Chapter 7 - Careful Examination

"You sure you’ve got everything? Spare pencils? Tissues? Water bottle?”

 

As much as Izuku loved her mother, she could definitely be a tad overbearing at times. “Yeah, I’m ready; no need to worry.” She reached down to pull the door open, but was stopped by a gentle hand on her shoulder.

 

“I’m really proud of you, you know that?” her mother said softly. “You’re gonna do great things.”

 

Izuku turned around, nodded, and smiled as big a smile as she could muster, then ran out the door before her tears of joy could well up any further.

 

Bright morning sunlight filtered down through the trees and onto the back of Izuku’s brand-new uniform: gray blazer, navy blue skirt and tights, and brown laced shoes which barely stayed on the ground as she skipped her way to class.

 

Almost her entire spring break had been spent excitedly waiting for school to start. She had already organized all of her folders, and even designated a new blank notebook just for her hero class notes. The idea of learning directly from pro heroes, even after her months with All Might, was still incredible to her, and she intended to make the most of the opportunity.

 

Bouncing up the steps to the station platform, Izuku was pleased to see the train pulling up to the stop just as she was, and sprinted forward towards the train door - only to end up catching her foot on the gap and landing face-first on the coach floor.

 

As she picked herself up and started dusting off her tights, she heard a familiar voice from one of the nearby seats giggle and say, “Wow, you sure have a knack for that, huh?”

 

“Oh, I just saw the train coming and didn’t want to miss— Ochako?”

 

Sure enough, sitting just to her right as she came in was the girl she had met at the practical exam - now dressed in the same uniform Izuku was wearing, but still just as bright-eyed as ever. Izuku stumbled towards her row as the train began to depart, almost falling onto the seat. Turning towards Ochako, she stammered, “Oh, uh, is it okay if I…”

 

“Yeah, of course!” was her reply, accompanied by a bashful smile. “Thank you, by the way.”

 

“You’re welcome?” It wasn’t actually a question, but it definitely sounded like one when she said it. “I’m not exactly sure what you’re thanking me for, but—”

 

Ochako cut her off with a shocked expression. “You know, the whole ‘saving my life’ thing during the practical?” she asked confusedly.

 

Izuku tried to think back, but all she remembered were snippets - Flashes of blinding light. A rush of emotions, first fear, then satisfaction, then pure, unbridled terror and desperation and - “I honestly… don’t remember the exam that well. I’m glad you’re alright though!” she quickly clarified.

 

“Me too,” replied Ochako, breathing a sigh of relief. “And hey, glad to see you’re doing okay! I went to check on you while you were still in the hospital and I got told as much, but I didn’t see you during the written test so I was a little worried.”

 

“O-oh, yeah. That week was kinda tough for me, I just sat at the back and left as quickly as I could.” She laughed nervously as she spoke - why was she so flustered?

 

“…So what did happen, exactly?” Izuku asked. “If you don’t mind.”

 

In all honesty, her memories came back to her in full swing pretty quickly; still, Izuku was happy to listen to Ochako’s entire recounting.

 

“And so then he shouted at all of us to run in, and I looked out and I saw you way ahead of everyone else, which - I guess you must have worked it out yourself, huh?” Ochako let out a soft gasp in realization.

 

“Something like that, yeah,” Izuku responded, stretching her arms awkwardly over her shoulder.

 

“Gosh. Well, you ran off on your own, and I ended up doing the same; taking on those robot guys was a pain, though—”

 

Unable to control her excitement, she jumped headfirst into the conversation. “Yeah, I can imagine a cityscape not being very conducive to providing ranged weapons, and handling large opponents in hand-to-hand combat can’t be easy, even if your quirk makes it less likely that you’ll be in an extended fight against enemies with limited mobility, so…” She trailed off, noticing that her friend was staring at her.

 

The two of them sat in stunned silence for a moment before Ochako playfully nudged Izuku, laughing gently and saying, “Geez, you really are a smarty-pants, huh?”

 

“O-oh, I mean…” She wasn’t sure quite how to react to that. “I just like thinking about quirks, that’s all.”

 

“Well, what’s your quirk, then?” Ochako asked, tilting her head to the side with an over-exaggerated air of inquisitiveness.

 

Look around. No one else in earshot.

 

Not everyone, but definitely someone. She can be trusted.

 

Izuku whispered as quietly as she could manage, “Okay. This is really secret, and you have to promise not to tell anyone, but…” Wait. Was this really the right thi—

 

“But what?” replied Ochako in the same volume.

 

Why not.

 

“I’m Quirkless.”

 

Silence.

 

Then Ochako put her hands over her mouth, making muffled but still very much audible noises, trying to keep her reaction contained as much as possible.

 

“You what?” she responded, with as loud a whisper as she could muster. “So, the test, the robot, the— the— you did that without a quirk?”

 

Izuku nodded briskly and uncomfortably, and her friend nodded back, slower and still with a wide-eyed gaze, as the train pulled into the station. As the two of them picked up their bags and headed out of the train car, neither said a word for a long while.

 

There had been too much silence in this conversation, Izuku decided as they walked the path through the grounds, but was entirely at a loss for what to say. Eventually, opening the front door to their new school, she decided on: “Fifth floor, right?”

 

“Maybe? I forgot to bring my map.”

 

“…Me too.”

 

“Well, it’s worth a shot.”

 

“…”

 

“…”

 

“I’m sorry, that was a big thing to have dropped on you like that, I just felt like I could trust you and I had to tell someone because it seemed kind of weird to just keep it to myself and—”

 

“You’re fine, Izuku. Honestly, I’m more impressed than anything else.”

 

“Really?”

 

“This isn’t the right floor, is it?”

 

After ten minutes of frantic searching, the two of them stumbled onto a large, imposing door which spanned the entire height of the wall, labeled with a neat sign on the wall reading simply, “1-A”.

 

“This is us, I guess,” Izuku said as surely as she could, pressing hard on the door and releasing the wave of conversation which filled their classroom.

 


 

 

She didn’t have very many hopes for what her classmates would be like. Much of her middle school experience had been spent distanced from the other students, and she wasn’t sure the exceptions to that rule were all that pleasant. Besides, she was here so she could save the world, and if that meant another three years of being awkwardly distant from her peers, she was willing to accept that - though Ochako’s presence seemed to indicate a welcome contrary. Still, there was one thing in particular she had wished UA to be: a fresh start, a place where she could finally be herself after years of never feeling quite comfortable enough to. In other words, a place where she didn’t have to see—

 

“You got a problem, buddy?” shouted a very disheveled Katsuki Bakugou, leaning back in a chair and feet propped up against one of the desks at the back of the class.

 

Oh, joy.

 

Standing in front of him was a tall boy with dark blue hair, staring down at Katsuki through his glasses. “As it happens, I do indeed,” he said sternly. “This is school property, is it not? Do you not think that treating the facilities with disrespect constitutes contempt for the students and teachers of the school’s legacy?”

 

Katsuki laughed out loud at the suggestion. “That’s the most ‘stuck-up rich nerd’ thing I think I’ve ever heard. You really think some eighty year old pensioner’s gonna care about a desk? I know you just wanna be the tough kid, but you don’t need to take it out on the guy who got the highest exam score.” At that, he pushed the chair out from the desk and started leaning even further back, nearly touching the classroom’s walls.

 

His conversation partner pushed his glasses up to his face and spoke again, in a carefully intoned voice. “Pardon the curiosity, but I don’t remember seeing your name anywhere near the top of the rankings.” Wait, that voice - was that the guy from the auditorium who interrupted Present Mic’s speech? Was there anyone here she wouldn’t recognize?

 

The conversation stopped dead in its tracks, and a girl with short-cropped purple hair sitting next to the two of them coughed deliberately and rolled her eyes. Well, that’s someone new, I guess, Izuku thought.

 

“Oh, come on now,” Katsuki replied with a grin. “Just ‘cause the school made its own secret score doesn’t change the real points, and I doubt anyone here could beat seventy-seven.” As if to make his point sink in, he cast his gaze across the room, looking over the other students - and it landed on Izuku and Ochako, still standing and watching from the doorway.

 

His face was a momentary flash of confusion, followed by barely restrained anger.

 

Meanwhile, the other boy turned toward the door and immediately walked up to meet them, bowing and saying, “A pleasure to meet the two of you. My name is Tenya Iida.”

 

Izuku was only really capable of hesitating at that point, but luckily her friend jumped in to help. “You too! I’m Ochako, and this is Izuku.”

 

“Izuku?” Tenya said almost reverently, before turning directly to her. “Your performance during the entrance exam is to be commended; I saw your actions in the center square. You must have realized the true nature of the scoring well before any of us.”

 

Still nervous. “Th-thank you?” she responded, figuring there wasn’t really an appropriate way to say that she beat the entire class basically by accident. “I haven’t seen the class scores myself, but I’m sure you did excellently getting here.”

 

“This is school time, not chatting time,” said the man behind them in the sleeping bag.

 

That, even Tenya was thrown off by. None of them had really noticed his arrival, and yet suddenly out in the hallway, there he was - long black hair and a faceful of stubble the only things visible from inside the bright yellow covering. When he unzipped the bag, the class very quickly dropped into confused chatter, and even after he stood at the front of the classroom and cleared his throat expectantly it took a few seconds for everyone to quiet down.

 

“It took fourteen seconds for you to quiet down,” he intoned. “I was under the impression that this was the hero course.”

 

Izuku and her friends slowly made a move towards the few seats still left empty, but the stranger quickly resumed his speech looking directly at them, stopping them in their path. “My name is Shouta Aizawa. I will be your homeroom teacher. Good to meet you all.”

 

What kind of hero introduces themselves with just their name? Between her research and All Might’s instruction, Izuku hadn’t expected that the instruction itself would have surprises left, let alone this quickly. Was she going to have to learn new names for all of the heroes working here?

 

Actually, for that matter, who was this? He didn’t look at all familiar, and she had thought her notebooks were pretty comprehensive.

 

“Everyone, put on your PE uniforms and head out to the field; I’ll explain when we get there.” With that, Aizawa pulled a juice box out of his jacket pocket, took a long sip, and walked out the door without another word, leaving the sleeping bag behind in the hallway.

 

It was hard for most teachers to avoid having favorites. Ten months had made it hard not to play them.

 

He had spent most of the morning before work officially started preparing, trying to make as good a first impression as possible for his thirty-nine other students, but try as he might, he couldn’t help but gravitate to the fortieth.

 

No, this was nothing to feel guilty about. He was just checking the assignments of his colleagues. Perhaps with more of a focus than necessary towards one particular assignment, but he would definitely check the rest.

 

Let’s see… subject teachers, general faculty, aha! Homeroom. Class 1-A…

 

Oh dear.

 

He dropped to his knees and clasped his hands together. Chances are, she was going to need all the help she could get.

 

“Quirk assessment test?” nearly the whole class cried out in unison.

 

Aizawa nodded silently, which only prompted more concerned shouting. “A test, on the first day?” yelled one voice; “What about the entrance ceremony?” chimed in another.

 

“This is the hero course,” he said, promptly silencing the crowd. “My job is to train you to become professional heroes, and I intend to do that. As teachers in UA, we are given free rein to instruct our students how we see fit, even if that involves skipping the usual pageantries of school life. Would you like to become heroes, or not?”

 

No one had a response to that.

 

Satisfied with the newfound quiet from his students, Aizawa turned around and gestured to the field, where a number of grids were drawn out into the grass in white paint. “Certainly, you’ve all seen these before. Standard physical tests, ones that I imagine are more than familiar from middle school. Yet for some reason, the Japanese government still elects to measure these results without allowing the use of quirks.”

 

Izuku looked around at the rest of her classmates; a couple people had keyed into what was going to happen and were leaning forward with anticipation, most were disinterested or confused, but no one seemed quite as anxious as she did.

 

“Your quirk is an extension of yourself, and none can succeed without mastering it, but in order to improve one must know their baseline - that is to say, their baseline including their quirk.” Now understanding, suddenly almost everyone was on the edge of their metaphorical seats, ready to rush off and start enjoying free use of their abilities.

 

But Aizawa still had one more thing to say. “One more thing…” he continued with a sudden and surprising lift in his voice, “These tests are not simply for your benefit. Whichever one of you is least successful in these tests, I shall expel on the spot; there is no room for those without potential at UA. That is all.”

 

As soon as he finished, eighteen students immediately bolted - leaving only a worried Ochako looking back at a panicked Izuku.

 


 

 

"It’ll be alright,” is what Izuku wished she could have said at that moment. In a perfect world, she would have risen formidably to the challenge, told herself that this was nothing she couldn’t handle. Instead, she merely stood there almost inconsolable, dreading the apparent certainty that that day would be the day that all of her dreams were to be crushed in front of her.

 

Ochako laid a hand on her shoulder, and she felt as though she could have burst into tears at any moment.

 

“Don’t worry about it!” Ochako said, forcing a big smile. “If you got through the entrance exam with full marks, you can definitely get through this. It’ll be alright.”

 

Izuku winced slightly, then responded as best she could. “I’m sorry, I just… I’m not sure I’m ready for this. Maybe I should just let the kids with quirks have this.” Not quite a burst, but definitely a trickle.

 

In response, her friend shook her head forcefully. “Nope. Not a chance. You stopped me from getting killed, I’m stopping you from getting expelled.” She lifted out a hand, and pulled Izuku up swiftly to her feet as soon as she took hold of it.

 

“Besides, didn’t you destroy a giant robot by yourself? If you can do half of that today, then you’ve got this in the bag.”

 

Izuku blinked.

 

“Well, the thing is…” There’s not a great way to phrase this, is there? “I honestly don’t know how I did that. I mean, I thought it was just an adrenaline rush at first, but it doesn’t make sense that adrenaline would have let me jump that high, or at the very least I’m not familiar with any records of such a thing happening in someone without a strength-enhancing quirk, it was almost like I was weightless or someth—” Izuku stopped herself, trying not to ramble too much, but Ochako was staring at her wide-eyed.

 

“That’s it!” Ochako shouted, then clasped her hands over her mouth and looked around - seeing only the rest of the students, and Aizawa with them, lining up for the 50-meter dash. Dropping to a whisper, she said quickly, “I think I’ve got a plan, but we’ve gotta head over with everyone else.”

 

Once they had settled in line, Izuku quietly asked, “What’s the plan?”

 

In as low a whisper as she could muster, Ochako replied, “Okay, so, if I remember these tests right, most of them are just about pure physical strength, but there’s also the softball throw. And if you go after me—”

 

“Then you can use your quirk!” Izuku gasped as the realization hit her. “The ball will still be weightless, I can get a good score, and hopefully that’ll keep me out of last place!”

 

“Not too loud!” Ochako whispered back. “But yeah, exactly. Good luck.”

 

“You too,” came Izuku’s response, and the two of them smiled and nodded at each other before turning forwards to face the tests.

 

The first few activities were ones which Izuku was woefully unprepared for. Despite her many months of physical training to get in, she had somewhat let her exercise training go by the wayside since the exam, and what she had done was mostly dealing with heavy weights; general athletics were still somewhat beyond her, and even her performance in grip strength was far outmatched by her many classmates with actual strength-enhancing quirks. Plus, all the while, her teacher stood by with a clipboard and recorder, making occasional comments to himself about the students’ performance - ostensibly to himself, but they were very much audible, and had a tendency to throw her off.

 

“Denki Kaminari… powerful but with little versatility. Needs better control of her quirk. Koji Koda… some natural talent, but he definitely has room to improve. Makoto Mineta… good at adapting, but she lacks the raw ability of others.”

 

It was thinking about how she had yet to hear any comments about her own name that she suddenly found herself waiting in line behind Ochako at the sixth test of eight - the softball throw. Izuku tapped her on the shoulder, and her friend nodded in response and flashed a thumbs up.

 

Before whoever was first in line managed to step up to the plate, though, Katsuki jumped out from the middle of the line and ran into place. Aizawa raised no protest, only saying to him, “Anything inside the circle is acceptable.”

 

Taking full advantage of the freedom, Katsuki picked up the ball from the center and - swinging it around his body a couple of times - sent it flying into the distance with a barrage of explosive sparks which nearly pushed him off his feet. Even from near the back of the line, Izuku had to cover her ears and close her eyes, but she opened them just in time to see the ball land off on the other side of the field, a few hundred meters away.

 

“Seven hundred and six point two meters,” he noted, again suspiciously loudly. “Next.”

 

Izuku noted reassuringly that as the next student - a girl with long, teal hair, who seemed to be crouching? - took Katsuki’s place, the ball rolled across the field of its own volition, stopping just inside the circle again. This plan might actually work.

 

Almost before she knew it, it was just her and Ochako left in line. Ochako’s throw was almost effortless: a light touch and an underhand toss sent the ball flying gently across the field, and then over the fence, to be completely out of sight. Aizawa’s recorder, unable to process what had happened, simply read out ‘infinity’.

 

And then it was Izuku’s turn. The ball rolled up to her and she grabbed it and pulled it to her chest - thankfully, still weightless. Preparing herself for as strong a throw as she could muster, she stretched out her arms, swung the ball around as much as she could manage, and—

 

“Stop.” Suddenly raising his voice was enough for Aizawa to completely startle Izuku, knocking her off balance and causing her to fall to the floor. The ball, just outside the circle, sent a beep which Aizawa read off as, “Zero point one meters.”

 

“Wh-what’s wrong?” The crowd of students, normally at this point casually conversing by the start of the next test, had gone completely silent, and Izuku felt as though all eyes were on her - and that one of those pairs of eyes was glowing a bright red.

 

Aizawa glared directly at Izuku as he spoke. “I know your type. Super strength quirk. Your results in the previous tests have been mediocre to bad. And now you wish to prove yourself by going all out on this test, even though that will no doubt injure you the same way it did in the exam.” She glanced awkwardly into the crowd, trying to escape his gaze, but found only more staring eyes - including Katsuki, whose face was fixed in a grimace.

 

“I refuse to let you destroy yourself for the sake of this test. Do it again, but without your quirk.”

 

Izuku looked up into Aizawa’s ruby stare, and suddenly a wave of comprehension hit her. “Y-you’re Eraserhead! You can erase quirks!” she shouted, filled with awe at having met a professional hero.

 

None of the other students reacted, though, and Aizawa merely repeated, “Do it again,” so Izuku felt obliged to stand back on her feet. There was no way she could do this without a quirk—

 

Wait. Her quirk was being erased. But Ochako’s wasn’t. And she was Quirkless.

 

Expression determined, she matched his gaze again, and then turned and threw the ball - sending it flying into the distance, out of sight.

 


 

That wasn’t necessary, and you know it. Scaring your students isn’t any way to run a class.”

 

“One thousand, six hundred, and twenty eight point four meters,” Aizawa read off, and then walked off to the start of the oval track - but not before giving Izuku a faint but unmistakable nod as he passed.

 

Overcome with excitement, she rushed towards Ochako and very nearly wrapped her arms around her, before stopping herself awkwardly with an “Oh, sorry, I, uh…” - at which point Ochako responded by giving a hug of her own.

 

“That was awesome!” she shouted. “The— the throw, and the way you stood up to Aizawa, I— that was really cool.”

 

Izuku returned the hug for a couple of seconds, then pulled back. “Well, I mean,” she stuttered, “I couldn’t have done it at all without you helping me.”

 

“Yeah, but you still did it! And in the coolest possible way, too; I bet he thinks you broke his quirk somehow.” Ochako beamed as she spoke, and Izuku couldn’t help but offer her own smile. At that, she turned around to head towards the rest of the students, yelling, “Come on! We’ve got laps to run.”

 

Izuku paused for a moment, deep in thought, then shook herself out of it and bounded after her.

 

I only told them the truth. Those who have no potential do not belong here.”

 

In lieu of a verbal announcement of the scores, Aizawa simply stood in front of the group after the last test and turned around his clipboard. “It would take too long to explain everything,” he said, “so I’ll just show you the results.” Izuku squinted to find her own name, but couldn’t find it, until—

 

Right at the bottom. ‘Izuku Midoriya. 20th place.’

 

Before she even had time to react to what that meant, Aizawa continued, “By the way, when I mentioned that I would expel the student with the worst performance… That was a lie. None of you are being expelled. Now, I would recommend you get changed into your regular uniforms and head to your next class now.” With that, he simply walked away, placing the clipboard on the ground where it was quickly picked up by the crowd of students swarming around where he used to be.

 

“I’m still here,” Izuku tried to say, but it came out as more of an incredulous gasp than anything else.

 

Ochako walked up next to her and put an arm over her shoulders. “You sure are,” she said, with somewhat more than a giggle. “I can’t wait to be classmates with you.”

 

I was merely of the opinion that they all had potential.”

 

When Katsuki caught up with her as the two of them were walking to their next class, Izuku wasn’t sure what to expect. She hadn’t spoken to him since before the exam, and honestly didn’t know if he had recognized her.

 

“Hey, Deku, how have you been? It’s been a while since middle school, huh?” At that, Izuku had to stop and turn to face him, as the rest of the class headed on through the hallway. He usually wasn’t this openly friendly, but maybe today was a good day?

 

“Oh, yeah, it’s uh— it’s going well.” Hopefully, this would just be quick pleasantries, and then she could get back to—

 

“So. How does it feel?”

 

Izuku had no idea what he was talking about. “H-how does what feel?”

 

Katsuki mockingly tilted his head to the said as he replied, “Oh, you know. Just all that guilt from lying to all these people.”

 

His words felt like a stab to the chest; Izuku couldn’t even respond, and only stared in silence while he continued. “Listen, I know you’ve got dreams or whatever, and that’s great. But either you’ve got some amazing quirk you’ve been hiding for years so you can show up in a dress and do better than me, or you tricked the entire school into thinking you’re better than you are so you can have fun in your fantasy land.”

 

“I— I—” Don’t cry. Don’t cry. Don’t cry.

 

The malice in his voice now completely laid bare, Katsuki tore into her. “I don’t care which one it is. I don’t even care about the whole—” He paused, and just waved his hand in her general direction. “The whole that thing. But if you think you can come in here and make me look like an idiot in front of everyone, think about the fact that I’ve got plans too, and I don’t need them ruined by someone who can’t even take himself seriously.”

 

He reached a hand over to her and patted her condescendingly on the shoulder. “Have a great day, Izuku,” he said, turning around and walking off down the hall and around the corner.

 

She had never liked her old nickname, but it never sounded as poisonous as her real name did coming out of his mouth just then for the first time in ten years.

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