If there was anything consistent in Shinsou Hitoshi’s life, it would be his rotten luck. Today was proving to be no exception.
The day had started surprisingly normal—at least, it started as normal as it could get for a student at UA. A few months into his second year and his nerves were finally, finally, fading as he got used to the routine. Each morning before class, he went for a jog around campus. He showered and dressed and ate a good breakfast that left him full until lunch. He went to his classes and took immaculate notes. He trained and trained some more. It was like clockwork; the days blended and blurred and Hitoshi began to bridge the gap between himself and the rest of the hero course.
Today, he’d fallen into the same routine. There was no reason to change it up. It was working.
Until he’d gone out after class. The other students in 2-A were going to the mall and, in a moment of weakness, Hitoshi decided that studying the quadratic equation could wait another night.
He’d been at the mall for all of twenty minutes, waiting outside a shop for Kirishima, when the Quirk slammed into him like a brick wall. One moment he was standing there, scrolling on his phone, and the next he was wheezing and gasping and tumbling forward, the ground beneath his feet strangely missing.
A moment later, he hit the ground and the weight of his chest forced all the air in his lungs out in a rush.
Damn it. Hitoshi pulled in a shaky breath despite the protests of his diaphragm. Slowly, he rubbed his mouth—a skiff of blood from his split lip smearing the back of his hand—and sat up.
He was in a field of some description. On his right, a group of children were practicing soccer. To his left, there was a road and a smattering of low-rise offices.
A gust of wind blew and Hitoshi shivered, shivered then swore. The air might as well have been pure ice.
The last time he checked, it had been mid-July.
Something had gone wrong. Predictably. Reliably. Something had gone wrong.
Hitoshi’s phone wouldn’t pick up service, but it did connect to the wi-fi in a nearby cafe. He had enough change to buy a cup of tea and sank into the corner of the shop, hopefully unnoticed. The barista had given him odd looks—probably on account of his split lip and t-shirt, despite the autumn chill—but thankfully hadn’t said anything more.
But as Hitoshi wrapped his hand around the cup of black tea and opened his contacts, ready to shoot off a message to Aizawa, he realized something else was off.
It wasn’t only the fall. He hadn’t jumped forward a few months, as he initially thought he might’ve.
He’d fallen backwards.
On his phone, the date read nearly three years in the past. That would put Hitoshi in his second year of junior high, not high school.
Hitoshi ran his hand over his face. Fuck.
Hitoshi was nothing if not resourceful. He made a plan.
Whatever had happened at the mall, it was clear that he’d been hit with some sort of wayward Quirk.
So, if he needed to get back to the present, back to his life, Hitoshi needed two things: someone who was good at analyzing Quirks and, more importantly, someone who would believe him.
There was one person who came to mind immediately, as begrudged as Hitoshi was to admit it.
Here was the thing: Hitoshi did not hate Midoriya. Far from it. He was bright and determined and welcoming.
But that didn’t mean there was a gap—a chasm—between the two of them. How could there not be? How could anyone like Midoriya understand what growing up had been like for Hitoshi?
Midoriya would believe Hitoshi if he asked him for help. Doubt wasn’t in his nature. Partially because he was good, good from the curled roots of his green hair to the soles of his red shoes. But how could anyone with a Quirk like Midoriya’s believe that he’d grow up to be anything but a hero? A kid like him… he’d have no problem believing Hitoshi was his future classmate at UA. The hero course for UA wasn’t some lofty goal for him, it was all but guaranteed.
That was, of course, if Midoriya could get a handle on his Quirk. Even with all his power, it seemed he’d barely practiced with it. Granted, Midoriya improved fast, but it was a joke he’d even gotten in in the first place with how little he’d ever practiced with his Quirk before UA. Someone with power like that must’ve never had to do much to stay leaps and bounds ahead of the rest of the pack.
Quirks, at their core, were deeply unfair.
Hitoshi had swallowed his anger about that a long time ago.
Well, mostly swallowed it, anyway.
Hanging out outside of a junior high did really make Hitoshi feel like the villain everyone expected him to be. He only hoped no one would question him about it. There was no answer that he could give to make it seem remotely alright.
But Hitoshi didn’t have much of a choice. He could show up at UA, he supposed, and explain what had happened. They’d be more than equipped to deal with it. The thought of his teachers and the principal and, in all likelihood, the police staring him down and grilling him for answers made his skin crawl. UA would be his backup plan. If he could solve everything on his own first, that was preferable. The last thing Hitoshi needed was to plant the idea that he wasn’t capable of taking care of his own problems into the staff’s heads before he ever so much as stepped foot on campus.
Finally, the bell rang, and a steady stream of students made their way out of the school gates.
Hitoshi leaned against the wall and crossed his arms. Briefly, the thought flashed across his mind that this whole thing might’ve been easier if he was his thirteen-year-old self, not his just seventeen-year-old self looking like, as he’d been told by a cashier last week, ‘some sort of delinquent’.
The thought of being thirteen again was enough to dissuade him from going any further down that path of possibility. He’d take the few odd looks, thanks.
Over the course of half an hour, the students flowed steadily out of the junior high. Some rushed to idling cars. Others linked arms with their friends. Many lingered around the bus stop.
Hitoshi was starting to wonder if he’d made a mistake, if he’d gotten the wrong school, or wrong time, or wrong world when a familiar head of spiky blonde hair walked past him without so much as a glance in his direction. Even at thirteen, Bakugou didn’t look like someone Hitoshi wanted to cross. Flanked with two followers and shouting away, it was completely possible that Bakugou had, in fact, mellowed out over the last few years.
The thought of that alone almost made Hitoshi shiver. A more violent, angry Bakugou? Hitoshi would take his chances with the league of villains, thanks.
Not long after Bakugou strutted past came the head of green curls that Hitoshi had been waiting for. He let out a smooth breath of relief, the tension in his shoulders fading slightly. Midoriya was here. He’d have an idea about where to start, at least, in regard to the Quirk.
Hitoshi stepped forward and cleared his throat. “Midoriya.”
Midoriya, who had been staring at the ground, looked up. His eyes widened and he clutched at the straps of his bag and, Hitoshi realized, that while Bakugou had looked like a version of his older self shrunken to scale, younger Midoriya was tiny. His arms were thin and his core was a pole and, behind his eyes, there was a shaky sort of demeanour that made him seem even smaller. It was as if he was purposely pulling in on himself, making himself small, hiding away from the world.
“Midoriya,” Hitoshi repeated, trying to sound more confident than he felt, “I need your help.”
Midoriya’s eyes flickered from side to side before he turned his head, glancing behind him. The street was empty, save some kids lingering at a bus stop half a block down.
“Why—why me?” Midoriya asked. “How do you know my name?”
Hitoshi shoved his hands in his pockets and shrugged. “You’re my classmate, when I’m from. Some quirk sent me back in time. At least, I think it did. Figured you’d be the best person to talk to if I ever wanna get my back to the right time, with the way you’re always analyzing everything.”
Midoriya only stared at the pavement. “Is this about my notebooks?”
“Yeah,” Hitoshi started, but before he could get another word out, Midoriya burst into tears. “Wait—wait. Uh, don’t cry.” Hitoshi hovered by his side, unsure of what to do.
“I’m sorry,” Midoriya chocked out in between sobs. “I’ll stop writing, I know it creeps people out, but I never meant it to be that way! I’m just really interested in Quirks and how they work and the theory behind them, I never meant for it to be personal and—”
“Midoriya, stop.” Hitoshi pinched the bridge of his nose and, for a moment, felt frighteningly close to channelling Aizawa. “I’m asking you for help because of your notebooks. I need to figure out what hit me.”
“You want my help?” His voice was so small, it nearly drowned in the wind.
Hitoshi sighed. He really needed to say thank you to the teachers. How did they deal with this every day? “I already told you: you’re the best person I know who does Quirk analysis.”
Midoriya sniffed, wiped his nose on his sleeve, and finally met Hitoshi’s eyes. “Okay, I guess. If you’re serious.”
“You really trust me?”
“I do. I told you—we’re classmates.” Teammates, he mentally adds. That’s the truth at UA—your classmates have to be more than your classmates. They have to become the people you’ll willingly place your life in their hands and be willing to do the same in return. In other schools, anyone could get by tolerating their classmates. As long as there was an air of civility, that was enough to get by.
But when it came to heroes, the game changed. There was every possibility he’d be working with his classmates for the rest of his life. Even if they weren’t friends, they had to be ready to rely on each other at a moment’s notice.
“Yeah.” Hitoshi nodded and dug his hands into his pockets.
“At Toydaria High?”
Hitoshi lifted his eyebrow. “Where?”
“You know—it’s only a few blocks from here.”
“Oh. No.” Hitoshi swallowed. He knew he’d never been the most heroic-looking type—that image was reserved for people like Mirio, like All-Might, like Midoriya—but was it really so hard to believe that he was a hero? From what Hitoshi had gleaned from conversations, Midoriya had wanted to be a hero since he knew what that word meant. Was one look at Hitoshi enough to convince Midoriya he’d failed his dreams?
“Oh,” Midoriya said in reply. “I just assumed.”
“Where do we go to high school, then?”
Hitoshi narrowed his gaze. “UA.”
And, with that, the waterworks started once more.
It took Hitoshi nearly half an hour to calm Midoriya down to the point where they could have a conversation once more.
“And you’re sure Kacchan didn’t put you up to this?” Midoriya blew his nose into a rumpled tissue Hitoshi had given him.
“No, he didn’t. You can ask him yourself if you’re really so concerned. Besides—don’t you think this is would be taking it a little far just to mess with a friend?”
Midoriya gave him a strange look but didn’t press anymore. He shoved the kleenex back into his pocket. “Sorry. It’s just—I’m really in UA?”
“ Yes. ” Hitoshi was beginning to regret his choice. As embarrassing as it might’ve been to show up at UA asking for help in a time when he wasn’t even a student, they’d probably have sorted out this mess by now. He hadn’t even been able to get out more than a few sentences with Midoriya.
“Wow. Sorry-sorry. I know you need help. This is just a lot.”
UA was a prestigious school, but Midoriya was acting more like he’d won the lottery. “Come on, Midoriya. I know it’s a high bar, but is it really so hard to believe you cleared it? I mean, with your Quirk, passing the exam was all but guaranteed—”
Hitoshi didn’t finish his sentence.
Once again, the tears started. They weren’t the glass-eyed tears like before. This time, Midoriya’s sobs were loud and violent and shook his whole body.
“Midoriya.” Hitoshi looked on, all too aware how completely and utterly useless he was at the moment. “I—you—It’s okay,” he said. The words sounded small and empty even to his own ears. He doubted Midoriya even heard what he was saying. Of all the reactions that Hitoshi had accounted for, this one wasn’t on the list.
“Ka—Kacchan did put you up to this, didn’t he?” Midoriya finally got out in between sobs. “Did he pay you?”
“No one put me up to this,” Hitoshi stressed.
“Then why are you making fun of me!”
“Making fun? Midoriya—what makes you think that?”
“Because I’m Quirkless,” he said.
It took a moment for the full weight of what he’d said to sink in. Hitoshi’s mind reeled. Midoriya, Quirkless? That would be like imaging Todoroki without his ice, Aizawa without his capture weapon, Bakugou without his anger. Midoriya and his Quirk were simply a fact of life. Who would he be if he wasn’t the kid determined to be a hero, no matter what the world threw at him? Without that steeled resolve in his eyes, the smile on his face?
Hitoshi had heard before that Midoriya’s Quirk came in late. But a later bloomer meant five or six. He could even buy seven or eight.
But after thirteen? It was unheard of.
“Midoriya. Where I’m from, you definitely have a Quirk.” One of the most powerful Quirks he’d ever seen. Multiple Quirks, too. Hitoshi bit his lip as he thought. If Midoriya didn’t have a Quirk, was he really in the past?
“Really?” Midoriya asked with a sniffle.
“Yeah.” Hitoshi frowned. Home, suddenly, felt a lot further away than it had a moment ago.
“If you’re being honest, then you probably came to an alternate world. Not your past.”
“Yeah.” Hitoshi had come to that realization at the same time.
“I don’t know if I can help you figure out how the Quirk that sent you here works. There are too many variables,” he said and shouldered his backpack. “I mean, in the same world, the rules would have to be pretty clear-cut. If it was a time travel Quirk, and if you could really change the past if you’re under its influence, then that Quirk would be supremely powerful. The user would probably be a pro-hero, or under the Hero Commission in some way. Something like that would be too powerful to let go unchecked. Unless it was a kid, whose Quirk had just manifested, but the chances of getting caught in that are pretty unrealistic. Universe travel, on the other hand, is something completely different. But it’s obviously not a one-to-one exchange, because you think you’re in the past. Something that powerful, though, should still be well-known. Or at least known in some way. Unless I’m coming at this all wrong…”
Hitoshi nodded along as Midoriya mumbled. It was good to hear him do something other than cry and doubt himself and everything he was saying, though it didn’t bring Hitoshi any closer to a solution, did at least give him some insight into his situation.
“Midoriya, I think this is above our paygrade,” Hitoshi said.
“We get paid?”
“No, we don’t.”
“Oh.” Midoriya shifted on the spot. “Then yeah, I guess it is.”
“I should’ve gone to the pros in the first place.” Hitoshi shrugged, trying to play it off. By coming to Midoriya, he’d just dug himself into a deeper hole. Now, he’d have to explain his failure to fix the problem too.
“Sorry I couldn’t help.”
“It’s not your fault. I should’ve realized.” Hitoshi gave Midoriya one last appraising look. It couldn’t have been easy for him, not in this world. Being Quirkless wasn’t exactly uncommon in his grandparents’ generation. Even for people his parents’ age, it wasn’t unheard of. But now? The numbers had to be closer to 98% of people being born with Quirks. It couldn’t have been easy for this Midoriya.
“Good luck,” he said. “I hope you make it back to your world.”
“Um, before you go, can I ask you your Quirk? If you’re a UA student, it must be impressive.”
Hitoshi frowned. His new class might’ve been more accepting of his Quirk than anyone had been in Jr. High—which made sense, considering a number of them had strange Quirks of their own—and Midoriya was no exception to that. Still, though, the thought of sharing his Quirk with someone unfamiliar made his heartbeat start to quicken, his skin grow cold, and his hands become clammy.
“It’s brainwashing,” Hitoshi finally said. “I can ask a question and if the target answers, I can get them to do what I tell them to do. Only works for simple tasks.” For now, at least. The more he’d been training, the more he’d been purposely putting in the effort, without fear, to direct his Quirk, the more complicated instructions he’d been able to give.
Midoriya said nothing. He only stared.
Hitoshi swallowed. In his ears, blood started to pound. This Midoriya, a Quirkless Midoriya, might be more hesitant than the Midoriya from his world. How long would it be before he hurled the words villain, freak, monster at him?
“Woah.” Midoriya pulled his backpack higher. “That’s an amazing Quirk! Mental types are super rare. Something like that, it’d be so useful. You’ll make the billboard in no time, considering how easily you could resolve conflicts with no collateral. Wait—but if you need them to answer you, then it would probably make more sense if you were an underground hero, I guess. So cool. Underground heroes are undervalued, I think, because their Quirks tend to be less showy. Makes them better at strategy too.”
Hitoshi shrugged. “I guess.” His cheeks warmed with a flush in spite of himself. Of course, Midoriya would be Midoriya no matter where he went.
“Um, before you leave, can I ask you one more question?”
“Where you’re from, what’s my Quirk? Is it telekinesis, like my mom’s?”
Telekinesis? The thought of Midoriya having telepathy on top of his already stacked powerhouse Quirk caught Hitoshi off guard. He’d assumed it was a Todoroki type situation—one of Midoriya’s parents had something strength related and the other had Black Whip. Or something else that let him harness energy in a strange way. Midoriya always had been so tight-lipped on the exact nature of it all. “Uh—no.”
“Oh. So it must be something fire-related, then. Like my Dad.”
“Fire?” Hitoshi couldn’t make any sense of it. Maybe in his world, something had been different with Midoriya’s parents’ Quirks. That was the only way the equation would add up. “No, Midoriya. You’re a strength type, as far as I know at least. You’ve described it as energy stockpiling, but the energy manifests in unique ways. Some of it is super strength. Other times, it comes out as these… Black Whip, you call it. I’m not sure how to explain it, really.”
“Woah. I must be crazy powerful.” His eyes widen, shining slightly, and Hitoshi can’t help but feel a little bad. Was it a kindness or crime to tell Midoriya what he might’ve been, if only he’d been born in a different world? Quirkless kids had it tough enough. Would knowing that somewhere, in some life, he was a hero make it easier for this Midoriya? Or would it only taunt him with what might’ve been?
Hitoshi closed his eyes for a moment. “You are powerful. Enormously so.”
“Yeah. So much so you caught the attention of All Might.”
“ALL—ALL MIGHT?” Midoriya started. He sputtered and teared up and opened his mouth to say something else, but whatever it was, Hitoshi never got to hear it.
Somewhere in his core, something hooked in deep and solid. Without warning, his whole body was yanked backward. A fish on a line.
The darkness swallowed him whole.
For the second time of the day, Hitoshi landed on hard ground. He sputtered and coughed and pushed himself to his feet—if his (albeit short) time in the hero course had taught him anything, it was that being down leads to being dead.
Except when he glances around, he’s not in the middle of a battlefield. He’s in the mall. The same one he’d been in before he got yanked into a different world.
A police officer stood to his right and Aizawa to his left. In between them, seated on a mall bench with a shopping bag, was a sobbing young girl. Couldn’t be more than thirteen or fourteen with her hair in twin braids.
“Shinsou,” Aizawa said. “Welcome back.”
Hitoshi blinked. He lowered his arms, which he’d raised to protect himself on instinct.
“You were caught in a Quirk accident,” supplied the officer. “Are you alright?”
Hitoshi considered. Nothing hurt, at least not that he could tell. Aside from some shortness of breath from his hard landing, he was fine. “I’m good,” he said.
“You sure?” Aizawa asked.
Hitoshi nodded and dusted off his pants.
“If you’re lying, I’ll drag you to the hospital myself.”
“I’m alright, Sensei,” he promised. “Just confused.”
“I can imagine.”
The girl on the bench sniffled. “I’m sorry!” she said. “I—I didn’t mean to use my Quirk. It was just loud in here and so confusing and I got angry…” Her throat bobbed and she continued to stare at her mucky off-white running shoes. “I didn’t mean to use my Quirk. I really didn’t mean to get anyone else caught up in it.”
Hitoshi nodded slowly. The concern in her voice was genuine. And, though most people had a stronger grip on their Quirk by her age, Hitoshi can remember the sting of the times he’d been young and emotional and his own control had slipped. The memory of one of his first teacher’s eyes going glassy after he’d asked a simple question about a worksheet still rattles around in his head.
“No harm, no foul,” Hitoshi said. “Mistakes happen. But it might be best of you to train more. Get a handle on that.”
She nodded furiously. “Yes, yes. Of course.”
“She came to your friends immediately. You can thank Midoriya for contacting me,” Aizawa said.
Of course, I can. Hitoshi nodded and pushed his hands deeper into his pockets. Midoriya always was the hero. Even considering the world he’d just seen, it was hard to imagine a world where he wasn’t a hero in one way or another.
“Your friends are back at the dorms. I’m sure they’ll be eager to hear from you.”
Hitoshi eyed the girl. She’d stopped sobbing, now, but still wiped at her eyes. Crying teens seemed to be the theme of the day, it seemed.
“Her mother is on her way to pick her up,” the officer said. “You two are free to go. And you have my contact information if anything escalates.”
Hitoshi nodded again. Aizawa said something else to the officer, but Hitoshi tuned it out. Through the domed glass roof, the angle of the sun was clearly lower than it had been when he left, but not by much. In the other world, he’d be there for what? Three hours? Four? In his head, everything was still muddled.
Aizawa clapped him on the shoulder. “Never thought you’d be in the running for Problem Child of the week.”
Hitoshi shrugged and, in spite of himself, he couldn’t hold back his grin. “I had to change it up for you. You must get bored, constantly dealing with Midoriya, Bakugou, and Todoroki.”
Aizawa didn’t warrant that with a response, but as they made their way to the taxi line, Hitoshi swore he could see a smile tugging at the corners of Aizawa’s mouth.
The cab ride back to UA wasn’t long, but the car was cool with the blast of AC and the sun was still bright outside and, against his will, Hitoshi’s eyelids grew heavy.
“Sorry,” he mumbled to Aizawa as he yawned and stretched. Was it rude to fall asleep in the middle of a cab ride with your teacher after they already went out of their way on their day off to look after you? Probably.
The least Hitoshi could do was keep him company until they got back to the dorms.
“It’s alright. I’d rather you rest now and not during class.”
Hitoshi hummed in agreement. “I could probably go to sleep the moment I’m back and stay passe out till the next morning.”
“If that’s what you need. It’s not every day you get thrown through time.”
Hitoshi started to nod, but as the words sank in, he stilled. Time? “Um, what was that? I didn’t hear you.”
“You got dragged back in time and then forward again. There’s no shame in admitting you need some extra rest.”
Hitoshi’s head reeled. He tapped his finger against the door, trying to parse out how it all worked. “Sensei,” he said slowly. “Do you have the exact details of that girl’s Quirk?”
“Why—is something wrong?” Aizawa’s back straightened and he turned to Hitoshi head-on, his seatbelt twisting as he moved.
“No—no. Just curious, that’s all.”
“Hm.” Aizawa relaxed again. “The officer has the full details. I can request them if you want. But the gist of it is that it’s time-related. She can send someone back into a projection of the past.”
“Yes. Unfortunately, it can’t be used to effect any real change; it only works to look back. Like watching old videos, she said.”
“But it was real, what I saw?”
“From what she described, it sounds like it should be.”
“Hm.” Hitoshi drummed his fingers against his leg. That was real, then. Midoriya really was a late, late bloomer.
And had somehow manifested a Quirk unlike either of his parents.
Either of those alone would be strange enough, but combined? It made Hitoshi’s head ache.
To make matters worse, the cab rounded a corner and prompt came to a stop. With the time of day they’d manage to hit, they were now trying to merge onto an overpass in the middle of rush hour traffic.
Traffic that was currently at a standstill. Hitoshi leaned back, groaned, and let the smell of air freshener and hot leather fill his nose.
“You know, I won’t fault you if you want to catch some sleep,” Aizawa said.
Ten minutes later, when they’d only moved forward a single car’s length, he changed his mind.
Within seconds of giving in, he was out.
Despite having caught a cat-nap in the cab, exhaustion still worked its way deep into Hitoshi’s bones when he got back to the dorms. Any rest he’d gotten was immediately negated as his classmates swarmed around him, begging to know what had happened.
It took him a good twenty minutes (and some help from Yaoyorozu) to get everyone to clear off enough that he could slink back to his dorm in peace.
“If you say you’re alright,” said Uraraka as Hitoshi climbed the stairs.
“Let us know if you die in your sleep!” Kaminiari added.
But as tired as Hitoshi was, sleep wouldn’t come. He’d tried turning his fan to the highest level and had flopped into about every position that his twin bed would allow. Still, he couldn’t quiet his racing mind.
Midoriya, Midoriya, Midoriya.
He turned the name over and over in his head.
Hitoshi had to be honest, part of the reason he’d disliked Midoriya at first was because of how easily he’d defeated him at the first sport’s festival. Hitoshi was certain he’d make a splash, then. That he’d catch some attention and slide easily into the hero course.
Of course, he’d gotten to the hero course eventually. The ego check was probably needed, too. But he was still a year behind his classmates and, to top it all off, he’d never been able to figure out how Midoriya broke the brainwashing without any outside interference. No one else had ever been able to that.
Hotishi rolled onto his back and shifted his against his pillow.
None of it made sense! Midoriya couldn’t have had his Quirk for more than a year at the absolute most when he started at UA.
How did he get a Quirk like his strength? Like Black Whip?
Hitoshi balled his blanket his fist and rolled to his side once more. It was like Midoriya had just stepped into someone else’s life…
Or someone else’s Quirk.
The realization sunk slowly into Hitoshi’s stomach at first. No. Not Midoriya. He couldn’t have.
Hitoshi’s heart matched the pace of his thoughts.
No. It couldn’t be. Hitoshi had to be wrong.
But, in the dead of night, curled in his bed, there was only one answer that he could think of that would make sense to the problem. And it was a simple answer, at that. One that didn’t allow for exceptions or loopholes or left anything out.
Midoriya, out of nowhere, went from Quirkless to having a powerful Quirk. Multiple powerful Quirks. Quirks that didn’t match either of his parents.
On the other side of the city, underground and locked away, was a villain who could give people Quirks. A villain who built his whole reputation by taking and giving Quirks.
It couldn’t be. Hitoshi rolled over again and lay flat on his stomach, burying his face in his pillow.
He hated how much sense it made.
Hitoshi, as with most decisions in his life, gave himself a day to turn it over. Everything always seemed a little worse in the dead of night; he needed sleep and food and water to clear his head.
But the night passed with little sleep and the next morning at breakfast he couldn’t force any more than a half a bowl of plain oatmeal into the twisted knot that was his stomach. Stupidly, he’d also opted for coffee instead of water.
As he sat in the homeroom of 2A, he shook in his seat.
“You okay dude?” Kaminari asked from behind him.
Hitoshi only nodded.
Throughout the day, he tried to clear his head. Think with logic, not emotions. But the halls of a high school weren’t exactly the best place to cultivate anything close to a logical response to his dilemma.
If anything, he only dug himself deeper and deeper into his hole.
The problem had started with Midoriya’s Quirk.
When he headed off the field after Heroics, he couldn’t help but notice who stayed back to talk to All Might.
The problem grew. It wasn’t just the Quirk, it was his obsession with the former number one hero too. It went beyond admiration or hero-worship. It was borderline stalkerish, if Hitoshi was being honest.
And, above everything else, it fit the theory. If Midoriya had gotten his power from All for One, it made perfect sense why he was always saddling up to All Might’s side. Was there a simpler, more perfect way to gather information? At the end of the day, the teachers at UA were all too happy to help the students—damned what they might give away about themselves in the process.
Vaguely, Hitoshi remembered something at the beginning of his first year about the fact that there might be a traitor in the midst of 1-A. As far as he recalled, nothing ever came out of that, but the fact still remained that Class 1-A had been attacked twice by high-profile villains who in all likelihood had insider information before their first year was halfway through.
Albeit it died down after the summer camp attack, but was that on account of All Might’s retirement? Had the goal been reached? Had it become too obvious?
Hitoshi swallowed the lump in his throat as he began to strip out of his sweaty gym gear. Somewhere next to him, the rest of the boys were yelling about who’d gotten the best score in the combat training, but Hitoshi couldn’t bring himself to join in.
The attacks only stopped when All for One got put away again.
Hitoshi hated it. Every last bit of it. He wanted nothing more than for it all to go away, than for it all to be something he could laugh off as a momentary lapse in judgement.
“Oof.” As Hitoshi had turned, he’d run into a brick wall.
A brick wall named Midroyia.
“Shinsou! I’m sorry!” His eyes widened in shock.
Hitoshi rubbed his arm. His mouth was too dry for this. “It’s fine,” he said. “I should’ve been watching where I was going.”
“I was rushing too,” Midroyia added. “I spent too long talking to All Might about adjusting shoot style and I didn’t want to be late to English again.”
Hitoshi nodded, though he felt numb. Traitortraitortraitor, whispered a voice inside his head.
The ugly word didn’t fit the softness of Midoriya’s face.
“Present Mic told me he’d make me sing an English pop song in front of the whole class if I kept showing up late. Can you believe it?” Midoriya asked as he shrugged off his gym clothes and slipped into his shirt. “Part of me thinks that he’s bluffing, but if there was ever a teacher who would do that it would be Present Mic. And I really don’t want to put that to the test, you know?”
“Yeah.” Hitoshi couldn’t move. The rest of the class was already done, it seemed, and filtering out of the changeroom, leaving him and Midoriya alone. Would Midoriya notice anything was off?
“I’ll wait for you,” Hitoshi added. “We’ll walk together. I’ll take the blame from Present Mic if he’s upset. “
“I couldn’t let you do that.” Midoriya twisted his tie into something vaguely resembling a knot. “But I appreciate the offer.”
Hitoshi studied Midoriya as he shrugged on his jacket. Midoriya—always the hero.
Usually, Hitoshi liked to think he had good gut instincts. Nothing about Midoriya set off any alarms, feeling-wise, when he was around him.
But wouldn’t that be the point? To pick someone to infiltrate UA who was as far from a villain as could be? If All for One had picked someone like Hitoshi to carry out the play, the gambit would’ve been over as soon as the first move had been made. But with sunny, bright, bold Midoriya…
“Hey,” Hitoshi said. “Thank you for calling Aizawa, yesterday. I appreciate it.”
“Oh! Of course—it was no problem.” Midoriya walked next to Hitoshi as they left the changeroom and headed toward the hallway to Mic’s classroom. Thankfully, they still had a few minutes to get there, but the hall had mostly emptied by now.
“You gave us a good scare. I mean, that Quirk…”
Hitoshi glanced at Midoriya out of the corner of his eyes. “You’re curious about how it works, aren’t you?”
Midoriya blushed and brushed the back of his neck. “Well, yeah. If you don’t mind sharing.”
Hitoshi stilled for a fraction of a moment. Was that part of it all too? Was his Quirk analysis something darker than an intellectual curiosity? For all Hitoshi knew, Midoriya could be gathering all kinds of data on the best Quirks to steel.
“Only if you want to share, of course. If you don’t want to talk about it, I understand—”
“It’s fine,” Hitoshi said with a shrug. “It sent me a few years back. The worst part is that it was Autumn and I was only in my t-shirt.”
“Oh! That’s not too bad. If there aren’t any side effects, that could be a really useful Quirk.”
Hitoshi forced himself not to react to that. “It’s just a construct of the past, apparently. Not the real thing.”
“Hmm, that makes sense. Things might fall apart really fast if there was a Quirk that actually let you change the past. I mean, Sir Nighteye was powerful enough with only glimpses of the future. If someone knew the entire future, they could change so much in the past.”
“Yeah.” Hitoshi paused as they reached Mic’s class. They still had a minute before the bell rang. “Midoriya. I should tell you this—in the past, I went looking for you.”
“Me? But—but that makes no sense! Why me?”
“Because you’re the best at Quirk analysis. I figured you could help me figure out what got me thrown back.”
“Ah.” Again, colour rose in Midoriya’s cheeks. “Thanks, Shinsou. You didn’t need my help in the end, though.”
“You gave me some answers.” And gave me a dozen new questions. “But, Midoriya, did you really used to be Quirkless?”
His eyes widened and, on account of Hitoshi’s reliably rotten luck, the bell rang at that moment. “I guess you could say I was a late bloomer,” Midoriya muttered as he stepped in front of Hitoshi and yanked open the classroom door.
The door swung shut without an answer.
Hitoshi balled his hand into a fist. Maybe it wasn’t without an answer. Silence, after all, was an answer too.
After English, his classmates lingered in the halls before making their way to the dorms. Hitoshi stayed back. He took an extra long time packing his bag and then asked Present Mic a grammar question to which he already knew the answer.
It bought him time.
When he finally walked out into the hallway, the rest of the class had cleared out. Instead of going to the dorms, Hitoshi made his way straight to his homeroom.
His heart raced as he lingered outside the door. There were still a few upperclassmen mulling in the hallway, all deep in their own conversation, but he still couldn’t shake the feeling that all eyes were on him.
Hitoshi knocked on the door before he could talk himself out of it.
A moment later, the door swung open. Aizawa looked more tired, more drained than he had that morning. Past him, a mountain of paper pilled up on his desk.
“Shinsou,” he said. “Come by to bother me again?”
Hitoshi shook his head. “Sensei, I need to talk to you.”
The edge of humour that had traced Aizawa’s face died and decayed into seriousness. “Of course. Come in.”
Hitoshi followed him into the room. He twisted his fingers together and closed his eyes. Why was he so nervous? Heroes shouldn’t be this shaky.
“Is everything alright?”
“And don’t say you’re fine.”
Hitoshi opened his eyes. Aizawa half-stood, half-leaned against his desk, his arms crossed and a frowned etched into his features.
“I’m not injured,” Hitoshi added quickly. “I—I need to tell you something. I’m not sure if it’s real or not—everything I’ve found is circumstantial at best—and I don’t want it to be true. I really don’t. But I couldn’t live with myself if it did turn out to be true and I did nothing to stop it.”
“Alright.” If Aizawa was surprised, he didn’t show it. “Take a deep breath first.”
Hitoshi did as instructed. It helped, slightly, and cleared some of the dread.
“What’s going on?”
“Yesterday, when I got sent back to the past, I went to find Midoriya. I figured if anyone could figure out what sort of Quirk sent me there, it would be him.”
“You didn’t come to see us?”
And there it was. Hitoshi’s face burned; he ducked his head and avoided Aizawa’s gaze. “I didn’t want to cause problems,” he muttered and readied himself for a lecture about trusting adults and how to properly deal with problems.
“This is what we’re here for, you know,” Aizawa said after a moment. “We understand accidents happen. You don’t have to carry the weight on your own. Though I do admire the initiative you took in solving the problem; going to Midoriya was a smart choice.”
Hitoshi couldn’t address the first part of that. His chest tightened and his words caught in his throat. He could only hesitate. “About Midoriya… Sensei, did you know he used to be Quirkless?”
Aizawa frowned. “I’m aware he was a late bloomer.”
“The Midoriya I met was thirteen and he still didn’t have a Quirk.”
A strange expression crossed Aizawa’s face. It was somewhere between confusion and surprise. Granted, any outright expression tended to look strange on Aizawa, with how little he showed his own feelings.
“That would certainly explain a few things about the start of last year.”
Hitoshi nodded. “He didn’t get either of his parents’ Quirks—I thought I’d gone to an alternate world, not to the past. His mother has telekinesis and his father can breathe fire.”
It was hard to tell from Aizawa’s mass of hair, but it looked as if he lifted an eyebrow.
“Sensei,” Hitoshi said, balling his fists and gathering his courage, “I don’t want to believe this, but the only way that this makes sense to me is if Midoriya was given that Quirk. And the only person I know of who could do that would be All for One.”
Aizawa then did something that Hitoshi had never heard a teacher do before—he swore. He pressed his fingers against the bridge of his nose and shook his head.
His Adam’s Apple bobbed. “Thank you for telling me,” he said. “You did the right thing.”
Hitoshi nodded. Part of him had wanted Aizawa to tell him that he was being ridiculous, that he was overreacting, that he just needed to calm down and get on with his day. Because, if Aizawa did that, it would mean that Midoriya was safe after all.
“Would you be willing to tell Principal Nezu what you just told me?”
Aizawa gave him a curt nod. “Are you okay to go now?”
Hitoshi felt a drop of sweat trickle down his neck. “Sure,” he said, feeling anything but.
In the hard-backed chair of Nezu’s office, Shinsou spilled out exactly what he’d told Aizawa shortly before. It felt both worse (knowing, now, that it was in fact serious and escalating) and easier (with Aizawa’s calming presence at his side).
Nezu nodded along to the story, his hands bundled on his desk.
“You did the right thing by coming forward with this,” Nezu said when Hitoshi finished. “But I can assure you that you have nothing to worry about when it comes to Midoriya.”
The answer was so fast, so sure, so certain. Principal Nezu didn’t doubt Midoriya. Not for a second. He couldn’t even consider it.
Hitoshi’s mouth felt dry. He pressed his palms against his pants and hoped that the sweat wasn’t noticeable when he pulled them away.
Why hadn’t Hitoshi felt the same way about his classmate?
“Oh,” Hitoshi said. He imagined himself shrinking away and disappearing on the spot. A Quirk like Hagakure’s would come in handy at the moment—the last thing Hitoshi needed was both his mentor and principal seeing his face redden and his palms sweat and hear his voice crack away. “Should I—I guess I should leave, then.”
“If there’s nothing else you would like to discuss, you can head back to the dorms. Aizawa can escort you, but I’d like to speak with him alone later, too.”
Aizawa nodded curtly. Hitoshi hadn’t paid much attention to him, but now that he did, he could see there was something unreadable on his face. His lips were tight, his eyes narrowed. Was he confused as well? Whatever it was, Aizawa might’ve been just as out of the loop as Hitoshi was. It wasn’t much, but it was a small comfort.
“I’ll see you soon,” Aizawa said to Nezu. He stood and turned and gestured to the door with his chin. “Let’s head back.”
Hitoshi nodded, still numb. As he followed Aizawa the world around him blurred and twisted together, leaving only a narrow tunnel of his vision. Vaguely, Hitoshi could hear his shoes falling on the tile floor. He shoved his hands in his pockets and swallowed a lump in his throat. Something in his ears buzzed away.
How had he doubted Midoriya like that? Was Hitoshi really so off base about it all? Why was he suspicious about everything and everyone when the rest of his class wasn’t? Could he ever really be a hero if he couldn’t trust the people by his side—the people who were supposed to be helping him along the way?
He blinked. Aizawa was staring at him.
They’d stepped outside of UA without Hitoshi registering where they were. The dorms weren’t far ahead now and the thought of having to go in and see his class, see Midoriya, sat like a rock in his stomach.
“Shinsou,” Aizawa continued, “you did nothing wrong, you know.”
Hitoshi nodded dully. That felt like far from the truth.
“You did the right thing, knowing what you knew. If I was in your situation, I would’ve done the same thing. In hero work, you can’t afford to take chances like that. Would you have forgiven yourself if you’d kept quiet and something had gone wrong?”
“No,” Hitoshi mumbled, unsure if the question was rhetorical or not.
“Exactly. You did the best you could with limited information. That’s all you can do. It never changes—even when you graduate, when you go pro, there will be times when you have to make hard choices. Choices where it feels like there’s no way to win. And I wish I could tell you it will get easier, but it never does. You do the best you can in the moment and that’s all that matters.”
Hitoshi nodded again. “Thank you, sir.” The speech was heartfelt, so much moreso than Aizawa usually was, but it did little to quell the anxiety twisting in Hitoshi’s core like a brewing storm.
“Get some rest when you get back. I can speak with the other teachers if you need an extra day for any of your homework.”
Hitoshi shook his head. “It’s fine. I finished most of it already.” And the work he hadn’t yet completed would be a welcome distraction.
“Good. Shinsou,” Aizawa said. He stopped for a moment, pushing his hands in his pockets and looking down through his capture weapon. “There are also times in hero work where you might never get the whole picture. There are many things that are classified, or operate on a need-to-know basis. I also wish I could tell you it gets easier to adjust to the fact that you might not have the whole picture.”
“It doesn’t, does it?”
Aizawa. “If anything, it gets worse.”
“Thanks for the motivational speech, Sensei.”
It was hard to tell through the cords of white cloth, but Hitoshi was sure that the corners of Aizawa’s mouth quirked upward.
After Aizawa made sure Hitoshi was settled back in the dorm, he’d taken off back to speak with Nezu. At that point, the rest of the class was scattered between activities—some were working on their latest English project, a few were in the kitchen attempting to bake, and a few more were out back, training away.
Hitoshi ignored them all. Kaminari called something as he climbed the stairs, but Hitoshi brushed it off in favour of making it to his room as quickly as he possibly could. Once in, he locked the door, pulled out his homework, and sat at his desk with his eyes glued to the pages of math problems in front of him.
The numbers blurred together.
Hitoshi bit his lip.
He’d assumed Midoriya was somehow connected to villains just because there were some oddities with his Quirk.
He’d done to Midoriya exactly what every other kid in elementary school and junior high had done to him. How often had Hitoshi hid in bathrooms, or behind bushes, or rushed home while his eyes burned because of what his classmates had said to him?
Villain. Freak. Monster. It shouldn’t bother him, not anymore. Hitoshi was in the hero course—why should he care about names people called him at ten? Or how no one would sit near him at lunch when he was thirteen? Or how, when he was seven, the kids at school pretended he didn’t exist for an entire month after they found out his Quirk could only work if they responded to his questions?
The memory of asking his classmates what page they were on, or what the homework was, or even how they’d spent their weekends only to be met with stiff silence flared to life in his mind.
How was Hitoshi any different than the rest of them?
He wiped his eyes and kicked his backpack over on the floor and watched the pages spill out.
Hitoshi didn’t know how long he stayed up in his room, locked away. At some point, his stomach rumbled. Tokoyami knocked on his door and told him the rest of the class was eating—Hitoshi muttered something about working on a project until he finally went away. Outside his window, the world darkened.
Hitoshi still couldn’t get the spiral of thoughts to ease out of his mind. He couldn’t focus on his homework. He tried reading the latest volume of manga—the one Sero kept begging him to borrow when he finished reading because it was sold out everywhere else—but he couldn’t take in more than a few panels before he ended up setting the book down and stewing over his thoughts again. He’d even attempted to follow along with one of the workout videos Ashido swore by, but the instructor’s cheery voice just made Hitoshi feel even worse.
In the end, Hitoshi settled for curling up under the blankets of his bed with his music blasting and staring at the wall. He couldn’t have slept, even if he wanted to—his mind was wired and alive and sparking with thoughts.
What made him different from any of his childhood bullies? He’d been just as judgmental, just as quick to doubt someone because of their Quirk as they had been.
Hitoshi clutched his free pillow to his chest. How could he call himself a hero? He’d worked so, so hard to get into the class. He’d trained and practiced and, still, he couldn’t close the gap between himself and the rest of the class.
Was he really cut out to be a hero?
Hitoshi didn’t know what time it was when someone knocked on his door. It had to be late—the rest of the dorm had grown quiet long ago.
He rolled in his bed, not quite awake but not asleep either, and hoped whoever it was would leave him alone.
The knock sounded again.
Hitoshi wrenched his eyes open and rubbed away the dampness in the corners. “I’m trying to sleep,” he muttered.
“Shinsou? Can we talk?”
That pulled Hitoshi to his sense immediately. “Midoriya?”
“Yeah. It’s me.”
Hitoshi couldn’t move. Nezu couldn’t have told him. Could he? Aizawa would never.
Ohgodohgodohgod. Hitoshi was going to be sick. It was bad enough he’d doubted his classmate, but to have Midoriya know about it? “It’s not a good time,” he said through the door.
“I’m not mad or anything. I just want to talk. To explain.”
Hitoshi sat up and ran his hands through his hair, straightening it out as best he could. Clearly, Midoriya wasn’t going to be deterred. He crossed the room and opened his door a crack.
Midoriya’s round and bright eyes greeted him. To his credit, he really didn’t look mad. If anything, he looked sheepish. “Can I come in?”
Hitoshi nodded and stepped aside to let Midoriya come in. He hovered in the centre of the room, looking unsure about what to do next.
“You can sit,” Hitoshi said, gesturing to the desk chair while he sat on the edge of his bed. Hitoshi pressed his palms against his cheeks in hopes to hide half his face.
In the desk chair, Midoriya squirmed. The whole chair rotated with him. It looked ridiculous—how could have Hitoshi ever have imagined this kid with wild green hair and eyes to rival a puppy’s and t-shirts that read ‘t-shirt’ could’ve been a threat?
“So.” Midoriya gripped the armrests. He looked at his feet for a moment before finding Hitoshi’s gaze. “Um, All Might told me what happened.”
All Might? Hitoshi’s heart squeezed. They’d told All Might what he’d brought up?
Even though Hitoshi had always been one to admire the underground heroes more as a kid (strength Quirks were so boring), he’d also been a kid at the height of All Might’s popularity. No hero-hopeful could ignore how purely iconic the hero was.
And now he probably thought Hitoshi was just as narrow-minded and judgmental as everyone else when it came to Quirks. Great.
He shook his head. “Sorry. I missed that. I, uh, I just didn’t know that All Might had been told about what happened.” Hitoshi balled his fists together and took a breath. If he was going to say it at all, he had to say it now. “Midoriya, I’m sorry about everything. I—I shouldn’t have judged you based on your Quirk. I jumped to conclusions.”
Midoriya swivelled in the chair some more. His cheeks flushed red. “Please don’t apologize. You did what anyone else in your situation would’ve done. I mean, what were you supposed to think? What else were you supposed to do?”
Hitoshi tried to answer, but he couldn’t find any words.
“I wanted to talk to you. I wanted to tell you this—I’ve wanted to tell the whole class this for a while, actually—but I think that you should know now. Considering everything that happened.
“Bakugou, Todoroki, and Uraraka know already. I’m also planning on telling Tsu and Iida before I tell the rest of the class.”
Hitoshi cocked his head, curious. What was Midoriya talking about?
“You were kind of right, in a way. My Quirk isn’t natural. It was passed on to me. But not by All for One—not by the Kamino Ward villain.” He gripped the armrests so tightly his knuckles were white. Midoriya looked up at Hitoshi from under his green fringe. “My power is called One for All. It’s not just strength, or black whip, or anything else. It’s a stockpiling Quirk that’s been passed along from one generation to the next. I’m the ninth holder. And it was passed on to me by All Might.”
Hitoshi blinked. “Midoriya.”
“What the fuck?”
Midoriya went back and started at the beginning. He spilled everything to Hitoshi—growing up, meeting All Might, training, getting his power. The other powers were new; not even All Might had been able to access them.
“There are bad things coming,” Midoriya said. “And I still don’t understand this power. Not completely. But it seems like whatever is coming, I’ll need every last ounce of strength I can muster. And, if we want to win, we need people like you, too.”
Hitoshi felt his face warm. “Midoriya.”
“I’m serious. But, uh, yeah. That’s the gist of it.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “Sorry. This is only the second time I’ve told someone the whole story voluntarily. I might still need to work at it.”
Hitoshi nodded slowly, turning the whole thing over in his mind. “So,” he said, “you really did grow up Quirkless then?”
“Yeah,” Midoriya answered, his voice soft and distant.
“That couldn’t have been easy.” The only thing worse than a kid with a strange Quirk was a kid with no Quirk at all.
“There were… difficult times. Yeah.”
Hitoshi bet that wasn’t the half of it, but he wasn’t about to press. “Midoriya. I—I still owe you an apology. I assumed that everything had always been easy for you, all because of your Quirk. I never thought—I never imagined…” Hitoshi couldn’t find the right words to finish the sentence.
“It’s okay. You didn’t know. No one really did. That was sort of the whole point.” He shrugged and smiled and, for the first time, Hitoshi thought he could understand Midoriya a little better. His drive, his struggles, his determination. How had Hitoshi missed it before? In retrospect, it seemed obvious there was more to the story than he imagined.
“But know that you know, I was thinking maybe we could train together sometime? There’s something odd about your power—not that your Quirk is odd!—but it just reacts oddly with mine. I think it could be worth exploring.”
Hitoshi took all of Midoriya in. With the lingering resentment gone, it was easy to see how none of his classmates could resist his friendship. “Yeah,” he said. “That sounds good.”
Midoriya pumped his fist. “Great! I’ll talk to All Might. We can probably get a gym to practice in sometime soon, but we can figure that out tomorrow. I should probably get back to my own dorm before someone figures out we’re breaking curfew.”
Hitoshi nodded as Midoriya stood to leave. “Wait, one last thing—how did you get All Might’s Quirk? You didn’t mention how that actually worked.” The detail seemed a little odd, especially considering how much Midoriya was fascinated by absolutely every other part of Quirks.
“Oh.” His face turned scarlet. “That’s, um, that’s a really boring and totally normal detail. Goodnight!”
With that, the door slammed shut.
Oh well, Hitoshi thought as he flicked off his light and crawled back in his bed, feeling lighter. The storm in his core had calmed. He’d have to ask Midoriya about it all in the morning.