Preface: I was first introduced to Boku No Hero Academia via the subbed version of the anime (though the dub was fantastic during the second watch. Except Iida's voice-actor. Seriously, fuck that guy.) Therefore, I wrote Tsuyu's "ribbit's" as "gero's" because that's how I remember hearing them. I hope it doesn't trip too many people up. Also: anuran is indeed a legit word. Look it up.
I own nothing (duh).
I: Jelly Run
Alas, for poor Asui Tsuyu, 'worst' may well have been an understatement. The facility was wrecked, her classmates scattered, and the teachers mortally wounded. Hordes of villains swarmed the grounds, their bloodlust tempered only by their apparent lack of training— mere pebbles relative to the trio they observed from the shallows of the flood zone.
"... dispatched Thirteen with little issue. However, to my shame, one of the class managed to get out during the scuffle," the first apologized— a mist man dressed to the tee, vest and slacks unwrinkled despite the mayhem.
Get out? She tapped her lip thoughtfully. Perhaps the best (or worst) news she'd heard all day.
On one side, someone had managed to escape the facility, so help was hopefully on the way. On the other, the boss was handling the news with all the poise of a spoiled child aboard a sinking battleship with an armed battery. An attempted killing spree was likely, if not guaranteed.
"Kurogiri," the villain in question rasped. Dirty fingers clawed at the exposed flesh of his neck. Deathly red eyes– each half-obscured by a spindly grey hand— glared out over the ruins of the central plaza. "If you weren't my only ticket out of here... I'd... I'd"— his oily voice trembled with a cold fury devoid of thought, reason, perhaps even sanity— "I'd tear your flesh away until there was nothing left to dissolve!"
To his right, the hulking brute—Noumu, right?— groaned, readjusting the weight of its black form over Aizawa-sensei's left arm. The bones popped like bubble wrap, prompting the instructor to twitch in silent agony. The sound chilled her senses.
"Gero," she withdrew into the water, as if blowing bubbles would end this nightmare.
An shudder pulsed down the lead villain's frame, and the scratching stopped. A dry sigh issued from where his mouth should have been, black-sleeved arms dropping to rest at his sides. A welcome change, were it not so abrupt.
"It's game over then," he groaned, turning to face the mist man. "Game over, Kurogiri. There's no way we can win against dozens of pros..." His head drooped forward. "Let's go home."
"Tch!" Mineta splashed forward to hug her. "We're saved!"
"Yes, but—" she stopped, heat rushing back to her face as a tiny hand groped her chest. "Uh..."
She relished the twitching once his head dunked underwater. Her hand held firm, and the pool frothed pleasantly.
"I have a bad feeling about this, Midoriya," she croaked quietly.
"Yeah," her freckled friend murmured, expression darkening as he rubbed his chin."For them to retreat after going through all this effort is—"
"Oh yeah," the lead villain's tone spiked. "I guess before we leave—" she blinked and he was upon them, hands outstretched, eyes wide and gleeful, "we might as well knock his pride down a few pegs first."
Cold fingers closed around her face before she time to react. Too fast—much faster than he looked, and nothing like the thugs Midoriya swamped from atop the yacht. She hadn't forgotten Aizawa's crumbling elbow: whole chunks of skin and muscle flaking off from the point of contact, the exposed sinew crumbling away like chalk in the wind...
The stale aroma of unwashed flesh filled her nostrils, the sharp burning as her skin begin to give way. Except—
His grip twitched against her pale skin as nothing happened.
"You really are cool," the villain chuckled, voice like ice,"Eraserhead."
Another shriek from the black beast echoed across the complex, closely followed by the sickening crunch of bones on stone. Game over for both her and sensei, then.
No! It couldn't end here. Not now. Not—
Her eyes widened beneath the death grip. Midoriya?
"GO OF HEERRR!"
An explosive bang jarred her to the bone, blowing her out of the pool and onto the shattered tiles of the USJ's central plaza. Like a passing nightmare, she felt the villain's cold touch leave her. An angry cloud of dust and debris obscured her vision, and she saw no more.
314 Days Earlier.
In the twilight years of the Great Quirk War, Nobi plain was razed, splitting the Kiso River and bleeding it out like an overripe grape. It remained forked into the present— toward Nagoya to the south and Nishi to the north. The former runs slow and crooked. The latter, quick and straight. Sandwiched between the two sprang Salty Banks, a small city aptly named for its proximity to the Hisu bay. The area rose to prominence during the fifth generation of quirk users for its silver industry, almost eclipsing Seto as the second largest city in all of Aichi, and remains vibrant to this day...
Despite the late hour, the city square hummed with life. Clumps of walkers huddled together along the snow-dusted sidewalks whilst the dull crunch of tires on rock salt signaled passing traffic. It hadn't snowed in a while, and the air was dry as could be. A chill breeze curled its way through the scene, past the hum of trains and the frosty glow of overhead streetlamps. It stung her exposed cheeks and ears, coaxing a slight shiver from her petite frame.
The cold continued to tickle what skin was not obscured by her hair, a waterfall of glossy black which cascaded down, down past her shoulders before ending in a floppy knot above her waist. More cold. More shivers.
Another murmur bubbled up from her throat as she re-adjusted the thick scarf covering her mouth and cheeks. The past weeks had been particularly busy, even for her, and it was not uncommon during such times for her to forget her limits. This night's folly? Sensitivity to cold.
Yeech, she tightened her scarf, should've worn a hat.
Inhumanly wide eyes flitted from shop to shop before settling on their target: a small flat wedged between two apartment complexes. The twin bells set over the threshold tinkled as the glass door slid inward to announce her arrival. A blast of warm air leapt up to greet her— sweet, sweet warmth. She allowed herself a sigh, loosening her scarf a bit as she made her way past the dusty shelves of assorted snacks and candies.
Plastic and foil wrapping alike gleamed beneath the halogen glow of the overhead lamps. Behind her, the glass windows blushed an inky licorice from behind bright posters advertising the latest deals. Above, the subtle din of pop music completed the scene. City life through a midnight lens was always a welcome change. Not as good as rainy days, mind you, but the good enough. The changes always seemed to bring out the brightness of things which daylight out-shined.
The corners of her mouth twitched slightly: the closest she'd ever get to a smile with a quirk like her own.
At the back of the store stretched the walk-in cooler, the racks lined with the usual colorful array of chilled beverages and whatever onigiri hadn't been snatched up by the morning commuters, while the unit itself snaked its way around store's perimeter before halting at the coffee and slush dispensers up by the register. The familiar hum of the cooling units grew louder as she approached.
"Evening, Asui," a low voice rasped to her right. She whirled to around to see a wry old man clad in a ratty white tee-shirt and mustard-colored cargo shorts which clinked slightly as he took a slight step toward her. He tipped his threadbare fisherman's hat politely, revealing wisps of thin hair which flashed a regal shade of silver.
"Evening, Quoyen-sama," she echoed, her wide expression flat and indiscernible. "Any luck today?"
"Nothin'," he coughed, a laugh grinding its way up through his sunken chest. "Odds just weren't in my favor, it seems."
They never were.
He paused furtively, a fistful of lottery tickets in one hand, a half-full bottle of Sapporo in the other. Tsuyu's look darkened, and took advantage of the silence by grabbing a thick ring of pear jelly from a nearby rack. The old man finally loosed another cough.
"Heh," he chuckled, wiping his mouth with his forearm."Don't listen to me. You've got a whole life ahead of yourself," his grey eyes grew dull. "I'm sure it'll be worth it..."
Asui's grip on the jelly tightened.
"Take care of yourself, Quoyen-sama."
"Likewise, little one," he knocked back another mouthful, letting the stuff puff his cheeks before forcing a swallow. "Likewise."
She made her way towards the front register, chancing a backward glance. Shudders. Old man Quoyen was a legend throughout the Aichi prefecture. Blessed with a quirk that turned his hair to silver, he quickly garnered a reputation as one of the region's richest men during the post-war years. The silver king, his colleagues called him.
Business boomed until the bubble popped, and the economy with it. One thing led to another, ultimately ending in a hostile takeover from a Toyko-based company (led by a businesswoman who could sweat gold, of all things). Debt and recession piled on faster than his hair could grow and the rest, well…
Asui sighed, shaking her head.
A small TV was wedged crookedly next to the security screens perched atop the cigar case—right next to the lottery display.
"... police cordoned off the area and several heroes were on site prior to All Might's unexpected intervention. Property damage was minimal. The hostage has been identified as Bakugou Katsuki, a student of the local ward's middle school, and is expected to make a full recovery from..."
The tinkle of bells cut off the report as store doors flung open to admit a laughing couple of around high school age. They held hands, fingers entwined. The boy shouted something indiscernible to which the girl laughed predictably. She watched this exchange unfold, especially the hands: the boy's larger grip cradling the girl's smaller, dainty fingers.
She raised her free hand to eye level, taking in its anuran design up from her sticky palms to the slight flare at her fingertips: large, flat, and functional, but anything but dainty. Just like your mom, as dad would say. Except she wasn't her mom. For a change, wouldn't it be nice if —
"Gero," she croaked in annoyance. There were more important things to worry about, getting home being one of them.
"Just the jelly, please," she asked, placing the wobbly packet atop the counter's lacquer.
The clerk cocked an eyebrow, bringing a twelve-fingered hand to the register. "Another late night, Asui? Third time this week..."
Tsuyu shrugged, fishing through a green-zippered pouch.
"Exams don't pass themselves," she placed several coins on the counter with a dull clack. "Plus, mom and dad are out of town, so I can't really start studying until the after the kids are in bed. And there's always the admissions essay..."
"Still going on about that U.A she-bang, eh?" The clerk replied, raising an eyebrow expectantly as he dropped the coins into their respective drawers. "Hero-folk don't seem to quit these days."
"Seems not," Tsuyu said. "So neither will I."
A low chuckle."That's the spirit," the clerk said with a chuckle, handing her the receipt.
A dry cough echoed from the back of the store.
"Wait—" Tsuyu hesitated for a moment before pulling a 500-yen coin from her pouch. "For him," she whispered, motioning to the old man meandering through the back aisles. "Make sure he gets something to eat. No booze, smokes, or tickets, you hear? And don't say it was from me."
"Fourth time this month," the clerk muttered, shaking his head. "You do realize the only reason old man Quoyen loiters is because you keep giving me money and he keeps thinking he's being fed for fr—"
"And it'll stay that way." she zipped her pouch shut firmly. "It's the least I can do. Dad makes sure we can cover groceries while he's away, anyway."
The clerk snorted as she grabbed her bag. "Hate it when kids like you show me up. Reminds me of how much of an asshole I am. Hell, reminds me how much of an asshole we all are..." he flipped the coin into the air. "Guess that's what keeps people like you in business."
"You aren't an asshole."
"You don't know that," he flicked the coin back to her.
"Don't look at me like that. Makes me feel bad," he said, waving a hand. "I'll cover him from now on. Pay me back once you go pro, interest included of course."
She tapped her lip, warmth flooding her chest despite her glassy expression. Words tugged at her tongue (all twenty meters, mind you). So much to say. So much to–
"Thank you," was all she managed, popping a quick bow before securing her scarf. The bells tinkled lightly and the door shut.
Home was only a few blocks away, but the cold made it feel like an eternity. Still, she'd made it this far and would not falter at this point. The entrance exam was only ten months away: a mere trifle compared to the years of preparation which had lead to this point. Most of her life, now that she thought about it.
Her grip tightened around the bag at her side. Jelly always made late-night study sessions go down easier, but this night, she had more than jelly on her side. A jet rumbled overhead as she took in the shimmering city lights. The world was beautiful, and most definitely worth fighting for.
Worth fighting for… would that be too cliché to put on the application essay?
"Gero gero," she croaked contentedly.
To be continued.
I hope you enjoyed it. A slow start, perhaps, and I too really want to get in on some Deku x Tsuyu action. However, since Tsuyu has less character development in the manga, I figured I'd expand on it here. What emotions lie beneath her flat and candid exterior? Why does she want to be a hero? Just what makes this world worth fighting for to her? Oh and yeah, definitely lots of shipping. Eventually...
Tl;dr: This is most definitely a Tsuyu x Deku story but I want it to be a solid standalone piece even if the romance is not taken into account. As always, comments and critiques are welcome. Stay tuned and thanks for reading!
Peace, Love, Plus Ultra,
Edit: S/O to pervertmonster for pointing out UA exam date being in the spring.
Edit 2: Added in a USJ tease to improve pacing.