Chapter 17

What Should a Hero Do?

It's quiet. The only sound in the room is the scratch of chalk on the board and the ticking of the clock, a painful reminder of how slowly time is passing. I try to put all of my focus on the equations that I'm copying on the board and ignoring the bored sighs of the children behind me.

"Come on, Aizawa sensei, can't we take a break for at least five minutes?" Kaminari requests in a tired tone. "We're already missing out on the test of courage so why do you have to torture us with math too?"

"I'm 'torturing' you because you failed your exams," I respond, my patience clearly at it's breaking point. "You only have yourself to blame for not properly preparing for the finals so I suggest that you shut up and accept the extra help that me and Vlad are so graciously offering."

Out of the corner of my eye, I can see Vlad nodding vehemently. A look of dissatisfaction passes the students' faces before their gazes return to their notes. My attention returns to the board a sI continue to copy equations when...

"Everyone! We're under attack by villains!"

Mandalay's voice rings in my head, her panicked tone digging into my nerves. The bored atmosphere of the room turns to one of fear as the students begin to panic.

"Did she say villains?" Mina asks aloud.

"Is this just part of some practical test?" Sero questions.

"Quiet!" Vlad's booming voice silences the kids as Mandalay continues.

"There appears to be at least two attackers, although it's likely that there's many more. Everyone needs to get back to the lodge as soon as possible! Do not engage!". Even at her level of professionalism, she can't keep a steady voice as she speaks. I don't like to think about what could've happened to unnerve her so much.

"Vlad, you stay here and watch the kids," I start. "Keep an eye out for any students that arrive and I'll work on finding the stragglers.

"You can count on me, Aizawa," he declares as I burst out of the room and into the hallway. I try to put all of my energy into running towards the building's exit but I can't stop my mind from wandering.

How many are there? Why are they here? How did they find us? I repeat the same questions over and over in my mind as I race through the halls. Before all of that, I need to take care of my students. Finding them and getting them out of harm's way is the only thing that matters right now. I turn a corner quickly, my momentum almost knocking em off my own feet, as I make my way outside of the student lodge. A few sharp turns later and I'm almost at the exit. But it's not right.

Instead of the warm glow of the building's exterior lamps, a pale blue light illuminates the door's window. I swing the door open, only to be greeted by the sight of blue flames dancing across the treeline. The air is filled with the odor of smoke and the sound of the fire crackling. I can't believe that the villains have done this much damage in the minute that's passed since I received Mandalay's message. The true danger of the situation sets in and I lose focus for just one second.

"A teacher that cares about his students is way too predictable."

The voice comes from my left. I turn to face the source, only to see an open palm lazily facing my direction. As smoke begins to curl from the fingertips, I realize that he must be the cause of all the fires. A normal dodge won't be enough against destructive power like that so I throw my scarf at the balcony above me. It wraps tightly around the railing as I leap upwards, using my arms to rise faster. Just in time, as an intense heat passes beneath my back as I position myself above my assailant.

The first thing that stands out about him is the patchwork nature of his skin. His body is covered with dark, scarred skin held together by a rushed stitch job. His black attire and hair tell me that he's an odd one as does the superior look in his eyes.

"I guess that you Pros are a different breed from your typical alley scum," he starts as he raises his hand in my direction again. Before he can attack, I lock my eyes on him and activate my quirk. I feel the familiar sensation of my hair suspending as a look of surprise crosses the villain's face. Before he regains his rhythm, I throw the other end of my scarf and wrap it around his leg.

A quick tug sends him stumbling backwards, leaving his torso wide open. I launch downwards with all of my strength and drive my elbow directly into his gut. As the villain collides with the ground, I use my other hand to bounce off of him and land on stable ground. My hair momentarily falls as I give my eyes a quick rest before turning around and activating my quirk again.

The villain stumbles to his feet and notices the scarf still wrapped around his leg. With a confidant look on his face, he thrusts his leg forward in an effort to unbalance me. I give the end more slack and he pulls the scarf forward with no resistance. With the extra length that he just added, I swing the scarf around to run over his chest and shoulder. Before he can unwrap himself, I yank hard and pull him in closer.

He pivots and faces his hand towards me in another desperate attack but under the effect of my Erasure, he can't even produce a puff of smoke. I use the loose scarf around my neck to wrap around his arm. I duck under his elbow as his momentum carries him past me. With scarf still in hand, I send my foot directly into his back. The power of the kick is matched by the force of me pulling on his arm. For a moment, the villain struggles as he's forced in two directions before…


A violent cry fills the air and is highlighted by a pop as his shoulder is jerked loose from it's socket. Confident that he's on the verge of surrendering, I relax my guard and deactivate my quirk. Blue flames immediately sprout from the villain's free hand as he twists around wildly, reaching for me. I loosen the grip around his arm and dash backwards. He follows my lead and stumbles backwards, clutching his dislocated shoulder.

"You should understand by now that you have no chance against me," I start, "so why don't you give me the information that I need? If you talk fast, I might consider keeping the damage temporary."

"Heh heh," he chuckles while wincing at the pain. "I didn't think that you'd be this scary. Tell me, are those the threats of a teacher that's concerned about his students or a Pro that's pissed about the fact that he got outplayed?"

"You're running out of chances to tell me what I want to know," I respond, keeping a cool tone despite the anger that's beginning to rise inside me.

"All you need to know is that you're screwed," he answers coyly. "The Vanguard Action Squad is on a completely different level than the trash you fought at USJ. And if you thought your students were in danger back then, you really don't want to think about what's gonna happen to them tonight."

The frustration in me boils over. I charge forward with Erasure already activated. The villain doesn't even attempt to raise a hand before I close the distance and punch him square in the diaphragm. I prepare myself to follow up as the air is knocked out of him but instead of solid flesh, my fist bores through what feels like mud.

I look down at my hand to see it driven straight through to the other side as his body begins to transform into some clay-like substance and drip to the ground. Even with Erasure activated, I'm unable to stop him as he begins to melt into the ground with a smug look.

"Before you try to save your students, you should really be concerned with watching your own ass. Especially when it comes to him," he mocks as his expression fades away into the dirt. I frantically thrust my hands into the ground to try to hold on to some scrap of him but his body quickly becomes indistinguishable from the rest of the earth.

"Damn it," I whisper to myself. He was my best chance for information but he somehow managed to slip through my fingers. It must be the work of one of his comrades' quirks but I can't contemplate that now. My first instinct tells me to start searching for the kids but I'm hung up on something. The villain warned that I was in as much danger as the students so, even though it might be a bluff, I can't risk doing anything reckless.

I start to run towards the forest, using my concern to mask my suspicion. As I approach the treeline, my eyes dart around the area in search of any sign of an ambush. There's an uneasy shake in my body even though I'm sprinting. I haven't felt anxiety like this since I was a rookie.

Suddenly, I shudder as a wave of bloodlust washes over me, The small tremor of fear almost transforms into an outright convulsion, like there's a snake coiling around my neck. Fighting the terror, I turn to my right just in time to see a flash of metal heading straight for me. I can barely dive to the ground as I feel a knife graze my shoulder before flying past me. I rise back to my feet quickly in order to meet my new opponent.

"I'm glad, Eraserhead," a threatening voice starts from the forest. "A hero of your renown would have to be capable of avoiding a simple sneak attack like that in order to be worth a damn." The voice's owner drops from the branch of a tree onto the ground. From his damaged combat armor, multiple blades, and his tattered mask and scarf, it's easy to recognize him from the descriptions I've read. Stain the Hero Killer. With a monster like him on the field, I'll just have to trust the students while I deal with him.

"I heard that you were the idealistic type," I call out in an attempt to keep him busy, "so how does murdering children factor into your crusade?"

"Don't misunderstand the reason why I'm here," he answers. "I could care less about Shigaraki's plans for that student. For me, this is a rare opportunity to test some U.A. teachers. I'd like to know if the next generation of heroes are being raised by a bunch of damn frauds."

"I don't have time for your pretentious excuses!" I yell back. "My duty is to protect those kids and I don't care if I have to go through you to reach them!" I charge forward with Erasure at the ready.

Stain throws me a wicked smile before reaching to his back and drawing a chipped katana. He dashes forward as well and swings the blade at my chest. I drop closer to the ground without falling as the sword cuts through the air above me. Now within close quarters range, I throw an uppercut from down below at Stain's jaw. He jerks his head to the side and lets my fist sail past his face.

With his left hand off the sword, he reaches for one of the knives strapped to his chest. I quickly drive my knee into his gut, forcing him to use his free hand to block the attack. I begin to reach for my scarf in order to restrain him but Stain notices and bashes his skull directly into my nose. The taste of iron fills my mouth as I stumble backwards from the force of the blow.

Stain wastes no time as he grasps his katana with both hands and goes in for another slice. I grab my scarf and launch it into a tree branch that's extended above me. It wraps around the branch tightly as Stain's blade approaches. I jump and pull at the same time to heave myself into the air, letting Stain's attack whiff through thin air.

Without missing a beat, Stain draws one of the knives from his chest and hurls it at the space above me. Unable to defend myself, I throw the other end of the scarf at a branch farther off as the knife swiftly severs the line supporting me. As the scarf wraps around the other branch, I fall closer to Stain. He looks at me with sadistic pleasure as plummet towards his waiting sword. Suddenly, I feel the scarf tighten around the branch. I yank hard and pull myself away from the villain but not before he swipes at me and slashes into my chest.

As I land on safe ground, I trace the wound with my finger. The dark crimson shade of the blood mixed with the relatively small amount tells me that my injury might be dangerous but it isn't life threatening yet. I snap myself into a battle stance, ready to continue the battle, but Stain doesn't reciprocate.

He chuckles to himself silently as he drags his finger along his katana. "The fight's changed now, Eraserhead," he declares. "You're no longer fighting to win. Now, you're trying to survive."

I don't have the time to answer before the villain licks the edge of his blade. My initial confusion is overwhelmed by a loss of control in my entire body. I start to fall to the ground as my legs can no longer be bothered to support me. Instinctually, I activate Erasure while doing my best to keep my eyes on Stain. Immediately, the strength in my body returns and I'm able to stop myself from collapsing.

The look of pleasure on Stain's face doesn't break as he charges towards me. Without breaking his stride, he draws another knife and tosses it at me. I grab my scarf and it stretch it in front of me, using it to catch the blade. I quickly remove it and throw it right back at Stain's legs as he gets close. He hops to the side to dodge, giving me the opportunity to dash behind him. With his back unguarded, I plant my foot firmly into his spine and send flat to the ground. He rolls on the ground and is quick to hop back to his feet.

With him a few meters away, I allow myself to relax for an instant and blink. Immediately, that weak sensation in my body returns as I'm unable to stand upright. I activate Erasure and return to a fighting position, the true danger of the situation becoming apparent.

"You understand now, don't you?" Stain asks. "How desperate this battle is on your end? Your abilities can only save you from my quirk for a little while. Eventually, you'll run out of stamina and you won't even have the strength to open your eyes."

I struggle to maintain a bold face despite the unease that's settled into my body. He's completely right. If anything, the end is even closer because of my injuries from the USJ incident. Even if we're equal in martial skill, I won't even be able to move soon. I need to finish him before my eyes can dry out and his quirk defeats me. I ready myself to charge into the fray again when…

"RRAAAAGGHHH!" an animalistic roar echoes through the night. Even Stain seems shaken by the sudden outburst, as if he didn't know one of his comrades was capable of that. The villain continues to keep his focus on me but his darting glance indicates that he's interested in the source of the cry as well.

Our curiosity doesn't go unsatisfied for long as both of us notice a powerful impact shake the cliff where the voice seemed to come from followed by a large shape flying through the sky. Following his trajectory, he seems to be aiming for directly in front of the lodge where we are. I risk succumbing to paralysis in order to dive away and protect myself. Only a second goes by before a large mass crashes into the earth, creating a shockwave that blows me off the ground.

I go flying before crashing into a tree and sliding to the ground. The blow is enough to dizzy me as my sight goes blurry. With a cloud of dust swirling around the landing site, I'm unable to see Stain and cancel his quirk. I'm left to lie with half my face in the dirt as I wait for the debris to settle.

The cloud slowly disperses to reveal a strong looking, blonde man with a nasty scar travelling down his face. Seeing his face stirs up the memory of talking to Mandalay about her brother's Pro Hero team, Water Horse. His appearance matches that of the man who killed the team and had his eye ripped out. There appears to be several pink reddish ribbons contracting into his body after the landing. The villain glances around with a look of anger on his face. His eyes finally fix themselves on Stain who's only now approaching after the crash.

"I thought that your post was up on that cliff, Muscular," Stain starts. As he steps into view, I activate Erasure and start to pick myself up off the ground.

"Well, things changed," Muscular answers, his voice still shaking with anger. "Do you know where that little bastard Deku is?"

"Why are you looking for him?" Stain fires back in an accusatory tone. This might be the first sign of infighting between the League members. Instead of getting to my feet, I sit myself against the tree I hit before deactivating my quirk and giving my eyes a break. The longer that they distract themselves, the more recovery time I have.

"The brat went and betrayed me," Muscular declares, rubbing his throat gingerly. "So I need to find him and beat the shit out of him for it."

Stain hesitates before answering "Well, I saw where he went. Help me finish this Pro and we can hunt him down afterwards."

"Fine by me," Muscular responds. "I've gotta beat someone into a pulp soon or else I'm gonna lose it." He begins to stagger towards me. I activate my quirk again and rise to my feet. I can already feel the strain in my eyes as I get ready to defend myself. Muscular raises his fist and leans in to charge.

In an instant, a flash of metal dances under Muscular's arm. He doesn't even realize what's happened until crimson blood bursts from his skin and drips across the side of his torso.

"GAAAGGH!" he cries aloud, desperately clasping at the wound in order to stem the bleeding. His attention quickly drifts to Stain with his katana fully drawn and dripping red. "You son of a bitch! What the hell are you doing?"

"It's simple," Stain answers nonchalantly as he advances on Muscular. "The only reason that Deku would attack would be if you were doing something that he couldn't accept. And if that kid wouldn't accept then you can be damn sure that I won't allow it."

Muscular backs up as Stain continues to move in closer. With the tension so quickly having turned to them and excluding me, my focus is broken and I blink. Muscular is the first to realize that he can use his quirk as more reddish ribbons from before extend from his body. They wrap around him like armor as he crouches down and charges at Stain.

The Hero Killer reaches to lick the area of his blade drenched in blood but Muscular's speed forces him to jump out of the way. Muscular stumbles a bit as he misses before pivoting around and dashing towards Stain again. This time, Stain doesn't dodge and opts to slice straight down his opponents chest. The sword carves through the fibers surrounding him but it fails to draw blood.

Muscular takes advantage of Stain's close proximity and attempts to grab him both arms. Stain leans back to avoid his grasp but is caught off guard by Muscular swinging his leg around into his side. He can't block it as the force send the Hero Killer flying into the lodge wall. He collides with building with a hard crash, fracturing the wooden structure's walls. For a moments, he doesn't move. A proud look begins to develop on Muscular's face at the sight of his opponent in such dire straits.

However, Stain's body begins to tremor. He looks to be struggling to pry himself from the wall. Muscular's expression turns smug as he moves forward to finish the fight. Suddenly, Stain flicks his blade around and brings the edge to his move. As his tongue scrapes across the sword, Muscular's face turns from confidence to fear. Just like me, he begins to fall as his body is no longer capable of movement.

He collapses to the earth, face down. The shaking of his body tells me that he's trying to fight but he's incapable of resisting Stain's quirk. The villain continues to tremor on the ground as Stain approaches him while clutching his ribs. The Hero Killer firmly places his boot on the villain's back and raises his sword directly over where his heart would be.

I almost move to stop him but I hesitate when I consider the alternative. Letting Stain kill as he wants isn't right but there isn't much that I can do in this scenario. With his quirk still paralyzing me, I don't stand much of a chance against Stain. And if I use Erasure to tip the scales in Muscular's favor, then that results in another psycho roaming the forest that's capable of even more damage. So I reluctantly choose not to intervene as Muscular continues to struggle

"Why? Why the hell would you do it?!" Muscular screams out from his defeated position. "You're a member of the League, right? That little brat betrayed us so he needs to be dealt with! Why don't you understand that?"

"You're the one who doesn't understand what happened," Stain answers calmly. "Deku turned against you, not the League. And I know that that kid has what it takes to be a real hero. So if wiping out scum like you is what it takes to clear the path for him, I'm happy to do it."

Stain raises his katana before plunging directly through Muscular's chest. The villain gasps and starts to spasm before going limp. Blood erupts from the wound as Stain pulls the sword out. He returns to clutching his ribs as he staggers away from the body.

"Hold on a second," I demand as he makes his way closer to the forest. "Where do you think you're going?" I move to cut him off when I realize that I can freely move again. I didn't realize it in the heat of the fight but I can freely move again.

Stain stops for a second, looks me over, and resumes moving while saying "There's no more reason to fight. I've done my job of occupying you and I'm not interested in your students, so I'm retreating."

"I thought that wanted to test me or some crap like that," I mention, trying desperately to get him to stay.

"That's right and what you do next will determine whether or not you passed," he declares. "So think carefully about what a true hero would do."

My first thought is that a true hero would defeat the bad guy so I force myself into a fighting stance. But then I think about it, what I should be concerned about right now. What's the most important thing a hero can do? I drop my guard and start sprinting into the forest.

As expected, Stain doesn't attack me as I run into the treeline. He won't attack because I'm doing what he thinks a hero should do, worry about saving as many people as possible. For the first time in what feels like an hour, I turn my attention away from battle and back towards directly rescuing my students. My first hit should be to get a status update with the Pussycats and work from there. This is a desperate situation but I'm sure that my class can pull through.

As their teacher, I promise that I will not lose a single one of my students.

This is probably the most fight-iest chapter/thing I've ever written in my life. Whenever I couldn't think of what to write next, I would stand up and act out the fight to see what the next coolest move would be. This lead to a bunch of moments of me dancing around my room like an idiot.

Even with that masterful technique, writing a fight that's easy to understand is really hard so I apologize if there's moments of confusion. I'm also scared that killing Muscular might be too edgy but that just feels like what Stain would do. I'm kinda scared to take the story to slightly darker places since I have no idea what I'm doing but that's never stopped me before.

It's impossible to know when you'll be reading this but it's late December for me. So I hope that, whenever you are, you have a pleasant holiday and a good start to the New Year. I'll do my best to be a better writer in 2019 and I hope you'll stick with me on the way.

See ya.