A/N: WARNING! This chapter contains a scene of sexual assault. The scene, located near the beginning of the chapter, is a little brief and censored for the most part (to maintain a T rating), but it is still a likely trigger for real sexual assault survivors. I have rewritten this chapter so many times to minimize the potential gut-wrenching quality of this one scene; you have no flipping idea. I don't wish to spoil too much, but this one scene will be absolutely vital for the development of certain characters down the road, so I can't just replace it with something else.
Consider yourselves warned, everybody. I don't want to upset or trigger anyone.
Oh, and I encourage those who are not informed to research the "bystander effect" for further context.
P.S.: Also, be prepared for some more OOC behavior from your favorite characters, everyone. I promise you, this won't last long. Just bear with it in the meantime. I appreciate everyone's patience.
"I'm off to school, Mom!"
Izuku stumbled towards the door while simultaneously putting on his other shoe. He was about to open the front door of the apartment when he heard his mother's voice address him, softly and timidly.
He looked over his shoulder and saw her entering the hallway, fiddling with her flower-patterned apron.
When it came to Inko Midoriya, Izuku held nothing but utmost respect and compassion towards her. For his entire life, he never knew his father, including what happened to him. All he knew was that Inko was still moving Heaven and Earth to keep the both of them economically steady. In the day, she was a cook at an American fast-food restaurant in Yokohama, a grueling and demanding job that had no room for mistakes. In the night, she was a 1-1-0 operator, answering calls for people in danger and directing police to their location, also a grueling and demanding job that had no room for mistakes. In-between, she had to prepare her son's meals and check up on his well-being as much as possible.
To Izuku, she was the ideal real-life superhero. So, it pained his heart to see her worried and on the verge of tears.
"Y-Yes, Mom...?" he asked, his voice slightly shaky with worry.
"You came home late," she replied. "And the first thing you did was rush to your room. Now I know it could mean a lot of things. After all, you're always off doing something with that manga of yours. That's why I didn't say anything last night. But as your mother, I-I just can't shake off the feeling that something's off. So...I have to ask...is everything alright?"
Izuku smiled so forcefully that it hurt his muscles. "I'm-I'm fine, Mom."
But Inko was unconvinced. "Now I know you're lying, honey..." She approached her son, who was a head taller than her, and put her hands on his shoulders. "If you're having trouble with anything...please tell me. I'm your mother, Izuku. I'll stop at nothing to help you. But only if you're honest with me."
Izuku looked away sheepishly. "It's nothing, Mom! I swear!"
"Are you sure about that, sweetie...?"
"Y-Yes, Mom." Izuku looked back at her, his expression nervous and his lips pursed. "Can I please go now...?"
Inko still looked concerned, but she obviously couldn't keep her only child on a tight leash forever. So, she let go of his shoulders and stepped away.
"Alright." She anxiously lifted a hand over her heart. "You can go."
Izuku restrained a relieved sigh as he opened the door. However, once the light burst through the doorway and flooded the apartment, he heard Inko's voice again.
"But if you ever change your mind about talking, please call me."
Izuku's face was downcast, but he replied, "Sure, Mom. Thank you." He stepped through the doorway and slowly closed it behind him. "I'll see you later."
Once the door was shut, Izuku finally let out his sigh and started walking to the staircase. He took a deep breath, briefly inhaling the nice scent of pink flowers that were growing in a pot tucked in the neighbor's windowsill.
"I can't tell you what the problem is, Mom. If Shimura-san thinks being a superhero is reckless, how would you react...?"
A dot in a sea of dots. That was what Izuku felt like right now.
Right now, he was mingling in a large crowd of commuters, who were all scrambling from one place to another. Some of them were on their cellphones, talking mindlessly about numbers and deadlines and numbers and deadlines and a whole lot of other meaningless stuff. Others were checking their wristwatches; some broke out in sweats but couldn't do a thing to salvage their dilemmas because of some unspoken rule about the monster that is commuting. And even more others, young and some wearing school uniforms, were gossiping about the most unbelievably minor stuff imaginable.
"This is like one of the herds I watch online..." he thought. Then, he shook his head. "No. No, this crowd, it's no herd, it just isn't. It may be just a bunch of humans grouped together in a single place, bound to a common path, but it's still not a herd. It's still something entirely different, but I just can't describe it..." He sighed glumly. "How could the human race become something so out of place with the world? It's so confusing. And to think, I'm a member of that very race..."
He was about to take out the Our Hero Academia volume that he brought when he heard a faint voice abruptly shouting. Everyone ignored it except for Izuku. He didn't know why the voice caught his attention, only that it simply did. Anyone else would say it wasn't their business, but to Izuku, it was something that needed to be addressed.
So, he looked around frantically for the source. It didn't take long for him to hear the voice again, and this time, it was a little louder and clearer...as was its meaning.
His eyes now as wide as saucers, Izuku broke away from his original path and began pushing through the sea of people. Some cursed at him for shoving them aside, others gave him nasty glares. But he ignored them and continued pushing down the direction where the voice was coming from. All the while, he realized he was the only person who seemed to be making an active effort to find the person in need. And as he trudged closer and closer, it was clear the person calling out was in dire need of help.
"Help! Someone, please help!"
After about half of a minute, he still had a lot of people to go through, and he noticed some of them had stopped in their tracks, their faces aimed towards a common direction. Once he reached that still-building crowd, Izuku quickly saw what the problem was.
There was a teenage girl pinned to the wall by a large, muscular man sporting short, spiky ash-blond hair that reminded Izuku of Katsuki's. The hulking man was flanked by two others: a man with uncannily effeminate qualities and a pair of triangular sunglasses, and a shorter man with a lizard tattoo on his exposed shoulder. As for the girl, Izuku realized she was wearing the uniform of his school, but other than that, she was too far away for him to make out any other features, plus her form was partially shadowed by the alleyway.
"Give us your money, cutie," the muscular man snarled, a manic grin embracing his facial features. "Do it, and ya won't get hurt."
The girl whimpered something, but Izuku immediately knew what it was when the lizard tattoo man spoke.
"Calling for help won't do ya any good. As you can see, no one gives a damn."
The effeminate man leaned against the wall, standing just a couple of inches from the girl. He leaned his face in close to hers, and Izuku could imagine her feeling his breath coating her cheek.
"Just give us the money, sweetie. You can get more at home, right?" When the girl didn't respond, instead shivering with terror, he shook his head. "My, my. Refusing to answer her elders. What a bad girl..."
"That's alright," the muscular man said, sneering. "I like bad girls."
Izuku felt his heart stop when the man suddenly grabbed the girl's breast, causing her to yelp like an injured puppy. This only caused the other two crooks to laugh rambunctiously, as if their crony had merely played an amusing joke. Seeing this horrific, disgusting behavior unfold in front of his eyes made Izuku feel sick to his stomach. In his peripheral vision, he saw no discernible movement by the other onlookers.
"Why is no one stepping in?!" he thought. "Isn't anyone else here disgusted by this?!"
Still, none of the onlookers stepped in. Some watched with unsure expressions, while others were slowly and awkwardly looking around, presumably wondering the same thing as Izuku. A few twitched, one after another, as if they were going to step in but reconsidered after they saw no one else was going to follow their lead. A couple of men actually seemed to be enjoying the sight. Izuku was absolutely horrified by this.
"This...This can't be happening! No one wants to stop this?!" Izuku looked at the alleyway and saw the girl looking away, trying to avoid inhaling the muscular man's breath like it was a toxic fume. "I...I have to help!"
But then, he took note of the harasser's bulging muscles and towering form, and the strong aura of confidence that was emitting from his body like a stench. At that moment, he felt an invisible force rooting his feet to the ground, paralyzing him.
"W-Wait. Will those guys fight back if I confront them? Will have no problem with beating up a scrawny little kid like me, in front of all these people? It'll just be a pastime to them! There's no way I can stand a chance in a fight like that! I...I can't just stop them all by myself!"
"Come on, sweet cheeks," the muscular man suddenly said.
The harsh, confident voice caused Izuku's blood to run cold, and his heart seemed to stop altogether. The boy could only watch the muscular man as his hand moved downward towards the girl's hip.
"Gimme the green stuff if ya know what's good for ya." And then, a carnal glint flashed across his left eye. "Unless you're into this sorta thing. In that case, I don't mind..."
His hand moved behind her hip, and Izuku looked away in horror, just as he heard the girl yelp again. He didn't want to know anymore. He didn't want to.
At that point, fear had completely taken Izuku like a tidal wave. The traumatizing event happening before his eyes, the intimidating forms of the robbers, and the presence of all these callous bystanders were weighing his motivation down. Hundreds and hundreds of thoughts were racing through his head a mile a minute, causing him to feel dizzy. He could feel his heart hammering against his sternum like a jackhammer at full strength.
"Why is no one stepping in?! Do I need to do this by myself? But what if the crooks beat me up? And what if no one else follows me?! I can't do this alone! Those crooks won't bat an eye at me! They'll beat me to a pulp! B-But I can't let that girl get attacked like that! But I don't know what's going to happen to me if I step in! Why can't I do anything?! I want to do something, anything! But I can't! I'm... I'm... I'm..."
"Life's not fair, Midoriya-kun. It's unpredictable, a series of random occurrences. No matter how much mankind tries to control it, life somehow finds a way to make their efforts blow up in their faces. It has always been this way and it always will be. Sometimes things go your way, other times they don't. You never know."
"Oh, why'd you have to say that, Shimura-san?!"
Just then, he heard some strange noises coming from the alleyway, and saw some of the bystanders shifting awkwardly. He followed their gazes and saw the girl lying on the ground, silently weeping. Her clothes were now slightly rumpled and grimy. The muscular man was holding a brown wallet in his hand, smirking gleefully, as were his two cronies.
"Thanks, slut," he said. "I got to have twice as much fun today!" He stuck his hand into her wallet, fished out a couple of bills, and threw them at her. "Here. Consider this a form of payment."
With that, the man marched deeper into the alleyway with his two accomplices, their jeering, howling, evil cacophony of laughter echoing. The girl was still crying. Izuku looked back at the crowd and realized even more people were watching, but to his disgust, they were doing nothing. An older man seemed to be fiddling with his phone, but that was it.
"How long has this crowd been watching in the first place?!" he thought with outrage. "Did they all really just stand there and do nothing?!" And then, his outrage turned into horror. "But...I just stood there...and watched too... No matter what I think about this, I'm no better than these people! ...Perhaps I'm even worse! I...I knew she needed help, but I couldn't do anything about it...because I was scared... I could've done something..." Izuku clenched his fists tightly once again. "I could've done something! But I...I..."
He stared at the girl, whose face he still couldn't see because of the shadows. She was still lying on the ground helplessly and crying. Without a doubt, she was wondering why no one came to her rescue, even though she was in a public area...
He didn't want to watch anymore.
He didn't want to be there anymore.
He didn't want to step in and help...because the opportunity came and went by already.
After what had happened, he didn't deserve to help her now...
The green-haired boy slowly took a couple of steps backward, away from the horrible crowd, his eyes still trained on the girl as she toiled in her horror and grief. His head was shaking slowly. His vision was blurring with tears and everything was turning into indiscernible, shapeless, meaningless blobs to him. Still, no one stepped in to check on her well-being.
"I didn't do anything... I was a coward... I was no superhero..."
Izuku started quietly weeping himself, as he allowed himself to be pushed forward by the mindless, careless crowd.
Izuku looked up somberly and was met by a pair of familiar eyes, razor-sharp and piercing in their judgment. After what had happened that morning, the boy felt as if he was already being incriminated for his failure to do the right thing.
"For once I didn't catch you reading one of your manga," Aizawa droned, the tone of his voice betraying the deathly look in his dark, beady eyes. "I'd commend you if you weren't still elsewhere in mind. Your lessons are what's important right now, not whatever is distracting you. Focus up."
Izuku merely stared back, his expression unwavering in its silence and vacancy. He could still imagine the girl weeping in the alleyway, the subject of passing glances by pedestrians who would never, ever waste a moment of their precious time to be Good Samaritans...
But then, he pushed away those thoughts and glared at the chalkboard that had on it writing that meant nothing to him, but he still pretended to care. Aizawa noticed this shift in attitude and how unconvincing and forced it was, but he merely walked back to his desk, seemingly resigned to the circumstances at hand.
"Well, it's a start," he said. "I guess..."
As soon as he returned to the desk, Aizawa resumed his lecture, but Izuku's mind returned to the girl in the alleyway.
"I let all of that happen to her... I watched and let those men have their way with her... And when they left her like that, I still didn't help... But why would I? I just stood by and watched even when I had the time and opportunity to save her. Help from me is the last thing she needs now. ...Yamikumo would've done better than me... A whole lot better..."
Izuku glumly looked down at his backpack, which contained the Our Hero Academia volumes that he chose to bring along for his private reading pleasure.
"I want to read them, but I can't even look at them anymore. Not after I wanted to become a real superhero because of them, only for me to fail my own ideals. How could I become a superhero if I just stand there and let a crime take place because I was afraid?!" Izuku pushed the volumes out of his mind. "I don't deserve to read them. I no longer deserve to be a fan. Shimura-san was right. Manga... It's messing with my head, making me think I can become something that, in reality, is totally out of touch with the world. I have to accept the fact that the real world is not a manga. I have to."
Then, an image of multiple pedestrians staring at the crying girl filled Izuku's mind like an unholy water in a chalice. He gritted his teeth and lightly, slowly scratched the surface of his table in anger.
"But how can I be part of a world that no longer has the time to stop and help a person in need...? Where I don't have the time or motivation to stop and help...?"
"No way, really?!"
"Yep! But I turned him down. You should've seen the look on his face!"
"Jeez, how cruel, Tokage!"
Izuku averted his eyes as he passed the group of girls in the hallway. For once, he didn't have manga on his mind for the majority of his class time. This time, he couldn't get the weeping girl and her cackling tormentors out of his head. He just couldn't. And now, every time he stared at a girl, even one of his classmates, his mind would go back to the alleyway.
"I know she's a student here," he thought somberly. "She was wearing the school uniform from here. But I couldn't make out anything else about her." At that moment, he spotted Momo Yaoyorozu near one of the windows. "For all I know, she could be one of my classmates." Then, he spotted one of the girls Momo was talking to, Ibara Shiozaki of the neighboring classroom. "Or someone from Uraraka's class."
Then, his heart fell.
"Or maybe Uraraka herself..."
Izuku shook his head. "You can't think like that, Izuku! If she's a student, she's most likely not here! She probably went to the police after the fact! She probably reported those evil men! It's no longer your problem. The police will find those crooks soon enough and get back her wallet..."
But he sighed a broken sigh, laden with annoyance and irritation at those hopeless thoughts.
"Why are you saying that, Izuku? You should've called the cops. That wasn't her responsibility. It was yours. Or perhaps someone else's...but would they really have done that? Especially after how callously they acted when they watched her get..."
Then, he looked up and saw yet another group of girls walking towards him, this time flanked by a few boys.
All of a sudden, every last member of the group turned their heads at him in a singular motion. The girls had accusatory looks on their faces, as tears streaked down their cheeks. The boys were grinning manically, their teeth bared like vicious fangs.
"Why didn't you help me?" the girls asked in one voice. "You were there..."
"Hey, thanks for the help back there!" the boys chorused in another. "We owe you!"
Izuku shook his head again and wiped his eyes of the tears that had formed at the corners. Then, he realized he stopped walking, so he continued onward. As he did, his ears listened in on the conversations all around him.
"Yo, bro! What'd you get in that chemistry test? Betcha it was terrible."
"Heh heh heh... 69..."
"Ooh, ooh! Did you just get a text from that cute Chinese exchange student?"
"Not yet. Got my fingers crossed!"
"Something tells me that's not gonna happen. You'll be all alone..."
"Goddamn, Kan-sensei put me in detention again. What a jackass."
"To be fair, you were chewing bubblegum during class..."
"My pops is gonna start teaching me how to do auto repairs."
"Man, sounds rough."
"I can't wait for the weekend to come!"
"Didja get the condoms for Saturday?"
"I hate my new teacher..."
"You've got balls, man..."
"-you really don't..."
An image of a girl on the ground, passed by everyone and helped by no one...
"I hate everything. Darn it, I hate everything! Why did this have to happen?! Why did no one do the right thing?! W-Why did I not do the right thing?! Why did I have to be such a coward?!"
Izuku marched into the boys' bathroom and looked at himself in the grimy mirror. His green, trembling eyes stared back, razor-sharp and piercing in their judgment. For a moment, the boy wanted to punch the mirror, but he remembered that could get him suspended at worst.
So, he was just standing there, hating himself.
"Help! Help me! Someone, please! Help me!"
"Calling for help won't do ya any good. As you can see, no one gives a damn."
"I didn't give a damn either. If I really did, I would've done something. But...But I didn't. I didn't. I couldn't. I wouldn't. I'm no hero. I'm a failure. I'm a failure!"
As he toiled, he could vaguely feel his world spinning. He saw nothing but the alleyway now.
"I failed that girl. I failed her. I failed. I failed, I failed, I failed, I... I-"
The spinning was too much now. His head jerked itself towards the bowl of the sink, and he threw up. And as he did, two students that were standing nearby recoiled in disgust and left, unwilling to ask any questions.
Izuku stepped into the cafeteria for the first time.
It was almost like entering a foreign country. Students filled every table to the brim, chatting mindlessly with each other and laughing boisterously at confusing jokes. There was no table in sight that didn't have at least four students sitting by it. A strange but surprisingly pleasant combination of multiple fragrances hung in the air. The clean floor gleamed freshly and spectacularly from the bright sunlight entering through the windows.
"I don't know where to sit..." he thought with his forced, uninterested voice. "But I...I need to take my mind somewhere else... I have to if I'm gonna regain Shimura-san's favor and be allowed back into Plus Ultra..."
He scanned the tables situated closest to him, one by one.
One of the tables was occupied by members of the school's boys' basketball team: the foul-mouthed Yosetsu Awase, the calm and collected Sen Kaibara, and the approachable chatterbox Kosei Tsuburaba. They were all discussing an upcoming game and a foul-up on Kosei's part during a past game, which brought tears to everyone else's eyes.
Another table was taken by members of the Literature Club, which was led by Jurota Shishida, a massive and monstrous-looking but surprisingly eloquent boy, who could easily be mistaken for a fully-grown man. Not unexpectedly, they were taking this time discussing an American novel that Jurota had recommended.
Yet another table was taken by the entire Manga & Anime Club. The founder, Mei Hatsume, was yapping on and on about the newest mecha anime while another member, Nirengeki Shoda, was forced to listen. Meanwhile, two other members, Manzo Fukidashi and half-Japanese, half-American exchange student Paula Tsunotori, were enthusiastically talking about the upcoming Eggumon games and what all-new features it might have. Finally, the fifth member, Toru Hagakure, Izuku believed the name was, had her face buried in an Archery Craft Online light novel, obscuring all of her physical features. Izuku decided to check the other two tables first before he would decide to sit with them.
The fourth table nearby was occupied entirely by seniors, led by Mirio Togata and Nejire Hado. Those two were perhaps the most popular students in the entire school, more popular than Katsuki Bakugo even. Izuku remembered hearing little snippets on how the two of them seemed to have an on-and-off romantic relationship, basically a will-they-or-won't-they kind of scenario. Not that it interested him.
Then, he looked at the final table...and felt his heart flutter.
There, sitting at the edge of that table, was the girl of his dreams, Ochako Uraraka. She was smiling and chatting happily with her group of friends: the de facto big sister Itsuka Kendo, the frog-loving Tsuyu Asui, the stereotypical kuudere Yui Kodai, the idol-obsessed Kinoko Komori, and last but not least, the springy and cheerful Himiko Toga.
On instinct, Izuku walked towards that table, but then another instinct stopped him in his tracks.
"Oh, no..." he thought miserably. "There's barely any space in that table! If I sit down right beside them, I'm gonna look like a creep! And then Kendo's probably gonna karate-chop me in the back of the neck or something..."
He took a couple of steps backward, only to bump into something. He heard a plastic tray clatter loudly on the floor, and something bursting out of a container and spilling.
"WHOA!" a chorus of familiar voices cried out in surprise, attracting the attention of the nearest students.
"I'm sorry!" Izuku cried, looking behind him and bowing his head repeatedly. "I'm so, so, so sorry! I'm-"
At that moment, he caught the sight of a familiar baseball grenade, circling around on the tray.
"Just my luck..."
Before he could look up, a hand grabbed Izuku's head, held on tight, and lifted it up for him. His soul recoiled at the sight of Katsuki Bakugo's fearsome, predatory hazel eyes.
"For a damn otaku," he snarled, "you sure know how to get on my fucking nerves when you get down to it..." He looked down, and though Izuku couldn't see what his bully was seeing, the scowl on his face was unmistakable. "And you had to ruin my perfectly good shoes..."
"I'm-I'm sorry, Bakugo!" Izuku stuttered. "I-I d-didn't mean to bump into you, I-I promise-!"
"Come on, Bakugo!" Eijiro shouted from behind Katsuki. "Kick the otaku's ass!"
"Yeah!" Mina added, her fist raised with encouragement. "Show him what for!"
"Do it, do it, do it!" Denki and Hanta chanted from the sides, their grins wide and gleeful. Pretty soon, their voices were joined by a large handful of other students from the cafeteria.
Katsuki grinned madly, as he released Izuku's head and used his other hand to grab the collar of his shirt. His first hand curled up into a menacing fist.
Izuku shut his eyes tightly, awaiting the inevitable punch.
"I guess this is punishment for being such a coward..."
"Hey, leave him alone!"
Upon hearing that voice, Izuku suddenly felt extremely lightweight. He looked over his shoulder, as did Katsuki, and saw Ochako standing up from her table and marching over to them, her fists clenched and her lips pursed tightly.
"He said he was sorry!" she snapped defiantly.
Katsuki gritted his teeth. "Who the hell are you?" he asked. "And why the hell are you standing up for this loser?"
"I'm standing up for him because you're picking on him for no good reason!" Ochako crossed her arms and gave Katsuki a stare of intense focus and outrage. "Are your shoes so important that you have to take your anger out on him, even if he apologizes like any good person would?!"
"These are my lucky running shoes, bitch! No one fucks them up like that and expects to get away with it!"
Ochako's expression softened, but it did not diminish the defiant look in her eyes. "Well then, you must have a miserable life if you think your shoes are more valuable than a sincere apology. And you need to ease up on your language."
Izuku stared on dreamily. "This isn't punishment for being a coward..." he thought. "This is a sign of a better tomorrow! I...I don't deserve this kind of help...but...I guess I'll take it anyway..."
But Katsuki was beside himself. "What...WHAT THE HELL DID YOU JUST SAY, ROUND FACE?!"
"Yeah, you take that back!" Eijiro snapped angrily.
"Yeah!" Hanta cried. "D-D'you know who the hell you're talking to?!"
"Oh, I know who I'm talking to," Ochako replied with an unsatisfied voice. "And for the record, I'm not like all the other students here. I'm not someone who eats up all your good qualities like they're some gospel, Katsuki Bakugo. You may be a good baseball player but your head is clearly more inflated than all the baseballs you hit, combined."
"This is unbelievable!" Izuku thought. "She sees Kacchan for what he really is?! This...This is too good to be true! It's-"
His thoughts were interrupted when Katsuki released his collar, causing him to fall over. Fortunately, Ochako had rather quick reflexes, and she caught him before he could suffer a rather nasty fall. But that was the least of Izuku's problems. He looked up and saw, to his horror, a sweating Katsuki.
"Oh, no! Whenever Kacchan sweats, that means things are gonna go REAL bad! No one will be left alive by the time he's done! This isn't good! Uraraka, you've gotta get outta here!"
"You..." Katsuki snarled, his voice bestial. "You..." He clenched his fist again, and it trembled like it was a rocket about to blast off. "You little...round-faced...who-!"
Four bodies thrust themselves between Katsuki and Ochako, shielding the latter from any potential harm.
"Back off, Bakugo," Itsuka Kendo said sternly. "You're just asking for detention." Then, on instinct, she looked at Himiko Toga and was dismayed to see her literally drooling at Katsuki's direction, so she lightly elbowed her side to get the blond girl to refocus.
"Out of my way, ginger." Katsuki slammed his fist into his open palm; the slapping of skin echoed loudly. "You may know karate and all that Jackie Chan shit, but you don't stand a chance against my-"
"Bakugo, I'd back off if I were you," another voice said. "She'll annihilate you, easily."
Katsuki scowled towards the side of Ochako's posse, where Neito Monoma was standing. He was carrying his own tray of food, which looked like it was plucked out of the menu of a high-scale French restaurant.
"And remember, the baseball game's tomorrow. I don't think detention's the wisest place to be in right now."
The blond gritted his bared teeth. "Fucking detention..."
However, he seemed to accept defeat...for now. Katsuki bent down and picked up his food tray, making sure his baseball grenade didn't roll off on accident. Then, he glared daggers at Izuku, causing a shiver to run down his spine.
"Don't think you're gettin' away that easily, otaku," he snarled. "You're gonna pay me back for what you did today."
"Yeah, yeah, yeah," Ochako replied sarcastically. "Get lost, Bakugo."
"And take your boyfriends with you," Itsuka added.
Katsuki scowled nastily at the group of girls before marching off in stomps, with other nearby students fearfully stepping aside for him. As he left, he could be heard grumbling curses to himself, and he acted as if he stepped in manure instead of getting his shoes wet. Katsuki's friends followed after him, but Eijiro and Mina stayed behind for a moment.
"Just so you know, otaku," spat Eijiro, "Katsuki doesn't forget. You're not gonna be hearing the end of this anytime soon! Ya hear me?"
Izuku shivered fearfully, but Ochako replied flatly, but with an annoyed tone, "Go away, Kirishima, Ashido."
"Yeah, come on, Kirishima," Mina said, tugging lightly at the redhead's sleeve. "The baby's not even worth it." When she saw him hesitating, she grinned slyly and added in a whisper, "If you're a good boy, I'll give you a BJ later..."
"I heard that, Ashido," spat Ochako, her voice laced with utter disapproval. "You should be ashamed of yourself for being like this."
Ashido ignored her and tugged at Eijiro's sleeve again. "Come on, Kirishima..."
Eijiro gave Izuku one last scowl before following the ganguro. Once they were gone, Ochako sighed with immense relief.
"Jeez, I didn't think I'd survive that," she whispered, almost to herself. Then, she smiled at her friends. "Thanks, girls."
"No problem, Uraraka," Tsuyu replied.
"Yeah, anything for our sweet cheeks," added Itsuka teasingly.
"Come on, sweet cheeks..."
The alleyway reentered Izuku's mind, and the green-haired boy froze. All of the happiness and joy at being saved by his crush of all people was washed away with the returning tsunami of guilt and self-loathing. The voices of Ochako and her friends were now distant to him, and sounded as if they were trying to speak to him while he was underwater.
"Uraraka knows when to step up for people in need," he thought. "And I don't. If she's better than me even in that sorta thing...then I don't deserve to be in her presence... I don't deserve to be saved by her... I shouldn't be happy because of a selfish thing like that..."
Ochako's voice, suddenly speaking in his ear, dragged him out of his thoughts.
"Hey, are you alright?"
Izuku didn't respond. Instead, with a quivering lip, he pulled himself out of her arms (he realized at that moment he was still in her grasp) and walked out of the cafeteria. He could still hear Ochako calling out to him, but he shut her voice out.
"It was a mistake coming here. I can't even look at her without thinking about that alleyway..."
For the first time, Izuku didn't follow Ochako and her friends outside when school was dismissed for the day. Instead, he took the opposite direction, hoping to find a secondary exit so he could slip out unnoticed. Every few minutes, he had to wipe his eyes and sniffle, his mind still haunted by the memories of what happened that morning.
"Hey, would you look at that?" a voice asked, though Izuku ignored it. However, he could smell a foul stench of cigarette smoke hanging in the air.
"Yeah, it's the guy Bakugo yelled at in the cafeteria," replied another.
"I remember him," a third said, and Izuku recognized that voice as belonging to Mezo Shoji. "He's in my class. He spends more of his time reading manga than listening to the teachers."
"Manga?" asked the first voice. "Man, that guy sounds like a loser who dreams too much."
There was a brief, infinitesimal silence before Mezo replied, "Yeah, you can say that again. Hey, I caught him doing some really weird poses in the bathroom before school started yesterday. I think the guy wants to be an over-glorified badass or something. Like an action star, but full-time and without the movie production. You know what I'm saying?"
"Wow, he really is a freaking loser! I mean...goddamn."
Izuku pursed his lips as he walked past them. "I don't remember being caught by him," he thought. "He probably kept it to himself. Or worse, he spread the story around. Heh. That's just great. Now I know I'm a big laughingstock around the school because of my childish love of manga. ...But to be honest, that doesn't sound new. Why should I be surprised? At least I'm starting to realize just how childish I'm being..."
"I now know what my place is in this world. And it's not to be something glamorous or idealistic."
"It's to be someone who contributes to society. Someone who hides behind a desk, unable to inspire hope by himself."
"Guy with the green hair! Wait up!"
Izuku spotted a trashcan, situated in the middle of the bathrooms, and felt his backpack get a little heavier.
"Someone who can't view the real world like a manga." He sighed sadly and prepared to remove his backpack. "Perhaps I should get rid of my stash. Perhaps I should just give up on my dreams-"
He suddenly felt a warm hand on his shoulder and looked behind him. There stood-
"AAAAAGGGGGHHHHH!" he screamed. "U-U-URARAKA?!"
"Oh, I'm sorry I startled you," the chestnut-haired girl replied, flashing him one of her adorable, cheerful smiles. "See, I didn't get a chance to catch your name, so I called you out by your hair." Then, she blinked with confusion. "W-We're you in the middle of something?"
"Uh... Uh... Uhhhhhhhhhh..."
But Izuku couldn't think of the right words to say. In his mind, he was freaking out, naturally.
"Holy whoa, Uraraka's talking to me! She actually wants to talk to me! And she wants to know my name! What alternate universe is this?!"
"Hey, your face is red," Ochako piped up, leaning her face in a little to survey his. "Are you sick or something?"
Izuku couldn't form anything beyond the basic moans and groans as a response. Ochako immediately took a step back.
"Well, it does explain why you had to leave in a rush." The chestnut-haired girl then spotted the boys' bathroom. "Well, if you need to clear out your lunch or anything like that, you can go on ahead. I didn't mean to interrupt. I'll just be waitin' outside-"
"NO!" Izuku yelped before he could stop himself.
Ochako was taken aback. "Huh? So you're feeling alright?"
But once again, Izuku didn't respond to her query. At that point, he realized how profusely he was sweating. In the midst of his anxiety, the alleyway was shoved back to the rear of his mind.
"Oh, no! My collar and armpits must be drenched by now! Oh God, I must look like a total mess to Uraraka! But who can blame me?! I just said my first word to her! I actually talked back to her! We're having a real conversation! We're-"
His thoughts were interrupted by a giggle that sounded more like an angelic melody to his ears. Ochako was smiling.
"Jeez, you're quite a funny guy. Haven't you ever talked to a girl before?"
"Crud, she's a mind-reader!"
"Anyway, I apologize for my abruptness. Let me start over." She gestured to herself. "I'm Uraraka. Ochako Uraraka." She then gestured over her shoulder, to a girl who (Izuku realized for the first time) had been standing there the whole time; she had bob-shaped black hair, cerulean eyes, and a neutral expression that bordered robotic. "And this is my cousin, Yui Kodai. Please excuse her; she's not much of a talker."
"Yeah, I know your names already..."
"What's your name?"
"She wants to know your name! You...You gotta tell her! You gotta respect what she wants, Izuku! Just be cool, just be cool!"
Now Ochako was flabbergasted. "Wow... So you've never talked to a girl before."
"Now she's gonna think I'm a loser! Just my luck!"
But, to his surprise, she didn't walk away or treat him with disgust and contempt. Instead, she got a little closer to him.
"Hey, hey, relax! No need to rush." Suddenly, she raised her arms, and pressed all of her fingertips together; Yui did the same, seemingly out of habit. "Okay, do what I'm doing. Press your fingertips together and take a deep breath."
Izuku quickly repeated her movements, pressing his own fingertips together and taking a deep breath, though it was fast and ragged.
"Good! Do it again, but this time, breathe slower."
Izuku did it again, and as he did, he could feel all of the excess energy and emotions leave his body. He felt like a balloon that was slowly deflating.
"Alright! Keep doing it until you feel better!" Ochako's voice started to soften with every word. "Don't focus on whatever thoughts you're having; just focus on the breathing. The breathing and nothing else. Maintain the pressure between your fingers. Not too hard, not too soft. Just right."
He followed her instructions down to the last detail, and as he did, he realized he was feeling cooler all of a sudden.
"It's...It's working! Holy whoa, Uraraka's a saint..."
"Are you feeling better now?"
Ochako's voice drew him out of his thoughts, and before he knew it, Izuku's voice was smooth and lacking in shakiness.
"Yeah... I'm fine..."
The girl clapped her hands together with delight. "There you go!" she exclaimed cheerfully. "I knew you could do it!"
"Where...Where'd you learn that...?"
"From a family friend back at home. Anyway, mind telling me your name now? I'm curious!"
Izuku gulped a little. "I-Izuku Midoriya..."
"Midoriya, huh?" She giggled briefly. "I like that name! It sounds cute."
"She likes my name?! She thinks it's cute?! ...She...She likes my name! She likes my name! She- Uh-oh..."
He had to press his fingertips together again and took a few more deep breaths.
"Why'd you want to talk to me, Uraraka?" Izuku asked as he, Ochako, and Yui stepped out of the school building, about a half-hour later. "I'm not exactly the first person a girl would want to talk to..."
"Don't say that, Midoriya," the chestnut-haired girl replied. "I'm talking to you now, am I?"
"That's true..." he thought.
"And I wanted to talk to you because you ran off during lunch. At first, I thought it was because you were coming down with something, but clearly you're fine." She looked at him with concern. "Is it because of Bakugo?"
Finally, the alleyway returned to Izuku's mind, but for once, it didn't bother him as much. Perhaps it was because of the presence of his crush. Regardless, he pursed his lips and shoved the thought away again.
"Yeah," he whispered in response.
She sighed sharply and critically. "I figured."
Izuku looked at her with surprise, and then he remembered the exchange she had with the blond bully.
"W-Wait a minute, you don't like him?"
"Yeah..." Bitterness suddenly crept onto Ochako's face. "On my first day of school, I saw him and his jerk friends picking on a guy for no apparent reason. They were holding his notebook over the fish pond and he was crying his eyes out."
"I guess she's talking about me," Izuku deadpanned in his thoughts. "And it wasn't a notebook, it was one of my manga. Not that she'd be interested..."
"I wasn't sure if I should step in and how," Ochako continued. "So I told the teachers, but I don't think they did much of anything."
"Oh no, they did. They gave him a slap on the wrist." Then, the green-haired boy smiled subtly. "At least I now know she was watching over me that day..."
"Since then, I heard a lot of chatter about Bakugo. A lot of good stuff. Bakugo is a great baseball player. Bakugo blew up the other team. Bakugo will be a great pro player someday. Bakugo this, Bakugo that." Ochako exhaled. "But I've known the truth about him since my first day. And I knew he hadn't changed since that time, since I also heard whispers about him terrorizing students who couldn't defend themselves."
Ochako flexed her fingers, something Izuku was quick to notice. His eyes widened slightly with disbelief.
"I can't believe Uraraka actually feels that way about him. Irritation, dislike... I thought she'd be like many of the other students: eating him up and praising him like a god, even if they know about his more terrible qualities..."
"I hate it when people pick on others who they think are defenseless," she said boldly. "It's... It's just not right."
"Y-You and me both..." Izuku finally replied, all the while trying his best to suppress his shock and inner giddiness.
"I also hate it when other people don't do something about it. The teachers can't discipline Bakugo properly, all because they want him to help the school beat the others in baseball matches. Many of the other students are either blind or just just plain afraid of him, because no one confronts him and his friends when they bully someone like you." Ochako looked at Izuku with a soft smile. "That's why I stood up for you. Because no one else wanted to."
Izuku's lip quivered, and he blushed brightly. "A-A-And I th-th-thank you for that, U-U-Uraraka..." he stuttered.
"You're welcome, Midoriya! And I just wanted you to know, if Bakugo's picking on you again, you come to me, alright? I'll teach him a thing or two in manners!"
Izuku struggled to contain his inner joy. "O-Of course..."
Ochako's smile widened with cheerfulness. This prompted Izuku's rosy blush to deepen even more, and he began to feel the sweat return on his forehead. In a desperate effort, he shifted the conversation elsewhere.
"So...where do you live?" Then, he thought, "Oh, no! I asked Uraraka where she lives! I can't believe that was the topic I wanted to focus on! Ohhhhh, I hope I didn't sound like a creep!"
Fortunately, she responded, after some apparent deliberation, "Well, I'm living with Yui and her parents, in an apartment on the southwestern corner of the town."
"O-Oh. Wh-What about your parents?" Then, Izuku thought, "But I already know the answer to this, though... Aaaaaagh, don't worry about it, Izuku! She doesn't know you already know! Ju-Just act natural! Act oblivious! You don't wanna look like a stalker, do you?!"
"They're at my real home, in Mie Prefecture."
"M-Mie Prefecture, huh? Isn't that in Kansai?"
"I figured. You have that accent." Izuku scratched the back of his head. "So...what brought you here...?"
"W-Well..." Ochako stared at the ground with a soft, humble smile. "My parents run a construction business, but it hasn't exactly lifted off in recent times. Most of the time, the three of us lived paycheck by paycheck. But my parents knew how much potential I had, so they saved enough money to send me here, even if it meant taking some of it out of their own paychecks. And my aunt and uncle were more than happy to take me in."
Izuku could've sworn he heard some uncomfortable shuffling behind the two of them, but dismissed it.
"Oh, wow! So you plan on going to Yokohama National University after graduating?"
"Yep." Ochako giggled a little. "Gosh, you're an observant guy, Midoriya!"
"Well, that's mostly because I already overheard that while following you around like a stalker..." Then, Izuku explained, "W-Well, Yokokoku is one of the highest-ranked universities in Japan and Yokohama's close by, so I thought-"
"Relax, Midoriya," interrupted the chestnut-haired girl. "That was supposed to be a compliment!"
"O-Oh! W-Well, th-th-thank you, then! Th-That means a lot to me, Uraraka! It...It really does..."
"Well then, I'm glad to hear that, Midoriya! Anytime!"
Izuku smiled even more. "S-So, what do you wanna be when you graduate from Yokokoku? What's your plan?"
"My plan...?" To his surprise, Ochako suddenly looked crestfallen. "My parents want me to become a doctor, but..."
Her voice trailed off, prompting Izuku to say, "You want to be something else."
"Yeah." Then, after a brief pause, Ochako blurted out on instinct, "I want to be a police officer."
"A...A police officer?" Izuku repeated. He didn't expect this part.
Ochako nodded affirmatively and determinedly. "Like Yu Takeyama."
"Like Yu Take-"
Izuku stopped in mid-sentence as memories started flooding back to him. He recalled the newspapers his mother would read, and how the local police department would occasionally show up in the articles. There was one story that made the headlines for a couple of weeks...
"W-Wait," he said. "Y-You mean the Yu Takeyama?! The first female detective of our town's police department?!"
"Mm-hm!" She nodded vigorously with a surprisingly energetic smile. "I think she's awesome! She helps people in need and stops at nothing to do the right thing! I...I wanna be just like her..." She looked down at the ground sheepishly. "No one in my family knows it, but that's what I aspire to be. A hero like her."
"HOLY WHOA!" Izuku thought with surprise. "She pretty much has the same dream as I do! That's unbelievable! I didn't think she would have that kind of goal, even if it is a little more realistic! What're the odds of that?!"
Ochako suddenly giggled. "I know it sounds kinda silly. Me, the nice, bubbly lil' country girl, being a police detective and chasing after bad guys. Not really the two images you'd put together easily-"
"I think that sounds like a great goal!" the boy blurted out, nearly startling her.
"You...You think so?"
"Of course! W-Wanting to help people in-in need and-and stopping those w-who want to do others wrong... Th-That's the greatest and most h-honorable goal in the world! A-At least it is to me. S-So I wish you the best of luck!"
"Oh." Ochako's bright smile widened even more. "Thank you, Midoriya!"
"Y-Y-You're w-w-welcome!" Izuku didn't want to see his face right now. "S-So...wh-why'd you tell me all that...?"
"Well, barely anyone knows about what I really want to be. The only people who know are Yui, my friends, and yourself. I only trust the kindest and most gentle people to keep a secret like that for me...and I think I'm a pretty good judge of character when it comes to those qualities."
"And she calls me kind and gentle?! This...This is too good to be true! This has to be a dream!"
Ochako continued, "I plan on telling my folks, but only when I feel the time is right. In the meantime...just keep that to yourself, alright? This is a big town, but it's no city. Word can still travel fast. So I'm counting on you, Midoriya!"
"Right!" Izuku had to fight the urge to salute and embarrass himself in front of his crush. "I will keep that secret close to my heart, till the end of time! I promise you that, Uraraka!"
"Till the end of time, huh?" Ochako chuckled. "Wow, you really sound like a manga character, Midoriya!"
"Aaaaannnnnd I just blew it! I blew my chances with Uraraka! I'm such an idiot! I just wanna die-"
"It's quite adorable, actually."
"I didn't blow it! I...I didn't blow it! HOORAY!"
"Well, since we're on the topic of my future, I guess it's time to learn yours! So...what do you want to be, Midoriya?"
"This is gonna be a tough one." Then, acting quickly and avoiding unreasonable, overly idealistic goals, Izuku replied out loud, "A-A mangaka!"
The memory of Toshinori's face that evening, masked with an expression of disappointment, flashed across his mind, but the boy managed to stomach it.
"A mangaka, huh? That does explain the kind of language you just used. Well, I wish you the best of luck as well!"
"Oh, thank goodness I didn't say I wanted to be a superhero. I'd hate to think what her reaction would be..."
All of a sudden, Uraraka asked, "Hey, wanna join me and my friends for a study group session tomorrow?"
"A...A study group...?" repeated Izuku in disbelief.
"Yep! A friend of mine invited a whole bunch of us over, and it's not like the teachers here have any unique testing styles. So whatever you hear is universal stuff in our grade level. You won't be learning new or missing out on anything new."
"S-S-So o-oth-other people will b-b-be there...?"
"Well...yeah. It is called a study group for a reason." Then, Ochako crossed her arms suspiciously. "It's not gonna be an all-girls party, if that's what you're worried about. Or are you happy about that?"
"N-No! Th-That's not it! I-It's just...y-you're inviting me out of the blue...that's all..."
"If there's one other thing I learned about Bakugo, it's that he and his friends just love to gang up on people who barely have no friends, if any at all. And no offense, but you look like a total loner."
"Well, I guess you could say that I am..."
"Well..." Ochako smiled a terribly infectious smile. "I say not anymore."
Izuku's green eyes widened. "This is just too good to be true! I-Is it?"
"So, what do you say? Wanna join the study group? And don't worry, no one there will bite you. We're all part of the anti-Bakugo squad so there's nothing to be concerned about." She then paused for a quick moment. "Well, one of my friends is actually sorta in love with him, but it's a hopeless crush and she has no real chance of pleasing him. Everyone knows that. So you don't have to worry about her."
"We-Well..." Izuku hesitated for a brief moment. "I-If everyone there doesn't like Bakugo, th-then how could I say no to that...am I right...?"
"I'll take that as a yes, then! Awesome! Here, lemme write down the address for you..." Ochako removed her backpack, and got out a blank sheet of notepaper and a pencil. "Hey, Yui? Would you mind letting me write on your back?"
Izuku nearly fell over in shock at the sight of the bob-haired girl as she nodded.
"HOW LONG HAS SHE BEEN STANDING THERE?!"
As soon as Ochako was done writing, she handed the sheet of paper to Izuku, who took it with a trembling hand.
"Here you go, Midoriya," she said. "Don't worry about getting lost or anything. The house shouldn't be hard to miss."
Izuku stared at the paper in disbelief. "Wow... I...I have no words, Uraraka..."
"Just make it there by eleven in the morning. I'm sure there'll be a lot to talk about then." Then, Ochako took a glance at her hot-pink wristwatch. "Uh-oh, we gotta go! Home's the opposite direction!" She took Yui's wrist and half-dragged her away while the latter maintained a comical poker-face. "We'll see you tomorrow, Midoriya! It'll be fun, trust me!"
Izuku wanted to call out to her, but by that time he could muster an audible voice, she and her cousin were already way out of earshot.
"I'll...I'll see you tomorrow..."
"You're not allowed to come back here until you find something productive to do at school, Midoriya. I don't care what it is, as long as you make friends and enjoy life beyond the pleasures of manga."
Toshinori's words returned to the forefront of his mind, and Izuku looked down at the notepaper.
"Perhaps this is my chance," he thought. "If I go to that study group and make some real friends, then I'll get rid of that childish dream of mine and learn to truly appreciate the real world..."
"I hate it when people pick on others who they think are defenseless. ...I also hate it when other people don't do something about it."
"Calling for help won't do ya any good. As you can see, no one gives a damn."
Izuku sighed sadly, but he nevertheless folded up the piece of paper and carefully put it in his pocket. Then, he stared off into the sunset as it painted the town in a bright shade of pinkish-orange. Once again, his heart was filled up with guilt at his own happiness.
"I hope that girl's doing alright..."
A/N: And we're done with this chapter! I sincerely, legitimately hope you all made it through in one piece.
Notwithstanding certain scenes, I had fun writing and revising this chapter like the previous ones. As you can see, I put a couple of familiar characters in interesting new roles. Yui Kodai of Class 1-B is Ochako's cousin in this AU timeline, which took inspiration from the fact that they have similar designs and Quirk activation mechanisms, not to mention both were sprung from the prototype Yuu Uraraka character that ultimately became Mt. Lady. As for Himiko Toga, she's ironically a friend of Ochako's just like how Shigaraki is now Izuku's online friend, but we'll see how long that strange little friendship lasts. ;)
Anyway, there won't be another chapter for this story for a couple of weeks or so. I'm now going to focus on another one of my fics, because that hasn't been updated for a while. Once I've updated that story, I'll get back to this one. So now it is time to exercise some well-earned patience, grasshoppers! Don't fret; I'll be back before you know it.
Now I'd like to thank the following people for reviewing:
1) Oh, sorry about that. I still expect some details out of you, but you don't have to be descriptive. Just tell me what you liked or what you didn't like about a chapter. It'll be helpful for me so I can make the story more exciting for you if needs be.
2) Uhhhhh, what do you mean by "pack street" and "Synergistics"? Are those the titles of other AU fics?
1) Uhhhhh...there was no need for you to submit reviews for both existing chapters. One review per chapter is perfectly fine for me...
2) Wow! I'm so glad I'm already breaking a lot of MHA fic conventions with the way I'm writing this story! And I intend to continue keeping up the good work!
3) Yes, the Hero Club will involve its members cosplaying as superheroes and helping out the citizens of their hometown. It's going to be quite exciting once we get to that stuff!
-playganes: Could you please be more specific in your review? What exactly did you find great about the chapter or the story so far? Is there perhaps anything you would like me to change or address? Please, I need details so I can improve the story for you!
Well, hope you enjoyed this chapter! TheCartoonFanatic01 is out. PEACE!