Warning: Massive spoilers for the manga in this chapter.
Previously, on [Angel on my shoulder:]
The attack on Hosu City has shocked Japan, with the vigilante known as Stain revealing the Heroes' dirty secrets and scandals to the public. A chain reaction of anger and distrust sweeps through the nation, and Izuku is dragged into the mess when Bakugo's bullying is revealed to the world.
Despite everything the young hero manages to move on from his past, looking towards the future with his siblings Kiri and Mimi. Complications arise when Imperator Ceres of the Legion, aka Yanagi Reiko, reveals herself to Izuku and tempts him with an unsolved mystery of the world: the true origin of Quirks.
Uraraka Ochaco hugged her pillow, idly rolling about atop her bed in an effort to distract herself from a growing hunger.
It was a Saturday but everyone was resting after the strenuous battle exercise training that Aizawa had imposed on Class 1-A, which meant that no one wanted to hang out at the moment. Poor Jiro was still working at the cafe even on a weekend, too.
Ochaco sighed. Tension in class was still running high despite her friend Midoriya Izuku's supposed recovery. A few days ago he looked like death, all pale and defeated. Then he somehow managed to bounce back despite it all, regaining most of his confidence and cheerfulness.
She wondered how he did it, to go through all of that and still be able to smile. Ochaco was surprised he and Bakugo could even be in the same room after everything that happened between them. The two boys' friendship; if it could even be called that, did not survive. With the class having splintered opinions, no one was sure of what they were supposed to do or how to respond. One thing was for certain, though. The green cinnamon roll they knew experienced far too much.
Brown eyes glazed over, unfocused as Ochaco thought. There was so much she didn't know about Deku—Midoriya Izuku. How could she call herself his friend when she didn't even know about the pain he was going through? A flicker of shame and regret flashed across her mind before she pushed it away, knowing that he kept it from them for a reason. Even now it was shocking to think about, evidenced by the protests against heroes that still kept popping up despite several press conferences by the Hero Association.
What a crazy, crazy world she lived in. Ochaco wondered what Deku-kun was doing.
Midoriya Izuku was currently trying not to be angry at the girl in front of him and failing miserably. Beside him his siblings were silent, both of them expressing their fury in different ways. Kiri's features had turned cold, and from the look in her eyes he knew she was deciding on the most efficient way to neutralize the threat before her. Mimi on the other hand looked like she wanted nothing more than to reach across the table and strangle the girl in front of her with her bare hands.
Sitting opposite of the three Midoriya siblings with her hands steepled and with a quiet smile, was Yanagi Reiko. She had always been a mystery, an enigma, and now she had finally revealed herself as some sort of agent working for an unknown party. A member of the Legion, the group of mysterious girls that mounted a counter-assault on Hosu City and saved Izuku's life in the process.
From their prior encounter Izuku knew what she was capable of as an evolved human; an Ascended. He had no doubt that she could bring down the entire building around them if she really wanted to, all with a flick of her wrist. Reiko let those locks of pure silver fall across her face, hiding her glowing blue eye before addressing him once more.
"Now then." she began. "It's been a long, winding road for you, hasn't it? First the appearance of your other half."
Reiko glanced at Kiri, ignoring the sapphire gaze that bored straight into her.
"Then the otherworldly interloper within One For All."
She turned her gaze to Mimi, who scowled and bared her teeth.
"How do you know all this?" Izuku demanded.
"I have my ways." She waved her hand nonchalantly. "You, my dear boy, are a magnet for trouble. The vestiges of One For All escaping into Realspace and the existence of the multiverse. Hatsume Mei and her mechanical menace's assault on your very mind. The assault on Hosu City and the Nomu who you once knew. All these events, connected to both you and One For All."
"You've been stalking me?" Izuku asked, incredulous.
"Of course not, I'm an Imperator. I have people to do that for me." Reiko sipped her coffee. "You could not imagine the amount of paperwork I've had to file because of you."
"Why me, what did I ever do to you? Why is some weird secret society watching me?" Izuku's expression darkened. "If you hurt my family, you'll regret it."
"The last thing we want is to hurt you. In fact, you could consider this a warning. For what's to come."
The statement caused Izuku to pause but he didn't let his guard down. For all he knew she could be lying straight to his face.
"I beg your pardon?"
"Chaos lies on the horizon, and what happened in Hosu has changed the narrative and forced my hand." Reiko shrugged. "All I've ever done was to aid you in your journey."
"You held a knife to his throat." Mimi pointed out, fuming. "I still haven't forgiven you for that."
"If it makes you feel any better I wasn't actually going to hurt him." An arrogant smirk bloomed across the blonde's face. "We all make mistakes in the heat of passion, little interloper."
There was a loud screech from the chair when Mimi leapt from her seat, eyes flaring bright green.
"It's ok…" Izuku gently put a hand on Mimi's shoulder before she exploded. "You've been helping me, Reiko-san? I find that hard to believe."
"Don't be so certain, boya. If not for our efforts, your world would already be ground to dust by the Quirk Singularity."
That got Izuku's attention. His eyes narrowed at the false smile on her face, pleasant but wrong in ways he couldn't explain. As if there was something behind that smile staring right at him—wait a minute.
There was something behind Reiko. No, not behind her— it was overlapping her image like two pieces of paper under a lamp. It was invisible but he could somehow see its outline with his right eye, all sharp angles and spindly limbs. Something… bizarre.
"Who am I talking to right now?" Izuku asked carefully. "Reiko-san, or Poltergeist?"
"Both." the pale girl answered in two voices, causing him to still. "This is who I truly am. As the Singularity approaches, more of our kind will emerge. A great awakening is at hand."
The words echoed in his mind. She was talking about what was happening right now, the disparity between the powerful and the powerless. As more Ascended were born there would undoubtedly be a split between the new humans and the old, just like when Quirks first emerged during the advent of the exceptional all those years ago.
"Oho, I can almost hear those gears turning."
"Get out of my head."
"You're like an open book. I sense your anger, your insecurity." Reiko hummed thoughtfully, tapping a finger against her temple. "Yet you reject it, scorning what makes you strong. Do not deny your true form."
"My true form." Izuku repeated blankly. "You mean, when I'm one with Kiri or Mimi? Turning emotions into power?"
"Why are you so surprised? You know the little interloper is capable of it too, through her Aftermath." Reiko raised the cup to her lips again. "You've also seen Dark Shadow do the same. All Ascended can do it."
"You know so much about me…" Izuku's eyes were narrow slits. "But I don't know a thing about you."
"For good reason." she smiled. "Fret not. I mean you no true harm, for you and I are kin."
"Kin… The Legion. Ascended." Izuku's voice was slow, measured. "The use of the word 'interloper'... you're like Mimi, aren't you? Someone from another world. Another reality?"
A full three seconds of silence passed and Izuku cocked a Delaware Smash under the table, just in case she reacted badly to the accusation. To his surprise she simply nodded and took another sip, seemingly unperturbed at the sudden revelation.
"With all the insanity you've experienced up to this point, is it really so surprising?" Reiko stirred her coffee idly, the accusation not alarming her one bit. "I know, a bit of an abrupt reveal, but…"
She shrugged, still smug as ever.
"Desperate times call for desperate measures."
"Yeah, nah. Cut the smoke and mirrors bullshit." Mimi hissed like an angry cat. "Who the hell are you people?"
"It's simple, really. We're Ascended, like you. Just… not from here." Reiko said.
"Are you here to make us join you? I don't think gramma would approve of onii-chan joining an interdimensional secret society." Kiri said meekly.
"No, no. You would look great in a Magical Girl uniform, though." Rekio appraised Izuku, eyes twinkling in amusement when he blanched. "I'm kidding, boya. You are eligible for our Kämpfer program but I doubt you'd like it."
"Why only ladies?" Kiri asked, curious. "Mahou Shoujo."
"There are many Legions, this one just happens to be magical girl-themed." the pale girl answered. "A template based on the first Imperator of this quadrant, Lady Kinomoto. She was the first to venture into—"
Reiko stopped mid-sentence, tilting her head as if she was listening to someone. It took a moment for Izuku to realize that was exactly what she was doing.
"You're right, Polly. He got me monologuing. Yes, let's cut away all the unnecessary details."
"You…" Determined green eyes locked onto her face. "You wanted to talk, so talk."
"So impatient. Nevertheless, I shall indulge you, princeling." Reiko huffed. "Tell me, what do you know about Quirks? I want to see how far along you are before I make any assumptions."
"Well, um." Izuku blinked, confused at the sudden question on his second favorite topic.
"No, this ain't how it works." Mimi fumed, interrupting her brother before he launched into one of his mumble-storms. "Stop trying to trick my aniki. You lured us here, so you do the talking. You said earlier that you could tell us where Quirks really come from. Why is it so hard to just tell us?"
"Unfortunately, my employers have ruled that I am to abide by certain… restrictions." Reiko leaned forward, steepling her hands.
"Then why did the Legion help us in Hosu?" Mimi frowned.
"We had to. That Nomu abomination you incinerated was trying to make contact with the other side." Reiko said. "You've seen a glimpse of it, haven't you?"
"Yeah." Izuku admitted, frustrated but with no choice but to follow her lead. "So, Quirks?"
"Quirks." she agreed. "Fact of the matter is, having a Quirk already makes you an evolved human; a metahuman. Stronger, smarter, tougher."
"Quirks affect humans both physically and mentally." Izuku said. "Everyone already knows that."
"Here comes the interesting part." Reiko leaned in closer. "The connection goes both ways. Just as Quirks affect humans, humans can affect Quirks too."
A few seconds passed as Izuku and his siblings processed that statement. Thoughts of Tokoyami, Dark Shadow, Naoto, and Shinso flashed across his mind. More mutants being born alongside more Ascended; sentient and intelligent Quirks…
"Ah." Izuku whispered, his gaze snapping up to meet Reiko's. "They got it from us?"
"Of course they did." Reiko said wistfully. "We humans ruin everything we touch."
Izuku cupped his chin, thinking. A two way connection, sharing information. Humans gaining the power of Quirks, and Quirks gaining the intelligence of Humans. A bond that benefited both parties. However, the good also came with the bad. Both getting traits from each other. Was that why there was an increase in heteromorphic births, coinciding with a spike in stronger, more unstable Quirks? Ultimately, Mimi was the one to say it aloud.
"So Ascended Quirks are… parasites to humans?" she ventured, a hint of disgust flaring across her features.
"Hey!" Kiri pouted, looking offended. "I'm not a parasite. I love nii-chan."
"An apt comparison, but it's more of a symbiotic relationship. A human's emotions are a rich feeding ground." Reiko caught Izuku's gaze with a sharp, piercing one of her own. "Do not be revolted. There are parasites that may benefit the host... teeth sharper than your own."
"I'm not." Izuku said quickly. "I'm just trying to understand. They feed off us and we get to use their power in exchange? How was such a system even conceived?"
"You're thinking about this the wrong way." Reiko chided. "All the pieces are right in front of you."
"Why can't you tell us outright?" Izuku frowned.
"Well, where would be the fun in that?" Reiko shot back, amused.
He ground his teeth together. This girl was infuriating…
"You're testing me, aren't you." Izuku realized, scowling.
"I am always testing you." She sipped her coffee for the umpteenth time. "You should keep that in mind, otherwise you might learn something."
"Fine." Izuku grumbled. "So Humans and Quirks share a symbiotic relationship. That much you've proven. As time goes on Humans become more like Quirks, and vice versa. If we include the Quirk Singularity into the equation, this eventually leads to disaster when Quirks become too powerful to control… to the point that they might even control their hosts."
Izuku took a moment to catch his breath, staring across the table accusingly. It was worse than he imagined.
You're talking about an eventual conflict, not just involving humans. It's also between Man and their Ascended Quirks. A war within."
"Extinction." Reiko corrected him. "For both. Soon the world shall tilt on its axis, and we will be the balancing point. Our kind holds more power than humanity has ever dreamed of controlling simply because we truly understand our Quirks, and they in turn understand us."
Izuku considered her words, but something she said stood out. Both?
"Where… where did they come from?" Izuku demanded, regaining some of his determination. Hope and a desire for knowledge flared from his gaze. "What is the origin of Quirks?"
"Why, us, of course." Reiko said nonchalantly. "Or rather, life in general."
"Think, Izuku, think! Like I said earlier, having a Quirk makes you an evolved human already. Being an Ascended allows you to go beyond that." Reiko's eyes were chips of ice, boring right into him. "I'll help you connect the dots, but you're dreaming if you'd think I'd answer you outright right from the start. If you can't even think for yourself and expect the big answers to be given to you like a mere child, then you are an Ascended in blood only. Unworthy to rise."
"Oh, great. She's one of those 'we are the superior beings' type, isn't she." Mimi groaned. "Next thing you know she's gonna start proclaiming that you're part of the master race, Aniki. What, are you part of some kind of 'Ascended Empire'?"
"Ascended Ascendancy didn't exactly roll off the tongue." Reiko shrugged casually, causing Izuku to choke on his drink for a second. "I am simply one who moves forward. Those who cannot, shall be left behind."
"Wait a minute." Izuku said slowly, pushing down a surge of disbelief. "So the Legion's just a small part of a whole group?"
"We are a collection of outcasts and exiles from various realities, individuals like you who were able to accept trauma, to accept pain, and move past it." The girl spoke with an almost religious zeal, a hint of pride flashing across her face. "We are the Broken People."
The broken are the more evolved…
Izuku recalled Tokoyami's words. The Legion, Ascended like him. Extreme physical, mental, or emotional stress could cause Quirks to awaken and evolve. Ascension. They were a collection of people who were changed by trauma, and became all the more stronger because of it.
When you can't bear something but fight on anyway the person who survives isn't you anymore; you've changed and become someone else; a new person, the one who did bear it after all.
"I think you're kinda mean." Kiri huffed.
"Niceness is detrimental to the ensured survival of a species." Reiko told the small girl, the corners of her lips moving upward just a tiny bit. "You, little Quirk, are far too young to understand."
"I don't think being an Ascended makes you, or us, better than anyone else here." Izuku said quickly, trying to stop Reiko from teaching his siblings the wrong lesson.
"Don't kid yourself, Midoriya-kun. You've already experienced a taste of power back in the Sports Festival. Think of what you're capable of with One For All , Kiri's Valkyrie , and Mimi's Aftermath combined." She glanced at her empty cup in dissatisfaction, raising her hand to call a waiter over. "Chaos comes, young Midoriya. With the inevitable conflict between Man and Quirk your reality will become a proving ground, a crucible where only the strongest will emerge. From this destruction, something beautiful will be born. A new type of humanity, one truly complete with their other halves."
Izuku's eyes widened. Homo Novus. Mimi's past. Hatsume Mei's plans for the future. The girl genius had predicted all of this decades before it would even happen.
"Just look at you. When you're older you could probably flatten entire cities simply by moving through them. The word 'overpowered' would not be able to describe you nor the devastation you could unleash, should you wish it. All of this, just from one Ascended. Think of what could happen with an entire generation of them. They'd tear this planet apart once they start picking sides, and all these tiny little people with their tiny little lives? They're inconsequential in the long run."
"What about our classmates? Our friends and families?" Izuku shot back angrily. "You're best friends with Tokage-san and Komori-san, right? How can you even say something like that?"
"Kinoko-chan's on my payroll, honey. My sweet little apprentice. As for Secchan…" Reiko thought for a moment. "I do adore her, but she's more like a pet to me."
"A pet ?" Izuku whispered, his fingers clutching the side of the table hard enough for it to splinter.
Who the hell did she think she was? Acting high and mighty, as if she was somehow above everyone else just because she was born lucky. This was the kind of attitude that led to the rise of the Creature Rejection Clan, to the persecution of mutants, and the despair and injustice that the Quirkless faced every single day. Memories of being tormented by bullies just because of his Quirkless status bubbled within him, coming to a pitch black boil.
If Reiko noticed his anger, she didn't react. Before he could say something a nervous cough interrupted his thoughts, the green-haired boy looking over to the side to find his classmate Jiro holding an electronic notepad awkwardly. Luckily, she didn't seem to have overheard their conversation.
"Ah, right on cue. Another coffee, please." Reiko said cheerily.
"R-Right." Jiro nodded. "Anything for you, Midoriya-kun?"
"I'll pass." Izuku managed through grit teeth.
"Oooookay. Hey, um, you alright?"
The tomboy's gaze flitted back and forth between the two Ascended nervously, Reiko looking like a normal girl when she was anything but. Izuku however looked absolutely furious, an uncharacteristic anger clouding his expression.
"You got any insurance on this place?" Reiko asked suddenly, her gaze never leaving Izuku's.
"Insurance?" Jiro blinked, caught off guard by the odd question. "Um, no?"
"Too bad." The pale girl sipped her new cup of coffee.
The bubbling rage was seconds away from exploding out of Izuku, ready to flood out of him like a dam bursting. It was roiling anger; a hatred so dark it turned from red to black, and he could barely contain it if not for the fact that he knew Reiko was still testing him. This was exactly what she wanted. He began to reign it in with some difficulty, his siblings helping once more by holding onto his hands. Reiko kept her relaxed posture, but the way her fingers twitched atop the table promised a blast of psychic power that would throw him through the nearest wall the moment he made a move.
"Guys, whatever this is…" Jiro said nervously, her earjacks coming into a defensive position subconsciously. "Take it outside."
"No, I don't think that's necessary. Is it, Midoriya-kun?"
"No… it's not." Izuku exhaled, fury seeping out of him like smoke off an extinguished campfire as he began to calm down. "I'll be fine."
"If you say so." Jiro muttered, unsure. She glanced between them for a few more seconds before another patron caught her attention, but not before looking back one last time at the pair.
"There we go. Control your feelings, but do not let them control you." Reiko nodded, looking rather pleased that he'd passed yet another test. "If you let your emotions and urges get the better of you and act on them without thought, then you are just another animal. Thoughts and emotions must be one if you are to be a true Ascended being."
"Is that what'll happen to the next generation?" Izuku asked, now back to normal. "This… anger?"
The look she gave him said all he needed. She knew exactly what he was going through; the emotional surges. No doubt she had experienced it too as one of the metahumans of the new generation.
"Quirk psychosis." Reiko nodded. "An unconscious impulse and influence that all Quirks cause in their hosts in order to drag them into conflict, amplifying emotions to a degree that clouds judgment. To encourage them to use their Quirks. As time goes on, more people will be driven to fight because of it. You see it clearly in some members of the newer generation."
"But why? Why would Quirks do this?"
"Were you not listening? It's how they grow and learn, because it's all we've taught them how to do. Conflict is the most effective way of drawing out these heavy emotions, which in turn empowers a Quirk." Reiko glanced at Kiri's guilty expression, sighing. "It's not your fault, child. It's just a subconscious thing your kind does."
The green-haired boy felt the guilt surge through him too. Before she met him Kiri was the number one vigilante for a reason. She witnessed violence on an everyday basis, learnt from it, and became exceedingly good at it. Yet, she somehow still retained her innocence. Nature versus Nurture?
"Feed on… Emotions." Izuku connected the dots. "Driven by conflict. So all Quirks feed on emotions?"
The boy's finger tapped against his chin in a steady rhythm, a thousand thoughts swirling and churning within his mind.
"Emotions." Izuku muttered. "The fact they feed on emotions; an intangible concept linked to the human mind—"
Reiko's smile began to widen, and she let him continue. Another waitress stopped by to present a coffee onto their table, walking away quickly after giving the still mumbling Izuku a weird look.
"—or rather, observing all Ascended. Not enough evidence to make a conclusion." Izuku mumbled, getting lost in his thoughts. "Ascended. Humans with sentient Quirks… no, not just that. Humans who are able to become one with their Quirks. A mutual exchange of power. The Legion, who I now know thanks to you, are interdimensional travelers of some sort. Interfering in local matters of their choosing, and the Quirk Psychosis you mentioned earlier…"
Izuku took a deep breath and looked right at her, making his conclusion.
"Quirks are somehow interdimensional in nature?"
The boy's heartbeat was rumbling like an engine when she grinned, luscious lips parting to reveal pearly white teeth. For a second something warped and twisted overlapped her image, towering over the two of them in the span of a blink. Then it was gone, as if it was never there.
"Bingo." Reiko's single eye sparkled with delight. "That was fast. You don't seem too shocked at the revelation."
"At this point, I'm ready to believe in anything." Izuku grumbled. "The Quirk Singularity—"
"Is only the tip of the iceberg. Think about it, boya. Quirks come from outside of reality."
"Please don't tell me the fate of the multiverse is at stake or something like that."
"Don't be silly. There's an infinite number of realities out there, it'll be fine. Where do you think they get all that power from?"
It was as if a lightbulb had gone off above Izuku's head.
"Quirks draw power from the multiverse too?" he realized, eyes wide. "Infinite worlds… an infinite power source. Is that how Quirks are capable of unleashing that much energy out of nowhere? But wait, Quirks feed on emotions—"
"And where do those emotions come from? Humans. But when they're not feeding… where does all that energy go?" Reiko smiled. "Ever wonder why Quirks are only present in humans, and very rarely animals?"
"I'd assume it has something to do with sentience." Izuku speculated. He thought of his friend Koko and U.A.'s Principal Nezu for a moment. "As long as you're a sentient being, you are able to have a Quirk? Scientists have isolated the genetic capability for a Quirk to be located in a person's Quirk Factor in their DNA, along with various physical traits such as the absence of a pinky toe joint—"
"The pinky toe joint is a bunch of nonsense, by the way. That's just an evolved human thing that happened to coincide with the appearance of metahuman phenomena; you can have a Quirk and a pinky toe joint." Reiko winked. "Fact of the matter is, your scientists are only partially correct. The Quirk Factor is just the human body being physically changed by the presence of a Quirk, not the foundation for one. Yes, Quirks mostly manifest in sentient beings for a very specific reason. Make a guess on what that is."
"And that would be…" Mimi began slowly.
"No, no, don't ruin it! I like to see him think." Reiko shushed her.
The thoughts swirled and churned in Izuku's head. Everything he'd learnt so far was processed, cataloged, and sorted within his mind. He now knew Quirks didn't come from a virus. After all, what kind of virus spreads at the speed of thought? Once the Glowing Baby was born, people from all over the world started exhibiting superhuman abilities mere hours later. Quirks manifested in living things, but only very specific ones.
If all life on Earth was able to manifest a Quirk, then the world would already be overwhelmed by superpowered insects that vastly outnumbered all other lifeforms on the planet's biosphere. And yet, only humans and a rare few animals were shown to have Quirks. There were no recorded instances of plant life or fungi gaining Quirks either, not even with the ones that shared a high genetic relation with humans. The one common factor that linked Quirks and Ascended together; it was right in front of him all this time.
"It's both sentience and emotions, isn't it?" Izuku deduced. "Quirks can only manifest in beings that are able to truly think and feel."
"That's right. Your canine friend and the rat are special cases as there are always outliers." Reiko smiled, looking genuinely pleased. "There we go. Quirks are born from sentient beings capable of emotion. This, of course, means that Hatsume Mei's little experiment might succeed."
"Machines can get Quirks?" Izuku shuddered, remembering Hatsume Haruno, the little A.I. girl who claimed to be Mei's younger sister.
"As long as an individual has a mind, or as some cultures call it; a soul; that is able to think and feel, they can attain an other half and Ascend. It doesn't matter where a mind is, whether it be within a lump of meat or a metal casing." Reiko told him. "Cogito, ergo sum."
"I think, therefore I am." Izuku translated for his siblings, knuckles turning white. "I'll… I'll need some time to process all this."
"Unfortunately time is something we do not have at the moment, boya. You've done well coming this far, but I'm afraid we are quickly approaching a... turning point, so to speak." Reiko sighed. "I suppose you're finally ready. Perhaps it'd be faster if I showed you?"
The pale girl closed her eyes and leaned across the table as if she was going in for a kiss, and Izuku backed away nervously. It took him a moment to realize what she was doing and he gulped before leaning in as well, squeezing his eyes shut. He didn't exactly trust her, but in the end his curiosity won. Kiri and Mimi held his hands, closing their eyes.
Izuku's forehead met Reiko's and the world flashed into colors that did not exist.
A few meters away, Jiro Kyoka gasped and resisted taking a picture of the secluded booth where the two teenagers looked as if they were making out.
The rapid torrent of light ended, Izuku and his siblings finding themselves back in the ethereal mindscape within him. Reiko's shape was a blurred white fog before coalescing into herself and becoming whole, dressed in her standard-issue U.A. school uniform. The Ascended dusted herself off by patting her skirt a little, frowning as she took a look at him.
"Hmm. Put something on, would you?"
Looking down at himself, Izuku realized he was in that smoky, incorporeal form. Luckily his siblings looked normal as ever, clothed in their regular outfits while floating beside him. The ethereal boy fidgeted for a moment, spinning about in place as he tried to manifest an outfit of his own.
"This won't do." Reiko snapped her fingers and Izuku became solid, complete in his U.A. uniform. "There. Shall we—"
Her words were interrupted by a series of glowing, multicolored chains that erupted out of the ground, coiling around her petite form like dozens of giant, angry serpents. Seven figures landed around them with a deafening boom, ambushing Reiko while dragging Izuku and his siblings to safety in one fell swoop.
"Oh dear." Reiko commented casually, looking unconcerned even as she was bound and shackled.
"SNEAK ATTACK!" Koko yelled.
Two massive figures swept in from her left and right. Misha's steel-clad fist and Koko's greatsword impacted a pair of translucent blue hexagons, Reiko's Poltergeist shielding its master from any and all harm. An earsplitting crack resonated from the impact and the two vestiges were blasted backwards when her shields flared, tossing them away like discarded toys.
The distraction was almost enough for Reiko to miss the rocket-propelled grenade that screamed towards her. Almost. She caught the projectile with her bare hands, sapphire light flashing atop her palms when she contained the explosion with a psychic field in the shape of a dodecahedron.
That itself was proven to be another distraction when two speeding figures surged downward from above, fists drawn back.
All Might and his mentor executed the same attack simultaneously, their combined power crashing against an octagonal forcefield the width of a swimming pool. Reiko glanced up at them calmly, raising an eyebrow when deep cracks blossomed across her barrier. A tilt of her head reinforced it with ease—Layer upon layer of psychic energy slid and merged to stop the heroes' advance, her shield's surface now resembling the intricate pattern of a mandala.
Nana and Toshinori leapt back, trying for another angle while landing next to their allies.
"Young Midoriya, are you alright?!" the vestige of Shimura Nana gasped, checking him for any signs of damage like a concerned parent. "Don't worry, we'll handle this."
"Guys, wait!" Izuku tried, but she pulled him back out of worry. Koko pulled Kiri and Mimi into a warm embrace, ignoring the latter's squawk of embarrassment.
"I can't believe you let her in here. This is where you are most vulnerable." Chen said, loading a shell into the heavy, menacing-looking shotgun in her grip. "Greetings, intruder."
"You came to the wrong house, fool." Johnny growled, wings spread to full length in an impressive display. "Appealing to the boy's interests and shit-testing him? You're a cunning one, ain't cha?"
"Wait, who are you people again?" Reiko tilted her head, genuinely confused.
"We're One For All." the vestige of All Might announced, tall and imposing as he walked up to the bound girl. "And you, young lady… are in big trouble."
Izuku stared across a field of flowers, watching as a series of multicolored chains continued to coil around Reiko like angry serpents. One looped around her neck and attempted to bring her to her knees but the girl stood proud and defiant, glancing at each of the vestiges of One For All with a disinterested eye.
"Ah, how could I forget? The irrelevant squad." Reiko's lips narrowed into a thin line of displeasure when her gaze traversed across the group. "No Blackwhip, no Fa Jin… You really got the short end of the stick, boya."
"Enough. You're going to tell us everything." Toshinori demanded.
"Or what, All Might?" she countered, looking up at the Number One Hero without a hint of fear. "Are you going to hurt me, your precious little student?"
"I got in here before I officially joined U.A.'s faculty."
"Perhaps that's for the best. You kinda suck as a teacher, sensei."
Reiko did the impossible when All Might was hurled backward with a whirlwind of psychic power, the pale girl chuckling darkly as her shadow split in two.
Her binding chains crumbled into nothing more than colored sand, something impossibly long and thin stepping out from behind her. The entity was an emaciated, featureless male figure with a bone-white, beaked skull-like face and countless spiked quills, its jet-black leathery hide stretched grotesquely over jutting bone. Two massive, gaping chasms lined its body; twin ax wounds that ran down from shoulders all the way to the hips and parted its torso into three, as if someone had carved slices out of the strange being. Spindly, rail-thin arms wrapped around Reiko protectively, the girl reaching up to caress the creature's eyeless face like a loving mother to her child.
One hidden eye glowed with brilliant sapphire light. A pair of great, ethereal trails of bluish-white light sprung from the girl's back; one from each shoulder blade, flexing and writhing until they came to rest in the shape of twin inverted 'V's. Hikari No Tsubasa.
"Hear me, phantoms. My name is Yanagi Reiko, and I mean your host no harm." she announced.
"I'm not buying it." Nana hissed, bringing her fists up. "Let's kick her ass."
"Well, we tried the boring way." Reiko said casually, shrugging.
"Now we go loud." Poltergeist snarled.
The vestiges of One For All prepared themselves for a fight, everyone getting into their own stances. Kiri and Mimi were about to follow when Izuku held a hand out, desperately trying to defuse the situation. Reiko capitalized on the opportunity to have Poltergeist make the first move. The entity stepped forward with its silhouette flickering like a faulty television screen; stretching and warping unnaturally until nine copies of itself stood in a row and faced the vestiges. They whispered in unearthly tongues, hollow eye sockets fixated on each of their targets.
"No, no, no. We can do better than that, Polly." Reiko tapped her chin with an almost lackadaisical playfulness. "Ah, how about this?"
Izuku watched in horror as the Poltergeist copy facing All Might shuddered, features warping to become a perfect replica of the number one hero. The other copies soon followed, and a team of doppelgangers were facing down the vestiges. The outfits they wore featured inverted colors to their originals, a clear indication to what they truly represented.
Kiri glared at the Valkyrie copy while Mimi growled at her Viking copy, the two children facing their mimics head on.
"Even in the heart of heaven," Reiko whispered, her one eye radiating with ethereal power. "Angels can still feel fear ."
She pointed at Toshinori and her mimic of him marched forward, features etched with inhuman fury.
"Look at what you've done to the world, Toshinori. We heroes have lost their trust." The fake All Might began, shocking both Izuku and Toshinori for a moment before they regained their bearings. "The people are afraid of us!"
It lunged, and so did Toshinori. Blazing red eyes met shining blue ones when their hands met in a deafening shockwave, and two All Mights glared at each other with only an inch between them.
"Might makes right, doesn't it?" Poltergeist sneered, playing into Toshinori's deepest fears and failings. "And no man is mighter than All Might."
"Sensei, don't listen to it!" Izuku cried out. "She's just trying to mess with you!"
It was too late. The battle had begun, the vestiges of One For All charging towards their counterparts with fury in their eyes. Izuku's siblings shifted into their combat forms. Thunder crashed and lightning speared across the sky, chaos blooming upon hallowed ground.
Reiko stared right at Izuku, waiting to see what he would do.
The sound of rumbling thunder filled the Mindscape, eight versions of One For All powering up simultaneously. Reiko simply continued to look at him, blue lightning tipped with black surging from her wings.
"Lightning…" Izuku whispered. He looked down at his palm, his own green lighting arcing between his fingers. "How?"
"Not lightning, boya. Quirk Flux. Or as some of the more primitive worlds call it, Mana." she answered, letting the ethereal energies dance across her palm. He watched it turn from lighting, to flowing streams, then particles.
The particle form the flux took on looked exactly like the particles from Mei's H-Drive…
All around them the vestiges and their clones fought, the inverted copies insulting and prodding the originals with their worst fears and insecurities. This was the power of Poltergeist, named after the myth of spirits that could cause both mental and physical disturbances.
"Quirks are affected by emotions, and the strongest emotion humans feel is fear." Reiko said. "What do you think One For All is afraid of, boya? Let's find out."
"Yoichi…" the First wielder's copy hissed. "You sniveling little coward!"
Hiro froze, eyes widening. The alabaster lightning surging from his fingertips trembled and sputtered out of existence.
"All these deaths, all this pain, it's all your fault. All because of your weakness !" the copy accused, crying. "All your fault!"
"N-no…" the thin man whispered and backed away. "You're lying!"
"You could have stopped all of this from happening, Yoichi. Instead, you were too weak, too cowardly to even try!" the mimic roared. "One hundred years of pain and suffering, all because of your incompetence—YOU FAILED!"
Above them two Shimura Nanas clashed, pink lighting trailing in their wake.
"How could you, Nana!" the copy wailed whilst floating, arms slashing horizontally to unleash twin tornadoes of swirling air. "How could you leave Kotaro behind?!"
Nana said nothing, but the pain in her expression said everything.
"You don't deserve to be a mother!"
"SHUT UP!" the woman howled, her fist meeting the counterpart's face in a vicious haymaker. It sobbed and launched a side kick that sent Nana's body careening downward, carving a trench into the flower field.
"Ain't you something, kiddo." A dark-haired copy of Izumi chuckled, partially clothed with Aftermath's armor. "The only successful Midoriya clone. Or are you? Ever wonder what was floating in those tanks when you burned the lab down?"
"Fucking cunt!" Mimi roared, her overhand right connecting with a deafening crack.
"Fucking, fucking, fuckin'—" the copy sneered, mimicking her while keeping its voice as girlish as possible. "—bi~tch."
A rocket-boosted uppercut sent Mimi spiraling into the air, the two of them continuing their battle in the multicolored sky.
Kiri's doppelganger simply smiled and said a single sentence to the original.
"No matter how hard you try, you'll never be one of them."
Izuku watched it all happen, eyes leaving the battles to once again meet Reiko's.
"Stop it!" he demanded, knowing full well she was still testing him. "Stop it right now!"
"Do it, then." she shot back, egging him on. "Stop me if you can."
Hiro was smashed into the ground by a bolt of black lightning, his copy's grip like iron bands around his wrists. He struggled and the imposter laughed, drinking in his failure.
"Weakling. All those deaths are on you, not our dearest brother. Blood on your hands, cowar—"
Poltergeist's rant was interrupted when a blur of black and tan slammed into him, Koko shoulder-checking the copy of her friend into a nearby wall that crumbled from the impact.
"I help, wan!" she exclaimed. "Don't worry, friend Hiro! I—oof!"
The dog-girl was cut short when another blur tackled her, this one white and silver. The two Kokos started thrashing around while snarling and biting like a pair of rabid wolves, turning into a monochrome ball of claws and fur that tore up the earth around them.
"Get off her!" Hiro yelled, sending a bolt of alabaster lighting at the copy. "Bad dog!"
The copy yelped from the strike, thrown off the original. Koko scrambled to her feet and lunged at something behind Hiro instead of engaging her copy, targeting her friend's mimic. Once she got the Hiro-clone's neck in her jaws she started shaking him like a ragdoll, wrenching his limp body back and forth.
"Now there's an idea. Sis, we're switching dance partners!" Mimi yelled.
Kiri complied, placing her back against her sister's. The two spun about to face each other's doppelgangers, now unaffected by their cutting words.
Her attack clipped Mimi's copy on the left shoulder, sending it spinning uncontrollably and crash-landing into the ground. Kiri followed up with a kick to the chin, going for the beatdown. No mercy to the one who hurt her sibling's feelings.
Mimi advanced, easily dodging the jabs and hooks Kiri's copy launched at her. The training between them paid off after all. A blast of her fire breath stunned the mimic enough for her to get close, her sheer speed overwhelming Poltergeist. Viridian embers ignited upon her fingertips.
Heat rays surged from each of her fingers like glowing sabers, ten whips of emerald plasma crisscrossing and slamming into the duplicate from above like a giant flyswatter. The whips sparked like firecrackers before detonating, the massive explosion carving a new crater.
The other vestiges were following suit, exchanging opponents and ultimately triumphing against Poltergeist's mindgames. They then turned to the Quirk's master as one, nine fists slamming against Reiko's barrier.
"Plus Ultra!" Nana was the one to yell out the unifying warcry. "Go, young Midoriya!"
The first nine layers shattered. Izuku charged in, both arms lancing forward to meet the rest of Reiko's shield. It was a translucent wall of blue light, his fingers digging into it and peeling it apart layer by layer. Behind it his opponent grinned, and for the first time he saw excitement shining within those sapphire-gray pupils.
He grunted, One For All's power surging through him like a live current. The others were giving it their all, quickly re-engaging their counterparts and buying time while he hammered on the shield. He had to end this right now, for the sake of his siblings and his friends.
"Good… Use your aggressive feelings, boya. Harness it. Your anger. Your hatred." Reiko spread both arms wide, welcoming him. "Let it flow through you…"
It wasn't enough. Reiko's barrier still held, and Izuku dragged up power from within the rage just like she wanted him to. It pulsed and surged like lightning through his veins, exploding out of his back in the form of twin streams of energy so very similar to her wings.
The resemblance ended when the streams coalesced into a pair of familiar armored hands, their fingers digging into the final barrier like claws and helping him shred through it by wrenching it open.
A loud crack resonated through the air, Izuku letting out a triumphant growl as he broke through her impregnable psychic barrier—
The pale girl made no move to defend herself.
—and his hands wrapped around her gentle, delicate neck.
There was a crash and an explosion of debris when the two of them hit the ground, thousands of flower petals tossed into the air from the impact and raining down onto the two teens.
Reiko stiffened, a soft smile still on her face even as Izuku had her pinned to the ground. Both his thumbs were poised over her throat and ready to crush it. Yet, she did not move. She simply watched as Izuku breathed heavily above her, seemingly completely at his mercy.
No. It had to be a trick. There were a thousand different ways she could attack right now. Her shields alone could crush him into paste within a blink of an eye, and she knew he could snap her neck like a chicken's. Why wasn't she doing anything?
"Do it, then. What are you waiting for?" she asked.
Reiko sensed his hesitation. Poltergeist's beaked visage overlapped hers…
And her face morphed into Inko's.
Izuku gasped, barely able to keep his hands on her throat. He knew it was an illusion, but to see himself choking his own mother like that caused him to tremble.
"Stop it." he demanded. The illusion shifted and Reiko's face changed again, this time becoming Nana's.
"I see your future, Midoriya Izuku. You will do many great and terrible things…"
Izuku squeezed just a tiny bit, the false-Nana's expression remaining stony as ever. The black anger was back, roaring, surging within him like magma through an active volcano; ready to erupt at a moment's notice. All that rage was held back by his will alone, but at the same time there was something pulling at the seams and beckoning him into the dark.
Her face changed again, this time to become Mei's. A pair of golden eyes were laced with indifference as they stared into his, taunting him. The two floating arms atop Izuku's back flexed, just begging to pummel her in the goddamn face until he dismissed them, the constructs dissipating back into Quirk Flux.
"Are you afraid, boy?" Reiko asked. "Let go of everything you fear to lose."
"I'm not afraid!" Izuku snarled.
"Then why are you angry?"
Silence. The girl's face changed to Yui's.
"Fear leads to anger. But in that anger, there is also strength." Cold blue eyes bore into him. "Don't let it control you."
Izuku winced, fighting against both her will and himself. The rage was begging, screaming to be let out. Her features flickered and morphed into Ochaco's.
"The powerful control their emotions, and the powerless are controlled by them. And you, who are both… Which will you be?"
Her face morphed a final time, back into her original form. The girl locked eyes with him and let him choose.
"Hurt me. Break me. Kill me." Reiko whispered. "As many times as you need to."
"Why? I…" Izuku didn't let his guard down, not one bit. "I don't want to hurt you. I don't want to hurt anyone."
"Is that your choice, then?"
The boy said nothing.
She reached up with a single, graceful hand and stroked his cheek slowly. Izuku relaxed his grip around her throat, hesitant. Reiko blinked and the world shifted. Izuku found himself seated at a round table, a cup of tea somehow in his hand. As if the battle never even happened. The rest of the vestiges looked as alarmed as he felt.
"What the hell—" someone began.
Koko was the first to react, leaping across the table with an outstretched paw. She never even made it halfway when Reiko simply looked at her… and turned her into a puppy.
"Oof!" Puppy-Koko yelped when Poltergeist's long, spindly fingers caught her mid-air, placing her back into her chair. He was dressed like a butler, a silver platter balanced atop his right palm.
"What is this?" Nana demanded.
"Shhh. The dead should stay silent."
Nana disappeared with a pop. Then Misha, then Chen. Pop, pop, pop, went the vestiges, and all that was left were Izuku and his sisters.
The boy's eyes widened. All this time she'd been playing with them, testing them… testing him.
"This is your mind, Midoriya-kun." Reiko took a sip of her tea, a delicate pinky pointing upwards. "But the mind is my domain."
Izuku's mind spun and he tried to rise, but it was as if his spine had been replaced by a steel bar that was welded to the chair. He couldn't move a muscle and neither Kiri nor Mimi could do a thing, bound by the same invisible force.
"As fun as that was, playtime is over. Don't count on those ghosts interrupting us anytime soon."
"What have you done with them?!" Izuku growled.
"Put them away for now. Can't have them influencing you too much, after all." Reiko's gaze turned to Kiri and Mimi. "As for you two…"
"Eat… a… dick… Casper…" Mimi managed through clenched teeth.
"Nn." Kiri agreed, her tiny fists struggling to rise.
"Naughty little girls." Reiko snapped her fingers and the siblings disappeared with a loud pop.
"No! If you've hurt them—" Izuku began.
"What do you really want, Izuku?" she asked, leaning across the table. "Why did you want to be a hero?"
She blinked and the world shifted, the two of them now sitting from across each other at a dinner table. Inko and Hisashi were seated on the other two sides, faces frozen in calm smiles. Izuku recoiled from the illusion, furious.
"Get out of my head!"
"Answer the question. What do you want?" Reiko asked again. "Power?"
The walls peeled away like wet paint in a rainstorm. Izuku found himself seated on a gold and emerald throne on the balcony of the new imperial palace, millions of people in the streets below kowtowing to him with their foreheads pressed against the ground. Bakugo and his old cronies were at the forefront, trembling and too terrified to even think about raising their heads.
"All hail his majesty Emperor Midoriya!" someone announced. "Conqueror of the Deep, Ascended Lord of all the light touches! Long may he live, all hail!"
"All hail Emperor Midoriya! Long live Japan!" the crowd cheered, raising their arms in unison. "Banzai! Banzai!"
Stop, Izuku tried to say.
Reiko floated behind Izuku's throne, her voice slithering into his ear like a serpent diving into a rabbit's burrow.
"With One For All and the power of an Ascended, this entire world could be yours." she whispered, her bone-white fingers digging into his shoulder one by one. "You could be a God-Emperor."
She pulled and the world twisted again, this time with Izuku standing atop a ruined city. Beneath him stood the ragged, broken people of the world, all of them looking at him with a mix of fear and awe. Each of them had a glowing eye, a new people that had emerged from the crucible of chaos. His people.
"Or perhaps you seek progress. The beaten, the broken, they will one day inherit the Earth. With you to lead them, Humanity will turn their gazes towards the stars instead of fighting in the mud." Reiko said again, her face so close to his ear that she was almost kissing him. "An era of unbridled prosperity after the flood. We shall reach for the heavens together. As for those who threaten us, threaten you… we shall teach them a lesson that their bones will remember. No longer will you be weak, helpless Deku. Never again."
Izuku clenched his fists, resisting the illusion. It was so indescribably hard to stop himself from just falling into it, to resist Reiko's siren song.
His Mindscape warped to her will and Izuku was then in nothing but boxers while atop a large bed, surrounded by scantily-clad women dressed in lacy bras and garter belts. Upon closer inspection they were his female classmates from 1-A, the boy's face burning with scarlet shame.
"Or do you seek women, like any man does?" Reiko giggled, drawing a pale finger across his bare, defined chest. She was the only girl not in lingerie, yet Izuku felt his breathing quicken. "I suppose some things are universal. You could have this, all of them. You, once unloved and unwanted, will be adored and worshiped. Go forth and multiply, for it is your birthright."
Izuku flinched when the girls advanced like hungry tigers, crawling towards him with lewd smiles and salacious coos. A Mina grabbed his right arm and pressed herself into him, her musical laughter an exact replica of the real thing. Though the boy knew this was all an illusion created by Poltergeist, Izuku still got flustered.
"W-wait, guys… stop…" he began.
The illusions ignored him, playing to the subconscious desires of a teenage boy. The Jiro copy pouted and coiled her earjacks around his left arm, hugging him close. Izuku reddened and looked away, trying to ignore how soft she felt. Simulacrums of Momo and Tsuyu grabbed his legs, giggling. He felt a pair of invisible hands slide across his chest, the Hagakure copy giving him a little kiss on the neck. For a moment Izuku regained his senses and readied a Delaware Smash, only to stop abruptly when Tsuyu's tongue swirled around his fingers and brought them to her mouth. He didn't have the will to hit her, nor any of them. She suckled on them gently, gazing into his eyes all the while. Momo pushed her face into his midsection, running her tongue over his abs like a dog lapping at fresh water.
"Wait…" Izuku gasped, heart pounding. His breathing was getting ragged, laced with uneven breaths. "This isn't real. It's not…"
Finally, there she was. Auburn hair arranged in a neat bob cut. A round face with large, adorable eyes.
The copy of Ochaco wore a shy, coquettish smile, clad in a white bra and panties patterned with an intricate, flowery design. Thigh-high stockings and garter belts hugged her legs as she slowly crawled towards Izuku, the girl lowering herself to pepper his stomach with little kisses.
"Uraraka-san…" Izuku choked and tried to stop her but the girls holding down his arms seemed to have super strength, pinning him to the bed and themselves. "Stop!"
Not-Ochaco made her way up his body, continuing to plant small kisses upon his skin. She even gave the Not-Momo a quick smooch on the cheek while she was at it, eventually making her way to Izuku's chest where she plopped herself down onto him like a queen claiming her throne. Her face inched closer to his, cheeks flushed and bright red.
"It could all be yours." Reiko's voice slithered into his ears. "What do you want, Izuku?"
Ochaco's lips were centimeters away from his now, her eyes gazing into his lovingly. Her breath brushed against his cheek, warm and full of desire. Power, respect, love; everything Izuku never had, it was right at his fingertips. She looked so soft and inviting. All he had to do was kiss her…
Izuku growled and turned his head away, facing Reiko once more. The sight of Ochaco's hurt expression tore a hole in his heart but he forced it down, rationalizing it as just another illusion. He knew who he was. He was Midoriya Izuku, apprentice of All Might, aspiring hero! What he wanted… was to change for the better. For his siblings, for the future generation to never experience what he went through. To save people both inside and out, to tell them—
You can do it!
"Ah." Reiko blinked, intrigued. "Oh my."
"To me, One For All!" Izuku shouted.
There was a colossal bang when the door to the room exploded, an armored boot kicking it open. Aftermath rocketed through, green embers trailing in his wake. The armor's torso opened like a blooming flower, Kiri leaping out of it. Seven small, glowing entities followed her, the little girl leading the charge.
"Attack!" Kiri yelled, leaping at Reiko.
A surge of pride coursed within Izuku. That's my girl.
With a grunt free he broke free of his soft, loving restraints, jumping into battle. The room expanded impossibly into a kilometer's width and length, the clones of his classmates vanishing while nine copies of Poltergeist phased out of Reiko's body.
Two of the copies were incinerated instantly when they leapt in front of an exploding hammer thrown by Aftermath, a new weapon manifesting in its armored gauntlet almost immediately after.
"Fucking bitch!" Mimi's enraged voice echoed from the suit. "When I get my hands on you…"
"Oh man, this is so freakin' weird!" One of the glowing entities exclaimed, this one blue and shaped like a bird. "How do we even fight like this?"
"No worry, Izu-master!" Another yelped, this one red in the vague shape of a person. "We're here to help, wan!"
"Johnny? Koko?" Izuku asked, astonished. But their forms …
"Wow, kid. To think that while we're busy escaping from jail you were playing hide the zucchini with your classmates." a cloud of violet-pink bubbles grumbled. "Come on, there's a time and place for everything!"
"It doesn't matter now. We are here, young Midoriya." a plume of brilliant golden flames said. "Let's do this!"
These are… the vestiges One For All. Their souls?
Reiko's laughter interrupted them, dark and booming. Poltergeist was laughing with her, all of them chortling with their shrill, inhuman voices.
"Very well, Midoriya-kun. You pass. I suppose the rest of you can come along for the ride."
Izuku blinked, stunned for a moment until he regained his senses.
"All that was just another test?" he yelled, the outrage clear on his face.
Kiri and the rest of the vestiges charged, but Reiko snapped her fingers and stopped the battle before it could even start. She returned the vestiges to their human forms with a twist of her own—eight children looked around in confusion, absolutely adorable and non-threatening.
"Goddammit, not again!" Mini-Nana squealed.
Mimi didn't falter, instead wrenching her hand back to ready a fireball. It flew straight and true but splashed off Reiko's shield, the pale girl sighing at the futile attempt.
"Alright, that's enough." Reiko blinked, the illusion dissipating for real. It felt as if a fog had been lifted off Izuku's mind, and the group found themselves at the great tree that represented his soul. "Shall we, Midoriya-kun?"
The boy glanced at her extended hand cautiously. It could be another trick, another damned test. In the end, all those questions and doubts came out as a single, confused utterance.
"What we came here to do in the first place." Reiko shrugged, ignoring the glaring children. "I never wanted to fight any of you, remember?"
Izuku's jaw tightened. Despite everything, it was true. She had come here in peace, only retaliating when One For All tried to attack her first. Even Poltergeist's illusions were designed to test him, never to truly harm nor hurt.
"...Fine." Izuku grunted, throwing his arms up in frustration. "Okay, fine! You keep asking me what I want, so now it's my turn. What do you want with me?!"
"To see what kind of man you are and show you the big picture, Izuku. The reason—" she gestured at the Mindscape, the vestiges, the tree, and the impossible place they were in. "—for all of this. Its source."
"And where… is that?" Izuku demanded.
Reiko's expression curled into a smile, one filled with quiet nostalgia and a flash of longing.
Yaoyorozu Momo took a deep breath and steeled herself. Inhale, exhale.
I can do this. Momo thought to herself, fists tightening around the sides of her long skirt. I can do this!
She stepped into the teahouse, head held high. She was the one and only heir to the Yaoyorozu clan, after all. Looking the part was only the first step to making a good impression, and Momo knew she could not afford to screw this up.
It's just an important meeting requested by both father and Principal Nezu himself, that's all. Momo continued to walk, ignoring the looks she was getting. No pressure.
God, she hoped it wasn't another marriage interview. She didn't know enough about the principal to know if he would try matchmaking her with someone he considered 'of good blood'. Ew.
Sighing to herself, she began searching for the table she was assigned to. Table eighty-six, eighty-six...
Aged, experienced eyes watched her as she walked, tracking her every move. Momo felt as if she was stepping into a den of wolves. This place was a high-class, elite hangout only for the wealthiest people in Japan. She had no doubt that some of them had recognized her already.
I should have called Sebas to come with me… Momo grimaced, trying to shrug off the gazes clinging to her back. The old butler would at least be able to intimidate people enough that they'd look away.
"Ah, Yaoyorozu-san? Here, over here!" a voice called out.
Momo looked up in surprise. She expected a young playboy, a mature older man, or worse; an obese rich kid. She didn't expect to see a pretty girl her age waving her over from a booth in the corner, her face framed by a stylish monocle and beautiful silver locks. Behind her stood two massive bodyguards, sunglasses hiding their eyes.
She breathed a sigh of relief. This wasn't a marriage interview then… unless father got the idea that she somehow batted for the other team. With all the applications she rejected, it might as well have looked like it.
"Got all dressed up for the occasion, hm?" The other girl laughed as Momo strode up to her. "Figures the rat wouldn't have told you what this was about."
Momo nearly blanched at her counterpart's rude tone before collecting herself. This must be some sort of test. The brunette bowed politely, a practiced introduction that she had performed to perfection over countless hours.
"My name is Yaoyorozu Momo." Momo bowed deeply, hands placed atop each other. "It's a pleasure to meet you, Miss…?"
"Intelli Saiko." the girl said, ushering her closer with a friendly wave. "The pleasure is all mine. Come, sit!"
Momo did as she was told, not knowing what was in store for her. To be able to secure a request from both the Yaoyorozu Clan and U.A.'s Principal… this girl had friends in high places.
She did a cursory scan of the blonde. Saiko was dressed in a school uniform of all things in contrast to Momo's black dress, the prominent white coat and red ribbon indicating that she was from the infamous Seiai Academy. Momo felt the breath catch in her throat when she noticed the badge pinned on the blonde's collar, dull gold fashioned into the shape of a chrysanthemum.
The Japanese Royal Family?
"Oh no, it's hardly what you think." Saiko laughed, startling her. "It was a gift from Princess Miyoko after I helped her solve a particularly perplexing situation within the royal court. Not everyone can be highborn like you, my dear."
"Relax, Yaoyorozu-san. This is simply an informal meeting, I assure you. Nothing more." Saiko tilted her head back at the two burly bodyguards standing behind her. "Leave us."
Both men nodded, stepping out of the booth. Momo watched, eyes widening when Saiko gently nudged a ring on her finger. Its gemstone glowed a deep yellow and all of a sudden the surrounding sound vanished as if it'd been swallowed by the earth itself.
"Silencing field. State of the art privacy technology." Saiko explained, tapping the ring before taking another sip of her tea. "Now then, Yaoyorozu-san. I'm sure you're wondering why you're here. It's simple, really. Nezu-san recommended you."
"Recommended me?" The brunette blinked. "For what?"
"These are dire times. I suspect that our nation, all nations, will experience a crisis unlike anything the world has ever seen in the next few years. You've seen the signs, I suppose? Well, here's one we found atop the Defense Minister's desk last week."
The brunette's heart jumped into her throat when Saiko suddenly pulled out a long, wicked dagger, placing it gently onto the table with a quiet clink. It was pristine, almost beautiful if not for the ragged, bloodstained sash wrapped around the ornate handle. White letters in bold text stood out against the crimson cloth. Three simple words.
MUTANT FREEDOM NOW
Momo gulped, taking in the girl's intense gaze. Quite the statement. The recent chaos and upheaval of Hero Society caused by the Hosu City incident was only a single drop in the bucket, but every drop caused ripples. There were rumors of various groups surfacing all around the country… Mutant hate groups, countered by people who wished for Mutant Freedom… An organization that advocated for Quirkless rights… Anti-Quirkless groups… Resentment and unease was building up in the populace, and it would only take a single spark for the whole thing to blow. Japan was turning into a grenade, with All Might being the pin holding it all together. Without him, they'd all go boom .
"I see." Momo gulped, ignoring the cup of tea that was pushed towards her. "Um, is this one of Nezu-san's infamous contingency plans?"
"I suppose you could call it that." Saiko shrugged. "Things are getting hot, and it's become clear we can't rely on All Might forever. The Hero Association's too afraid to rock the boat and the HPSC's too busy handling the fallout of what happened in Hosu, so the rat decided to intervene. Something has to be done, so we're gathering Japan's best and brightest in order to combat and plan for the dark times ahead. You are one of the lucky few who have been selected to be part of this grand scheme. You will be compensated handsomely, of course."
The blonde pulled out a dossier and slid it across the table, spilling photographs of startling imagery across the table. Some depicted various politicians shaking hands with known villains and their associates, others captured what appeared to be rallies consisting of hooded figures in skull masks and all sorts of dangerous-looking people. The one that caught Momo's attention was a photo of normal-looking men and women arming themselves with smuggled rifles and black market support items, green scarves wrapped around their mouths and necks. Their symbol was emblazoned upon the emerald cloth; a DNA double-helix ending in a clenched fist.
Humarise? No, it's a different symbol. A Quirkless Militia… Momo realized, heart thundering in her chest. Were they radicalized after seeing Bakugo's treatment of Midoriya, someone who was once thought to be Quirkless?
She studied the other photos with a ferocious intensity, ignoring the way Saiko grinned.
These masks… the Creature Rejection Clan. Momo thought to herself, running her fingers over the image of a skull. She glanced at the knife from earlier, then the politicians. Pictures of people with heteromorphic Quirks wearing Stain's outfit. Mutant insurrectionists? No, revolutionaries against a system that oppresses them. This isn't good.
Her hands seemed to move by themselves, arranging the photos in neat little piles.
Diamond symbol. Legion. Momo frowned upon reading the file about them. They were gathering like the other parties but according to the report, they were also withdrawing from the cities they frequented. They're leaving , she realized. Not wanting any more attention after what happened in Hosu?
Momo switched to a photo of the villain known as Stain, forming an 'L' symbol before he was taken down. Not only was his identity released, but details of his troubled past because of his mutant status were also made aware to the public. A massive outcry against Quirkism and mutant discrimination soon followed after the report was made public back then. Then a photo of a domino mask made of black ink, two menacing eyes staring back. She'd seen this image before, on a cover of a book published by Shoowaysha publishing. She'd even read it before; The Memoir of Destro. What was this doing here? Unless… Quirk Supremacists?
No, not supremacists. L. Liberators. Metahuman Liberation, as spoken of and mentioned countless times in Destro's life story. Finally, there was the last photograph. Graffiti on the wall, thousands of bloodstained hands making the same symbol. Two fingers, held up high. Representing Peace… or Victory.
It's all falling apart because of what happened in Hosu. A Quirkless individual, tormented by someone born with an extraordinarily powerful Quirk, exposed by a mutant who was oppressed by the system. Catching the attention of the disenfranchised and downtrodden. The perfect storm. All these different factions and ideologies… we're on the cusp of another Sengoku Jidai.
"Quite an archaic term, my fellow Thinker. Surprisingly fitting, though."
"Me, a Thinker?" Momo blinked, having realized she just said the last part out loud. "I'm not—"
"Not yet you aren't. But with the proper guidance and training, we can push you to go beyond. The rat thinks that fighting villains in a skimpy outfit is a waste of your talents. For once, I agree with him." Saiko rolled her eyes at the last part. "Fact of the matter is, when a nation shatters it doesn't just resort to mindless, every-man-for-himself violence. Groups and factions will carve out their territories and split the country into pieces, and at the top of those groups are what we call Third Party Stand Alone Actors. Or, as normal people call them; Warlords. With the Hosu incident causing the appearance of a 'Third Party' on the chessboard, both Nezu and I think it's best to monitor these individuals, juuuuuust in case. We already have a few cases we're working on."
"I'm not a Thinker…" Momo tried again. "Aren't they the pinnacle of human geniuses? I'm just… me."
"My dear girl. You casually memorized complex chemical formulae, the atomic structure of the entire periodic table, and sophisticated mechanical layouts, all to use your Quirk." Saiko sighed. "And what do you make with it? Cannons. Actual medieval cannons, complete with cannonballs."
"I could make modern firearms if I wanted to but that goes against Japanese gun safety laws…" Momo said timidly.
"What if I told you we could ignore those laws completely? The authority that I hold allows me to circumvent those pesky societal rules with a snap—" Saiko snapped her fingers. "—of a finger. You'd be free to create anything you want. This, I offer to you."
"Anything?" Momo whispered hungrily. Ideas of fissile material, forbidden blueprints, rare elements and chemical combinations popped into her head before she quickly shook them away. "Surely there are limits."
"That's where you're wrong." Saiko smiled from ear-to-ear. "For the work we'll be doing, we have access to all of Japan's resources… and I do mean all. I've tested it. They're getting desperate, Yaoyorozu-san. We've all seen the writing on the wall."
That last part made Momo's blood run cold. A group with unfettered access to a nation's resources and a tendency to ignore the rules completely… it spoke of something similar that took place in the Dark Age.
"We're…" Momo gulped. "We're restarting Japan's Wallfacer Program ? I-Is that what this is?"
"Hardly. It's a new age, with new rules…" Saiko looked away, idly stirring her drink. "And new problems. It's only fair that we come up with new solutions."
Those sharp, piercing eyes stared right into Momo's, filled with an ironclad determination.
"We're calling it the Think Tank Initiative."
Izuku was sitting across Reiko, doing his best to match her breathing.
Atop his head floated a halo, nine orbiting spheres of light representing the vestiges of One For All. They'd returned to that form to help him focus on 'communing' with Reiko, whatever the hell that meant. Kiri and Mimi watched them quietly from atop his shoulders.
It was only after much arguing between the members of One For All did they decide to back down and allow Izuku to proceed, still convinced the other Ascended was trying to manipulate him somehow. In all likelihood she probably was, but a gut feeling told him to go forth, to seek the truth. It was why they were sitting here under her instruction, attempting to do what the Nomu Hivemind failed at.
To make contact with the other side; what Reiko claimed to be the 'source of all Quirks'. Izuku would be lying if he said he wasn't curious.
"Is it working?" Izuku asked, raising an eyebrow. "What are we even doing, Reiko-san?"
"Do you know how the first Ascended went beyond, Midoriya-kun?" Reiko answered his question with one of her own, calm as ever. "He meditated under a tree, just like this one. A connection was formed with the power within. We must do the same."
"Come. Touch the darkness inside me." she requested, offering her hands to him.
Izuku obliged, blinking when she interlocked fingers with him on her left hand. With her right she brought his other hand up to her cheek, causing him to feel mildly embarrassed. Usually such close and intimate contact with a girl would have him freaking out, but the boy's confusion far outweighed his awkwardness.
Though her skin was soft and smooth, he couldn't help but notice the lack of warmth. She was cold as a corpse, her singular eye a glass marble that seemed to stare right past him.
"You're cold." Izuku mumbled, feeling around her cheek and accidentally grabbing her ear instead. "Ah, sorry."
"Focus, boya. Can you feel the darkness that resides within me?"
Izuku closed his eyes and tried to. There was a distinct feeling not unlike a blanketing fog that roiled off her, blurring all that it touched. This was her Quirk, Poltergeist. A cold, lonely thing.
"Feel me as I feel you. You are three in one, and one in three. A moon, a sun, and a star. And behind that, a galaxy." Reiko whispered. "This is your Mindscape, so you hold the key to the door. If I were to force it open, I would break your mind beyond repair. It's up to you to open it."
"That's reassuring." Izuku said dryly. "How do I know if I'm doing it right?"
The boy grumbled, focusing deep within again. The lightning—Quirk Flux surged from Reiko to him like a closed circuit, then right back to her through their connected hands. There was a tugging and…
He felt it. There was a flow of energy from him to Kiri, and to something beyond. A stream, into a lake, into an ocean. He started to follow it, quickly realizing this was something both his sisters had done before without even realizing it.
Whenever they'd teleported out of his mind or to a point of space they chose, they used this path built upon memories and emotions. Nana and All Might had used it too, back at USJ. Both siblings did, whenever they were called to him. He himself, every time he drew upon One For All's power. He'd seen it before at Hosu when the Nomu Hivemind was in its dying throes.
The rainbow he'd seen while he was bleeding out on that rooftop.
There was no pain but an odd feeling of familiarity stirred up within Izuku once more, as if he was connected to something greater. He could feel it within him, calling out to the unknown power on the other side. A force beyond human comprehension. Reaching inward, he pulled at it… and a doorway of spiral light manifested on the bark beside him. It pulsed and folded inward, then downard, revealing endless rainbow light that was somehow contained within the boundary instead of spilling outwards. A spiral staircase leading down into a wellspring, a pool of pure energy.
When Nana became one with Kiri during the attack on USJ she'd described something similar, having revealed it to him during one of their training sessions. A corridor of rainbow light. Mimi had seen it too, back when she walked into that spiraling doorway and became one with him to save Hosu City. They'd walk through those doors, to a place in between, to reach reality. This was a path to a place that went beyond.
Reiko glanced at it, a small smile plastered on her girlish features.
"Come with me, take my hand…" The girl stood, beckoning him towards the doorway and offering him her small, petite hand. "Off to never-never land."
Izuku gulped, tuning in to his halo and mentally asking the vestiges for guidance. Their thoughts echoed in his mind.
"I don't think this is a good idea." Chen began. "She's dangerous."
"The boy is old enough to make his own decisions, and be responsible for the consequences." Johnny remarked.
"Koko thinks you should not follow strangers into strange places."
"This is our chance to know more." Misha rumbled. "Our one chance. May not come again."
"I'm not going to let you endanger yourself like this! What if she's just after your power? " Nana fumed. "Is this really what you want, Midoriya-kun? "
"Nana, please. Let him decide. As the current host, he has the right to do so. " Hiro whispered. "We can't force him to comply. Not now, not ever. If we did that, we'd be no different from All For One."
Izuku heard the voice of his teacher, full of trust. He believed in him.
"Your call, Young Midoriya. You are free to shape your own future as you see fit."
Izuku looked down at his sisters, both of them nodding. They would follow him to hell and back if the need arose.
"I want to go beyond." Izuku finally said, matching Reiko's gaze and placing his hand in hers. "Plus Ultra."
"Very well." Reiko's fingers interlocked with his. "Let us proceed."
Together, Izuku and Reiko stepped into the light while holding hands. The green-haired boy gasped as he fell straight down with her into the rainbow until his feet found purchase, standing atop nothing. The pair made their way down, deeper and deeper into the roots of the tree. Izuku felt as if he was walking into a pool, pure energy washing over him like water while his miniature siblings sat atop his shoulders.
"I need you to be strong for the next step." Reiko told him. "Be not afraid."
"What are you—"
And they sank into the blinding radiance of the well.
Izuku found himself floating in pitch black darkness, his clothes rippling as if he was underwater. An immediate panic set in when he realized he was alone, Reiko and his siblings nowhere in sight.
No response. There was nothing but endless darkness around him, an emptiness that swallowed all. A sunken place.
"Kiri? Mimi?" he tried, heart thumping like a jackhammer. "Guys?"
Still nothing. He was all alone in the dark. Fear—absolute, crushing fear began to set in. No. It couldn't be. Reiko had tricked him again! She trapped him here in this pit and he'd been enough of an idiot to believe her!
No, no, NO!
The fear bit into Izuku, eating him from the inside. He was alone; poor, pathetic little Deku, too weak, too unlovable. He was four years old again, all alone in an empty house. No friends, no father, no love, nothing. A nothing that belonged in nothingness.
His body had turned childlike. His red sneakers felt wet. Izuku sniffed, remembering the way his best friend had swatted his hand away. No. He had to be strong. The little boy resisted the urge to curl into a ball and cry, instead standing up within the darkness.
Little Izuku began to walk.
He walked, with no idea where he was going. As he did, fragments of color floated by, each one containing a memory. The day Bakugo slipped and fell into the creek. The bullying soon after. The day his dad left.
Izuku winced. His strained expression gave way to calm as other memories made themselves known. Saving Bakugo from the sludge villain. All Might telling him that he could be a hero. His first meeting with Kiri, then Mimi.
With each step, there was light. Tiny pinpricks in the dark like stars in the night. They illuminated the surroundings just the slightest bit, revealing clouds of fog that swirled and churned within the shadows. Light and dark.
There was both the good and the bad. Balance. No longer did he fear the dark once he knew what it was. It was him.
"You are not alone in this abyssal darkness."
A pale, tiny hand grasped his. Tracing the limb led him up to a single eye peeking through a bob cut, the little girl's voice barely a whisper. She had been telling the truth, and meant him no harm.
"Reiko-san?" Izuku asked.
"I am here." the four-year old Reiko said, and the both of them became teenagers once more. "Let us face the chasm together."
Atop Izuku's head a halo bloomed, twin horns of flaming emerald forming at his temples. The lights from earlier started to speed past them as the pair walked together, streaming past the two to become glowing, multicolored lines that cut through the dark. A rainbow bridge in the endless night.
They were making their way through the connection between his mind and the source of all Quirks, physically crossing the bridge between worlds. Izuku could hardly believe it was happening, wondering what he would find on the other side. Kiri and Mimi manifested atop his shoulders, shaking themselves out of a stupor and looking around sleepily.
The corridor expanded endlessly outward, Izuku, his siblings, the vestiges of One For All, and Reiko continuing to walk forward into the void like arctic explorers into a blizzard. The pair marched atop a multicolored road, countless colors streaking by them like shooting stars.
Izuku gasped, jaw dropping. He gazed into the light, entranced by its otherworldly beauty.
"Do not let go." Reiko warned, voice tight with effort. "We are about to pass your world's Firmament… now."
They did pass something, and Izuku both felt and saw it. Pressure clamped around his head like a vice, Izuku grunting as the group started to push through what felt like an invisible wall of non-newtonian fluid. The harder he pushed, the more it resisted. It was only when Reiko showed how to advance by sinking into it did he understand. Embrace it. The colors twisted, some reaching out to him like sirens to a sailor. Calling, beckoning.
Reiko led them into a place beyond the reality they knew. An abstract concept of a place that couldn't, shouldn't have existed, yet here it was. She was the Virgil to his Dante, a Charon steering the ship. He was just hanging on for the ride.
Memories flowed into Izuku's head. At first he thought this was another one of the memory leaks, but soon realized it was something else entirely. Just like when Mei had seen his memories during their brief contact during the Sports Festival, the same was happening to him and Reiko. Voices echoed in his mind like a resonating bell, thunderous and discombobulating.
"All of this, I did it for you. All for one person. Why can't you understand, brother? I did it, because I love you—"
"—for your failure to contain the Great Devourer, you are hereby stripped of your title and banished to this world. May you find peace, Imperator Juno… no… Tokoyami Towa."
Calm yourself, Izuku. You bear our mark, so see as I see. Reiko's voice whispered in his mind, an anchor in a stormy sea of mixed memories. I grant thee my vision, my True Sight.
At last, Izuku truly saw.
The auditory hallucinations ended abruptly, and Izuku found himself standing atop nothingness. The void itself had taken shape, giving way to a scene unlike anything he'd ever seen or imagined. Floating islands dotted the starry expanse, some as large as entire cities, others as small as a baby's crib. Strange, animal-like creatures inhabited them, beings of all shapes and sizes floating and flying through an unearthly sky.
The halo atop Izuku's head glowed brighter than it ever had before. Nine orbs in total, to represent the ninth wielder of One For All.
Nine for a mortal man doomed to die, something giggled behind him.
Izuku's gaze snapped about, and he saw. Space itself was cut into rhombuses and parallelograms, each diamond-like shard displaying a scene like a panel in a comic book. He saw a world where he and Kiri's roles were reversed, where he was the projection and little brother, while she was the host and older sister. The older, teenage Kirimi was hugging a small Izuku to her bosom while she slept, the pair snoring softly together in an old futon.
Another reality presented itself to him eagerly, begging for his attention. There was an old man, an aged version of Bakugo Katsuki, driving through post-apocalyptic Japan in a battered Mightmobile. In the passenger seat was an elderly, geriatric Aizawa, both eyes milky white and unseeing. Sitting in the backseat and hugging a tattered All Might plushie was a little girl with curly, dark green hair.
The next world barged into his vision, this one showing Izuku carrying a one-horned, white-haired little girl on his back. Not Mimi, for she had crimson eyes instead of green. The other Izuku froze and slowly turned to face him, a pair of long, wicked emerald tentacles sprouting from the base of his spine. He had eyes that were pools of pure darkness, staring into blank space—no, across time and space. He relaxed after a moment, then smiled and waved to Izuku.
The shock of it all was too much for it to process, Izuku's hand trembling around Reiko's. Countless realities vied for his attention, each one different from the last. The boy and his siblings held on tight, spun about in the hurricane of thoughts and emotions like a pirouetting ballerina. Izuku withstood it all through sheer willpower, nine twinkling stars flickering atop his head. He danced with the moon and the stars and the sun. A part of him understood—if this was the crossroads between all universes, then what he was seeing were other worlds. Other possibilities.
A world where he had been born as a girl, complete with her own fire Quirk. A world where Valkyrie was never sentient, merely a suit of white, feathery armor that was so much like Aftermath. A world where he lost control of his abnormal Quirk and murdered Inko, crying over the only thing left of her, a severed hand. A world where he didn't exist at all, and Izuku's heart threatened to shatter when he saw how happy and healthy his mother was with his father. A world with a lonely Izuku clad in a dirty, tattered costume, tendrils of pitch black swirling around him as he leapt across the rainy night sky.
More realities pushed themselves into his mind's eye. He saw himself fighting two other versions of himself while a Mei looked on, helpless and chained to the ground. He saw a magical girl variant of himself, fighting for her life and bleeding all over her pretty white dress. He saw a triumphant Ochaco standing over a defeated All Might, her expression one of cruel glee. Countless worlds and countless possibilities. Thousands of them. Tens of thousands, all equally real and unreal.
Izuku held on to his sanity like a drowning man to driftwood.
"Enough." Reiko announced.
The trance Izuku had slipped in was torn asunder, Reiko dragging him out of it with her willpower alone. Izuku gasped, and she glanced down at him before doing the same to the sisters and checking if they were okay.
The boy looked up and froze. Several large, shapeless creatures were staring down on the group, Reiko and Poltergeist staring right back. The beings had no fixed forms, constantly shifting between dozens of blinking eyes, gaping mouths, and tangled limbs—clouds of whirling flesh and color, ideas and thoughts made physical.
"Begone." Reiko said curtly. Behind her, Poltergeist hissed, his entire body vibrating like a rattlesnake's tail.
Something within Izuku rumbled, and the formless entities turned to look at him with a myriad of eyes that were both animal and human. Whatever it was, they quickly decided he wasn't worth it and disengaged, floating away soon after. His fellow Ascended? Why did they look like that?
"W-wha?" Izuku managed to muster. "What were—"
"We've made it past the first hurdle." Reiko smiled, helping him up. "You did better than I expected, little lord. Rise."
Izuku truly looked around for the first time. He was in an endless space of refracted colors, a prismatic kaleidoscope of infinite realities and worlds. Kiri and Mimi stared alongside him, in awe of where they found themselves. The vestiges no doubt felt the same way, orbiting around his head in a slow arc.
Izuku and Reiko had gone over the rainbow, beyond it.
"Oh my God, we're in Hell." Mimi whispered, looking up at the multicolored sky filled with countless landmasses and beings. "You crazy bitch, you brought us into fucking Hell."
"Pretty…" Kiri said and stared up at the plethora of entities who were swimming about, minding their own business. "It's like a sea in the sky…"
"This place… this is the multiverse?" Izuku gasped. He was standing on empty air, nothing beneath his feet.
"A part of it. This place has many names. The Ascended Plane. The Sea Of Souls. The Spirit World." Reiko smiled, and for the first time he felt it was truly genuine. "This is the space between realities, the source of all superpowers. Most people call it Quirkspace."
She held him close and patted him on the back, Izuku realizing after a moment that she was giving him a hug. Her voice was soft when she spoke into his ear from only inches away.
"Welcome home, brother."
"Stop it." Izuku pushed her away, but was careful not to let go of her hand in the process. "So why? Why bring me here?"
"You wished to understand. You could not, or rather, could not comprehend the true nature of things until I knew you were ready to see this." Reiko huffed. "Come."
Together the two teenagers traversed through Quirkspace, Izuku eying each and every floating prism shard they came across. Some drew closer when he approached, others ignored him entirely or retreated. Each one was a window to another world; some nearly identical to his own, others wildly different. There was even a world where he and the rest of 1-A were all animals and he was a fluffy little sheep. Kiri and Mimi 'ooohed' and 'ahhhed' at everything they saw, all hostility lost in the face of exploration. More creatures swam past and above them in the infinite sea of color, some stopping to look at them curiously before going about their business. Izuku was beginning to suspect that he knew what they were, awe mixed with dread coiling in his chest.
"The Legion, you people are… planeswalkers. These shards, diamonds, are windows to different worlds." Izuku mumbled, eyes wide and mentally recording down every excruciating detail. "Those creatures… Ascended Quirks? There's so many of them!"
"Hey look, onii-chan!" Kiri began pointing at one worldshard in particular excitedly. "There's a cowboy version of us!"
"Yee-fuckin-haw." Mimi said dryly, but looked at it anyway. "Truly wonderful, the mind of a child is."
Izuku noticed one of the shards contained someone staring right at him. An Ochaco clad in black and pink, standing within the ruins of what looked like U.A. She only had one eye.
"Uraraka-san?" he whispered.
The scene within the worldshard zoomed out to show that she was looking at her reality's Izuku, clad in red and white instead of his usual black and green. The two of them were covered in wounds, both apparently in the middle of a fight.
"Poor widdle Deku-kun." the one-eyed Ochaco pouted. "Too weak to send me home to die."
"I'm strong enough to kill you." the alternate Izuku spat, his expression twisted with red-hot fury.
Izuku turned away from the shard, wishing he'd never seen it in the first place. It's just another reality, he told himself. Not the Uraraka he knew. It was lucky his siblings were too busy looking at other worlds.
"So cool…" Kiri stared at a worldshard that seemed to be following them. It was the one that showed the Izuku clad in damaged armor and black tendrils.
"That one looks… sad." Mimi said softly.
"Ah, that's Earth-Prime. And by extension, Deku-Prime." Reiko said casually while continuing to lead him. "You'll be seeing a lot of that one. Shoo, shoo. Off you go."
She flicked her hand, shooing the shard away like one would do to a stray cat. It soon rejoined its brethren back among the countless other floating diamonds that dotted the sky. Izuku wondered if they were sentient too, if Quirkspace itself was somehow sentient. As the group moved forward they noticed a rather familiar entity staring at them, three purple heads and a serpentine tail catching Izuku's attention.
"Wait a minute." Izuku slowed, glaring at the Quirk. "I know you."
"Snakey." Kiri pointed, tugging at his sleeve.
Brainwash began to laugh, all three of its heads moving in sync. Izuku simply rolled his eyes and continued walking, his siblings following behind closely.
"Laugh while you can, snake boy." Mimi scowled. "We know where you live."
At that the hydra stopped laughing and let out an annoyed hiss, slinking back into the dark.
"Calm yourself. As we venture deeper into Quirkspace, our thoughts will start to drift. Be careful not to lose yourself." Reiko instructed. "This is a place of pure emotion, and will respond to you accordingly. It's why I had to test your self-control earlier. One misstep, and your sense of self will be assimilated."
Izuku could barely hear her, his mind cataloging and archiving everything he saw to write down later. A multiverse, or in actuality, the space between worlds. Quirkspace. He couldn't believe it existed, much less that he was actually there.
"So Quirks… come from Quirkspace?" Mimi asked, features scrunched up into a cute frown. "Why didn't I see this place when I traveled through Mei's Bifrost?"
"You did see it. Your mind just wasn't able to comprehend it until now and simply saw it as a rainbow." Reiko answered without looking back. "You and Kiri-chan have used it to travel to and from one point of Realspace to another near-instantaneously, to 'teleport', something that all Ascended can do by instinct. As such, it means that we have to monitor all Ascended lest they open a door they forget to close. Sometimes, things can come through from the other side. Things like me."
That last part struck something within Izuku. Reiko's body was cold, her breath icy even in Realspace.
"You're more Quirk than human…" Izuku realized.
"My Ascension was different from yours, and I've lived here for most of my life. Poltergeist awakened before I was even born when I was still a fetus in my mother's womb." Reiko ignored Izuku's gasp. "Good thing, too. I'd never have survived without him."
"Before you were born?" Izuku asked, dreading the answer.
"Dearest mother didn't plan on having me." She shrugged. "That's just how it goes."
Quirks can evolve… Ascend in times of great trauma or stress towards their hosts, whether it be physical or mental.
"A-Ah." Izuku mumbled awkwardly, trying to steer them into a new topic. "So, um, Quirks are born here? But I thought you said they stem from life in general."
"They do. Worlds with sentient life, beings that are able to think and feel, can gain Quirks. You see, emotions are a viable source of power much like electricity or heat. Living beings generate emotions, and sentience amplifies it. As creatures on a world evolve, a new biosphere emerges, and once they achieve sentience, a new Noosphere. A new environment for living beings to flourish. It's more commonly known as a planet's Firmament that links it to Quirkspace.
Reiko continued to walk with her hand in his, holding her other one out to twist psychic power into shapes. The blue forcefield flexed and twisted, forming into the shape of a small sphere within three larger ones. Various indentations formed across the smaller sphere's surface, and Izuku realized it was a depiction of the Earth.
"A world that hosts intelligent life will develop three 'spheres'. The Geosphere, which consists of inanimate matter, the Biosphere; which consists of biological life, and finally, the Noosphere; which consists of emotions and thoughts. Just as the emergence of life transformed the geosphere, the emergence of human cognition changed the biosphere. Emotions flow from a human into the Noosphere, which in turn flows into Quirkspace." Reiko monologued, Izuku somehow absorbing every single word even in his disbelief. "Mankind's innate psionic capabilities manifested once they started trying to venture past their homeworld, causing the growth of their individuality. Their kosei. Their Quirks."
Izuku thought back on the words of a famous scientist. If not for Quirks, humans would have achieved interstellar travel by now.
"You see, the Noosphere emerges through and is constituted by the interaction of human minds. It grows in step with the organization of the sentient life in relation to itself as it populates the planet. As a species organizes itself in more complex social networks, the higher the Noosphere will grow in awareness. A 'sphere of human thought'. It's an invisible energy field that surrounds the Earth, created by human emotions and consciousness. With each Noosphere connected to Quirkspace like rivers to a great ocean; this place is the crossroads of space and time, and thus this is the key to multiversal travel. Many versions of Hatsume Mei were the first to figure this out."
"And Quirks?" Izuku tried, pushing her mention of alternate Meis to the back of his mind.
"It was from this ocean of pure thought and emotion that life emerged. Similar to how carbon-based lifeforms are speculated evolve from microorganisms via panspermia or the primordial soup, Quirks are a type of energy-based lifeform created by the emotions of sentient beings." Reiko's hand pushed and pulled, shaping energy with her fingertips and drawing multiple worlds that lined together to form a great interlinked web. "Omne vivum ex vivo. All life comes from life. Quirks are born in Quirkspace via their hosts' emotions that flow here, drawing both power and emotions in this place that connects to countless other realities. Just like how intelligent life on Earth originated from the first creature brave enough to crawl onto land, the first Quirk moved forward, went beyond, and ascended into Realspace from this primordial sea of souls."
Fragments, shards, of different worlds past hurtled by them as they talked, as if Quirkspace itself was responding to Izuku and Reiko's conversation. Past, present, and future worlds related to their discussion revealed themselves to the pair. Izuku saw multiple shards showing a nurse standing over a crib filled with incandescent light, her expression one of shock and disbelief.
"The Glowing Baby." Izuku whispered. "Patient Zero."
"They called him Aten. First of his kind, Risen-one. Sun-walker." Reiko nodded beside him. "Light-bringer."
"No. The Quirk."
A heavy silence came over the pair, Izuku's eyes widening. Reiko, the cruel girl, had known all this time, and merely smiled once she realized he'd made the connection. Looking above them, the boy's eyes tracked the multitude of entities swimming about, finally understanding. Izuku felt as if his heart was about to leap out of his chest at the knowledge he'd just uncovered. A single truth that could change everything.
"All of them?"
"You…" He turned to face her, eyes blazing. "You knew!"
"Why… why didn't you tell anyone?"
"This world is not ready for the truth… but you are."
"Someone has to know! People have to know that all Quirks are—" Izuku hesitated, not daring to say the words.
Reiko finished for him.
Kiri and Mimi's eyes went wide but they continued to stay silent, letting Izuku stew in his thoughts. The green-haired boy was frozen to the spot, as if Reiko saying that word had finally hammered in the grim reality of the situation.
All Quirks are alive.
Izuku took the time to massage his forehead, but his mind had gone numb. Not just the Ascended ones, but all of them. They were all living beings. If every Quirk was alive, that meant they'd been watching Humanity ever since their conception. Learning from them. All this time, there was a second intelligent species living alongside them and—
His expression fell.
And they'd been teaching them all the wrong things, showing them the worst part of themselves. With the advent of the exceptional the world was sent into a Dark Age, then the Solar Wars. Now modern heroes and their hubris were creating villains, alongside wild power grabs and general abuse of power. Violence and conflict were all Quirks had learnt from humanity. It was this. This was why Quirks were so driven to make their hosts use violence… because they believed it was the only way to move forward. They were 'children' who learned from their 'parents'. Countless lessons of conflicts he'd learned about in his research about Quirks when he was younger came to mind, and more often than not people often used their power to achieve their own nefarious goals; whether it be fame and fortune or something far darker.
Humanity had failed as parents, Izuku realized. Kiri and Mimi caught his crestfallen look and leaned against him worriedly.
"If it makes you feel any better, they're a vastly different type of intelligence compared to us." Reiko supplied, intrigued by his reaction. "Majority of them aren't as smart as your siblings and arguably do not have true sentience yet, but they're clever enough to observe and mimic us. Most regular Quirks are basically animals, but that's beginning to change with the Ascended. Since violence and conflict is all they've ever known, they're convinced it's how to grow and evolve. It's why Quirks subconsciously push humans into conflicts with each other. It is an eternal cycle, ensuring that there will always be villains who rise, and heroes that will eventually defeat them."
Shiozaki and her words about the increased aggression of the new generation echoed in Izuku's ears. So did Tokoyami's admittance of mutant/heteromorphic individuals being more prone to instability. If Quirks truly did affect humans mentally to that extent, then...
"Then we're too late." Izuku mumbled.
"Hardly. If we were, then I wouldn't be here, hmm?"
Izuku looked up at her. "The Legion—"
"Was originally created to stop what we call Incursions. A trespassing of reality. Some Quirks, Ascended or not, figure out how to traverse into neighboring realities without their hosts, invading it to harness emotions when they appear before a population. More often than not, they are often mistaken for monsters and cause catastrophic destruction and panic… They might even reveal the true nature of Quirks and Quirkspace to a civilization that's not ready for it, which is why we have to contain them before they can even be seen."
A nearby worldshard responded to Reiko's words, opening a window to another time, another world. There they saw a behemoth, humanoid Quirk the size of a skyscraper start to tear its way into the real world; into a densely populated city, the Magical Girls waiting in Realspace immediately ambushing it like hunters surrounding a wild animal.
"Kekkai! " one of the girls shouted, the others following her lead.
A barrier of gray energy formed between the gathered Ascended, creating a pocket dimension that overlapped Realspace and prevented any civilians below from seeing or even physically interacting with the rampaging Quirk. They began the long, arduous process of tiring it out and driving it back into Quirkspace, fighting the beast with outdated military equipment and their own Quirks.
Izuku thought back to the monster-of-the-week type shows he used to watch as a kid, of Magical Girls and Masked Riders. Monsters appearing from nowhere. Heroes defeating them and saving the day. An endless cycle of conflict. Conflict. Were the Legions named after those shows… or were the shows named after them? How many times had they stopped these incursions?
"When a foreign Quirk invades another world while away from its host, their mere presence begins to destabilize that reality." Reiko pointed out. "The longer they stay, the larger impact they will have, which in turn equals the higher chance to cause paradoxes."
"B-but… I'm from another world." Mimi whispered.
"We know. Imperator Shylock was ready to send you right back when you first arrived until the High Council stepped in. They had an idea because you're Midoriya… and at the same time, you're not. A paradox we can use to our benefit." Reiko tapped her temple with a finger. "Each world is defined by its own particular rules and boundaries, within which some understanding of reality emerges as 'truth'. Two 'truths' cannot coexist, and so the introduction of foreign bodies causes conflict and chaos is born. It is why we limit our direct involvement in local affairs and use retrofitted tech that already exists in the worlds we visit. My employers have only permitted me to nudge things around from time to time to make sure they go in the right direction."
"The right direction?" Izuku asked.
The pale girl grinned like a cheshire cat, an unnatural darkness in her pupils. Poltergeist was talking now.
"All the worlds we've observed so far are defined by constants and variables. Constant—" she pointed at Izuku. "—and variables."
Her finger flicked from him to the siblings.
"There is one reality that all the others are based on. One reality which no one, Man or Quirk, is able to interact with. All we can do is watch it as it rules over our lives. It is the narrative that drives all our worlds. If a world deviates too far from this narrative, it simply vanishes; erased from existence. We do our best to prevent that. This one true world controls us all."
"Earth-Prime." Izuku said.
Right on cue, a worldshard landed next to them. Within it was the scene of Deku-Prime, dark tendrils of energy trailing behind him as he leapt from building to building in the pouring rain. He was alone, no sisters, no friends, nobody. Yet he still fought, protecting the innocent in the heart of a broken city.
"All other worlds are based on Prime, bound to it like puppets. The Ascended… are puppets who can see the strings." Reiko said.
The shard 'rewinded' like a VHS tape, showing multiple scenes from the prime universe. The sludge villain. Izuku saving Bakugo. All Might passing the torch. USJ. The Sports Festival. Hosu City. It was all here, the story of how Midoriya Izuku became the greatest hero.
"That's how you knew about the attack on Hosu City." Mimi exclaimed, eyes wide. She continued to watch the shard, observing how Iida, Todoroki, and her brother had teamed up to fight… a different-looking Stain? The Nomu Hivemind was absent too. "It happened differently, but it still happened! But if you guys knew, you could have stopped it from even happening in the first place!"
"No." Reiko said firmly. "We cannot. Some things must run their course, as the narrative demands it. All Might must pursue the sludge villain. USJ must be attacked. One For All must have a wielder. Constants and variables."
"But what about all those people?" Kiri asked, watching the burning city sadly. "In Hosu… people died."
"My dear child, this is an infinite multiverse. At any given moment, an infinite number of people are dying." Reiko clicked her tongue. "And an infinite number of people are living. In the grand scheme of things all we can do is soften the blow. Nothing we do matters… and that means everything we do matters."
She locked eyes with Mimi.
"The Legion allowed you to stay because you simultaneously went against the narrative, and with it. Do you understand? We wanted to see if it was possible, and you did it. You were a puzzle piece from a different picture, but you managed to fit." Reiko tilted her head towards the worldshard showing Earth-Prime. Izuku-Prime was fighting a woman with a massive rifle sprouting out of her right arm, white smoke rising from his shoulders.
"That's… he has multiple Quirks including One For All?" Izuku gasped, awed by the power of his prime variant. His mind spun when he saw the other boy Float. "He's using the Quirks of the previous wielders!"
"So can you. Normally, having more than two Quirks places too much strain on an individual's mind and they become braindead. It's why the Nomu's have their craniums exposed, for their brains to have a better 'connection' with Quirkspace. Izuku-Prime here was originally Quirkless, so he is essentially an empty cup, ready to be filled with water. You, on the other hand…"
Izuku gulped. He already had Valkyrie as his Quirk. His cup was half-full, and now that he knew One For All held a copy of not just a wielder's personality, but their Quirks… No. It was both. The personality and the Quirk had fused to become something more.
"Worry not. Have you not realized it yet? The Valkyrie Quirk is a barrier, a shield." Reiko laughed. "She's holding you together without any of you even realizing it."
The boy and his sibling exchanged glances. Was that why he could never fully utilize Kiri's invulnerability to the fullest? It must have been, otherwise he'd already be unstoppable when they were one.
"Thanks to all of you, we finally have an inkling of how we can escape the narrative's influence. It's the same way you can solve the Quirk Singularity. For that, you have our gratitude."
Reiko grinned like a proud parent, though there was a little sadness mixed within her expression.
"You cannot stop the Quirk Singularity. Hatsume Mei's plan would have eventually failed anyway, because she doesn't understand that 'H-Particles', as she calls them, are simply a form of Quirk Flux." she told him. "You can only accept the singularity, grow alongside it… or it will destroy you."
Like Milo of Croton. Like One For All. They had to grow, adapt, change. The one thing humans were best at.
"Do your best, boya. Soon there will be an inevitable conflict between the new and the old, between 'children' and their 'parents'. You've seen it too, haven't you?"
Izuku stilled, thinking back to all the major battles he witnessed so far. Kiri fought her sister, who couldn't move on. Mei's ideology that was influenced by Zabanya versus his own. The League's Nomus on the side of AFO, trying to return him to glory through terror. Stain's ideas of freedom against the corrupt hero system. All of them, battles between the people seeking a future and people who couldn't let go of the past.
"Besides escaping the narrative, we seek to break free of this cycle that has continued across infinite worlds, the conflict of old versus new that would drive both to certain doom. But to stop it, you must understand or you will make the same mistakes we did."
"The same mistakes?"
Reiko's right eye glazed over again, letting Poltergeist in. When she spoke again it was with two voices.
"Your world is soon approaching its breaking point, and the new and old will once again turn on each other. It always happens no matter how hard we try. Kinoko even thinks it's the cause of the Fermi Paradox, the reason why we haven't encountered other forms of sentient life—they were all doomed in their own realities and planets by their 'children', whether they be organic or artificial. Once a species develops to a certain point, they will gain Quirks and proceed to destroy themselves. Quirks are the Great Filter. Parricide on a multiversal scale. You know this phenomenon as the Quirk Singularity. The Legion is merely composed of the remnants of civilisations that succumbed to it. We are the Broken People. Should you too succumb to the singularity, we will be there to pick up the pieces."
"We won't." Izuku said defensively. "Things are different now!"
"Are they? I'm sure all those poor people during the Dark Age would disagree. That was what, a hundred, two hundred years ago? Time seems cyclical, and many patterns repeat. The same conflicts are expressed in every world, but in different manners. The repetition is too prevalent to be merely by chance. It's Earth-Prime's narrative at work, keeping us bound and chained."
"We can change. Our current society is living proof of that!" Izuku argued. "People can learn to accept the Ascended and the future we all must share."
"Look at you. So sure of yourself. If only you'd seen the great outcry back then, when some people had superpowers, meta-abilities, and others did not." Reiko shook her head. "It'll happen again, y'know. A division between the 'haves' and the 'have-nots'. In spite of everything you've done for them, eventually they'll hate you because you are different. Because they fear being left behind as the world moves on without them. You know this, back when you were Quirkless."
"I was angry and jealous then, yes." Izuku admitted. "But I never hated others for it. To pull others down to lift myself up, to make myself feel better… I would never do that. If I can look past it, so can others. Reiko-san, please don't underestimate humanity."
"Humanity?" Reiko scoffed, looking annoyed for a split second before she schooled her features back into cold, grim steel. "How can you look at the world and think that humans are something to glorify?"
"Because I believe." Izuku stated, fists clenched. "That we can be better."
"You naive, foolish boy." the blonde sighed. "We Ascended are Humanity's successors. That makes us the Enemies of Humanity. We can change… but I doubt they can."
"The Enemies of Humanity…" Izuku repeated, eyes narrowing. "I don't believe that. If you were truly an enemy, you wouldn't have helped me in the first place. I don't want you to be an enemy, Reiko-san. I just want to know what you want."
"Me? I want happiness. Free, for everyone, and let no one be forgotten. Pax in victoria. In other words," Reiko raised her hand, forming a 'V' with her fingers. "Super Peace."
The ground rumbled beneath them, great white cracks in the shape of 'X's forming in the vast sky of Quirkspace above the pair. The cracks widened and turned into diamond-shaped portals, space itself lacerated to let something through.
Battleships. Two of them, to be precise. They were nothing like the sleek modern ships of the Japanese navy; the vessels Izuku beheld were old, hulking behemoths with massive turrets instead of the missile pods modern ships were equipped with. Relics pulled from other times, other worlds, and refurbished with Legion technology. Instead of propellers, two conical protrusions stuck out of the aft sections, Izuku recognizing them as supersized versions of Hatsume Mei's H-Drive design. He then remembered the Legion in Hosu City, and stories of their glitter-like trail effect when they flew.
They were using a reverse-engineered version of Mei's particle technology…
"Copies of Mei's tech, yes. We've always procured intel from various realities to add to our own." Reiko said, reading his surface thoughts. "Every version of her we encounter is as dangerous as the last, and we could never be allies. Such is the relationship between the Enemies of Humanity and the Scientist Supreme. There is no doubt as to whose side she will take."
Izuku whirled around, furious. What was this, another ambush? Another betrayal? He was sick and tired of being tricked and manipulated—
"Shhh. Look." Reiko said, pointing upward.
Izuku followed her finger, eyes widening at what he saw. Gathered above them were hundreds, thousands of Quirks, all of them swarming above the two of them like an ethereal school of fish. Their sizes varied; some the size of buildings while others were no larger than a housecat. All of them boasted strange, unnatural features, some of them even having inorganic parts like car wheels or keyboards making up their bodies. One had a spine that was shaped like a machine gun's barrel, its teeth made out of bullets. They were beings that were shaped by human imagination, many-angled ones. Was that why some Quirks like Iida's seemed to incorporate clearly mechanical designs but were somehow completely organic?
"We can't stay here much longer." Reiko said, frowning. "They're getting agitated—"
Her sentence was suddenly cut short when a flash of green pulsed from Izuku, the green armor of Aftermath climbing around his body and encasing him in a protective shell. Only his face was left exposed.
"Wha? Mimi, what are you doing?" Izuku began, confused.
"It's not me!" Mimi said quickly, just as bewildered as he was. "Then… Aftermath?"
"Ah. It acknowledges you as its master as well. How cute. The shell of his armor worn by the shell of a girl, now upon the boy between worlds." Reiko said with casual amusement. "You should thank it, little Izumi. It gave most of itself to you to make sure you could even survive outside that cloning tank. Polly here did the same for me."
Izuku looked up again at the two battleships closing in. Old, heavy guns were pointed at the swarm overhead instead of him and his siblings. Nowadays guns like those were only good for shore bombardment… or taking out large groups of hostiles. They were a deterrent, he realized. The massive swarm of Quirks wouldn't try anything with them around, clearly more intimidated by their size than their firepower.
Three shining points of light took off from one of the ships, a trio of magical girls holding their hands out to form an enormous triangular shield. Some Quirks were brave enough to try their luck and dived down at Izuku, only to be repelled by the shield like water off a raincoat. The trio above began making hand signals at Reiko, gesturing in a rapid series of movements.
"Oh my, it seems we are out of time. Tick tock, time for us to part ways. Let this be a warning to you, Midoriya-kun. Prepare for the turning point that is to come. We shall not interfere in within Realspace, as the High Council has decided."
The girl sounded so sure of herself that it almost sounded like a prophecy.
"One day, you'll have to choose." Reiko declared. "All I ask is that you make the choice you feel is right. You alone, that's it. This is my plea to you, o hero mine."
"Much pain, but still time." Poltergeist spoke through Reiko, his huskier, masculine voice distinct from hers. "We oppose deception."
"There has to be another way." Izuku argued. "One over the other? That means one side will…"
For there to be a winner, there must be a loser.
"You cannot win." Reiko answered coldly, silencing his thoughts. "What you have to do is figure out how not to lose."
Shadows seemed to warp around her face as Poltergeist stepped into the blonde, the two of them uniting to become one being. A gray cloak billowed around her, manifesting out of nothing. The girl before him had a demented grin that was as wide as her face, two burning sapphires for eyes boring into Izuku as she let go of his hand and began floating. Behind her, the triangular shield grew a fourth angle and extended into a diamond.
"Choose, Izuku." Reiko echoed. "Think; what truly matters? What you want ?"
Two upright, golden locks forming a 'V' flashed in Izuku's mind.
"What you need ?"
A memory of a man in a suit. A door closing with a click.
"Does it really matter?"
Crimson eyes, blonde hair. Teeth clenched in an annoyed scowl.
Above them, the three Legionnaires hovered, clad in their frilly dresses that would have looked silly in any other context. Instead he could feel the raw power emanating from the trio in an aura that was strong enough to intimidate the wild Quirks from approaching, his fellow Ascended staring down at him each with their own single, glowing eyes.
"Three in one and one in three. Hero. Vigilante. Villain. Man. Angel. Devil." Reiko continued. "Id. Ego. Super-Ego. Now, did you choose this path? Or was it chosen for you?"
Kiri and Mimi held on to his shoulders tightly.
"Two roads diverge in a yellow wood, and you cannot travel both. Before you lies a golden path, and a steel path." The ghostlike girl's eyes were cyan embers, her face shrouded in shadows. "Which one would you take, child of two worlds? Will you choose Quirks or humanity?"
Aftermath's visor snapped over his face in an attempt to protect its master. Reiko's segmented cape billowed behind her, and with the addition of the streams of energy coming out of her back it looked as if she had six wings.
"You decide." Reiko told him, her voice echoing like a divine revelation. "Do as thou wilt."
A bolt of rainbow lightning branched from above, striking Izuku. Before he could cry out the bright light engulfed him, sending him spinning about in mid-air when the lightning took him with it into the sky, and…
And he found himself back in the cafe Jiro worked at, as if none of it had ever happened.
Gasping for air, he looked to his sides to find Kiri and Mimi still sitting beside him in their child forms, looking awfully confused as their heads swiveled around to take in the familiar surroundings.
Reiko was gone, the seat in front of him holding nothing but empty air. Izuku stood, both confused and annoyed until his classmate Jiro came up to him with a concerned look.
"Whoa whoa whoa, dude. What's wrong? You look—" she began.
"Jiro-san. The girl I was sitting with, where did she go?" Izuku demanded, blinking the spots out of his eyes.
"Girl?" The brunette's features scrunched up in confusion. "What girl? Midoriya-kun, you came to this place with just your sisters, didn't you?"
Izuku's only response was to remain silent, sitting back down. She didn't remember; it had been wiped from her mind. That degree of psychic power… It was as if Reiko had never been here at all, erasing every trace of herself from the memories of the surrounding people.
"Nevermind." Izuku finally said, sighing.
"Want a glass of water?" Jiro said after a short bout of awkward silence.
As she left to get it, Izuku couldn't help but notice the empty cup of coffee across from where he sat. Its presence taunted him, annoyingly so. When he reached over he expected it to be empty, only to look at the bottom of the cup to see that the coffee grounds had somehow been arranged to form a simple geometric symbol. Two 'V's, pressed against each other from the top and bottom.
A four-pointed diamond.
Izuku sat with his hands steepled, his body still sore from the heavy workout an hour before.
It'd been a day since his excursion into Quirkspace with Reiko, and he had a bit of time to think and process everything he'd witnessed so far. The conflict of ideologies continued to surge within him, the boy quietly contemplating what he was to do about the eventual conflict Reiko prophceized.
His thoughts and experiences with the people in his life told him that it'd come true eventually. Mei had spoken of the destabilization of the economy and skyrocketing growth of Quirks. Tokoyami had told him about the increase in mutant births and their increased aggression. Yui was a living example of the effects of Quirk Psychosis, and Izuku suspected the quiet girl's Quirk had a personality that was the direct opposite of hers. Shiozaki had even highlighted the strange urge to use their Quirks that was present in the newer generation, instability already affecting children right after getting their Quirks.
Calming himself, Izuku closed his eyes and focused within. It was no surprise that the members of OFA were still arguing.
"—how is that even remotely conceivable? Obviously, we're going to protect our home. I'll be damned if they get their hands on Earth!"
"One For All's duty is to protect all people. That's why it's called that."
"I'd advise you to take her words with a grain of salt."
"Why do we have to choose to fight, wan? I choose peace!"
"There won't be any peace unless we fight, you smoothbrained mutt!"
"Insult Koko all you want, my brain is too smooth! Your words simply sliiiiiiideeee right off!"
"Everyone SHUT THE FUCK UP!" Nana's voice howled, silencing the others. "I'M TRYING TO THINK!"
Izuku sighed, turning his attention away and letting the voices fade. He made his way over to the kitchen and got some milk, pouring two cups for his sisters before gulping down his own. The Midoriya twins were in the living room, the TV having been muted since Kiri had somehow fallen asleep while watching it. She was snoring softly on the couch with a half-eaten bag of potato chips next to her exposed belly, having already put the events of yesterday behind her. What a little glutton.
Next to her Mimi was… meditating? The albino girl was floating a foot off the ground while sitting cross-legged, rings of green fire rotating around her like a gyroscope. Her earphones were plugged in, perhaps listening to some calming music since her eyes were closed. Izuku sat down beside them and gently placed a cushion over Kiri's tummy to keep her warm, content to just relax after all the craziness of yesterday. After a moment he tuned in to the vestiges to see if they'd stopped yelling at each other.
"—did you see what I saw? An Earth-Prime. This… Deku-Prime. He had more than one Quirk."
"Hmmm. Dangerous. More than two Quirks will break mind."
"They weren't our Quirks either. According to that girl, we are weaker wielders compared to the originals in the Prime Universe."
"What I'm worried about is the boy using our Quirks. Some of us have Quirks with detrimental effects… I can't imagine what'll happen if he uses them now that they're boosted by OFA. Valkyrie is already holding him together. I would say Nana's Float and Mimi's Aftermath are the only useful ones. The rest aren't really worth using, mine included."
"Man… it sucks to know that we're just, what, variants of One For All? We probably don't even exist in the Prime Universe. Makes me wonder if everything we did even matters in the long run."
"Maybe the real One For All is the friends we made along the way, wan!"
Then the arguing started again and Izuku tuned them right out, groaning to himself. Maybe having direct control over whenever he could hear them wasn't as good as he originally thought. Glancing at Mimi, he could hear her humming a little tune. She apparently felt him looking at her because she suddenly opened her eyes, startled by his sudden proximity.
As the little girl jolted the earphones became unplugged, the music she was listening to suddenly blaring at full volume.
"YEEEEAAAAHHHH, YEEEE-AAAHHHH, YEEEAAAHHH!" the smartphone howled, the sound of heavy drums and electric guitar riffs echoing from its speakers. "HALLOWED BE THYYYYY NAAAAAAAAAAAMMMEEEE—"
Mimi quickly paused it, turning red. "Hmph! You spooked me, papa."
"Sorry." Izuku smiled. "Heavy metal while meditating?"
"Don't knock it till you've tried it." she shrugged. "Are you doing alright?"
"I'm… taking it in." Izuku admitted. "How about you?"
"Same shit, different story." Mimi sighed, plopping herself down onto the couch. "Gotta roll with the punches."
Her impact jostled Kiri, who shook herself awake and sat up sleepily.
"Onii–chan…" she mumbled, leaning into him and reaching into the bag next to her. "Tato chip?"
"Hey, sis." He bit down on the offered treat. "Just wondering what we should do now. Y'know, about all of this. What do you two think?"
"Nn… Become the super-awesomest bestest hero who ever lived, beat all the bad guys, and get all the pretty ladies to fall in love with you?" Kiri suggested innocently.
"Crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentation of their women." Mimi said, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. "Mm. 'God-Emperor Izuku' has a nice ring to it, don't you think?"
"Hmm." Kiri seemed to actually consider it for a moment. "If you become God-Emperor, does that make us princesses? I wanna be a princess."
"You already are." Izuku rubbed their heads gently. "Both of you."
"Either way, Reiko-san said you'll have to choose between Humans and Quirks." Mimi thought to herself out loud, fidgeting. "I suppose that means there'll be a critical point where that one choice determines the path our world would take. We gotta prepare, aniki."
"We do." Izuku nodded. "When the time comes, we'll be ready. Until then, I've got to keep training. Getting stronger. I'm gonna need the two of you to help me out with sparring in the Mindscape, especially since time is slower there."
"Not today, sorry. We're hanging out with Haru-chan and her friends later." Kiri pointed out. "Aren't you meeting Naoto-chan today?"
"Yeah. It'll be good to see her again." Izuku thought of the little blonde baby and her brother. "There's something I want to ask Monoma-kun as well. Then there's the upcoming U.A. final exams…"
"Do your best, nii-chan!"
"Pffftt. You'll ace it."
"The written portion, maybe. With everything that's happened so far, I doubt they'll be making us fight robots again." Izuku guessed. "Maybe they'll even bring in a pro or two to evaluate our performance."
A loud honking in the melody of 'La Cucaracha' caught their attention, the twins hurrying over to the apartment balcony. There they were greeted by Hatsume Haru, her pink hair flowing in the wind as she waited for them atop a dazzling silver bike.
"Wassa-wassa-wassssuuup!" the simulacrum waved happily. "Get in losers, we're going shopping!"
"Hi~!" Kiri waved back.
"Sup. We're riding there?" Mimi asked. "We don't have bikes."
Haru's response was to reach into her pocket and toss two chrome spheres onto the ground, the Midoriya siblings watching in amazement as compressed orbs unfolded into shiny new bicycles.
"Boom! Now you do." Haru cheered, noticing Izuku. "Hi, Midori-nii-chan!"
"Hello, Haru-chan." he greeted her, then turned to the sisters before they bolted out the door. "Now you two stay safe. Call me if you need anything, alright?"
A pair of rapid nods met his gaze. Izuku rummaged through his pockets, producing some notes and coins. "One more thing, you two. Here's some money so you can buy lunch with your friends."
"Munny." Kiri repeated, pocketing half and giving him a quick hug. "Thanks, pop-pop."
"Thank you, daddy! Tell Naoto-chan we said hi!" Mimi hugged him as well after taking the other half, and the two of them were off.
Izuku watched the trio cycle into the distance, a small smile on his face. They were children after all. They deserved a childhood, a world where they could grow up happy. Izuku knew he had to do his best not just for them, but for the generation that would come after him. Just like the stories of men who planted trees, knowing they would never rest in their shade.
A short while later he got himself dressed and headed out as well, off to finally meet Naoto again. This time he would get a formal introduction to Monoma's actual older sister, something he was actually a little worried about.
Half an hour passed and he was already at the meeting point, having sat down on a nearby bench to wait for Monoma and his siblings. Watching people steam past him, the young hero couldn't help but remember Reiko's words to him while they were in Quirkspace.
You bear our mark, so see as I see.
Izuku looked at the crowds passing by and grimaced. A part of him was afraid to use it, but he knew it was for the best. The truth of the world had already been exposed to him. All he had to do was open his eyes.
"True sight." Izuku whispered.
His vision started to change the moment he said it, the words a mental trigger that activated the power of his left eye. With it, he could now see past the veil. Shapes started to appear above the people passing by, primarily resting on their shoulders or hovering behind them. The images started to take form like a camera focusing, and Izuku beheld the truth.
Quirks. At least one for every human he saw. Some were larger than their hosts, gigantic beasts that trailed behind them. Others were in their 'chibi' forms like what Kiri and Mimi sometimes used, sitting atop their hosts' heads or shoulders and nuzzling into them lovingly.
The entities were a 'step' above regular reality, unable to interact with anything in Realspace. Izuku watched as they phased through obstacles and the surroundings, tethered to their hosts and following them around. Bringing out his smartphone confirmed that it was just his left eye that saw the strange beings. Turning the camera to selfie mode revealed that he could now change the color of his sclera from black to white whenever he wished to—he'd gained control over the monstrous left eye.
It felt more like a metaphorical third eye, with the ability to see things that could not be seen. He continued to observe how some Quirks dived in and out of Quirkspace simply by entering their hosts and the gateway hidden in their minds. It was a whole new world, right under humanity's collective noses.
"Hi, Midoriya-kun. You're early."
Izuku's head snapped up to the direction of the voice, seeing Monoma and a tall woman with striking blue skin headed his way. She had to be Monoma's older sister, as she was clutching Naoto to her rather generous chest. The baby girl started cooing excitedly upon seeing him, Izuku smiling in response.
"Hello again, Monoma-kun." Izuku began, then turned his attention to the toddler. "Hi, Naoto-chan~"
"Buh-buh." she gurgled, eyes wide with delight.
"So you are the Midoriya-kun I've heard so much about, hmm?" the tall woman laughed, gazing down at him. "You're just as cute as I thought you'd be!"
"Sis!" Monoma groaned.
"Ah, um, pardon me." Izuku stammered, bowing at the beautiful blue lady. "I'm Midoriya Izuku. It's a pleasure to meet you, miss…?"
"Kizuki Chitose." She extended a hand, and they shook. "The pleasure is all mine, honey. You're an interesting one, aren't you? You have a sentient Quirk, and that sentience can be passed to others."
Izuku glanced at his blonde schoolmate. "You told her?"
"Magic Quirk Baby." Monoma shrugged. "What else was I supposed to say?"
"Fair enough." Izuku said, eying the sibling pair with his true sight.
There was nothing tethered to Monoma because Naoto already was his Quirk, and she manifested in Realspace. The little girl cooed when Izuku gently touched fingers with her, happy to just see him again. Standing behind Chitose was what looked like a humanoid pink cat, carefully studying Izuku with slitted pupils. Her Quirk's avatar was interesting, but what Izuku really took note of was the woman's black sclera in both of her green eyes. Was she a fellow Ascended?
If she was, she wasn't aware of it. Chitose began asking about sentient Quirks like a reporter, so very curious about the whole thing. The four of them made their way to a nearby cafe when they had lunch, with her buying for the entire group.
"—you wouldn't believe the look on his face when I came home early!" Chitose laughed, retelling the first time she'd encountered baby Naoto. "Poor Neito looked like a zombie. I made him tell me the full story, and that's how I got to know about you. No one can hide a thing from me!"
"I see. Thank you for taking care of Naoto, Kizuki-san." Izuku said. "If there's anything I can do for you…"
"It's fine, you've told me plenty already. Personally I don't think the world is ready for sentient Quirks," Chitose gave him a knowing wink, fingers splayed out as if she was framing him in a photo. "But I'm going to record all of this down for the future. When the time comes, we'll be ready to help humanity take the next step. Oh, this is so exciting! Positively liberating! Would you be up for an exclusive, one-on-one, super scoop interview once your kind, Ascended, starts to become the new normal?"
"Sure, I don't mind." Izuku blinked. "Wait, the new normal?"
"Don't tell anyone, but…" Chitose leaned in for a whisper. "I've been doing quite a lot of research ever since my adorable little brother had your Magic Quirk baby. Gathering rumors of sentient Quirks, Quirks that speak to their owners… the cases have increased significantly in the past few decades. I suspect that you 'Ascended' will soon outnumber regular Quirked people in the next fifty years. Right now I'm gathering as much intel as I can; it'll be my report of the century. My magnum opus. Too bad it'll take years to be ready."
"Ah, um, good luck." Izuku mumbled, shying away. He was never good around pretty girls, let alone beautiful women. "I hope Naoto hasn't been too much trouble."
"Not at all, she is an absolute angel! She's more well-behaved than most babies I've seen so far. Makes me wish I had a kid of my own."
"Then why don't you have one?" Monoma suggested.
"It ain't easy finding a quality guy, dummy. Especially when you're at the top like me." Chitose huffed, throwing her hair back. "I only accept the best."
"You're too picky." Monoma grumbled. "No wonder you've been single for—"
"Don't you dare finish that sentence, you little sh-shrimp." Chitose corrected herself at the last second, biting down a curse.
"Shrimp." Naoto repeated, cradled within Izuku arms.
"You guys get along so well." Izuku let out a small chuckle. "So this is what having an older sibling is like, huh?"
"Oh, we're not blood-related." Monoma said, confirming Izuku's earlier suspicions about how they had different surnames. "My mom married her dad when I was young, so we basically grew up together. Doesn't stop her from being such a royal bi—pain."
"What are you doing, step-bro?" Chitose waggled her eyebrows comically. "Haven't I treated you with love and care all these years?"
"You are the source of one too many childhood traumas." Monoma deadpanned. "Love and care, my ass."
The two siblings started arguing and for a moment Izuku worried that Naoto would get scared, but she looked perfectly calm and happy in his arms. Verbal disputes must have been common with the two, no real heat in their words.
Cradling her in his arms was an experience he wouldn't trade for anything. The little entity in his arms was human, yet at the same time not. His daughter, yet not. She was something more, something beyond—a glimpse of things to come. If Tokoyami's words about Dark Shadow were anything to go by, Naoto must be leagues stronger than her original incarnation. He knew she no longer needed to make physical contact with someone to access their Quirk, and was willing to bet she could copy more Quirks and hold them for a longer period of time.
As Ascended, she and Monoma were two of the most dangerous people in Japan. Together, they were basically an AFO-lite.
For a moment he worried about the future, everything Reiko said still echoing in his mind. The collective need for conflict was within humanity, apparent throughout all of history. What if this dark desire took hold in the children of humanity as well? Quirks mimicked their hosts, but they were essentially children who were still growing. Was bloodthirst a trait that was instinctual or learned, Izuku wondered.
The boy's thoughts drifted, and he imagined a future when Naoto had matured. He saw her standing tall and regal atop a mountain of broken heroes and villains, her hands and mouth bright red with the blood of their enemies. Ten copied Quirks hovered behind her chained and screaming, begging to be freed, their power expressed atop each one of her fingertips. She turned to him, teeth bared in a cruel, victorious grin.
'I burned down three cities today, father!' the adult Naoto exclaimed gleefully. 'Have I made you proud?'
The nightmare vision ended as soon as it started, and Izuku found himself back on the bench with the baby still nestled in his arms. He was aware of her potential, of the sheer power she and Monoma were now capable of. And yet…
Izuku brushed her light blonde hair aside, looking her in the eye. She looked right back, and he saw only innocence in those heterochromatic jewels. Endless possibilities were in front of her, a member of the new generation that would one day inherit the world.
He had to believe in her.
"Da?" Naoto babbled.
"I know you'll grow up to become a wonderful person, and no matter what happens…"
Izuku held her hand, feeling her tiny fingers wrap around his. A quiet warmth filled his heart, the boy's smile one of genuine, familial affection.
"...I'll always love you."
Kizuki Chitose yawned, eyes straining as she re-read her report for the upteenth time. It'd been a long day, and she'd learned quite a bit from her brother's little green friend.
For once, she didn't need coffee to continue working late into the night. The adrenaline of everything she discovered was enough to keep her awake, her fingers flying atop her laptop's keyboard like a woman possessed. Chitose glanced at her watch from time to time, not even caring that hour after hour passed like minutes. She couldn't stop. All the data she'd gathered pointed to one conclusion: the Ascended were to be the next stage of human evolution. Man and Quirk, united as one. Homo Novus.
Once the report got into her great leader's hands, it would be eventually disseminated and released to the public alongside their agenda when the time was right. Her dreams of true liberation were finally within reach. Everyone would finally have the right to use their Quirk as they saw fit, for the sake of advancing the human race!
The woman smiled, satisfied with the final draft. It was well into the night, silence reigning over the apartment since both her brother and their new sibling were fast asleep. Their Ascension had been a stroke of luck, too much of a coincidence to be natural. It was fate that her intel would finally free society from the shackles of Quirk suppression.
Chitose downloaded the report into a thumbdrive, clutching the tiny device with a closed fist. This was the key, the power to change everything. All she had to do now was to get the report to the Meta Liberation Army, to Re-Destro and…
She paused. And then what? They would finally be free? But freedom always had a price.
Chitose wasn't stupid. In all the years she worked alongside Re-Destro she'd seen the man do cruel and merciless things, all for the sake of liberation . If she were to give him the report she'd done on the Ascended, the CEO would become aware of this new development that could change the world as they knew it.
Her left hand brushed against a photo frame, the image within displaying a younger version of herself and her brother, the two of them smiling at the camera. It was a simpler time, before she'd joined the MLA.
In her right hand she held the drive containing the report, all the info she'd personally collected; it was everything she knew about the Ascended, her brother, her new baby sister, and their friend Midoriya Izuku. No one else knew about it. A veritable treasure trove of information that would benefit the Liberation Army's goals immensely. With the Ascended on their side, they'd be unstoppable.
But deep down, she knew both Re-Destro and Skeptic wouldn't be satisfied with just a DNA sample. The two men were capable of unspeakable horrors that they justified for the sake of their cause; something she'd seen more than a few times while working with them. It was for the greater good, they said.
Re-Destro would want more. He'd ask for a live specimen. With the Midoriya boy displaying such a powerful Quirk in the Sports Festival, he was too valuable of an asset to take off the board for research purposes, not when they could potentially ally him to their cause of liberation in the future. That left her brother Neito.
Chitose closed her eyes.
Re-Destro would, in all likelihood, want to dismantle Neito to figure out how he worked, then dissect him after. Just to see what made him tick, inside and out. If she were to give the leader her report, she'd be signing her brother and sister's death warrant.
The blue woman reached a crossroads, glancing from one hand to the other. The photo frame trembled in her grip, the younger version of her smiling back innocently. She'd been so happy back then. What changed? Her right hand shook, the thumbdrive feeling like a bullet that had Neito and Naoto's names on it.
It was time for her to choose between her dream and her family.
Chitose simply sat and thought, the laptop's screen the only source of light in the dark room. She'd sworn herself to liberation, worked so hard to climb the ranks, gave her career, her life to the cause. So why? Why was she hesitating? Both Monomas weren't even blood-related to her. They were not true siblings. Neito was such a goddamn brat, an arrogant showboat, a pain in her neck…
Even so, she still thought of all the time they lived together as brother and sister. Spend a decade with someone, and eventually you'd grow fond of them in a way. She remembered picking up Neito from school. Helping him with his homework. Putting on bandages when he fell off his bike. Cooking a meal for him when he was sick. Telling him bedtime stories when they were younger. Holding him in her arms as thunder rumbled overhead.
Kizuki Chitose made her choice.
Her right hand closed into a fist and there was a quiet pop when she applied her quirk, Landmine. Blue fingers unfurled, and there was nothing left of the small data drive but ash on her palm.
She proceeded to then erase every trace of her report and the research she'd done on the Ascended, even removing the laptop's hard drive and scorching it beyond repair with her Quirk. All her precious work, gone just like that.
Chitose sighed, holding her head in her hands. Maybe… maybe it was time for a career change.
The woman jolted, looking up to find her stepbrother holding a cup of water out for her.
"Are you feeling alright?" Neito asked, eyes half-lidded with sleep. "Here, some water for your headache."
"I don't have a…" Chitose groaned, nodding and accepting the cup. "Thanks."
"Mm. You should sleep earlier, y'know. That way you won't get wrinkles." Neito yawned, already heading back to bed. "Take good care of your health… Goodnight, love ya."
She trembled, hands shaking. A moment later she stood, striding across the room and engulfing the boy in a tight hug.
"Buh—wha?" Neito squirmed a bit under her grip.
"I love you too." Chitose whispered. "I just wanted you to know that."
"Yeah, yeah. Don't get sappy with me, it's 3 AM." the blonde slurred. "Were you watching those cheesy family dramas again?"
"Something like that."
Eventually she let him go, heading off to her own room to finally get some shut-eye. It was as if a fog had been lifted from her mind, and Chitose finally realized she had something more to live for besides the MLA. She had people she loved, who loved her in turn.
Kizuki Chitose then slept peacefully for the first time in a decade, her dreams no longer plagued by the fervor of liberation. Instead she dreamed of falling in love, having a child, starting a family of her own.
It was a new goal she began to work towards unconsciously.
A new future.
[Chapter 23 End]
[Omake: Family Reunion]
[Cut content from the scrapped 'Family Reunion' arc, now non-canon.]
Izuku checked the tickets, then re-checked. He'd be lying if he said he wasn't nervous, it was the first time in years since he would be meeting his grandparents again.
Behind him his siblings were sitting with Inko, the Midoriya family patiently waiting for the train to roll into the station. With all the chaos after the attack on Hosu City, Nezu had announced that U.A. students were to take a temporary break until the situation could be resolved. All Might then suggested that Izuku should lay low for the time being, the boy reluctantly going along with it since the streets were starting to look unsafe with all the riots and protests.
So it was that they decided to visit Izuku's family in the boonies, his grandparents on his mother's side. Inko had been born Takasu Inko, and when her parents retired they moved from the sprawling city to a rural province in Hokkaido in search of a simpler life. Today they were going to take a train there, most flights having been postponed after a strange weather phenomenon was reported in the North. Some sort of thunderstorm with purple lightning, maybe even the effect of someone's Quirk.
"Is this your first time riding the Super-Shinkansen, Kiri-chan?" Inko asked, the little girl nodding in response. "You're in for a treat."
"Train's almost here, aniki." Mimi checked her phone. "Can't believe you got us all first-class tickets."
"Might as well." Izuku replied, lifting their heavy luggage with ease. "Only the best for all of you."
"Thank you, sweetheart." Inko smiled, then perked up as the bullet train arrived. "There, you two. Look!"
A sleek behemoth of matte black slid into the station, silent as the night despite its enormous size. The massive train was entirely automated, a modern technological marvel that could ferry citizens from one end of the country to the other in a few hours. Gold letters were emblazoned upon its side proudly, displaying its name.
"Wow." Kiri marveled, looking excited.
The doors slid open and a team of Haro bots in specialized cargo-loading cradles rolled out, helping passengers with their luggage. The Midoriya family made their way into the train, impressed by its spacious interior. It felt more like a luxury hotel than a moving vehicle, with the family even having their own booth and table as if they were in a restaurant.
Soon they were off, the transport accelerating soundlessly since it levitated atop the track. Kiri pressed her face against the reinforced glass windows, watching the surroundings turn into a blur as they gained speed.
"Wow!" she remarked.
A robotic trolley began making its way down the aisle, its multiple arms serving passengers fresh meals straight from the kitchen carriage. Kiri's eyes lit up with delight as a five-star meal was placed in front of her, along with a glass of orange juice.
"WOW!" Kiri exclaimed, barely keeping herself from inhaling all the food on the table.
"Anything else from the trolley, dears?" the automaton asked after serving them, its synthetic voice made to sound like a sweet old lady.
"No, thank you." Izuku said.
"Noted and received. Feel free to press the assistance button if you need anything. The Ultra-Luxe is sponsored by Yaoyorozu Industries." the machine announced, switching to the voice of a young woman. "The Ultra-Luxe: travel in the lap of luxury. We hope you have a safe and pleasant journey!"
"Huh. That explains a lot…" Izuku mumbled, noting the symbol of the Yaoyorozu clan engraved on the robot's back.
Kiri was already munching on her new meal, Inko dabbing at the little girl's mouth gently while smiling. Mimi was seated next to Izuku, giving her food a quick taste test before reaching into her red randoseru backpack for a bottle of extra-hot chili sauce.
"Is that good?" Izuku asked, curious.
Mimi raised an eyebrow and offered him her spoon. He took a bite and grimaced, feeling as if his mouth was on fire.
"It's an acquired taste." Mimi giggled, passing him her orange juice.
An hour later they reached the city, then having to take another train into the outskirts. Next the family took a bus, this one driven by an actual person instead of being automated. The impact of technology seemed to lessen, but Izuku saw some robotic harvesters roaming across fields of rice paddies and hyper-oats. The devastation of the Solar Wars had caused a worldwide famine back then, and it was the introduction of genetically modified crops like hyper-oats that stopped the world from backsliding into a second Dark Age.
The bus finally stopped at a remote village, the Midoriya family looking rather out of place as they made their way towards a large estate on a hill. Izuku faintly remembered it, having walked through its corridors when he was around six. Everyone there had been so nice even when he'd been diagnosed as Quirkless, and he wondered if he'd meet them again.
Being back in this place brought back long buried memories. Izuku remembered playing with a boy his age back then, the two of them running through fields and sharing watermelon together. His name was… What was it again? Se-something?
His thoughts were put aside for the moment when Inko started waving to a pair in the distance. A cheerful-looking woman came jogging over, looking pleased as punch as she and Inko met in a big hug.
"Inko! It's been years since I heard from you, how have you been?!" she gasped and let go, the single horn protruding from the middle of her forehead glowing with a faint green light. "Oh, and look at you Izu-kun! You've grown so much!"
"Um, hi?" Izuku said uncertainly, not quite remembering who she was.
"Hello again, Ayaka." Inko laughed. "I'm doing alright. It's good to see you again, what a coincidence! Where's Daisuke?"
"Really busy with work, I'm afraid. You know what he's like. We're here on vacation because my daughter's hero school is taking a break, you see." The woman then spotted Kiri and Mimi clinging to Inko, eyes widening. "And who are these two cuties?"
"It's… a long story." Inko mumbled, then brightened as she introduced them. "Kiri-chan, Mimi-chan, this is your auntie Tokage Ayaka. She's my cousin."
As the children greeted their aunt a single word from Inko's introduction stood out, causing him to freeze.
Right on cue the other half of the pair finally made it to them, her white sundress flowing in the wind. A large straw hat was perched atop her head, but nothing could hide that long, messy dark green hair.
"Jeez, mom! Wait up!" the girl huffed, dragging a heavy luggage bag behind her. "Why do I have to carry everything…"
"Aren't you training to be a hero, sweetie?" Ayaka laughed, hands on her hips. "Whatever happened to helping the weak and innocent?"
"Weak and innocent my ass, you—" she looked up, and her eyes met Izuku's. "Wha?"
Tokage Setsuna stared at him, looking as if she couldn't believe what she was seeing. Then she leapt into a fighting stance, all tense and ready to rumble.
"You! What the hell are you doing here, broccoli boy?!" Setsuna yelled, pointing at him accusingly.
"Funny, I was just about to ask you the same thing." Izuku said weakly, not expecting to meet anyone from his school.
"Wait, you two know each other?" Inko asked, thinking. "Hero School… Oh, do you go to U.A, sweetie? My Izuku does too."
Why does she call her sweetie? She doesn't even know her. Izuku thought. Then he looked at Setsuna again, taking in her features. The long, pointed teeth. Dark green hair that rippled like waves. Wait a minute… if it was shorter when she was young…
"Set-kun?" he whispered.
Setsuna's head snapped to him, teeth bared. "How the hell do you know that name—"
She paused, suddenly studying him intensely. A look of shocked realization crossed her face.
"Wait, w-what?" Setsuna stammered, blinking rapidly. "Zuzu?"
The two of them stared in disbelief, two childhood friends finally reunited. All this time they'd been in the same school and they hadn't even realized it.
"This is awkward." Mimi whispered to her sister, who nodded in agreement.
"I'M RELATED TO THIS PLAYBOY?!" Setsuna shrieked, cupping her face in abject horror. "No, it can't be!"
"Playboy?" Inko blinked, looking at her son. "Izuku, have you been fooling around with girls in school? Do use protection, I think there's enough kids in the family."
"MOM!" Izuku sputtered, red in the face.
"Playboy?" Ayaka repeated, raising an eyebrow. "Oi, oi, Izu-kun. Didn't you promise to marry my Setsuna when the two of you were kids?"
"MOM!" Setsuna whirled about to face her mother, appalled. Turning to Izuku, she eyed him up and down while he did the same.
"I-I did?" Izuku mumbled, all eyes on him. "I don't remember… in fact, I thought you were a boy, Set-kun. I mean, um, Set-chan?"
"Ugh, you—you!" Setsuna fumed, cheeks burning red. "You're not my Zuzu!"
That stung, just the slightest bit. So all this time, the tough boy from Izuku's childhood had actually been a cute tomboy! To be fair, she did dress like a boy and had her hair cut shorter than his. The two of them changed and so much time had passed, to the point where they no longer recognized each other. Izuku's eyes flickered over her form. She'd certainly… matured.
'Tokage Setsuna, eliminated from the Dekubowl.' A voice in Izuku's head announced. 'Reason: Direct blood relation.'
'NOOOOO, don't sink my enemies-to-lovers ship!' Another voice wailed, upset. 'They would have looked so cute together…'
Who said that? Izuku thought, and the voices silenced themselves immediately.
Meanwhile, Kiri had gotten the bright idea to run up to the girl and give her a big hug. Mimi soon followed suit, and from the look on her face Izuku could see she was cooking up a scheme.
"Onee-chan." Kiri whispered, rubbing her face against Setsuna's tummy. "Wuv you."
"Wait, wha… huh?!" Setsuna choked, bewildered.
"Hey, aneki~" Mimi smirked, wrapping her arms around the older girl's waist. "We won't let you run away. If you get married to my aniki, you'll be our new mommy. You two made a promise, after all."
"N-no. No, that's not true!" Setsuna started backing away while floating, and her cheeks burned scarlet when she made eye contact with Izuku. "That's impossible!"
"Search your feelings, you know it to be true." Mimi told her, enjoying herself thoroughly. "At one point you truly, deeply loved him."
Setsuna's gaze met Izuku's again, eyes wide while her face was redder than a tomato. She turned and started floating away in the opposite direction with the twins still attached to her, choosing to run away instead of confronting the truth.
"Noooooooooooooo!" she cried out, hovering towards their grandparents' large estate at a steady pace.
Izuku, Inko, and Ayaka watched her escape, not quite sure what to make of the situation.
"Should we…?" Izuku began.
"Eh, she'll be fine." Ayaka shrugged. "Come on, you two. Time to meet meemaw and peepaw, Izu-kun."
"...I know this goes without saying Izuku, but try not to marry your cousin." Inko grinned.
"Well, I don't particularly mind if you two do end up together." Ayaka smiled, Izuku lost for words at the woman's carefree demeanor. "I've always worried if she can actually find someone with that attitude of hers. Our families are pretty distant, so it should be fine."
Izuku groaned, hanging his head low while the two women began gossiping.
So much for a vacation…
Thank you for reading!
Sorry for the hiatus, life caught up to me. I started this fic when I was a student, and now I'm a working adult. For those of you still in school, please cherish your youth.
Some of you guys raise good points. Yes, perhaps this fic has too many characters, too many plot points, etc. I've doing my best to trim the fat, and what was supposed to be an entire arc has become this chapter instead. I really hope it makes sense; even though people say not to underestimate the audience I worry that it might be too confusing for readers. Either way, its better than leaving the story unfinished. For those of you who DM'd me, I apologize for not responding as I've not logged in for quite a while.
We finally see the origin of superpowers (in this fic) in MHA, Quirkspace. Feel free to use this concept if you want, I've been holding it in my head for years. Just drop me a shoutout if you do, I wanna see where you can take it. Quirks are born from the emotions of sentient beings, which is why we have such a big focus on 'emotion' and 'family'. Not sure how you readers will like it or hate it, honestly. I'd love to read an origin of Quirks fic, but I've never managed to find any.
What Reiko and the Legion calls 'Earth-Prime' is the manga universe. They've been observing it, which is how they're able to 'predict the future'. This too, is a reference to the existence of the manga itself. I wanted to do something meta when writing about the Legion—they're supposed to represent the audience. They are you, the readers and the writers.
Think about it. Observing the 'one true world' (canon). Viewing other worlds (fanfics/spin offs). Making sure they keep in line, or they'll disappear. Identifying inconsistencies and stopping the introduction of foreign bodies. The 'shards' are shaped like manga panels for a reason. That's right, I'm referencing you. The entire 'multiverse viewing' scene is even a tribute to fics which show Izuku reacting to to other versions of him. I hope I was able to somewhat pull it off. Sorry in advance if I somehow offend someone with this, all of this is a tribute, not a mockery.
Is the introduction of Quirkspace necessary? In this fic, yes. I know it feels like jumping the shark, but the multiverse aspect had been introduced with Mimi so we're essentially working backwards. Quirkspace is the key to solving the upcoming energy and resource crisis Mei talks about, while simultaneously showing a glimpse of humanity's future alongside Quirks. It is the end of humanity's childhood, and the beginning of their ascension into adulthood. Izuku must be better than his father, and the generation before him. He has to 'go beyond'.
Finally, there's the omake. This was supposed to take place after the Hosu City arc, but was scrapped because it'd be too long (2-3 ch) and introduce OCs again, which is unacceptable since we have too many already. It would have focused on the topic of living Quirks, which was re-purposed for Oji and Eri's side story. The 'final boss' of this arc would have been Setsuna possessed by her great-grandmother(Taiga)'s Quirk, 'Doll Master'. Her outfit would have been a Miko/shrine maiden outfit as well because the village has been keeping the wild Quirk sealed away until the current shrine maiden became too old and weak to do so, with Setsuna taking her place but failing to keep it contained. Why Setsuna? Well, I just wanted to somehow feature all the 1-B girls in this fic. She would then apologize to Izuku at the end of the arc instead of that small apology in chapter 21. Would have made more of an emotional impact.
Please check out the version of this chapter on AO3, it has images that enhance the reading experience. [ /works/17542487/chapters/102750417]
That's all I have to say for now, this A/N is already too long.
Hope to see you in the next chapter, and I hope to finish this fic soon.