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Ochako winced in pain as she was jostled around on horseback. She clutched at her thigh, where a bolt was sticking out. All things considered, it wasn’t that bad, but it did hurt like hell.

 

“Slow down, Tsu! Knockin’ me around is just gonna to make it worse.” The horse she was riding looked back at her and slowed its pace to a smooth trot.

 

The two had left the rest of their party behind, prioritizing getting Ochako to a temple for healing. They were traveling towards the town of Musutafu when they were ambushed by a small band of highwaymen. Ochako was hit before anybody knew what was happening, but Tsuyu had quickly interposed herself in bear form and kept the rest from being injured too badly. After the initial ambush, they were able to make short work of the brigands.

 

Tsu was the only one in their group with healing spells and she was tapped out. They had used their last healing potion the previous day, and they were low on food. Such was the struggles of their band of novice adventurers. They had decided their best bet was to get Ochako into town early and hope for mercy at one of the temples.

 

It was late afternoon when they arrived at the town gates. Seeing the injured woman, the guards had quickly pointed them towards the nearest temple, just down the road. They arrived at the temple grounds, a large symbol of the sun indicating its dedication to Pelor.

 

“Pelor, thank the gods.” Ochako sighed in relief. “We’ll find healin’ here for sure.”

 

The horse kneeled down and let her slide off her back, Ochako putting her weight on her good leg. The horse quickly changed back into her green-haired friend.

 

“Lean on me.” Tsuyu wrapped Ochako’s arm around her shoulder, helping her to walk. The two entered the temple grounds and found an empty spot to set the injured woman down. “Try to relax, I’ll be back soon,” Tsuyu comforted her and left to go find help.

 

Ochako attempted to relax, as her friend said, but found it difficult. Every breath caused a throb in her leg. She closed her eyes, but it only amplified her awareness of the painful intruder.

 

“Excuse me.” A voice called out to her, causing her to open her eyes. “Can I tend to you?” The voice was full of kindness and concern.

 

She looked up to see big, green eyes staring down at her. He had a look of worry on his face and kept glancing between her face and the bolt in her leg. He had messy green hair on his head and was wearing robes adorned with Pelor’s symbol.

 

“Yes, please. Thank you.” Ochako’s mother always told her to be polite, especially when others were helping you.

 

He kneeled down next to her and pulled out a small kit. He rotated her leg slightly to get a better look at the wound. “It’s not too deep, thankfully. How long ago were you shot?”

 

“Less than an hour ago.”

 

“Ah, a simple matter then.” He braced one hand on her leg, finger and thumb surrounding the wound. “This is going to hurt, I’m sorry.” He held out a strip of leather.

 

Ochako braced herself. “I understand.” She took the leather and bit down on it.

 

He slowly but steadily pulled the bolt out of her leg, causing her to gasp in pain. She bit hard as it was fully removed. Blood started pumping out rhythmically from her leg. He quickly took a small cloth and held pressure on the wound, discarding the bolt to the side. His hands moved with experience, attending to her quickly but methodically.

 

He removed the lid from a glass jar filled with a white ointment, took a dollop and rubbed it on the wound as he removed the cloth. Immediately a pleasant, warm sensation rushed over her leg, and she felt the wound vanishing. As the ointment went to work, the man looked at her right in the eyes.

 

“Are you wounded anywhere else, miss?”

 

She couldn’t help but stare for a few moments; the look in his eyes transfixed her. His expression turned to one of slight concern, and he repeated his question. Ochako quickly recovered from her daze with a slightly blush. “No, that was it. Thank you very much.” She looked closely at him, taking in his freckles and kind smile. “Are you a cleric?”

 

“Oh, uh, no.” He tensed up suddenly, then looked down, his shoulders slumping and his smile rapidly disappearing. “I’ve tried, but no gods have chosen me. I’m simply an acolyte here; I help how I can.”

 

‘Good job, Ochako, you offended him.’ She mentally scolded herself for hurting his feelings.

 

“Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean-”

“Don’t worry, please. I’m happy that you are uninjured.” He stood up and offered her a small bow.

 

“What about payment?”

 

He smiled, but Ochako could still see the sadness behind it. “No need, miss. If you wish to donate to the temple, we will happily receive, but I won’t accept payment.” He turned as he spoke and walked off. Despite his efforts, she saw the slump in his shoulders and heard the hidden regret in his polite tone.

 

Tsuyu returned a few moments later as Ochako continued to stare. “Oh, you were healed?”

 

Ochako nodded, showing her friend the lack of wound on her leg as she stood up.

 

“But I had the money, what did you pay with?” Her blue-skinned friend put a finger to her chin in confusion.

Ochako smiled sadly. “He didn’t want payment. He jus’ healed me and left once I told him there were no other injuries.”

 

Tsuyu nodded. “That was good of him. Come on, we’re supposed to wait for the others by the main gate.” She began to walk off, and Ochako trailed a few steps behind her. She looked over her shoulder as she walked slowly, her eyes catching on the messy mop of green hair in the distance.

 

She watched him walk towards the main building of the temple and disappear inside, head hung slightly. She felt terrible about rashly bringing up such a sensitive subject.

 

‘I couldn’t have known.’ She tried to make herself feel better. ‘He seemed like such a selfless man, he doesn’t deserve to be so sad. I never did get his name though...’

 

She sighed as she touched her leg. ‘His hands were so kind…’

 


 

Izuku sighed as he pulled up another bucket of water from the well. That woman had no way of knowing that asking him that would be such a sore subject, but it didn’t change reality. He didn’t hold it against her, of course, but it still brought his whole mood down. He tried to do his best every day to serve people in need and help others, but the gods’ silence was a reminder of how big of a failure he was.

 

No matter what he tried, no matter what he did, no deity had ever acknowledged him, let alone granted him use of their power. He had performed the rites, taken the pilgrimages, spent the weeks in meditation, but nothing. He had even attempted to earn the favor of deities such as Corellon or Moradin, despite being a human himself.


Every day, the silence grew more absolute. Every day, he grew more acutely aware of just how much he had failed his mother. Nearly everyone who became a cleric or a paladin at least heard something by the time they were 16. A vision, a dream, a sign or even a mortal messenger sent by the god. Something.

 

But Izuku’s 16th birthday had come and gone five years ago, and still nothing.

 

He continued to hold out hope, but every day it became harder. Sure, there were stories of those chosen to serve the gods later in life, but those tales were few and far between. He tried to do what he could, and that helped. He pulled his own weight and then some at the temple, he helped the hurt and sick, he was pious and reverent. He felt that by doing that, he was honoring his mother’s wishes for him in some small way. It would never be enough, but he had to do what he could.

 

That’s not to say he was doing it for selfish reasons. It felt natural for him to help others. Empathy was a much a part of him as breathing and sleeping. He worked as hard as he did to do his best, to be his best. In a world where he was without greater purpose, his work at the temple was his life. Helping others kept his head clear and heart light.

 

Izuku tried to shove the thoughts out of his head as he sat down in the back of the temple sanctuary. He pulled out one of the books he always kept on him and began to write. He had filled many volumes in the seventeen years he had spent at different temples, all about the rites, rituals and practices of the clerics and priests he observed. Maybe he hoped that being studious would help a god take notice of him, or maybe studying and writing let him pretend he wasn’t such a failure for a while.

 

He shook his head, trying to clear the cloud of negative thoughts from his mind. He was doing good work, after all. There were dozens, if not hundreds of people around town that he had helped, and that was just since he moved to Musutafu. People smiled and greeted him as he walked to the market square to pick up supplies for the temple and they requested him by name when they came to the temple for assistance. Seeing people’s smiling faces made his darkness disappear.

 

He thought back to the girl in the red hood he had helped earlier. She had caused him to spiral back into his regrets, but instead he chose to recall her face; the way she had looked so pleased when he had healed her. She was truly beautiful, and even a little exotic looking. That combined with the accent made Izuku think she wasn’t a local. The way she had smiled and the way she had looked at him… well, maybe there was a god or two smiling on him after all. He would never see her again, most likely, but just being able to help someone as kind as her meant the world to him.

 

“Midoriya.” Izuku was startled out of his smiling reverie by a voice from behind him.

 

He turned around quickly, seeing an elderly man standing behind him with a kind look on his face. “Yes, Father Takeo?”

 

The man smiled down at him, glancing at the book in his lap. “I’ve been wondering for a while, where did you learn to write?”

Izuku looked back and forth between his book and the high priest of the temple. “Oh! Uh- well, you see, before I came to this temple, I spent several years at a monastery of Ioun far to the East. They taught me to read and write, and how to copy tomes for reproduction and preservation.”

 

The priest noted that the acolyte’s response seemed a little mechanical, but he didn’t think too much of it. “I see. Well, this isn’t what I came here to ask you, but now that I think about it… you heard of Matsudu’s passing, yes?”

 

“Yes, sir. He will be missed.”

 

“Ah, it was his time. He would not want to be mourned.” The kindly man patted his shoulder. “Do you know what he did here?”

 

“He was one of the scribes in… charge of the… library…” Realization dawned on Izuku has he responded.

 

“How would you like to take that duty? You could put your education to use.”

 

Izuku’s eyes lit up, but he hesitated. “I’m not sure. I would love to work with all the tomes and scrolls in there, but I also love serving the people in my current position.”

 

He put a finger to his chin. “But if I were to preserve some of the codices that are in danger of being lost to time then I would be helping people in a more indirect way, and if that knowledge was especially useful or practical, like a book on medicine or architecture, than I could be helping many more people than I could possibly imagine. At the same time, there are people in the town that depend on me for my help, and I have a real passion for healing people-”

 

“Midoriya, you’ve lost yourself again.” Father Takeo chuckled as he jostled the young man’s shoulder. Izuku realized he had been mumbling and quickly began to apologize. “It is fine, child. You don’t have to give me your answer right now. Meditate and pray upon it, then let me know when you are sure.”

 

“Of course, Father. Thank you for this chance.” Izuku smiled gratefully at the man, still a little embarrassed.

 

“But you are right, there are people in this town that rely on you for assistance. That’s actually why I came to find you.”

 

“Oh!” Izuku closed his book, tucked it away in his satchel and stood up. “What do you need from me?”

 

“We received word of a family with a sick child.” The priest held up a small wooden box, filled with medicine and herbs. “Could you take this to them and pray over the child? Their house is near the northern wall, west of the main road, on the corner near the river park.”

 

“Of course, Father.” Izuku took the box and tucked it in his satchel. “North wall, west of main road, river park. Got it.” He bowed to the high priest. “I’ll leave right away.”

 

“Take care, Midoriya. May Pelor’s light shine on you.”

 

“On you as well, Father.”

 


 

Izuku quickly changed into his traveling clothes, trading his flowing white and gold robes for a white tunic and green vest. He strapped his red leather boots and donned his baldric, which held his mace. He threw his satchel over his other shoulder and picked up a lantern. Musutafu wasn’t a dangerous town, but only a fool went out after dusk unarmed.

 

He stuck to the main roads, cheerfully waving at the guards and townsfolk he passed. A stiff, early spring breeze chilled him, but his clothes were thick enough to spare him any major discomfort. It took him about twenty minutes to find his way to the location that Father Takeo described.

 

The house was modest, and the owners looked exhausted when they answered the door. They recognized him and quickly bid him enter. The child’s mother led Izuku to a room in the back of the small home.

 

“She’s been coughing for two days. She can barely sleep. We can barely sleep.” The woman opened the door to the child’s room.

 

“I see.” Izuku was well-versed in common illnesses. “Has she been running a fever?”

“A small one, sir.”

 

“Please, just call me Midoriya. I am but a humble servant of the gods.” He bowed slightly, smiling at the woman. He turned and entered the dark room, placing his lantern on the ground. The girl looked at him confused, and tried to say something as he knelt down next to her, but instead began coughing horribly.

 

Once she finally stopped, he smiled at her and held up a hand as she started to open her mouth. “Shh, no need to talk. My name is Midoriya, and I’m here to make you better, ok?” She couldn’t have been more than four or five years old.

 

The girl nodded, still looking confused. “Here, drink this. Sip it slowly.” He handed her a small blue vial from inside the box he had pulled from his satchel. The girl did as he asked, clutching the bottle with both hands. Once she finished, she handed it back to him. He took it and gave her another, smaller vial.

 

“Now this one. This will help you get some sleep tonight, ok? You’ll need to take this medicine for a few days, but then you’ll be running around, as good as new.” His kind smile calmed the child, who drank eagerly. It was only a few seconds later that she began to nod off and slumped back into her bed.

 

Izuku knelt down onto both knees and bowed his head. He recited the prayers of Pelor that he had memorized over the past few years, entreating the god of healing to cure the girl of her illness. After fifteen minutes and a sprinkling of herbs on the girl’s pillow, Izuku stood up and left the room.

 

The girl’s parents were sitting outside the room, worry evident on their faces. As the door opened, the looked up at the man with faint traces of hope. He smiled at them. “She’ll be fine. Just have her take one of these at dawn and dusk until she no longer coughs.” He handed them the small box of medicine. “And spice her meals with the herbs you find inside. If you need anything else, please come by the temple and ask for me.”

 

The parents sighed in relief. The man began to rummage in a pouch and presented Izuku with two gold coins. Izuku only took one and smiled at the man. “May Pelor’s light shine on you and yours, sir and ma’am.”

“Thank you, Midoriya. You’re a kind soul.” The man smiled, joy evident in his voice. Midoriya bowed slightly and left the house. It was moments like those that let him know he was doing alright. While he wasn’t able to do what she had asked of him, he knew that his mother would be proud of him for helping that family.

 

“Get back here, you little bastard!”

 

An angry roar split through the darkness as Izuku was walking back to the temple. Izuku blanched. He recognized that voice. He didn’t even think, he just began to move, running towards the disturbance. Someone was in danger.

 

He turned a corner into an alleyway when something crashed into him. He took a step backwards from the impact, and a small child spilled onto the ground in front of him. Izuku held up his lamp, illuminating the boy. The child’s red skin and horns let Izuku know that he was a tiefling. He stared up at Izuku, his eyes frightened but defiant.

 

At this moment, the source of the shout rounded the corner. Now, Izuku’s physical lifestyle and modest diet kept him in above average physical shape, but he had nothing on this man. The man was covered head to toe in muscle, most of it on display. He wore leather pants and boots, but otherwise his only covering was a fur collar, some straps, a few necklaces and the baldric that held his impressively large axe.

 

Izuku stood himself up to his full height, about two inches shorter than the shirtless figure at the other end of the alleyway. He braced himself, wishing that it could have been anyone else staring at him.

 

“Kacchan, what are you doing?”

 

The man stared, his anger fading for a second, replaced with shock. The fury came roaring back as he spat hatefully. “Deku… so this is where you’ve been hiding this time.”

 

“I wasn’t hiding. I was doing as my mother asked of me.”

 

“Oh yeah?” He sneered. “Are you any less of a failure this time around?”

 

Izuku’s shoulders dropped. “...No.”

 

“Just give up. There’s a reason none of the gods want to look at someone like you, coward. Now get out of my way, that boy stole my coin purse.”

 

Izuku remembered the boy. He looked down and saw the boy staring fearfully at the brute. Izuku crouched down, speaking softly. “Did you steal from him?”

The boy’s gaze snapped to Izuku and he stared for a few moments. He slowly nodded his head. Izuku looked at the boy only with kindness, not judgement. “Are you hungry?” The boy nodded his head again. Izuku reached into his pocket and pulled out the gold coin the family gave him.

 

“Here, I’ll trade you this gold coin for that pouch. You can take it and leave.” The boy looked at him like he expected a trick, but eventually held out the red cloth bag. Izuku took it and gave him the coin in return.

 

Izuku stood back up and tossed the pouch down the alleyway. The man caught it and opened it up, counting the coins inside. “Come on, child. Let’s get you someplace safe.”

 

“Hold on, Deku. He’s not getting off that easy. I’m gonna make him remember not to cross me.” The terrifying intent was palpable in his tone.

 

“He’s a kid, Kacchan! I-I won’t let you harm him.” Izuku put himself between the man and the boy.

 

“You won’t let me? Deku, who do you think you are?! Get the hell out of my way or I’ll make an example out of you instead.” He put a hand on his greataxe to show his intent.

 

“N-no.” Izuku stood firm, but trembling.

 

“After all these years, now’s when you decide to grow a fucking backbone. I can’t believe it.”

 

“He’s only a bit older than we were, what would your mother think?”

 

The man’s vision went red; his rage barely contained. “I don’t know, Deku. I can’t ask her, because she’s dead! They’re all dead! Or did you forget that in all those years you’ve spent cowering behind temple walls?!” His hatred and disgust dripped from his every word.

 

“I’ve never forgotten! The only reason I’m doing this is because I’ve never forgotten!”

 

The man pulled out his axe, blade glinting sinisterly in the dim light of lantern. “You disgust me. Get out of my way or die. Final warning, Deku.”

 

“What happened to you, Kacchan?” Izuku pulled his mace from his hip and held it, arms trembling. His voice was raised, hoping someone would hear the commotion.

 

“For the first time in your life, you’re not running away. You finally decide to stand up and pretend you’re not a coward, and it’s for some urchin trash. You’re everything I hate.” He snarled as the air around him grew hot and threatening.

 

Izuku felt the rage surrounding his former friend. His killing intent was almost tangible. “If I die, then I’ll die defending the weak from monsters like you.” Izuku tapped the boy with his foot, bringing the terrified child back to reality. He scrambled to his feet and took off down the alleyway and out of sight.


The man’s eyes seemed to crackle with primal fury as he bared his teeth in a feral snarl. He hefted his axe, ready to attack. His feet kicked off the stone, charging towards Izuku.

 

I’LL KILL YOU, DEKU!!

Chapter Text

Izuku didn’t stand a chance, and he knew it. The blonde man charging at him was right about one thing, he had spent most of his life behind temple walls. He had little experience even holding a weapon, not to mention actually using one. He wasn’t a cleric or a paladin, so there was no reason or opportunity for him to be trained in combat. The barbarian running at him had years of experience under his belt. He had height on Izuku, he had muscle, his massive axe had reach on Izuku’s simple mace. Izuku was outclassed in every way.

 

He considered the man his friend, at least until a few moments ago. He had always been a brute, he’d always been angry and rough around the edges, but this murderous aggression was out of character, even for him. If Izuku wasn’t in imminent peril, he would have tried to figure out what was causing it and try to help.

 

But he didn’t have that kind of time.

 

The man was on top of him before he could blink, axe raised high above his head. Thankfully, Izuku’s legs finally reacted and he side stepped as the axe came down, smashing into the stone where he had been standing. If there was any doubt about his intent, it was gone now; this man was trying to kill him.

 

Izuku swung his mace at the man, but it was a wild and inexperience swing, easily blocked by the man’s axe handle. He jabbed the end of the axe handle into Izuku’s chest as he recoiled from his own swing. Izuku stumbled back, staggered. He could only watch in horror as the barbarian brought his axe back and started to swing.

 

The head of the axe found purchase in Izuku’s gut. His world went white with pain and shock as his breath was driven from him and his blood spilled out from the gaping wound. He collapsed to the ground in a heap.

 

Izuku was only vaguely aware of what happened next. His breathing became difficult as every shallow, sucking gasp drove more blood from his body and more pain into his mind. The berserker shouted in triumph as he stood over him. “I warned you, Deku! You should… wait, what? No… what? What did I-”

Izuku caught three flashes of light from the corner of his vision. Three pink blasts shot forward and impacted the blonde man in the chest, throwing him backwards. “Get away from him, you bastard!”

 

He couldn’t move his head, but he heard the berserker stumble backwards, pain and confusion in his voice. He said nothing else, but Izuku heard him begin to run, his heavy footfalls fading and disappearing around the corner of the alleyway.

 

Izuku’s vision was going blurry but he was able to make out the form of a woman standing over him, the tip of her wooden staff glowing brightly with energy. She knelt down next to him and inspected the wound.

 

“It’ll be okay, jus’ keep breathing. I need to get you to the temple, I know someone there that can he- Oh my gods!” Her panicking eyes finally looked up at his face, and her expression twisted into pure horror as she recognized him.

 

He stared back at the beautiful woman he had healed earlier, his blood loss making him delirious. “An angel…I guess the gods were watching over me after all.”

 

“No, no, no, what happened?! Why did he attack you?!” Tears were forming in her eyes. “Just stay with me, okay?! I can get help!”

 

“It’s… too late… for that.” Izuku’s breathing was becoming more ragged. He felt his vision darken as his eyes began to close.

 

“No, keep your eyes open! Keep breathin’! You didn’t deserve this!” She put her hand behind his head, propping him up off of the cold stone and raised her head to the skies. “Somebody help!”

 

“Thank… you…angel...” was all Izuku could get out before his eyes closed.

 

He felt his soul begin to lose it’s grip on his body.

 


 

The darkness surrounding Izuku faded, and he found himself standing on a stone platform floating in a black void that was interrupted only by the twinkling of stars. He looked at himself, but instead of seeing his body, he only saw a strange black mist. He tried to breathe, but his mouth and nose did not respond. The only part of him that appeared to be present was his right hand and the top half of his head, everything else was a black nothingness.

 

Suddenly, a brilliant light, pure white but at the same time comprised of every color imaginable, blinded Izuku. He held up his one hand to shield his eyes, but nothing could deter the all-encompassing brightness before him. No matter what he did, he could not look at the light.

 

“We meet at last, child.”

 

Izuku’s eyes opened wide, still unable to look up. The voice was deafening, but seemed to bypass his ears entirely. The voice echoed all around him but he heard it in the depths of his mind and heart. It sounded whole, but also comprised of many voices speaking in unison.

 

Our time is limited, so I will keep this brief. Know this, Izuku: the gods never abandoned you. We were kept from you.”

‘We?’ Izuku wanted to scream, but he had no mouth.

 

“I am One For All.”

 

‘One For All?!’ In his time at the temple of Ioun he had read the name in some of the most ancient tomes in their archives. The books referred to a deity so enigmatic that some doubted its existence, while others claimed it was something else entirely.

 

“Izuku, you were chosen from the day you were born. Dark forces prevented me from reaching you until now, when you soul slipped from your body.”

 

A bolt of light shot out and struck Izuku in the forehead, knocking his head back and blinding him entirely.

 

“I have forged a connection at last. Izuku Midoriya, I christen you a cleric in my name. You will be the lone mortal vessel of my will.”

 

The light faded and Izuku blinked, but it didn’t help. He could still see nothing but the overwhelming brightness. The voice pierced deeper into his being; he felt as though it was speaking directly into his soul.

 

“You will not die this day. A great destiny awaits you, should you be able to grasp it. It will be some time before we can speak again, I grant you the first and second of my blessings. They will not be the last.”

 

The light somehow became even brighter, as beams of individual colors shot towards him, all converging into a single beam of pure white that Izuku felt rather than saw.

 

“Our time grows short. Remember this: even in greatest darkness, the light of hope endures.”

 

Izuku felt the stone platform crumble beneath him. He began to fall, slowly at first, but then all at once. The light faded as he fell, and he couldn’t help but hold his hand towards it, trying to grasp the light as it disappeared.

 


 

Ochako cried as she held her left hand on his chest, propping his head up with her right. She felt his breathing weaken and his body grow limp. She resisted pounding his chest in frustration and anguish. She had only just met him, and it wasn’t the first time she had watched someone die, but she felt a connection to him.

 

“You were so kind to me, and you didn’t even take payment for helping me. You were doing it jus’ to help. You didn’t deserve this.” She spoke to his corpse, hoping that his soul would hear her words. “I wish that a god would have listened to you. I only met you once, but you were one of the most selfless and gentle people I ever saw. After we met, I couldn’t get you out of my head!”

Her pain turned to anger. “If the gods could ignore and damn someone like you, then curse them all!” Her rage faded as quickly as it came. “I’m sorry that I never knew your name until you died, but I’ll never forget it.”

 

She cried for a few more minutes, weeping softly. Eventually, the tears slowed and she prepared to go find a guard. He deserved a proper burial, at the very least. She didn’t have the money, but perhaps the temple could help.

 

Before she could reluctantly remove her hand from his chest, she heard a crackling noise, and a soothing warmth spread across his body. She gasped and opened her eyes, but immediately squinted at the bright green light pouring off of his body.

 

The light peaked, blinding her and illuminating the entire alleyway like a green sun. She heard him take a deep, gasping breath, filling his empty lungs with air. He coughed several times before his breathing resumed, panting but steady.

 

The light faded and Ochako was able to open her eyes. He was laying on the ground, still propped up by her hand, but his eyes were wide open and full of life once again. She resisted the urge to drop him in surprise and to hug him in relief, and instead settled on staring at him. “Y-you’re alive… how?!”

 

His vision snapped up to meet hers; his eyes looked just as surprised as hers. Izuku opened his mouth and coughed twice more before finally being able to speak. “...that boy. Did the child get away? Is he okay?” He scrambled to his feet, pulling himself out of her hands.

“Boy?! What bo- Oh! That tiefling kid?” Ochako asked in confusion, to which Izuku nodded, still breathing heavily. “I saw him run out of the alleyway before I found you. He’s fine. Wait, were you defendin' him?”

“Y-yeah. Kacchan was going to kill him if I didn’t step in.”

 

“Kacchan? That man?” She stood up as well, looking up into his eyes in concern.

“Katsuki Bakugou. He and I are- were childhood friends. Something was off about him, he’s always been angry, but he seemed like a man possessed by rage.”

 

Ochako smiled warmly. ‘He laid down his life for a child he didn’t know. I knew he was somethin’ special, but wow.’ Her eyes went wide, remembering him dying.

 

“Wait, you told me that you weren’t a cleric, that you didn’t have any power. I felt you die, what happened?!”

 

“I’m not! Or, I wasn’t. I was chosen, or I was always chosen- I’m not sure.” He sighed, finally catching his breath fully. “I think I did die, or about as close as I can get without actually passing on.”

She gasped softly, worry in her eyes.

 

“When my soul slipped from my body… I met someone- something. It told me that I was chosen to be a cleric in its name. I know it sounds crazy, but-”

 

“I believe you.” She interrupted him with a soft, kind tone. He looked a little stunned. “Even if I didn’t see you come back from the dead, I don’t think you would lie about that.”

 

“... Thank you.” His eyes were filled with shock and admiration. Before she could respond, his eyes lit up with the same green light again. She started and took a step back while he gasped. The light grew outward from his eyes, traveling like a ring down his body and across his limbs. Izuku held up his arms in confusion.

 

He felt his muscles and tendons twisting and shaping themselves, but he felt no pain. It was truly a strange sensation, as if months of training were being shoved into his body. Words echoed in his mind as the light faded.

 

‘To stand firm and bear arms in my name.’

 

He moved his arms and legs. Izuku didn’t feel stronger, but he felt as though he knew things he didn’t remember knowing. He reached down and picked up his blood-covered mace from the ground and swung it around. It felt more familiar in his hands than he recalled.

 

“What was that?” Ochako asked, reminding Izuku that she was still standing next to him.

 

“...I’m not sure. I feel like I know things that I’ve never known before.”

 

“Well, maybe your god gave you knowledge? Mina says that her patron tells her things sometimes.”

“Yeah, that makes sense. It told me I had some great destiny. I feel like I could actually fight now.”

 

“You keep saying ‘it’.” Ochako rubbed her head in confusion. “I’ve only ever heard of male and female gods.”

“Oh! Right, well. You probably won’t believe me but-”

“We’ve been over this, Deku. I believe you.” She crossed her arms in mock frustration.

“Deku?!” He recoiled in shock.

 

“I heard that Bakugou call you that, isn’t that your name?” She let her arms fall, confusion on her face.

 

“O-oh. Well, you see, my name is Izuku Midoriya, Deku is a nickname he gave me after...” His shoulders slumped. “After something happened. It means ‘useless’.”

 

“Really? It sounds like ‘You can do it’ to me.” She smiled cheerfully.

 

“...How?”

 

“I like it! It sounds cute, too.”

Izuku wasn’t expecting her to say anything like that and began to blush slightly. “Y-you can call me Deku, then... I like the way you say it.” He stared at her as he said it. Up until now, he had been too enraptured by her big, brown eyes to notice the rest of her properly.

 

The red, pointed hood she had on hid most of her hair, but he saw short brown locks flowing around her face. She had what looked like a permanent blush on her cheeks, surrounding her cute nose and beautiful smile. She wore practical traveling clothes, a sturdy dress down slightly above her knees, belted at her hips, covering dark pants and high leather boots. His blush got a little deeper.

 

She didn’t seem to notice, but that was only because she was too distracted still staring into his big, green eyes. She then remembered where she was and shook her head. “But yeah, what god chose you again?”

 

Izuku stared for a few more seconds before registering her question. “Oh, right! Uh, well, I spoke to One For All.”

 

She stared at him for a few seconds.

 

“See, I told you that you wouldn’t believe me…” He looked dejected.

 

“It’s not that I don’t believe you…” Her eyebrows were raised in confusion. “I’ve just never heard of that one.”

 

“Oh! Of course, I don’t imagine most have, actually.” He put a finger to his chin and held up his other hand as he explained. “One For All is mysterious and reclusive. The information we do have on it is sparse and uncertain to say the least. The stories say that One For All only ever picks a single mortal at a time as its servant. The last one hasn’t been heard of in… centuries. Some claim that it doesn’t even exist anymore, or never did.”

“Well, after what I saw just now, I’m a believer!” Ochako laughed.

 

“Thank you, miss. That means a lot to me.”

 

“Miss? Oh, of course, how silly of me.” She held out a hand and her staff that had fallen to the ground shot back into her hand. She leaned on it, smiling wide enough that her eyes closed. “My name is Ochako Uraraka. Thanks again for healin' me earlier!”

 

Izuku stared at the staff. It was made of twisted wood, a light red crystal adorning its head. “Are you a wizard?”

 

“No…” She seemed hesitant all of a sudden. ‘We’ve only talked for a total of about ten minutes, but I feel like I can trust him. He would find out eventually anyway, right?’

 

She sighed. “I’m a sorcerer.” She looked scared and a little resigned, as if ready for him to recoil in fear or attack her.

 

“Woah?! Really?!”

 

She didn’t expect that . She looked up at him with shock. “Y-yes?”

 

He looked at her with amazement, like the was the most incredible thing he had ever seen, as if he didn’t just die and come back to life a few minutes prior. “I’ve never met a sorcerer before! How did you find out you had magic? Were you born with it? How does it manifest? Is it true that you have to use magic regularly or it builds up?”

 

She took a step back, unprepared for his barrage of questions. She noticed with surprise that he had, at some point, recovered his satchel from the ground and had pulled out a leather-bound tome. It was open in his hands with a quill in his other as he stared at her expectantly.

 

She panicked for a second, before finding her escape route. “It’s getting late, Deku. I need to get back to my friends or they’ll get worried.”


His enthusiasm faded a bit as he remembered where he was. “Oh, of course. Father Takeo is likely worried about me too.” He bowed slightly, remembering his manners. “Thank you again for coming to my aid, Miss Uraraka. I wish you luck on your endeavors.”

 

“Don’t be so formal, silly. We’re friends, right?” She playfully swatted at his arm.

 

“F-friends?” A goofy smile formed on his face. “Yeah, I’d like that.”

 

“I’ll stop by the temple tomorrow, is that ok?”

 

“Of course, Mi- Uraraka. Pelor’s doors are always open.”

 

They turned and walked down the alleyway together, in a strange, but calm silence. Ochako was then struck by an idea.

 

“So you’re a cleric now, right?”

“Uh, I guess?”

 

“So you can cast divine spells and heal and stuff?”

 

“Um… I was only granted the power a few minutes ago…” He put his finger on his chin again. “But I don’t see why I wouldn’t be able to, at least eventually. He closed his eyes and concentrated a bit. “I think I feel some energy flowing around, but this is still very new to me.”

 

“Well, I’ve had this idea, see?” She held her hands out in front of her; her staff floated nearby. “This One For All said you had some crazy destiny, right?”


“Yeah…”


“And you said it only gives its power to a single mortal at a time, right?”



“That’s what the stories say.” He didn’t follow her.

 

“My friends and I are adventurers, Deku. Exploring the world, helping people, finding long-lost treasures, that sort of thing. We’re all still pretty new at the whole thing, and we seem to keep gettin' hurt a lot.”


Izuku gasped. “Hurt? Oh, no. Are you hurt now? Why didn’t you tell m-”

 

“Deku, calm down. I’m fine. I’m not the one who caught an axe in the gut.” She pointed a finger accusingly at his hip. “No, I’m sayin' that we could use someone that brings some healin' and strength to our group, understand? Someone like a cleric.”

 

Izuku stopped walking, either not able or not willing to understand what she was saying. “W-what?”

 

“I’m asking if you want to maybe join our group? I can’t speak for the rest, but you can certainly come meet them and let them decide.”


Izuku thought. “I’ve never done anything like that before. I don’t know the first thing about fighting or adventuring.”


“Then you’ll learn! Besides, if you’ve got an entire god behind you, I’m sure you’ll kick some serious butt!” She pumped her fist in excitement, causing her staff to flail around a bit as it floated.

 

“I… I don’t know.” He breathed, steeling himself. “I’ll at least meet your friends, though. If you vouch for them, I’m sure they’re good people.”


“They are! You’ll love them.” They stopped as they reached an intersection. “Instead of me comin' by the temple, you come by the Three Candle Inn tomorrow afternoon, okay? I’ll have the girls ready.” She waved as she walked off.

 

“I’m honored. I’ll see you then.” He gave her a kind wave back and turned to walk to the temple, holding his lantern up in front of him. He spent most of the walk back to the temple in deep thought, reeling from the events of the past hour. Part of him still couldn’t believe it was real.

 

‘I leave the temple to bring medicine to a sick child, and in the hour I’m gone, I get attacked by Bakugou, die, meet One For All, get granted his power, meet Uraraka again, get invited to meet her friends and maybe join their adventuring party? What in the Nine Hells…’

 

He walked back into the temple, clutching his head slightly from all the thoughts flying through it. He placed the lantern back on the shelf where he got it from, then another thought struck him. ‘Wait, why didn’t she have a lantern? Oh, well. Maybe I’ll ask her tomorrow when I meet the girls.’ He stopped as his face went pale, then rapidly filled with blush.

 

‘Wait. Girls?!’

Chapter Text

As was customary, Izuku woke before dawn, just like everyone else at the temple; sunrise was a sacred event for the followers of the sun god, after all. Like every morning, he went and found a secluded spot in the garden behind the temple. Like every morning, he dropped to his knees and began to pray.

 

But, unlike every morning, Izuku was not praying to Pelor that day. Instead he sent his prayers to his new deity, the one who had chosen him. He had woken up that morning in a cold sweat, afraid that the events of the previous day had been a dream, but as he ran his fingers along the large, miraculously healed scar along his hip and stomach, he knew that it had been no dream.

 

He closed his eyes and let his heart and soul cry out for One For All. He sat and prayed for nearly an hour with no success. He was used to silence, of course, he had found nothing but silence in his life. He had begun to give up hope when he felt… something.

 

It wasn’t the words or the light from his encounter the previous day, but something much more faint and distant. It was a sort of… sense that he was connected to something greater. It felt like a far-off whisper that he couldn’t quite hear. But it was there. It was there and it was real.

 

Izuku felt tears form in his eyes. The whisper was so quiet it was barely there, but was deafening to him after the years of silence. He quickly opened one of his well-worn tomes; he had prepared for this day for years. He had listened and watched the training of every new generation of clerics at every temple he had lived at, anticipating the day he could finally call divine power himself.

 

He read his notes carefully, recalling the lessons he had witnessed. The clerics would spend time in prayer, entreating their god for knowledge and power. The novices could only channel enough divine power to cast a few spells each day, so that’s where Izuku decided to start. He would ask for a small modicum of power, as he was a novice himself.

 

He reached out and felt that faint glimmer of connection to One For All, grasping it with his mind and soul. He ever so slowly pulled it towards himself, asking for the power to heal those in need and protect the weak. He wished to bear arms and stand firm in One For All’s name, as he was tasked with. It was like grabbing running water, but he coaxed the trace of divine energy towards himself until he felt it enter him.

 

Then, everything went white.

 

The small whisper answered his call, but when it touched him, it turned into a roar. He had felt the smallest trickle, like a leak in a dammed river, but that dam had burst and now the full rush of that river crashed down on him. Every single sense in his body felt like it was on fire, and his body screamed. It wasn’t pain, but an incomprehensible warmth that overwhelmed his very being.

 

He thought he was screaming too, but he couldn’t be certain. His brain could comprehend nothing beyond the sheer power crashing into his body. He felt the roar in the depths of his mind and soul, the voices many but one, his eyes and heart saw only the light, both a dazzling rainbow and pure white.

 

Then, like a door slamming shut, it all ended. He collapsed on the ground, panting and reeling. Izuku looked at his hands and felt his body, making sure he was still all there. He had felt like his entire existence was being dismantled and reassembled, and he held his head up with one hand, thanking the gods above that he survived it.

 

He blinked, clearing his eyes as his vision returned fully. With a degree of fear he noticed his surroundings. The peaceful and well-tended grove was utterly devastated. A massive scorch mark, as if a great fireball had erupted, was centered on his body. The flowers were incinerated and the trees and bushes were burnt and stripped of leaves.

 

He looked around and saw the other clerics, acolytes and priests that were in other parts of the garden staring at him in a mixture of awe and horror. Izuku stared back at them, nobody said anything or moved for what felt like minutes.

 

The priest closest to him was still rubbing his eyes from the blinding light, but finally spoke up. “Midoriya, I think you should speak to Father Takeo.”

 

Izuku nodded and slowly rose to his feet. The rest of the courtyard was still staring slack-jawed as he quickly made his way back into the temple.

 


 

“So, you invited a random guy you met on the street into our group?” The warlock was leaned back in her chair, eating her breakfast.

 

“No, I met him yesterday at the temple. He’s the one who healed my leg.” Ochako pointed down at her lack of wound.

 

“I thought you said he used a salve, not magic.” Tsuyu put her finger to her chin.

 

“Right, buuuut then last night in the alleyway happened. And I didn’t invite him to join, I asked him to come by and meet you all. I think he would be a great fit, but we’re a party, yeah?” Ochako wasn’t used to receiving this degree of interrogation.

 

“I was only half-listening when you talked about that. So he got attacked and healed himself? What’s so impressive about that?” The warlock pointed her fork at the sorcerer as she questioned her.

 

“No, he didn’t heal himself, his god did. You weren’t there, you didn't see all the blood; he wasn’t just dying, he was dead . Then, all of a sudden there was a blinding green light and he wasn’t dead anymore. The wound was closed and he was as good as new.”

 

“It’s true that we could use someone like a cleric. We can at least give him the courtesy of speaking with him.” The fighter placed her own fork down as she talked. “Am I safe to assume that he follows Pelor?”

 

“No, he works at the temple, but that wasn’t who he said he saw. He said it was… One For All? I think?”


“I’ve never heard of a god like that.”

 

“Neither have I, but if you were there in that alleyway, you would be a believer.” Ochako pumped her fists in front of her. “You should have felt the power there. Sure, he’s greener than any of us, but he seems clever. We give him a few pointers and then we have the power of the divine on our side!”

 

“Like I said, we’ll certainly meet him at the very least.” The fighter looked around the table. “Where is-” She sighed. “Someone go wake her up.”

 

“Bold of you to assume she actually slept last night.” The warlock let her chair fall back down as she leaned forward.

 


 

Izuku knocked on Father Takeo's door and entered as he heard a response. The high priest was reading over some newer looking scrolls, likely notes and letters from other temples. He saw the green haired boy step inside his office and rolled them up.

 

“Midoriya, glad to see you are alright. You were out much longer than I expected last night.”

 

“Yes sir, I’m sorry about that. I delivered the medicine and did as you asked, but on the way back there was an… incident.” Izuku took a seat in front of the man’s desk.

 

“An incident? Are you quite alright, my child?”

 

“Uh, yes, I am now, but you see-”

At this point the door behind them was thrown open by one of the other acolytes in the temple. He stood there, panting and wide eyed. “Father Takeo! Someone or something set off a fireball in the prayer garden! An entire grove is burnt beyond recognition!”

 

Izuku turned back to Father Takeo, who looked understandably startled. “Yeah uh, it has to do with that, actually.” He poked his fingers together in embarrassment.

 

The high priest looked at the boy with wide eyes, and then back to the equally stunned acolyte. “Thank you, my child. I’ll be there where I can.” He dismissed the younger boy, then settled back into his chair, resting his arms on his desk. “Midoriya, I would like to hear about this incident.”

 

“I figured you would, Father.”

 

Izuku sighed and began. “On my way back from delivering the medicine, I heard a commotion in an alleyway. I went to investigate and found a large, shirtless man chasing a small child. The child ran into my leg and fell down. As it turns out, he had stolen the man’s coin purse. The boy was hungry, so I traded the money the family gave me for the coin purse and returned it to the man.”

 

“A noble deed.” The priest nodded his approval.

 

“Thank you, Father. The man was not satisfied, however, and wanted to make ‘an example’ of the child. I stood between them, preventing him from attacking the young boy. The child ran off, but the man took… exception to my interference. He decided to make an example of me instead.”

Father Takeo’s eyes went wide with concern.

 

“He drew his axe and attacked me. I didn’t stand a chance, sir. He caught me full in the side with a blow, dropping me like a sack of potatoes. As he loomed over me, a woman came to my aid. She cast a spell at him, driving him off.”

“And she healed you? You seem quite fine for being struck down by an axe.”

 

“N-not exactly. You see, she came over to me and tried to calm me down, but… I died. Or just about as close as you can get.”

 

The man’s eyes went wider still as he straightened up.

 

“While I was bleeding, slipping from this mortal coil, I… experienced a vision. A god spoke to me and declared me a cleric. I was healed by this power and woke up alive and well.” Izuku held his shirt up, showing the man the large scar across his side and stomach.

 

“And then, this morning, during my daily prayers, I reached out to the one who saved me. Instead of the silence I heard for years, I heard… something. I drew that something into myself and… well, I, uh, I sort of exploded.”

 

“You exploded.”

 

“Yes, Father. I’m fine, as you can see, but the power granted to me was… you should see for yourself.” Izuku rubbed the back of his neck.

 

“Hmm. It seems I should. Come, Midoriya, let’s inspect the damage.” The man stood up, half amused and half stunned. The two of them made their way to the prayer garden, where a crowd had gathered.


The crowd split upon seeing Father Takeo, who stopped at the edge of the scorched grove. “Hmm, Midoriya, I see what you mean.” The elder laughed. “You must have quite a lot of potential to have done something like this.”

“Thank you, Father.”

 

“But you need control. Obviously. You can’t blow up a garden every time you pray, my child.”

 

“Yes, Father.”

 

The high priest turned around to the crowd. “You all have duties to attend to, don’t just stand there!” He waved a firm hand, causing the staring clergy to rapidly disperse. Many of them were whispering to each other while staring at Izuku, others gave him encouraging pats on the shoulder or a thumbs up. “Not you, Midoriya.” Izuku had started to move off as well, but quickly returned to Father Takeo’s side.

 

After a few minutes, they were quite alone. “Now, Midoriya. I am many things, but I am no fool.” He held up a hand and laughed as Izuku started to sputter. “I don’t believe you think I am one, calm down, child. What I am saying is that I took notice of you never naming the god who chose you. Am I wrong to assume that you now follow someone other than Pelor?”

 

“That is a correct assumption, Father. And that’s part of what I wanted to speak with you about. As I follow another god than Pelor, while I am immensely grateful to both you and him for sheltering and guiding me all these years, I will be leaving the temple.” Izuku hung his head. “It may be today, tomorrow, or sometime in the near future, but I need to seek my destiny elsewhere.”

 

“I understand, child. And I won’t ask why you refuse to give me a name.” He laughed again. “Our doors are always open to you, should you need anything. May Pelor’s light shine on you, Midoriya.”

 

Izuku bowed deeply. “On you as well, Father.”

 


 

Izuku quickly made his way to the Three Candle Inn after grabbing a shirt and vest that had less axe holes in them than his previous set. He strolled through the center of town just like he did the previous day, passing by the shops as he headed north towards his destination.

 

He entered inside and waved to the proprietor, a man who Izuku had had helped with an illness of his own the previous year. He told Izuku that he was always welcome in his Inn, and that if he ever needed a place to stay or a bite to eat, then he was happy to oblige. Izuku made a point of visiting for lunch about once a month, even though he insisted on paying, despite the man’s protests.

 

He wound up talking to nearly every local at the Inn over the next twenty minutes. Eventually, Ochako, who he hadn’t noticed sitting alone near the back of the dining room got impatient and walked up behind him and tapped him on the shoulder.

 

Izuku turned around and nearly jumped out of his tunic. “Uraraka! Sorry, I got a little sidetracked.”

 

“I noticed that.” She crossed her arms like she was upset, but her face was beaming. “Do you know everyone in this town?”

 

“Wouldn’t be surprised, Midoriya’s helped a lot of us out!” The woman at the table who Izuku was talking to interjected into the conversation.

 

“Sure has,” her husband added, “Midoriya healed our son when he broke his leg last fall and helped me bring in the harvest while he was restin’ up! You talk to anyone in this town and they’ll probably have a story to tell you about him.”

 

“It was really nothing, Mr. Jakobs, I couldn’t just let harvest pass when you were down a farmhand.” Izuku tried to wave the praise away.

 

Ochako smiled warmly at their praise. ‘I guess I had a good feelin’ about him for good reason.’

 

“I’m ready when you are, Uraraka.” Izuku smiled nervously at her.

 

‘Ready’ was perhaps a bit disingenuous.

 

Ochako led Izuku towards one of the private rooms in the back of the inn. She turned at the door, giving him a big smile. “Jus’ be yourself, alright?”

 

He nodded with a shaky expression on his face. The door opened and he walked inside, following Ochako.

 

Sitting at a table were four women, a blue skinned woman with green hair, a pink haired women who was tinkering with something on the table, a pink-skinned tiefling and a black-haired elf.

 

Izuku froze up. ‘Oh, no. They’re all beautiful.’

 

Ochako took a step to the side of the table and held her hand out. “Let’s start with introductions. This is Tsuyu Asui. Tsu, this is Izuku Midoriya.”

 

Izuku’s eyes moved over to the girl. She was blue skinned with long green hair tied ornately behind her and her black eyes were large on her mostly expressionless face. She seemed to be shorter than the rest of the women present and wore simple clothes over her modestly curvy body.

 

Izuku stopped. ‘Wait. Blue skin, green hair… is she?’ His eyes went wide and he whipped out one of his tomes and his quill. He stepped quickly to the edge of the table, wild grin spread across his face. “Are you a triton?!”

 

The girl’s eyes widened in surprise.

 

“Is it true that your people originated in the Plane of Water? What brought you to the surface? Just how far back does your people’s history go? Oh gods, I have so many questions!”

 

The girl stared back in silence for a few seconds. Then she grew a small smile and turned to Ochako. “I like him.” She turned back to Izuku. “Please, call me Tsu.”

 

Izuku realized what he had done and quickly blushed in embarrassment. He closed his tome and bowed slightly. “I apologize, As- Tsu. My eagerness overcame my judgement.”

 

“Forget about it. I would be happy to talk with you later.” Tsuyu smiled happily at him.

 

Ochako was a little taken aback from the interaction, but continued on. “...okay. Uh, next is M-”

 

The woman tinkering with a small mechanical device finally looked up and interrupted Ochako. “Cleric boy! Can you read, write and or do manual labor?” Izuku went wide eyed at the sudden burst of activity. She had pink hair in thick locks that hung a bit past her shoulder and she was wearing dirty, casual clothing, leaving little of her generous body to the imagination. Her large eyes burned with intelligence and ingenuity and her mouth was wide in a crazed grin.

 

Izuku was taken aback by the manic look in her bright, yellow eyes but quickly recovered. He glanced at the woman, then down to the tome and quill in his hand, and then back to her. “...I do all three on a daily basis.”

 

“Great! He’s got my vote!” She went back to the strange goggles she was working on.

 

“Mei! You can’t just- ugh!” Ochako sounded a lot more upset than she looked. She put her hand on her forehead and gestured at the woman with her other hand. “That’s Mei Hatsume.”

 

“A pleasure to meet you, Miss Hatsume.” Izuku didn’t get a response.

 

Ochako moved on quickly. “Next we have Mina Ashido.”

 

Izuku glanced over the tiefling. Strangely, her skin was a much brighter shade of red than any tiefling he had ever seen. Her messy hair was a slightly brighter shade of pink, and two large horns twisted out from underneath. Her golden, infernal eyes stared at him while her fanged mouth smiled brightly. She had a body similar to Mei, athletic but curvy, covered by nicer clothes complimented by a leather corset and a low-cut neckline.

 

“Heya, Midoriya. Ochako told me you got yourself killed yesterday!” She waved cheerfully despite her morbid question.

 

“I-I, uh, yes I did, Miss Ashido.” He blushed slightly.

 

“What were you doing in that alleyway anyways?”

 

“Oh, uh, I was defending a child from an attacker.”

 

“He protected a little tiefling boy from a brute. That’s why he got attacked himself.” Ochako wasn’t having any of his modesty right now.

 

“Oh~ So you’re not freaked out by my horns and tail then?” She flicked her long, muscular tail behind her as she smiled a teasing smile.

 

“N-no, Miss.” He blushed harder and looked down.

 

“Oh, you’re fun.” She couldn’t help but laugh. “I like him, too!” She leaned back in her chair.

 

Izuku turned to look at the last woman. She was taller than the rest, including him, by a decent amount. She wore her long, black hair in a spiked and spiraled ponytail, with one lock fallen over her face. Her long ears framed her exotic and beautiful face, and her eyes were like a pool of liquid obsidian, with flecks of silver dotting them. Her clothes were refined and elegant, much like the woman who wore them.

 

‘An elf! A high elf, by the looks of it.’ She was reclining slightly, hands crossed in front of her. The other women had generous curves, but this woman was something else.

 

He glanced down.

 

‘Oh. Oh no. Oh gods, no.’

 

“And lastly we have Momo Yaoyorozu.” Ochako looked at Izuku but was confused as she saw the look of pure horror on his face.

 

Momo noticed his stare. She had watched the events transpire with amusement and interest, but now her mood soured. The boy was staring at her, yes, but staring straight at her chest.

 

She sighed. ‘It’s not surprising, but it is disappointing. These humans…’ Momo sat up, moving her hands to reprimand the man who was staring wide-eyed at her.

 

Then she paused. As she moved her hand, she noticed his eyes following her left hand, not her chest. He was staring straight at her signet ring that she wore proudly on her hand.

 

‘Oh?’

 

Izuku’s body finally started working again. He quickly threw himself down into the deepest bow he could manage. “Corellon’s grace be upon you, my lady! I apologize for my rudeness! Your humble servant begs your forgiveness!” He stared at the ground, rigid and trembling.

 

Momo’s disappointing frown slowly grew into an amused smile, as Mina and Tsuyu began to laugh lightly. “Hmm. At the very least he is well-mannered.”

 

“Momo…” Uraraka looked concerned.

 

“Yes, yes.” She waved a dismissive hand at Ochako. “Stand, Midoriya. You need not worry, you have not offended me.” His reaction was a little over the top, but it was flattering.

 

Izuku didn’t move for several seconds, but slowly began to straighten himself back up. “Thank you, Lady Yaoyorozu. I did not know I was in the presence of nobility. I am deeply grateful for your benevolence.” He still didn’t meet her face as he kept his gaze downcast.

 

“Wow, Momo, I haven’t seen you smile like that in weeks.” Mina smirked at the black-haired elf.

 

Momo blushed slightly, but maintained her composure. “Midoriya, we are here to evaluate you as a potential addition to our adventuring party. I have a few questions for you.”

 

“Of course, my lady.”

 

If we were to take you on, you would be expected to fight with us. Is that a problem?”

“No, my lady, but I am afraid my experience is lacking.”

“Will is more important than skill, Deku. You can teach one, you’re born with the other. My momma always says that.” Ochako smiled in encouragement.

 

“Deku?” Momo’s confusion was apparent. “I thought you said his name was Izuku.”

 

“Oh, right.” Ochako rubbed her head in embarrassment. “I heard someone call him that and I thought it sounded good. Kinda sounds like ‘you can do it!’, you know?”

 

“Sounds like…” Momo thought for a moment, then a look of incredulous realization appeared on her face. “You mean in Elvish? Ochako, we need to work on your pronunciation, that’s barely close.”

 

“I like it!” Ochako stood firm.

 

Momo rolled her eyes. “Indeed.” She cleared her throat. “Midoriya.”

 

Izuku had watched the exchange with fascination, but Momo reminded him of where he was. He quickly tensed back up. “Yes, my lady?”

 

“Ochako mentioned you serve an… interesting deity. One that none of us had ever heard of before…?”

“My god is One For All, my lady.”

At this, Mei dropped what she was doing. She looked at Izuku with fear in her eyes and quickly dove under the table. There rest of the room was stunned, the five of them just staring at her empty chair, not exactly sure if what they were seeing was real.

 

“Um, Mei…?” Ochako bent down and peeked under the table. The woman was ducked down, hands over her head like she was waiting for an explosion.

 

After a few more moments, Mei dared to open her eyes. She looked around hesitantly, then poked her head above the table, staring at Izuku. “You haven’t been struck down?”

 

“W-what?” Izuku had a strange smile on his face, still trying to comprehend what was happening.

 

“You claimed to serve One For All and you weren’t struck down by divine vengeance.”

 

“I-I don’t think that’s how it wo-”

 

“So, that means that you’re telling the truth!” The manic expression in her eyes had returned with earnest.

“Uh, y-yes?” Izuku was started to feel nervous under her intense gaze.

 

“Mei, calm down and explain . What is this One For All?” Momo attempted to save the poor man from Mei’s interrogation.

 

“What?! You don’t know?” She turned her energy onto the elf instead. “I would have expected you to know.”

 

“Well, I don’t. Please enlighten me.” Momo was losing her patience.

 

“There’s basically nothing to say! Nobody knows anything about it; I didn’t even think it was real!” Mei never lost her smile.

 

Momo put her face in her hands while Mina just started laughing.

 

Izuku nervously spoke up. “T-that’s true, actually. Nobody knows much about One For All, anything written down is usually the result of rumors or old stories.”

 

“Wait, Deku, you spoke to it yesterday. Also, didn’t you tell me yesterday that One For All only picks a single servant at a time? So we know some things, right?” Ochako tried to remember what he had said, but the previous day was a blur.

 

“That’s correct, Uraraka. That’s what the stories say, at least, and what One For All told me personally.”

“Wait.” Mina had leaned forward, letting all four legs of her chair hit the ground. “You have an entire god behind you? Is that what you’re saying?”

 

“Y-yes, Miss.” Izuku bowed nervously. “I am the sole mortal servant of One For All.”

 

“And just how powerful is this god?” Tsuyu put her finger to her chin again.

 

“If the stories I’ve read are to be believed, even Bahamut and Kord hesitate to oppose it.”

 

A series of gasps sounded around the room. “Why does a god that powerful only select a single mortal? Wouldn’t it be better for it if it had many servants?”

“I cannot say, Lady Yaoyorozu.” Izuku smiled, but still never looked her in the face. “Who are we to question the gods?”

 

“Well, girls? What do you say?” Ochako reminded them all of why they were there.

 

“He’s got my vote.” Tsuyu said with a smile.

 

They all looked at the next girl, who wasn’t paying attention. “...Mei?” Ochako prodded the girl with a magical finger when she didn’t respond.

 

“What? Oh, yeah, sure, sure.” Mei waved the hand away, having apparently already forgotten all of the excitement and had resumed tinkering.

 

“Psh, a cute guy like that with an entire god in his corner? Yeah, sign him the hells up.” Mina gave him a wink, which caused him to blush again as he looked down.

 

“Momo?” Ochako asked expectantly.

 

The elven woman was deep in thought, hand on her chin. Finally, she looked up and nodded. “At the very least, we can give him a trial run. I’ll reserve final judgement for later.”

 

Ochako smiled bright enough that Izuku felt like he had to squint. “Then all that’s left to say is ‘welcome, Deku!’ I can’t wait to see what you’ll do!”

 

Izuku felt the smallest of tears form in his eyes. He bowed again, out of respect, but also out of a desire to hide his face. “Thank you, all of you. I will do my best to not let you down.”

Chapter Text

Momo stood up and looked over Izuku appraisingly, causing the man to shrink slightly under her gaze. She began to move towards the door. “Follow me, Midoriya. I wish to test your capabilities; I need to ensure you will not be a liability. Tsu, if you could come with me?”

 

The blue woman nodded and stood up, while Ochako and Mina began to follow as well. “No way I’m missing this.” Mina gave Izuku a smirk as she walked out of the room. Mei seemed to be the only one staying behind, still engrossed in the strange red goggles she was working on. Izuku and the others waited patiently outside for Momo to retrieve her pack from her room, whereupon they began to follow her.

 

The tall, elven woman led the group out into the streets and through the northern gates. The four women talked cheerily to each other while Izuku lagged behind a bit, silently following along. He was trying not to outwardly show how incredibly nervous he was, but he was afraid he wasn’t doing too good of a job. Ochako kept glancing back at him with encouraging smiles, which made him feel a little better, but not nearly enough to keep him from worrying.

 

After about twenty minutes of walking, Momo stopped in a small patch of trees. She looked around and then turned back to face the other four. “This is acceptable. Midoriya, come here.”

 

Izuku immediately obeyed, quickly moving around the others and presenting himself before the noblewoman. “Yes, my lady?”

 

Momo placed her pack on the ground and produced two wooden practice swords from within. She tossed one to Izuku, who caught it with both hands. The woman walked a few paces across the clearing before turning back to face him. “I will first be judging your martial prowess. Let us spar.” She dropped down into a combat stance.

 

Izuku hesitated. “I-I couldn’t strike a-”

 

“A woman?” The elf glared at him, testing his reaction.

 

“A noble, my lady.” He bowed slightly.

 

Momo smirked every-so-slightly while he wasn’t looking. “Midoriya, I order you to spar with me.”

 

Izuku nodded and whispered a small prayer under his breath and spun the sword by the handle, getting a feel for the weight. He slowly began to walk towards her, gripping the practice weapon firmly in his hand. Compared to his pathetic fight against Bakugou the previous day, he could hardly believe how natural everything seemed to him. As he paced towards the noblewoman, he felt knowledge that wasn’t his own flashing through his mind.

 

What felt like a faint cracking of electricity raced along his limbs and spine, helping him move more confidently. He saw Momo watching his movements very carefully; she was clearly a well-trained fighter. Izuku closed within striking distance and waited for a moment, but it seemed she was intent on letting him have the first move. He drew his hands back slightly and took a conservative slash at her, which she easily blocked.

 

She continued to remain purely defensive, keeping her distance from him as they slowly paced in a circle. He followed his attack with several more swings, all from different angles, but each was blocked with seemingly little effort. It was becoming very clear to Izuku that Momo was a much more agile warrior than he was as he tried to get under her guard with a quick stab, but she nimbly dodged out of the way.

 

Instead of merely sidestepping, she stepped forward, past his attack, and it was only then when he realized how exposed he had left himself. Momo’s blade was on him in a flash, the tip of her sword an inch away from his chest. Both combatants froze in place for a few seconds before she took a step backward and Izuku let his arms fall.

 

“You are clearly inexperienced, but your fundamentals are solid.” Momo looked down at him as he listened intently.

 

“Thank you, my lady.”

 

“We will continue to spar until I am satisfied with your progress,” she said sternly. “If you can prove to me that you won’t get yourself killed by the first kobold we run into, then you will have passed the first test.”

 

Izuku gulped and nodded. “Yes, my lady.”

 

The other three girls found a comfortable spot of ground to sit down on. They were in for a long afternoon.

 


 

After nearly three hours of sparring, Momo finally relented. “Your progress is acceptable. That will be all for today in that regard.” She took the chipped and nicked sword from his hand and placed both back in her pack. Izuku wobbled for a moment before collapsing to the ground, panting and covered in bruises.

 

Most of his bruises came from the first hour of training. By the final thirty minutes, he had only been hit a few times. He was still in pain, but he felt proud of himself and thankful to his god for his quick improvement.

 

Ochako hurried over to him and helped to pull him up into a sitting position. She offered him a waterskin, which he eagerly drained after thanking her. She offered him an encouraging smile as he caught his breath and wiped the sweat from his brow. “You did a great job, Deku. None of us last nearly that long with Momo when she makes us spar with her.”

 

Ochako lowered her voice and nearly whispered into his ear, causing him to blush at her closeness. “I think havin’ someone who could actually stand toe-to-toe with her a little bit would be good for her. I haven’t seen her this happy since… well, since I met her.”

 

Izuku was about to say something when Ochako sneezed suddenly. What really caught him off-guard was the great rush of wind that followed, nearly blowing the two of them over. Izuku regained his balance and looked over at the woman, who was blushing furiously in embarrassment.

 

Her red hood had been blown off of her head, exposing her shoulder-length bob of brown hair. Izuku was admiring the color and volume when something caught his eyes: he only saw a glimpse as her hair was buffeted by the wind, but her ears had a slight point to them. Izuku’s eyes went wide as she hastily pulled her hood back up. “You’re a half-elf.”

 

She squeaked and shrunk down a bit.

 

Izuku raised an eyebrow as he grew concerned with her reaction. “Did… did I say something wrong?”

 

Ochako hesitated for a moment before she turned to look up at him. She saw his kind look of confusion and relaxed slightly, pulling her knees to her chest and speaking softly. “You… you don’t think I’m weird now, do you?”

 

Izuku was really confused now. “No? Why would I?”

 

“Well, you see-”

 

“Ochako!” Mina had stomped over and startled the two of them with her indignant shout. She was plucking leaves and twigs out of her messy pink hair as she glared at the sorcerer. “When was the last time you cast a spell?” Mina said demandingly.

 

Ochako shrunk down further and spoke so softly that only Izuku and Mina could hear her. “Not since last night…”

 

“That’s nearly a day!” Mina grabbed the girl under her arms and yanked her up. “Do you want to turn blue again?”

 

“Turn blue?” Izuku asked, but the girls seemed to ignore him.

 

“No…” Ochako pouted slightly as she walked over to a rock at the edge of the clearing. She flopped down onto the ground and put one hand on the boulder, holding her head up with the other. Sparks and lighting started crackled off her hand as she electrocuted it repeatedly.

 

Izuku pulled himself up and marveled at the woman. He began to reach for one of his books so he could write something down but remembered he had put his bag down before the sparring session. He looked around the clearing for his bag, and once he spotted it, began to move towards it.

 

“Midoriya.” Momo’s commanding voice reminded him why he was there. He stopped in his tracks and turned around, stiffly standing at attention. She sighed and smiled softly. “I see you’re rested enough to continue.”

 

Izuku blushed slightly from embarrassment. “Oh! Uh, yes, my lady.”

 

“Excellent.” The elf turned on her heels and walked a few steps to the edge of the clearing. She found a large rock and hefted it up with surprising ease, planting it in an upright position on another stone. She turned back to the man and dusted her hands off. “Next is basic spellcasting.”

 

Izuku’s eyes went wide and the color drained from his face. “Oh right, I, uh, forgot to mention that…”

Momo raised an eyebrow suspiciously. “Forgot to mention what, Midoriya? Are you unable to use magic?”

“No, I am! At least I should.” Izuku waved his hands in front of him. “It’s just that uh…” He trailed off as he began to blush further, rubbing the back of his head. “When I prayed this morning, I uh, sort of… exploded.”

 

Momo put a hand on her hip and continued to look at him incredulously. “You exploded.”

 

The cleric laughed awkwardly. “Father Takeo didn’t believe me either. You see, when I entreated my deity this morning, I felt One For All’s power… and it was so overwhelming, I uh, sort of destroyed an entire grove in the temple garden.”

 

“With an explosion.”

 

“Yes, my lady.”

 

Tsuyu walked up next to the man while Momo glared at him. “You’re worried if you try to cast a spell, you might blow up again.” Izuku nodded nervously. The blue woman eyed him for a few seconds with her wide eyes. “How much do you know about druids?”

 

“Not much, As- Tsu,” Izuku quickly corrected himself, causing the woman to smile.

 

“We use magic a lot like clerics do.” She held up her hand and placed it on his bruised arm, causing him to wince. A soft glow flowed from her hand as his wounds faded, causing relief to spread through his body. “We call on the divine energy of nature to cast our spells. It’s not as direct as what you do, but in the end, it’s the same source.”

 

Izuku smiled with wide eyes. “I… I had no idea.”

 

Tsuyu nodded. “That’s not surprising. We tend to avoid civilization and I’m guessing you lived within a city for most of your life.”

 

“Different places, but yes. It’s been a long time since I’ve slept outside.” He paused for a moment. “Where are you going with this?”

 

“Midoriya, do you feel like you’re about to explode?”

 

Izuku was taken aback by her strange and direct question. “U-uh, no? I feel fine now, thanks to you.” He held his now bruise-free arm up with a smile.

 

“Then you should be fine.” She pointed a finger at the sorcerer who was still pouting as she electrocuted the rock. Izuku thought she looked adorable but was too focused to pay her much mind. “Ochako feels pressure building up when she’s getting volatile.”

 

He turned back to Tsuyu and rubbed his wrist with his left hand. “Do… do you think so?” Izuku had to admit that he was slightly reassured by the woman’s flat, matter-of-fact tone.

 

She tilted her head slightly, putting a finger on her chin. “I can’t say I know exactly how clerics work, but I doubt your god would give you magic if you would just explode every time you used it.”

 

Izuku looked down at his open hand and took a fortifying breath. He clenched his fist and looked down at Tsuyu. “Alright, I’ll try. But… maybe you should all stand back a bit. Just in case?”

 

Tsuyu nodded and walked over to Ochako. Momo and Mina followed suit, standing a good twenty feet behind the man. “Whenever you’re ready, Midoriya,” Momo said, almost encouragingly.

 

Izuku stared at the rock and widened his stance slightly. He took a deep breath and closed his eyes, reaching inside himself for the power of One For All that he felt that morning. Izuku felt knowledge that he knew he didn’t possess the previous day deep in his soul and drew upon it.

 

He concentrated and began to slowly chant a short prayer in a language he didn’t understand, opening his eyes to stare at the rock once more. Izuku raised his hand at the rock, rotating his hand slightly as he brought his fingers down vertically and brought them into his palm. As he spoke the words and moved his hand, he felt the air around him begin to move subtly as he reconnected with the power he was granted that morning.

 

The power of One For All flowed through him gently as he concluded the prayer and the strange gesture at the same time. The energy surged forth and a small pillar of green-tinted light, so wild it appeared like flames, descended brightly upon the stone with a rushing sound.

 

The stone was unharmed save for a small scorch mark, but Izuku’s smile lit up almost as bright as the spell he had just cast. He jumped in the air and cheered loudly. “I did it!” He turned around to the women behind him and pointed at the rock. “Did you see that?!”

 

Behind him, Tsuyu smiled while Ochako and Mina cheered right along with him. Momo had a satisfied smirk on her face and nodded at the man. “Very good, Midoriya. You seem to have a natural talent.”

 

Izuku began to blush at the praise and bowed again. “You are too kind, my lady.”

 

“Momo!” Ochako chastised her friend. “Let him be excited!”

 

The elf simply rolled her eyes at the sorcerer, turning away before she saw her small smile. “Midoriya, let us continue practicing the basics. A strong foundation is essential.”

 

Izuku looked at her with determination burning in his eyes. “I will do my best, my lady.”

 


 

The next hour passed as Momo drilled Izuku on the use of his new spell. By the end of the session, Izuku had improved dramatically. In addition to Momo’s advice, pointers from Tsuyu and encouragement from Mina and Ochako helped him feel confident in his fiery radiance. He had rapidly increased the speed he was able to bring forth the power, but was beginning to feel the fatigue of being a divine conduit, even for such a small amount of energy.

 

Momo was eventually satisfied and allowed him a short break for him to recover. Ochako walked up to him and offered him another waterskin, which he downed slower than the first one, but no less gratefully.

 

She stood by patiently as he drank his fill, taking the time to allow her eyes to wander over his body without risk of being caught. The cleric took a deep breath as he finished drinking, causing her to quickly snap her eyes back up to his. That wasn’t a bad thing; she liked looking into his big green orbs as much as the rest of him. Ochako congratulated herself privately for keeping her blush to a minimum. Izuku handed her waterskin back with a smile as he continued to catch his breath, wiping the sweat from his forehead.

 

“You’re gettin’ pretty good at that spell, Deku,” she encouraged him.

 

“Oh, uh, thanks!” He smiled nervously at her praise, causing her to roll her eyes the smallest amount.

 

“So what do you call it?”

 

At her question, Izuku’s awkwardness seemed to vanish as he began to spout information. “Sacred Flame. It is one of the basic offensive spells that clerics use in combat. The divine light the spell produces makes it especially effective against certain foul creatures of darkness, and because of its unique ability to descend from the sky, rather than directly from the caster, it can surprise foes who believe they are safe behind cover.”

 

Ochako stared at him for a few seconds, blinking a few times. “Uh, wow. You really know your stuff, huh, Deku?” She giggled awkwardly.

 

Izuku came crashing back to reality as he realized he had fallen back into his long-winded habit. He took a half step back in embarrassment as he held his hands up in apology. “S-sorry, Uraraka. I’ve been studying this stuff for a long time, hoping that I could use it one day. I’ve maybe read my notes on Sacred Flame more than any other spell I have in my books.” He added his own awkward laugh to the mix.

 

Momo rolled her eyes at the scene. “Ochako, please. We still have much to do.” The man jumped slightly at her light reprimand and turned to face her, bowing slightly. “Midoriya, let us move on. One spell does not a cleric make. What else do you have?”

 

Izuku took another deep breath and closed his eyes, confirming within himself that One For All had granted him what he asked for that morning. He slowly reopened his eyes and looked back at the noble, but still not directly at her. “I’ll… need a volunteer.” The noble raised her eyebrow again and cocked her hip. “W-well, I don’t need one, but it would be better I t-think,” he explained awkwardly.

 

“I’ll do it!” Mina shot her hand into the air. “I’m always up for making bad decisions!” Izuku’s eyes widened and he began to sputter to defend himself when Mina began to laugh raucously. “I’m just kidding! I’m sure you’ll do fine.” She gave him an encouraging thumbs up.

 

Izuku took a moment to collect himself before nodding at her. “Thank you, Ashido. I’ll have to-” he hesitated as he held his hand up, “I’ll have to touch you.”

 

“At least take me out to dinner first.” Mina flashed her fanged smile at him as he turned bright red. She began to cackle wildly, nearly doubling over as Izuku stuttered and covered his face, spouting apologies.

 

Momo sighed. “Mina…”

 

“Fine, fine.” Mina waved her hand at the black-haired woman. “Midoriya, go ahead. Do what you need to.”

It took Izuku several second to calm himself down enough to move his arms off of his face. He took several steadying breaths and closed his eyes, focusing on his power once more. The cleric started another small, entreating prayer under his breath and held some of his fingers together in a strange gesture. He moved his hand as if drawing a small symbol, the air around him moving lightly as divine power welled up within him. He reached out and touched his hand to Mina’s arm and let the power rush out of him and into the pink-skinned tiefling.

 

Mina gasped slightly and held up her hands, looking at them. Izuku’s eyes widened as he felt a small connection to the woman, even after he removed his hand. There was a magical tether, invisible to all of his senses, that tied him to Mina. He felt it begin to slip as he got distracted thinking, and quickly refocused, concentrating on maintaining the power.

 

“Woah, this is cool! ” Mina exclaimed, her eyes and grin wide on her face. “I feel all energized! What did you do?”

 

Izuku kept his eyes closed, focusing on sustaining the spell. “It’s called Guidance. I shared a small fraction of One For All’s power with you. If you are open to listening, my deity will help you with something you try to do. I can only grant you enough power to help you with a single task, but it can be almost anything.”

 

“Mentally or physically?” Momo asked curiously.

 

“Either.”

 

Mina put her finger to her chin in thought for a moment, then clapped her hands together. “Oh, I know!” She raised her arms up and took a deep breath.

 

“Mina, no .” Ochako scolded her, but the tiefling didn’t listen.

 

The warlock threw her arms forward and pulled herself down, attempting to flip forward in the air. Izuku was too focused to open his eyes, but he felt the energy connecting the two of them buzz slightly as it helped push her through the air.

 

With a resounding thud, Mina landed on her backside. She hissed slightly in pain, but quickly leapt to her feet, throwing her arms in the air. “That was so much closer than I usually get!” She jumped slightly with excitement. “Oh, man that was really cool! I could feel something helping me out.”

 

Momo ran her hand down her face as she sighed heavily. Ochako and Tsuyu couldn’t help but giggle softly.

 


 

Momo spent another hour putting Izuku through his paces with Guidance, testing his aptitude. She had him try it on each of the women there, including herself, both to help him practice and to get the others used to the strange sensation of the spell. After spending all afternoon in the clearing, the sun was beginning to set, causing slight issues for Izuku and Tsuyu, but the others barely noticed.

 

After Izuku downed a third waterskin and had another quiet talk with Ochako, Momo refocused him once again. He jumped less than before and was looser than normal, likely due to how tired he was after several hours of training.

 

“You’ve done well so far, but I’m not satisfied yet,” she said sternly, causing the man’s shoulders to slump slightly. “Next I would like to-”

 

Her ears twitched slightly as her head snapped to her left. Her black eyes scanned the edge of the clearing, widening in horror as she saw a great, hulking beast creeping out from the underbrush.

 

The monster was at least several feet taller than her, and it’s disgusting, pustule-strewn green skin covered long, muscular limbs. It’s ugly face looked back at her as it raised its cruel, curved claws at the end of it’s lanky arms threateningly. A low, terrifying growl crept from the throat of the beast as it bared its sharp, dripping fangs.

 

“T-troll!” Momo shouted, warning the others. “What’s it doing so close to the town?!”

 

The other women jumped to attention as the troll flexed it’s deadly claws, but Izuku found himself frozen in place. Tsuyu quickly left her humanoid form behind, transforming into a large, spike-covered wolf and interposing herself between the monster and the spellcasters.

 

“Stay back!” Momo yelled, drawing her blade from her scabbard.

 

“Momo, you don’t have your armor!” Ochako yelled back as she gripped her staff tightly. “Let Tsu handle this!”

 

“We might not have that luxury! Ochako, Mina, we need fire and acid!” Momo took a few careful steps towards the giant, holding her sword with both hands.

 

Izuku could only look on in helpless terror as the troll fought the druid. Tsuyu was a ferocious opponent and nearly as large as the troll was, but she was clearly outmatched. Momo closed into the melee; she slashed at the beast, but her blade bounced off its toughened hide. It snarled and turned its attention onto the elf, swinging a massive claw down onto her. Momo avoided the attack with a quick step to her left, causing the troll to leave its side exposed to the druid. Tsuyu used the opening to lunge forward, sinking her powerful jaw deep into the troll’s side and thrashing her head, tearing the flesh.

 

The giant roared in pain and swung its arm back around, striking Tsuyu in the face and breaking her grip. Blood poured from the gaping, mangled wound, but by the time the druid shook her head and stepped back into the melee, the flow had already lessened. Izuku gasped in terror as before his eyes the wound slowly closed and then vanished completely, removing nearly all traces of Tsuyu’s seemingly-deadly attack.

 

Momo ducked underneath a deadly claw and stepped forward, putting her weight behind her blade as she drove it deep into the troll’s gut. “Its regeneration is too strong! We need to cauterize the wounds or we’ll never kill it!” She grunted in effort as she tore her blade out, causing sinister-looking blood to burst from the wound.

 

“Right!” Ochako yelled back. The sorcerer chanted arcane words as she pulled a small orb of fire from the crystal on the head of her staff. She hurled the magic at the troll, flames streaking through the air and finding its mark on the gaping wound, causing the skin to sear and the dark blood to boil and burst sickeningly.

 

The women were momentarily frozen by fear as the beast unleashed a rage-fueled roar that shook the trees. The troll swung its right arm into the elf, sending a resounding crack through the clearing as the woman flew backwards and impacted a tree. It reared back and drove its claws into Tsuyu’s side, crushing her into the ground and causing the woman to howl in pain.

 

The troll fixated its murderous green eyes on Ochako and barreled across the clearing, kicking up dirt as its clawed feet tore up the ground. Time seemed to slow down for Izuku as the troll closed in on the sorcerer, its deadly claws, still dripping with Tsuyu’s blood, ready to kill. Mina desperately flung a ball of acid at the beast, but the spell soared wide as the monster continued to speed across the clearing. Tsuyu and Momo could only watch in horror as the giant, easily twice the size of Ochako, bared down on her. It raised its massive, clawed hand and began to bring it down on the petrified woman.

 

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After a few breathless seconds, Ochako managed to tear her eyes from the enormous claws dripping blood inches from her face and move her gaze up the hulking form of the troll to its face. The rage had vanished, replaced by a flat, emotionless expression as its eyes glowed with a green energy. The beast slowly lowered its arms to its side and turned away from the confused sorcerer.

 

Ochako and the other women finally dared to look at the source of the sound and saw Izuku standing rigid, shoulders broad and commanding with his right arm extended, finger pointing at the troll. His eyes burned bright green, fiery energy flowing from them as small arcs of lightning danced around them.

 

The divine power on display created a truly intimidating visage.

 

The troll took one forced, plodding step, followed shortly by another, and then another as it broke into a full sprint, bursting from the clearing and back into the forest.

 

Ochako collapsed onto the ground as she finally began to breathe again. The light faded from Izuku’s eyes as he took a shaky step forward, trying to keep himself from collapsing. Mina rushed over to Ochako, while Tsuyu dashed over to Momo, each helping their friend back to their feet. Momo straightened herself up and flexed as she took a deep breath, her lithe muscles rippling as she fortified herself.

 

“We need to move before it comes back,” she ordered. The others nodded and began to hurry back towards the city. Izuku ran as fast as his exhausted body would let him but was struggling to keep up until Tsuyu pulled him onto her back and transformed into a horse underneath him.

 

They only dared to slow their pace once the wooden walls of Mustafu came into view. The guards were alarmed as the panting adventurers stumbled into the city. Mina told them about their encounter with the troll with as much detail as she could while the others collapsed on the side of the road to catch their breath.

 

Izuku had spent the ride back in a daze. He didn’t know exactly what had happened when the troll had dashed towards Ochako. He had felt power swell within him as he was overcome with an uncontrollable, demanding desire to protect her. The divine energy of One For All had flowed stronger than before, and he felt it threaten to burst from within his body.

 

He uttered his Command at the troll and had felt its mind feebly resist before submitting. The rush of power had surged from his mouth, through his words, and into the beast. At that point, Izuku felt a connection to the heavens that, while still only a faint imitation of what he had experienced that morning, dwarfed what he had felt during his training with the women.

 

Izuku felt many things at that moment; exhaustion, relief, nervousness, confidence, but above all else, hope. He let a single tear fall as he looked at his right hand, still buzzing slightly from the divine energy he had channeled through his body.

 

A cough brought him out of his thoughts. Momo was leaned up against Tsuyu, her breathing slightly labored and every few seconds she winced slightly. Izuku immediately moved over and kneeled down next to her, placing his hands on the large bruise on her stomach. The woman opened her eyes suddenly at the contact, turning her head sharply towards the cleric.

 

Her mouth hung open slightly as his bright green eyes stared into her starry, black orbs for the first time since they had met. She froze for a few seconds as she felt as though Izuku was looking into her very soul. The elf began to breathe again as Izuku closed his eyes and exhaled slowly. She could hear his words, but she couldn’t even begin to comprehend them.

 

She gasped slightly as she felt the unfortunately familiar sensation of healing magic flowing from his hands. She felt her cracked ribs straighten out and heal as the dull throbbing of her bruised torso faded away.

 

Momo inhaled deeply, finally able to breathe painlessly for the first time in ten minutes. Izuku quickly removed his hands from her stomach and looked down at the ground, panting slightly. He looked utterly exhausted.

 

She reached her hand forward and tipped his chin up. He recoiled slightly at her touch and refused to meet her eyes again. “Thank you, Midoriya.”

 

Izuku was too tired to stutter. Instead, his shoulders began to shake slightly as a few tears began to fall. “I am glad you are safe, my lady. You and everyone else.”

 

Momo released her grip and his head fell back down. She smiled softly once again. “I think it’s safe to say that you will be a more-than-worthy ally.”

 

Ochako and Mina looked at each other and smiled fondly at the tender moment in front of them.

 

Momo grunted and pulled herself up, dusting her traveling clothes off and immediately returning to her typical commanding tone. “We’ll need to get you something more proper to wear, of course. Come by our inn tomorrow morning just after daybreak, Midoriya. We will get you outfitted within our means and depart immediately. Bring everything you wish to take with you; we will not be returning to this town for quite some time.”

 

Izuku attempted to pull himself up, struggling mightily against the fatigue washing over his body. Ochako rushed over and helped him to his feet, smiling kindly at him. “Thank you for savin’ me, Deku. You’re really somethin’ else, you know that?”

 

The man was seemingly also too tired to blush, and instead just hung his head again. “It was the least I could do after you helped me yesterday. I’m just… so happy you’re alright.”

 

Ochako felt a small lump form in her throat as she leaned into him, wrapping his arm around her shoulder. “Let’s get you back to the temple, you need to rest. Mina, give me a hand, would ya’?”

 

The tiefling quickly acquiesced, doing the same to his other side and supporting his almost limp body. Tsuyu returned to her human form, and the five of them walked back to the Temple of Pelor, where they left Izuku in the capable hands of some of the acolytes. Once Izuku was taken care of, they headed back to the Three Candle Inn.

 

Their walk was entirely silent, each woman deep in thought about the experiences of the past several hours. They departed for their individual rooms without a word and collapsed into their beds. Ochako stared at the ceiling, trying to calm her racing mind enough to fall asleep, completely unaware that the others were sharing her struggle.

 

Chapter Text

Izuku woke up a little later than usual the next day, feeling an unfamiliar stiffness as he rose from his modest bed. He rolled his shoulders and stretched in silence as he came to terms with exactly just what was happening that day.

 

He slowly made his way out to the garden, trying his best to ignore the hesitant looks of the other acolytes as they moved away from him. He kneeled down in the center of the scorched grove, just in case another incident happened today.

 

Izuku breathed deep as he began to pray, feeling the ebb and flow of divine power coursing through him once again. Unlike yesterday, the power didn’t erupt out of him in a great explosion, nor at all. He entreated One For All for guidance and wisdom, asking for its blessing for his new journey. He prayed for the fortitude to press forth to take his destiny and the knowledge of how to best serve One For All and the people of this world. Seemingly pleased by his prayer, the light of his deity filled his heart, comforting him with warmth as he opened his eyes again.

 

He looked down at his hands and turned them over. He felt a small hum pass over his body and through his soul, whispering at the divine power stored within and without. He clenched his fist; he was definitely stronger today than he had been yesterday. The power inside him felt more natural, but also greater.


The faint trickle that flowed from the dam that held back One For All’s power was stronger today than it had been yesterday, but that wasn’t all. He felt as if there was a gate in the dam that he hadn’t felt before. He thought he knew what that gate was; which both excited him… and scared him. Perhaps it would be wise for him to get more used to the power of One For All before attempting something such as that.

 

His prayers finished peacefully as he stood up with a smile, albeit a nervous one. Today was the first day of the rest of his life, as they say, and his nerves were getting to him. He hurried back to his room to pack, his heart filling with both excitement and trepidation.

 

As he put the last of his scarce personal belongings into his pack, he heard someone enter the threshold of his chamber. Izuku turned around to see Father Takeo standing there, wearing a smile that was a little sad, but also full of pride.

 

“So, today’s the day after all?”

 

Izuku bowed politely. “Yes, sir. I don’t know when I’ll be back, or if I’ll be back, but it’s goodbye... At least for now.”

 

Father Takeo nodded kindly. “I understand. I’m glad that you’ve seemed to have found a purpose. You’re carrying yourself much more proudly than I’ve ever seen before.”

 

“T-thank you, sir,” Izuku responded, wide-eyed, “but to be honest, I'm so nervous I’m afraid I might faint.”

 

The older man laughed softly. “Well, that’s to be expected. You’re embarking on something you’ve never experienced before, it would be strange if you weren’t nervous. But remember, child: have faith. The gods clearly have something special in mind for you.”

 

Izuku gulped. “I’ve been praying for this moment every day for more than a decade, and now that it’s finally here…”

 

“You’ll do great, Midoriya,” Father Takeo said reassuringly, putting his hand on Izuku’s shoulder. “In your time here at the temple, myself and everyone else who has come through here has known you to be kind, caring and determined.”

 

Izuku felt himself tearing up slightly.

 

“In fact, we have all decided to give you a gift.” Father Takeo let go of Izuku’s shoulder and reached to his pouch.

 

Izuku waved his hands awkwardly in front of himself. “O-oh, sir, please, that’s not necessary.”

 

Father Takeo chuckled as he smiled. “I know you’re not one to want attention, but I still wanted to give you a thank you for all that you’ve done for this temple and this town the past few years. I was not the only one who felt this way, and we all chipped in to help send you on your way.”

 

He held out a pouch that was, judging from the noise, laden with coin. “Adventuring is dangerous work, Midoriya. We’re hoping this helps you buy what you need.”

 

Izuku took the pouch purse hesitantly and held it for a few seconds before bowing deeply. “Thank you, Father.” He was definitely crying now.

 

“No need for tears, my boy,” the man chuckled. “You are welcome.”

 

Izuku stood back up and wiped his face, trying to put a smile on for his former mentor.

 

Father Takeo bowed slightly. “Good luck, Midoriya, and may Pelor’s light shine on you.”

 

“O-on you as well, Father.”

 


 

Izuku always enjoyed walking through Musutafu in the early morning. There was plenty of people out, all moving to their stores, stalls or fields for the day, but there was a certain quiet that hung in the air. Today, however, he didn’t find the time to appreciate it. His mind was moving too fast as he made his way towards the Three Candle Inn.

 

Before he knew it, he was there. Never before had the door to the Inn seemed so large and imposing before, but Izuku steeled himself and stepped inside.

 

“Ah, Midoriya, there you are.”

 

Izuku followed the sound of the voice, spotting Momo and three of the other girls around a table near the door. Unlike the previous day, the women weren’t dressed in simple clothing. Ochako was wearing the robes and traveling clothes like she was when he first met her, while Tsuyu was wearing a relatively crude set of furs and pelts, shaped and strapped around her body. Izuku’s eyes lingered on the blue woman for a few moments. ‘Right I think I heard about that; I’ll have to ask her about it later.’

 

Mina’s chest and shoulders were protected by hardened leather, while her arms and legs were covered by toughened cloth, leaving her vitals protected but allowing her full movement and flexibility. She was standing behind Momo, who was sitting at the table, holding her voluminous, black ponytail above her head, giving Mina easier access to her back. Mina was focusing on fastening the straps on the back of the heavy metal armor that Momo was wearing. Izuku noted the narrow, vertical strips of armor riveted onto the leather that the elf was wearing over her thick gambeson.

 

Mei was nowhere to be seen.

 

Ochako stood up from the bench she was sitting on and nearly skipped over to greet him. “Good mornin’, Deku! Did ya sleep well?”

 

Izuku felt his face warming up at the woman’s proximity. “L-like a rock, thanks. I was pretty beat after yesterday.” He laughed awkwardly.

 

“Yeah, I bet,” Mina said with a smirk. “I’m pretty sure you nodded off a couple times while we were carrying you back to the temple.”

 

Izuku pressed his fingers together in embarrassment. “Yeah… sorry about that.”

 

Ochako poked him in the forehead. “Hey, you save someone’s life like that and I think you earn a little rest.”

 

Mina chuckled as she bared her fangs in a smile. “So you didn’t mind him falling asleep on you, is that it?”

 

“M-Mina!” Ochako started turning scarlet. “H-he was leanin’ on you, too!”

 

The tiefling stuck her tongue out at Ochako. “Yeah, and I didn’t mind it!”

 

Before the girls could continue their argument, the door in the back of the room flew open as Mei came basically running down the stairs. “Did you save me any food?”

 

As she walked over to the table with the rest of them, a couple things caught Izuku’s eye. She was dressed in a leather coat and leggings, most of which was covered by interlocking metal scales, reminiscent of fish scales. A pair of similarly-armored gauntlets hung on her hip and Izuku noted the pair of goggles she had been working on the previous day were strapped to her forehead. What was most impressive was the huge crossbow slung on her back.

 

Izuku had never seen one quite like it. The wood was dark and masterfully carved and the metal lathe was strong and beautifully engraved. A series of levers, cranks and pulleys adorned the device, giving it an impressively intimidating silhouette.

 

His eyes went wide as he moved to intercept the pink-haired human. “Woah! Is that of dwarven make?”

 

“Nope!” Mei answered happily. “I made it myself!”

 

“Made it your-” Izuku stared at the woman for a few seconds. “Hatsume, that’s amazing! Where did you learn to do something like that?” His eyes sparkled with enthusiasm.

 

Mei stared into his eyes for a few seconds, blinking. After she shook her head slightly, her wide smile never leaving her face, she looked straight at him and said “Who’re you again?”

 

Momo rubbed her temples as the other girls just started laughing again.

 

“Um, I’m Izuku Midoriya?” Izuku said as his face contorted into disbelief. “We met yesterday? I’m j-joining your group?”

 

Mei never lost her wide smile. “Never heard of you!”

 

Tsuyu put her finger to her chin. “He saved Ochako’s life yesterday.”

 

Mei clapped Izuku on the back as she walked past him. “That’s good, I like Ochako.”

 

Izuku stood there, absolutely stunned, for several seconds. He opened his mouth once or twice, but he couldn’t find any words. Ochako walked over to him with a fond smile as she grabbed him by the hand and pulled him gently back to the table. “She takes some getting used to, don’t worry about it, Deku.” She sat down and patted the seat next to her on the bench.

 

He regained a semblance of composure as he sat down, at least a foot away from Ochako so as to give her space. Izuku didn’t notice the faint pout on her face as she turned away slightly.

 

“Midoriya,” Momo started, “welcome to your first day as an official member of our little band.” She let her hair fall back down as Mina finished fastening the final strap of her armor.

 

Izuku stared at the black waterfall as it fell, his mouth just the smallest bit agape. As it settled he blinked and averted his gaze. “Thank you, my lady.”

 

Mina sat down next to Momo as raised an eyebrow. “Are you gonna keep calling her that?”

 

The man looked slightly shocked. “O-of course! I wouldn’t dare not give Lady Yaoyorozu the deference and respect she deserves!”

 

Ochako’s pout fell off as she found herself giggling again. “You’re such a gentleman!” She teased him, but she saw the way Momo’s face lit up just the faintest amount whenever he said ‘my lady’.

 

Izuku began to blush as he looked down, but before he could defend himself, Momo spoke up again. “We have little time to waste today, let’s get to it. We need to get Midoriya equipment and then leave town immediately. Every moment we waste is less distance we cover before nightfall.” She turned to look straight at Izuku, who immediately looked down into the table.

 

“Midoriya, now that you’re officially with us, you should know why we find ourselves in this predicament.” Izuku perked up at her words, his curiosity growing. “We were victims of a… unfortunate incident.”

 

“We got robbed,” Mina added abruptly.

 

Momo pursed her lips slightly. “Quite. While resting at a roadside Inn, a band of bandits stormed in and robbed us and everyone there blind.”

 

“We should’ve fought back!” Mei said suddenly, clearly indignant. “They stole most of my best tools!”

 

“Mei, I’ve told you before,” Momo scolded, “we were caught off-guard and outnumbered. Fighting back would have only resulted in death, either ours or any of the other poor people caught.”

 

Mei huffed back into her seat. “I know, but it still makes me mad.”

 

Momo sighed. “They stole my mother’s necklace, I am no less incensed, Mei.”

 

“What they’re trying to say,” Mina said between the two women, “is that we’ve been tracking the bandits and we’re going to get our stuff back.”

 

“What exactly was taken?” Izuku asked, preparing to write in one of his tomes.

 

“Well, we’re just gettin’ started, you know? We didn’t have much of value…” Ochako answered, a little embarrassed. “Besides Momo’s necklace and Mei’s tools, they just took our money.”

 

“They took almost all of our money,” Tsuyu added.

 

Momo took back control of the conversation. “Which brings us to your equipment, Midoriya. We just don’t have the resources to equip you well. We’ll have to make do with what we can scrape together until we get our money back.”

 

“Oh!” Izuku said, reaching for his pouch. “Actually, I can help with that.” He pulled out the purse Father Takeo had given him and placed it on the table in front of Momo. “The temple put together a small gift for me; please, take it and consider it yours- all of yours. It would not be proper for you to suffer when I could assist.” He looked over to all of the women with a hopeful, but still nervous, smile.

 

Momo’s jaw fell open a little bit. She reached forward and took the pouch, opening it up and looking inside, counting it quickly. “There must be a hundred gold coins in here, Midoriya.”

 

“R-really?” Izuku said, a little embarrassed. “I hadn’t counted them yet.”

 

Mei looked on incredulously, apparently finally paying attention. “What, you just gave up all of your money without a thought?”

 

Izuku raised an eyebrow. “Well, we’re a group now, right? I wouldn’t be much of a team player if I kept it, right?”

 

Mina started laughing again, even louder this time. Her sharp fangs glinted in the light as she threw her head back. Izuku looked over the rest, a little confused, even daring to glance at Momo’s face. He noticed her expression wasn’t one of amusement or bewilderment, but instead her face was twisted into a small pout.

 

Despite how adorable he found it, his immediate reaction was horror. His eyes went wide, but before he could sputter out a confused apology, Ochako grabbed his shoulder. He looked over to her as she giggled playfully. “Don’t worry, Deku. Momo’s just a little bitter that you preempted her whole ‘sharing’ speech.”

 

That didn’t exactly calm Izuku down. He threw his gaze to the floor as he sat up stiffly. “I’m so sorry, my lady, I didn’t mean to assume!”

 

Mina’s cackles grew louder. “Oh man, this is gonna be fun!

 

“Come on, Momo. You can still give the speech,” Tsuyu prodded. “He’s going to keep beating himself up until you do.”

 

Momo puffed, blowing the lock of hair that hung down in front of her face up a little. “It was not a ‘speech’, I was merely going to tell Midoriya of our ‘policy’, as it were.” She looked at Izuku, who was still determined to stare a hole in the floor in apology. “We share everything, to prevent jealousy, envy or bitter feelings. All treasure we find goes to the party first, and is divvied up fairly.” She sighed again, a little flattered by how nervous he got about even potentially offending her. “I am pleased to see that you will not have an issue with that.”

“N-no, my lady.”

 

“Very good,” Momo finished, standing up from the table and securing the coin pouch on her hip. “Then it is time for us to depart.”

 

“Shopping!” Mina yelled excitedly.

 

The rest of the table stood up and followed Momo out of the Inn. Izuku lagged behind a bit to give his farewells to the owner, then hurried to catch back up with the women.

 


 

Momo led the other five into an open-air shop that, if the sign was to be trusted, was called ‘The Armored Peak’. Standing at the forge, hammering a plate of iron, was a tall, muscular woman with grayish skin that looked like it was made of carved stone. Dark tattoos ran along her body and she had her earthen hair tied back behind her head.

 

Calling her ‘tall’ and ‘muscular’ was a little disingenuous. Momo was tall, standing at around six foot, but she had to look up at this woman, who had at least 18 inches and well over 100 pounds of muscle on her, even though she didn’t look too much older than rest of the group.

 

“Greetings,” the woman said calmly as she turned around, wiping sweat from her brow, “welcome to- Midoriya?”

 

Izuku waved awkwardly. “Uh, hi, Nalla.”

 

The stoic woman’s face grew a happy smile as she covered the distance with only a few strides and swept Izuku up in a crushing hug. “It is so good to see you again! You never visit!”

 

The other women marvelled at just how easily this ‘Nalla’ picked up a fully grown man.

 

“Sorry! You know how the temple keeps me bu-” Izuku gasped slightly. “N-Nalla, you’re crushing me, please!”

 

She laughed and placed Izuku back on the floor, before standing up to her full, impressive height and gazing over the rest of the room. “My, my... Midoriya, what are you doing in the company of all these lovely ladies?”

 

“He’s coming with us,” Mina said, surprising the other women, who were still stunned. “We’re adventurers, wanderers, whatever you want to call us.”

 

“Oh ho?” Nalla raised an eyebrow at Izuku. “How’d you manage that?”

 

The man took a deep breath before flashing Nalla a small, proud smile. “I was finally chosen by a god. I’m a real cleric now.”

 

The massive woman gasped. “Really? Oh, that’s great news!” She planted one of her gigantic hands on his head and ruffled his hair. “I knew they couldn’t ignore you forever. Well, aren’t you going to introduce them?”

 

Izuku straightened up a bit, having been crushed down by Nalla’s arm. “O-of course! First of all, this is Lady Momo Yaoyorozu.” He gestured at the noblewoman.

 

Nalla bowed slightly. “I am honored you chose to visit my shop, my lady.”

 

Momo nodded politely.

 

“This is Mina Ashido, Ochako Uraraka, Tsuyu Asui and in the back there is Mei Hatsume.”

 

Mina rocked back and forth a little on her feet. “I can’t help but notice the two of you have a little bit of history.”

 

Nalla smiled proudly as she patted Izuku’s head. “Yes we do! Midoriya here has helped me around the shop plenty of times, but he really saved my stone last year when my armor model got himself gutted by kobolds the day before a big festival, Raven Queen rest his soul.”

 

“I just wore some armor, Nalla, it wasn’t that big of a deal…” Izuku tried to dismiss her praise.

 

“Always so modest.” Nalla shook her head before she turned back to the women. “The hard part was getting him fitted in all of the pieces I wanted to show on such short notice. I think he was on his feet for about twenty hours.”

 

Izuku shuddered as he remembered that day. “Oh gods, I was so tired.” He felt a yawn coming on just thinking about it.

 

“But hey, you didn’t come to see me just to reminisce, what brings you to-” She stopped, slowly turning to Izuku. “If you’re joining a band of adventurers, you need armor.” She let out a boisterous laugh. “You’ve come to the right place; what do you need?”

 

Izuku paused. He hadn’t thought that far ahead, somehow. “Uh…”

 

Momo had regained her composure at this point. “Likely something not too bulky, like what Mei is wearing.” She gestured at the pink-haired human who was currently distracted tinkering with one of the  lenses on her goggles. “Anything bigger will likely overburden you.”

 

Izuku nodded. “Yeah, you’re probably-”

 

He felt something flare inside of him. A feeling in his mind that told him something else. “Actually, I think I want to try the heavy stuff.”

 

Momo raised an eyebrow and cocked her hip. “Are you sure? Wearing something like this-” she gestured at her own heavy split mail- “requires an appreciable amount of training.”

 

“Yeah,” Mina laughed, “you should have seen Ochako here when we tried to put Mei’s armor on her. You need to know how to wear it or it’s just gonna do more harm than good.”

 

“It was heavy!” Ochako protested with a small pout.

 

Izuku rubbed the back of his head. “I-I know, but I think I know how to.”

 

“Oh, did One-” Tsuyu started.

 

“Yes!” Izuku cut her off nervously, his eyes going wide. The other women looked at each other in slight confusion.

 

“Heavy it is,” Nalla stated, apparently ignoring the outburst. “Come, Midoriya, I still remember your measurements.”

 

“Y-you do?” he said as he followed her.

 

Nalla led Izuku past the forge to a large three-walled shack, each of which were lined with helmets, shields and suits of armor, ranging from leather to heavy splint. She opened up a large cabinet which was filled to the brim with tough gambesons, searching for a few moments before pulling one out. She held it out to Izuku for him to try on, which he obliged.

 

It fit surprisingly well over his traveling clothes. ‘Guess she really does remember my measurements.’ As he moved his arms a bit, Nalla pulled a set of tough-looking chan mail down from the wall.

 

She walked past him to the forge and picked up a large set of tongs. “It will take a little while to get this fitted for you, if you wish to return later.”

 

Izuku slipped the Gambeson off and placed it neatly on the counter. “Oh, okay.” He turned to Momo. “Is that alright, my lady?”

 

Momo nodded as she turned away. “We have some other business to attend to. Come, Midoriya.”

 

Izuku hurried to oblige, but as the group left, they noticed Mei wasn’t with them. The elf turned around and saw the woman talking excitedly with the blacksmith. She shook her head and smiled slightly before continuing toward the market.

 


 

“Hey, Deku?” Ochako said as the group made their way to the central market of Musutafu. “Why didn’t you want Tsu telling Nalla about One For All?”

 

Izuku sighed and looked down. “I don’t know if I’m ready for people to know. Being the servant of One For All is a big thing, even if most people wouldn’t know about it.”

 

Ochako felt her heart drop a little. “You’re going to do great. One For All wouldn’t have chosen you if you weren’t up to it, right?”

 

Izuku laughed softly. “You’re right. I can do this.”

 

Ochako smiled wide, nearly blinding Izuku with her sunshine.

 

Momo scratched her chin. “Keeping your affiliation a secret is likely wise, at least for the time being. As the sole mortal servant of your deity, it might paint a target on your back and, therefore, all of our backs.”

 

Izuku nearly tripped as he walked. “Oh my gods, I hadn’t thought of that! Y-you can’t- I can’t do that to you! What if you get hu-”

 

“Midoriya,” Tsuyu said flatly, interrupting him. “Danger is in our job description. You just need to be more useful than you are harmful. Which, judging from yesterday, won’t be a problem.”

 

“Oh hey, also,” Mina said, abruptly changing the subject, “what was up with that Nalla lady? You almost never see goliaths around.”

 

Momo nodded. “I am curious as well, Midoriya. What brings a goliath down from the mountains?”

 

“Well… Nalla was an orphan,” Izuku explained, a bit of sadness in his voice. “She was raised by the previous armorsmith in town before he passed away. He adopted her when he found her on a mountainside one day.”

 

“Oh, was he a goliath, too?” Ochako asked.

 

Izuku shook his head as he laughed a little. “Old Rurik was a dwarf, bearded as they come. He always talked about how Nalla was taller than him by her eighth birthday. He was always so proud of her; seeing her continuing his trade surely brings his spirit much joy, blessings of Moradin be upon him and his kin. He passed away peacefully about two years ago from old age. I didn’t know him very long, but he was a good man.”

 

The women stared at Izuku as he finished his explanation. He blinked and looked around with concern. “S-sorry, was that too much?”

 

Ochako smiled kindly. “No, it’s just… you seem very passionate about this town.”

 

“This is a good place,” Izuku responded.

 

Ochako frowned a little in concern. “Will it be hard to leave it behind?”

 

He nodded. “Harder than the other places I’ve had to leave, but I’ll make do. Please don’t worry about me.”

 

The women looked at each other sympathetically. They all knew the pain of leaving home behind, but such was the price they paid for their livelihood.

 


 

After purchasing a comfortable amount of food and supplies, as well as filling up their waterskins, the party returned to Nalla’s shop. Mei was holding down the armor while the goliath finishing the last of the adjustments.

 

“Hey!” Mei yelled back as they approached. “Nalla really knows what she’s doing! She’s probably better than my teachers back in the capitol!”

 

Nalla laughed boisterously. “Only because I had such a good teacher myself. Hatsume here would have enjoyed meeting my father, her fundamentals are very solid.” She hefted the metal suit up with ease. “Come, Midoriya, let us see if I am as good as I think.”

 

Izuku hurried forward, making a mental note to ask Mei some questions later. Nalla handed him the chainmail, which he took eagerly and turned over several times in his hands.

 

“What’re you waiting for?! Try it on!” Mei beamed at him.

 

Izuku placed the suit down and quickly retrieved the gambeson that was still laying out on the table in the  back. He slipped the padded jacket on, strapping it down as he walked back. He picked the armor back up and put it on with surprising ease, surprising even himself.

 

Izuku turned around a few times, moving his arms and shoulders, getting a feel for the armor. “This is amazing, you two. It feels like it was made just for me!”

 

Nalla and Mei looked at each other and exchanged satisfied smiles.

 

“Is there anything else we need here?” Momo asked, more to the group than to any one person.

 

Izuku snapped his head around. “Uh, if it’s not too much trouble… a shield?” He shuddered, remembering the defenseless feeling when he fought Bakugou.

 

“Of course!” Nalla responded, walking over and eying her assortment. “How about… this one?” She pulled off a simple circular shield made of sturdy wood. The shield was reinforced at the center and sides with solid iron, with two thick leather straps on the inside, along with a handle.

 

She handed it to Izuku, who quickly slipped his arm through the straps and took hold of the handle. He waved the shield around a few times, getting a feel for its weight and profile. “This is great. Thanks again, Nalla.”

 

“If there’s nothing else,” Momo said with a hint of impatience, “then we really must be off. Thank you for your service, Nalla. It has proven most satisfactory.” She reached to her hip and pulled off the pouch of coins. “How much for the chainmail and shield?”

 

Nalla crossed her arms in thought for a few seconds before shooting a fond glance over to Izuku. “For Midoriya? 50 gold.”

 

Izuku was torn from his amazement as he whipped around. “Nalla, I-I can’t do that! I know that’s under cost for you.”

 

She laughed again. “Think of it as a farewell present, and a thank you for being such a good helper these past few years. You should have heard how father spoke about you. ‘That Midoriya is a good kid, even if he can’t handle his alcohol.’” She adopted a gruff, rough approximation of an old dwarf as she mimicked her father. She couldn’t help but laugh at the memory, causing Izuku to follow suit, albeit a little sheepishly.

 

Ochako elbowed Mina, who had grown a mischievous smile.

 

“We thank you for your generosity,” Momo said graciously as she counted out 50 coins and placed them on the counter.

 

The party turned to leave, with Izuku hanging behind yet again. Nalla kneeled down and threw another hug around him. “You stay safe, alright?”

 

Izuku hugged back this time. “I’ll try my best. T-thank you, Nalla. I’ll come back to visit when I can.”

 

She squeezed him one last time. “I’m holding you to that.”

 

They split apart, Nalla cuffing Izuku softly on the back as he turned to leave. The women watched the scene with small smiles as Izuku jogged to catch up to them once more.


Chapter Text

It was with a definite note of sadness that Izuku passed through the gates of Musutafu. He turned and gave the town another look, wondering when the next time he would return would be. Perhaps it would never come. Perhaps he would be flung off on the great destiny that One For All had in mind, or perhaps he would wind up eaten alive by an Owlbear.

 

Izuku shuddered. ‘Okay, let’s not think about that…’

 

They were about a quarter mile out from town when Momo stopped the group. “Our first order of business is setting a party order.” Seeing Izuku’s confusion, she elaborated. “A standard formation for us to travel in, to best protect ourselves should we be ambushed. We’ve already been bitten by negligence on that front once.”

 

Ochako rubbed the spot in her leg where she had been hit by the crossbow. “Yeah… although if I hadn’t been shot, we wouldn’t have met Deku!” She looked at the man with a wide smile.

 

Izuku blushed a little under the attention, but Momo quickly regained control of the conversation. “Midoriya and I are the most heavily armored. Tsu serves as our guide, due to her outdoors experience. Ochako and Mina are our most vulnerable members, although they are perhaps our most powerful. Mei is also ranged, but is also fairly well armored.” She rubbed her chin as she analyzed.

 

“So our order will be thus: Tsu and I will lead from the front, Mina and Ochako will be protected behind us, while Midoriya and Mei hold the back. That way, it will be hard for any ambush to get at our casters, as we have protection from all sides, while the bulk of our physical strength is at the front.”

 

She turned to Midoriya, looking at him very seriously and causing the man to be cowed slightly by her intensity and look down to the ground. “Midoriya, if we come under attack, it is your job to protect Mina, Ochako, and Mei. We are counting on you.”

 

Izuku felt something stir deep inside of him. He looked up at the elf, meeting her eyes for only the second time since they met. “I understand.”

 

The look of determination and focus on Izuku’s face caused Momo to lose herself for a few moments; he had a different air about him than he usually did. Momo held no doubt in her heart that he would give his all to protect them.

 

“Oh, man,” Mina said, breaking the sudden silence. “I feel safer already~” she teased. putting a finger on Izuku’s chin, causing him to blink and look at her with confusion. “You didn’t even say ‘my lady’, Midori, you must really mean it.”

 

Izuku crashed back to reality as he took an almost-stumbling step backward. “I-I-I’m so sorry, my lady! Please pardon my rudeness!” He slammed himself down into a bow.

 

“Mina!” Ochako scolded. “Why’d you go and do that?”

 

“Oh, come on, look at him .” Mina pointed to Izuku’s blushing, embarrassed face. “It’s too much fun…” She leaned in close, whispering into Ochako’s ear. “ And I think you like seeing him flustered a little bit too, hmm?”

 

The permanent blush on Ochako’s cheeks grew slightly larger.

 

“Midoriya, I am not offended,” Momo assured him, cupping her face slightly. “But we are wasting daylight; let's keep going.” She turned and began to walk south, Tsuyu at her side. Mina and Ochako followed behind, the tiefling still teasing the poor, blushing half-elf. Mei checked that her heavy crossbow was still well secured and then began to bring up the rear.

 

Izuku let out a heavy, relieved sigh and then quickly caught up with the women, falling in line with Mei in the back row. Inspired by the woman at his side, he checked over his equipment. He patted his hand over the mace at his right hip and made sure his backpack was secured. He laid hands on his shield, making sure it was still slung on the side of his pack. Satisfied, Izuku took another fortifying breath and settled in for a long journey.

 


 

“Mei, I’ve been wondering,” Izuku began after a couple of hours of walking. If she heard him, she didn’t acknowledge it. “Where did you learn to make that crossbow?”

 

This, apparently, got her attention. In a swift motion, she pulled the contraption off her back and held it up proudly in front of her. “My baby here? I learned at the academy, of course!”

 

Izuku’s interest was officially piqued. “What academy?”

 

“Uh…” she scratched her head, “I don’t remember.”

 

“Mei was undergoing formal training as an artificer at the Royal Academy,” Momo explained from the front of the party.

 

“Yeah, that’s the one!” Mei said, snapping her fingers as she returned her crossbow to her back.

 

The Royal Academy? ” Izuku said with disbelief. “Don’t you need like… a personal recommendation from King Enji to get into that or something?”

 

Mei waved her hand dismissively. “Nah, just any old noble will do.”

 

“Just any old noble,” Mina repeated in a slightly mocking tone.

 

“B-but if you got into the Royal Academy, what are you doing here? Surely someone with your talents could be working for the nobility, if not the crown!” Izuku waved his arms wildly to emphasize his point. “Wait, are you working for Lady Yaoyorozu?”

 

“Nah, I got kicked out!” Mei bristled with indignation. “That overzealous, rules-loving paladin apparently ‘had enough’ of my experiments and booted me. No respect for progress at all! Just because a few of my babies exploded in balls of various elemental energy doesn’t mean I’m a ‘danger to myself and everyone around me’!”

 

“But wait, what’s an artificer?” Izuku asked, remembering what Momo had called her.

 

Mei puffed up proudly. “To me, magic isn’t this mysterious, enigmatic force, but a logical system, albeit a complicated one. I’m able to use and abuse those rules for my inventions! Basically, I specialize in binding magic to ‘mundane’ objects like my baby here!” She patted her crossbow fondly. “But the price of experimentation is failure! Some people just can’t understand that sometimes your inventions don’t work quite right and blow up half of the Academy library!”

 

“Half of the academy library…?” Izuku paled.

 

“They got the books back!” Mei yelled as she threw her hands up. “I don’t know what they were so upset about!”

 

Izuku stared, completely at a loss for words.

 

“You can think of her like a ‘battle enchanter’, Deku,” Ochako explained, breaking the silence and bringing him out of his stupor. “I’ve never really seen anything like it, but it’s effective!”

 

“Here, give me your mace,” Mei said to him quickly. Izuku didn’t like the manic look in her yellow eyes, but obliged.

 

She took the weapon in one hand and pulled out a couple tools from one of her belt pouches. She clutched one between her teeth while she started tinkering with his mace. Izuku saw a small glow begin to emanate from her hands, flowing down the tools and across his weapon as she seemed to be scribbling something down.

 

After only a few seconds, she held the mace back up to him. “All done!” He took it and looked it over. Along the head and handle, written in clearly magical, glowing script was ‘Mei Hatsume, artificer extraordinaire. Commissions available.’

 

“Hatsume, that’s amazing!” Izuku tried to rub the writing off, but it didn’t move. Looking closely, he could see that it wasn’t anything physically on the mace; Mei’s addition was purely magical. “I’ve never seen someone able to manipulate magic like that before and make it permanent!”

 

Somehow, Mei’s smile grew a little wider from his excited praise.

 


 

The rest of the day passed uneventfully. They only met a handful of other travelers on the road but otherwise their journey was nondescript. As the sun descended beneath the treeline and the temperature began to drop, Momo made the call to camp for the night.

 

Tsuyu immediately set to work scouting out for a good campsite, using a little bit of druidic magic in the process. After a short search, they found a clearing a small ways off the road that would suit their needs.

 

The party took of their packs and set up their bedrolls; Izuku placed his a little ways away from the women, so as to not make them uncomfortable. The way Mina smiled softly and shook her head at him only caused confusion in the cleric.

 

Shortly after, Tsuyu began to make her way out of camp, clutching her gnarled staff between her hands. Izuku perked up, curious. “As- Tsu, where are you going?”

 

The triton turned back slightly. “Hunting. No need to use our preserved food when the forest offers a bounty for us. Melora provides.”

 

Izuku stood up as well. “Can I help?”

 

Tsuyu looked at him for a few seconds, considering his offer. Eventually, she shook her head. “No need, I’ll be faster on my own, but thank you. If you want to go gather rocks and wood for our fire, that would be very helpful.” She turned back and quickly turned into a large wolf before slinking out of camp and into the brush.

 

Izuku felt a little disappointed, but long years of service in temples taught him the value in doing any task, no matter how seemingly mundane. Without delay, he set out searching, determined to complete his task promptly.

 

Ochako and Mina looked at each other. The tiefling smiled as she began to pull out cooking equipment from her pack. “Quite the work ethic he’s got, huh?”

 

Ochako giggled slightly. “He’s real eager to help. That’s jus’ how he is.”

 

Momo nodded approvingly, while even Mei raised an eyebrow and watched him as he left the camp, before returning to the small contraption she was working on.

 


 

Tsuyu beat Izuku back to camp, a testament to either how good she was at hunting, or how bad Izuku was at being an outdoorsman, they weren’t sure which.

 

Mina and Ochako already had the fish that Tsuyu had caught prepared by the time Izuku had built the fire ring. The druid showed him how to stack firewood properly and then whispered something in a language nobody else understood as she moved her hands. The fire sprang into existence instantly as Tsuyu smiled happily.

 

Izuku knew that nothing tasted better than food after a hard day’s work. After the physically and emotionally exhausting day he had experienced, the fire-roasted fish tasted like heaven. Years of being an acolyte taught him the merits of restraint, thankfully allowing him to eat with a degree of dignity, instead of attacking the fish the way he wanted.

 

The sun had truly set by this point and a chill had settled over the campsite as a bitter early Spring wind blew through. Momo pulled a cloak over her armor as she stood up and looked over the rest of the group. “Alright, girls. Same watch order as normal. Make sure you keep the fire alive, too. The warmth will be welcome.”

 

“The light’s gonna stick out in this dark, are you sure?” Mina protested.

 

Momo considered her argument for only a moment before nodding. “We are quite close to town, it is unlikely we encounter anything. The upside of having the fire outweighs the risks, I think.”

 

Mina shrugged.

 

Izuku looked around with a bit of confusion. “Watch order?”

 

“We take shifts watching over the camp,” Ochako explained. “It’s always risky camping outside of towns. Someone’s gotta be on the lookout for beasts and monsters trying to sneak up on us.”

 

The cleric perked up a bit. “Can I help?”

 

Momo shook her head. “Midoriya, unfortunately, you’re human.”

 

Izuku understood. “Which means I can’t see in the dark… It’s so cool that you guys can.”

 

“Here, Tsu,” Mei said, handing her goggles over to the triton. “You can use these tonight, just give them back to me when your shift is over, okay?”

 

Tsuyu put the pink goggles on and looked around a bit. “So this is what you three see?” She gestured at Momo, Mina and Ochako.

 

Mina turned to the other pink-haired woman. “What are those?”

 

“Goggles of Night,” she said simply. “All the darkvision of an elf in a set of convenient eyewear!”

 

Izuku’s jaw dropped. “So that’s what you’ve been working on?”

 

Mei nodded. “Yup! Now all four of you will be good to go to for night watch.”

 

“Very good,” Momo said approvingly. “Oh, and Mei? You actually have to sleep tonight.”

 

Mei glared at Momo, who returned the stare. Eventually, Mei relented, turning away with a pout. “Fine.”

 

Izuku began to make moves to take off his heavy armor, looking forward to getting the weight off. He had been surprised just how natural it felt to wear it; he thanked One For All for that. Before he could get far, however, Momo stopped him. “Midoriya, keep it on.”

 

He looked up, a little confused. Before he could question, he remembered his place. “...Yes, my lady.”

 

Momo shook her head. “I’m not ordering you around for my pleasure, Midoriya. Being caught unarmored in the wilderness is dangerous. You’ll have to get used to sleeping in your armor.”

 

Izuku’s eyes widened in understanding. “O-of course. Thank you for your wisdom, my lady.”

 

“Besides,” Mina added, “it makes when we do sleep in beds that much more satisfying, right?”

 

Ochako smiled. “Looking on the bright side, I like it!”

 

“You don’t even wear armor, Ochako,” Mei said, still a little bitter about her enforced curfew.

 

“Well, a bedroll still isn’t very comfortable!”

 

Izuku smiled a little as he tried to get comfy in his armor. He was so tired, he doubted he would have trouble sleeping, but he hoped he wouldn’t be too sore in the morning.

 


 

Izuku’s eyes flew open as Mina’s voice shouted over the clearing. “W-what’s going on?”

 

“We’ve got company!” the tiefling shouted. She quickly turned to the elf, who was standing up and reaching for her blade. “Oh, and I told you so!”

 

“Yes, yes, gloat later,” Momo said tersely. “What is it?”

 

“Looks like go-”

 

Before Mina could finish, an arrow flew from the darkness and hit a tree a few feet from Mina.

 

“Damn!” Mina said as she flinched. “Goblins!”

 

“They’ll try to swarm us! Stay together!” Momo shouted.

 

Izuku scrambled to his feet and grabbed the mace and shield next to his bedroll. His heart pounded in his ears as adrenaline began to flood his system.

 

This was real.

 

Izuku looked all around but saw nothing outside of the light of the fire. He strained his ears, trying to get his bearings. His eyes widened as he heard the chittering and rustling of the invaders. He couldn’t tell exactly, but that was not a small number.

 

The mechanical sound of Mei’s crossbow cranking back and loading caused him to look at Ochako, Mina and Mei, who were standing around the fire, staring out at the darkness with grim determination. Mei was wearing the goggles, which Tsuyu had apparently returned while Izuku was sleeping.

 

Momo held her longsword in front of her while Tsuyu assumed the form of a great Dire Wolf once again. He saw the fear on their faces, but also their strength. Izuku remembered Momo’s charge to him.

 

He would not fail them.

 

Izuku quickly sheathed his mace on his hip and held up his hand. He pulled on the power inside of him, pooling it inside as he began his prayer. He felt a small burning sensation on his chest as the symbol of Pelor he wore underneath his shirt began to heat up.

 

He reached inside his clothes and pulled out the symbol in a panic. It was glowing brightly, but he didn’t have time to worry about that now.

 

His short prayer ended as he held up his hand to Bless the three women near him, his thumb and first two fingers extended as he focused on the spell.

 

The power of One For All swirled through his hand and streaked towards his allies, latching on as a connection was formed.

 

“Woah!” Mina shouted as she turned back to him. “What did you do?”

 

Ochako was staring too. “This is like Guidance, but…”

 

Izuku turned his face up to them, green-tinted fire licking across his eyes as he smiled. “The power of One For All flows through us. I am with you; you will not fall.” The words almost didn’t sound like his own.

 

Mina and Ochako looked at each other and nodded, turning back to the oncoming goblins and clutching their implements.

 

“Oh, hells yes ,” Mei said as she hefted her crossbow and took aim. “Let’s kick some ugly, green ass!”

 

She pulled the trigger and the crossbow fired with a satisfying mechanical cacophony, the bolt streaking into the night. Echoing back came a solid, yet wet, sound, signalling a direct hit.

 

Ochako gripped her staff tightly, pulling a wave of magic down from its tip and across her body, leaving a faint magical sheen around her. “Momo, Tsu, be careful! Deku has us!”

 

Hearing that, his heart swelled with pride. He stepped out between the women and the oncoming goblins, bringing his shield up and bracing himself. If he couldn’t see the goblins, he could at least protect his allies.

 

Momo and Tsu guarded the perimeter of the camp, standing shoulder-to-shoulder in the darkness as they tried to limit the number of goblins that could get to them. Streaks of fire, globs of acid and crossbow bolts sailed around Izuku and at the oncoming swarm.

 

“How many are there?” Izuku asked aloud, his blindness getting to him.

 

“Not too many,” Mina responded with a degree of hope as she hurled another ball of acid from her blue-green crystal that she held in her hand. “Maybe a dozen?”

 

“One less now!” Mei added, loosing another thunderous bolt from her crossbow. Izuku marveled at the speed and skill which Mei operated her device. It was clear that she was highly practiced.

 

Izuku could hear the slashing sound of Momo’s blade cutting goblins down and the fierce gnashing of Tsuyu’s jaws, but without seeing them, he could only hope that they were doing alright. The fact that they were still fighting calmed him at least a little bit.

 

Suddenly, Mina cried out in pain as an arrow struck her in the shoulder. Izuku whipped around as another arrow hit harmlessly against his chainmail, staring wide-eyed as her blood began to seep from the wound.

 

He began to move towards her, stashing his mace away as he did so, when he heard her invoking something sinister under her breath. She pointed a finger straight into the darkness as a jet of hellfire shot along the path of the arrow and enveloped the goblin that had shot her. “Rebuked, you bastard,” she hissed.

 

Izuku reached his hand out and placed his palm on her arm. Each time he used One For All’s power, it felt easier; he chanted the short prayer and felt the healing energy surge across Mina’s body, closing the wound and expelling the crude arrow.

 

“Whew, thanks Midoriya, no- look out!” Mina shouted as she looked past him.

 

Izuku whipped around in time to see a goblin streaking into the light of the campfire. It held a cruel, curved blade in its hand as it closed in on Ochako.

 

The creature was short and ugly, its greenish-brown skin was covered in rudimentary leather rags and its massive nose hung over its sharp teeth. Sharp, black fingernails tipped its short limbs as it jumped at the woman, blade raised above its head.

 

Izuku turned to lunge toward the monster, but it was already on the woman. However, unlike the troll, which had terrified them all, he saw Ochako glaring the goblin down.

 

The look of determination and fury on her face took his breath away.

 

She surged forward with her palm open, her right arm reaching toward the goblin. Or- her arms?

 

Izuku blinked as time seemed to slow down for him. For a second, Ochako had not one, but two, right arms, but at the same time, she didn’t. Each time he tried to look at one, it vanished, like it wasn’t fully real.

 

As soon as Ochako’s hand grabbed the flying monster by the face, the uncertainty collapsed and her arm was solid once again. Lightning crackled and surged through her hand as she pitched her arm forward, putting her back into it as she slammed the goblin into the earth. The goblin sparked and sizzled as Ochako held her hand on it for a few seconds before standing back up, ready to continue the fight.

 

Izuku realized he was staring, but he couldn’t snap himself out of it. Over the course of her stunning attack, her hood had fallen from her head, exposing her bob of brown hair and her slightly pointed ears. Izuku couldn’t help but think that she looked beautiful as she slung another bolt of fire into the dark.

 

He finally shook himself back to attention. The battle was still going; he didn’t have time to fool around. He pulled his mace back out again and stood tall in front of the women again. Another goblin would not get past him.

 

His declaration was soon tested, as another small, vicious beast came charging at him. He stood strong, blocking the clumsy attack with his shield and swinging his mace at the goblin. Izuku found solid contact, crashing his weapon into the goblin’s side. It staggered, but didn’t fall.

 

Suddenly, Izuku felt a burst of inspiration as a surge of divine energy electrified his body. In a way he didn’t exactly understand, he followed up his attack with a second, driving the monster into the dirt, dead.

 

Izuku panted and took a step back. He flicked his mace downwards, tossing off some of the dark blood that was dripping from the head of the weapon as he brought his shield back up.

 

He glanced to the edge of the camp where he could barely make out Momo and Tsuyu fighting. It seemed like the worst had passed, as the two were going on the offensive. Tsuyu lunged forward, crushing one of the small creatures in her powerful jaws with ease.

 

“Ha! They’re running!” Mina yelled out, pumping her fist.

 

“Three left!” Momo shouted back. “We can’t let any escape or they’ll be back!”

 

Mei lined up her crossbow and took a final shot, her bolt hitting true in the back of a goblin running between the trees. Mina pulled from her crystal a shimmering orb that was filled with swirling lights of all colors. The color settled on a greenish-gray as she flung it into the dark.

 

“Good work,” Momo said approvingly. “One left, I’ve got it.” She ran forward as she held out her left hand as she spoke a short incantation. A bolt of electrical energy shot from her, streaking towards the last goblin, which was only 15 feet away from her at this point. The energy wrapped around the goblin’s waist and yanked the goblin through the air toward her. With a surge of impressive effort and speed that Izuku had never seen before, her blade flashed through the dim illumination of the magic, sending the goblin slumping to the ground.

 

And just like that, it was over. Izuku took a step backwards, panting slightly as the adrenaline left his system. He let his concentration go, the energies filling Mei, Ochako and Mina fading away rapidly. Izuku kneeled down and thanked One For All for keeping him and his companions alive and for bringing them victory.

 

Momo and Tsuyu walked slowly back over to the rest of the party, both of them covered in a number of cuts and stab wounds. Izuku immediately rose to his feet and hurried over to assess their conditions.

 

Before he could check her, Tsuyu let her wolf form fade away, shrinking back down to her human size. To Izuku’s surprise, none of the wounds came with her. She looked as unscathed as she had when the battle begun. Tsuyu laughed lightly at the stunned, amazed look on Izuku’s face.

 

Momo saw the look on Izuku’s face with a fondness. ‘He’s always so concerned about me. It’s quite endearing.’ She took a deep breath and focused, her muscles flexing and bulging as she steeled herself. Her pain lessened as her body hardened itself against the wounds.

 

Izuku, of course, wasn’t about to leave it at that. He looked at her, asking silently for permission. She nodded with a small smile, to which he immediately placed a hand on her arm and pushed healing magic through her body. She let out a relieved sigh as the pain left entirely.

 

Izuku nearly jumped as Momo put a hand on his head, running her fingers through his hair slightly as she looked down on him. “Thank you, Midoriya.”

 

Izuku bowed his head. “I am happy to be of service, my lady.”

 

She smiled a little wider. “Quite. Now.” She turned to look at the rest of the group. “Status report. How did you fare? You look mostly unharmed.”

 

“Deku did a great job keeping us safe,” Ochako said cheerfully, her eyes shut she was smiling so wide.

 

“I’m the only one who got hit,” Mina added, “and I barely had time to feel the pain before Midoriya healed me right up. 10 out of 10, would recommend.”

 

Izuku ran through the fight in his mind, still not exactly sure what had happened. It seemed like such a blur, and it seemed like an eternity, but it was less than thirty seconds when all was said and done. He remembered something, however, and turned to Ochako.

 

“U-Uraraka, what was that thing you did to that goblin that got past me- sorry about that, by the way. I shou-”

 

“Ah, I’m gonna stop you right there,” she said said, holding a hand up to silence him. “You are not allowed to feel bad anytime that we get attacked, okay? Not allowed. The fact Mina got hit once, I got attacked once, and Mei was fine is amazing, Deku!”

 

He hung his head slightly. “T-thank you.”

 

“As for what I did, well…” she rubbed the back of her head awkwardly. “It’s kinda hard to explain. Basically, my magic comes from, uh, chaos? It’s sort of the opposite of what Mei does. That’s what makes it so hard to control. I have this… energy swirling around in me at all times, this… randomness.”

 

“Woah…” Izuku was wide-eyed, hanging on her every word.

 

“I kinda sorta by accident learned how to sort of uh, abuse that chaos. I can use it to try two outcomes of a thing, then choose which one is better. Sort of like, uh… how can I explain this…” She scratched her head in thought for a few moments. “How about… imagine I’m rolling two dice and then choosing which one landed on the better number.”

 

Izuku scratched his chin. “When you put it that way...it actually makes a lot of sense.”

 

The girl began to poke her fingers together in embarrassment. “The only problem is that whenever I do it, I get uh, a little volatile .”

 

“Yeah, you do,” Mina agreed. “Now go fix it before you cast Grease on the entire campsite again.”

 

Ochako sighed. “You’re right…” She walked a little bit aways from the group and held her hand out at a tree. Three pink bolts of energy shot out of her hand, striking the tree and leaving small scorch marks.

 

Suddenly, Ochako vanished. Where she had been standing sat a small potted plant with a bright, pretty flower.

 

Izuku’s jaw nearly fell off his face as Mina and Mei began to laugh uproariously.

 

He began to panic, moving towards the plant as fast as he could. “Uraraka!” he yelled, worried out of his mind as he picked the pot up.

 

Then, just as suddenly, the pot vanished.

 

Izuku blinked a few times.

 

Ochako blinked back.

 

He was holding her in his arms in a bridal carry, one arm tucked behind her back and the other under her legs.

 

“H-hi, Deku,” she said as blush began to fill her face.

 

Izuku screamed .

 

He put the woman down as fast as he could and nearly tripped as he frantically backed up. “I'm so sorry, I had no idea, please forgive me!”

 

Mei and Mina had to lean on each other for support as their laughter grew stronger.

 

Momo and Tsuyu looked at each other and couldn't help but giggle themselves as Izuku continued to spout apologies and Ochako sputtered reassurances, both of their faces almost neon with blush.

 

Eventually both of them lost the ability to speak, Ochako trying to hide her face behind her hands while Izuku went the extra mile and attempted to hide his entire head behind his arms, both trying to physically hide from their embarrassment.  

 

After several minutes, once the laughter had died down and blush finally began to fall from faces, Momo spoke up. “We have to make for a new camp and continue our rest if we want to stay on track. I don't know about you, but I would rather not sleep next to a field of dead goblins.”

 

“Loot first, sleep later!” Mina said, moving over to the goblins.

 

Momo rolled her eyes. “If you insist.”

 

“You never know what they could be carrying,” Ochako added as she, Tsuyu and Mei followed Mina. “I know you’re not used to being poor, but we gotta take what we can get.”

 

Izuku hesitated, but eventually joined the women. Sighing, Momo shrugged and began to help search as well. Burnt, slashed and bolted goblins weren’t a pretty sight, but Izuku gave a few a quick look-over, hoping to find something of value.

 

After a few minutes, the party reconvened and compiled what they had found. All in all, it amounted to a few gold coins of value in copper and silver.

 

Momo sighed. “Was it worth it?”

 

Mina nodded. “You gotta take what you can get, Momo. It might not be pretty work, but it's our work. We gotta be willing to get our hands dirty.”

 

The elf pursed her lips slightly. “I suppose you are correct; it will be something I’ll have to get used to. Are we ready to move on now?”

 

“Yup,” Ochako said with a yawn, “let’s get goin’.”

 

The party moved out, Tsuyu wearing Mei’s goggles again as she searched for another suitable spot for them to lie down and rest.

 

Izuku sighed heavily from the back of the group as his exhaustion caught up with him.

 

‘What a night.’

Chapter Text

Izuku woke up early the next morning like he always did, but he was certainly not as well rested as he usually was. Turns out, sleeping in chainmail was uncomfortable. He felt well enough, but too many nights without a proper bed and he might start to regret his choice in protection. However, when Izuku thought back to his encounter the previous night and how the arrows ricocheted off his chainmail, it was thanks to his armor that he was able to defend the women so well. Compared to their safety, what was some minor discomfort?

 

He squinted through the dim light of the early dawn, looking over the campsite. Mei, Ochako and Tsuyu were fast asleep, while Momo was sitting in a refined, meditative pose. ‘I’d always heard about that, but I’ve never seen an elf trance in person. I shouldn’t disturb her…’

 

Izuku stared for a moment as a ray of sunlight cracked through the forest and illuminated the elven woman. Due to his deference, he rarely had an opportunity to look at her face, which was something he regretted at this moment. Her face was beautiful, but that didn’t do it justice. Her skin was nearly pure white and contrasted breathtakingly with her raven hair. Her refined cheekbones and noble bearing made Izuku truly understand why her race was called ‘high’ elves. It was all brought together by her breathtaking eyes; pools of liquid obsidian flecked with silver that made him feel like he was staring into the sky on a clear summer night.

 

Those same eyes that were staring straight at him.

 

Izuku immediately began to blush in a panic, slamming his vision down in apology as he stood up as quickly as he dared without waking the other women. He shuffled away from the camp, hoping that the woman would forgive him for his moment of weakness.

 

As he left, Momo let a small, fond smile grow on her face as she returned to her trance.

 


 

Izuku finally let himself breathe as he found a clearing a good distance from the camp. He kneeled down, letting the warmth of the sun wash away his earthly concerns as he turned his heart to his god. As he kneeled, he felt his holy symbol of Pelor bump against his chest.

 

He had put it on out of habit the previous morning when he was leaving the temple and had completely forgotten about it. ‘Oh right, it felt like it was burning last night when the goblins attacked, I wonder wh-’

 

His thoughts stopped dead as he laid his eyes on the icon. No longer was the chain around his neck holding an engraved symbol of Pelor- the golden sun he had worn for years- but something completely different. Eight comets of different colors lined the edges of the circular symbol, each streaking towards the next. In the middle sat a bright emerald gemstone, the same color as his eyes.

 

Izuku’s hands trembled as he held the symbol. “O-One For A-All?” he breathed, his voice shaking like the rest of his body. He immediately clutched the miraculous icon in his hands and squeezed his eyes shut to pray. Izuku felt the divine power of his god flow through him like it had the previous two mornings, but he felt something...different. The energy seemed to flow in and around the ornate amulet, allowing him to more easily control and direct it. There was no doubt about it now: Izuku held in his hands an actual holy symbol of One For All.

 

After he finished his morning prayers, he resumed his staring. ‘This is… priceless.’ Izuku knew that the symbol of One For All was a hotly contested issue, which was part of the reason that people were so skeptical of his deity’s existence. Izuku had seen the different purported holy symbols, which were all similar, but had enough differences that people argued their validity.

 

Izuku finally understood. He held up the symbol to the light and smiled widely. Each champion of One For All had a unique symbol… and this was his. In his hands he held a physical representation of his god and by extension, his destiny. This was real.

 

He felt tears beginning to leak slowly from the sides of his eyes. Perhaps it was the stress of the goblin attack or the result of sleeping outside for the first time in a long time… but he just had to let some emotions out.

 


 

The sun was fully risen when he returned to camp, where everyone else had already packed up and gotten ready for the long day of travel ahead of them.

 

Ochako smiled brightly as he returned. “Hey, Deku, what to- woah!” She rushed over and looked closely at the large amulet hanging from his neck. “Where’d you find that? It looks valuable!”

 

“Look at you,” Mina remarked with a grin. “Midoriya’s a treasure hunter already.”

 

Izuku took a step back from the half-elf in his face. “N-no, you’ve got it wrong! I didn’t find this, it uh, was given to me.”

 

“Given?” Ochako tilted her head.

 

Tsuyu walked up and put a hand on Ochako’s shoulder. “Probably from One For All. Is that right, Midoriya?”

 

Izuku nodded. “Y-yeah, I think last night when I was in battle… my old holy symbol got turned into this. This is my personal holy symbol to mark me in service of One For All.” He felt his chest puff out a little in pride.

 

Mina shrugged. “Makes sense to me. My patron gives me stuff sometimes too.”

 

“R-really?” Izuku looked at her curiously. “Who is your patron? I-if you don’t mind me asking, that is.”

 

“Fierna,” she answered simply.

Izuku nearly fell over. “F-Fierna?! The devil lord that rules Phlegethos?! The manipulator second only to Asmodeus himself?! That Fierna?!”

 

Mina was casually double-checking the straps on her backpack. “Technically she co-rules Phlegethos with Belial, but yeah.”

 

“That’s amazing!” Izuku was on her in an instant. “How did you secure a deal with an actual devil lord? What is your pact like? What does she require of you? Is it true that yo-”

“Woah, woah! Down, boy!” Mina held her hands up defensively as she took a step back.

 

Izuku caught himself and frantically bowed his head. “Oh- oh my gods, I’m s-sorry, Ashido, I was just-”

 

“Yeah, yeah, I know.” Mina patted his head gently. “Don’t worry about it. I was just surprised. Most people act, uh, a little differently when they find out I have a deal with Fierna.”

 

“S-should I be worried?” Izuku tilted his head slightly in confusion. “You seem like a really nice person, I don’t think you’re an infernal cultist or anything.”

 

“Nah, I’m pretty up front with the girls if Fierna wants anything from me.” Mina waved her hand dismissively. “I’m pretty new, so she’s only asked me for one thing so far.” She looked side-eyed at the curious cleric. “Aren’t you a little intimidated by the horned, fanged girl with the tail who has a pact with a ruler of the Nine Hells?”

 

“I’m more curious how the pact came about, actually,” Izuku said honestly. “I haven’t seen any reason to be afraid of you yet, Ashido.”

 

‘How is he so innocent?’ Mina felt her heart open up a bit to the boy. “Sorry, Midoriya, but that’s a personal secret. Not even the other girls know. Maybe one day.” Hopefully he wouldn’t be too hurt.

 

Izuku smiled. “Oh, I understand! I didn’t mean to pry, my curiosity gets the better of me sometimes.” He rubbed his head in embarrassment, not noticing the amused smiles from the other women.

 

Momo raised an eyebrow as she hid her smile. “Midoriya, how do you know so much about all that?”

 

He was immediately tense again. “I-I came across some books about it in my time at a temple to Ioun, my lady. I had hoped that knowledge of the underworld and its denizens would be beneficial to me one day.”

 

“Knowing stuff is the best way to not get killed by stuff,” Mei remarked sagely.

 

Mina laughed. “And the best way to not get your soul eaten!”

 

Tsuyu blinked at the woman a few times. “That’s not wrong.”

 

“Regardless, it is time for us to depart.” Momo looked over the women and Izuku. “Form up and let's get going. Hopefully we can pick up the trail of those bandits at the next town.”

 


 

Their journey to the next town went smoothly, for which Izuku was grateful for. They entered the small settlement through the northern gate, passing through the simple wooden palisade that protected it. Izuku tucked his symbol into his shirt; he didn't want to draw unnecessary attention to himself, after all. The town was much smaller than Musutafu, but the market square was still bustling in the midday sun.

 

Momo turned to the tiefling. “Mina, if you would?”

 

“With pleasure!” Mina ducked behind a large wagon and Izuku heard her whisper a small incantation, causing him to widen his eyes in curiosity. She stepped back ou-

 

Someone else stepped out from behind the wagon. She was about Mina’s height, but she was clearly human. Her clothes were simple and plain and she had a kind, motherly face that showed the faintest sign of stress and worry.

 

“Oh, sir,” she said, stepping closer to Izuku. “My family was robbed by bandits, do you know which way they could have gone?”

 

Izuku blinked. He opened his mouth and then closed it, still trying to process what was going on. He looked back to the other women for support, his eyes contorted in confusion. His instincts were yelling at him to help this woman, but he was so disoriented that he couldn’t form words.

 

Suddenly, she started laughing. “Gods, that never gets old. Chin up, Midoriya, it’s me.” She reached out and grabbed his hand, pulling it up to her head and bumping it into something invisible a few inches above her. “Look, the horns are still there and everything, it’s just an illusion. People are more likely to talk to someone like them, you know?”

 

Izuku blinked slowly as her face lost its playful glint and she moved past him, diving into the crowd and beginning to talk to the townsfolk. She moved from group to group, seeming to only take a few moments to integrate herself before she began to grill them for information. He lost sight of her as she worked her way further into the crowd, causing him to begin to worry.

 

“Don’t worry, Deku,” Ochako said from his right. “Mina will be fine. She’s used to working with crowds.”

 

“What should we do, then?” Izuku asked, still watching the crowd. “Just wait?”

 

“Pretty much,” Tsu said simply from his left, causing him to jump a little. When did she get there? “We don’t have any shopping to do and it’s not like we have any money even if we did.”

 

Momo rolled her neck, stretching it out. “Let’s find a shaded spot to rest in, Mina will find us when she’s done.” She began to walk off, the other three women behind her. Izuku looked into the crowd one last time before he followed.

 


 

True to their word, Mina showed up about a half hour later. Or rather, Izuku assumed it was Mina. A younger woman with a gaunt face and bad teeth approached the group with a wide smile. She flopped down in front of them and let her disguise fall, showing the smiling, pink face of the tiefling once again.

 

“Were you successful?” Momo asked.

 

Mina nodded. “Yup! A few townies pointed me in the direction of this seedy bar, so I adjusted my disguise and went asking around. Good news, I’ve got a clue. Bad news, I am no longer welcome in that establishment, or at least that’s what I assume having a bottle thrown at me means.”

 

Izuku sat up straight, but before he could open his mouth, Mina had a finger on his lips.

 

“Ah ah, it missed. I’m fine.” She pulled her finger back and shook her head. “You’re gonna have to get over that. We’re gonna get hurt, Midoriya.”

 

“I… I was just worried,” Izuku mumbled, looking down. “I know you can take care of yourselves; I saw that firsthand last night. I just want to help.”

 

“And you are helping,” Mina said kindly. “But right now, it’s my turn to help.” She turned to the rest of the group and addressed Momo. “The bartender said that there was a group that matched the bandits’ description that was in town for a few days, drinking and eating like the world was ending. They just left this morning since they finally ran the tavern out of booze, so we should be able to catch up with them if we hurry.”

 

“Sounds like they’re spending our money,” Ochako grumbled.

 

Mei hopped up. “Then let’s get after them!”

 


 

The six of them hurried out of town, heading East based on what the bartender told Mina. It was only a couple of hours traveling when they came across a sign that they were on the right path.

 

“Hold up,” Tsuyu called, raising a hand to stop them. “There was a struggle here.”

 

Momo looked around curiously for a moment before her ears perked up. “There!” She pointed to the side of the road and hurried over. “There’s blood on these leaves.”

 

Tsuyu moved up to her. “Let me see that.” She looked closely at the leaf and gave it a small sniff. “It’s still fresh. I wonder…” She began to look around for a moment, fascinating Izuku with how she moved; she reminded him of a predator, like a wolf stalking its prey. “Here. A blood trail,” she said suddenly before turning to Izuku. “Midoriya, come here.”

 

He hurried over, his chainmail jangling as he jogged. “Yes, Tsu?”

 

“What does this look like to you?”

 

Izuku looked at the blood, his years of medical training coming in handy. “Judging from how it’s spread, I’d say someone- no, wait.” He took a step to the side, getting a better angle. “Two people were attacked here… the blood goes this way.” He pointed off the road.

 

Tsuyu nodded. “I thought so. Let’s see…” She began to stalk in the direction he pointed, keeping low to the ground. As he followed, he noticed the blood was smeared in streaks, indicating whoever or whatever was bleeding was dragged along the ground.

 

She put up a hand to stop him as they crested a small mound. “You were right, look.” He followed her pointing finger to a pair of corpses. Izuku made a move towards them before Tsuyu stopped him again. “Go slowly, we don’t know if whatever did this is still around. Stay behind me for a moment.”


The two of them stalked up closer, or as close to stalking as Izuku could get while being a clumsy man in chainmail, which wasn’t very. Tsuyu gave him a nod as they came to the corpses, silently telling him to proceed.

 

Izuku set to work examining the bodies. He made note of everything he thought relevant, turning them over and examining their wounds. He was muttering under his breath, causing Tsuyu to raise a concerned eyebrow as he worked diligently. After about ten minutes, Izuku let out a big sigh. “Well, this wasn’t an animal, I can tell you that.”

 

“Let’s head back then and tell the rest,” Tsuyu suggested.

 

The two quickly returned to the road where the other four women were waiting. “Well,” Momo began, “any luck?”

 

Izuku nodded and bowed his head respectfully. “Yes, my lady. The victims were two humans, one man and one woman. I would guess them to be in their mid thirties. They are both covered in deep wounds, likely from a dagger or other stabbing weapon.”

 

Momo pursed her lips. “Did they have any money on them?”

 

“Momo!” Ochako yelled, scandalized.

 

“Their purses were gone, my lady.”

 

“Likely a robbery then,” Momo surmised, shooting a stern glance at the half-elf.

 

“Oh.” Ochako looked down in embarrassment.

 

“Well, that certainly sounds like them,” Mei said, a note of frustration in her voice. “Let’s get going, I want my stuff back!”

 

The five others nodded.

 

Izuku felt something burning inside of him as they resumed their pursuit.

 


 

It was mid-afternoon when they finally caught up to their quarry.

 

Tsuyu held up her hand again, closing her eyes as she listened intently over the hill that the path curved around. “There’s a good number of people up ahead,” she whispered. “Might be them.”

 

Momo gripped the hilt of her longsword tightly. “Get ready, everyone.” Ochako nodded and drew her magical armor across herself again. Mei drew her crossbow, Izuku his mace, and Mina clutched her crystal tightly in her left hand.

 

The group turned the bend with Momo and Tsuyu in the front, while Izuku stood guard behind them, acting to protect the three in the back if need be. Tensions were running high, everyone grabbing their weapon or implement tightly. Izuku ran his fingers over the handle of his mace nervously, feeling that burning in his chest grow slightly stronger.

 

A group of ten men sat around a small fire, apparently having stopped for a late lunch. Each of them wore leather armor similar to Mina, except for one in the back, whose armor was covered in protective metal studs. The men turned as Izuku’s group came into view, several of them standing up to get a better look. “There’s a lot of them,” Tsuyu whispered back.

 

“That’s them!” Mei yelled. “HEY! GIVE ME MY STUFF BACK!”

 

Momo winced. “Dammit, Mei,” she hissed.

 

“Oh, darn, is diplomacy out the window?” Mei growled back, gripping her crossbow tightly. “They better not have damaged my tools.”

 

“What’s all this about?” came a shout from one of the ruffians. “You lookin’ for trouble?”

 

Momo sighed and turned back around, scowling. “You are in possession of some of our belongings. We would have them back.”

 

“We would ha- who talks like that?” The thugs started laughing. “Wait a second, I remember you. Hey boss, that hot elf bitch is back.”

 

Izuku felt something begin to strain inside of him.

 

Ochako looked around nervously, noticing the sudden breeze blowing through the trees.

 

The bigger, tougher looking man in the studded armor stood up from the stump he was sitting on. “Yeah? Oh damn, you’re right.”

 

Momo grinded her teeth. “You will return my necklace to me or we will take it by force.”

 

“Oh, you want your necklace back?” he sneered. “Lucky for you, we still have it. Nobody in any of these backwater towns had enough gold to pay for it.” He smiled cruelly. “Tell you what, I’ll give it back if you come over here and give me a kiss.”

 

Izuku felt that thing inside of him snap completely.

 

The ground began to shake slightly. The breeze through the trees picked up. Ochako’s vision snapped to Izuku, a gasp escaping her mouth. His eyes were burning bright green.

 

“HOW DARE YOU SPEAK TO LADY YAOYOROZU LIKE THAT?!” he boomed across the stretch of ground between the two groups. The women all flinched, taking a step back from his supernaturally loud voice.

 

“W-what?” one of the bandits stuttered, unnerved by the sudden display of power. He looked down at his mess kit shaking on the trembling earth. “What the hells is going on?!”

 

“WHAT DID THOSE TWO TRAVELERS DO TO DESERVE DEATH?!” Izuku took a furious step forward, lost in his own rage as his blood boiled.

 

The leader blinked for a second before coming back to reality. “Wrong place, wrong time!” the brute yelled, his voice faltering slightly as he drew his blade. “Get ‘em, boys!”

 

“Calm down, Midoriya!” Momo ordered, causing him to falter slightly. “Blind anger does us no favors. Focus your resolve!”

 

He took a step back, nodding, but not letting the furious surge of magic fade from him. He wasn't even sure he could if he wanted to. It was like his body was overflowing and the energy was leaking out of him. Something bubbled within Izuku, furious at the injustice of these men harming the weak and the innocent.

 

Seven of the bandits began to charge at them, closing in on their six while three stayed back and drew crossbows. Tsuyu quickly assumed the form of a great brown bear, while Momo drew her blade with a fury-covered face.

 

“Ready, Ochako?” Mina yelled to her friend, who nodded back. Ochako drew pink energy from her staff again, sending three bolts at one of the bandits. The man dodged out of the way, sneering as the magic flew past him, only for the bolts to abruptly change direction in mid air and slam into his back, sending him stumbling forward next to another thug, crying in pain. “Perfect set up!” Mina let two globs of acid fly, each striking one of the men in the chest.

 

The one Ochako had struck screamed and fell down hard. Izuku noticed a small wisp of energy flowing from the dead man to Mina, something he hadn’t been able to see in the darkness the previous night. The energy seemed to form an almost invisible shield around the tiefling, as if protecting her.

 

“Cleric boy! On my mark!” Mei called, bringing her crossbow to bear. Izuku nodded, turning his back on her and sheathing his mace. A heavy mechanical report sounded behind him as a bolt flew past him and struck one of the other bandits in the leg, causing him to stumble as well. Izuku took the opportunity to bring his hand down and chant that now-familiar prayer, causing the green-tinted radiance to descend and engulf the foe.

 

“Two down, eight to go!” Momo called as she and Tsuyu braced to intercept the charging bandits, who were now outnumbered. “We’ll handle these guys, Focus on the ones hanging back!”

 

Three bolts came sailing towards them from the distance, one striking Izuku’s shield, another missing him wide but a third striking Mina square in the arm. Izuku whipped around, ready to heal her, when he saw the bolt falling harmlessly to the ground. A split-second glance showed him that the strange vitality surrounding her was weakened; Izuku made a note to ask her about it later.

 

Tsuyu charged into the middle of two of them, her ursine teeth piercing through the flesh of one’s arm easily while the other swung his blade at her. He found purchase, but there was a lot of bear and only so much blade.

 

The leader stepped forward towards Momo, a scimitar clutched in one hand and a cruel dagger in his other. He swung with a fury unlike anything Izuku had ever faced before, his steel flashing through the air with terrifying speed. The elf blocked one blow with her armor and managed to parry the second, but as she knocked the blade aside, his off-hand found its mark in her side.

 

Izuku made a move to assist, but stopped himself before he took a step. ‘She can handle herself, I have to focus on my duty. I have to trust them!’

 

Mina drew her chromatic energy from her crystal and flung it into the distance, but her target ducked behind a tree and avoided the blast. Ochako braced herself, pulling two bolts of fire from her staff as she charged herself with chaotic energies. The two-but-one magic streaked across the road, the one that found its mark becoming real and searing his flesh. Izuku noticed the small rush of wind surrounding her as the energies built up inside of her and threatened to escape.

 

Izuku threw his magic at the same bandit, but he rolled out of the way, avoiding the flames. Mei followed up, impaling him through the gut as her bolt struck true. In the meantime, Tsuyu finished off the bandit she had struck, while Momo had managed to fend off the leader long enough to strike down the man Mina had wounded earlier.

 

He started feeling a little confident as the thugs fell before them. He hefted his mace back up, checking over his left shoulder to see if Ochako had discharged her magic yet.

 

“Watch out!”

 

Izuku whipped back, just in time to see the bandit leader pass him with his blades drawn, bearing down on Mei.

 

Time seemed to slow down again as he saw the fear growing in Mei’s eyes as she tried to raise the crossbow to defend herself.

 

It was no use; the man was too fast.

 

Izuku had no choice.

 

He reached inside to that gate he had sensed the previous morning and flung it wide.

 


 

“Today, we will discuss one of the most powerful tools in a cleric’s arsenal,” the old teacher said as little Izuku snuck into the back of the sanctuary. “I am referring to the power known as Channel Divinity.”

 

Izuku quickly and quietly opened his tome, which was more akin to a loose collection of papers he had scrounged up than an actual bound codex. He began to write frantically, hoping to collect all the information he could in his rudimentary handwriting.

 

“When a cleric prays, he takes into himself the power of his or her god,” the white-haired woman continued. “This is the power we use to cast our spells. However, Channel Divinity is an entirely different beast. Unlike spellcasting, which uses divine power stored within yourself, this technique, as you might infer from the name, allows you to become a direct conduit for your god.”

 

Izuku’s eyes widened with joy and wonder as he listened intently.

 

“This power can manifest in different ways, depending on the god you follow and what aspect of their portfolio you embrace. One cleric that worships Pelor and embodies his life-giving energies might find that he can use Channel Divinity to heal the wounded, while another who embraces the light of Pelor might find themselves able to sear the darkness that threatens the innocent.”

 

The acolytes in attendance all nodded and muttered as they took diligent notes.

 

“In the same way, those that follow different deities but similar aspects might find themselves brothers or sisters in that respect. One that follows Melora and another that devotes themselves to Kord but both embrace the power of the storm might find themselves able to use Channel Divinity to embrace their god’s power and rain, if you pardon the pun, destructive power on their foes, but perhaps in different ways.”

 

“All in all, the god you serve the relationship between you and them will determine what you are capable of doing. There are even other ways to use this power, such as- Midoriya? Is that you, child?”

 

Izuku shrunk down behind the bench he was poking out from.

 

The woman sighed as she shook her head and grew a kind, but tired smile. “Midoriya, I know you are eager to learn, but all in due time. You shouldn’t slack on your duties. Diligence is very important, especially if you wish to be a cleric one day.”

 

Izuku nodded and scurried out of the hall, hoping to avoid the exasperated gazes of the older acolytes.

 


 

“YOU STAY AWAY FROM HER!” he shouted as the direct power of One For All poured into him. He reared his right arm back and swung forward at the brute of a man bearing down on the pink-haired human.

 

Energy surged up his arm as his weapon flew forward, multicolored streaks of lightning empowering his attack. Such was the power coursing through him that his shirt and chainmail both were shredded and blown away, exposing his energy-covered arm to the air.

 

A strange word bubbled up and burst from his mouth. He didn’t know where it came from, but something about it felt right.

 

“SMAAAAASH!!!”

 

His arm flew forward, accompanied by a deafening roar like that of a thousand rushing winds. The mace impacted the brute’s gut, folding him over the weapon for a fraction of a second before sending him streaking through the air like one of Mei’s bolts.

 

He crashed through tree after tree, his body smashing through the thick trunks like they were twigs until he met a large boulder in the woods. The rock exploded as he impacted, sending shrapnel and debris flying into the air and showering the ground.

 

Everyone else was entirely frozen.

 

Both the bandits and the women stared in fear and awe at the man who had just sent a man nearly twice his size flying into a rock with the literal fury of a god.

 

A stunned Izuku slowly looked down at his right arm. The mace was bent back at nearly a 90 degree angle and his arm was a mangled mess. His fingers failed, causing the damaged weapon to tumble from his shattered hand.

 

The rush of divine power that had permeated him faded away in an instant, causing the glow in his eyes to vanish as he collapsed to his knees and pitched forward, hitting the ground with a resounding crash as he fell unconscious.

Chapter Text

“Deku!” Ochako yelled as the man fell to the ground next to her.

 

Momo’s vision snapped back and then forward, taking note of the fear in the bandits’ eyes. “If you wish to keep your lives, you will drop everything and run.”

 

The men looked at each other and hesitated.

 

Momo smirked and let some lightning crackle from her hand. “You have five seconds.” Tsuyu punctuated her threat with a fierce roar.

 

The men hesitated no longer, dropping their packs and weapons before fleeing into the woods as fast as they could.

 

Momo wasted no time getting to work. “Tsuyu, attend to Midoriya. Mina, check out the bandit leader. Ochako, come with me.” Judging from the stunned, pale look on Mei’s face, she needed some time.

 

“But…” Ochako hesitated, looking down at Izuku’s unconscious form.

 

Tsuyu hustled over and turned back into her humanoid form. “I’ll take care of him, don’t worry.”

 

Ochako looked at Mina, who was having the same objections about leaving the man alone. They nodded to each other and turned away, each heading to their assigned tasks.

 

Mei finally blinked. She had spent the past thirty seconds or so trying to process whatever had just happened in front of her. That hulking man bearing down on her would be enough to unsettle her, but then she witnessed a literal act of god.

 

She moved her vision down slowly to look at Izuku, shuddering at the appalling state of his right arm. All around him were the shattered pieces of his chainmail and his bent mace.

 

All that damage, all that destruction, all that… power. Izuku had broken himself.

 

For her. To protect her.

 

Her legs finally started working again as she knelt down next to the man and placed her crossbow on her back again. She reached over and grabbed his shoulders, rolling him over so his head rested on her lap and moving his face out of the dirt. It just felt like the right thing to do.

 

For the first time since they met, she actually looked at him. Her brain was always moving so fast that she just… didn’t really take notice of most people. What was his name again?

 

Tsuyu knelt down next to Mei and placed her hand on his right arm and began chanting softly in a language nobody but the druid understood. She watched as the bones in his arm straightened and reformed, although he was still severely bruised.

 

Mei let out a sigh. “Thank the gods for healing magic.”

 

“Are you okay?” Tsuyu asked, tilting her head. “I’ve never seen you like this.”

 

“I…” Mei blinked her yellow eyes a few times as they drifted down to the green-haired man on her lap. “I am. Thanks to… uh…”

 

Tsuyu tilted her head the other direction and furrowed her brow slightly. “You really never learned his name?”

 

Mei shook her head sheepishly. “I just… forgot. I’m not good with names.”

 

“Midoriya,” Tsuyu said gently.

 

Mei nodded as the man in her lap began to stir; she looked down to see his big green eyes open slowly. They were unfocused and distant for a moment before he blinked a few times and locked his eyes onto Mei’s. She smiled softly down at him but his expression shifted into one of disbelief and fright.

 

Mei gasped slightly as he scrambled off her and stood up rapidly. “H-Hatsume, I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to fall on you, please forgive me!” He bowed down, averting his gaze.

 

Before she could say anything he stiffened up and whipped his vision around. “The bandits! Where’s my mace? Where’s-”

 

“Midoriya.” Tsuyu had stood up as well and placed her hand on his shoulder for a moment. “They’re gone. We won.”

 

Izuku sighed, visibly relaxing. “Oh, thank the gods.” He suddenly winced and clutched at his right arm. “Ow…”

 

Seeing him alright- or at least standing- allowed Mei’s brain to start working again.

 

Everything was okay.

 

“You went nuts, Midoriya!” Mei said, regaining her normal cheer. “That bandit guy was on me and you just-” She made an explosion sound and gestured wildly to the path of destroyed trees. “And then you passed out!”

 

Izuku blinked. ‘She called me Midoriya…’ A small smile grew on his face. “Did- is everyone else okay?”

 

Tsu smiled up at him. “We’re all fine. After you took out the leader, the rest ran.”

 

“Oh, if everyone else is alright, I can heal myself.” He reached out with his left hand and ran it along his right arm, chanting softly as the bruises faded.

 

Mei raised an eyebrow. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

 

Her question appeared to confuse the cleric. “I’m supposed to protect you all, my safety is secondary.”

 

“That is absolutely not true,” Momo snapped as she hauled a heavy chest over to the group. She placed it down in front of Mei with a grunt and then stood tall, glaring down at the man, who had already averted his eyes in deference. “Mei, if you would.” Mei nodded as she pulled out a small pouch of tools and set to work on the lock. Momo turned to Izuku with a stern expression. “Midoriya, while I appreciate what you did, injuring yourself like that is-”

 

“Deku!” Ochako interrupted Momo as she arrived with an armful of what looked like junk. “You had me so worried! You can’t hurt yourself like that!”

 

“Quite.” Momo turned back to him. “Think of it from a tactical perspective: you may have defeated the leader-”

 

“Defeated is one way to put it!” Mina interrupted Momo this time as she returned as well, looking a little unsettled. “There’s nothing left of him. Just stains and rags.”

 

Quite,” Momo huffed in annoyance. “As I was saying, from a tactical perspective, you left us down a member.” She stepped closer to him, causing him to tense up. “You are not expendable, do you understand me? You are just as valuable as everyone else.”

 

“Y-yes, my lady.”

 

Mina approached him and poked at the tattered chains on his arm. “Okay, but what was that? Look what it did to your armor!” She bent down and picked up his bent weapon. “And your mace! It was like a dragon hit him! Or worse!”

 

Izuku blushed a little as he dared to look up, careful to avoid Momo’s gaze. “That was… a technique that all clerics have.”

 

“What, so like it was a spell?” Ochako asked curiously.

 

“Not exactly.” He thought for a moment, then gestured towards Tsuyu. “Tsu can cast spells like me, but she can also change her shape. It’s a form of magic, but it’s not a spell; it’s called Channel Divinity and it allows me to uh… well it’s self explanatory, right? It lets me channel the divine energy of my god through my body.”

 

Momo cocked her hip and raised her eyebrow. “I’m pretty sure other clerics don’t shatter their arms to send bandits through trees.”

 

“Well…”

 

“Other people don’t have an entire god behind them,” Tsuyu finished for him.

 

Izuku nodded. “R-right. It was the first time I’d ever done it. I had no idea what was going to happen, but I felt like I had no choice.”

 

Tsuyu put a finger to her chin. “Do you remember what I told you when we were training you in the woods?”

 

Izuku stared at her blankly. She told him a lot of things that day.

 

“One For All isn’t going to give you something if it messes you up every time you use it,” she explained. “Close your eyes, try to remember what it felt like when you used your ‘Channel Divinity’.”

 

Izuku obliged, trying to call his memories back. He flinched as he felt Tsuyu’s hands reach out and touch his shoulders.

 

“Relax. Try to remember the feeling.”

 

He breathed out, letting the tension leave his body. “It felt… like there was a massive lake filled to the brim with water. I stood at the dam holding it back and when I used it, I threw open the floodgates and let the water rush out.”

 

Tsuyu’s hands retracted as he opened his eyes. “Good. It was your first time and you were in a very stressful situation, so you panicked. That’s understandable.”

 

“So I just need to let less water through?” Izuku asked.

 

Tsuyu nodded. “Using your metaphor, open a smaller gate next time, or don’t open it so wide. When you used it, it was likely that you took in every ounce of power that your body could hold; that’s why your arm shattered.”

 

“You seem to know a lot about this stuff,” Mina remarked.

 

Tsuyu looked over to the warlock blankly. “Like I said, it works similar for me in some ways. I was trained by experts, an opportunity Midoriya didn’t get. I should teach him what I can.”

 

“Thank you, Tsu,” Izuku said with a smile. “I will take all the help I can get. Like you said, other clerics don’t have an entire god behind them, only part of their power. When they use their Channel Divinity, they don’t have to worry about this sort of thing happening.”

 

Momo nodded along, rubbing her chin. “It stands to reason that as you grow stronger and more adept at controlling the divine power, you will be able to use more and more of it comfortably.” She pointed at him. “And your upper limits will also increase. Your ‘wide-open floodgates’ will become larger.”

 

Ochako’s eyes went wide. “So that… that wasn’t even his peak.” She jumped up and down a little. “Deku, that’s amazing! Uh, just try not to break your arm again, okay?”

 

“Got it!” Mei called from down below, popping open the lid of the chest. “My tools!” she yelled, reaching down and grabbing two pouches. “I can finally start making my babies again!”

 

“Oh no,” Ochako muttered, her mood suddenly turning slightly fearful.

 

As Mei set to work taking inventory of her recovered tools, Momo began to search through the rest of the chest and Ochako sifted through the pile she had brought with her. It took the elf a disappointingly short amount of time to finish her investigation, pulling out a few, relatively small pouches of coin.

 

“It looks like we suspected correctly,” she sighed. “They sold most of our valuables and spent most of our money. Still, we are better off than we were and justice was served.” She looked over the chest again with a sorrowful expression. “I suppose he was lying, I shouldn’t be su- wait.”

 

Momo leaned into the chest a little further. “There’s something here…” She pulled out her knife and began to work at something inside.

 

“Hey, Momo, be careful, there might be-”

 

Momo gasped with pain as she pulled back. The rest of the group began to panic as they saw a dart sticking out of her hand.

 

Izuku immediately began to move towards the woman, but she held out a hand to stop him. He froze, watching her pull the dart from her hand and toss it aside. Momo grimaced for a few moments before she stood tall and began to breathe normally again. “A weak poison. It will take much more than that to hurt me.” She looked down at Izuku’s concerned face. “I am quite fine, thank you.”

 

He averted his gaze again as he felt his heart thump a little harder against his ribcage.

 

Momo leaned back down and reached into the chest again. “I found a hidden compartment in the bottom of the chest. How foolish of me to not suspect a trap.” She dug around for a moment before pulling out a small box. Her fingers fluttered around for a moment before she opened it up.

 

Izuku’s eyes went wide as she pulled out a beautiful gold-framed diamond hanging from a silver chain. In all honesty, ‘beautiful’ didn’t do it justice.

 

“Breathtaking, isn’t it?” Momo asked, gazing fondly at the necklace. “It was a gift to me from my parents when I left on my journey.” She placed the box in her pack and strung the jewelry around her neck, giving it one last smile before tucking it under her armor. “Thank you all for helping me recover it.”

 

“I’m just glad you got it back, Momo,” Ochako said gently. “I know you’d do the same for us.”

 

“Sure would!” Mina agreed. “Oh! Before I forget!” She pointed a finger at Ochako.

 

“I know, I know…” Ochako wandered off a good ways and looked back to make sure she was a safe distance away. She turned to a tree and shot her pink bolts of energy at it, causing the familiar swirl of magic to course around her again.

 

Izuku and the rest of the women braced themselves for something to happen… but nothing did. At least nothing they noticed.

 

Ochako turned back with a slightly confused look on her face… and glowing white eyes. “Uh, guys, do I look different? I feel kinda… strange. Not bad or anything, just strange.”

 

Mina stared. “Ochako, your eyes…”

 

“They’re glowing,” Tsuyu finished. “Can you see anything different?”

 

“Really?” Ochako’s glowing eyes widened and she began to look around. “No, I don’t thi-”

 

She froze up. Standing about fifty feet away from the group was a giant of a man. He was easily a few feet taller than Momo with large, white wings sprouting from his back. Before she could get a good look at his face, he noticed her staring at him and vanished.

 

Ochako whipped her head around, scanning for any sign of the strange, winged man.

 

“Ochako, what? What did you see?” Momo drew her blade and was looking around with her.

 

“Did none of you see him?!” Ochako asked, worry filling her voice as she hurried back over to the group.

 

Mina put a hand on Ochako’s shoulder. “See who?”

 

“H-he was huge!” Ochako shook a little, still looking around with her glowing eyes. “And he had these two huge wings! None of you guys saw him? He was right over there!”

 

Izuku reached down for his mace, but found it missing. “Where did he go?”

 

Ochako shook her head. “I… I don’t know, he n-noticed me looking at him and he just… disappeared.”

 

“Maybe you were just seeing things,” Tsuyu suggested. “Your magic is anything but normal. Maybe it was an illusion.”

 

Izuku looked around suspiciously. “No, I don’t think so.” The other women turned to him with varying levels of intrigue and confusion. “Large humanoid with giant wings? Uraraka, were they white?”

 

She nodded. “Y-yeah, like a great, pure-white bird.”

 

“Why…?” Izuku rubbed his chin.

 

Mina sighed. “Midoriya, cut the cryptic crap.”

 

“What?” Izuku whipped around. “Oh, sorry. Uraraka, I believe you might have seen an angel of some type. Why one is following us, I have no idea.”

 

“An angel?!” Ochako and Mina yelled simultaneously, whipping around again.

 

“No idea?” Mei asked. “Maybe it has to do with the cleric serving One For All?

 

Izuku blinked. “M-me?”

 

“Yes, you . It’s not hard to see why someone would be interested in you.” Mei rolled her eyes.

 

Mina perked up. “Interested? Interested how , Mei?” She shot Mei a toothy smirk.

 

Mei looked lost.

 

Momo cleared her throat to interrupt the tiefling’s teasing. “If there’s nothing else, we should return to town.”

 

“Oh, fine.” Mina relented. She looked down, realizing she was still holding Izuku’s broken weapon. “Uh, here,” she muttered, handing it to the cleric.

 

Izuku took it hesitantly. “Oh. Thanks, I guess.”

 

Mei rummaged in her bag for a second. “Hey, hold that still.” She pulled out her wand and passed her hand over the mace before tapping it with her wand and saying a few, arcane words. Immediately, the mace began to glow softly and bend itself back into shape.

 

Izuku held the newly-repaired mace aloft. “Wow! Thanks, Hatsume!”

 

“No problem!”

 

“Hey, could you…?” He tugged at the tattered sleeve of his armor.

 

Mei shook her head sadly. “That’s too much damage for Mending. I can fix it, but it’ll take time, sweat and some raw materials, you know?” She tapped the blacksmithing tools she had recently recovered.

 

Izuku nodded. “Oh, okay. I don’t have any money though, sor-”

 

“Course you do,” Ochako interrupted, elbowing him in the side. “We just got our money back. Our money.”

 

Izuku recoiled in protest. “B-but that’s your money from before, I didn’t help you earn it.”

 

“You helped us get it back,” Tsuyu pointed out. “I’d say that counts as earning it.”

 

Momo shook her head. “After so short a time and you’re already forgetting the ground rules. Remember, Midoriya, we share everything.”

 

Izuku lowered his head. “Right. Thank you, everyone.”

 


 

The group made it back to town in good spirits, emboldened by the day’s success. Using their newly re-acquired funds, they went a local inn to rent rooms for the night, each of them looking forward to resting in a real bed.

 

However, there was a problem.

 

“Only five rooms?” Momo pursed her lips.

 

“I can sleep somewhere else,” Izuku immediately suggested.

 

Ochako huffed. “You broke your arm today, Deku. If anyone deserves a bed, it’s you. I’m used to sleeping in the streets, I’ll be fine.”

 

Izuku did a double take. ‘She’s used to what now?’

 

“I prefer sleeping outside, honestly,” Tsuyu remarked. “I can go find a place in the woods outside of town and be perfectly fine.”

 

Mina was having none of that. She turned to look at the innkeeper, an older dwarven man. “If we pay for six, can we double up in one of them?”

 

He shrugged. “Works for me.”

 

“Thank you,” she said kindly before turning back to the group. “Nobody is sleeping outside, alright?”

 

Momo tapped her chin. “Who’s going to double up, then?”

 

Izuku kept silent. He wouldn’t dare suggest he share a room with one of the women, but he felt selfish getting a room to himself.

 

“Ochako and I are the smallest,” Tsuyu suggested. “We can double up, if she’s okay with it.”

 

Ochako nodded. “Sure, I can do that.”

 

“Well,” Momo began with a laugh, “I’m glad that riveting saga has resolved itself. Let us eat and go to bed. Today was exhausting” She took the five keys from the innkeeper and passed over the coin.

 

“Nah, I’m good,” Mei said dismissively as she snatched one of the keys and walked off. “I just got my tools back! I’ve got babies to build!”

 

Mina giggled as Izuku stared. “She’s very excited.”

 

The five of them paid for meals and sat down around a table, savoring the roof over their heads. It had only been a relatively little time, but Izuku was already secretly missing the comforts of the temple.

 

“So…” Mina began, getting everyone else’s attention as they finished their food. “Not to put a damper on today, but uh, I have a favor to ask.”

 

“What do you need?” Momo asked.

 

The normally jovial tiefling became quite serious. “My friend asked me for something.”

 

“What?” Ochako asked, tilting her head slightly in confusion. “When?”

 

“When I was checking out Midoriya’s handiwork,” she explained quietly, gesturing to Izuku, “one of her little helpers appeared and asked for a ‘favor’. That’s why it took me so long to come back.”

 

The women looked at each other with trepidation, but Izuku stared straight at Mina. “Alright, how can we help?” he asked directly.

 

She smiled a little. “You know those goblins that jumped us? She wants the leader of the band dead.”

 

“That… doesn’t seem very bad,” Ochako muttered with a raised eyebrow. “That actually sounds like a good thing to do.”

 

“Quite,” Momo agreed.

 

Izuku knew better. “It doesn’t seem bad, no, but she wouldn’t be very good at her job if she just asked us to do something questionable right off the bat. She’ll likely ease into it, each request becoming a little darker and darker, each serving her desires. We must be careful; I have read too many stories about people underestimating her… or overestimating themselves.”

 

“Well, then we’ll just have to stay vigilant,” Momo concluded. “We can be forearmed against her tricks.”

 

Tsuyu put her finger to her chin. “Surely she knows that we know that.”

 

“Now you’re getting it,” Mina said quietly. “But still, she did offer me something if we do this. That’s how this works. Patronage. Power for a price.” She sighed, her tail flitting nervously behind her. “So, what do you say?”

 

“Of course we’ll help,” Momo said without a second thought.

 

Izuku nodded. “We’re not going to let you face this yourself.”

 

“It’s like I said earlier: you have our backs,” Ochako added, “we have yours.”

 

Mina smiled wide, her fangs glistening in the light of the fire. “Thanks, I owe you all.”

 

“Nonsense,” Momo added as she stood up to turn in for the night. “As I’ve said, we share everything. That includes the burdens.”

Izuku couldn’t help but grin wide as he and everyone else stood up as well. They said their goodnights, each heading to their own doors, save for Ochako and Tsuyu. Izuku sighed, looking out the window in his room at the crescent moon as he took his shirt off.

 

His life was so much different than it was just a few days ago, but he wouldn’t give it up for anything. He felt like he was making a difference, he felt like he was doing good, he felt like he was helping people. He had felt that way at the temple, but there was always something tugging at the back of his mind, even beyond the words of his mother, that kept him from settling down.

 

He put his hand on the holy symbol hanging from his neck and felt a faint warmth spread throughout his body. For the first time in his life, he felt like he was where he belonged.

 

Izuku fell asleep almost as soon as his head hit the pillow.