Ignited Spark - Chapter 47 - 3PeopleInACoat - 僕のヒーローアカデミア | Boku no Hero Academia (2024)

Chapter Text

Jed'ha Island.

Over fifty years ago, when the increase of villain attacks made the mainland of Japan borderline suicide to live on, the small island was considered a safe haven for families to live. They would move to the small farming community that Jed'ha offered for work, having a small city near the coast line for them to live in, while several fields and farms could be maintained by the community. It was considered a safe place for many to raise their children, and avoid the constant battles between the struggling heroes and the never ending villains.

And for a while, it was. Until one day, almost thirty-seven years ago, when the dangers of the mainland came to their shores.

Four ferries full of survivors - perhaps holding only about fifteen hundred people of the nearly three thousand people that had lived on the island, weren't really sure what had happened. A battle had broken out between a trio of visiting heroes and what could only be guessed to be a massive entourage of villains - how else could they explain the horrible quirks they had seen in action that day that had turned the skies red, the landscape twisted into flesh-like abominations, the purple fires burning the entire city down? - and one of the heroes had gone above and beyond to get as many people out as she could. Flying them all onto the boats as fast as she could, digging them out of the rubble, holding the villains off … she had truly been a hero that day, and that was only confirmed when they had returned and found that the woman had given her life to defend them.

Slowly, over the era of peace that All Might brought when he returned to Japan, Jed'ha had been slowly rebuilt - it would never be the same as it once was, with its farmlands burned and razed and its city decimated, but they would forever honor the sacrifice that hero had committed for them in order for them to have enough time to escape.

And in order to honor her, they built a statue in their small city square. It was a little unremarkable, with no hero name explaining who she was, so many visitors and smaller children born decades after the attack were unsure of who exactly the hero was. But the gold, slightly dirty statue of a strong woman with a flowing cape and a sweet smile stood strong, with its hand positioned to tap its heart as it stared out at the distant city.

Completely unaware of the two men currently standing beneath it, staring up at her grinning face.

"I'll be honest," Gran Torino, despite the gruffness in his voice, smiled, "she'd probably hate this thing with every fiber of her being."

"Master always hated receiving thanks, didn't she?" All Might felt his heart hurt looking up at her frozen, smiling face, but he also smiled from the nostalgia.

"Meh, I think it was less 'hatred' and more 'too humble for her own good'." Gran shook his head. "She didn't get into hero work for the glory - she just wanted to help, and she was absolutely terrible with gratitude. You should've seen her one time, when one family we saved kept thanking her over and over while hugging her - she looked like she was either trying to swallow her tongue, or resist flying right out of there."

All Might laughed.

"Remind me, sensei, did she even have a hero license?"

"Ha! No, she wasn't as patient as I was," Gran grinned a bit from the memory, "she didn't even bother to think up a hero name - apparently, that's what she and her idiot grandson have in common, they're both awful at picking names. 'Nana' and 'Tenko' … morons, both of them."

Shaking his head, All Might all but forced himself to turn away from the statue, or else he'd have been tempted to look at it all day long. At the current moment, the sun was continuing to set in the distance, casting the city in a warm orange glow as they both turned in the direction of the hotel that they had stayed in, so many years ago. They would've assumed that it was reduced to rubble during All For One's attack, but according to a tourist pamphlet nearby, the building had been rebuilt soon after the villain attacks, and that meant that they still had a bit of a walk to do to get there and find the thing that Nana … or rather, whatever it was that All Might had seen last night … wanted them to find.

Behind them, as All Might glanced around, he felt a bit of relief that their … other travel companions weren't really questioning the reasons why they were on this island. While Melissa was still looking a tad bit confused, she was keeping herself busy by entertaining Eri, the little girl having been in a strange mood all day long, as though she had a headache (and was trying not to be touched by anyone) as they both played in the nearby park with Gūdo, who was happily racing after a tennis ball that Melissa was throwing for him to chase. Star and Stripe, meanwhile, was happily signing autographs for several bright eyed civilians, laughing mightily as she did so - she was, of course, the one who insisted on bringing everyone over on her jet when she heard that someone who worked for All Might needed her help, and had happily clapped 'Coach Yagi' on the back when she had him and the rest of their guests get on her plane. And on the other side of the plaza, both David and Rei were ordering ice cream for themselves, David rubbing the back of his head sheepfully while Rei smiled and paid the cashier for them both.

And thankfully, with Star and Stripe soaking up all of the attention, none of the citizens of Jed'ha were questioning the appearance of All Might in his weakened form, or Gran Torino in his regular civilian wear, as they both turned and started walking over towards the hotel down the ways. Walking towards … whatever it was that Nana wanted them to recover.

"So … the documents that she had been working on," All Might put his hands in his dress pants pockets as they walked towards the hotel, "she never told you what they were?"

"Nope," Gran grumbled as he tapped his cane irritably against the ground, keeping pace with his old student, "she only worked on them when she knew that I wasn't gonna be around. Smart move - she knew that I disapproved of her staying up so late to work on random gibberish, she was running herself into the ground."

"Mm …"

"But you think," The old man raised his eyebrow, "it has something to do with those 'traces' that she and Kendou saw."

All Might paused, and then let out a long sigh.

"I … do," He nodded, "I was thinking up different things that Nana would want us to recover, and … well, that's the one thing I kept coming back to."

"Well," Gran sighed, turning to look down at his feet while scowling, "unfortunately, as crazy as it might be, I'm thinking the same thing."

"You never really told me about … what she had said about them."

"Don't expect perfect recollection, we're talking about an old man's memory here," He shook his head, "but she said that she only really had a vision of those traces a few nights after she first inherited One for All. Said that she had an odd dream about a dark, fuzzy shadow in the shape of a man, standing in front of her. Just stared at her for a few seconds before it told her 'the time has not yet come'."

He let out another low sigh.

"That's about all she said about it," Gran frowned, "but I could tell that dream haunted her for years afterwards."

"'The time has not yet come'," All Might repeated, frowning, "so that would mean … whatever 'the time' is, it's going to be coming someday. Whether it has already happened to me, or … more likely, to Young Kendou."

"And that's what the … vision said to you?" Gran turned to look up at him, his voice sounding skeptical. "You have to figure out how to save Kendou?"

"I believe so. Nana's voice was …" All Might hesitated, "… it was vague, and she definitely was hurrying through the explanation. But she told me that whatever we may find here, we have to bring it to a Dr. Miles Angstrong."

"That old quack …" Gran huffed to himself, "… I'd say that I doubt he's still alive, but I know that man's curiosity will probably make him outlive the both of us. So fine - let's go get whatever she wanted us to find, and we'll start tracking down Angstrong"

Nodding in agreement, All Might continued to walk down the street towards the hotel with his old mentor, looking around at the various parks and buildings as well in order to check on their surroundings.

As the two men moved away from the plaza, behind them, David let out a small sigh as he accepted his ice cream cone from Rei, smiling in thanks, as they both turned to walk back towards the park.

"… it was just the most shocking thing," He continued to mope, "Melissa just, all of a sudden, one day told me that chocolate ice cream with sprinkles and chocolate bars tasted weird, and she didn't want to eat it anymore. Honestly, I think I was more terrified of my daughter that day than anything else since - me, with my giant ice cream cone with everything in the store on it, and my daughter with her small vanilla ice cream cone. I felt like I had failed as a parent."

Rei let out another giggle again, giving her own ice cream a small swipe with her tongue as she looked up at David.

"I have a similar story with Natsuo," She told him with a small smile, "used to love ice cream, but ever since he started going to the gym, he's treated any dessert I offer him as though I'm trying to poison him. I made some cookies a few days ago, and I have to tell you, it was so funny to watch him trying to figure out how to politely turn me down on the spot."

"Ha!" David laughed as they walked back towards the park bench together. "Sounds like Natsuo's a good kid. I've only really seen him once, though - does he not live with you?"

"Oh, he does. I just think he prefers staying at his girlfriend's."

"Aaaah, I see. And what about your daughter? Please don't tell me that she's a sweets hater, too."

"No, no, not at all. She often tells me I'm her - oh, what did she call me - her 'sweets supplier'."

David laughed again at that, and both of them moved to sit down on the bench overlooking the plaza, allowing them to look around at the park where Melissa and Eri were. Taking a moment to lick her ice cream, Rei's warm eyes swept around, a gentle smile appearing on her face as she took in the warm sunset.

"You know, this island is beautiful," She told David, "thank you for, er - inviting me to come on your little adventure."

"Oh, it's - it's no big deal," David smiled a bit bashfully, "just saw that All Might wanted - er - Coach Yagi to come look at something for him, and I thought I'd come along, just to make sure he's okay. I'm sorry if I ended up dragging you away from any of your plans tonight."

"Well," Rei shrugged, "I know that the Midoriyas and the Urarakas were heading to the Kendous tonight for dinner, but … well, I'm glad that you prevented me from being a seventh wheel. Or maybe Inko will be disappointed, I could've been her date tonight if you hadn't 'dragged me away'."

"Heh," David chuckled, going a bit red, "well, I hope that Inko can forgive me. Besides, I imagine that it would be pretty hard to turn down sharing a private jet with Star and Stripe herself."

"I'm still surprised that she was willing to come along."

"Well, it was a favor to All Might, so of course she'd agree. Trust me, though, we're lucky she decided to bring a plane along that we could all ride in - when we were coming to Japan from I-Island, I had to ride - uh - outside with her."

Rei was unable to resist giggling a little harder at the mental image of David being held under Star and Stripe's arm while they flew through the air, shaking her head as David grinned and licked at his own ice cream.

"And besides," He shrugged, his smile falling as he turned towards the park, "seeing how down Eri's been all day, I thought that - well I thought riding on a nice plane would help lift her spirits."

"Yes," Rei's gaze softened as she turned towards the park as well, "hopefully she feels better once we head back. That poor girl …"

"I'm still not really sure what's going on with her," David turned to look at where Eri had sat down on the ground, pulling at some weeds while Melissa threw the tennis ball again for Gūdo to chase after, "but I'm glad that she enjoys living with the other girls and Midoriya. I have to say, I was shocked when Melissa explained Eri's whole - uh - deal. A runaway from home?"

"Well," Rei felt her smile drop a bit, "I … do hope that she gets to have a lot of fun with your daughter, Dave, and the other girls. There's … certain parts of Eri that I can't help but recognize, and …"

She paused, however, when she realized what she was implying, and David glanced around at her in confusion. Quickly clearing her throat and going red, Rei tried to fix her smile back on her face.

"Er - anyway," She tried to divert the subject back to something lighter, "I have to say, I think your daughter's doing great with her."

"Oh, uh - y-yeah," David smiled, still a bit confused but sensing that Rei wanted to move on from that awkwardness, "she … well, I know that it's not quite the same, but … Melissa with Eri, she kind of reminds me of Roxxie."

"Roxxie?" Rei blinked, looking around at him curiously - and then she blinked at the sight of David's warm smile faltering, and his eyes turning forlorn.

"My, er …" He cleared his throat. "… my wife."

There was a pause, in which Rei's face fell. She heard the way that David's voice had caught slightly.

"I -" She immediately tried to backtrack at the obvious mistake she had made, "- I'm sorry if I asked you about something personal, Dave."

"No, no, it's alright," He shook his head, although he did lower his ice cream to turn and stare out at the plaza, his eyes growing softer, "I know that you didn't mean to."

"Right. So … er …"

"Roxxie - or Roxanne -" David chuckled at himself, "- she was my wife. But she … uh …"

There was another pause, and Rei felt her heart sink.

"Oh. Oh, I'm - I'm sorry, Dave."

"It's alright," He waved his hand, smiling sadly, "it was a really long time ago, when Melissa was really young. It was, uh … it was an accident in the lab."

Shaking his head, he looked back up at the sky.

"It's kind of odd, isn't it?" He let out a sigh. "We live in a society with heroes patrolling on every corner, and villains lurking in every shadow … and my wife lost her life because I stepped away for a few seconds. We were, uh … we were building a large engine in our lab, and she had to get up on the ladder to turn some screws. I had to check on the engine's diagnostics, so I walked over to the other side of the room to check on the computer …"

Letting out a small, shuddered sigh, he took off his glasses to wipe at his eyes.

"Next thing I knew," He shook his head, "I heard a crash. She had slipped off the ladder and hit her neck against the desk behind her. She was … pretty much gone by the time that the ambulance arrived."

"I …" Rei gave him a look that combined horror with pity, "… I'm so sorry, Dave."

David nodded slowly, leaning forward so that his elbows could rest on his knees, and his gaze became softer as Rei watched him.

"The first year or so, I couldn't even step into my office without having a nervous breakdown," He admitted to her, "I'm sure that Melissa must've been so confused when she saw her dad, the person she's supposed to rely on, just … fall apart at the mere thought of going through that door. If it wasn't for Sam helping me get back on his feet, I … I don't know if I'd ever want to look at another support item ever again."

Rei, feeling her face fall, allowed David to have a moment of silence in order to calm down, giving him some time to eat his ice cream as a way to distract himself. The white-haired woman stared at him with a bit of a blank face, seeing the way David's eyes had turned sad behind his glasses - it must've been years since that accident, but even now, David was saddened by it.

She hesitated for only another second - and then she closed her eyes.

"I …" She hesitated, "… I'm divorced from my husband."

Feeling himself blink, David turned to look up at Rei as she turned to bow her head.

"Oh, you -" He shook his head again, "- you don't have to -"

"No, I - I should tell you this. You trusted me with the story about your wife, I … I should talk to you about my ex-husband."

David fell silent at that, seeing the way Rei's face was becoming more and more blank, and he felt, unexpectedly, the feeling of uneasiness begin to crawl in his stomach.

"I … did not choose the man I was going to marry," She admitted quietly to him, "my ex-husband proposed the benefits of an arranged marriage to my mother, and she was enthusiastic to accept - he was being set up to be an important figure in Japan, and so my mother tried to convince me that it would be good for me. I knew it was a quirk marriage I was being set up for, but I wanted my family to be happy, so … I accepted."

David felt himself cringe. "A … quirk marriage?"

"Yes," Rei slowly nodded, "we … well, at first, I was foolish enough to believe that things would be okay. Enji was … well, he wasn't a kind man, but he treated me with respect, at least at first. And when we had our first son and he didn't have what he was looking for, Enji still trained him to - to be a hero. And I … I got the impression that having another child would give our son someone to encourage him. So after Touya, we had Fuyumi."

She thinned her lips.

"For the first few years, we were happy. Enji was content with the life we had - he could train Touya, and I … I felt happy with the arrangement, and that I could be a mother. But then Touya's hair began to bleach from red to white, and his quirk began to burn him. We went to the hospital and found out that Touya … he took after me, physically, so he could withstand freezing temperatures … but he couldn't handle his own flames. So Enji, to protect Touya, stopped training him."

"And …" David swallowed, "… then what?"

"Then …" Rei's voice had become quiet, "… everything started to change. Touya refused to stop training, even if his father told him not to. He wouldn't listen to me either. And then Enji decided that he wanted to … to keep going. Have a child that would inherit both our quirks. I wasn't sure at first, but he convinced me by pointing out that Touya would just refuse to listen to either of us. And having another child would convince him that he couldn't be a hero."

Her eyes hardened.

"Natsuo was born soon after, but he didn't meet Enji's requirements either. That was … when I started to realize what Enji really wanted. He was just concerned with getting a child that met his qualifications - and I was too scared to tell him no when he said he wanted to try again. And soon … I had Shouto. And he met my ex-husband's requirements."

David turned to look at Rei, really look at her, and he felt his stomach churn. Rei was looking lost and horrified by her own words, but her voice had remained cold and hard, as though this were something she talked about every day and was tired of reciting it all.

"Touya … didn't take Shouto's presence in our home very well. He and Enji eventually had an argument, and Touya … he snapped. He ran at Shouto while I was carrying him, and punched him when his quirk was active. He - Shouto was okay afterwards," She quickly assured David as the man gave her a horrified look, "we had to take him to the hospital, and he still - he still has the scar, but he was okay.

"But that night … that night, Enji decided that he was going to isolate Shouto from the rest of his siblings, and begin ignoring Touya to not encourage him. By that point, I realized that my husband wasn't looking at our youngest son as his child - he was looking at him as an extension of himself. But Enji refused to listen, and eventually … eventually, Touya had enough of his father ignoring him, and ran off after yelling at me to train in secret. Enji eventually realized what our son was doing, and …"

She let out a shuddered breath.

"… he hit me," She whispered, "just … punched me and threw me to the ground, in front of our children."

David let out a sharp breath, his hands curled into fists as he gritted his teeth.

"He went to find Touya, but … but our son had … he had … a quirk accident," She whispered, "and for a long time, we thought he was dead. After that, Enji didn't bother hiding it anymore - I don't know if it was because of grief, or anger, but he didn't bother holding back against Shouto anymore. I kept trying to step in, but he kept shoving me away or slapping me when I tried. Shouto kept coming to me for comfort, but … but everything was starting to get to me, and Shouto's hair … his face … was beginning to remind me of Enji …"

"H-hey," David tried to softly assure her, not sure if he should touch her at all, "you don't need to … not if you don't want to …"

"No, it's - it's fine," Rei shook her head, "I should … I should keep going. I talked about my thoughts to my mother, and she encouraged me to - to maybe seek professional help. And I wanted to, but … well, I imagine that you have enough of an impression of my husband at this point to know that he wouldn't let any of our problems be potentially leaked to the public."

"That …" David looked cross, "… you're right. That doesn't surprise me."

"Eventually, we met another family - an influential one, that was similar to mine. Shouto became friends with their daughter, and I … I had hoped that they could help him, encourage Enji that Shouto should have a normal childhood. But then …" A dark anger came to her eyes, "… one night, I overheard Enji and the other man talking about the possibility of … of a quirk marriage between our children when they reached adulthood. And I realized that Enji didn't care about Shouto having a friend. He just wanted our son - our five-year-old son - to eventually have a wife that he bought for him, like I had been bought for my ex-husband."

"Rei …"

"I was … I felt like I had completely lost my mind. The next night, after Enji was done 'training' Shouto for the day and all the children were put to bed, I summoned my courage and confronted him about it. When I told him that there wasn't going to be a chance in hell of a quirk marriage between Shouto and Momo happening, he slapped me again. And I …" Her hand clenched. "… I finally snapped."

She turned to look up at the sky with tears brimming with her eyes.

"Before I could even realize what I was doing," She said in a shuddering voice, "I made an icicle in my hand, and - and I plunged it into my ex-husband's stomach. I tried my hardest to - I kept pushing it in and pinning him to the counter. I tried to kill him. And then I … I heard a noise, and I looked around and - and saw Shouto standing there. Staring at me."

Feeling the tears begin to spill out of her eyes, she bowed her head, allowing her white hair to cover her head. David only stared at her in horror and pity for a moment, and then, hesitantly, he reached out to gently wrap his arm around her shoulders to comfort her, very much willing to let go if she didn't need it.

Thankfully, Rei instead chose to lean into David, her head moving down to his shoulder.

"Then …" David swallowed, "… then what happened?"

"I … snapped out of it," She muttered, "and I just stared at Shouto, and he stared at me, and I … I fell apart. I tried to run out of the house - I don't know what I was doing at first, but I ended up convincing myself to turn myself in to the police. Tell them what I did, and have them arrest me. After what Shouto saw … I knew that I couldn't stay in that house anymore. But it was Enji that stopped me from going, and convinced me to instead be put in the psychiatric hospital."

"He … put you in the hospital?" David fumed.

"I don't know his reasons," She admitted, "whether it was because he didn't want to deal with the scandal of a prominent pro hero's wife stabbing him, or … or if it was some form of him being apologetic to me, I don't know. He sent me flowers, you know … every week, I would get a new bouquet of rindou flowers, and every time, I would throw them in the trash. Eventually, I just grew used to it, and kept a vase on my windowsill."

David slowly nodded, scowling. Whoever Rei's ex-husband was - and he had his suspicions - he definitely wanted to use some support items to break his teeth.

"Eventually, once they got older, Natsuo and Fuyumi would visit me weekly," Rei continued her story, "and soon, Touya came back as well - he'd survived his accident and was hospitalized for years, and he wanted to apologize to me for - for an argument that we had, the last time we saw each other. He told me … that Shouto was still with Enji, and the training had continued in my absence. Shouto didn't want to see me, and I … I can't blame him for that."

"Rei …"

"Once I was released from the hospital, I stopped receiving flowers," Rei frowned, "I think Enji knows where I live now - he's influential enough to keep tabs on me - but he hasn't bothered to try contacting me. Right now, it's just me and Natsuo living in our apartment, and … and Fuyumi and Touya also visit … but I told my other children to not tell Shouto where I am. I don't … I don't think I can."

"W-well, why not?" David turned to give her a cautious yet sympathetic look. "I'm sure that he'd be happy to know that you're out of the hospital."

"I …" Rei pursed her lips, "… tried to kill his father. In front of him. I don't deserve to be his mother, Dave - not after what I did to him. How I must've … traumatized him with what I did."

"Yes, but …" David stopped, and then he let out a small sigh as he looked away, "… no, I shouldn't bother you with this. If … if you've made your decision, it's not my place to bother you about it."

She slowly nodded.

"Thank you, Dave," She sighed, moving her head up from his shoulder, and used the back of her hand to wipe at her face, "for - for everything. Listening to me, and … and trusting me to listen to you about your wife. I'm honored."

"And … I'm honored that you … trusted me to tell me your story," David smiled gently at her. "Please don't worry, I'll keep it secret."

Rei smiled in thanks at him, and moved to look down at her ice cream, which had been somewhat melting, and took a moment to glance around before she subtly used her quirk to refreeze it. David chuckled at her while she turned to smile gently at him, and they were quiet for a long moment as they looked around at the plaza as the sun set, casting the sky a purplish color.

And then David cleared his throat.

"Er … Rei?"

"Mm?" She hummed.

"I was, uh … well, I was thinking," He cleared his throat awkwardly, glancing away as he was aware of Rei's gray eyes turning towards him again, "I'm visiting for about another month or so, but, uh - well, with I-Expo coming up, I know that I'll have to head back to attend the early access event's reception party."

"Oh …?"

"Yes, it's a, uh … it's a ball this year," He explained, clearing his throat and glancing away, "being hosted by some sponsors of I-Island. And I was … well … I've been more than happy to have you beside me as I explore Japan."

"Oh …" Rei's voice had changed a bit, sounding a bit unsure.

"So I was thinking … well, perhaps, if you'd like to, I could … maybe show you around my home when I-Expo comes around? If that would … be alright?"

That offer, of course, made Rei pause on the bench, going very still. David felt himself cringe a bit, realizing now how his offer may come across to her, and almost opened his mouth to apologize, when Rei suddenly turned away, clearing her throat as she abruptly stood up from the bench.

"I, er …" She cleared her throat again, hiding her face from him, "… that sounds wonderful, Dave. I - yes, I'd - I'd like that. Er - w-when is it?"

"Oh, uh …" David went still, his own face heating up a bit, "… July. I believe the first day is the fourteenth."

"R-right." She nodded quickly. "I'll have to … uh … get my passport renewed, and - and Fuyumi will have to help me get everything ready, and … yes. Yes, I'll - I'd be happy to go with you."

"Oh," David blinked, nodding stiffly, "great. Uh - w-well - I could also, uh - I could extend that to your children as well, if - if they want to come."

"Y-yes! That sounds good."

"G-great!"

"Yes!" Rei nodded, keeping her back firmly to David so that the only thing he could see of her face was how red her ears were. "I should, uh - I'm going to go check on Eri."

Quickly, she began all but running towards the park, quickly tossing the remains of her ice cream cone into the trash as she went. As she did, David blinked, and looked down at the ice cream that had melted all over his hands, making him groan as he quickly looked around for something to wipe his hands on.

"Here you go, Romeo."

At the smug, deep voice above him, David froze, eyes widening in horror behind his glasses. Slowly, he turned to see none other than Star standing beside the bench, smirking knowingly as she offered him a napkin.

"… how much of that did you see?" David asked in terror.

"Only the end," Star cheerfully confirmed.

"You won't tell Melissa about any of that."

"Sure, sure. Still, gotta say - it was amazing to see a fifty-four year old man blush like a little nerd asking out his crush in high school."

"Whatever, you forty-two year old All Might groupie."

"Oh, ouch! Did I touch a nerve?"

Getting up to the top of the building had been relatively simple, Ochako had thought as both she and Nagant pushed the door to the roof open, walked towards the edge of the building, and sat down, with Nagant making sure to correctly sit her daughter down far enough from the ledge so she didn't fall off. The HPSC van had driven them all the way to the building opposite of Kugutsu's tower, allowing the two of them to get out and head into the parking garage, and then up the stairs to the roof. By the time they had reached the last floor, Ochako had been slightly dragging her feet from all the stairs they had to climb up while breathing deeply through her nose and rubbing her side, and Nagant had been perfectly fine as she sat down, letting out a small sigh.

After a moment of getting herself comfortable on the ground, Nagant moved her right hand up to her shoulder, bending her arm, and Ochako watched with a mix of surprise and disgust as her elbow opened. With three metallic popping noises that sounded a lot like wet crunches, emerging from the large hole in Nagant's elbow came a sniper rifle, and a bit of the muscle surrounding the gun swirled up to form a scope, which Nagant put her eye to in order to look into the tower as more muscle snapped down to form two legs for the rifle to balance on.

"Uh …" Ochako looked awkward. "… wow."

"I know it's not very pretty," Nagant pointed out Ochako's obvious discomfort, "but it does the job well. Now, you need to keep quiet for a few minutes - I'm gonna be watching the crowd until Nighteye and Ryukyu get into position."

Nodding, Ochako sat back and tried to look professional as she turned to look at the tall glass building so that she could see the gala event from there. To distract herself, she slipped her goggles over her eyes and pressed the button on the side, which allowed her to check on the status of her metallic boots while Nagant worked. From what she could make out, the boots that Mei designed were fully charged up and waiting for her orders - they would be able to fly her around the skies silently, or they could switch over to the drone mode she had shown her. Hopefully, they wouldn't need to do either of those, but … it was good that they were ready, at least.

Remembering the group's thoughts of Kugutsu having the rooftops around his tower monitored, Ochako pressed another button on her goggles. Experimentation with her equipment earlier, after she and Nagant had gotten off the elevator, showed that there was a mode she could use on her goggles to pick up heat signatures - she wasn't entirely sure why Mei had included it, but she wasn't going to complain as she swept her gaze along the rooftops. Finding nothing sticking out on the buildings surrounding them, Ochako breathed out a small sigh as she turned back to Nagant, just as the older woman finished confirming with Ryukyu and Nighteye that they were in position.

"I didn't see anyone else out on any of the other roofs," She confirmed as she switched her goggles' vision back to normal, "I think we're alone out here."

"We better be," Nagant said in a grumpy voice, "this sh*t is tiring enough, I don't want to deal with anything else tonight."

Ochako slowly nodded at that, feeling her face fall as she watched her mom continue to work. At the moment, Nagant was looking through the crowd, so Ochako didn't feel as though she needed to add any more distractions as she glanced back out at the building opposite of theirs -

- and then Nagant let out a sigh.

"What is it?"

"H-huh?" Ochako blinked, looking back around at her bio-mom as her purple eyes never left the scope. "Oh, uh - it's nothing. Sorry, I didn't mean to distract you."

"Kid, I've done missions like this a thousand times," Nagant rolled her eyes slightly, "trust me. I'm great at multitasking at this point. You wouldn't be distracting me."

Ochako felt herself go quiet at that, but before she could think of what to say, Nagant glanced at her, causing any question that might be on her lips to hesitate.

"Just remember," She gave her a certain look, and then used her free hand to point up at the earpiece in her own ear. And of course, Ochako got that message loud and clear.

We're being listened in on, so don't talk about any of the stuff that I told you on the elevator.

Nodding slowly, Ochako let out a small sigh as she leaned back on her hand, allowing Nagant to brief Nighteye on the stuff upstairs near the office, and then she breathed through her nose.

"I just, uh …" She tapped her fingers against her knee, "… I just wanted you to know that, uh - after I - I yelled at you in the meeting room …"

Nagant didn't look at her.

"… I'm sorry," She turned to glance down at her boots, guilt briefly overcoming her, "I said some pretty sh*tty things to you."

"And I deserved it," Nagant gave her, "I was being a bitch."

"Y-yeah, but … but I didn't know about the other stuff you were dealing with."

"How would you have known?"

"I - I wouldn't have. I just - I just wanted you to know that I - I forgive you." Ochako paused, and then she winced. "N-not that - that you probably need my forgiveness."

"You forgive me?" Nagant frowned.

"Yeah."

"Well, you shouldn't. I was treating you like sh*t, kid."

"Yeah, well …" Ochako trailed off, not entirely sure how she was going to counter that.

For a while, she stayed quiet while Nagant continued to direct Nighteye over to the office, only flinching slightly when Nagant shot out a silent bullet to destroy the camera and distract the guard. As they both watched Nighteye slip into the office, Nagant let out a low sigh as she turned her scope back to the crowd -

- and then she glanced over at her daughter sitting awkwardly beside her, and she exhaled slowly through her nose.

"Y'know," She said while continuing to stare through the scope, "the first time I ever met your mom, I ended up getting into a fistfight with her."

That, of course, got Ochako to quickly pause, blinking for a moment before she looked around at her other mother in surprise.

"W-wait, what? You - you got into a fight with my mom?"

"Mm-hm," Nagant nodded, unable to stop herself from glancing over at her daughter's face to see her expression, "see, back before I met your mom and dad, I had to be tough. The orphanage I lived in was rough, so I tended to intimidate and push aside people I thought didn't like me. And your mom, well … she didn't like that. She was the bully hunter, and to her, I was the bully. So one time, in our … god, I don't know, second year of middle school, when she saw me pushing around some girl who had been pulling on my hair, she stormed up to me and tried to tell me that there were 'other ways to confront someone mean to me' or some sh*t like that."

"Uh …"

"Yeah, your mom was dumb back then. Anyway, I told her where she could stick her nose, we started arguing, I gave her a shove … and then she punched me right in the face. Jerked my head back so hard I thought I was gonna have whiplash, and fell right down on my ass."

"Wow," Ochako stared in wonder, trying to think of Miwa being physically violent with anyone, and … kind of seeing it, she winced. "So, uh … what did you do? Did you stop?"

"Did I stop?" Nagant huffed, unable to stop herself from smirking. "Hell, no. I jumped up and tackled that bitch right into a puddle, got our school uniforms wet and muddy. Your mom hit first, so I hit back twice as hard. Once they got there, the cops had to tear us off of each other - I think they had to pull over at some point when we started fighting in the back of the cop car again - and we had to wait hours before your grandparents and the bitch that took care of the orphanage came to get us at the station. I swear to god, Miwa looked like she was tempted to take another swing at me the whole time we were at the station."

Despite herself, Nagant's eyes softened as she kept looking through the scope.

"Next day, we saw each other while coming to school, looked up and down at each other from how bruised we were, and … well, I couldn't help but laugh at her, and she laughed right back at me."

"Huh …" Ochako felt herself smile a bit as she automatically raised her hand back to her goggles to turn back on heat vision, giving her something to do rather than make Nagant awkward, "… so that's how you two became friends?"

"Yep. After that, she domesticated me like a f*cking cat."

"And, uh … when did you realize that you - you know - loved her?"

"Years later," Nagant shook her head, "couldn't tell you what exactly made me realize it, but I just … I think it was a more gradual thing."

"Wow." Ochako slowly nodded, feeling herself hesitate for a moment before she let out a small sigh, "I, uh … I - I think Daddy really misses you, you know. Mama does, too, but she - she tries to hide it."

"… does she now?" Nagant said, trying to sound a little tougher than before, but Ochako could hear a small wavering hidden underneath. "Huh."

"Y-yeah." Ochako nodded a bit awkwardly, tapping her fingers together, and then, sensing that she had made her bio-mom a little uncomfortable, decided to try and change the subject. "So, uh … anyway, why are you wearing a dress now? I - I thought that you used to wear a jumpsuit."

"I did. It was uncomfortable as f*ck." Nagant shook her head - and then, to Ochako's surprise, she turned to glance at her with a teasing expression. "Besides, I remember that your mom and dad used to like me wearing dresses, so I thought if I -"

"Stop, stop, forget I asked." Ochako shuddered, already regretting her decision to ask while trying to suppress the urge to gag. Nagant, for her part, was unable to suppress a smirk.

"Ah, what? Don't wanna hear about your mom and dad coming over to my hotel room and -"

"No! I don't! I don't wanna hear anything like that! Gross!"

"Hey, you're the one who wanted me to treat her normally, this is what you get, too. Now, you think you're unlucky just hearing that? Just consider yourself lucky that I don't tell you about the time I bent your mom over the couch while she was about a month pregnant with you, and -"

Thankfully for Ochako's breaking sanity, Nagant's teasing words cut off at once by something that caught her eye in the scope, causing her to turn her attention back to the gala across the street again.

"- wait. Kugutsu is moving to his office."

"Huh?" Ochako blinked, being yanked out of her embarrassment, and looked around at the building. It wasn't as though she could see as well as Nagant could, but she could make out the appearance of someone in a black suit making his way up the stairs, flanked by two other men in suits, and they were walking determinately to the office while another man walked around the corner upstairs.

"sh*t," Nagant hissed, "sh*t!"

Quickly, she reached up to the earpiece as they watched the men approach the office.

"Nighteye, this is Nagant. Kugutsu is heading into the office. Do you hear me? He's - f*ck!"

Ochako felt herself wince as she saw Kugutsu and two of the guards head in while the other one stood guard outside.

"What the hell is Ryukyu doing?!" Nagant growled, absolutely furious as she tapped on the earpiece to switch over channels. "Ryukyu, come in, Kugutsu is in the office with Nighteye! What the hell happened?!"

"I'm sorry," Ryukyu sounded hurried and rather angry, and they both saw the distant sight of a woman in red heading up the stairs. "I got sidetracked. I'll handle Kugutsu, but I need you to reach out to Miruko."

"Huh?" Nagant furrowed her brow. "Miruko? Why?"

"Apparently, my interns ran away from the warehouses," Ryukyu sounded cross, "Battle Fist and Spark left together, and Fae and Lemillion followed after them."

"What?" Ochako blinked, eyes widening as she raised her hand to her own earpiece to join the conversation. "They ran off? Why?"

"I don't know - Nagant, reach out to Miruko and find out from her what's going on, she's gone after them."

"Roger," Nagant nodded, allowing her sniper rifle to slide back into her elbow with a wet crunch, and waved her arm as steam rose up from it. She then turned away from Ochako to switch her own channel on the earpiece. "Miruko, come in - this is Nagant. What is going on?"

"- f*cking little asshole bitches!" They both heard Miruko yelling over the wind. "What?!"

"Ryukyu told us the interns had run off. What's going on?"

"No f*cking clue! Battle Fist just started randomly spasming out, and then she said we had to go back to Hosu! I told her no, but her and her little asshole boyfriend went anyway and blew our cover! Those little asshole dickfaces! I'm gonna kick both their asses when I catch up to them!"

"sh*t," Nagant cursed while Ochako looked more and more confused by the moment at what her boyfriend and girlfriend could be doing, "I'll try to contact them."

"If you reach 'em, tell them I'm coming for their asses!"

With that, Nagant settled back on her butt, trying to switch her comms over to Izuku and Itsuka's. Ochako glanced back around at the building, seeing the distant sight of Ryukyu charging into the office, and she felt herself wince - she had a feeling that things had gone sideways, and the blame was probably going to be placed on her partners.

But - but she didn't understand, why did they break cover to go back to Hosu? It wasn't like them at all to do something that reckless - what had happened?

She was left to ponder that question for about two minutes, glancing around and cringing at the way a vein clenched in Nagant's forehead when she didn't get an answer -

- and that was when they both heard a muffled BOOM.

Flinching slightly, they both looked back around, and Ochako felt her eyes blow wide open at the sight of the door to Kugutsu's office being sent flying right out the large window of the gala, smashing through it with a loud crash as it fell down to the street below. Ochako quickly leapt to her feet, watching in shock as the door crashed down on the thankfully empty sidewalk below, and she quickly whipped her gaze back up to the office in the building as they heard distant screaming, and black smoke continued to pour out as the fire alarm sounded, and they saw the sprinklers turn on as Kugutsu's guests began fleeing for the stairs.

"What the …?" Nagant stared at the fleeing people for a moment in shock, and then she shook her head and reached up for her earpiece, quickly getting up. "Ryukyu, come in. What happened?"

For a moment, they heard nothing but static.

"Ryukyu? Nighteye? Come in!"

There was another long moment of silence. And then they both heard a low groan.

"We're here," Ryukyu's voice was full of pain, and they both heard the sound of something crumbling in the background, "we're both fine, I took the brunt of the - agh - of the blast. I managed to cover Nighteye in time."

"What the hell even happened?"

"Kugutsu had some kind of failsafe," Nighteye coughed roughly, "something to prevent him from talking. He used some kind of quirk - it made him explode when he ran his mouth too much."

"Explode - wait, the briefing said he had a gigantification quirk. What is - wait, is he -?"

"He's dead," Ryukyu said gruffly, and those two words made Ochako's stomach lurch uncomfortably, "we checked, he - he didn't make it. The guards that had been in the room are injured, I'm going to bring them down to the ambulance - Nagant, were you able to get in contact with the others?"

"I contacted Miruko, but not the interns. I'll try -"

And behind them, the sudden sound of explosions erupting behind them interrupted that train of thought.

Jumping and automatically ducking their heads, both Ochako and Nagant whipped around, and their eyes widened in both shock and horror. In the distance, what looked to be a large wave of fire blasted out onto a street in Hosu, moving down it like a volcanic eruption as it began spreading down the connecting streets. Ochako felt a chill run up her spine at the sound of screaming in the distance, and the fire itself suddenly began blowing up as though it were the wind, whipping up and striking the buildings as the windows exploded into showers of glass.

And above them, several raindrops began tapping on their heads.

"Oh, my god," She whispered.

"What the hell," Nagant shook her head, her brow furrowing while her eyes narrowed, "what the f*ck is going -?"

"Nagant, this is Intelli. Please respond."

Feeling her back straighten up at once at the sound of that smug, pretentious voice filling her ear, this time it was Nagant's turn to feel a chill make its way up her spine. Slowly, she raised her hand to her ear.

"This - you didn't do this," She felt herself shake a bit, "did you?"

"Oh, of course I didn't!" Kanshi laughed, the haughty giggles only making Nagant's hair stand on end. "This is - well, I'm not quite sure what exactly is going on at the moment. But in any case, we've had Wolfram relay where Stendhal has gone - Ekou Street. He's in one of the alleys - Wolfram and his team will slow down any vigilante interference, but you'll need to make your way there now."

Swallowing loudly, Nagant lowered her hand from her ear briefly as her gaze flickered to Ochako staring off at the fire - as though wondering if there were some way she could stop this - but then she let out a shuddered breath, and shook her head as she pressed the earphone once again to switch channels.

"Ryukyu, Nighteye," She said in a clear voice, fighting to keep it from shaking, "there've been several explosions in Hosu. I'm going to go and have a look at what's happening and report back - I'll leave Uravity on the rooftop we agreed to survey on, come and get her when you can."

Not bothering to wait for a response from the other heroes, she lowered her hand from her ear and turned to her daughter. The brown-haired girl had looked around at her in shock as Nagant quickly jogged over to her, but she didn't have time to speak as Nagant quickly cupped her cheeks, forcing her daughter to look up at her.

"Ochako, you need to listen to me," Nagant's voice was sharp, "stay here and wait until Nighteye and Ryukyu come and pick you up. This is me, as your internship mentor, telling you to stay here."

"I - but what's happening?" Ochako tried to interject, her gaze flickering between Nagant and the distant fire. "Wait, is - is that -?"

"Yes," Nagant nodded curtly, "it's … it's the thing I told you about. I have to go and do it now, but - but I need you to stay here and wait for the others to come get you. Do you understand me? I need you to stay here."

Shaking her head, Nagant didn't waste any more time, quickly running down to the opposite side of the roof, and Ochako sputtered as her mother looked back around at her.

"Just stay there until Ryukyu comes and gets you!" Nagant reminded her, and then without another word, she hopped straight off the rooftop.

Ochako let out a small gasp as she was left completely alone, but her feet remained rooted to the ground as she looked back around at where the flames were continuing to burn up into the sky, the rain starting to come down even harder on her. She knew, from the way that the fire kept being moved around randomly by the wind, that it wasn't a normal blaze - not by a long shot. And suddenly, she remembered, feeling her heart begin to hammer in her chest, the way that Miruko had described Izuku and Itsuka running off back into …

… into that.

Did - did they somehow realize that this was going to happen? Were they heading for that fire right now?

Feeling like her heart was now trying to crawl its way up her throat, Ochako shook her head, quickly turning so she could grab her phone out of her pocket and pull it out. She had the impulse to call someone - anyone - and see if they could help her. She wanted to call her partners, to see if they would pick up. She wanted to call Nejire to ask if she was chasing them. She wanted to call All Might to see if he would come and help them. She wanted to call Aizawa, who said he would be in the area. She wanted to call … anyone, to see if they could tell her what to do.

But before she could even think to do so, her phone pinged in her hand, and a message appeared.

Yui Kodai posted her location

21-5-80 Ekou St, Hosu

Blinking, she stared down at the ping, confusion briefly overcoming her fear. Yui had … what? She just randomly posted her location? But why?

But as she stared down incomprehensibly at it, feeling her brow crinkle as several of her classmates responded, asking why she had pinged her location … suddenly, she felt herself go still. Without thinking, she moved to press down on the 'pinned messages' button, and the first thing that came up was Aizawa's message, from last night.

AIZAWA

Speaking of that, I want to warn any one of you that may be heading to Hosu tomorrow night with their internships to remain on your guard, and be sure to stick close to a pro hero. I will be on scene in any case, but I want you to make sure that you are careful. It is dangerous in Hosu and we don't need you all getting into trouble or danger and not having someone come to save you.

I'm going to be patrolling around the city as well, so all else fails - and this should be a last resort - ping your location to the group chat and I'll come running as soon as possible.

"Kodai …" Ochako whispered out loud, "… posted her location."

And that was when she realized what was happening, and felt herself begin to move.

It was probably the most beautiful thing they had seen for months.

Standing on top of the water tower, watching as the flames created by Volcano and Gast Boy continued to spread like wildfire across the prefecture, Nine breathed in deeply as he raised his hands out to feel the rain on his palms, as though basking in the carnage below them. Beside him, Chimera was taking a long drink from the beer that he had brought along, letting out a satisfied belch when he was finished, and tossed the bottle off the tower before going for another one. Slice, meanwhile, was making sure that her father's head was pressed firmly against the floor of the water tower while he moaned pitifully about flesh, while above her, Kurogiri watched in stoic silence. And off to the side, Camie, Inasa and Shishikura were looking like kids out on a wild night, with Inasa and Camie whooping and cheering on the distant flames while Shishikura smirked smugly down at the destruction.

Well, Nine couldn't quite blame them for their celebration this time - seeing the sight of this city on fire, it brought a warmness to his heart. And seeing the distant sight of one of the buildings having its top floor implode as though something small crashed into it, he knew that he wasn't the only one beginning to have fun.

"So, I suppose that's Hood up there?" He wondered out loud. "Wonder why he hasn't swept down to start the slaughter."

"Endeavor has yet to return to the main section of Hosu," Kurogiri reminded him from behind, "he's gone and picked through a few lesser heroes already, but he's waiting for those with power to arrive."

"Hm. And what about the other Nomu?"

"They have their own part to play before they go to intercept the heroes."

"Fine, then," Nine sighed dramatically, and he put his hands into his coat pockets, "I suppose, in that case, we'll have to hurry. Chimera, how many syringes of Trigger did you give Volcano and Gast Boy?"

"Nine each," Chimera grinned, chuckling menacingly into his beer bottle as he raised it to his lips, "don't worry, they won't be wakin' up when it wears off."

"How appropriate," Nine laughed along with him, patting his shoulder, "my only regret is seeing how strong their quirks are together … ah, well. I'll accept the loss of their quirks as long as they're gone. Now then," He turned towards the rest of the Consortium, "I'm going to head off to get to our real goal here - you all stay here, but I want Kurogiri and -"

KRACK-BOOM

Hearing the sound of a loud clap of thunder exploding somewhere in the distance, Nine felt himself blink. Together, the Villain Consortium turned to look off into the distant city, away from the chaos downtown and Nine's storm above them. At first, it was hard to see anything coming through the rain -

- and then Nine felt his back straighten at the sight of a flash of green light on the horizon, followed by another loud burst of electrical power.

"Is that …?" Slice stood up, looking taken aback.

"It is," Nine felt his eyes shine, "well, well."

"Heh," Chimera huffed, unable to stop himself from smirking as he straightened up too, "of course that kid would be 'ere. The girlies he's usually with probably aren't far behind, either."

"Ooooh!" Camie gasped, jumping up from her seat as well. "Is that the cutie?"

"Cutie?" Inasa blinked in confusion, looking around as well before his face suddenly brightened up. "Oh! You mean that Midoriya guy? That hot blooded guy from the sports festival?! I like hot blood!"

"Yeah, you kids do you. So?" Chimera crossed his arms as he looked to his leader. "What'll we do? Bring 'em over?"

Nine thought for a moment. And then he sighed and shook his head.

"No," He decided, "Izuku Midoriya is loud. Hood will eventually notice him, and I'd like to be as far away from that as possible. I assume that he won't be alone - I recall All For One talking about Ryukyu and Miruko being around, and seeing as we haven't seen someone with a dragon quirk … I imagine he's coming with them right now. So for now, we'll keep our distance - I'll scout around and get the quirks I need, and then come back. We'll just have to pray that he can somehow last the night."

Stepping off of the water tower, he allowed his weather quirk to use the strong winds to keep him up. The other members of the Villain Consortium watched as their leader floated in the sky before them, turning to them as he raised the mouth mask strapped to his neck and put it over his mouth.

"I'm going to go out and find my new quirks," He told them, his voice coming out metallic and cold, "Kurogiri, Moonfish, you're with me. The rest of you, stay here and look pretty. We want any news choppers that fly by to see us."

"Ooh! Ooh!" Camie raised her hand, quickly turning on the puppy dog eyes. "Can we go and have fun while you're gone? Please? We can be all in and out before they even know we're there!"

"Yeah!" Inasa quickly agreed with his girlfriend. "Let's go and cause some chaos! Please!"

"Please, please, pleaaaaaase?"

Nine made a show of thinking for a moment, while Inasa quickly grabbed his girlfriend under her arms and lifted her up so that she could be at eye level when she pleaded with him. While Shishikura looked positively embarrassed to be associated with the other two, Nine glanced away for a moment - and then he sighed.

"Fine," He nodded, rolling his eyes as Camie cheered happily in celebration and Inasa looked positively giddy, "but make sure that if you get seen, you end whoever spotted you. Your Shiketsu disguises are valuable to get you into places, so don't go and ruin it."

"Okey-dokey! Camie happily giggled, while absently crossing her fingers behind her back as Inasa put her down.

"Now then," Nine turned back to the city, smirking behind his mask as Kurogiri swirled his black mist around Moonfish, "I'll be right back. The rest of you, just sit back and enjoy the fireworks."

"Then die."

With a sudden flash of steel moving towards him, Tenya flinched back. He felt something wet strike his armor at the same time as the sound of flesh tearing, and he quickly stumbled back, his arms automatically raising to cover his face as he tripped over his own feet and fell down onto the ground, landing with a grunt.

Knowing that he was now vulnerable to Stendhal, and his mind screaming in horror that his internship mentor was trying to kill him, he waited for the man to strike again, wanting to cover his face in order to avoid the hero's striking blow. He waited for the pain of the strike to register, for the sharp blade to strike him again.

Instead, he heard silence at first.

And then he heard a small gasp.

A gasp … that didn't belong to either him or Stendhal.

Feeling himself blink, Tenya slowly lowered his arms and looked up - and the first thing his eyes fell on was the red and white costume of the person who had suddenly run in between him and Stendhal. The costume's stomach had a long slash in it that dragged from her ribs to her navel, and blood leaked out and splashed onto the white mini-skirt as his rescuer slowly looked around at him. Tenya's eyes dragged up, his mind still struggling to catch up to what had happened - and then, as he finally looked up at the face of the person who had saved him, he felt himself freeze.

Staring blankly down at him for a moment, Yui's hand, beginning to tremble, reached down to hold onto the slash on her stomach, her wide eyes wincing in pain when she touched it. And then her knees gave out, and she collapsed forward, Tenya letting out a short gasp as he quickly and automatically reached up and caught her by the shoulders.

As though she had lost her strength, Yui fell on top of him, Tenya feeling himself begin to tremble as he heard Yui taking several, pain-gasped breaths into where her face was pressed into his shoulder.

"Huh?" His eyes went wide as he turned to look at the side of her head as she leaned heavily onto him. "K-Kodai?"

"Hm," Stendhal hummed as he flicked his word, a splash of Yui's blood being splattered on the ground, "what a waste of effort. I believe that this is the same young woman who you told me would try to stop you, my apprentice?"

"Kodai, I … what?" Tenya continued to struggle to understand what exactly had happened, carefully sitting up and aware of Yui flinching and muffling a small cry of pain. And that was when he began to panic. "Kodai?!"

She only let out another shuddered breath of pain. He could still feel blood leaking out onto him from her wound.

"Kodai!" Tenya gave her a small shake, tears beginning to stream down his face. "Please, respond to me! Please!"

"There is no point," The pro hero said coldly above him, walking forward with his sword hanging loosely in his grasp, "she moved in the way of the blade that was meant for you. Do not let her sacrifice be in vain, apprentice - she gave her life for you. Do you intend to waste your chance?"

"Kid," Manual managed to get out from where he was slumped against the wall, having been dropped by Stendhal, "get her out of here! Run!"

Tenya, however, felt as though he were rooted to the spot, staring down at Yui in horror. It was only when a sword point pushed under Tenya's chin was he forced to move, his head being raised to look up at Stendhal standing above him, and he shuddered at the feeling of blood dripping off the sword and sprinkling down onto Yui.

"Look at me, Tenya Iida," Stendhal sternly instructed him, "when I speak to you."

Tenya only let out another shuddering breath as tears drenched his cheeks.

"This is your chance to redeem yourself," Stendhal turned to look down at Yui in Tenya's trembling arms, "this girl has shown more heroism in this single moment than you have in the last three days. She was willing to lay down her life for a selfish person like yourself. Is this how you wish for her to be remembered? Sacrificing her life for someone who was willing to throw his own away?"

"You …" Tenya shuddered, and he felt rage enter his heart, combating with the utter grief he was wrestling with, "… you …"

"Do not waste this chance, my apprentice," He demanded of him, "I am willing to give you one more chance to join me. Do not let her die in vain."

For a long moment, Tenya was quiet - but inside, his mind was racing. He knew that Stendhal was insane. He knew that the chances of him getting Yui out of that alley was slim. He knew that she was still bleeding, and any moment now, she might slip away. He knew that he wanted to kick Stendhal's smug face in and keep kicking him until he stopped moving.

But then, as he took a shuddered breath, he felt something small slip into his open hand.

"Iida."

He glanced down at the top of Yui's head as she whispered, sounding like she was in agony, but she still took a trembling breath.

"Throw."

He blinked only once - and then his body moved before he had a chance to think through his actions, and quickly obeyed Yui's instruction to throw whatever was in his hand up at Stendhal's face. At the same time, Yui pressed her fingers together, muttering "Release,", and the small thing resumed its original size into a large trash can.

Grunting, Stendhal was knocked off balance by the sudden trash can hitting him, the tip of sword scraping Tenya's chin, but he didn't bother to register the pain. Instead, Tenya leapt to his feet, quickly holding Yui to his chest, and he spun on his heel to begin running out of the alleyway, eyes wide with panic as he looked for somewhere to go.

He would come back for Manual, he quickly and foolishly assured himself, he would drop Yui off with - with Fumikage or Reiko, they couldn't be far away, and then he would come back and stop Stendhal from -

At the sound of Yui letting out a small sob of pain, however, his panicked thoughts were interrupted, and he realized at once that he must have aggravated her wound with how rough he was while holding her to his chest and moving her so abruptly.

"I - I am so sorry, Kodai, just - just hang on for a -!"

He didn't have time to finish his assurance to her. In the blink of an eye, his entire body suddenly seized up, causing his eyes to widen as he lost control of his body, and he limply fell to the ground right on top of Yui as she likewise went limp in his arms, the small girl letting out a grunt of pain as they both collapsed onto the concrete floor of the alley.

Behind them, they both heard Stendhal tsking.

"Where are you going, my apprentice?" He called after Tenya. "You are not allowed to leave this alley as a coward. I will not permit it."

Completely fallen to the ground, Tenya tried as desperately as he could to get back up, but his body refused to listen to him. He could feel Yui trembling beneath him, but he knew that she was as limp as he was, her normally stoic face twisted into a grimace of pain as he unintentionally laid on top of her wound. Continuing to desperately try to get off of her and alleviate the pain, Tenya ducked his head, apologizing profusely to her under his breath as tears continued to stream down his cheeks.

And then a shadow fell over both of them.

"It is clear now, that you are a mere child playing pretend," Stendhal tilted his head, "but who are you, Tenya Iida? Behind the mask. Tell me."

"You …" Tenya felt hatred fuel his heart at the sound of his mentor's voice above him. "… I'll …"

"Are you your own man? Or are you a mere extension of your brother, desperately trying to convince yourself that this quest for vengeance is all for his sake? Foolish. It is now clear," Stendhal's voice became cold again, "that you are too weak to be a hero. You and your brother … both of you are weak. You are cut from the same cloth as him - fake heroes trying to pretend that they are righteous."

"M-my brother …"

Tenya's head was unable to move far from Yui's head, with the girl beneath him trying to look up at him through her weakening eyes - and then she blinked as she felt something wet hit her face, and glanced up at the boy lying overtop him, seeing him shedding tears of rage as he was unable to move, but continued to try and shield her as best he could from the hero above them.

"My brother …" Tenya got out through gritted teeth, "… he'll never walk again. He's paralyzed from the waist down. Even when he wakes up, he'll - he'll never be a hero again. And that - that is your fault. He was an excellent hero who saved countless people … led them to safety … and there was no reason for him to get hurt by the Hero Killer. But you … you would dare call him a fake hero?!"

"He was a fake."

"He was an excellent hero!" Tenya shouted up at him. "One who gave me a dream! I would be honored if I were even half the man he is! I will never forgive you for this!"

"Is that so?" Stendhal huffed, turning to point his sword at where Manual was still slumped down on the wall against the wall. "If you wish to be the 'man' that Ingenium apparently is, why did you abandon this man to his fate? You would have ran off with her and left him behind to die?"

"I was - I was going to come back -!"

"You dreamed of nothing but vengeance," He interrupted him, "and between this girl and the fake, your first instinct was to run away with her, when a true hero would have stopped at nothing to save both. You use your power selfishly - consumed by your hatred so you can fulfill your desire. That, my apprentice, is the farthest you could be from a hero. And that is why you will not leave this alley alive."

Abruptly, Stendhal grabbed Tenya by the shoulder, and the young man grunted as he was abruptly ripped off of Yui. The girl let out a small cry as the movement aggravated her wound again, but she wasn't able to lift her arms up to cover it, her entire body refusing to move as Stendhal threw Tenya onto his front to the ground beside her, and before either of them could blink, the tip of Stendhal's katana slashed down and stabbed through his shoulder.

As Tenya let out a shout of agony, Stendhal merely glared down at him for a moment before Yui's whimper caught his attention, making him turn to her as he ripped the sword back out of his 'apprentice'.

"Because of your sacrifice," He told her, "I will not allow you to die a slow and painful death. I will return to you, child, once I am done eradicating the world of him."

"N-no …" Yui couldn't shake her head even if she tried, but tears continued to leak out of her eyes and down her cheeks as her head remained rolled to the side - which forced her to see Tenya laying face down on the ground beside her. "Don't … please …"

Ignoring her, Stendhal moved so that he stood over the fallen young man, and let out a long sigh as he straightened up. Slowly bringing his sword up high above his head, the hero glared down coldly as he pointed the tip of the blade between Tenya's shoulders blades. And both students knew what was about to happen, with Yui struggling to get back up even if her body wasn't working and the wound on her stomach felt like fire, and Tenya stared down at the ground in both terror and rage.

But neither of them could move, and stop what was about to happen.

"Goodbye, my poor apprentice," Stendhal sneered down at him, "may your death bring about a more just world. And rest knowing that the Hero Killer will meet your fate as well."

"Just shut up …!" Tenya cried out. "I don't care how much you lie … you're just a criminal who hurt my brother!"

Stendhal merely huffed at Tenya's insistence, but decided that he was finished talking. He hefted the sword up above his head, and prepared to bring it down to the back of Tenya's neck -

- and that was about the time he caught a brief flicker in the dark alley, making him blink at the sound of what seemed to be … mini-engines filling the air.

And he looked up, just in time for a girl to swoop in and swing her feet down, and the bottom of her metallic boot slammed straight into his face.

With a grunt, Stendhal was knocked away from Tenya, stumbling backwards as he tried to make sense of what had just hit him. Looking back up as he accidentally dropped the sword to the ground with a loud clang of metal against concrete, he saw the brown-haired girl quickly land in the alley, panting in exhaustion, but she wasted no time in quickly looking around at both Tenya and Yui laying on the ground, her eyes finding Yui's wound and causing her eyes to widen in horror.

Quickly, she grabbed the zipper of her hero costume and brought it down, taking it off and leaving her in her black t-shirt. Ochako hurried over and quickly went down to her knees, pressing her coat to Yui's wound and wincing when the stoic girl cringed in pain.

"Oh, god, I'm - I'm so sorry, Kodai, I - I - sh*t!"

"S'okay," Yui managed to get out through gritted teeth, "feels a lot worse than it probably is. It's just gonna be a really unsexy scar. Sucks to suck."

"Y-yeah," Ochako nodded quickly, unable to stop herself from smiling at Yui's attempt at humor even though her eyes were becoming misty with tears, "yeah, you - you keep that up, perv."

"Perv? Uraraka, we're in public. You're - ow - you're making me blush."

"Who are you?" Stendhal asked of the new girl who had appeared out of nowhere, but his voice sounded intrigued as he watched her trying to hold the coat against Yui's wound. "It appears that you know them … what is your hero name, girl?"

"Shut up," Ochako snapped as she aimed a glare at him, her gaze flicking down to the sword covered in blood, and then over towards where Manual was still slack against the wall before she glanced between both her friends, "Iida, are you okay? Can you move?"

"I … I cannot," Tenya gritted his teeth, panting raggedly "he did something to us. Uraraka, you must leave! Take Kodai and get her to the medics!"

"Huh?" Ochako blinked, and quickly shook her head. "No way, man, I can get everyone out of here - I just need to get past this guy to grab the other guy, and -"

"No!" Tenya snapped at her, causing Ochako to blink. "This is between me and him! Just take Kodai and go!"

Ochako found herself pausing at that harsh shout, staring blankly down at Tenya as he looked up at her as best he could, panting as tears welled up in his rage-filled eyes. And that, of course, was when she suddenly thought of something. Something that made her blood go cold as she slowly glanced up at where Stendhal was straightening up, scooping his katana off the ground where he had dropped it.

"Deku …" She swallowed loudly. "… he once told me how sixty percent of - of the Hero Killer's victims were found in blind corners and deserted areas. Like … back alleys …"

Stendhal stopped for a moment, and then let out another long sigh.

"Peh," He scoffed, "yet another young child thinking of me as a despicable monster."

Ochako slowly shook her head, taking a shuddering breath as she glanced left and right. She stole a glance at Manual again, and felt herself curse inwardly - had it just been Tenya and Yui, she could've floated them both and ran for the hills, but that would leave the other pro hero at this guy's mercy. And unfortunately for her, Stendhal seemed to sense her hesitation, taking a step closer as his head tilted in intrigue.

"A lone girl shows up and tries to save her friends." He acknowledged her. "A noble notion, for sure. But it is not only my duty to find the Hero Killer and bring them to justice, but to purge the world of false heroes who would claim themselves bringers of justice. Tenya Iida has failed every test I gave him, so he must die."

"What …?" Ochako turned to stare at him in shock.

"But that girl," He used his katana to point at Yui, "she showed that she is willing to lay down her life. I had thought that she must die to keep my actions a secret, as I believe that my hero license still had its uses, but with you here … I now realize it is no longer necessary. Her survival should take priority."

Shaking his head, he gestured to Ochako.

"I will allow you to bring her to safety. She has proven herself willing to die for those who don't deserve it, so she has the capabilities of a true hero. Take her, and get her medical attention."

"I … no," Ochako shook her head, her heart hammering in her chest,"I'm not leaving anyone here with you."

"Uraraka," Tenya growled out, "don't interfere. This has nothing to do with you! Take Kodai and get out of here!"

"Iida," Ochako turned to glare down at him, "I'm sorry, but you need to shut up."

With Tenya falling silent, Ochako took a moment to take a shaking, deep breath. Once she had control of her breathing, she turned to glare up at Stendhal as he slowly twirled his sword around, blood flicking off and making her stomach churn as she came to the realization that it had to be Yui's blood on his blade - and that meant that if he was willing to cut up a fifteen year old girl, he was willing to cut another one up.

She didn't like her chances here - against a guy with a weapon, with her own quirk meaning that she had to get in close contact with him, she was at a massive disadvantage here.

But that did not stop Ochako from raising her fists, trying to look determined as she squared her feet. Pressing the small button on her gauntlet, the boots around her feet disengaged, and they began quickly transforming into the small drones that began floating beside her head as Stendhal tapped the point of his sword against the ground.

"I'm not going anywhere," Ochako tried her best to scowl at him and not show him her fear, "now drop the sword. Seriously."

"You intend to face me?" Stendhal let out a small huff, moving down slowly into a crouch as he brought the sword behind his back, but she could tell that his eyes, hidden behind his red and black mask, was locked on his face. "Alone?"

He let out a low, menacing chuckle as Ochako tried to remain brave, staring down at his katana as he slowly twirled it in his hand, showing her the sharp side still drying with Yui's blood -

- and then his gaze flicked to something behind Ochako, and he quickly leapt backwards as a trash container suddenly slammed into the ground where he had been only a moment ago.

"Gak!" Ochako squeaked, jumping in surprise as the container noisily hit the ground, and she blinked at the purple hue around the trash vanishing. Before she could realize what it meant, several more objects from the alley were sent flying towards Stendhal, forcing the pro hero to remain light on his feet as he quickly dodged around them, only once using his katana to deflect a sheet of metal, and soon the assault of random objects ceased.

Quickly realizing why the purple floating objects were familiar, Ochako quickly looked around, just in time to see Reiko moving down to her knees, moving her hands to the coat over Yui's wound and pressing down on it as the stoic girl hissed.

"It's okay," The silver-haired girl muttered, "it's okay, Kodai, it's going to be okay - I know it hurts, but I'm here."

"Thanks," Yui groaned, "I always love a woman who doesn't mind pinning me against the ground."

From behind her, with Reiko staying by both Yui and Tenya's sides as the bespectacled boy looked around in shock, Fumikage slowly stalked forward to join Ochako, his arms under his cloak as he glared at where Stendhal straightened back up.

"We are so sorry we are late," He apologized to Ochako as he stopped right beside her, his dark eyes never leaving Stendhal's face, "we tried to get in contact with a pro hero over the comms until we saw Kodai's message, and quickly tried to come back and find her."

"Hm," Stendhal hummed, his sword scraping against the ground as he began slowly moving forward, "another few children wandering down dark alleys they should."

Fumikage merely growled, and from under the cloak, two large arms made of darkness appeared, both of its hands clenched into fists.

"He who has betrayed his oath," The boy with the bird head glared at Stendhal, while Dark Shadow poked its head out from behind him and glared at the pro hero as well, "and injured those who would look to him for protection - the time for your punishment has come."

And unknown to any of the people in the alleyway, across the street on the rooftop of the opposite building, a sniper's scope focused on the back of Ochako's head.

At first, Izuku and Itsuka had no idea where to go, launching themselves up and down repeatedly as they headed towards Hosu. But when they saw a sudden large blast of fire, one easily large enough to fill up an entire street, erupting within Hosu from where they were soaring through the sky, they figured it out relatively quickly.

Landing roughly on the rooftop just before the fire and wincing as the heat hit them even from where they were standing, Izuku stumbled a little with Itsuka on his back, but still managed to land somewhat gracefully on the rooftop near the flames instead of falling over and landing on his face. Quickly, he let Itsuka jump down, her own feet a bit shaky after being so high in the air for about five minutes, and they heard Nejire float down on the rooftop beside them.

Not wanting to waste anymore time, they both ran over to the edge of the rooftop to look over the streets below. And what they saw, of course, made them both pale as they took it all in.

Storming down the street, his feet hot enough to leave footprints, the volcanic villain let out a crazed laugh as he roared up at the sky. His entire body looked as though it were made of fire, the flames coating him so completely they could only see the vague flashes of a man standing within the fire, and he let loose several streams of flames every orifice, from his hands to even his mouth. Behind him, another villain, this one a heteromorph, had been horribly twisted, standing far taller than any regular man as he continued shrieking loudly. As he threw his enlarged hands out, a large burst of wind carried the flames that the other villain was shooting out, slamming into buildings and sticking to them as though the flames were made of napalm. Further down the street, several heroes were attempting to get closer to the two rampaging villains, but the intensity of the heat and the flames being whipped everywhere meant that all they could do was evacuate the citizens as far away from the villains as they could, without being able to approach and stop them.

All in all? It was quite apparent that things were on the verge of becoming catastrophic.

"Holy moly," Nejire joined them at the edge, cringing slightly at the heat hitting her face as she looked around at Itsuka, "how did you know this was gonna happen?"

"Well … uh …" Itsuka wrinkled her brow, not entirely sure how to explain how she knew - because honestly, she wasn't aware of how she had known herself - and added on to the fact that the sharp headache she had back at the warehouse refused to stop feeling like it was poking a hot knife in her brain, it was hard to focus on much.

However, before she could try and figure out how exactly she had known this would happen, she heard a deep sigh.

"Well, this is a familiar sight."

Jumping at the unfamiliar voice, Itsuka quickly looked around, with both Izuku and Nejire blinking in confusion at her, and the orange-haired girl let out a squeak. Standing - or rather, floating - beside her was what could only be described as an orange mist, and inside it was a man leaning over the edge, keeping his hands above his bald forehead to focus down at the scene below. The man was bald, with a square jaw, no eyebrows, and had a very short beard lining his chin and jaw. He was wearing a dark leather jacket, goggles that were slid up to his forehead, and had a bandolier strapped around his shoulder and tucked under his opposite arm.

"Haven't seen sh*t this bad since back in my day," He grumbled, his voice deep and sounding like it was weirdly echoing around, "although villains couldn't really do sh*t like this. I'm guessin' that they'll need someone to come and dose this guy out - maybe someone with a water quirk, or … uh …"

He trailed off, however, as his small, dull eyes flickered to his right, as though he had sensed someone else's eyes on him, and they settled on Itsuka as she stared blankly up at him. There was a long pause as he stared down at her, his face falling slightly - and then he blinked.

"… wait a second, kid," The bald orange man turned slightly, looking down at her in surprise, "can you see me right now?"

Itsuka slowly and somewhat dumbly nodded.

"Huh," He glanced back out at the city, an eyebrow raising, "that's … probably not good."

Realizing how that could've been phrased, he turned back to grin at her.

"B-but hey, don't worry 'bout it right now!" He tried to cheer her up, a broad smile on his face. "We'll figure it out after this whole sh*t's been wrapped up! Now, pretend you can't see me, or your friends'll think you're goin' crazy."

"I … am going crazy."

"Nah, we're just hauntin' you. Jus' ignore me!"

"Er … Itsuka?" Izuku said in a quiet voice, causing Itsuka to jump again as she looked back around wildly at him. "Seriously, are you doing okay? What's going on?"

"I -" She stuttered, trying to look back around at the weird bald guy, but he had vanished from view. Blinking through the smoke, Itsuka let out a small cough, looking back around at both Izuku and Nejire as both of them gave her worried looks.

Finally, after clearing her throat, she let out a tired sigh.

"- I don't know," She admitted, "there's - there's something going on, and -"

She wasn't able to finish that, however, due to the sound of someone crashing down on the rooftop behind them. All three of them quickly looked around in slight panic, and then relaxed their shoulders as they saw Miruko hopping back up, her ears down and her face looking a mixture of surprise and contemplative as she quickly stomped her way over to the edge of the building. Behind her, Mirio popped out of the ground with a small grunt, but there was no happy grin on his face this time, only grimness as he quickly walked over with Miruko to look over the side of the building to observe the two villains below.

Once her red eyes were done sweeping around the flaming streets, Miruko turned to where Itsuka was rubbing her forehead to try calming her headache.

"Huh," The bunny woman raised her eyebrow, "I guess you were … uh, well, no f*cking idea how you figured out this was happening, kid, but good work."

"I - uh -" Itsuka shook her head, trying to concentrate. "- thanks?"

"Yeah. I'm still gonna be pulling you back to the hotel by your ponytail when all this is done - y'know, for running off - but I'll make sure to pat your head afterwards to make you feel all better."

Shaking her head while Itsuka winced, Miruko quickly cracked her neck, her eyes sweeping around the carnage before them - and then they eventually settled on the guy with large hands blowing all the wind around. A bloodthirsty grin beginning to spread across her face, she hopped up onto the edge of the roof, staring down at him as her ears flicked up to point straight towards the raining skies.

"Okey-dokey," She rolled her shoulders before tensing her legs, "big lava boy over there isn't gonna be easy to take down, but wind boy'll be a piece of cake. You kids, stay here - I'm gonna bust some heads!"

Without waiting for a response from the teenagers, she leapt up with shocking violence, with Izuku, Itsuka, Nejire and Mirio wincing from the force that she had kicked off from the roof with, and they watched as she fell straight down towards the villain with the wind quirk. The shrieking madman only had just enough time to look up as Miruko's leg swept up, and caught him straight in the ribcage.

Ripped straight off his feet, the villain let out a scream as he was sent flying through the air before smashing through a brick wall. Without a moment's hesitation, Miruko cackled madly as she raced inside after him, the force of her kicking off the ground leaving holes in the concrete as she disappeared into the flaming building.

Up on the roof, both Izuku and Itsuka paused, and then, paling, turned to glance at each other.

"Er …" Itsuka grimaced, "… so I guess that's the last we see of that guy?"

"N-no, she wouldn't kill him," Izuku shook his head - and then paused, "I … don't think she would."

"Right," She nodded, not entirely believing Izuku as she turned to glance at both Nejire and Mirio, "so, uh … that aside, what do we do, guys? Stay here?"

"That's what Miruko said," Mirio frowned, looking down at the fire villain with a scowl, "but we are a bit too close to the danger. Let's go head down that way, and I'll get Sir on the line - he can tell us what to do."

"Right," Izuku slowly nodded, turning to look away from the fire towards the opposite direction, although his eyes did glance down again to make sure that there was no one still running around in the fiery street, "Ryukyu and Nighteye should see this happening soon, right? Maybe they'll come and pick us up, and … I don't know."

"Maybe I should give her a call?" Nejire raised her finger to her ear, humming in worry as she looked back towards the fire. "She'll answer, right? Maybe she's done schmoozing up to that Kugutsu guy! He looked a bit slimy from the pictures, but I bet Ryukyu has him wrapped around her finger right now. She seems really good at that! But hey, hey, what if she doesn't answer? What should we do then?"

While Nejire continued to blabber on, with Izuku grimacing and likewise beginning to mutter about what they could possibly do, Itsuka let out another murmur as she rubbed at her forehead. Now that she had a chance to really think, she was starting to feel fear grip her heart - she had no idea what was going on with this intense headache, or why she saw … whatever the f*ck she just saw in the smoke.

Did … maybe someone used a quirk on her, she wondered, that was causing her to hallucinate. But she had never seen that bald guy once in her life, and -

She was interrupted, however, as her gaze flickered up onto the other side of the roof, and the headache suddenly sent a sharp flash of pain through her head - at the same time she saw something flicker through the smoke rising up.

And she let her body do the thinking for her, quickly reaching out and grabbing Izuku's shoulder. Blinking, he had enough time to look up as Itsuka yanked him roughly over to him, and the knife that had been aimed for his shoulder sailed harmlessly by, sent flying off the edge and into the inferno below.

"Wha -?!" Nejire squeaked, surprised, and Mirio likewise jumped in surprise. Quickly, all four of them quickly looked around, Itsuka wincing as another flash of pain in her head made her bite her lip in pain, and they all got ready for a fight -

- and then, when they caught sight of a small trio of teenagers standing there on the other side of the roof, making the four of them blink.

"Whoop! Almost got you."

Straightening up from where she had been slumped forward, the girl with blonde hair wearing a revealing catsuit chuckled as she raised her fingers to bring her Shiketsu hat down over her eyes. Beside her, the guy in the large burgundy suit and cape raised his oversized glove in greeting, beaming happily as he stood beside her, and on the other girl's side, the boy with purple hair and squinty eyes merely glared as he raised his hand, and the flesh of his arm seemingly melted off of him to form what appeared to be a large, oversized finger that floated menacingly in the air.

But as both Itsuka and Mirio glanced between both boys, Izuku and Nejire couldn't help but find themselves faltering at the sight of the girl, feeling as though … as though there was something familiar about her, but with her face hidden by the darkness, they couldn't quite make her out.

"Now that's no good, is it?" The girl giggled as she kept her hat adjusted over her eyes. "You shouldn't be staring off into space - can't you all see there's kind of a crisis going on? But honestly, I'm glad that we caught you. After all …"

Her gaze flickered up to meet Izuku's eyes, and he couldn't help but shudder at the way her tongue slowly rolled out of her mouth, swiping at her lip.

"… it's been a while since we've had a chance to chat, hasn't it?" She smiled seductively between both Izuku and Nejire. "And I've been wanting to talk to you again for so … so … long."

"Er … wait, hold on," Mirio seemed to recognize something about them, straightening up and trying to put on an easy-going smile. "You guys are Shiketsu students! Hey! What're you guys doing up here? What hero are you guys with?"

"Heh," The guy with purple hair chuckled, "perhaps, UA student, you should be worrying less about us and more for yourself. You see, we've been given permission to stretch our legs a bit, and as much as I'd rather not bring myself down to the level of my comrades here … we have been given orders to make sure that no one sees us. So we will have to follow that order to the letter."

"Yeah," The girl suddenly had a sneer suddenly come across her face, "so let's f*cking go."

Izuku and Nejire felt their brows winkle as they suddenly became aware of something - like how the guy in the large burgundy suit had a rather bloodthirsty grin on his face as he slowly moved his enlarged glove back, and the purple-haired guy smirked haughty. Mirio, as well, tensed, his large blue eyes narrowing in suspicion as he felt himself become intangible.

But it was with the sharp jab to Itsuka's head that she realized what was about to happen, her eyes widening briefly, and she quickly snapped her enlarged hands up to grab both Izuku and Nejire as the disembodied large finger behind the purple guy suddenly flew forward with shocking speed, and pulled both of them out of the way before it could hit them.

Not to be deferred, the finger quickly changed directions and shot towards Mirio, but it sailed through his chest. Mirio, for his part, looked shocked at the sudden attack, but he didn't have time to comment as the purple guy grew more large fingers out of his arm to sail towards him, while both the other Shiketsu students charged towards Izuku, Itsuka and Nejire as the orange-haired girl quickly put them down.

"H-hey, whoa, hold on!" Izuku tried to calm them all down, raising his hands out in panic before him as though he was going to push them away. "We're hero students! Like you guys!"

"Are we?" The purple guy chuckled menacingly, before he threw his other hand out, and another large finger shot towards the three teenagers. He was quick to dodge underneath it as Nejire took off, her face turning to a menacingly pout as she quickly threw her own spiraling energy at him and let out a small grumble when he dodged underneath it. Izuku and Itsuka, meanwhile, tried to turn to the other two charging attackers, but they were caught off guard when a sudden gust of wind knocked them off balance.

And the big guy - who, apparently, could move a lot faster than his large size had suggested - suddenly advanced on Izuku.

Before he could even blink, Izuku let out a small, strangled noise as the large guy grabbed him roughly by the throat. His eyes bulged as the attacker easily lifted him off the ground, not looking like he was breaking a sweat at all, and grinned wildly as he spun around and slammed Izuku down into the ground. Behind him, both Itsuka and Mirio quickly tried to run to his aid, but Itsuka let out a shout as another sharp bolt of pain stabbed her in the head, and she quickly ducked underneath the purple guy's attacks while Mirio let out a low growl and quickly shot into the ground.

"Hey there, man!" The large guy looked more than happy to squeeze on Izuku's throat while he chatted. "How are you doing this fine night? It's a great night to get your blood pumping, right?!"

To emphasize his words, he grabbed the front of Izuku's hero costume with the large glove, and quickly picked Izuku back up as he spun on his heel and threw Izuku away, as easily as he would a ragdoll.

At the same time, he jumped back as Mirio hopped out of the ground, barely missing upper cutting the Shiketsu student, and Mirio felt his eyes widen as the large boy threw his hands to his feet, and blasted off with a burst of wind. Nejire let out a small growl of irritation as she threw more spirals at him, only for the big guy to laugh as he easily countered them with bursts of air, sending the spiraling energy flying away.

Izuku, meanwhile, let out a small yelp as he was sent flying a lot farther than he thought he would through the air - and then, a pair of hands suddenly grabbed the back of his costume, one snatching him by the back of his neck and the other grabbing his arm, and he let out a grunt of pain as he was abruptly stopped mid-air and them slammed down onto his face once again.

As he heard Itsuka trying to call out to him, only for the purple guy to continue pressing the attack on her, Izuku grunted as he felt a hand grab his right arm and pin it painfully behind his back, and then felt a strange weight fall overtop him as another hand kept his free arm pinned to the rooftop.

"Ah, thank you, babe!" He heard the girl giggling above him. "I'll be sure to give you your nice, biiiiig reward after this. Now then, cutie - you and I need to have a little talk."

Izuku tried to jerk his arm out from her grasp, but she was deceptively strong, her fingers digging into the metal of the Mid-Gauntlet effortlessly. He let out a small cry of pain as she pressed uncomfortably down on top of his arm - meaning that she was pretty much twisting it as she leaned over. However, as he continued to try struggling, he felt something soft press against his face, and he glanced around in time to see the girl leaning … uncomfortably close, her hair brushing on his face, and she basically laid down on top of him.

And despite them both being close enough to the light, he couldn't help but notice that her face did not move out of the shadow at all, making it hard for him to make out her features.

"G-get off of me!"

"Aw … and why would I do that?" She giggled, and then leaned down to blow gently in his ear while ignoring the fighting around them. "Are you uncomfortable? Scared? You don't have to be scared of me, silly, I don't bite."

She emphasized that by putting more pressure on the arm restrained behind his back, making him grunt in pain.

"Much." She purred.

"I don't - ergh -"

"Y'know… I've been a little … taken by you ever since we met," She revealed, leaning down even more on top of him as Izuku continued to struggle beneath her, "you and that nice blue girl over there. You remember me, don't you? I was watching you both while you were talking, staring at each other instead of that beautiful sunset … and I realized something."

Her breath came out in a seductive purr, but Izuku couldn't help but feel fear grip his heart as he glanced up at her, and finally spotted one of her eyes in the darkness surrounding her face - and all he could make out was an insane gleam in her brown eye.

"I realized," She revealed, "that I was envious. Envious that you were so head over heels in love with her over there … what's her name again … Nejire?"

The way that she said his friend's name, in a clear threat that mixed jealousy and want, made Izuku twist his face into a snarl.

"Stay away from her!" He snapped.

"Aw, and why would I?" She shook her head, smirking. "I really want to talk to her about this as well, but let's just forget her right now. We're talking about us."

"There - there isn't an 'us'! I don't even know who you are!"

"Oh, well, that's easily remedied," She laughed, "my name is Camie. And I know who you are, Izuku Midoriya. I know all about you."

"You don't know," Izuku glared at her, "anything about me!"

"Of course I do, silly. I know that you live with your mom," Izuku felt himself stiffen up, "I know that you like those two girls … that you kiss them … hold them … and I know," She leaned in, and drew her tongue against his earlobe, sending a shiver of disgust down his spine, "that I want to have that with you. You don't need them, when you can just have me."

"N-no -" He tried to squirm out of her grasp again, but Camie only grabbed on tighter to his arm, "- get off of me -!"

"C'mon," She gave him the puppy-dog eyes, and he trembled in fear as her teeth bit down onto his earlobe - and he felt a bit too much pressure there to count as anything close to pleasure, "I'll make sure that you forget those two slu*ts. Let's run away together … just you and me. Whoever you want me to be, I'll be them. You and me … making love to each other all night long … and no one will ever have to -"

"Ahem."

At the sound of a rough voice clearing their throat above them, Camie released Izuku's ear from her mouth and looked up in curiosity - just in time for Itsuka's foot to swing out, covered in cyan lightning, and strike her straight in the face.

With a high-pitched squeal of pain, Camie was launched straight off of Izuku, her hands letting him go as she was sent sailing for a second before coming crashing down on the rooftop. Sputtering, she quickly looked up with a pout as Itsuka pulled Izuku to his feet, holding his arms tightly while she aimed a wild, furious glare at the blonde girl.

"Sorry," She snapped at her as Camie moved up to her knees, glancing around at where Nejire was bombarding the purple guy with her spirals of energy to keep him distracted, "I'm sure that you think that you're very tempting, but he's taken."

"Aw," Camie pretended to pout at her, "and you aren't willing to share with little old me?"

"Not on your f*cking -!"

She wasn't able to finish that sentence, however. Behind them, the purple guy let out a snarl as he looked around at where Mirio was dodging through the big guy's bursts of wind, and having enough of Nejire blasting him back, quickly threw his hand out to send a burst of fingers towards him. Mirio, seeing the attack coming, quickly dodged underneath it - and that, of course, left the big guy enough room to quickly whirl around, an insane gleam in his eyes, to throw a sharp burst of wind into both Izuku and Itsuka's backs.

Both teenagers gasped at the sharp pain - honestly, it felt less like getting hit by wind and more like getting slashed at by swords - and Camie, smirking at their stumbling, acted quickly, choosing to run forward and jump over Itsuka's back, using her hands to push the girl down onto the ground. As Mirio whirled around with a shout to intercept the big guy, she acted faster, throwing her hands out to summon what looked to be a pack of snarling dogs that charged forward to snap and snarl at him.

While Mirio was forced to quickly go intangible to avoid being mauled by them, the big guy took advantage of Izuku and Itsuka being off balance to quickly grab them both by the backs and slam them against the ground again, both of them wincing.

"Holy crap," Izuku groaned in both pain and frustration, "how many times am I gonna be pushed to the ground?!"

"Hey man, sorry!" The big guy chuckled good-heartedly. "I just know that you pointing those hands at us is dangerous! So it's better to keep you down so you don't shoot at us."

"Ergh -!"

"And hey," His gaze turned to Itsuka as she struggled beneath him, his happy grin slowly fading, "I thought I recognized you! You're that girl that the parasite gave up to. Good for you! Not really sure why your hair is orange now, but hey! I'm not gonna question it!"

"Guys -!" Nejire gasped, trying quickly to turn and help them, but the big guy was faster, quickly using his knee to pin Izuku to the ground and freeing up his hand to throw at her. With a burst of wind, Nejire was caught off guard, and let out a squeal as she was shoved right off the roof, being sent flying away, and that freed up the purple guy to quickly turn his attention towards Mirio as he summoned more fingers to fling at him, obviously deeming him the bigger danger.

"Hey, you guys know who I'm talking about, right?" The big guy turned his attention back to Izuku and Itsuka beneath him, his smile now completely changed to a grimace. "Shouto Todoroki. The little bastard."

"W-what?!" Itsuka managed to get out as she tried to free himself from his grasp, but his surprising strength kept her pinned to the ground. "What the hell are you talking about?! Todoroki, he - he isn't a parasite! What -?!"

"Nah," The guy's eyes turned cold, "you're wrong. All Todorokis are monsters."

"I -" Izuku wheezed out, the big guy's knee digging into his back making him cringe. "- what are you -?!"

"They all are. Endeavor brushed me off one time?" The big guy huffed. "Fine, you know what, I can deal with that. But then, when Endeavor's first little brat burned my family when he was trying to 'save them' from a hostage situation? That's enough to make me hate 'em all. And then his youngest brat brushed me off, treating me like sh*t?!"

He dug his knee even harder into Izuku's back, his eyes gleaming insanely.

"Nope." He shook his head. "That was the last straw. If those three monsters get to be called 'heroes', then why would I wanna be one? I think it'd be better to tear this whole society to pieces and sh*t on the ashes than let it reward those bastards for being psychopaths. I'm a better hero than they would ever be!"

"You - you aren't a hero," Itsuka managed to get out, her eyes narrowed to slits as she did her best to aim a glare at the guy pinning her to the ground while trying to ignore the stabbing sensation in her head, "you're attacking us instead of - of helping the people down there!"

The big guy, evidently, did not like that, digging his hand harder against her back. And seeing as Itsuka could only cry out in pain as she heard cracking, it was clear that he was doing something with his quirk to hold her down, or maybe break her back with his own natural strength - or honestly, probably both.

However, before she could think of trying to use her enlarged hands to push the guy off her, she felt something in her body lurch, and a large, thick screen of purple smoke suddenly shot out of her body. The big guy let out a small sputter of surprise as he automatically let both Izuku and Itsuka go to back up, both of them quickly looking around as the smoke pouring out of Itsuka making her invisible to everyone, while also covering the entire rooftop - which meant that Camie, the purple guy, and the big guy were completely obscured from view.

Wincing as she quickly sat up, Itsuka looked around wildly through the smoke, only being able to make out a small shadow that she thought was Izuku, and then quickly reached out to grab his arm so that she could keep track of him. After a moment of wildly looking around for the Shiketsu students, but unable to see anyone else through the smoke, she let out a small growl as she looked down at her arm, seeing smoke continuing to pour off of her skin.

"sh*t!" She shook her head. "What is -?!"

"Oi, oi, Ninth! Be careful!"

She flinched at the sensation of someone poking her head, and she glanced up - and lo and behold, like the orange man before, now there was another wisp of blue smoke rising before her, and within it was another floating man, with short, dark hair, and a large jacket that obscured his mouth and nose.

"You gotta be more careful," He sternly lectured her, "too much smoke output places you at risk. You're up against someone with a wind quirk, so that'll make it easy for you to lose track of him and him using this smoke against you!"

"I …" Itsuka slowly shook her head, "… how do I know you're even real?! How do I know I'm not just hallucinating?!"

The man paused.

"Er … well, I'm not sure how to prove I'm real," He admitted with a shrug, "I know that I'm in your head, but we're still kind of combing through your memories - we haven't been awake for very long."

"Great! Fantastic! Thanks for the help, hallucination man!"

"But listen," He gave her a serious look, "the headache you have? That's Danger Sense. Stop trying to ignore it."

"Danger - what?!"

"That would be my quirk."

Behind the coated man rose another green smoke, this one much taller. Within it was a man with short, white hair, thin eyes, and two scars stretching from the left side of his face down to his chin. He placed his hand over the ripped up cloth over his chest.

"We had thought that, while deciding on which quirks to give you access to first, that mine would serve you well," He explained vaguely, "although it came as a shock to me when you ended up getting a bolt so far from the danger. I get the sense that it would've been better for you to discover Danger Sense in a safer environment."

There was a pause as Itsuka stared blankly up at him, and the guy with the coat covering his mouth and nose turned to give the other ghost a skeptical look. And then she asked, "Did you just make a pun? Is - are the voices in my head making puns?!"

"Ignore him," The coat guy sighed, "he's a weirdo."

"Rude," The taller man shook his head sadly, "mine was a turbulent era. I wasn't the weirdo, everyone else was."

"I - I'm losing my mind," Itsuka was unable to resist giggling a bit wildly as she turned to stare at her knees, "I'm losing my mind and the ghosts in my head are making puns, and - and arguing with each other. I've lost my mind."

"I-Itsuka?" Izuku managed to cough out from within the smoke. "Are you - who are you talking to?"

"Oh, the voices in my head," Itsuka said conversationally, "don't mind me, they're making me go insane."

"Hm," The man in green smoke hummed, "I don't recall any other time our presence has gotten this kind of reaction out of a torchbearer - perhaps she's right when she says that she's going crazy."

The guy in the blue smoke nodded in agreement.

"Anyway, explain Danger Sense, before she completely loses her mind."

"Of course," The guy nodded before turning back to Itsuka, "it will be able to detect any danger before you in a specific radius. I was surprised at how far it was for you when it activated - your range is far larger than mine. Simply listen to when it strikes you - that means that the danger is about to be upon you. Now we will stop distracting you - get your boyfriend out of here."

"I - hey -!"

"Just trust in Danger Sense. And listen when it activates."

With that, the two ghosts suddenly dissipated, vanishing completely from view. Itsuka let out a low growl as she tried to awkwardly climb to her feet, somewhat dragging Izuku up with her as she tried to peek around through the smoke.

And then, when she felt that same stabbing sensation in her head, Itsuka let out a gasp - but she still ducked in time for one of those weird fingers to sail completely over her head.

"Gah!" Izuku squeaked as she forced him to get down too, but before he could try to get an explanation as to what was going on, Itsuka felt another sting, and she quickly pulled Izuku away as another finger suddenly sailed through the purple smoke surrounding them. Panting, Itsuka quickly looked around again, but this time, when she felt the sharp stabbing sensation in her head, she tried to focus.

"Okay …" She muttered, "… Danger Sense."

"H-huh?" Izuku looked up at her in confusion, still having to squint through the smoke to properly see her. "Itsuka, did you say something -?"

However, before he could finish his sentence, Itsuka quickly looked around at him, her eyes widening even if she held a hand up to her forehead, he felt … something grab his shoulders.

What felt like two hands, with four sharp points digging into his shoulders.

Before he could let out a shout of pain, Izuku grunted as he was abruptly ripped off his feet yet again - but instead of falling back down to the ground, this time he felt himself be lifted up. Letting out a small yelp as his feet left the ground and was pulled from the purple cloud of smoke and straight up into the air. Letting out a sputter and looking around in time for both Nejire and Mirio to stare up at him, their senpai looking more than a little alarmed and Nejire's jaw dropping in horror, Izuku was forced to look away when whatever was clinging to his shoulders dug its claws even deeper into his flesh, making him shout in pain as his gaze snapped up to whatever was holding him -

- and then he felt himself freeze, eyes widening in horror, as he saw the pale-yellow, flying creature holding him up in the air, turning its head down to stare intensely at him, with its large bat-like wings flapping ominously through the air as it lifted him high above the ground. But it was its head that found Izuku's attention focusing on it - with the weird gas-mask contraption around its lower face, and a large brain poking out of the top of its head.

"N-" Izuku gasped, "- Nomu?!"

Indeed, the … thing holding onto him and flying away from the fires looked disturbingly like the same villain that had tried to kill All Might back at the USJ. Flapping its wings up and down quickly, the creature let out a low, high-pitched gurgling noise as it continued to fly higher and higher into the sky, with Izuku letting out another harsh scream of pain as the sharp talons of its feet dug deeper into his shoulders -

- and that was when something snagged Izuku's leg, holding him in place and preventing the Nomu from flying him higher.

Blinking, and cringing as the creature tugged roughly on him again, Izuku quickly looked down at his foot, and blinked at the sight of some kind of energy wrapped around his ankle - black in color, but brimming with a light teal outline, and wrapped securely around his leg. Blinking, he quickly looked around to see where the source of the tendril was coming from - and then, when his eyes fell on her, he felt his jaw drop.

"Itsuka?!"

Indeed, heavily leaning against the edge of the building with her feet and straining with One for All surrounding her body and making her skin glow, Itsuka let out a ferocious shout as she yanked back hard on the black tendrils of energy that were coming out of her bare skin, cringing in pain as blood leaked out of where the tendrils were coming from, but refusing to submit as she pulled harder on Izuku.

But the Nomu refused to give up without a fight, letting out a squeal of rage as it attempted to pull Izuku away again, and turned to look back up at the sky -

- just in time for Nejire to have floated around him, her own face tight with rage, and she threw her hands forward to blast two volleys of spiraling yellow light into its face.

With a shriek, the Nomu was blasted off balance, and its grip on Izuku's shoulders lessened. Without warning, Izuku yelped as he was dropped by the creature, the Nomu being sent flying away from him by Nejire's blast. Itsuka, for her part, let out a deep breath as she willed One for All to send her kicking off the wall and flying towards her boyfriend, quickly growing out her hand to catch him before he dropped too far - although that presented a new problem, what with Izuku and Itsuka now plummeting towards the ground. In the air above them, Nejire let out a small gasp, her eyes widening as both of them began plummeting into the fiery city below.

"Izuku, I can't stop this!" Itsuka screamed at Izuku in warning as she tried to yank the black energy back up to her, and Izuku turned to look around for a moment as he realized that they were falling - and then he nodded.

"Okay! I'm gonna blast off to the side! This is gonna be rough!"

"I'd rather it be a rough landing than us splattering on the ground!"

Nodding quickly, and making sure to check that Nejire was out of the firing zone, Izuku quickly threw his arms forward, wincing at the puncture holes in his shoulders aching, and fired off two blasts of lightning through the Mid-Gauntlets. With grunts, they were both sent flying towards the nearby building, and Itsuka was quick to turn her arm back up towards the top of the building - almost automatically, as though a mind other than her own made her - and another shot of the black/cyan tendrils snapped out to grab at the top of the building to stop their descent, even if Itsuka cringed at her shoulder being pulled.

Both of them grunting as they slammed none too gently against the brick wall, Izuku and Ituska panted in exhaustion and pain as they both hung there, with blood leaking out of Izuku's puncture holes on his shoulders and Itsuka cringing as more and more shots of pain stabbed her brain, and blood leaked out of her arms where the black and cyan tendrils were shot out of her. Still, she quickly turned to scoop Izuku over to her, wrapping her free arm around his waist, and she quickly began checking his injuries while ignoring her own, while Nejire floated down, quickly putting her hands on their shoulders carefully.

"Hey, hey, are you two okay?" She quickly asked in alarm, careful to mind the lightning flickering on both of them as she looked at Izuku's shoulders in worry. "You're hurt, Midoriya! Ouch, those look deep!"

"It's - agh - it's fine," Izuku shook his head, "looks worse than -"

"Izuku, I will kick your ass if you finish that sentence," Itsuka gave him a warning look, but made sure to lean in and kiss his chin while he flinched in pain, "seriously, are you okay?"

"I'll - I'll be okay," Izuku shook his head, before he looked up at the black tendril erupting from Itsuka's hand, "but - but what is that? Is that …?"

"I - I think it's One for All," Itsuka shook her head, glancing up at it as well as though it was something to be afraid of, "something's - something's happening, Izuku, and I'm - I've got no idea what's going on, and I'm starting to get scared."

"I …" Izuku hesitated, glancing over at Nejire as she looked between both of them with worry, and then he shook his head and let out a shuddering sigh as he turned to lightly kiss her cheek.

"H-hey, it's - it's gonna be okay," He tried to assure her, using his free hand to rub her back, "it's - it'll be okay. I'm gonna help you out with this. We just - we'll just figure out what exactly's -"

"Hey, look alive, kohais!"

The three of them jumped as the top half of Mirio suddenly popped out of the wall beside them. Looking around, he gave them all a serious look, with the three of them noticing a small gash on his forehead that was slowly bleeding.

"Togata-senpai?" Izuku blinked in surprise. "W-wait, what about -?"

"You guys okay?" He looked around at the three of them. "I saw that - you know - thing drag you off, and Kendou and Hadou chased after you. I gave the three of them a good punch for their trouble, but I don't think they're far behind -"

He quickly looked over his shoulder.

"- ah, sh*t," He groaned, "there they are."

Jumping a bit, all three of them quickly turned to look over the side of the building, with Itsuka wincing at the familiar stab in her head. Indeed, the girl named Camie looked like she was surfing on one of the large finger things, while the purple guy wasn't far behind her. Behind them, they made out the sight of the large guy jumping off another roof, and a current of wind pushing him ahead, his small, beady eyes locked on the small group with a sneer.

"Oh, great," Itsuka groaned, "how could this get any -"

Alas, she should not have tempted fate, as they all heard a familiar high-pitched shriek. Izuku, Itsuka and Nejire quickly looked around, and felt themselves tense at the sight of the winged Nomu shooting back up from the rooftop that Nejire had shot it down to, and was currently making a beeline straight for them, its sharp talons barred as it soared straight towards them.

"Oh, god," Itsuka narrowed her eyes, "it really does look like …"

"Yeah," Izuku nodded, trying not to wince at the puncture holes in his shoulders, "Nomu."

"Huh?" Nejire blinked, looking around at Izuku in confusion. "Nomu? What's a Nomu?"

"I - we'll explain later," Izuku assured her, quickly looking back around at the winged creature soaring straight towards them all, stretching out its legs, and he quickly moved to aim his right arm at it, trying to ignore the pain in his arms.

He knew that this was going to be complicated - he had no idea why fellow hero students were attacking them, but they needed to solve this one thing at a time. First, shoot down the Nomu, and then they could try to find Ryukyu and Nighteye and perhaps get some assistance for -

BOOM

However, Izuku's calculating thoughts were brought to a swift halt when the flying Nomu, who had been soaring straight towards him with its weird talon feet angling towards his chest, suddenly vanished when a blur of motion crashed into it. The four teenagers let out shrieks of surprise as the nearby building they were next to suddenly exploded in a shower of timber, glass and brick, making them wince and look away. The three Shiketsu students, meanwhile, quickly stopped midair, with Camie raising her eyebrows at what had just happened while the big guy and the purple guy both looked surprised.

After realizing that they weren't getting hit, Izuku let out a small grunt as he squeezed an eye open, having moved his arms around Itsuka and Nejire to shield them from the explosion, and looked around - and what he saw inside the building made him gasp in horror, his eyes blowing wide open. Both Itsuka and Nejire looked around as well, and Itsuka felt her jaw drop, and Nejire went silent quickly while Mirio likewise looked shocked.

Inside, the winged Nomu let out a weak cry of pain and anger as it was soaked into the mass of muscles moving around it, slowly being absorbed by the mass of writhing veins and muscle fibers. Soon, its broken head, leaking out blood, vanished into the muscle, and the mass of flesh and blood pulsed for a moment before it began to shrink down. A black cloth suddenly appeared in the writhing horror before it formed into a cape, and the muscles shrunk down into the form of a large man, skin crawling out from underneath the pink muscle to wrap around the bones that were forming out of it and were swiftly covered up.

Once the transformation had finally been completed, the cloaked hooded man didn't waste any time. His large hands slammed down on the broken ground of the building he had smashed the winged Nomu into, and quickly looked around at the four teenagers staring up at him in horror. The hood flapped back, revealing a wide sharp grin, blonde hair, and a long scar running up his face.

And both of his eyes snapped to Izuku, one red, and the other a horrible yellow.

"I-it's you, isn't it?" Hood's face twisted into an ugly grin. "I-Izuku Midoriya! The kid with the l-lightning!"

… no.

No. No. No. No.

What … what is she doing there?!

Getting up to the rooftop across from the location that Iguchi had pinged her had been as simple as the last building she had infiltrated that night, albeit with more exertion involved. It had been a while since Nagant had run across an entire city, and doing so had revealed she was just a bit out of shape, but she had managed to get there in relatively short time, seeing as his location wasn't too far away from Kugutsu's tower. She had found a rooftop opposite of the alleyway the cameras had picked up Stendhal's location, next to a construction site, and, despite her heart thundering in her chest and having flashes of blood on her hands briefly appear before she shook her head, she had set up her sniper rifle, convincing herself that it would only be for a moment that she had to do this, and had raised her rifle …

… and lo and behold, the first thing she focused on was her own daughter's back.

"What the f*ck," Nagant breathed out, her eyes widening in horror as she zoomed out with her scope.

Indeed, her eyes didn't deceive her - it was her idiot daughter standing there in the alley, beside some kid with shadow arms growing out of his cloak, while behind them, a girl in white was tending to two fallen teenagers on the concrete ground. Standing before Ochako and the other kid, Stendhal was twirling his sword around, and behind him, a hero was slumped against the wall. She wasn't able to tell what was going on, with everyone's backs to her and Stendhal wearing a mask, but she could tell that they were getting ready for a fight.

And … and …

"f*ck," She felt her jaw clench, "f*ck! Ochako, what the f*ck are you doing?!"

Shaking her head, she raised her free hand to her ear.

"Kanshi, come in. I have a problem."

"Oho?" Kanshi's smug voice filled her ear. "What's the matter? Are you in position?"

"Yes, but the alleyway is occupied. Stendhal is …" Nagant felt herself hesitate, and then she decided for a half-truth, "… he's confronting a group of teenagers. There's too many witnesses, so I can't take the shot."

"That's not an excuse. I want Stendhal dead."

"Yeah, well, I can't just shoot him in front of the teenagers. I … they'll see the bullet. They'll be able to help the police figure out it was me."

"Hmmmm …" Kanshi hummed, her voice becoming colder. "Beros, are you nearby?"

"Yes, ma'am," Beros' cold voice responded over the line.

"Do you see Nagant? I need you to verify her findings."

"One moment, ma'am."

Nagant felt herself glare ahead, but alas, it was a bit too late to think of hiding herself. She heard the sound of a helicopter above her, and she gritted her teeth as she heard a rope be dropped. And pretty soon, the woman in the green cloak dropped down onto the rooftop beside her, her eyes narrowed as she stomped over to where Nagant was kneeling at the edge of the roof.

"I didn't need you to come down," The older sniper snapped at the younger one, "you could've verified from the helicopter."

"And risk the target fleeing if he suspects he is being watched? Nonsense. Keep your eye on the sky, Sidero," Beros raised her hand to her earpiece, and the helicopter flew upwards, "I was informed by Flect Turn that there would be a flying Nomu present. We don't want them to hit the helicopter."

"Understood." Came a smug tone came over the line.

With that out of the way, Beros quickly pulled out a pair of binoculars, and looked down towards the alley. Nagant gritted her teeth again, and waited for Beros to finish looking through the alleyway - and then, once she was done, the archer put down the binoculars, and raised her hand to her ear.

"Beros to base, come in," She said in a clear, cold voice, "I can verify that there is a group of injured teenagers in the alleyway - and Nagant's daughter is among them. They are fighting Stendhal."

"What?" Nagant blinked, and then quickly moved to push her eye against her scope. Indeed, the first thing she spotted was the sight of Ochako pressing a button on her gauntlet, and those two drones zoomed towards Stendhal, who quickly ducked underneath them and charged. Her first temptation in regards to seeing a clearly bloodlusted hero running towards her daughter with a sword was to put a bullet firmly between his eyes, but unfortunately, the other kid, and a large, familiar shadow, quickly got in her way to intercept Stendhal.

"Son of a … f*cking bitch!" Nagant snarled under her breath.

"Nagant's daughter?" Kanshi's voice became intrigued. "She's engaging Stendhal?"

"That's correct, ma'am," Beros confirmed.

"Hm …" Kanshi's voice became thoughtful, "… and how many teenagers?"

"Five. Two injured on the ground, one protecting them, and two fighting Stendhal. There's another hero injured on the wall."

Kanshi went quiet over the line, clearly thinking. Nagant, however, couldn't help but stare in horror at the teenagers fighting a clearly insane hero, watching as his sword nearly scraped at one of their faces and tensing, ready to fire on him at a moment's notice. And then Kanshi spoke again, her voice cold.

"Nagant."

"What?" She snapped back. "I'm trying to -"

"Kill them all."

And that was when Nagant stopped dead.

Staring blankly at the sight of her daughter dodging underneath another thrust of Stendhal's katana, Nagant barely could comprehend what she had just been asked. And then she slowly looked away, aware of Beros staring down at her quietly but watchfully.

"… what," She said in a blank voice, "the f*ck did you just say?"

"You heard me," The HPSC director said clearly, "I want everyone in that alleyway dead. We'll send in a crew to clean up after you. Make sure that Stendhal is dead, and there are no witnesses. Kill them."

"I …" Nagant felt herself begin to tremble, "… my daughter's in there."

"And it's regrettable," Kanshi sighed sadly, "I had such hopes for her, and for what you two could accomplish together. But my desire for the Hero Killer to be finally put down for good trumps over your daughter's future career. I want no witnesses. So Nagant, kill everyone in that alley."

Nagant felt herself freeze momentarily, and then turned back to glance at the scope. She could see, even across the street, a flash of Ochako's face as she continued fighting against the killer before her - how scared she looked, how desperate. And … and how determined she was, standing up for those two that had fallen.

And then her eyes narrowed.

"No." She shook her head. "I won't."

"That is a direct order, Nagant."

"And you're free to shove it up your ass. I said no."

"I will put you back in Tartarus," Kanshi's sweet voice became threatening, "is that what you want? To be put back in that tiny cell? Never to see the sunlight again? Never see -?"

"You go deaf or something?" Nagant snapped back. "I said no. I'm not doing this. I'd sooner put a bullet in you than anyone in that alleyway. I killed your mom's predecessor, and I'll kill you the exact same way if you make me do this. So this is me, telling you to go f*ck yourself."

There was a pause. Beros continued to glare down at her for a long moment, her arms tensing as Nagant slid the rifle back into her arm with a few wet crunches. And then the cloaked woman let out a low sigh as she raised her hand to her ear.

"I'll do it, ma'am," She volunteered, moving to reach behind her for an arrow from her quiver, "Nagant has made her stance clear -"

However, before she could reach for an arrow, Nagant's hand suddenly snapped up, and grabbed her wrist tightly. The younger sniper paused, staring blankly for a moment, before she slowly turned her head to where Nagant was standing up, her violet eyes glaring into her own as both women stared at each other for a moment.

After a long few seconds of tension beginning to slowly build, Beros breathed through her mask, both women ignoring the voice of Kanshi continuing to speak in their ears.

"What," She enunciated her words with each syllable, "do you think you're doing?"

"I said what I said," Nagant smirked a bit, "I've had enough of people getting killed whenever I try to be a hero. So no one's dying in that alley …"

And then her face dropped.

"… you sad*stic little bitch."

And with that, her fist swung up, and struck Beros straight in the mouth.

The younger woman let out a grunt of pain as the force of Nagant's punch sent her falling back against the nearby ventilation box that Nagant had set up shop at, with the woman in green rolling overtop of it and out of sight. Quickly, Nagant hopped over the box as well, knowing that a little punch like that wouldn't take down the younger assassin, and hopped to continue pummeling Beros until she knew that she wouldn't interfere with what she was about to do -

- but as she landed on the other side of the ventilation box, her gaze swept along the ground, and found Beros nowhere in sight.

Blinking sharply, Nagant looked around wildly for a moment - seriously, where had she gone?! - but then, she heard the sound of something snapping, and a high-pitched whistling sound flew through the air. Eyes widening, Nagant quickly shot the barrel of her sniper rifle out of her elbow and spun around, and the arrow aimed straight at her face made a loud TWANG noise as it bounced off the gun.

But unfortunately for Nagant, Beros was already running straight towards her, having only shot the arrow at her to distract her, and Nagant was unbalanced enough that Beros tackling her off her feet was quite easy.

Both women grunted as they rolled over the ventilation box from the force of the tackle, arms wrapping tightly around each other as they flopped off onto the ground. With both of them landing sharply on their sides, Nagant was the first to recover, trying to roll on top of her and quickly bringing her rifle back into her elbow so that she could throw another punch at Beros. Despite striking her across the face, however, Beros was quick to use their momentum to roll over again, and landed on top of Nagant as the older assassin struggled.

Quickly, Beros shrunk down her bow back into her left thumb and pinkie finger, and before Nagant could try to roll her off of her, she used her knees to hold down Nagant's arms, and then one of her hands quickly grabbed her neck.

As Nagant choked, her legs kicking out from under Beros' cape, the younger assassin glared coldly down at her as she raised her free hand to her ear.

"Ma'am, this is Beros," She said in a professional voice over Nagant's choking noises, "Nagant has gone rogue and attacked me. She will no longer comply with orders."

"Understood," From her own earpiece, Nagant heard Kanshi's cold voice, "restrain Nagant and carry on with the mission, Beros. No survivors."

"Yes, ma'am."

With that, Beros lowered her other hand to begin choking Nagant with both of them, clearly intending to strangle her into unconsciousness. Her eyes bulging slightly, Nagant kicked out uselessly behind the woman sitting atop her, but Beros made sure to keep herself stable enough to ignore Nagant's attempts to free herself and continue choking her -

- while not noticing, beneath her knee, Nagant's right elbow open up, allowing a small part of her gun to pop out.

"Idiot woman," Beros growled down at Nagant as she continued struggling, "that's all you are, you has-been. A self-pitying, disgusting traitor."

"You -" Nagant gagged.

"If I had it my way, I'd kill you now. But I will be content with throwing you back into Tartarus myself -"

However, before Beros could go on the obvious villain rant she wanted to do, Nagant popped out her gun. The force of the rifle bursting out of Nagant's elbow unbalanced Beros, making her grunt in alarm as she was knocked somewhat sideways, and that meant that Nagant could slip one of her arms free from under Beros' leg.

And of course, the first thing that Nagant chose to do, with her vision blurring, was to reach up, grab the top of Beros' hood, and yank it straight down over her face.

"Agh!" Beros grunted as her head was forced down by Nagant pulling down hard on the hood, and her hands automatically let go of Nagant's neck to free herself. And that was what Nagant needed, gasping for breath while pushing herself up into Beros to shove her off of her at the same time, twisting them both around. Coughing and gasping, Nagant still didn't hesitate to use their momentum to slam Beros hard against the ground, seeing her head bounce against it but knowing that it wouldn't be enough to put her down.

So, as both women scrambled to their feet, Nagant with the first impulsive thought that entered her head. And that was, of course, bolting straight towards her and tackling Beros straight off the side of the roof.

This … this wasn't good.

Her back slamming against the concrete wall, Ochako let out a gasp as the air was driven out of her lungs. But she didn't have time to try and recover, as she was forced to duck underneath a knife aimed straight at her face, clanging against the brick wall behind her as she rolled out of the way. The drones that she had set to attack Stendhal swooped in again, but the man was quick to duck underneath that as well, his sword lashing out to strike at Fumikage, but Dark Shadow was quick to intercept the strike as its large black hands grabbed Stendhal roughly.

With a grunt, Stendhal was lifted off his feet and slammed hard into the alley wall, Dark Shadow bellowing in rage as he dragged the pro hero against the wall. Stendhal, however, was quick to quickly slam his elbow against the back of Dark Shadow's head, with the shadow squeaking as he let go of the man out of reflex, and Stendhal was quick to angle his feet down to kick off against the wall, and he leapt away from the sentient quirk to throw another knife at an exposed Fumikage. But luckily for the boy with the bird head, the knife stopped in midair, glowing a purple light.

Throwing her hand forward, Reiko grunted as she threw the knife straight back at Stendhal, only for him to easily deflect it with his sword as he landed down on the ground again. He rolled underneath Dark Shadow's attempt to swipe at him, shifted his weight to the left to avoid another drone aimed straight at his head, and then twirled around and brought the sword down hard on the next drone zooming at him.

With a crunch, the support item was slammed into the ground, breaking nearly in half, and Ochako winced as the pro hero turned back towards her.

"Your weapons are failing, girl," He darkly pointed out to her, "the end is coming, but you do not have to waste your chance defending this piece of trash!"

"Iida's not -!"

Before she could shout at him in anger, Stendhal was moving, his blade dragging along the ground before it snapped back up at her. With a sputter, Ochako quickly moved her head away from the point of the blade, but the move, and the speed that Stendhal had run at her, unbalanced her. And Stendhal took advantage of that straight away, his free hand coming up and striking her straight in the collar, which made her grunt as she was knocked off her feet.

Wasting no time, Stendhal quickly angled his sword to stab down at the fallen Ochako, only for the purple light to come over the blade and stop Stendhal's downward stab in its tracks -

- which was what he was counting on, quickly letting go of the blade, and he pulled out two of the knives to throw straight at Reiko's head.

"Yanagi!" Ochako screamed as the silver haired girl flinched back. One scraped her cheek, cutting her mask and leaving a small trail of blood in the air; the other soared for straight in between her eyes, with Reiko a second too slow to react - but luckily for her, Dark Shadow quickly flew in, hardening himself to block the knife with its body.

Which was exactly what Stendhal was counting on, with the purple glow around his sword fading, and he quickly snatched it up to lunge straight at Fumikage's midsection.

Luckily, the bird-headed boy wasn't too slow to react to Stendhal's stab, but he grunted as the sharp point of the blade scraped his side, drawing a bit of blood. With a satisfied growl, Stendhal whirled around and threw the sword down at the top of Ochako's head as she quickly got back to her feet, but with a small whirl, the one remaining drone swept up to intercept the blow. Not, of course, that it stopped Stendhal from throwing the sword back and swiping at Ochako's stomach, with the drone letting out a high-pitched groan as it took the blow again as Ochako scrambled back, sparks flying everywhere as Stendhal sliced into the support item.

"You children," Stendhal snarled as he slashed at the young girl again, "do not -"

BAM

"- understand -"

BAM

"- anything!"

BAM

CRACK

Flinching at the strike that sent the drone smashing down to the ground, Ochako quickly tried to flinch back as Stendhal leapt over the fallen drone/boot, throwing his blade directly at her face. Only managing to get back just in time, she let out a small curse as the tip of the sword scraped against the side of her mouth, causing her to quickly step back as she tasted blood. Stendhal, on the other hand, then turned his attention towards Reiko, which made Ochako blink and quickly look around as the pro hero bolted towards her.

"Yanagi, look out!"

Luckily for the ghost girl, who had knelt down to keep the pressure on Yui's wound as Tenya desperately tried to get up and join the fight, Dark Shadow quickly lunged towards the advancing pro hero, the sentient quirk letting out a fierce growl of anger as he moved to intercept Stendhal.

"Don't touch Rei-Rei!" It bellowed at Stendhal as the pro hero quickly jabbed his blade forward, but because Dark Shadow had hardened up its form, the blade bounced harmlessly off its chest -

- but Stendhal was quick to sweep his leg and duck underneath the quirk's attempts to grab him, spinning underneath him, and threw his hand out to grab at one of the knives that had fallen on the ground, just behind Reiko, Yui and Tenya.

Seeing it sitting there, a few drops of Reiko's blood still on the metal, Ochako felt herself pause - and then a thought suddenly occurred to her. She glanced down quickly at Yui and Tenya, at how they still couldn't move - but more importantly, she flickered her gaze between the long gash on Yui's torso, and the blood leaking out of Tenya's chin.

How much … blood there was on them. And that … Stendhal wasn't really inflicting serious injuries on them, just … scratching them enough to bleed …

And that was when Ochako got it, her eyes widening.

"Yanagi! Don't let him get the knife he scraped you with!"

Reiko jumped, quickly looking around as Stendhal's hand reached out for the abandoned knife on the ground. Quickly, she activated her quirk, and just before Stendhal could snatch it up, the knife quickly slipped through the air and landed in her hand. Stendhal did not hesitate, however, in flipping up the katana to aim for her face, but Dark Shadow was quick enough to slam his arm down on the ground just before the blade could slice into her, deflecting it.

Flipping back, Stendhal landed on his feet and knelt, his breath leaving his mouth a bit unevenly. Quickly realizing that his assault had been temporarily paused, Ochako and Fumikage quickly came back together to stand over Yui, Reiko and Tenya, both of their eyes on the sword dripping with blood - and not sure whose blood it is, or if it's a combination of both of theirs.

"Iida," Ochako looked back down, "can you move yet?"

"I …" Tenya gritted his teeth, "… I can't. Not …"

Ochako let out a tense breath, absently licking her lip where she had been cut, and then looked around to where Stendhal was still kneeling, but she could tell that his eyes were scanning around the group. At least now they had his back to the alley's entrance - while they were pinned in, that meant that Manual was now behind them, so he wasn't in danger at the moment.

So she just … needed to keep the pro hero distracted. Yui had sent her location to the group chat, so that … that hopefully meant that Aizawa was on his way. They just needed to hold out for him a little longer.

Luckily, Stendhal seemed to register that he had lost his advantage, with his head briefly turning towards Manual before turning back to the three teenagers still standing, and he let out a low huff as he slowly straightened up, twirling his sword.

"You," He gestured to Ochako, "you told her to retrieve my knife. You figured out my quirk, didn't you?"

"I …" Ochako gulped, and then stiffly nodded, "… yeah. You can paralyze us with our blood. That's why you're not going to kill us, just scratch us."

"Good," Stendhal sounded impressed, "very good. You're smart - to be able to make that deduction in the heat of the moment. Not bad … not bad at all. And you two," He turned to Fumikage and Reiko, "you are both doing well. Your shadow, boy … it's formidable. And your dedication to saving the girl is to be admired."

Nodding slowly, he moved to straighten up more, spreading his arms.

"I will ask you all," He offered, "one last time. Take the girl and go. Leave my apprentice here. I can sense that you all have the spirits of true heroes - abandon this one to his fate, and go about your ways. Save her."

"Really?" Fumikage glowered. "Would a 'true hero', as you say, leave two men behind to die?"

Stendhal paused.

"You," Reiko also glared at him, "are a lunatic who does not even know what he's talking about. One moment you want us to leave with her, the next you try to kill us. You claim that you are a hero, but you yourself are willing to hurt these two and ourselves, when we have done nothing but try to defend ourselves and our friends."

"That is not true," Stendhal's voice had become cold, and he pointed down at Tenya with his sword again, "he is not a hero. He did not try to defend himself. He came to this alley to seek vengeance for his brother -"

"Yes!" Ochako snapped at him, feeling her teeth clench. "Because his brother got crippled! And put in a coma! Why are you that unsympathetic?! He's human! He's not going to be perfect!"

"Human? Bah. Heroes should not allow their personal feelings to get in the way of their duty."

"What the f- what the f*ck are you even talking about?!"

Stendhal merely fell silent once again, before he let out a small sigh and put the tip of the sword down on the ground. Looking between the teenagers for a long moment, the pro hero took a deep breath as he turned to stare down at his feet - and then he slowly nodded.

"Very well," He decided, "if this is the day that Stendhal dies … then it is the day he dies."

"What?" Dark Shadow looked annoyed and confused. "What're you -"

"This was inevitable," Stendhal interrupted it, although he seemed to be talking more to himself as he raised his hand to his mask, "I knew that being a pro hero was too … limited. I thought that I could perhaps help those by operating in the law, but I see now … I see that it was all in vain."

He then turned to the other three.

"Don't get in my way, children," He ordered them, "this boy is not worth saving. He deserves to bleed out, creeping through the darkness. It is now time for me to become faceless - to dye this world red, and stain it with the truth of this society's corruption."

The three teenagers blinked, glancing between each other, while Tenya angled his head up to glare hatefully at Stendhal as his former mentor turned to give him a look of scorn.

"I see now … the real root of my disappointment towards you, Tenya Iida … is that you have no conviction." A wicked smile appeared under the red and black mask. "Power wielded without conviction amounts to a crime. And when crime shapes the man underneath … that is what I call a villain. And I realize now that the power of my blade … must eradicate the crime that is your very existence."

"… what?" Ochako stared at him in shock.

"No one will notice your death. No one cares for a simple villain." Stendhal's voice trembled in madness as he kept speaking to Tenya alone. "You are mine to slay, to ensure that your corruption does not infect the world. There is no point anymore, Tenya Iida - your true nature has been exposed. You, my fallen apprentice, shall be the first to fall in my new quest."

"What madness are you going on about?!" Fumikage snapped.

"This mask," Stendhal tapped on it, "it is useless now. A mere piece of plastic that hides my true face. But no longer. Stendhal shall die in this alley with you, Tenya Iida. My flashy mask has been cracked, my false face has fallen away. The title of 'hero' is now beneath me - I must become something more to bring justice to this world. I shall start here, with you, my apprentice - and I will ascend to becoming a true harbinger of justice. And heroes like Ingenium or that fake over there will know that there will be someone watching from the shadows, ready to make them see the reality of what it means to be a hero."

"Seriously," Ochako felt herself begin to shiver, "what the f*ck are you …"

However, she trailed off as she glanced backwards behind her, as though she had heard something and quickly looked around to make sure she wasn't being snuck up on - and her gaze fell on Manual. And suddenly, she felt her mind grind to a halt.

Wait.

Wait.

Wait a - wait a minute.

For a long moment, she stared at Manual, seeing him struggling to stand up but unable to. How … defenseless he would be, in case someone came to attack. She remembered what Stendhal said, about him not being the Hero Killer. And she … she realized …

"… you were in the alley," She slowly turned to look back at the pro hero, "with Ingenium. You - you say that you're not the Hero Killer - but there's no way that Ingenium-sensei would've fallen to them unless - unless he wasn't able to defend himself."

There was a short pause. Both Fumikage and Reiko went still, turning to look at Ochako in shock and horror. Yui tensed, not being able to move her head, so it forced her to stare at Tenya's face as it froze as well, his eyes widening in shock as his jaw dropped. And Stendhal was silent once again, staring at Ochako as she raised a hand to point at him.

"You …" Ochako's jaw dropped in horror, "… you paralyzed Ingenium-sensei so he wouldn't move when the Hero Killer came. You let Ingenium get crippled. You set him up as bait so that the Hero Killer would - would murder him."

The alley was filled with a horrified silence for a few seconds, with the five teenagers staying still while before them, Stendhal was silent for a moment - and then eyes behind his mask narrowed.

"And?" He said in a challenging voice. "And so what if I did? You cannot judge me for doing what was needed to be done, child."

"I can judge you for wanting a man dead." Ochako took a shuddered breath, hatred beginning to fill her eyes. "But you - you hurt someone important to us."

"Did I? Nonsense." Stendhal scoffed. "Ingenium was nothing but a corporate shill who forgot his place. It does not matter how many lives he saved - he was a selfish fool, who did not deserve to be considered a hero."

The five teenagers tensed, Fumikage's teeth gritting behind his beak while Dark Shadow let out a low, angry growl, his yellow eyes shifting to red briefly. Tenya continued to pant erratically on the ground, tears streaming down his cheeks, while Yui panted and cringed as Reiko's hand slowly moved away from the coat pressed over her wound, reaching for something in her pocket. Ochako, meanwhile, felt her fists clench, the nails digging into the skin of her palms as she glared in hatred at that red and black mask.

And then, suddenly, they all heard a familiar voice.

"Hey, guys!"

The entire alleyway froze at the sound of Tensei's voice. Tenya felt himself tense despite the paralysis overcoming his body, and then glanced up as best he could to see Reiko, who was still kneeling on the ground beside Yui, lifting up her phone, with Ochako, Fumikage and Stendhal glancing over to see Tensei's smiling face on the screen.

"Just saw your message," The recording cheerfully said, "and since I know Tenya is going to make sure you guys don't see this message until after the sports festival wraps up, I wanted to tell you that I'm so proud of you guys. I know how hard you've fought, and I'm happy for those who got to continue on to the final round. For anyone who might not have made it, I know that you might be disappointed, but just remember that I failed my first sports festival right out of the gate. And so did Aizawa. Don't worry if you guys stumble and fall - I know that you can pick yourselves right back up. Anyway, you guys have heard enough from me - go out and have a great weekend!"

The video then ended, and Reiko slowly put the phone down to turn back to staring at the ground before where her clenched hands were pressed against the concrete.

"We asked Iida here to send this to our group chat, during lunch," Reiko's normally calm voice shook with emotion and fury, "so that we knew that our substitute teacher believed in us. And Iida … despite you calling him a fake hero, he wanted those of us who had not gone on to the next rounds of the sports festival to feel better about ourselves. Both Iidas are heroes - they're better heroes than you would ever be."

"Nonsense." Stendhal dismissed that at once.

"He brought us together," Fumikage bowed his head, Dark Shadow behind him trembling with fury, "and helped us after villains had attempted to kill us."

"He stayed with us for a week," Reiko's voice shook as tears threatened to leak out of her eyes, "to make sure that we were okay. That we would not fall down after those villains attempted to drag us down."

"Ingenium is a good man," Ochako gritted her teeth, "and you crippled him because he didn't rise to your impossible standards. That's why we're bringing you down, you piece of sh*t - because you like to ramble on and on about true heroism, but you're the farthest thing from a hero I've ever seen. You're nothing but a villain pretending to be a hero. You aren't a hero - you're a stain on everything that makes a good hero!"

Stendhal considered that for a moment - staring at her for a long moment - and then he huffed.

"No," He shook his head, "I am more than that. I am no hero, and I am no villain. I … am more than either of those labels. The Hero Killer … I hunt them, but the more and more I trail them, I realize that they … may have the right idea."

"The right idea?" Ochako took a shuddering breath. "They kill people. They kill innocent people."

"They kill fake heroes," Stendhal hissed, "and I realize now, they do not do it properly. It is no use to try to appear as though fake heroes can change - they would only do it for appearance's sake. A person's essence does not change so easily - they will be nothing but fakes who prioritize their own selfish desires. They are a cancer that warps the idea of 'heroes', and I … I will be the one who sets them straight."

He stomped forward, and the three teenagers flinched as they felt a strange wave of … it could only be described as pure bloodlust washing over them like a tsunami as Stendhal raised the sword to point at them, and they shivered as they saw, behind the red and black mask, his eyes shine insanely.

"Stendhal is no more," He made clear, "I am more than Stendhal. I am more than a hero. I am more than a villain. I am more than Chizome Akaguro. I am justice. I am death. I … am …"

And behind the mask, a wide, vicious grin appeared on his face.

"… Stain."

With that, he charged forward, faster than any of them could expect, and because of the bloodlust that he had been sending towards them, they were too slow to react. Ochako flinched back, her eyes widening as the villain threw the katana above his head, and brought it down hard on her head, with no way for her to dodge out of the way in time.

And then two things happened instantaneously.

One, a bo staff suddenly shot down and intercepted the blade that was about to hit Ochako in the face, knocking Stendhal's hand aside and slamming down on the ground before Ochako. And the next was the body of a man flipping down from the fire escape above them almost silently, his foot slamming straight into back of Stendhal's head and kicking him straight off his feet, forcing Ochako to quickly duck and causing the man to be sent flying briefly down the alley before he came down hard on the ground with a grunt.

The three of them flinched and jumped back, and Tenya blinked as his own body jumped a little, staring at his hand as it slowly clenched. Before them, the man that had just jumped down from the fire escape grunted as he flipped above their heads and landed gracefully on the ground before them, bending his knees to absorb the impact. Wearing a brown coat over a lack t-shirt and under a strap over his shoulder, dark cargo pants and combat boots, the man straightened up to look down on them all - wearing a balaclava mask similar to Reiko's over his mouth and upper face, and a pair of orange goggles around his eyes, allowing his wild white hair to remain visible.

Despite the shock of his sudden appearance, Ochako felt herself subconsciously calm herself down as the new man looked down at her, his eyes soft behind the orange lenses.

"Sorry about that," The man turned fully to face her, and despite wearing a full face mask and having his voice muffled, she could hear the grin in his voice, "I would've been here a few minutes ago, but those mercenaries were giving my boys a bit of trouble, so I had to go help 'em out. We had thought that Shouta would be here soon, since La Brava looked into your group chat and saw his message, but … well, they're kind of attacking everywhere , so I imagine he got held up."

"I … what …?"

"Are you kids okay?" He turned to look over his shoulder, seeing Yui on the ground, and without another word, he quickly ran over to inspect her, bending over and lifting her bloody coat over her wound to inspect the long slash. "Okay, that's not as deep as I thought it was going to be, but she still needs to get to a hospital. Get her out of here, kid."

"She -" Reiko stuttered, entirely taken aback, "- we can't move her. She's been paralyzed - we believe it's because of his quirk - and my quirk can only focus on her wounds. I can't move her without aggravating the wound."

"Yeah," Dark Shadow floated down, his face angry as he slammed a fist into his hand, "and I'm not leaving this alleyway until that guy is down! He's the reason Ingenium-sensei got hurt!"

"Is that right …" The man straightened back up, turning to look up at where he had kicked Stendhal - or rather, Stain. Indeed, the villain slammed his hand against the ground and whirled around to face him, and the group saw the red part of his mask above his face crack, and some of it fell off, revealing an insane, red eye glaring wildly at them.

And then the man nodded, glancing over at Manual, and then squaring his shoulders.

"Alight," He nodded, "in that case … well, kids, we can't just leave that guy there. If you can't move her, and you don't want to leave -"

"No!" Tenya tried to get up, straining as he forced himself to move. "He - he's the one who crippled my brother! I - I have to -!"

"Hey," The man turned, his voice becoming sharper, "just relax, kid, and take your time. I'm not gonna let this guy get away, but you need to calm down."

Taking a deep breath, he then turned, and grabbed at the bo staff that had been embedded into the ground, effortlessly ripping it out. Twirling it briefly, he went down into a combat stance, both hands on the staff as he leveled it at Stain, who scooped up his sword and turned his full attention to the man who had just interfered.

"Alright, kids," The man moved to stand in front of the still shellshocked Ochako, Fumikage and Reiko, being sure to flash them a small thumbs up, "you just stay back now, okay? If you can move the girl, get her out of here. I'm gonna handle the edgelord."

"I …" Ochako felt herself shake her head automatically, still unsure as to what exactly was happening at this point. "… who are you?"

"Me?" He chuckled. "Just a vigilante passing by, but … if you're looking for names, you can call me Leader. Now, keep back - I'm gonna take care of this guy real quick, and I'm not gonna lie - it's probably gonna get violent. After all …"

He then turned back to where Stain was staring at him in hatred, and the eyes behind the goggles hardened.

"… he hurt a friend of mine," Leader declared, "so I'm gonna make sure he doesn't get away with it."

Ignited Spark - Chapter 47 - 3PeopleInACoat - 僕のヒーローアカデミア | Boku no Hero Academia (2024)

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