Aizawa pondered how he got himself into this situation. Was it when he turned a blind eye to the Pillars’ initial vigilantism, or would this have still happened even if he stepped in earlier? Either way, here he was, in an old alleyway, Quirk activated as a precaution, listening to the Pillars try to explain that his students were sneaking away from their internships to learn Breathing techniques.
“Look, your brats approached us first,” Shinazugawa - they had finally revealed their real names - said. “We have no incentive to continue if it’s going to have an adverse effect on us. Like we’ve said, we don’t care about Heroism.”
“I suppose it is only rational for the students to learn as many techniques as possible to better prepare them,” Aizawa said, deep in thought. “However, as everyone has observed, it won’t take long for Heroes less tolerant than myself to figure out what is going on. Do you have an insurance plan for when that happens to ensure both your safety as well as the students’?”
Tomioka looked over him carefully. “There are multiple issues at hand. At first, we thought that the students would be safe from scrutiny because they have their provisional licenses. However, Midoriya and Todoroki have since told us that they both have gotten in trouble with the law over acts of vigilantism. That complicates matters if they are linked to us.”
“I agree,” Aizawa said. “With their provisional licenses, being around you can be interpreted as them endorsing vigilantes, especially if the media gets involved. Same problem if UA chooses to back you officially.”
“We don’t want administrative backing,” Shinazugawa insisted. “We just want to do our own thing. If the brats tag along, that’s up to them.”
“Unfortunately, Midoriya especially has a knack for getting into trouble,” Aizawa muttered. “If he has his heart on something, it is hard to dissuade him. If he keeps down this path, Bakugo and Todoroki are likely to follow in order to keep rank with him.”
“Well, what the hell are you suggesting, Eraserhead?” Shinazugawa grumbled. “Look, case in point, they won’t be able to keep staying late, and Giyu and I aren’t willing to risk getting caught.”
“I think the most rational decision would be for us to come up with a more plausible reason for them to be held back. I have an idea in mind, but it would require the authentication of both UA’s principal and the Hero Public Safety Commission.”
“We’d rather avoid getting the government involved,” Tomioka cut in.
Aizawa agreed in all honesty. The Commission seemed to be planning for an all out war. If kids got dragged along, they didn’t care. His plan… it would be putting his students into even more potential danger than the Commission had already subjected them to.
“It is the best way to ensure their safety.”
“Sure, whatever you say,” Shinazugawa grumbled, furrowing his brows. “But, if this plan isn’t in our favor, we’re bailing.”
“Fair enough,” Aizawa, releasing his Quirk and feeling his hair fall flat over his shoulders.
“In that case, we’re off for now,” Tomioka said. Shinazugawa had already crawled over the wall and jumped away.
“Wait,” Aziawa said before Tomioka could follow. The Water Pillar looked at him expectantly. “Why are you so attached to those kids? It doesn’t seem to be in your best interests to keep Hero trainees so close by.”
Tomioka looked on passively. “It is true that we might not gain anything from taking them under our wing. But, if your Heroism is to send them on a course for a life of hardship, extra preparation is required. We wouldn’t want children to die before their careers have even begun.”
With that, Tomioka went to join Shinazugawa. Aizawa glowered after them before making his own way out of the alley.
He had no reason to trust them. They were vigilantes who had no direct benefit from keeping an eye on his students. It would be his personal failure if misfortune befell them now. But, for an unexplainable, irrational reason, he knew that the Pillars could be counted on.
It didn’t make sense. They were in their early twenties, barely adults. But, he could sense that they must have gone for something unimaginable. Something they would not wish on anyone else. Something, that they’d be willing to fight against it to their final breath.
“Good morning, class.”
“Good morning, Mr. Aizawa!”
Their homeroom teacher looked more tired than normal. He was still within the confines of his bright yellow sleeping bag, looking ready to fall over at a moment's notice. Class 1-A sat up a bit straighter.
“Tomorrow, you will be returning to your weekend internships once more. However, a new program has been added to your usual tasks with your Pros.”
This made the class eerily still. Shoto glanced to where Katsuki and Izuku were seated in front of him. Giyu and Sanemi had contacted him Wednesday evening through text and told them that Eraserhead was planning something.
“In order to garner your independence, you will spend time away from your mentors, doing Hero work without their guidance. The specific time intervals will be at your mentors’ discretion. These sessions will be completely unmonitored. Since you are an elite class, we expect that you will be using this time wisely.”
“Wow, this is new,” Denki said, twisting in his seat to lock eyes with Eijiro.
“Yeah, we’re sailing into uncharted territory!” The other exclaimed with excitement. “So manly!”
“Still, to take such a drastic step forward in such a short time…” Momo glanced at Shoto on her right. “We’re still only first years-”
Aizawa’s hair floated up, signaling for silence.
“That’s all you need to know for now. Your Pros will fill you in on the details tomorrow. Now, you’ve got training at Gym Gamma. Get your costumes and head to the locker rooms.”
As the class began to move out, he called once more, “Bakugo, Midoriya, Todoroki, wait for a moment.”
Tenya and Ochako exchanged confused glances. “Well, see in the gym then, Deku,” Ochako said, waving goodbye. Momo gave Todoroki a concerned glance, while Denki and Eijiro simply shrugged and waved goodbye to Katsuki.
The three boys stood in front of their homeroom teacher.
“As you have probably surmised, this program is entirely for your benefit. Don’t take this lightly. I have entrusted you to the Pillars, so I am counting on all five of you to not waste this learning opportunity.”
“Understood, Mr. Aizawa!” Izuku exclaimed.
“Endeavor doesn’t seem very happy with the new program,” Izuku noted as they walked to Giyu’s apartment. “You don’t think he’ll get suspicious and start investigating?”
“I doubt it,” Shoto said, looking through his phone as they walked. “He has no reason to believe that this program was kickstarted by our interactions with the Pillars, so I don’t think he’ll look too deeply into it.”
“Besides, there’s the new idea of building the ‘independent next generation,’” Katsuki pointed out. “Even without Ocean Eyes and Sweet Tooth, this program has nothing but benefits.”
They walked the rest of the distance and knocked on the door. Sanemi let them in, making a motion for them to be quiet. The reason why became apparent soon after, as Giyu walked past them in the hallway, phone pressed to his ear.
“Yes… I suppose you could call them friends… they just bumped into me at the library…”
“His sister,” Sanemi explained after Giyu was out of earshot, moving to the other side of the flat. “She’s always pestering us about socializing more, and she finally noticed that we have new people in our follow list. She’s… pleasantly surprised that you’re all mini celebrities.”
“Does she know about the reincarnation?” Shoto asked.
“Giyu hasn’t told her, and she doesn’t seem to have memories of her own past life,” Sanemi said glumly. “You three are the only people we’ve told aside from my Newparents- and they didn’t take it so well.”
“Newparents?” Katsuki questioned. “What the hell does that mean?”
Sanemi rolled his eyes. “It’s just how I distinguish my parents from this lifetime and my past life. Both of mine are different people while Giyu’s are the same.” He looked a bit crestfallen. “Even if they don’t remember, at least he is familiar with them. I didn’t have my mother, or Genya, or any of my other siblings.”
He made no mention of his father.
Giyu came back into the room a few minutes later. “Apologies,” he said briefly. “My sister called. She’s going to try to visit soon.”
“Well, we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it,” Sanemi replied, stretching. “No reason to waste time for now. Let’s get to training.”
The Pillars led Izuku, Katsuki, and Shoto to the yard, setting them up with the gourds.
“Keep your core tight,” Sanemi instructed. “Proper stance is vital.”
They adjusted their stance. Kept blowing into the gourds. Nothing happened.
“How the hell do you do this?” Katsuki breathed out. His cheeks were red and puffy.
“Practice,” Giyu said simply. “When I was twelve and Sanemi was thirteen, we began to reincorporate our old training regimes into this life. That means we’ve had roughly eight years each to readjust to the strain Breathing takes on your body.”
“We told you you’re not going to get it overnight,” Sanemi said, crossing his arms. “For now, try to focus your Breathing into one precise moment. It should give a sudden burst of energy. Once you can handle that, work on incorporating it into every minute of every hour of every day. Work together to keep each other in check.”
They practiced for a few more hours, Sanemi and Giyu occasionally stepping in to give suggestions or correct their stance. At some point, Giyu left the situation entirely to do something inside. Sanemi gave pointers, but it was clear to them that his expertise was in fighting, not instructing.
“Is Breathing even real?” Katsuki grumbled after the training session was over. The gourds remained intact, while tired blisters grew over their hands.
“It is always possible they have a secondary, dormant Quirk,” Shoto mused, picking at his nails. “But, what would be the purpose of this ruse, then?”
“I just know we’ll get it with enough hard work,” Izuku said, trying to remain optimistic. “With enough hard work, anything is possible.”
They left the yard and reentered the house. Sanemi was feeding the pet beetle pieces of mango. “Don’t leave just yet,” he told them, not looking up from the insect.
Giyu came out of the kitchen, carrying a large platter of salmon sushi.
“You… you don’t have to,” Shoto said, clearly taken aback by the hospitality.
“If you’re going to train under us, you might as well eat here, too,” Giyu said, setting the platter on the table and returning to the kitchen to get utensils. Izuku ran after him to help.
“In our past life, we lived on the cultivators’ estates for the duration of training,” Sanemi said, getting to his feet and closing the top of the beetle’s cage. “Not quite the same for you, but you can stand to eat a few meals with us.”
“Sure, whatever.” Katsuki excused himself to go wash his hands. Shoto went after him.
With the table set, they ate. The sushi was really good. Salmon seemed to be Giyu’s favorite.
“Uh, Mr. Shinazugawa? Mr. Tomioka?” Izuku asked after a few minutes.
“I was wondering… how would you find people from your past life? I mean, they could be basically anyone. How would you know where to look? They could have different names, different appearances, completely different lives and you wouldn’t even know-”
“Relax, we know what to look for,” Sanemi interrupted.
“There do seem to be some basic rules to reincarnation that we figured out based on ourselves,” Giyu said. “Reincarnations have the same general appearance as the originals. They are also born with the same name.”
“In fact, we’ve been using these criteria to try and find others,” Sanemi said, wistful. “We… initially assumed they’d be born into the same time period as us, but we were dead wrong about that.”
“There’s also the issue of descendants,” Giyu continued. “Some of the original family lines survived. The cafe we frequent is owned by descendants of the Kamado line if traced back far enough, though it gets difficult to track once you get to the development of Quirks.”
“Of course, the other family line to survive is the Rengoku family,” Sanemi said. “It was probably mentioned in that book you read.”
“Sounds familiar,” Shoto said in agreement.
Sanemi pulled out his phone, pulling up an article he had saved. “That family has churned out Demon Slayers from the beginning of the organization. Kids all look identical, as if they’re put through a copy paste machine.”
He showed them the article. “Rise of the First Wave of Heroes!”
“This was back when Quirks first appeared over one hundred years ago,” Sanemi explained. He scrolled down a little further, until a picture came into frame. It was of a man with flaming golden hair and an impassioned grin. He radiated power and kindness at the same time.
The caption read, “Kyojuro Rengoku.”
“Kyojuro was the Flame Pillar in our generation,” Giyu said. “He was one of the first noted Heroes to arise, even before the official licensing system was created. Noted for being Quirkless. That appears to be his most recent reincarnation.”
Izuku looked in awe. “I remember reading about him before! My- uh… My Quirk manifested really late, so I thought I was Quirkless for a long time. It was hard to cheer for him in the same way as All Might because he was so old and there wasn’t much on him, but he was one of my childhood idols, too!”
This got a grin from Sanemi, and even Giyu’s lips twitched upwards.
“There’s more, too,” Sanemi said. “We managed to track down all of our fellow Pillars’ newest reincarnations.” He scrolled through his phone once more.
“UA’s first alumni class, when the school first opened,” he said. “There were two prodigies in the class. Twins, with the identical Quirks of Omnipresent Rage.”
“Left: Older twin, Yuichiro Tokito. Fog Hero: Permanence. Right: Younger twin, Muichiro Tokito. Mist Hero: Infinite.”
Sanemi’s smile faded as he pulled his phone back toward himself. “In our past life, Muichiro was the Mist Pillar. This time, he died when he was seventeen during an internship. It led to the initial tightening of the Hero internship guidelines. Yuichiro went on to become the youngest Hero to reach the Top Ten Billboard Chart until All Might himself broke that record.”
He looked genuinely disheartened. He must have been close to Muichiro on some level.
Giyu took over, taking out his own phone and looking through it. “The next one was actually from All Might’s graduating class. Have any of you heard of-” he grimaced at the name, “The Flamboyant Hero: God of Festivities?”
“I have,” Izuku piped up again. “His Quirk was Score, an echolocation-esque ability that allowed him to compress enemy attacks into sounds and release them as auditory shockwaves!”
“Well, that’s the old Sound Pillar, Tengen Uzui,” Giyu said. “He was the only Pillar alongside us to survive the final fight against the demons, though he likely outlived both of us since he didn’t manifest a Mark.”
Sanemi nodded in confirmation.
“And that’s all the Pillars that took the Hero path,” he said, scrolling through his phone. “Himejima-san, the Stone Pillar, ran an orphanage back in the day, about forty years ago. It was well regarded for having one of the best Quirk education programs in the country.”
“Then, there’s the Snake Hero: Uwabami,” Giyu said.
“I thought you said no one else was reborn in this generation,” Katsuki cut in.
“I wasn’t finished,” Giyu continued. “Due to her celebrity status, her real name and family line are public knowledge. Her name is Hebimi Iguro. Her paternal grandparents were Obanai and Mitsuri Iguro, the former Serpent and Love Pillars.”
Sanemi chuckled. “Those two really did manage to get together this time around. Good for them.”
Giyu also looked content. “Obanai inherited his mother’s support item company, and he personally weeded out a lot of the corruption on the board of directors. Mitsuri became a world renowned artist that offered anyone who could beat her in arm wrestling a free painting. No one ever claimed that prize. Many of her profits went to support improved Quirk education, especially concerning those shrouded in stigma.”
“Obanai’s company was also partnered with The Healing Butterfly, a well respected medicine brand,” Sanemi explained. “The whole operation was run by the Kocho sisters, with Kanae - the former Flower Pillar - as the business head, and Shinobu - the Insect Pillar - running the research.”
“Whoa,” Shoto said starstruck. “To think that they’ve had such an extensive influence.”
“Even in this life, the Pillars remain to support the world,” Giyu said listlessly. “And now, there’s us, the former Wind and Water Pillars, working as vigilantes.”
“But, we’re all that’s left for now,” Sanemi said. “Shinobu was the last to die almost sixteen years ago. Kanae has a daughter in her late thirties, but she wouldn’t have any memories because she didn’t even exist in our past life. Same with Uwabami.”
“All we can really do is… hope they reincarnate in our lifetime again.”
The Pillars fell into silence, and it once again struck Izuku, Shoto, and Katsuki just how lonely they were.