Chapter 3 - All Might
“Hey! You alright there, kid?”
A flash of blond hair.
She wasn’t sure how to feel.
“Oh, thank goodness! I was really worried about you, my boy!”
Leaning towards worse.
Ignore that. Ignore everything. Everything except that her life had been saved, and by the hero she had most admired ever since she was a little girl.
The Symbol of Peace.
“I, I, uh,” Izuku stuttered, trying desperately to find the right words. She remembered being attacked - a villain, most likely, could this day get any worse - but what was All Might doing this far south? His last news appearance was Yamagata a few days ago--
“I sincerely apologize for not being more vigilant and allowing you to be hurt, but don’t fret!” She wasn’t sure if it was just because she was still getting to her feet, or if he really was just always larger than life. “Thanks to you, the villain which attacked you is now safely locked away!”
A two-litre soda bottle. An appropriate container for a liquid person, and probably plentiful given how polluted this part of town often was. She admired that kind of quick thinking and resourcefulness on his part.
Sitting up now, she looked to her left and found one of her notebooks lying open with the pages down on the road. Scrambling towards it, Izuku lifted up the book to find two previously blank pages now emblazoned with a familiar signature. Not that she would ever forget the moment, but she was beyond grateful.
“Well then, I must be off! This mischievous villain has to be taken into police custody right away!”
No. No, not yet. There was still something she needed to ask.
“Wait!” Izuku shouted, as she rushed forward and wrapped her arms around her hero’s ankle, desperate for even a moment’s more conversation.
“AAAAA!!” she yelled, as the friction of her knees against the asphalt suddenly vanished and she was whisked into the sky.
She was flying. Soaring through the air, lifted only by the initial force of takeoff. Technically, this was just a very high jump, but it was impossible to live through this feeling and not feel like it was, in some way, flight.
She was going to have to make notes. Did she even have her backpack with her? In the commotion of the last few seconds, Izuku had entirely forgotten, but luckily a quick shrug of her shoulders was all she needed to confirm.
My mom would have killed me if I had lost my bag like this, she thought.
Where even was she? It was hard to get a sense of speed or distance in the air, and when she had tried talking to All Might a moment ago, he had told her to keep her eyes and mouth shut. Which made sense, based on how much pressure the rest of her was feeling right now. A thought struck her, but she quickly dismissed it. It was purely accidental, he just hadn’t expected her to grab on, and he’d definitely make sure she landed safely. In the meantime, though, hang on and try not to think about falling.
Sure enough, before she even knew it, the two of them had landed - safely, though not without a minor tumble on her part. She quickly opened her eyes and looked around - they hadn’t left the city, and they were up somewhere high, but other than that she was totally lost.
She turned around. All Might was still there. He hadn’t left yet.
“W-wait! Don’t leave yet!” she cried, hoping that her desperation might slow his resolve, but he was unshaken.
“I apologize, but I must be on my way! Time is already short enough as it is.”
There was nothing else for it. She had to ask, while he was still here, and hope that that would provoke a response.
“Do you…” don’t choke up now-- “…do you think I can become a hero? Even if I don’t have a quirk?”
Izuku could never have predicted this moment, not in an entire lifetime. Standing in front of her hero, asking him the same question that had plagued her for eleven long years, after he had saved her life. She wasn’t sure what she was about to hear him say, but as he paused and wiped his face with his hand before turning to her, she knew whatever it was would change the direction of her life for good.
“Well,” he declared, and suddenly stopped; Izuku was too lost in her own head to notice why, though.
“It’s just… I know it hasn’t been done before, but…” She closed her eyes and bowed her head, trying desperately to explain herself. “Maybe it’s because I don’t have a quirk, but I kinda feel scared and vulnerable a lot, and I guess I’ve always looked up to people like you?” The words were just spilling out at this point; she might only have this one opportunity to say them. “I just really want to help people…”
Wait, maybe that was oversharing? He doesn’t need to hear all of this.
Izuku opened her eyes and looked back up, but her vision was clouded by a burst of smoke.
A falling, followed by a landing. Pain is hard to feel in this form, but not impossible.
A commotion. Schoolchildren.
Time isn’t of the essence, and these kids don’t look like they’re going anywhere. May as well wait to ensure the element of surprise.
One of them angry. Complaining about a schoolmate? Light flashes from his palm with a loud burst of sound.
Perfect. Flashy quirks are the best to steal, and this one looks powerful too.
A rising, followed by a crashing. Pain comes more easily for the victims.
When the smoke cleared, Izuku couldn’t believe her eyes.
In front of her, she was expecting to see the same figure who had lit up her dreams for as long as she had known - the iconic tufts of gold hair, the striking, muscular figure, the beaming and all-adoring smile. Instead, she was suddenly faced with someone almost half a meter shorter, stick-thin with sunken eyes, with baggy, oversized clothing that looked as though it was barely staying on him. He looked to be on the verge of collapse.
Sensing her confusion, the man quickly held up a hand to silence her impending protest. “Do not be alarmed,” he said gravely. “I am All Might.”
A brief series of stutters followed by a stunned silence was all the response she was able to muster, so the man continued. “I know what you're thinking, but it’s true. What you've probably seen me as before is just a manifestation of my quirk.” He punctuated that sentence with a cough, and then Izuku saw him stand up straight and suddenly grow into the familiar silhouette she had seen earlier-- before another burst of smoke erupted, at which point his body shrank to its former size and a small trail of blood ran down from his mouth. Wiping it gently away with the back of his hand, he continued, “You mustn’t tell anyone about this, you understand.”
Her head was still spinning, but there, at least, was one thing she could grasp. “Then… why tell me?” she replied uncertainly. “Is this part of your answer?”
To that, All Might responded by sitting down on the rooftop and sighing. “Would that it were that simple. No, my boy--” ignore it ignore it ignore it-- “this was purely accidental. Ordinarily I would have remained in that form until I was out of sight, but in recent years that has become more difficult.”
He lifted up his shirt, and Izuku was immediately shocked. His torso was almost impossibly threadbare, with ribs almost pushing out of his pale skin and a gaping void for an abdomen. Scars permeated throughout; a gash above his navel, an almost surgical cut on each side of his chest, and the largest - cutting through most of his left side - was a mass of mangled tissue that radiated out from just above his hip.
“This wound,” he sighed, pointing towards the center, “was given to me about five years ago; in the process, most of my organs were damaged or destroyed. I can still use my quirk to return to my old strength, but it takes an immense amount of energy. Doing so more than two or three hours a day could be disastrous.”
Hearing this, Izuku flipped her backpack to her front and started flipping through the books inside before finding a page which seemed plausible. “Was that your battle with Toxic Chainsaw?” she asked frantically. “Or was it Black Death? Or--”
“None of those,” he said before another cough wracked his body. “This fight was kept secret, and this injury is why. As a hero, and especially as the hero that I am, I must always retain a strong public image to keep villainy at bay.”
Izuku slid the book she was holding back into her bag, which she placed down gently next to her.
“You asked if one could become a hero without a quirk?” he asked, expression stern. “The job of a hero is to shine, to protect the citizens of the world, to risk one’s life against evil. To empower the weak requires power of your own to give. I am truly sorry to be the person to tell you this, but not every dream can come true.”
And with that, he walked solemnly towards the rooftop door and headed down the stairs. Izuku could only stare in shock.
A falling, followed by a landing. The hardest secrets to keep are the ones only you know.
Descent. This was the first time this had happened. Hopefully, it would be the last.
Hopefully, no one else would find out. Hopefully, the way out is unlocked. Too many uncertainties.
Footsteps from behind. Ignore those. Grab the--
One uncertainty too many now.
What was that sound?
A rising, followed by a crashing. Secrets are not found out; rather, they break out.
Izuku looked around for a moment, but it seemed as though there was only one way down from this rooftop. She was going to have to follow All Might down the stairs.
The fact that she was now hesitant about this sickened her.
It was a possibility, though. Lots of things are possible. That one was unlikely. Be realistic. That means no more dreams. No more future. Lots of things are possible. Only one thing would do. Stay calm breathe close your eyes sit down if you need don’t cry--
Figure this out later.
Izuku trudged down the stairs.
Out of habit, she pulled out a book from her backpack as she walked and started flipping through it. This time, though, it was her most recent volume - the same one which now bore All Might’s signature. Gazing blankly at the cover, the title was still barely visible through the burnt paper: ‘Hero Analysis for the Future’. Maybe Katsuki was onto something.
A small tear in the cover was all she managed before her attention was caught by a loud bang from outside. Tucking the book under her arm, she continued onwards down the stairs and through the open fire escape door, which she gently pulled closed behind her. Looking towards the source of the noise, she found a large crowd of people beginning to gather, a sudden frantic hubbub. And then another bang. And then another.
Izuku began pacing towards the scene, more out of instinct than rational thought. She was lost, to be fair, and all of these people around would probably be able to help her out. Besides, even if she was doomed to languish in quirklessness and never achieve her one dream in life, it was still fun to watch the heroes go at it. As she grew closer, though, she realized something was dangerously wrong. The excited cheers and tense anticipation she expected to sense from the crowd was supplanted by hushed whispers, shocked gasps, and a looming atmosphere of dread.
Suddenly, she realized. There was no hero.
Only a villain and a victim, both of whom looked dreadfully familiar.
A falling, followed by a landing. The acts of the desperate are as certain as the laws of physics.
Throw another book, then another - anything to distract the villain. No one should suffer that same fate.
Tear through the slime, dig deeper to safety.
Another book. Research can be remade. Nothing else matters.
A voice in the distance. A voice speaking a familiar catchphrase.
One thing matters.
Never fear… he is here.
A rising, followed by a crashing. Desperate acts are not always performed by the desperate.
When the rush to Izuku’s head wore off, she found herself being questioned by police.
A combination of surrounding evidence, testimonials, and her own blurry memories provided enough for her to understand the what of it. Apparently, upon seeing the villain, she had rushed towards him and emptied her bag in his general direction before trying to rescue the boy trapped inside. This effort was sadly unsuccessful, however, and would have been extremely dangerous for her sake had it not been for the surprise arrival of All Might, whose clever thinking and sheer strength quickly dispatched the villain and rescued the both of them.
The fact that All Might was now, even if only for a brief moment, a star in front of the cameras rather than wandering through a mostly deserted underpass meant that she suddenly received a lot more media attention. Izuku tried desperately to shy away from most of it, but couldn’t help accidentally meeting glances with the odd reporter who inevitably berated her for her foolish actions. As far as conversations go, that was one of the worst.
Eventually finding directions home, the walk back was as miserable as it could possibly have been. Not only were the events of the day still weighing fresh and heavy on her mind, but the weather had suddenly turned for the worse right after the villain attacked. This was explained to her as being a result of All Might’s exploits, and for a moment she thought about this potential to manipulate air pressure using physical quirks and drought relief-- but she stopped herself. Her books would have gotten wet, anyway. It was a miracle she managed to recover them all, but the surrounding crowds meant that they didn’t fly far, and she at least had had the sense to put her name in them all.
Turning the last corner and heading down the home stretch, just in the distance she could see the welcoming outline of her house… and just in front of it, a man whose silhouette was awfully recent in her memory.
“I want to apologize, first and foremost,” All Might called to her faintly, and she rushed closer to meet him again. He was no longer in his hero form, wearing the same oversized T-shirt and cargo pants from their first encounter. Wait, is that so he can grow into his clothes with his quirk without changing?
“I realized,” he said, shaking Izuku out of her thoughts, “that what I said earlier was not entirely true.” As he spoke, he pulled his hands toward each other and held them together in front of him. “I said that you were weak, that you could not fight back, and I am deeply sorry. But worst of all… I said all of these things about you, but failed to hold myself to the same standard.”
“When the villain escaped,” he said somberly, “I almost chose not to chase after him. I had used almost all of the safe time I had to use my quirk, and I knew that there were other heroes operating here, and there was a moment where I very nearly resolved myself to put the safety of others above my own. But then I was inspired to take action by a young girl with no powers, doing what others would not, risking her own life for that of another.”
“You told me so yourself!” he laughed, before bursting into a cough and mustering a faint smile. “Right before you passed out in the square.” He raised a hand to his cheek and whispered, “I don’t think anyone else heard, if you’re not ready yet, but you can trust me, my girl.”
“But yes, I was wrong, and I sincerely apologize. However,” he declared, “that is not the only reason why I came looking for you. I also have a proposal.”
She wasn’t sure what he meant by that, but she was willing to play along.
“You see,” he said, “there was another way in which I was wrong about you. I thought that because you did not have a quirk, that you lacked the strength needed to be a hero, and I was wrong. I believe that you can become a hero, and - with your blessing - I would like to help you.”
Yes. Yes! Say yes! No other choice to make.
All Might calmed her enthusiasm with a gentle hand on her shoulder, and said finally, “Of course, I can make you a hero, but I cannot give you a quirk.”
A falling, followed by a landing. Weakness is an arduous cross to bear.
Staying alive is one thing. Fighting back is another.
Dodge, run, leap, hit when you can. Focus. Never stop focusing.
Reversion. Pain. Inhuman pain.
Fight back. No. Stay alive.
No. Fight. Back.
Anger. Vengeance. Pride. Pity. Duty. Justice.
A rising, followed by a crashing. The deepest weakness hides the greatest strength.