I rolled my eyes. "What?" I held out my sparking hand. "You want to die?"

"What? N-no!" He bit his lip. "I was just, uh, going to say that I'm happy you're my partner and that we should both do our best!"

I glowered with a new hatred, making him stop in his tracks. "Don't think I want to do this with you, Deku," I said. "Just don't go and try to mess me up. I don't want to hear any of your useless ideas, got it?"

"Y-yeah! Sure! No problem!"

"Then shut up." Without looking back, I continued forward.

Aizawa called us all over by the edge of the forest before he started to talk about the exercise more. I couldn't care less; my mind was only on that bastard Deku and in what ways I was going to make him suffer. If we hadn't had to finish as a team, I would have planned to leave him behind from the very beginning. Instead, we had to spend two nights camping out together. The definition of hell itself.

I looked around irritably and my eyes fell on Pink Cheeks who was smiling happily at Deku. I couldn't hold back my scoff when Deku returned her grin. The two couldn't be more obvious and it made me sick.

"...so get into your pairs and be back by noon in two days," Aizawa finally finished, looking bored as he watched us all. "Whichever team gets back last fails, and any foul play will get you disqualified." He sighed and waved tiredly. "You're dismissed."

Instantly, I was turning towards the woods but was stopped when Deku starting waving goodbye to Pink Cheeks and Emergency Exit. What the heck was he up to now? Half of the other teams had already left and I was stuck with the one who hadn't.

"DEKU!" I roared. "GET YOUR LAZY BUTT OVER HERE ALREADY!"

Deku flinched as he turned away from the others and started running over to me, looking embarrassed. "Are we going now?"

I snapped towards him and could barely hold back the explosions from my hands. "FREAKING RIGHT WE'RE GOING NOW! GET YOUR USELESS STUFF TOGETHER AND LET'S GET OUT OF HERE!"

"Right! Well, I have it all." He gestured to his backpack. "There's my notebook, my pencils, my tent, my canteens of water, some food-"

"SHUT UP!" I hissed before starting to stomp towards the woods. "Don't slow me down."

"I won't!"

I could hear him following me as I stormed away, and for a moment it felt like when we were kids, with him always chasing after me. These next few days were going to be absolute torture for the both of us, but all I could do was promise to myself that no matter what happened, I wouldn't give Deku the satisfaction of being right.

Because he didn't matter.

And nothing… nothing… was ever going to change that.


"Hey, I saw some berries back there, Kacchan!" Deku offered from behind me, and I was startled to hear his voice after an hour of strained silence. "Maybe we should go back and see if they're good to eat? I know we have food, but I'm not sure it will last long enough."

"DON'T TELL ME WHAT TO DO!"

"I wa-"

"JUST SHUT YOUR MOUTH AND DON'T SAY ANYTHING ELSE! I DON'T WANT TO HEAR ANY OF YOUR IDEAS!" I shouted. "I don't care what you saw back there. To get through this forest, we're going to keep walking and we're not going to stop until it gets dark."

Even though I wasn't looking at Deku, I could tell he was disappointed. "Okay. Let's just make sure to work together, though."

I didn't respond.

We remained in the same uneasy silence as I marched forward, pushing branches and bundles of leaves out of the way angrily. So blinded by my irritation, it was only when Deku called me to stop did I realize he wasn't following me anymore.

I swerved around and my eyes narrowed when I saw him taking a gulp of water out of his canteen, leaning heavily against a tree.

He was taking a... break?

"What the heck do you think you're doing, Deku?" I huffed, storming up to him with a new fury. "There's no place for any of your nap-times here."

Seeming surprised, he carefully put his canteen back in his backpack before looking up at me. "I was just getting some water, Kacchan. "We've been walking for hours and it's pretty hot-"

"I DON'T CARE IF WE'RE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DESERT AND YOU'RE ABOUT TO HAVE HEAT STROKE, YOU STUPID NERD! UNTIL WE GET TO A PLACE TO CAMP, YOU'RE NOT TAKING ANY BREAKS!"

Deku put his hands up in defense. "Kacchan, it was just a little water. You should have some too- you look tired."

The corner of my lip curled upward in a growl. "Look, Deku, you might be used to having the easy life, but out here we're playing by my rules. Understand?"

For once, Deku didn't immediately say yes. Something flashed in his eyes, something new. He looked back up at me. "Remember what Aizawa said? We're supposed to be a team. That means I have an equal share in the decisions."

I gritted my teeth together, feeling my hands sparking with fire. "What did you just say...?"

"You can't keep telling me what to do anymore. Why don't we just start camp here? We don't have to keep walking. We have two days and it's not going to take us that long to reach-"

"SHUT… UP!"

Deku barely dodged my attack as I lunged towards him, chest heaving with anger. I could hardly think straight anymore, mind muddled in aggravation.

"GET BACK HERE, YOU LITTLE BASTARD!"

Whichever team gets back last fails, and any foul play will get you disqualified, Aizawa's words rang in my ears. I only shoved them aside.

"BY THE TIME I'M FINISHED WITH YOU, YOU'LL REGRET THE DAY YOU EVER APPLIED TO U.A.!"

"Kacchan, stop! Stop!" Deku yelled, maneuvering around my swings as I started to corner him against a grove of trees. "We can't keep fighting like this! You'll make us fail the exercise!"

"I DON'T CARE ABOUT THE STUPID EXERCISE! I'D RATHER FAIL IT THAN WORK WITH YOU!" I roared, blowing up part of a tree as he ducked under my fist. "YOU ALWAYS THOUGHT YOU WERE BETTER THAN ME, DEKU, EVER SINCE WE WERE LITTLE KIDS! AND THAT'S WHERE YOU THOUGHT WRONG!"

"I never said that! I just-" He didn't have time to finish his sentence before I blasted him yards away with another explosion, and watched him slam against a tree before rolling violently away.

I scowled, finally pulling to a stop as I watched him lay there, heaving. "Give up yet, Deku?"

He didn't respond.

"What are you doing now, ignoring me?" I snarled. "Get up!"

This time, I could hear him groan from where he laid. For a moment, I wondered if I'd actually managed to do any serious damage.

I could only stare as he slowly lifted his head up from the ground, looking confused and disoriented as he looked around. He looked up at me slowly. "K- oww," he hissed, a hand suddenly flying to his side as his sentence was cut off.

My glare deepened. "What's wrong, Deku? Being pathetic again?"

"I…" Deku trailed off, pulling his hand away from his side. Even from where I stood, I could see the blood that stained his fingers. He blinked in slow surprise. "I'm... bleeding."

I stiffened and fought the urge to explode something in anger. It wasn't like I'd meant to draw blood, although I wasn't opposed to it. I knew I'd give him a few scratches, sure, but if Aizawa found out about this-

"K-Kacchan?" Deku's voice said. I slowly looked back over at him and watched as he pushed himself up from the ground. He swayed on his feet for a moment and the color drained from his face. "Hey… did you get the, uh… the medical supply kit from the bus before we left?"

Medical supply kid? What the heck was he talking about now? "What supply kit, nerd?" I retorted.

His gaze lowered. "I'll take that as a no, then." He winced when he took a step forward, covering his side with a hand. "I-I just think I need something to cover it up with…"

"It can't be that bad," I hissed. "I only clipped you."

"You attacked me!"

"Same thing! What's your point?"

He pressed a hand to his forward, leaning slightly against a tree in support. "N-nevermind… just give me a minute to catch up."

Something stirred inside of me. I didn't like it. Was it guilt? Maybe a little concern? I had been the one to hurt him.

No. You promised that you wouldn't give him the satisfaction of being right and that's just what he's trying to do right now.

I tightened my jaw and allowed anger to flow freely again. No way was I going to feel sorry for that bastard now, even if my life depended on it. He might have been injured but it couldn't have been that bad, seeing how he was able to stand. He was just being dramatic.

"Fine. You have two minutes," I growled, turning away with my hands shoved into my pockets. "And don't waste any more of my time."

But as I marched away, a dark feeling settled down onto my shoulders- and suddenly, I got the sense that things were about to go very wrong.

Chapter Text

Chapter Two: Obscure

"HURRY UP ALREADY! WHY DO YOU HAVE TO SLOW US DOWN MORE THAN YOU ALREADY HAVE?"

Deku quickly finished tightening the bandage he'd made with a strip of blanket around his side and stood back up, wiping his hands off. "S-sorry! I'm coming."

"We could've be further along by now if you hadn't gotten yourself hurt in the first place," I snapped.

"You were the one to attack me."

"Whatever." I shoved my hands back into my pockets, swerving around. "Let's go. And don't slow me down anymore- I'm already pissed off enough."

"I won't," Deku said, if not a little irritably. "I just needed to bandage it up. I don't want it to bleed anymore."

I didn't respond, only keeping my head high as I marched forward. Just because he was injured, it didn't give him the right to slow us down. "Hurry up or I'm leaving you behind," I growled, even though that would be impossible. If Deku failed the exercise, so did I. We had to finish together whether I liked it or not.

Quickly, I heard Deku scramble up to catch up with me, following closely behind. "Hey, Kacchan? Where are we looking to camp?" he asked. "I was thinking we could find an empty grove somewhere in here and get some firewood from the trees-"

"Shut up," I snarled. "I told you to follow me."

"And Aizawa said that we're a team. I-I know you don't like me, but right now we're going to learn how to work together! It's going to be hard, I know, but we can do it." He came up beside me, looking determined. "We have to be able to talk to each other."

"Talk?" I stopped abruptly, forcing Deku to as well. "And just why would I want to talk to someone like you? I hate you."

He lowered his head. "I know."

"Then we're clear: you don't talk to me, you don't walk around me, and you don't share any of your little ideas." I started walking again, jaw held stiff. "You might think that because we're on a team that we're suddenly 'friends' but we're not, and we're never going to be."

I looked back at him with a black glare.

"You don't matter. And if we don't finish this exercise, I'm going to kill you."

Pushing ahead, I left him to follow behind.


I didn't know how long we had been walking before I realized that we both hadn't said a word in over an hour.

It was the silence that was the most disturbing. After our fight, I'd expected some silence, but it was no secret that the nerd couldn't keep his mouth shut. Except, he hadn't spoken yet. Normally I'd have relished the quietness, glad that he'd finally shut up, but for some reason, it almost bothered me.

No. He was fine, just being slow. I could barely even hear his footsteps anymore because he was so far behind.

I clenched my jaw and pulled to a stop. It was time to see just what was slowing him down. Angrily, I swerved around, ready to yell at him for not keeping up when my body froze.

Deku was obviously struggling to keep standing, swaying on his feet and practically having to lean against trees as he stumbled along. The blood was drained from his face and his knees bowed beneath his weight.

I hadn't expected this. What had happened to him in this last hour?

"Deku," I said gruffly. "Why are you being more useless than usual?"

Deku's gaze came back from whatever he had been staring at and focused on me. "What did you say, Kacchan?"

I narrowed my eyes. "What the heck is up with you now?"

Deku's fingers brushed over his side and he winced, looking down. Even I could see the red stained through his shirt. "It's… um…" He closed his eyes. "I think it's my side."

My eye twitched. You think? "You're not going to need another break, right?"

"No, I'm fine," he managed back, and for a moment I almost believed him by the way he made it sound true. If it weren't for his gray skin and all that blood, I might have even been able to believe that he really was fine.

I shook my head. I wasn't his babysitter- I didn't need to monitor how he was feeling. He could take care of himself.

"Then let's just go already," I snapped. "If you're so fine, then we can walk further before dark."

He didn't say anything else for a long minute before he looked down with a grimace. "I think I… I might need something to help me walk. My side, it… it really hurts..."

"We don't have time for this. Grow a pair, loser!"

"Come on, Kacchan. It-it'll just take a minute!"

I stared at him pointedly. This was going to waste even more time now. But then again, if I wanted Deku to keep up, I'd have to make it happen myself.

A growl escaped my lips as I marched over to a cluster of leaves and branches and then promptly grabbed a very long stick from the ground. He was going to owe me for this. I stomped back over to where Deku was standing before shoving it in his face. "There's your walking stick, you wimp," I growled. "Now let's go already."

He looked at it for a long moment before his gaze was back traveled back to me. "That's, um, a big stick."

"Yeah. So?" I narrowed my eyes. "Do you complain about everything?"

"N-no! It's just… I don't know if I can-"

I interrupted him with bringing the stick down on my knee and watched in satisfaction as it cracked in half. Rolling my eyes, I held it out to a wide-eyed Deku and cursed aloud when he still didn't take it. "You are the most annoying person I know," I snapped. "If you weren't injured right now, we'd be having a very different conversation."

He finally took the stick, rather meekly, before looking back up at me. "You're very good at snapping things."

"Limbs are good practice. And I'm going to snap yours if we don't get a move on, nerd."

I was about to turn around again when Deku called me to stop. I snapped back to him, eyes blazing. "I already gave you your walking stick, loser! Don't bother me anymore!"

"No-no, it's not that! I.. um.." He gave a weak smile. "Thanks."

We stared at each other for a second before I shoved my hands into my pockets, glaring in his direction. "Whatever. If you weren't slowing us down, I'd never have given it to you in the first place." I took off again, leaving him to catch up.

I expected us to have another hour or so of silence as we walked, especially since he now had help to walk, but it seemed like I was wrong. Deku almost made a point to drag his feet as he walked and loudly smacked his walking stick down with each movement. I hated myself for giving him it to him in the first place.

And then the coughing started.

If I wasn't ready to kill him by now, this ensured that I was. My palms started to burn at the sound and my teeth were clenched tightly. I was about ready to shout out a curse when suddenly Deku called me to stop.

I swerved around, eyes flashing. "What?"

"Sorry… just need to… catch my breath for a second," he gasped out. "My side… just hurts..."

I didn't know what to say. If he was looking for sympathy, he was asking the wrong person. "Again? Are you kidding me?"

He looked at me pointedly. "I just need… a minute."

"You already had a minute, you wimp. And a walking stick."

Deku wiped a few beads of sweat off his brow. "I'll be ready to go… in a minute..." He coughed once, then twice, before it looked like he was having trouble to keep a fit from coming on. He took another few seconds to regain his breath before leaning against a tree heavily. A minute later he nodded and cleared his throat. "Okay… sorry, ready. I'm good now."

Even as much as I wanted to, I couldn't deny that Deku looked anything but good. His face was drawn pale and his body was shaking like a leaf. I knew it was only a question of time before his body gave out on him.

No. He's fine. Don't let him slow you down more than he already has.

"About time, you nerd. Let's go."

"Okay… but, Kacchan, wait," he said, and I turned back towards him with a glare.

"What now? I already gave you your freaking break and I'm really getting pissed off!"

"I know... but with my side, I don't know if I can…" There was a silence so still that I could almost hear a pin drop. "...last until the end of the exercise."

That was it. The exact words I'd dreaded to hear. I could feel my heart start to pound faster and heat rose in my palms. "Are you kidding me?" I demanded. "It's just a scratch."

"No, Kacchan, it's…" He swallowed. "It's not."

My glare blackened and I turned around, storming away. "I don't have time for this. If you want to be weak, go ahead! But I'm not a loser like you, and I'm going to finish the stupid exercise!"

"Kacchan, wait-" Already having run up behind me, he jumped out in front of me and forced me to stop.

"Stop following me," I hissed.

"Just listen to me for once." He put his hands up in the air. "I-I know this training is important but I'll make both of us fail at this rate. If we turn back now we can make it back to Mr. Aizawa and maybe ask for an extens-extension on the exercise." He broke down coughing again before taking a moment to catch his breath. This time, his words were weaker. "I don't think I should do anything more with m-my side like this-"

"ARE YOU TRYING TO MAKE ME FAIL?! YOU BASTARD, THAT WAS YOUR PLAN ALL ALONG, WASN'T IT?"

"No, o-of course not!" He wrung his hands together. "I-"

"Just shut up," I snarled, shoving my way past him and scowling when he gasped in pain. A stain of red on his shirt caught my eye but I ignored it. "Don't be a baby! It's just a flesh wound."

"W-wait-"

"JUST HURRY THE HECK UP ALREADY! THANKS TO YOU, WE STILL NEED TO FIND A PLACE TO CAMP TONIGHT!"

All went silent behind me as I stormed past him, anger coursing through my veins. Who did he think he was, telling me what to do? He was a weak, useless, bastard, who couldn't even keep up with me on a simple exercise.

You injured him.

"It wasn't that bad," I growled, shoving my hands into my pockets. "He can take it."

I knew he'd lost some blood, but it wasn't like he was going to drop dead anytime soon. If he was so smart then he could figure out a way to close up the wound himself. I wasn't in charge of him or his stupid side.

Satisfied, I continued forward.

It didn't occur to me for another minute that the footsteps behind me had stopped. Silence replaced the drumming of Deku's walking stick and I stopped when realizing it. What was he doing now? Taking another little break?

I angrily swerved around, ready to give him a piece of my mind when I saw him and pulled to a stunned stop. There he was, a little over ten feet away, face-flat on the ground and laying eerily still. My heartbeat sped up. What had happened?

I waited another few seconds and felt myself tense when he still didn't get up.

"What did you do this time, trip?" I asked. "You can't even walk right, can you?"

He didn't answer me or even look up to acknowledge I was there.

A low growl escaped my throat. "Deku. Get up."

Silence.

"Deku."

He still didn't move. My heart missed a beat.

"Deku?"

I tentatively stepped forward, approaching his still form on the forest ground with caution. My body tensed when I saw his side stained with red, some of his blood already pooling onto the ground.

"Deku," I hissed, dropping down to my knees and pulling him upward by his collar. His head fell backward, green locks of hair hanging loosely. "Get up, you bastard!"

He groaned at the movement, brow trembling as a bead of sweat rolled down his forehead.

Looking closer, I could see that he was unconscious. He'd fainted, I realized. All the blood he'd lost, the pain, the pressure- I guessed it had all been too much. Something stirred inside of me. I'd done this to him. I'd used my quirk on him and he'd gotten hurt; I hadn't even bothered to see how bad the injury really was.

Who cares? I thought. It's not like it matters whether he's hurt or not anyway. I clenched my jaw. All he was doing was slowing me down more. He was so useless that he'd fainted.

I looked back down at him but soon saw that he still showed no sign of consciousness. "Deku," I said, shaking him more fiercely now. His head lolled back limply and I gritted my teeth. "Just because you're injured, it doesn't give you the right to go and freaking faint! Wake up already, loser!"

This time, Deku did stir. His eyes flickered underneath his eyelids and he let out a weak groan. "K...Kacchan?" His eyes peeked open and he blinked slowly as his gaze focused on me.

I released my grip and let his head fall back to the ground. He grunted loudly and I leaned back, satisfied. "About time you woke up."

"What-" He coughed loudly. "What… happened?"

"You fainted. I guess your little weak body wasn't as strong as you thought." I stood back up, shoving my hands in my pockets. "Well? You gonna stand up already?"

"I-I don't…" He sucked in a breath as he looked down. More wetness seeped through the fabric of his shirt and the size of the red stain covering his side took me a bit by surprise. "It hurts." I could hear the crack in his voice, and suddenly I began to understand how very bad this was. I'd seen him break his whole freaking body before with little concern for the pain that followed afterward. And even then he was still trying to fight afterward, not caring about his injuries.

But not now.

Finally, he looked up at me with a tired expression. "I guess can try."

I let out a sharp breath. "Then do it already."

Carefully, he tried to sit himself up but ultimately failed when his arms gave out on him and his head landed back in the dirt. I saw that he was shaking, tremors running up his arms and spine.

I locked my jaw. "You look like an idiot."

"Gee, thanks," he muttered before trying to sit back up again. Beads of sweat clung to his brow and he looked as if he was about to be sick. "Just give me a minute or two and I'll be ready to go. I'm fine."

"Don't give me that crap," I snapped. "You sick or something?"

When he didn't respond, I rolled my eyes. "Now, this is just great. Now I have to flipping babysit you." I slapped my hand against his forehead. My eyes widened at the heat that radiated back and I pulled my hand away. "It's been like two freaking hours, Deku!" I cursed. "How the heck did you get yourself sick so fast?"

He looked down. "Sorry..."

"I'll kill you."

My mind raced. Now what? He was obviously just going to get worse from here on out, which meant finishing the exercise was not likely. I held back a growl. Two nights together - just two nights - and he was already ruining it for us. Just like he always did.

But I couldn't erase the fact that he was injured this time, and it was clear he wasn't getting much further before dark. We'd have to camp out early so he would be ready for tomorrow. Maybe then we'd be able to finish the exercise.

I clenched my jaw. One night. I'd give him one night and if he wasn't better by then, I was leaving him behind.

"We need to camp soon," I said dryly. "Then your stupid injuries can heal overnight and we can get a move on tomorrow." I dug my hands deeper in my pockets. "Now come on, we can camp up ahead. And don't slow me down anymore."

"Yeah," Deku whispered, wiping away the sweat on his brow as he pulled himself to his feet. His legs bowed under his weight but he managed to keep standing. "Sounds good."

Shoving my way past his quaking form, I trudged forward, fists clenched at my side.

There was no reason to baby him. He would be better by tomorrow and it would be like the whole thing had never happened. And if he wasn't, well…

I'd be finishing the exercise alone.