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The Haunting of Class 1-A

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Izuku never meant to die. He was nine years old, quirkless, and bullied every day, but he never wanted to die. Perhaps it was just sheer naive hope that kept him going- the doctor had told him that he should have a quirk, and that tiny cinder remained, despite the world’s frequent attempts to stamp it out.

 

Of course, everything changed when Midoriya Hisashi re-entered their lives. Izuku’s absentee father hadn’t been home in years thanks to lucrative but highly confidential work overseas; if Hisashi hadn’t left before Izuku had been diagnosed as quirkless, Izuku would have suspected that had been the reason he knew his father’s voice better than his father’s face.

 

But even with Izuku’s slight grudge against his father for being absent for so many years, it was still a nice surprise to come home after school and find food for him at the table and a familiar figure with a stranger’s face smiling from behind the kitchen counter.

 

With Hisashi’s raise (the reason he had returned to Japan) and the extra set of hands, his mother didn’t have to work as many hours, and Izuku could see the stress lifting off her shoulders as the months passed, even if she remained somewhat cold to her husband.

 

Hisashi himself also did his best to make time for the family despite frequent night shifts, and even if it wasn’t perfect (long phone calls his mother made in the dead of night, his father sleeping in the guest room, sudden moments of tension regarding heroes) Izuku could deal with it.

 

His father and his mother made a terrifying team now that they were back; when he came home with bruises and burns from Kacchan and the other bullies, they spoke to the school and Aunt Mitsuki until the correct punishment was melted out and steps taken to ensure it wouldn’t happen again.

 

Izuku could finally go to school without fear, and his father took him to martial arts lessons across the city to help defend himself. As time passed, it slowly felt like the rift between the family was coming back together, stitch by stitch.

 

Then he watched his father’s face appear under the A-Rank villain Dragon’s iron maw on the local news station, and Izuku knew his life could never be the same.

 

When Dragon evaded capture by heroes and police, his mother got on the phone again in a panicked frenzy. Izuku sat paralyzed in front the television as she bundled essentials into two suitcases, unable to do anything more than watch the recaps of the fight.

 

He had analyzed Dragon when the villain had re-appeared in Japan after a long crime spree overseas, and had eagerly discussed the details with his father at the dinner table. His father had simply ruffled his hair and grinned, because he had known.

 

“Izuku, sweetie, we need to leave,” Inko said, shaking his arm gently. “Some police officers and heroes are going to be here soon, and we need to meet them.”

 

Dazed, Izuku let her bundle him outside to the balcony outside of their apartment. Inko led him down the ground floor, directly out of sight of the street. Once she determined that there was no one around and had settled, Izuku finally spoke up.

 

“Did you know?” he asked in a voice barely above a whisper, unable to meet her gaze.

 

“... Yes, I did, but I found out only recently,” Inko reassured him, pulling him into a tight hug. “I was going to tell you once he was caught; I wasn’t going to force you to try to act normally around him- it was too dangerous. I’m sorry for not saying anything, but I didn’t want to put you in the line of fire.”

 

Izuku hugged her back tightly, but he couldn’t stop the cold dread that gripped his heart. He couldn’t reconcile the terrifying image of Dragon with the painfully awkward figure of his father, who muttered to himself when he was distracted, much like Izuku did. Once they pulled apart, Inko ruffled his hair with a small smile.

 

“I know it’s a lot to take in,” she said, brushing a stray lock of hair out of his eyes. “And we’ll talk about it later, but I need you to be brave right now. Can you do that?”

 

Izuku nodded, but before he could do anything further a rough hand seized him by the collar of his shirt and threw him backwards. He crashed into the railing and choked as the impact sent the breath from his lungs and made his spine seize up in agony.

 

“Izuku!” his mother screamed, but fell silent at the distinct cocking of a gun.

 

“That was very sweet,” an unknown voice spoke, “but I’m going to have to break up this touching moment. Boss wants to have a word with you, Midoriya-san.”

Izuku forced his eyes to open- when had they closed? There was something warm trickling down his back as he struggled to his feet. A villain loomed between him and his mother, casually aiming a handgun straight at his mother’s head. They wore a strange animal skull with antlers as a mask and a businessman’s suit and tie. Izuku didn’t recognize him, but when he looked over at his mother he could see a strange resigned expression on her face.

 

“Skull,” she said coolly, “I should have known he would have sent you.”

 

The villain dipped his head slightly in a small bow, but his gun never waivered.

 

“I must ask that you come with me, Midoriya-san,” he said, and pulled a pair of manacles from his suit pocket. “Aperture is waiting, and you know you can’t win against me.”

 

Skull looked back towards Izuku pointedly, and Izuku could see two glowing red eyes looking out from behind the mask. Izuku gulped; he knew he should do something, but his legs refused to move. The villain simply stared at him for a few moments before turning back towards his mother and presented the manacles.

 

“Yes, I know,” Inko said, “We’ll go with you, but please, let me go to Izuku first. He won’t misbehave.”

 

Izuku watched as his mother took the manacles and put them on, mildly disturbed by her calm and cold expression in the face of terrifying danger. Had she done something like this before? Once the cuffs were on, she made to move past Skull, but the villain seized her around the arm.

 

“Thank you for your cooperation, Midoriya-san, but you misunderstand,” the villain said, eerily calm. “My instructions are clear. He knows what you did, Midoriya-san, and he’s willing to forgive you, but Dragon wants you to know that what happens now are the consequences of your foolishness.”

 

He suddenly turned his gun back towards Izuku, and there was nothing Izuku could do but stand there as the man pulled the trigger. Pain shot through his stomach, and blood rushed up the back of his throat.

 

Izuku collapsed to his knees and looked down at the growing bloodstain in disbelief. He could hear his mother screaming and Skull talking over him, but it was muted beneath his heart pounding in his ears. He hadn’t even been fast enough to react. In the end, he couldn’t even do anything. He was just a useless Deku, a quirkless nobody, after all.

 

The ground rushed up towards him, and then there was nothing but darkness. He sent up one last apology, and then there was oblivion. He was dead...

 

… that is, until he woke up several hours later hovering over a large pool of his own blood, his mother missing, and surrounded by dozens of police officers coordinating off the crime scene.

 

It was then, after his cries of help were unanswered and he realized that none of the officers could neither see nor touch him, that Izuku realized that not all men were equal.

 

 


 

 

His cellphone was buzzing again.

 

Tsukauchi suppressed a loud sigh as he set aside the case file he’d been reading and reached over the thick stack of paperwork for the phone; it was vibrating to the tune of Ghostbusters, an ancient, pre-quirk American television program, which meant only one thing: Spectre was contacting him. After changing numbers twice to no effect, he’d resigned himself to the constant cheerful updates the most wanted vigilante in Japan kept sending him.

 

“Another message from Spectre, nyah ?”

 

Tsukauchi looked up at Sansa with a tired expression as the cat-headed officer set a steaming cup of coffee on his desk.

 

“Thanks, Sansa,” he said wearily, taking a big gulp of the scalding beverage. Long nights at the precinct office had dulled his taste buds to the point that hot coffee meant nothing to him. “Can you check the front office for me? Whoever they’ve caught should turn up soon, and I want to get their testimonies before I head home.”

 

The other officer nodded and departed, the bell on his collar ringing softly. Naomasa leaned back in his and took another sip of coffee. This was the third time the vigilante had contacted him this week, and each time they sent him a message another criminal turned themselves in.

 

The vigilante Spectre had an annoying habit of creating and fixing headache-inducing problems simultaneously. Their quirk involved the creation of hallucinations- villains and criminals found themselves haunted by things only they could see, building their guilt or fear until they were either incapacitated or fled to the nearest police station to confess their crimes.

 

Many spoke of a dark figure stalking their every step, but every police and hero reported that no such figure was present. Cameras caught the criminals reacting to seemingly thin air and speaking to unseen people. Some villains were even found trying to fight an invisible foe.

 

If not for their consistent testimony about a dark figure and other fear-related imagery, Tsukauchi would have said that Spectre had an invisibility quirk- the shit had earned the nickname Spectre for a good reason.

 

How Spectre caused the hallucinations was still a mystery, but the vigilante’s quirk kept property damage and risk to civilians at a minimum, boosting their popularity online. Tsukauchi would applaud them if they weren’t a dangerous individual running around outside the law with an extremely potent quirk with the potential for causing psychological trauma and scarring.

 

They also kept sending him outdated hero memes when he was off his shift, and he was sick of it.

 

Spectre was clever, if extremely cheeky and childish; they gave away no details in their messages other than an admiration of heroes like All Might and a desire to do right in the world. Taking a deep breath, Tsukauchi opened the messaging app on his phone.

 

The REAL Spectre: Sorry to message so late, but crime never sleeps :(! Sent a mugger your way, he’ll give you the deets <3

 

The REAL Spectre: hey it’s me again! So I know this might be progressing our relationship too quickly but I got you a present!!! I’ve found Hammerhead! Sorry for dropping this on you last minute...

 

The REAL Spectre has shared their location.

 

Naomasa spent a good minute staring dumbfounded at the screen at the last pair of messages before he shot out of his seat, knocking over his coffee as he dashed out of his office.

 

Hammerhead was an up-and-coming mid-tier villain whose quirk, Groundswimming , allowed him to dive into and swim through cement, stone, and other materials as they were water. He’d let seven successful bank heists and recently had nearly killed the underground hero Secret during a raid on an underground fighting ring. Hammerhead was dangerous. If Spectre had found and captured him, Tsukauchi needed backup.

 

Tsukauchi quickly punched in numbers on his phone as he swung his coat on. The other line was picked up after the first ring.

 

“What is it, Detective?” Eraserhead’s tired voice came through loud and clear despite the yelling in the background; the underground hero was still on patrol, after all.

 

“Spectre contacted me again,” Naomasa said, ignoring the curious looks of the officers he passed. He needed to get a squad assembled if they were dealing with Hammerhead. “They said that they’ve captured Hammerhead, and shared specific coordinates. Sending the location to you now.”

 

“I’ll be there as soon as possible,” Eraserhead said, all traces of exhaustion gone from his voice. “I’ll scout out the area. This is the first time Spectre’s done this; they must be up to something.”

 

“My thoughts exactly. I’ll keep you updated.”

 

Tsukauchi exited the call and looked over Spectre’s previous messages. The vigilante had never contacted him to lead- previously, the criminals had either turned themselves in or had been called in by anonymous tips.

 

What are you up to, Spectre?

 




The location Spectre sent him was an abandoned hotel on the edges of the city. Naomasa couldn’t say he was surprised; he had suspected that Hammerhead had gone to ground in one of the rougher districts of Musutafu. Whether Spectre had remained was the real concern, and the possibility of trap was always present.

 

With the tip about Hammerhead, it had taken little time to assemble a fleet of squad cars and a transport van. Several heroes patrolling near the area had also been alerted, and would be on the lookout for any suspicious activity.

 

Tsukauchi’s phone buzzed; it was Eraserhead.

 

“What do you have for me?” Naomasa said as soon as the line connected, forgoing the usual greeting.

 

“Hammerhead’s tied in the lobby, near the front desk,” Aizawa reported, “ and Spectre’s quirk appears to be active; Hammerhead’s been talking to thin air and cowering for the last ten minutes. There’s no sign of Spectre so far; I’ll secure Hammerhead after I finish my sweep.”

 

“Understood,” Naomasa said, and pulled up the car’s GPS. “Shadowdancer and Clue are patrolling in this area and are on standby in case of trouble, so ping their comms in case of trouble- I’ve let them know about the situation.”

 

“Got it. For now, have them search the surrounding buildings.”

 

As Eraserhead shut off the comm, Naomasa couldn’t help but feel that they were woefully underprepared if this was a trap. He sent off the messages to the other two heroes and watched as the city passed by.

 

Despite his doubts, everything went smoothly. By the time the patrol cars had roped off the block, Eraserhead had Hammerhead wrapped up in his capture weapon and secured in quirk-suppressing cuffs. The villain was clearly still under Spectre’s quirk; the shark-headed man was currently cowering behind the much-smaller Aizawa, which would be humorous in different circumstances.

 

“Please, it’s here, it’s here!” Hammerhead whimpered, peeking out behind Aizawa’s shoulder in the direct of the open hotel doors. “It’s after me! Please, don’t let it get me!”

 

There was nothing there, but it was unnerving to watch the hulking villain act like a frightened child.

 

“What do you see?” Naomasa asked Hammerhead, pointing in the direction of the hotel as the other officers secured better restraints around the villain. “What’s coming after you?”

 

Hammerhead shook as he looked towards something on he could see; Naomasa could see the man’s pupils were strangely dilated. A side effect of Spectre’s quirk, perhaps?

 

“She’s here,” Hammerhead whispered, gnawing at his lip between two sharp teeth and tearing the skin, “She knows, she knows what I’ve done. All my secrets. She won’t stop, she won’t let me sleep, she won’t let me rest-”

 

The villain cut himself off with a whimper and went limp in his restraints, falling face-first onto the ground.

 

Aizawa knelt next to the downed villain.

 

“He’s fainted,” he said, lifting up one eyelid. “Spectre’s quirk must have worn off.”

 

Next to Naomasa, one of the shadows cast by the police headlights suddenly bulged upwards and coalesced into a figure, who stepped forward after shaking off the last of the darkness.

 

“We’ve swept the hotel and surrounding buildings,” Shadowdancer said, their full-face mirrored mask giving nothing away. “And we found no evidence of any vigilante activity. None of the squatters have seen anything out of the ordinary around the hotel for the last few days.”

 

Naomasa nodded; Spectre was notorious for leaving no traces. He had hoped Clue might be able to find something other heroes could not, but no such luck.

 

“Thank you both for your time,” he said, and looked upwards towards one of the nearby apartment buildings for a familiar dash of grey. Clue preferred to keep their distance from others unless necessary; relieving others’ memories was overwhelming with so many people around. “You can come in later for the full report; I don’t think we’re getting any new leads tonight. I would also appreciate it if Clue could come in later for Hammerhead’s interrogation. This time was different from the others; we might be able to figure out how Spectre affected Hammerhead.”

 

Shadowdancer inclined their head.

 

“Of course. I will see you later, Detective,” they said, and then vanished back into the shadows. Naomasa looked back up at the apartment building, and watched as the two heroes departed.

 

While he had been talking, the officers had managed to carry Hammerhead’s limp body into the armored van. The doors closed, and the force breathed a collective sigh of relief as it drove off with an escort into the night. The city would sleep better with Hammerhead behind bars.

 

Shadowdancer and Clue would watch over the van, so Naomasa wasn’t worried; he was more concerned about Spectre. Despite this new break in their pattern, he hadn’t seen any sign that the vigilante was present.

 

Naomasa’s phone buzzed again, and he fished it out to see, to his surprise, that Spectre was calling. He waved to garner Aizawa’s attention as he answered the call.

 

“Hello, Spectre,” he said casually, keep any eye on the buildings around them. Aizawa tapped the comm unit in his ear, which had the capability to connect into Naomasa’s phone  Once it was synced and he could hear everything, the pro-hero nodded and dashed towards the hotel’s fire escape.

 

“Hi! It’s so nice to finally meet you, Detective!” Spectre exclaimed, and Naomasa had to hold the phone away from his face- their voice sounded like it was constructed of nothing but loud static.

 

“We haven’t met,” Naomasa said, raising an eyebrow as he suddenly glanced around the complex. “I think I would have to actually see you to meet. I presume you’ve been watching the whole time?”

 

“Of course!” Tsukauchi swore he could hear the vigilante smirking over the phone, “I wouldn’t leave Hammerhead alone; he could escape! I was going to leave when Eraserhead showed up, but I couldn’t resist watching one of my favorite heroes in action! Do you know how hard it is to keep tabs on an underground hero?”

 

He looked up as a light flickered on in one of the rooms on the eighth floor of the hotel; Tsukauchi could make out a dark figure standing at the window. The figure waved cheerily, and Naomasa held the phone away from his face as he tapped on his own comm unit.

 

“They’re on the eighth floor, 3rd room from the left,” he murmured rapidly, keeping his eyes on Spectre’s figure, who didn’t move.

 

“I’m almost there. Stall them as much as possible,” Eraserhead breathed.

 

“Just wanted to say hi before I left!” Spectre continued, and from the window Tsukauchi watched their silhouette bow. “And now I gotta go. I can’t see my favorite hero anymore, which means he’s on his way to arrest me right now! Wouldn’t that be exciting?”

 

“Wait!” Naomasa asked, putting the cellphone back against his ear. “I won’t say I’m not grateful for Hammerhead, but why are you doing this? Can you tell me that?”

 

There was a pause so long that Naomasa almost through the vigilante had hung up on him.

 

“I used to want to be a hero,” Spectre whispered, and all mirth vanished from their tone. The static had died down; Naomasa could hear their original voice better, and he was worried about how young it sounded. Spectre sounded like a child, and when he looked up at the silhouette he noticed that it was rather small. “But something happened, and now that’s no longer possible. I admire heroes; I can’t just sit and watch someone get hurt. This is the only way I have left.”

 

The silhouette waved at him once more, and then the light turned off again.

 

“So goodbye for now!” Spectre said again, and Tsukauchi could hear the cheer back in their voice. “Go Beyond, Plus Ultra!”

 

The phone call ended, but Tsukauchi kept the phone up to his ear as he watched the dark window. A minute later, the lights turned back on in the room, and he could see a familiar shape standing at the window.

 

“It’s too late,” Eraserhead said, looking down at him. “They’re gone.”

 

 


 

“I think it’s safe to say that Spectre’s quirk isn’t sight-activated,” Aizawa said, looking over the previous incident reports.

 

Back at the station and two cups of coffee later, Tsukauchi was ready to admit that while they had gained a little more information after the night’s incident, they were still further away from understanding Spectre’s quirk.

 

“Hammerhead was in the lobby,” Aizawa continued, looking at a map of the area, “ and there’s no way Spectre could have maintained sightlines on him while I was searching the area. Shadowdancer and Clue also didn’t encounter them in the hotel, so Spectre must have evaded them somehow. What a troublesome quirk.”

 

“Perhaps its proximity-based?” Naomasa suggested, taking another sip of coffee. This was his fifth one tonight, but he desperately needed the caffeine. “If they’re as talented as we assume, they could have easily followed the low-rank criminals to the station without being seen. They also told me they were there to ensure Hammerhead didn’t get away.”

 

“That supports the current theory,” Aizawa said tiredly, stepping away from the desk as Naomasa jotted down their notes. “Anyway, we won’t get anything more tonight, and I need to finish my patrol.”

 

Tsukauchi nodded, and waved the underground hero away. He wouldn’t be sleeping until later; there was too much to do.

 

Unseen by the other occupants of the room, a small figure hovered in front of them, muttering furiously under his breath.

 

“Sorry, Tsukauchi-san, Eraserhead-san,” Izuku murmured, propping his hand on his chin as he memorized all the documents laid out. He couldn’t use his notebooks, or else he would be writing all of this information down. “These are great assumptions based on what I’ve been doing, but I won’t let you figure out my quirk. I still have so many things I need to do.”

 

Midoriya Hisashi- no, Dragon- was still deep underground and out of reach, along with his other villain accomplices, but Izuku wasn’t worried. He had time to find them when they reemerged; Spectre had a direct police line. Besides, he had a dream to fulfill.

 

After all, UA’s entrance exam was tomorrow, and dead or not, he was going to be there. A hero would avenge his mother’s disappearance, even Izuku couldn’t be a pro. He wouldn’t be useless, not this time.

 

“Go beyond, Plus Ultra,” Izuku muttered to himself with a small smile. “The heroics course won’t know what hit it.”

 

Behind him, Aizawa straightened as a sudden chill ran down his spine. Cursing under his breath, the pro-hero rubbed his back, but he couldn’t shake the sense that something bad was going to happen.


Just paranoia, he thought, unaware of the ghost with a shit-eating grin two feet in front of him.

Chapter Text

“S-stay back. Please, don’t hurt me!”

 

Izuku doesn’t say anything; he doesn’t need to, not when the man was already in the parking lot of the police station. He can already see an officer emerging from a nearby patrol car, no doubt drawn to the amount of fuss his victim was kicking up.

 

Izuku’s latest target was Hasegawa Arata, who was responsible for the disappearance of at least twenty people. As an underling of the S-tier villain Medusa, who could turn people they looked at to stone for a short time, Arata had the perfect quirk to compliment his boss: the ability to transpose stone to water. And even though Medusa was currently serving time in prison, Arata was free to move around on his boss’ behalf, maintaining a small portion of Medusa’s once-large empire.

 

Now, Izuku wasn’t sure why the man would be terrified of Christian nuns, but here he was, standing in the parking lot and watching bemusedly as Hasegawa fell to his knees and begged the alarmed police officer to save him.

 

“You must repent,” Izuku called after him in the nun’s demonic voice, just to drive home the message. Hopefully the man’s confession would be enough to convict him, and to open an investigation into Medusa’s dealings.

 

As the police officer cuffed the screaming criminal and pulled him in towards the station, Izuku took his phone out of his pocket and pulled up his conversation with Tsukauchi.

 

As far as he knew, the device wasn’t a real phone, but instead a manifestation of his quirk that simply looked like his old phone. With the phone as a medium, as long as he focused his quirk on one of his haunt targets, Izuku could affect their electronics and send messages over their devices.

 

With a quick prayer of thanks to the cultural phenomenon that upgraded traditional spirits into fucking internet ghosts , Izuku quickly tapped out a message to his contact.

 

The REAL Spectre: Rounded up another criminal, partner; he’s at the station closest to Musutafu General. Did you know he’s afraid of nuns??? Why is that a fear? Anyway, he worked for Medusa and used his quirk to get rid of evidence, very unheroic >:(((

 

The REAL Spectre: y’allmightcowboyhattip.gif

 

World’s Greatest Detective: You usually aren’t active during the day. Changing your patterns?

 

World’s Greatest Detective: Also please stop sending me memes.

 

The REAL Spectre: No ;)

 

The REAL Spectre: And, well, I got a reason to be awake! No sleep for me, very plus ultra

 

World’s Greatest Detective: Oh? That’s very unhealthy.

 

The REAL Spectre:  i’ll sleep when I'm dead haha

 

The REAL Spectre: and yeah those h exams don’t operate on vigilante time so i gotta be up early, go beyond and all that

 

World’s Greatest Detective: h exams?

 

Whoops. He hadn’t meant to let that slip; his excitement had gotten the better of him. Hopefully the detective wouldn’t figure out what he meant, especially after Izuku’s impromptu speech last night.

 

It didn’t help that the detective was one of only people Izuku had contact with, and interacting with him kept the constant numbness and loneliness at bay. Being a ghost was a largely solitary business, and Izuku loved to talk to any outlet he could.

 

He had told Tsukauchi that he couldn’t be a hero anymore, and that was true. But still, even as a vigilante, he wanted to walk the halls of UA and learn from the best. He wanted to see if he can help people in different ways, and what better education could he get from the school with the best percentage of successful pro-hero careers?

 

The REAL Spectre: ;) sorry, gotta go

 

With that sent, Izuku closed the messaging app before the detective could respond and tucked the phone into his pocket. He needed to hurry if he was going to make it in time for the entrance exam.

 


 

After Izuku’s death, he lingered at the police station. Where else could he go?

 

His apartment was a quiet tomb of police tape and echoes of his parents. He couldn’t look down at his hands without seeing them and his jacket coated in his own blood, though it was now dry.

 

He couldn’t sleep as a spirit, but that was okay; he could dissociate hard enough to pass the hours in a fugue state, unnoticed by the officers around him until he was marginally ready to face the world again.

 

What brought him out of his disassociation was, ironically, his quirk. Izuku has always been driven by an insatiable curiosity, though in the past years it had been largely directed towards his hero obsession.

 

So when he emerged back into conscious thought to have another lengthy crying session and the power to the station suddenly cut out, Izuku was surprised and more than a little curious; right before the lights shorted out, he felt something inside him shift . He looked down at his pale hands, permanently stained by his own blood, and then around the now-dark office. Had he done that? What else could he do?

 

Experimenting with his quirk was the lifeline Izuku needed to pull himself forward. When he next looked at a calendar, he was shocked to discover that he had lost two years of time. That horrifying realization was enough to pull him out of his fugue; how long would he have drifted if his quirk hadn’t activated? Where was his mother now?

 

She was still missing, and Dragon had remained out of police radar. The thought of his father made his powers come easier, and kept Izuku rooted in the present. He was going to find Hisashi, and he would make him pay.

 

After that revelation, Izuku found he had gotten stronger . He wasn’t just a ghost, it seemed.

 

Izuku tested his limits, little by little. Small incidents started around the office. Objects were moved when people weren’t looking, electronics started malfunctioning, doors slammed mysteriously, and certain officers saw shadowy figures in their peripheral vision.

 

(He didn’t go to the funerals he heard Tsukauchi mention, which took place two years after. He couldn’t. That evening, when the station was evacuated and searched an officer discovered that ‘PLEASE SAVE HER’ had been written over and over again in blood on the bathroom mirror, a guilty Izuku stopped practicing his powers at the station.)

 

What made him uncomfortable about his quirk was how much power he had. It… it was so different from when he was alive that it made his head spin.

 

He could feel the regrets of the people around him, their hidden fears locked away deep inside them. Not enough to get the entire story, but enough for his quirk to capitalize on; every accusation, every malignant whisper was fed through him, like an actor reciting lines from a script.

 

His quirk almost had a mind of its own; Izuku was drawn to those who had dark secrets or intense regrets, and he instinctively knew what would frighten them the most. Every criminal that passed through the station pulled at him, like a fish on a line. He simply had to focus his will, and his quirk responded.

 

He was powerful, and it scared him. There was so much variation in what a spirit could do, and Izuku could do it all . With this power, he could easily take down his father. In the hands of a villain… well, he didn’t want to think about it, because he wasn’t a villain.

 

(If he heard Kacchan’s voice telling him he could never be a hero in the back of his mind, Izuku ignored it. Fuck him; even if he couldn’t be a hero, Izuku would still never be a villain.)

 

The thought of helping people was galvanizing, but… Izuku couldn’t be a hero. He had been legally dead for at least three years at this point, and, well, as a hero fanboy he knew heroes wouldn’t do what he wanted to do to his father.

 

But he couldn’t remain where he was, lurking around in a small police station looking at the same walls again and again; he couldn’t do nothing.

 

There’s always been that drive to be heroic, even if Izuku logically knew he couldn’t be a hero when he was first diagnosed as quirkless. It’s part of who he is; the desire to help people is the essence of his soul.

 

He wanted to wait, but fate dropped an opportunity in his lap that Izuku couldn’t ignore.

 

There was a new police officer in the precinct; a transfer from another station who had killed witnesses to cover up his drug habit and dealings with the underground villain circuit.

 

The higher-ups suspected that the officer was involved in shady dealings, but there was no compelling evidence and the investigation stalled. As a last ditch effort, they relocated him on the other side of the city, but Izuku’s quirk told him that it wasn’t enough.

 

And when the man broke from his usual patrol route and stole away to a lonely road in the middle of his night shift, Izuku was waiting.

 

That night, Spectre made their debut, and Izuku never felt more alive .

 

(And when the officer got taken in, something deep inside him that sounded like All Might’s voice told him that he was doing the right thing. Finally, he could help in his own way.)

 


 

Aizawa felt like death. He has never properly adjusted to balancing his teaching schedule with his night patrols, and he’s ready to pass out in the exam booth. Nedzu, thankfully, doesn’t care if Shouta brings his sleeping bag, and since he’s only there on principle and he’s not serving on the panel of judges currently sifting through student’s files in preparation, he feels justified in passing out in the booth until the actual practical exam starts.

 

So when his phone buzzed and jolted him out of his peaceful doze, Shouta knew that the day was going to be terrible. When Detective Tsukauchi’s name popped up, he just sighed and blearily inched his sleeping bag into the hallway to answer it. He’s involved in several cases, but he has a sneaking suspicion (in tandem with a growing headache) that he knows the reason why Tsukauchi’s calling.

 

“Hello, Detective,” he said tiredly, rubbing at the bags beneath his eyes. “What can I help you with?”

 

“Are you currently at the UA entrance exam?” Tsukauchi asked, skipping his usual greeting. “This is related to the Spectre case.”

 

Aizawa closed his eyes and massaged the bridge of his nose. Of course it’s Spectre. It was always Spectre. The problematic vigilante was the source of a good three-fourths of his headaches and had cost him weeks worth of sleep and a new phone.

 

“Yeah, I’m here,” Shouta said, and checked the time. “The written portion of the exam is just about to begin, why? Is Spectre going to try and infiltrate the school?”

 

If Spectre was going to try to get in UA, Aizawa mused, then the vigilante must have some way of blending in with the other students to avoid detection. Since the exams took place on campus, the main gate security was disabled, though the increased hero presence made up for it. Alternatively, the idea that the mysterious vigilante wanted across Japan could be barely old enough to attend high school was a frightening one.

 

“I’m afraid so,” Tsukauchi sounded weary, like he hadn't slept at all. Knowing the detective, he probably hadn’t. “Spectre accidentally let slip that they were planning to attend a heroic exam today, and mentioned the school’s motto. Even disregarding their statements, the only heroic exam taking place in the city today is UA’s entrance exam; the other hero schools have their exams next week.”

 

“So they’re going to attempt the exam?” Aizawa questioned, already bringing out his secondary phone (issued by UA to all teachers, and separate from his work phone) and tapping out a message to Nedzu. The principal needed to know of this, especially if Tsukauchi planned to do something about the vigilante. “Are you certain it wasn’t a misdirection?”

 

“No, I’m fairly sure it was a mistake on their part,” Tsukauchi said. “But now that I know, Spectre may not even show up. Even so, the school needs to know about this.”

 

Aizawa’s UA phone buzzed as he slowly pulled himself to his feet and stepped out of his sleeping bag. Tucking it under his arm, he started to shuffle down the hallway towards Nedzu’s office.

 

“I’ll inform Nedzu to put the other heroes on alert, but if Spectre does still show up they’ll likely have means of evading capture,” Shouta informed the detective tiredly. “I’ll keep you updated, detective.”

 

“Understood,” Tsukauchi said. “I don’t know why Spectre is suddenly changing up their behavior and activities, but it concerns me.”

 

“That makes two of us,” Shouta said dryly, and hung up the phone with a sigh. He already had the beginnings of a headache.

 


 

The written exam was, as expected, boring. Izuku hovered over one student’s shoulder and mentally marked off what he knew. He did surprisingly well, considering that he had been dead and therefore not attending school for four years.

 

He probably wouldn’t pass the written portion but since he wasn’t here in any official capacity it didn’t matter; he could make up the difference when he attended classes and check his answers against other students.

 

(He also saw a familiar person, easily recognized by his spiky blonde hair and red eyes. Kacchan was always destined to be a Pro Hero, and Izuku knew he would go far. But right now he didn’t want to face his former childhood best friend turned bully, not today.)

 

Of course, his attention is immediately diverted once the written exam ends and a familiar face walks up on stage.

 

“Everybody say HEY!”

 

What the heck, why not? No one would hear him anyway.

 

“HEY!” Izuku screamed back, hovering twenty feet above the seated students. It’s not like anyone can hear him, and he’s been a Present Mic fan since the hero started his show (he may have lingered in the recording studio on quiet nights where he couldn’t stand to be alone). His hands, even after all these years, still itched for his hero notebooks. The rest of the room was dead silent, but Present Mic doesn’t seem to care.

 

“What a refined response!” Present Mic continued without skipping a beat, undeterred by the cold reception; was his unshakeable personality due to his experience as a radio show host, Izuku mused, or was it because he was naturally a loud and energetic person?

 

He knew he was muttering over the hero’s instructions for the practical exam, but it’s not like Izuku was taking the test in any official capacity.

 

He was going to attend UA, entrance exam or no. This was a fantasy: a dream from his childhood where if he closed his eyes, he could pretend that he was still alive, that he was going to the top school in the country to be a hero instead of just a ghost lingering in the classroom, uninvited and unwanted, a silent spectator.

 

Izuku grimaced at the intrusive thought and shook his head to clear it away. No, he couldn’t think that. He became Spectre to help people, and he was going to attend UA to help that goal (and fulfill one of his deepest wishes, if only partially). He needed to help people.

 

Below, a blue-haired student with glasses was raising a loud fuss about the mysterious zero-pointer robots in the practical, but Izuku ignored him. After three years of accidentally witnessing dozens of private or embarrassing acts, Izuku had quickly gotten over his second-hand embarrassment.

 

He refocused instead on the fact that the test involved robots, and a familiar bitterness surged. Robots were one of the worst match-ups against his quirk- they didn’t have dark secrets or even proper brains, so they would be unaffected by his usual tricks. His quirk was best used against individuals and small groups of people, not robots- especially if he wanted to maintain his cover as someone with a hallucination quirk.

 

Not that it mattered; even if Izuku wanted to throw robots around, with so many students present, he couldn’t manifest any powerful supernatural effects. As Spectre, Izuku had the luxury of finding targets where his quirk was most effective- he didn’t have that here.

 

For a moment his inner hero-fanboy raged; there were plenty of pro-heroes who would fail this exam if they were students- why was it so heavily biased towards students with physical quirks? Heroes like Eraserhead, who had a mental-based quirk, or Midnight, whose quirk only affected organic beings, would have a difficult time against robots who didn’t have quirks to erase or a body to sleep.

 

As the rest of the students filed out towards the buses that would take them to the different battle arenas, Izuku remained where he was until the testing room was empty, lost in his own disappointment until he spotted Present Mic leaving as well.

 

Present Mic made a beeline towards a concealed door in the back of the hall, and Izuku made note of where the hero exited. He knew that there would be a panel of judges that would observe the examinees in each of the battle arenas, all located in a central control room. But what could he do about the test? Ghost or not, Izuku was still just one person.

 

The familiar sensation of despair welled up in his chest. There were students out there with dreams like his- what kind of person would he be if he didn’t try to point out the gaping flaw in the entrance exam and give everyone a chance to shine?

 

The other students weren’t dead; this was their only chance to make it. UA was supposed to be the best of the best for hero schools, so Izuku couldn’t understand why the tests would be so biased.

 

It felt like another childhood dream was cracking to pieces before his eyes, but Izuku shook his head to clear the negative thoughts away. He couldn’t give up now!

 

Determined, he started after Present Mic. There could still be something he could do; he had to try.

 


 

Aizawa didn’t like the look in Nedzu’s eyes. Every teacher who worked at UA was well aware of their principal’s various eccentricities and tics, and Aizawa knew when Nedzu had some nefarious plan in mind.

 

“So, the infamous Spectre may be attempting the entrance exam?” Nedzu said, pulling up the live footage of the written exam onto a holographic screen at his desk. He pulled up a list of applicants on another screen, and started to scroll down the list.

 

“It’s more likely that they will likely do something to interfere in the testing,” Aizawa grumbled, stretching out in one of the office’s large plush chairs. It was well lit by the sun streaming through the wall-to-wall window, and he eagerly stretched out to absorb all the warmth he could. “The current theory that they have a quirk that causes detailed hallucinations, but they must be in a certain radius to maintain it. They also seem unable to affect more than a few people at a time.”

 

“Interesting!” Nedzu said, still browsing through the student applications. “Do you know if their hallucinations can affect machines as well?”

 

Aizawa shook his head.

 

“Not as far as I am aware,” he murmured, sitting up as he caught onto the mammal’s train of thought. “You think Spectre might be unable to affect the cameras and the robots.”

 

“Exactly!” Nedzu clapped his paws together. “Now, we have several prospective students with minor illusion-based quirks, but I doubt any of them are Spectre. Regardless, I’ll have the test proctors monitor them. The other teachers will also be informed shortly. What do you think Spectre is after?”

 

“Tsukauchi-san said that Spectre intends to take the entrance exam,” Shouta said, squinting at the short list of students. There were four individuals with illusion-type quirks, but none of the descriptions matched up with what he’d seen of Spectre’s power. That didn’t rule out disguises, of course.

 

“Spectre didn’t list their specific reasons,” he continued, “but they’ve also mentioned that they originally wanted to be a hero before ‘something’ happened to end that dream. I’d reckon that whatever they hope to accomplish relates to their former aspirations.”

 

“Fascinating,” Nedzu remarked cheerfully. “I would very much look forward to speaking with Spectre, if they are looking to be a student at UA.”

 

Aizawa shot Nedzu a glare.

 

“We are not trying to recruit Japan’s most wanted vigilante as a student,” he said. “If you want to take in another problem child, you can wait until Spectre has been taken into custody.”

 

Nedzu only smiled knowingly, and Shouta tiredly pulled his sleeping bag over his head. He wasn’t getting paid enough for this. His traitorous mind wasn’t helping; Shouta already knew all the ways that Spectre’s skill set was perfect for underground hero work. There were also sponsored programs to get vigilantes off the streets and into professional hero work under heavy restrictions, and Nedzu knew it.

 

“Just be prepared,” he grumbled, his voice muffled by the sleeping bag. “Spectre has a penchant for the dramatic. If they’re going to do something, it likely won’t be subtle.”

 

“Don’t worry!” Nedzu said, rubbing his paws together with an eerie smile. “I can’t wait to see what they’ll do.”

 


 

The control room wasn’t difficult to locate; Izuku just followed Present Mic as the man delved deeper into the school’s labyrinthian hallways. When the blonde hero stopped outside of a room labelled “Testing Grounds A, B, and C Control”, Izuku knew he had the right place.

 

Just before Present Mic entered the room, the hero’s communicator pinged. Izuku watched as the man read whatever was on his comm, cursed loudly in English, and then dashed down the hallway. Izuku didn’t follow; instead, he floated through the closed door. There had to be something he could do about the exam.

 

The observation room was huge, filled with dozens of monitor screens and computer equipment. The room currently had the pro-heroes Ectoplasm, Power Loader, and Blood King, all looking over what must be hundreds of sheets of paperwork or the monitors while muttering amongst themselves.

 

Izuku screamed quietly to himself; seeing some of his favorite heroes teach at UA was a dream come true. He could see Blood King’s blood gauntlets up close and personal and the small details on Ectoplasm’s mask and-

 

“No! Bad!” Izuku smacked his cheeks to shake himself out of his daze. “This is not the time to admire hero costumes!”

 

On the screens, footage shot from what must be drones display the three different buses transporting the examinees to the different battle arenas. In the back of his mind, Izuku (quietly) nerded out over the budget and effort it must’ve taken to build this place, but he had a mission to complete.

 

He made his way over to heroes, passing the table loaded with paperwork; there must have been hundreds of applications stacked in various large piles. Two dozen of Ectoplasm’s clones were sorting through the bulk of the tests in a corner while the main hero was currently mid-discussion with Blood King.

 

“... so Midnight will join Present Mic at Test Site C, and Cementoss will join Eraserhead at A,” Ectoplasm remarked. “I’ll have a few clones patrolling each city regardless along with the aerial drones; if Spectre shows up, we’ll be prepared.”

 

Ah, so they knew he was coming, but that wouldn’t stop him. Honestly, he was proud of Tsukauchi for putting together the clues, even if it just made his task a tad more difficult.

 

“What if their target is the main campus?” Blood King asked, looking over the monitors. “I know we’ll be stationed here, but there is still a lot of ground to cover.”

 

“Nedzu authorized some of the testing robots to be placed in key areas on the main campus,” Power Loader piped in. “And the anti-villain countermeasures have been reactivated now that the students have left for the testing areas. But Eraserhead seems certain that Spectre will be hiding amidst the student body.”

 

Blood King shook his head and typed a few commands into the central console. Even the buses had cameras installed inside, because after a few moments the interiors were displayed. The gathered examinees were largely quiet; a few of the bolder students were making small conversation, but the majority, as Izuku noticed, were occupied with their phones or watching the small screens at the front of the bus that displayed their distance from the testing sites.

 

The ping of each of the heroes’ comm units drew his attention away from the monitors, and Izuku focused back on the conversation at hand.

 

“Yes… yeah, I understand,” Blood King said in response to something that Izuku couldn’t hear. The hero let out a weary sigh before he walked over to the mounds of paperwork on the table, waving the other two after him.

 

“It looks like the principal is changing up the grading system for rescue points,” Blood King announced. “Since we’ll have proctors patrolling the city with the camera drones, he’s decided to add more criteria. Besides rescuing others, students can now earn points for collaborating to take down tough enemies, reducing property damage, and clearing hazards.”

 

“Oh?” Ectoplasm mused, one of his clones wheeling out a whiteboard and jotting down the new criteria. “Are we finally getting that overhaul that Eraserhead has been pushing for?”

 

“It appears so,” Blood King grumbled, “Though I question why it’s coming out now, of all times…”

 

“It’s Nedzu,” Power Loader said, sounding equally weary. “He always does something like this…”

 

The conversation continued, but Izuku didn’t hear it; he was too busy muttering up a storm over the sudden tidbit of information.

 

So that was the hidden part of the exam- rescue points. Looking back, it made sense that UA wouldn’t just grade students on combat ability alone, but the fact that they wouldn’t tell students without physical quirks that there was still a chance to pass left a bad taste in Izuku’s mouth.

 

Even if it was to test heroic instincts or mettle, it was still quite cruel to keep it hidden. Just because some students didn’t have a natural instinct for heroics didn’t mean they wouldn’t in the future; not everyone was equal.

 

Regardless, now that he had the information he needed, he could put together a plan. The screens on each bus would be perfect; he just needed a way to draw the heroes’ attention. His whole body thrummed with energy as he started to reach out with his quirk; it would take a little finesse to pull off what he wanted. Manipulating electronics over long distances was difficult, but not impossible. He needed to put the first part of his plan into motion first.

 

His chance came when Blood King pulled up the cameras around Testing Zone C, and Izuku spotted an electronic billboard placed near the middle of the city. Points to UA; the school really put the budget in to make the city feel like a downtown metropolitan area.

 

If he recalled correctly, Eraserhead (the one who he was truly worried about) was in Zone A, and he was the one Izuku needed to worry about. His quirk would ruin the plan; Izuku wasn’t concerned for Present Mic or Midnight, since it was likely the heroes wouldn’t reach the area before his trick was over.

 

“Any sign of our elusive vigilante?” Ectoplasm asked. “The students will be arriving shortly.”

 

“Nothing yet,” Blood King replied, and then tapped his ear comm. “Eraserhead, Present Mic, Midnight, status?”

 

After a moment, the hero shook his head.

 

“Nothing yet,” Blood King said, and then crossed his arms. “But I have a bad feeling about this.”

 

Showtime.

 

Izuku felt a cruel smile creep up on his face as he concentrated, reaching out with his quirk. On two of the monitors, a shadowy figure suddenly stepped out from behind one of the city’s huge electronic billboards. The figure was completely black, with white dots for eyes, and as one of the camera drones swooped overhead, it gave a cheery wave.

 

Behind the figure, the fake advertisement on the electronic billboard shorted out. After a second, it rebooted and displayed a simple message:

 

HEY ;)

 

DON’T MIND ME, JUST MAKING THIS EXAM A LITTLE LESS BIASED

 

WHY IS IT SO BIASED TOWARDS PHYSICAL QUIRKS???

 

EVERYONE DESERVES A CHANCE TO BE PLUS ULTRA

 

BY THE WAY YOU’RE ALL GREAT

 

The whole thing was a hallucination, of course; Izuku didn’t have the power to teleport himself to the city, not with that much distance between the two points. Even his bullshit quirk had limits. But since this was the security room, he could essentially fool the cameras by fooling the people watching them. The hallucination wouldn’t be able to do much (especially with so many of Ectoplasm’s clones in the room), but it was all he needed to get the heroes’ attention.

 

As expected, the three heroes immediately reacted to the sudden sight of Spectre.

 

“Power Loader-” Blood King started, but the smaller hero was already dashing towards the console.

 

“On it!” Power Loader shouted, and started to furiously type commands into the computer. Monitors flickered as the patrolling camera drones diverted from their path and flew towards the center of the city. “Alert the other heroes!”

 

As more camera drones circled around the shadowed figure, Izuku turned his quirk’s power to the screens on the bus. He was nearing the limit on what he could do; the more cameras appeared, the more Izuku had to modify his hallucination, which took a lot of his concentration. But now that the heroes were occupied, he could put a simple message on the bus screens without immediately alerting the staff:

 

A hero must be able to act on critical new information in a short period of time.Taking down the robots is not the only way to accumulate points in the exam. There are other aspects of being a hero besides defeating villains, and every hero has different strengths. What are the other heroic values?

 

There. It didn’t sound like Spectre, but Izuku had to be careful so the students wouldn’t catch on that the message wasn’t put out by the school. UA was known for its eccentric, plus ultra style, so Izuku hoped that the weird presentation would pass. He didn’t want the school to cancel exam, after all; that would defeat the purpose.

 

He could see through the monitors that the buses were absolutely buzzing with chatter. Students were nudging each other and pointing at the screens, and Izuku could see that a few of the examinees (likely those with non-physical quirks) had perked up considerably.

 

Even as Blood King and Ectoplasm rapidly coordinated the other heroes to Spectre’s supposed location, Izuku hovered in place, beaming. He had done that; he had given people hope .

 

Of course, before Present Mic and Midnight arrived on-scene, Spectre made a clean getaway; the billboard went back to the normal advertisements and the heroes in the control room watched as the ‘vigilante’ dived through one of the building’s open windows and vanished from sight. And as much as the two heroes and the cameras swept the city, there was no sign that Spectre had ever been there in the first place.

 

And, of course, if the camera footage was corrupted, and the data mysteriously destroyed, then who could prove that Spectre was actually ever there?

 


 

“So he escaped… again.”

 

Nedzu practically beamed at Shouta’s remark. All of the teachers had gathered in the principal’s office after the disaster of the entrance exam. Spectre’s trick with the bus screens hadn’t been noticed until it was too late; the vigilante had given away the hidden portion of the exam, and the examinees had capitalized on it.

 

There were dozens of students that had teamed up to take down robots more efficiently, and by the end of the exam most of the robots, including the dreaded zero-pointers, had been eliminated by creative planning. Shouta already knew that it was going to take a lot of close examination to see who would make it to the heroics course, and he felt a small amount of pity for the judges. They were going to have their work cut out for them.

 

And, of course, their footage of the time Spectre appeared was gone; he suspected that the vigilante had teamed up with someone with a technology quirk, to accomplish what they did. The teachers were left frustrated, and Shouta nowhere closer to catching the vigilante than before.

 

It was a small comfort that the changes to the exam had been pushed through; secretly, Aizawa was glad that more students got a chance to shine. Maybe there would be less physical quirks in the heroics course this year.

 

“I can see why Spectre is the most wanted vigilante,” Ectoplasm remarked calmly; the cloning hero had spent hours combing the testing areas and blind spots on campus alongside the camera drones, just in case the vigilante decided to linger, but he didn’t show any sign of exhaustion. “They were very impressive, pulling that stunt.”

 

“They’re a pain in the ass,” Aizawa said dryly, fishing out his eye drops. He had scanned all the students with his quirk before each of the tests just to ensure Spectre wasn’t in disguise, and his eyes were regretting that decision. “An extremely smart pain in the ass. We’ll have to contact Detective Tsukauchi and let him know what happened.”

 

“Principal, what’s the plan?” Blood King interrupted as he stepped forward, phone in one hand. “There’s already posts about the entrance exam on social media- it won’t be long before the press get wind of what happened.”

 

“We’ll keep quiet about Spectre for now,” Nedzu said, showing seemingly no concern, “Since the media will likely be all over us at the start of the school year, for obvious reasons, we’ll make a statement that we’ve changed up the entrance exam to be more inclusive. The police will know, of course, but we have a reputation to uphold, and we’ll generate media goodwill from Spectre’s actions.”

 

“And I’ll update security,” Power Loader interjected shamefully, bobbing his head. “I apologize for my failure in this matter.”

 

Nedzu dismissively waved a paw in the hero’s direction.

 

“Spectre-san has an extremely powerful quirk,” he said, taking a sip from his ever-present cup of tea. “It was thanks to UA’s current security that we even detected them, even if we were not successful in stopping them from completing their goal. I’m certain you will think of something Power Loader, but don’t get too disheartened.”

 

“We’re extremely lucky,” Aizawa added, “That Spectre was only interested in mischief, however well-intentioned.”

 

The room fell silent at his words, and Nedzu swirled the tea in his cup.

 

“Of course!” The principal squeaked, “We are extremely lucky, and that is why we will not be sitting idle with the chance we’ve been given. In fact, we should be glad that this occurred before we announce that All Might has joined our staff this coming semester-”

 

The meeting continued on, but the rest of the conversation was lost on an invisible, intangible spectator, who was currently having a ghostly version of a heart attack.

 


 

All Might? All Might is going to be teaching at UA?

 

Izuku could die again; he was so happy. He screamed quietly into his hands for at least a couple of minutes. He was going to see All Might, All Might was going to be at the school and ohgodhewasgoingtobeINACLASSTAUGHTBYALLMIGHT-

 

By the time his rabid fanboy brain (slightly) calmed down, the meeting was starting to wrap up. Izuku listened as the last of the heroes gave their reports on the situation and suggestions for new security measures, still focused on the fact that his childhood idol was going to be at his dream school. He pinched his arm, even if he couldn’t feel the sensation because Izuku knew he just had to be dreaming.

 

This the best day ever, he thought numbly, looking down at his bloody hands. I can die again happily.

 

When the meeting ended and the teachers started to file out, Izuku shook himself out of his daze and let out a small sigh of relief. He had stayed after his stunt to observe the aftermath and to see if the heroes got any closer to figuring out his secret, but instead he had just heard the greatest news of his life . And, thankfully, his half-cocked plan had gone off without a hitch.

 

He may have teared up when the examinees had started to collaborate following his announcement. By the time the teachers caught on, the students were already working together in force.

 

Izuku had even spotted Kacchan, who was legendary prickly, was seen teaming up with another examinee with spiky red hair to clear falling rubble before it could hit other test takers.

 

(How much had Kacchan changed, over the years? Would he still remember Deku, the quirkless kid, after all this time?)

 

He floated over the principal’s desk, looking down at all the papers laid out there. He needed to take a look at the ideas for security, just in case there was something he had missed during his hero fanboy freak-out, but Izuku also just wanted to bask in the warmth of just knowing that he had helped people. He, Izuku, had done something besides tormenting criminals.

 

As soon as the last of the heroes departed, however, and the door closed, Izuku was startled as Nedzu immediately slammed his paw over a button at his desk and metal shutters slid down over the windows.

 

There was a small click, and another sheet of metal slid over the wooden door. There was a moment of darkness before the artificial lights clicked on. Undeniably curious, Izuku looked around. Was there was a reason for all this sudden security?

 

“Am I a dog? Am I a mouse? Am I a bear?” The principal asked, seemingly to no one. “I am… the principal!”

 

Who are you talking to? ” Izuku asked nervously, peering around the office. He knew from his time on internet forums that the principal of UA was extremely eccentric, but Nedzu seemed to be acting downright insane. But if the principal was meeting with someone in secret, Izuku knew he should stay.

 

He hovered near the door as the small bear-dog-mouse creature pulled out another cup from a cabinet on the wall and filled it with steaming tea from a concealed kettle. Once that was done, Nedzu pulled out the plush seat across from his desk and set the steaming cup down in front of it.

 

“Now then, now that we’ve got some time to ourselves,” Nedzu said calmly, looking around the room. Izuku could see a dangerous glint in his beady black eyes. “Have a seat, Spectre-san. I know you’re in here.”

Chapter Text

Spectre: Most Wanted Vigilante or the Hero We Need?

By Yamamoto Gin

March 3rd, 2XXX

 

Japan’s Most Wanted Vigilante Strikes Again! Earlier this morning, a police statement was released confirming the successful capture and arrest of Hitokuchi Jun, also known as the A-rank villain Hammerhead. Hammerhead was one of several people responsible for the series of bank heists earlier this month, along with having ties to several human trafficking and illegal fighting rings.

 

While the police statement simply confirmed that Hitokuchi was arrested, a popular forum and blog site, HeroLeak, released the full police report an hour ago that contains shocking details. The report reveals that it was Musutafu’s own infamous vigilante Spectre who defeated and detained Hammerhead before alerting the proper authorities.

 

This recent incident points to a small, but growing trend: Spectre is doing hero work better than most heroes. The vigilante is notorious for making poorer districts, which have been historically documented as areas less frequently patrolled by heroes, safer places to live by taking down hundreds of small-time criminals and gangs.

 

While Spectre does not have the same amount of fame as the Hero Killer Stain, who also frequents the areas around Musutafu, the vigilante is still making a steady impact on less privileged communities. Many members of these communities have recently come onto social media and challenged many of the top 100 pro-heroes, accusing them of shirking their duties in serving all parts of the society. While Spectre has never come out for a reason behind their actions, many people have publicly stated their support for the elusive vigilante.

 

Though Spectre’s actions are unquestionably illegal, their actions have led to safer streets in Musutafu. As they begin to take down larger and more dangerous targets, we as a society need to ask ourselves: as an outside element separate from the media spectacle and ranking system of our modern hero system, is Spectre the hero we actually need? And do they have the right idea?

 


 

This was it; Izuku had actually passed from this world and ended up in hell.

 

Izuku couldn’t think straight; he needed to flee. Even if Nedzu had the door blocked and heroes waiting nearby, they wouldn’t be able to stop him; he was a ghost, he could pass through any physical deterrents, and even if Eraserhead was there and used his quirk, he shouldn’t theoretically stop being a ghos-

 

“There’s no point in hiding, Spectre-san!” Nedzu said cheerfully, interrupting Izuku’s frantic muttering. He waved a paw towards the empty seat. “Please, don’t insult my intelligence. Sit down; I just want to talk! It’s just you and me here.”

 

Izuku paused from his position mid-way through the wall as the principal’s words sank in. He quickly poked his head through the sealed door, but the corridor beyond was deserted. 

 

When he reached out with his quirk, Izuku could only sense Nedzu nearby. The principal was surprisingly telling the truth, but Izuku couldn’t understand why. What did the rodent want?

 

He looked around the room again once more, and some of the panic died down. Even after so much time spent in his state, Izuku couldn’t control the panic induced flight or fight response he got when something went wrong. Instincts were instincts, after all, even when you’re dead.

 

He crossed his arms to keep them from trembling. Nedzu couldn’t actually keep him here; no one could trap him or capture him if he didn't want to be. He could play along with Nedzu’s scheme and see where it took him; perhaps he could get an answer to what the principal wanted from him.

 

Although something didn’t add up. Izuku eyed the metal shutters over the door and windows, his mind racing as he took in as many details as possible. If there were physical barriers, then the principal was trying to keep him locked in, but what good would that-?! Nedzu didn’t know he could simply escape through the walls!

 

Emboldened by his discovery, Izuku finally reached out with his quirk and pulled the proffered chair towards him. Nedzu’s smile deepened as Izuku hovered over the seat and levitated the tea cup into the air. Izuku kept the cup at where his lap would be; if Nedzu thought there was a physical body in the room, Izuku wasn’t going to dissuade him.

 

After he was settled, Izuku pulled out his phone and thumbed over the call button; the computer’s speakers crackled as Izuku seized control of them, but Nedzu simply sipped his tea, unperturbed by the sudden burst of loud static.

 

“You’ve trapped me here very neatly, Principal Nedzu. How did you know I was here?” Izuku asked evenly; the feedback from the speakers masked any nervousness in his voice.

 

“Your quirk may fool humans, Spectre-san,” Nedzu began, and oh Izuku did not like the ominous grin that crept across the principal’s face and accentuated the rodent’s beady, dead black eyes. “But I was never human, so I have a wider range of senses! As soon as you came into the room, I knew you were here!”

 

No. No way. Izuku wanted to cry. The phone clattered from his hand into his lap.  Why hadn’t he thought of this situation? He knew that some animals could sense ghosts, but he had stopped being so cautious around police officers with animal-based quirks years ago after it was clear that they couldn’t see him. 

 

The floating tea cup wobbled midair as his focus faded, and Izuku had to stop himself from sinking through the chair and floor to escape this hell.

 

Nedzu was an animal; out of all the people in the world, Izuku had to come up against the one intelligent animal in all of Japan; Nedzu was scarily smart, he could see ghosts, and he was the principal of UA . He was a perfect counter.

 

Izuku spent a moment or two muffling his screams into his palms. He also made a mental note to revisit other facts about spirits; he didn’t want to be exorcised or sealed away in a shrine or temple. Nedzu chucked at the sudden moment of silence.

 

“Surprising, isn’t it?” The rodent said, and Izuku wearily lifted the phone back up to his mouth. He took a few seconds to collect himself; despite this setback, his curiosity got the better of him.

 

“Yes, I admit, I wasn’t expecting that,” Izuku said. And then, because he couldn’t help himself, he added: “How do you sense me, if I may ask? Am I visible?”

 

It was a two-pronged question; he wanted to keep his identity secret, but he was also genuinely curious. Izuku doubted the principal could see his true form, or there would be a lot more of a reaction; he was a transparent teenager covered in blood and with a visible hole in his gut. Nedzu rubbed his snout with one paw, his expression thoughtful.

 

“You humans don’t quite have the vocabulary for it,” he mused. “It’s not a visual detection; your identity is quite safe, though when you are closer, Spectre-san, I can easily pinpoint your exact location… the best that I can compare the feeling to is the drop in barometric pressure before a thunderstorm; my fur stands up, my fight or flight response triggers, there’s an overwhelming sense of dread, and I can almost feel the electrical buildup! It’s certainly attention-grabbing!”

 

“But you weren’t in the control room,” Izuku pointed out, resting his chin on his hand. “So how did you know I was in there?”

 

His fingers twitched instinctively, reaching for a notebook that hadn’t been there for years. If Nedzu could sense him through camera footage then Izuku was going to have a difficult time keeping tabs on the police investigation or moving around as freely as he had been.

 

“Now, now, I’m not going to give away all my secrets just like that!” The principal cheerfully declared, waving the statement away. “We’re here to talk about you, Spectre-san!”

 

“And what do you want to talk about?” Izuku asked, leaning forward. The tea cup was set back on the table. He knew the principal had purposely baited him; if Nedzu could detect him from a distance, the mammal could prove to be a severe problem. 

 

In lieu of answering, Nedzu pulled a remote from one of his desk drawers and pressed one of the buttons. Izuku tensed, but the only thing that happened was that a near-invisible panel on the desk flipped over, revealing a small round object. It whirred to life, and few small screens popped up; each screen showed different clips of footage from the practical exam.

 

“I wanted to ask about your interference in the exam,” Nedzu said, waving his paw at the footage. Izuku’s heart soared again at all the different scenes of students working together; he doubted he would ever tire of the feeling. “I admit it was strange to learn that the most wanted vigilante in Japan was planning on attending a high school entrance exam, but I don’t think anyone expected Spectre to be so young!”

 

Izuku groaned to himself. In hindsight, crashing UA was probably a terrible idea on his part; going up against someone who could ferret out his secrets (pun intended) was terrifying. But despite that knowledge, Izuku was enjoying the banter. As much as he loved to tease Tsukauchi, the detective simply wasn’t one for prolonged conversation.

 

“I also admit, I was unsure what you would do with the hidden point system when I gave it away,” Nedzu continued enthusiastically, gesturing at the different screens. “I wanted to see what kind of person you are, Spectre-san!”

 

“And did I pass your test?” Izuku asked curiously. He doesn’t know why he’s being tested, but he glances back at the metal plate covering the door. If he’s here speaking to Nedzu, does that mean he succeeded? If Nedzu had judged him and found him wanting, what were the consequences?

 

Nedzu smiled. His beady eyes caught the light of the screens, and his smile stretched out the large scar across his face; the effect was unnerving.

 

“Who said the test was over?” Nedzu remarked, and took another sip of tea. There was a moment of awkward silence. What could Izuku say to such a loaded remark? Was the principal probing for a secondary reaction?

 

After another minute of painful silence, Nedzu set his cup down with a soft clink and adjusted the collar of his suit.

 

“It’s understandable that you’re nervous,” Nedzu said with a softer smile, “but I can assure you that regardless of my ongoing assessment you’re in no danger. I’m a rodent of my word! I won’t call the heroes. Now, could you tell me what you were thinking when you decided to leak the rescue point system?”

 

Izuku directed the tea cup to rest back on the table and leaned forward, cupping his chin in his hands. He was suddenly four years old again, sitting in his mother’s oversized chair while All Might single-handedly saved hundreds of lives and crying because he was quirkless, helpless… Useless.

 

How could he put into words the years of frustration and desperation he had gone through that made him into the vigilante he was today? He had died quirkless, and only through a sick twist of fate had he gained the power he needed to actually do something.

 

“My quirk is powerful, Nedzu-san, but it isn’t suited to this exam,” Izuku finally said, desperately grateful the speakers hid most of the emotion in his voice. His eyes twitched; he couldn’t actually cry anymore, but he couldn’t suppress the reaction. He had always cried easily.  “it affects every aspect of my life; there are things I can no longer do.”

 

He paused; the speakers hummed softly in the background. Izuku couldn’t read Nedzu’s expression easily, but even if the principal couldn’t see his face he wouldn’t look away.

 

“When I heard about the test, I was angry,” he then admitted, “I have my vigilante work, so passing the test was a dream I could pass on, but I wanted to see if there was a chance that I could help the other students.”

 

He knew he was giving away valuable information to the principal, but this was his first real conversation in years. Izuku felt like a leaking hose; he just couldn’t stop himself from talking. Izuku wanted to help people; it’s what he always wanted to do ever since he was old enough to understand heroes.

 

“I presume that your quirk is the reason you’ve been talking through my speakers this entire time?” Nedzu asked seriously, his expression unreadable. His previous levity had vanished. Izuku sighed.

 

“Yes,” he said. “But I won’t say more, for my sake. Not every student can be All Might, Nedzu-san, try as they might, but my interference gave them a chance to see their dreams realized. I had my dreams crushed too often before I became a vigilante; it’s not something I want others to experience.”

 

“But now there is the possibility of students exploiting the formerly hidden system,” Nedzu pointed out. “It was meant to show the judges a truly heroic personality. As you no doubt heard, there’s already been media buzz about our changed policies. What will stop future examinees from forming powerful teams ahead of time, or arranging ‘rescue’ scenarios for extra points?”

 

The speakers popped with static as Izuku snorted. Nedzu wasn’t even trying to hide his loaded questions now. Though a small part of him panicked at the thought that he had fucked everything up, Izuku pushed it aside as he considered the wording of his answer. If Nedzu wanted to reprimand him, he would have made it more obvious.

 

“I don’t regret what I did,” Izuku declared after a moment, “I just gave the students a better chance to prove themselves in this test. The rescue point system should be tweaked for future tests! It’s still heavily biased towards physical quirks! And I know UA has a dedicated social media team. How else would you keep your giant robots a secret for so long?”

 

“A good answer!” Nedzu said, clapping his paws together, and Izuku was alarmed to see that the principal’s ominous smile made a reappearance. “I have only one more question!”

 

“Yes?” Izuku asked warily.

 

The mammal hopped down from his chair. As he came around the side of the desk, Izuku used his quirk to quickly push his own chair away from the desk. He expected Nedzu to reach for him, but the mammal simply gestured in Izuku’s direction.

 

“Spectre-san, how would you like to attend UA?” Nedzu asked cheerily.

 

Izuku just stared at the rodent, dumbfounded, because there was no way he had just been offered a place in his dream school. Good things didn’t happen to him, not like this.

 

“I’d like to offer you a place here at UA,” Nedzu continued, beaming, as if he hadn’t just dropped a bomb worthy of Kacchan. “Unofficially, of course; an unfortunate result of your current status as a wanted vigilante. You would follow a similar curriculum to our heroic courses, adjusted to your unique experience of course, and with extra tutoring by yours truly!”

 

“Why?” Izuku asked, and even the monitors weren’t able to hide how strangled his voice was. “Why would you do that for me?” 

 

If this was some cruel prank, or another test, Izuku was never going to forgive the principal. He couldn’t trust anything kind or anything that seemed to be too good to be true, and this offer was too good to be true.

 

“I can see that you have potential!” Nedzu declared sunnily. “I admire your work, but everyone can improve and go beyond! You truly have a heroic spirit, and I can’t say I’m not tempted to see what kind of person you’ll become after training here.”

 

Izuku couldn’t see any deceit in the rodent’s face, and that fact threw him. No one had ever told him he had a heroic spirit; most of his peers assumed he was delusional, his parents had pitied him, and while Naomasa commended his actions, the detective still came after him as a criminal. Nedzu… may have been the first person to ever tell him that he was truly heroic.

 

“I…” Izuku stammered, his composure gone. His carefully crafted veneer as Spectre was crumbling as his whole body trembled.  “I need some time to consider your offer, Nedzu-san-”

 

One of the monitors suddenly beeped, and Izuku’s mouth snapped shut. Nedzu, visibly annoyed, sighed and swiped his paw over a bracelet that had been previously hidden under his suit’s cuff. A small screen popped up with something that Izuku couldn’t make out, and Nedzu sighed again.

 

“We’re out of time, Spectre-san,” he said, and gestured at the door behind them. “Someone’s here to talk to me. But please, think about my offer. I am genuinely hoping you will learn at UA, and if you want further proof of my seriousness, I’m certain that we can speak further over the phone!!”

 

Nedzu pressed another button. The screens displaying the test footage shut off, and the metal sheets covering the door and windows slid back into their hidden compartments. Seconds later, there was a knock at the door.

 

Numbly, Izuku followed Nedzu as the principal walked over to the door. Before he opened it, Nedzu turned and looked directly at him.

 

“Please, think on what I’ve said!” he said cheerfully. “You can rekindle your dreams, Spectre-san!”

 

And then Nedzu opened the door with a beaming grin to reveal Eraserhead, and Izuku froze up. But Eraserhead’s quirk wasn’t active; instead, the pro hero’s eyes were heavily bloodshot, and it looked like Aizawa was in desperate need of eyedrops and a week of bedrest.

 

“Nedzu,” Aizawa intoned blearily. He sounded like he was about to collapse at any moment. Izuku empathized with that sentiment; he wished he was still capable of sleep because he needed to process everything Nedzu dropped on him. Did all the heroes teaching at UA experience this every time they spoke with the principal?

 

“Aizawa-kun, come in!” Nedzu declared. “Today has been very eventful! How is the follow-up report going? Have you apprised Detective Tsukauchi of the situation yet?”

 

As Eraserhead slowly shuffled into the office, Nedzu held open the door for a couple more seconds than necessary. One of his beady eyes winked. Recognizing his chance, Izuku passed the principal and hovered into the hallway. He was still reeling as the door snapped shut behind him.

 

Izuku just stared at the door; his brain was on another plane of existence entirely. He rubbed at his chest absentmindedly, twisting his hands in the strings of his hoodie.

 

What in the actual fuck had just happened? 

 


 

Tsukauchi knew he needed to invest in better headache medication. 

 

“The interrogation has been delayed, nyah,” Sansa reported as soon as Naomasa walked back into his office. Naomasa removed his coat and sat down heavily at his desk; the cat-headed officer plopped a small stack of papers in front of him.

 

“Spectre also turned up at UA, as we predicted,” Tsukauchi groused, wearily starting to sort through the paperwork. “So this day is going to be longer than we anticipated. Why is the interrogation delayed?”

 

Sansa’s collar jingled softly as he pulled a chair up and sat down heavily in it. 

 

“Clue and Shadowdancer got an emergency mission, so they’ll be unavailable for a week,” he said tiredly. “But the paperwork has gone through and Hammerhead has given permission for Clue to use their quirk and recreate their encounter with Spectre. He’s been fully cooperative with the police.”

 

“Really?” Tsukauchi asked, sitting up straight. Hammerhead was the first villain to agree to the procedure; Clue’s method of reliving memories directly from a person wasn’t a painless process, and often took an entire day to extract.

 

“Yeah!” Sansa said, and leaned back in his chair. “We were all very surprised, but this might be the breakthrough we need, nyah.”

 

“Spectre’s getting bolder,” Tsukauchi noted as he dug through his desk drawer for a pen. There wasn’t anything critical in the paperwork, but he still needed to get started or he’d be here until early morning again. “So let’s hope Clue can find something to help us take them down. We may not get a better chance.”

 

There was a moment of companionable silence.

 

“You know, as much as I appreciate how much Spectre helps bring down crime, nyah,” Sansa remarked, his furry mouth quirked up in a small grin, “when we catch them, I won’t miss the amount of paperwork they’ve made me fill out for each incident report.”

 

Tsukauchi snorted.

 

“You and me both,” he said, shaking his head amusedly. “You and me both.”

 


 

“That’s the fourth one this week.”

 

Kurogiri sighed. One of Giran’s recruiters, Hasegawa Arata, had been arrested earlier following an encounter with the infamous Spectre, and the dealer had chosen to deliver the news in person. Hasegawa had also given up a few of the thugs involved with Giran’s business, though none of the criminals possessed crucial information.

 

The glass Kurogiri held was spotless, but he kept running his rag over it anyway. He remained where he was behind the bar; he was simply here to monitor his charge. Shigaraki needed to get used to dealing with others if he was to be the head of the League.

 

Giran, who was casually slumped against the bar, took another drag of his cigarette and slapped down a blurry camera still. Kurogiri peered down at it; the image showed a police officer leading a figure, presumably Hasegawa, into the precinct.

 

“The good news is that I have replacements,” he continued, closing his eyes and savoring the nicotine before breathing out a noxious cloud of smoke that stunk up the bar. Kurogiri narrowed his eyes, but refrained from commenting. “But Spectre is an unknown that I can’t predict, so your orders are going to be delayed. Hasegawa was incredibly under the radar; he was in disguise and in the middle of his commute when Spectre found him; there’s going to be continuous casualties as we move forward.”

 

“Damn rogue…” Shigaraki muttered from his seat on the far end of the bar, one hand absentmindedly shredding the skin on the side of his throat. “Who do they think they are, ganking my mobs before the campaign starts…?”

 

“But it doesn’t seem that Spectre is actively targeting our efforts, Shigaraki Tomura,” Kurogiri remarked as he put the glass away and started to wipe down the bar. “Are we in danger of that, Giran?”

 

“Maybe,” Giran snorted, and took another hit on his cigarette. “Not yet, at least. Spectre is a threat, and they’re incredibly active. If they catch the right person, then I’ll be in trouble, but none of my workers know my connections, and I’m not stupid enough to travel conventionally.”

 

“They’re in my way,” Shigaraki butted in bitterly. Then he reached over and dissolved the image of Hasegawa. “But Spectre’s a higher level rogue; our party isn’t spec’d to fight them head on.”

 

Though the metaphor was childish, Shigaraki was correct. Spectre was an oddity. Someone who was never seen or heard by their victims (or any passerby’s), but managed to take out every target they were after, spoke of a highly-skilled individual with a powerful quirk; even Sensei’s contacts couldn’t sniff Spectre out. Their motives were unknown, and their targets were random; the vigilante struck at all hours of the day with no regard to location or circumstance.

 

Most of the criminal underworld regarded them as some kind of cryptid. Even Stain, an incredibly dangerous individual who hunted pro heroes, was only human. He had his ideology and he interacted in the criminal underworld, if sparingly. Spectre seemed to be more than that.

 

“Kurogiri.”

 

The mist villain focused back on the conversation; Shigaraki seemed to be lost in thought.

 

“Yes, Shigaraki Tomura?” Kurogiri asked.

 

“Our meeting is done. Give Giran a warp out,” Tomura demanded, scratching at his chapped lips.

 

Shigaraki then turned his attention to Giran, who took one last pull from his cigarette before he extinguished it in the nearby ashtray and stood up.

 

“Deliver as much of our order as you can,” Tomura said, “if you think Spectre is about to raid one of our deposits, contact Kurogiri for an emergency warp.”

 

Kurogiri nodded approvingly as he put his cleaning rag down and stepped out from behind the bar. Shigaraki was learning; as sleezy as Gibran was, the man was an asset worth protecting.

 

“Pleasure doing business, as always,” Giran replied, giving a lazy grin as he pulled a flask from his coat pocket and took a small swig. “I’ll keep in touch about our mutual ghost problem.”

 

Kurogiri silently followed the disheveled man out. As soon as they were out of sight, Shigaraki scowled and started to scratch his neck once more. 

 

He glanced at the old TV screen propped up at the end of the bar, but the screen remained dark; Sensei either wasn’t watching, or he had nothing to say. Tomura was the party leader, at least for now.

 

“Spectre, huh?” he muttered, reaching out to place four of his fingers on one of the bar glasses. “How irritating.”

 

The glass decayed under his touch as his last finger touched it. Shigaraki stepped away from the bar with a huff, scratching at his cheeks as he made his way up to his room. After he killed All Might, he’d respec his party; Spectre was well-known, and taking down such a high-leveled rogue would boost the League’s reputation.

 

Tomura smiled to himself, even as he scratched his cheek hard enough to break the skin. He looked down blood smeared across his fingers and chuckled. Even All Might had a weak spot. Spectre would be no different.