Magnus: I will no longer apologize, and instead explain why there have been these horrible delays. The Ketoacidosis that nearly killed me left me scarred, and parts of my brain got affected to the point it's getting painful to concentrate for long periods of time. I'm still going to write this story and all the others, but it will take much longer due to the forced breaks I need to take.
The 0bservanc3: As always, a special thank you to all of our Patrons, your support means the world. Thanks be to you those currently named AllAboutNothin, Zenega, Lyruil, Nathan Hurley, Samuel Berry, tyler clifton, EposTheta, LeafBladeFox, Blackwall, Bobthenerd, Capitano_N3mo, Carrotglace, Dragonin, Henry Baumeister, Illidan, iPCM, Jacob Huffman, kalestrife3329, Killerking, Lord Sunshine, Maxwell Ignitus, Mecharic, Michael Adam Gilliland, Naes003, Samuel Netsrym, Soltarian, Sonashot, Soul D Phoenix, vividfoal, and TheGreatBubbaJ.
Disclaimer: This chapter isn't pretty, it wasn't meant to be. You've been warned.
A sinister education.
The internship week was a time for UA students to have a taste of the true nature of the profession known as 'Hero,' giving them the chance to understand what awaited them after graduation. All Hero Course students were expected to use the time wisely, either to adjust their worldviews on Heroes from idealized notions they'd spoon-fed from the media to more grounded expectations, or ultimately, back off if they felt betrayed by the harsh realities of the world or realized they were unsuited for the work at hand.
An unintended side effect was that also gave their parents time to themselves…
"Beru-chan, I've been meaning to ask, but…" Inko asked, putting down her cup, the rejuvenated mother still frowning at her continued lack of understanding. "What exactly are the Jaegers?"
The Asui matriarch placed her own cup down, taking a deep breath. She wracked her brain searching for an appropriate, Inko-friendly, answer to provide. It was harder than it should've been.
After years of living in the chaos that was Law in a Quirked World, and having had to deal with not only her own country's government but those of foreigners who have run afoul of Japan's stricter anti-quirk usage laws, Beru had seen and done quite a lot. It wasn't an exaggeration to say that she was a ground-shaker in her field. But even for her, with all her accumulated knowledge and experience, who had even dealt with INTERPOL and their numerous operations—both public and off the books—numerous times, she knew she had only an inkling as to what the elusive branch of the UN was really all about.
So, she gave what she could give as best she could.
"If I were to summarize the Jaegers, kero…" Beru started, doubt clear even across her usually expressionless face, "I would have to say that they are UN-sanctioned head-hunters with the authority to do whatever is necessary to bring down their targets."
There was a moment of silence as Inko took in the grim information.
Beru knew the description was criminally short, but yet, it still carried a lot of weight. In pre-Quirk history, the UN had once supposedly had global authority, but its actual power was almost completely limited in scope of action due to the convoluted laws of its various member countries, and that was before including its own charter. The organization hadn't had the power to override other countries on any matters, or even to act without votes cast and measures passed.
After the Quirk Wars though, where the UN had somehow remained standing firm as a source of stability and order as the rest of the world devolved into madness and had offered assistance to those in need, it was universally accepted that should the need arise, the global institution had the overarching authority to act as needed in order to keep world peace. Few knew that this predomination had been literally written into a new charter that all member countries had been forced to sign when all was said and done.
Her short answer brought up another question from the younger-looking mother.
"I see…" Inko said hesitantly, still full of questions. What she really wanted clarification on was a certain agent that had been monitoring her son since glowing baby knew when. "And what about… Spooks?"
It might've been hushed, almost whispered, but the word alone still caused Beru to wince.
The Asui matriarch hated the Spooks, honestly, especially since they had entered her office numerous times, whenever they willed, and rifled through her files… usually when she wasn't physically there. She always knew when a Spook had paid her firm a visit though, even if none of her staff could or would confirm her suspicious, because there were always minuscule tells she could find without fail. Namely, and most often, was that her coffee machine would always have one or two less servings in its container than when she'd last left it.
That being said, most of her actual interactions with the Spooks—brief as they'd been—had been through the one that went by Agent Sato. To that very day it still baffled her how the mountainous Austrian could move so stealthily. And say so few words.
"I guess the short of it is, kero…" Beru struggled to condense her knowledge into few words, "They are UN agents with the authority to do whatever is necessary to assure their mission is completed."
Inko looked at her friend with nothing but anxious confusion in her eyes.
Beru grimaced at the helpless look. She knew that her lack of available knowledge wasn't the most helpful, but unfortunately what little she did know made her perhaps one of the scarce few that had any level of knowledge about said topics.
Meanwhile… Ueda-shi, Nagano Prefecture…
Shrouded in the darkness of a nameless back alley, a rather short young man kept watch over the back entrance of an otherwise normal-looking establishment. The man was dressed in a somewhat fancy-looking olive long coat, under which a series of belts secured bags and pouches across his torso. Each of his forearms were protected by gloves—and his legs by boots—reinforced by braces, the brass-like alloy of the metalworks contrasting in eerily fashion against the otherwise blackened leather of the outfit. Rather than wearing a hat, or any other type of headgear, the man made use of a dyed cloth that covered his mouth and nose.
At first glance, most civilians dismissed the fancily suited man to be a Pro Hero's sidekick, perhaps one specializing in diplomacy, that had some unfortunate facial mutation due to his Quirk. They all would be dead wrong. The young man was not a sidekick, or even an unknown newbie Hero, but still a high school student. And the people he was working with at that very moment were no Pro Heroes.
Izuku Midoriya, code name: Bloodborne, was learning… from Jaegers.
"Front secured," Shinso, code name Gardener, said as a whisper through the secured channel the comm-bead Izuku had in his ear was linked to, "Everything appears as the informant said…"
Izuku was learning, in this instance, that sometimes the darkness of the world used the most innocent of façades to do its business behind, but more so that more evildoers than you could ever imagine had a talent for masquerading as common bystanders. It was almost like an addendum to the lesson All Might had once taught then during the first week of school when they'd had the Battle Trials, just more in depth and with obvious real world application.
"I don't like this…" Bloodborne muttered into the air, still linked to the whole team through his comm-bead, "It reeks of ambush…"
He was also learning that the sensibilities of a limelight Pro-Hero, and that of a more grounded hero, were different, mirroring the type of paths they walked. Where Pros patrolled in the light before everyone's eyes, Izuku was moving through the oft ignored and festering shadows…
"Are you getting cold feet?" Came an elderly voice in reply. The old man didn't sound disappointed, but there was something behind his tone. It was as if he were judging… everything.
The elder Jaeger had been introduced by the code name of 'Golden Fox,' and he was the official tracker of the team. While he hadn't yet revealed his Quirk, he had proven to be absurdly good at picking up individual scents and reading emotions. He had detected their first target by the faded scent of disinfectant alone, piecing together the rag they'd found four blocks over had recently been used to clean Trigger from some other item. Then, he'd instantly picked up the fact that the proprietors of the business they were now stalking out had lied to them when they'd canvased the area.
"Don't listen to that paranoid old coot, he's worse than a baby chick when it comes to being cautious," an elderly woman spoke up, earning what sounded like a muffled complaint from the old man in question. "We are ready for your signal, Bloodborne."
The grandmotherly woman had given her code name as 'Silver Crow' when Izuku and Shinso had met her. Old as she was, she still moved with an almost unnatural grace. Her Quirk hadn't been discussed, but Izuku was beyond confused as to what it could be. So far he'd been witness to her walking without making a sound, running along walls as if they were the floor, jumping to heights pre-Quirk humans would've called inhuman, and striking with the precision of a career assassin. He and Shinso had quickly agreed that if she were so skilled and dangerous now, they never wanted to discover how scary she'd been before time had whittled away at her.
But as for this moment in time, the Crow appeared to be content to let her team's interns handle the scouting, which is why Izuku and Shinso found themselves in some dark back alley now. Apparently, this particular location was where a certain designer drug popular in certain circles was being sold to only the most trusted of clients. It was reportedly being sold for outrageously cheap prices for being both a relatively rare drug as well as highly illegal, which was suspicious in and of itself. The precautions they'd discovered the dealers had been taking to avoid being tracked by any third parties had deepened their concerns. Luckily for them, they'd been able to round up a few recorded addicts and, with a quick application of Gardener's 'Brainwash,' were pointed in the right direction.
Such directions were why they were now surrounding a nefariously plain-looking doughnut shop.
Again, Izuku wondered at how the locale appeared… completely and utterly unremarkable. The brick and mortar shop blended in perfectly with the surrounding buildings on the block, drawing no attention to itself with flashy signage or paint jobs. Its presence fit what one would expect to see in an area at the edge of a commercial district, down to the slightly weathered façade and half boarded up windows. It was entirely… normal.
Normal enough, ironically, to have both the pair of heroes-in-training and their Jaeger instructors on edge.
The entire task force had felt the normality of the building ping their paranoia senses. It was all too ordinary, too perfect in its urban decay camouflage. In a world were normalcy meant there really was no normal, where even the most humble of businesses were forced to fortify themselves against all sorts of localized disasters, finding a doughnut shop that looked like time had frozen it in a time of peace could only mean that something was wrong.
It had only taken a couple of minutes to notice the discrepancies. There was a noticeable lack of clientele. A cursory glance around the premises had brought into question the shop's apparent lack of a route for resupplying itself with periodic shipments. The menu, visible from outside, boasted perfectly reasonable prices, but with neither customers nor inflow of goods, there couldn't be a return flow of profits, which meant that a business like the one they'd been observing should have sunk long ago.
Izuku's assessment, given within five minutes of arriving at the locale, had been well received by the Jaegers. The trio had nodded approvingly without missing a beat, already coming to much of the same conclusion. Shinso had been surprised by the verdanette's deep analysis, but managed to keep a firm semblance of being too tired to care.
Surprisingly enough, after the analysis, it had taken ten minutes to convince the Jaegers to not just assault the place.
The third Jaeger, the one dressed mostly in black and going by the code name of 'Iron Bear,' had been visibly frustrated with Bloodborne and Gardener's pleas. To date, neither teen had heard an actual word from the man, at most an odd, lowly guttural growl or two, but even still they'd felt he was borderline feral. Earlier, when the Crow had slashed the legs of a fleeing informant, the Bear had immediately gotten a hold of the addict's neck and lifted him up into the air, singlehandedly. The sight had boggled Izuku and Shinso's minds due to the fact that while the older man looked strong, neck lifting an obese man with an unfortunate pig mutation Quirk should've been nearly impossible, even with a strength-enhancing quirk. The physics of the act were just that hard to overcome.
Ultimately it had been the Crow who had been the one to convince the Bear to allow Shinso to work his magic. Whatever she'd done, and neither Izuku nor Shinso had caught what it was, had just barely reigned in the aggressive Jaeger.
That restraint hadn't carried over unfortunately. As soon as they'd decided that the doughnut shop would need infiltration Ghoul had had to physically stop the man from just walking in with his axe unsheathed. To Izuku and Shinso's surprise, the ravenette had struggled to do so.
Throwing out a hastily-made plan had been the only way Izuku had been able to convince the Jaegers that waiting a measly ten more minutes would allow them to complete the mission more easily; stopping a potential massacre or someone on the team from getting injured hadn't seemed to cross any of the three adults' minds.
And it had been a rather simple plan, really.
Scouting out the back alley behind the shop had revealed a suspicious set of vents that were far too industrial for an establishment that purportedly sold doughnuts. On top of that Izuku had discovered what appeared to be a storm door into the building's basement that had been upgraded from a standard commercial brand metal hatch to a thick, military-grade version. This in itself wouldn't have been suspicious… on a government-operated installation. For a doughnut shop, however, such choices were seriously overkill, and against civil regulations. Recent laws reacting to Quirked violence might've allowed such renovation on a personal dwelling, but here it had set already twitchy alarm bells ringing.
Having been on a short timer, Izuku had sent Wraith to infiltrate through the vents, a task she'd set to with gusto. However, not even Izuku had understood why she'd worded the action as 'solid sneaking'…
Now, after waiting on the edge of his nerves, the hardly noticeable sound of combat boots landing on cement signaled to Izuku that the blonde undead had returned.
"Done Boss," Wraith announced with a self-satisfied grin, even as she managed to maintain a degree of more or less seriousness. "It's almost exactly as you said."
The grinning blonde paused, intentionally dragging out the rest of her report. Izuku, nerves fraying, moved with a VERY worried frown to ask for more details when Wraith finally decided to continue.
"Only two basements and a secret exit," The Wraith reported with a thumbs up, "Not the four basements and three secret exit set up you were worried about."
Izuku took a deep breath, mentally repeating to himself that he wouldn't change Saki's mischievous attitude for anything in the world. Her freedom to be a pain in his ass was evidence of her lasting humanity, and he was thankful for it, and her irritating behavior here wasn't hindering the operation at all.
"Good," Bloodborne replied, handing over a couple of breaching charges and flash bang grenades to his trusty, if happily delinquent, companion. "Guide the Iron Bear to where you think the secret exit's entrance out here is and get ready."
Seeing Sak—Wraith go stiff at the prospect of walking around with the murderous agent didn't give Izuku an ounce of vindictive glee, definitively nothing like that, no sir. He especially felt nothing when he noticed that the blonde had been forced to jog at a comically fast pace when the Iron Bear had quickly gained on her due to his size… his ominous axe already in hand…
He did feel an overwhelming sense of anxiety though.
Taking a moment to go over what he had on hand, Izuku turned his focus to the tools he'd brought with him. In his right hand he carried the combat tool that Mei had made exclusively for his use, the walking cane forged from a Tungsten-Steel alloy. Its handle, made of an insulating polymer, was the only indication of the weapon's hidden mechanism, that the largely nonthreatening walking stick was capable of extending into a chain-whip with dynamos placed at regular intervals.
Hatsume had called her 'baby' the Threaded Cane, why Izuku could only guess, but after being shown its capacity to build up a moderately dangerous electrical charge after enough consecutive swings in its chain-whip form, he could honestly care less. The cane had been perfect; it wasn't lethal, not even incapacitating, but its jolts would surely help him in disarming weaker opponents and hopefully catch stronger adversaries off guard.
In Izuku's left hand, he held a modified version of his prototype gun, its beta design, so to speak. It was now double barreled, almost more cannon than pistol, and capable of handling both foam bullets and stun shells. A tiny lever next to where his thumb would rest served not only as a safety, but also as the means to choose from single to double shot. It honestly looked a little outlandish, and Hatsume had demonstrated to him the addition of a special mechanism that made it even louder than a regular pistol to boot. It was everything that Izuku could've asked for: utility and intimidation rolled into one.
"In position. Charges ready," Wraith announced through the comm-bead. "Ready for countdown."
Izuku took one more deep breath, steeling himself for what was about to happen.
"On my mark," Bloodborne commanded with total—non-existent—confidence. Even just standing there he could feel his stomach turning itself into knots. Why had he been chosen as leader of the operation? Was it punishment for speaking out against the Jaegers' shared bloodlust? "Three… two… one. Breach!"
The moment the order was given, Izuku felt Tae's hand fall onto his shoulder. It was like the undead girl really wanted to prevent him from joining in the soon-to-be carnage. It was also wholly unnecessary.
BOOM! CRASH! BAM-BA-BAM-BAM!
The muffled ignition of a breaching charge was quickly followed by the sounds of violence. As had been agreed, neither Izuku nor Shinso were actually meant to partake in any violence if it could be avoided; they were instead positioned at the public entrance and exit of the doughnut shop so they could block any potential runners from escaping. Even Wraith, undead though she was, had been ordered earlier on to merely guard the secret exit as the Iron Bear did his job.
On guard and growing greener in the face by the moment, neither hero-in-training believed for a second that they would ever be able to un-hear the fleshy impact sounds—accompanied by horrifying screams—that soon came from within the shop.
Izuku Midoriya, hero-in-training and staunch proponent of being a force for good, was learning. That day, he learned more than most in the hero business would ever learn. Whereas Spooks were all about stealth and secrecy, of precision and efficiency, and finishing their missions with the least amount of overt drama possible, the Jaegers could be seen as their exact opposites.
One of the front windows of the doughnut shop shattered, the body of a person flying through it and slamming hard against a street lamppost. There was a distinct crunching sound as the body struck the metal pole, followed by a more disturbing lack of further movement once said body slid down to hit the ground.
If Spooks were scalpels, then Jaegers were definitely wrecking balls covered in demolition charges.
Roughly five minutes later…
When the two heroes-in-training were given the okay to enter the shop by Silver Crow, they immediately wished they hadn't.
"Your predictions and strategy were almost spot on, Bloodborne," The Crow announced, praising the green-haired teen as she looked to both students. Besides her head, not a single part of the older woman moved from her spot guarding the door to the shop's backroom. "There was actually less resistance than what you had predicted since the guards were slightly less prepared, but I will take that as a good thing."
A good thing? The shop was a mess.
Such praise felt like mockery in the face of the bloody massacre that seemed to have occurred during the operation. In the storefront alone Izuku and Shinso could see five bodies. Based on the dress of the corpses, it appeared there had been three workers and two clients that had been spread across the room… as in… literally spread about in several pieces.
"Hey Boss!" Wraith called, fake cheer heavily weighing in her voice as she entered the storefront, "Good thing you didn't try to enter from the secret exit. Shit went down over there. On an unrelated note, don't fuck with the Bear."
While Saki being serious about anything, much less giving a warning was disturbing in and of itself, Izuku catching a subtle nod from the Crow made his feeling of dread grow even worse. The rebellious undead was no stranger to violence, having lived and died by it, but it seemed like even she had a limit to what she found tolerable. Trying to distract himself from the pit that had replaced his stomach, Izuku cast his thoughts out to what he could use to distract himself.
"You doing alright, Gardener?" Bloodborne finally decided to ask. Catching sight of the violette, he was glad he'd done so; Shinso looked positively ill.
"No." Came the voice of the brainwasher, slightly synthesized due to the only equipment he'd been able to procure that wasn't the most basic tactical gear UA's clearly biased public contractors would give someone with a "villain's quirk," his voice-modulating mouth guard. "Not everyone can get over this as easily as you do Bloodborne."
Unknown to most, Hitoshi Shinso was no stranger to gruesome sights. Having grown up in and then become an enforcer for The Garden had meant that he'd had to deal with seriously messed up people from time to time, and the consequences of their actions. That had included seeing corpses, and worse.
Most of the time it had been him cleaning up a mess caused by one of his more violent aunties, those whose pasts came back to haunt them and were reacted to accordingly. Far more scarcely, but infinitely more traumatizing, were the occasions he'd had to step in and save one of his dear sisters from some twisted villain—or corrupt hero—before the freak succeeded in expanding their gruesome trophy collection.
In all the time he'd spent under Aunt Harribel as one of Mama-Yu's enforcers, only once had he failed to reach one of his sisters in time…
The memory of that failure was what fueled his need to become a strong, reliable hero.
"Why do you think that?" Bloodborne all but snapped out, pulling Shinso from his thoughts. The verdenette's exasperation was quite clear. "Why does everyone think that?!"
Staring his internship partner dead in the eye, Shinso pointed behind the necromancer without looking away. Just looking at Ghoul, the guy's first partner, should've been reason enough right?
For his part, Izuku grit his teeth, but said nothing. He supposed it made sense to the outside observer. He'd been exposed to death far earlier than most people ever would be, and had admittedly overcome it on several occasions. With only those instances as evidence, it would be natural for outsiders to believe he was inured to death, even if that was far from the truth.
"He has a point, Boss." Wraith conceded, not helping at all.
"Guh!" Ghoul rebuked, lolling her head to the side and glaring duller at the blonde.
Izuku Midoriya might not have been a stranger to death, but the truth was far simpler than he'd become immune to its effects. Rather than being unfazed, it was his ability to keep a stony face in all situations that never betrayed his true emotions. In truth, Izuku's heart ached; he truly felt for those whose lives had ended too soon, both in regards to the innocent who deserved to live longer, fuller lives, and the villain who still needed to pay for their crimes in full.
"So you still feel something? Even for these animals?" The Fox asked, his question breaking the teens from their discussion, the two remembering that they were in the middle of a very real, very important international mission and not a school simulation. "Are you going to defend them now too?"
Both Izuku and Shinso flinched, whether from the Jaeger's harsh tone or the blood-soaked, serrated blade in his hands. It was honestly up for debate.
"No…" Bloodborne replied weakly, though he balled his fists as he steeled himself. Defiantly, he raised his eyes to meet those of the scarred agent. "But I would rather capture them alive than this—this slaughter. These people deserved to face justice. How do we know any one of them might not have been here against their will? How does skipping judge and jury and jumping straight to executioner make anything be—"
Rather than being interrupted by a rebuttal, as he'd expected, it was the deafening silence and judgmental stare that stopped Izuku cold. Swallowing whatever he'd been about to say, Golden Fox turned to look at Silver Crow. The elder lady only gave a silent shake of her head. The man huffed before turning to walk into the other room.
Izuku Midoriya gulped, understanding only then that he had failed something, although he had no idea exactly what. In contrast Shinso merely frowned, saying nothing but growing worried all the same. Both of them had been chosen for this, handpicked by a Spook no less and accepted by the Powers That Be inside the UN, but now he felt like they didn't understand what was really going on.
"Come," the Crow bid, her grandmotherly tone utterly failing to instill any level of comfort in the two boys, "It's time for you both to do your parts in all this."
Their parts… Interrogation.
Following the Crow, the trio entered the adjacent room that the Fox had retreated through, Bloodborne and Gardener immediately noticing another three mutilated corpses. This time it was two men and one woman, at least two of them mutants and all three big enough to intimidate lesser people. They were strewn about like torn apart ragdolls, and all had blades in their hands, still attached or not.
It was getting harder for both youths to see these people as having been present 'against their will.'
Moving down the back room's hidden stairs into a first and then second basement, both heroes-in-training were thankful the underground floors were clean for their innocent eyes. The first basement held only storage boxes and crates. The second though, was full of laboratory equipment, and stacks of boxes marked 'FOR DISTRO' lined the walls. A single upturned box had its contents spilled out onto the floor, and no one could deny the sight of the glass vials filled with toxic green liquid within.
This was a Trigger production center all right, albeit a smaller one by the looks of it.
Both teens had to fight a knee-jerk reaction to rear back from the highly illegal substance.
"Here are our targets. Your targets," the Fox announced as they finally reached a much small room with only a table and a couple of chairs inside. A man in a lab coat had already been forced into one chair while another two men and two women were tied up and kneeling in a corner. All five captives appeared to be dressed as scientists, or perhaps medical staff. "Do your part."
Both teens nodded. There was nothing to say. This is what they were here for.
"Normally, this would be the part where we teach you how our interrogations are performed, all the ins and outs of the trade so to speak," the Crow said, her light tone not at all matching the subject matter being discussed. The elderly Jaeger tilted her head while looking at the two students. "Smith though… she insisted on us letting you do things your own way this time. So… out of respect for her professional opinion… go ahead."
Realizing now just how much the Spook had been involved, Bloodborne and Gardener both nodded in understanding.
"You're up man," Gardener whispered to his classmate, barely shaking his head. "'Brainwashing' is good at physical manipulations, not this kind of thing. I can make 'em dance, not sing."
Filing that bit of information away for later, Bloodborne sighed, but stepped forward all the same.
Moving to sit in front of the target, the white coat simply scoffed in response. The self-proclaimed man of science knew his rights, he'd been in situations like this before. He also knew exactly how things would play out, if he played his hand correctly. He'd never seen or heard of any of these heroes before, and one thing you could always count on in this world were no-namers being willing to bend the rules to get a chance at a bigger score to up their fame.
"This is completely unnecessary my friends," the man said calmly, "There is no need to play the good and bad cop routine. None of us need to waste our time when I'm perfectly willing to cooperate. Just call up an advocate and we can get started."
In the past the man had relied on various human rights committees that ensured the well being of non-heroes in criminal situations for developments such as this. There was always a bleeding heart willing to take a case like his if it meant keeping heroes from possibly abusing their powers.
"As soon as you get me a lawyer and a deal, with the respective assurances of protection, you'll get all the information you want from me."
Bloodborne paused for a second, blinking at the sheer audacity of their captive. Didn't this guy understand the deep shit he was in right now? Did he truly believe he could hide behind the law after everything he'd been involved with? Had he done so before? What kind of person would help a criminal like this escape justice?
"I'm sorry if this bursts your bubble or gets in the way of your training kid," The man apologized with a mocking smile, obviously taking pleasure in calling out what he realized was a rookie. "I don't know what overly dramatic Operation Improbable shit they fill your heads with back at your schools, but most of us back alley docs are actually quite reasonable, and intelligent. There's no need for you to put on a play and pretend to break the law. We're not going to resist once you've made the arrest. The sooner we get on with the legalities…"
Bloodborne thought he finally understood.
"I'm afraid you're making a mistake here, sir." Gardener spoke up for his partner, just as Ghoul and Wraith took up positions behind the white coat. "We're not heroes, and this isn't an arrest."
The white coat looked confused at such a declaration. The gears in his head turned so hard at the new information one could see them strain in his eyes. Possibilities came and went as his neurons fired at rapid speed. Was this a hostile take over from a rival faction? Was he going to be hired by a rising power?
"This is a Jaeger Hunt."
Bloodborne's declaration froze the room, the hero-in-training all too pleased to finally get an expected reaction from the Trigger dealers. It was surprisingly amusing to see the very human reactions of their captives.
The restrained men and women in the corner squirmed like worms in a storm, each trying to make themselves appear even smaller than they already were. The white coat sitting at the table was the most reactive; he immediately did his best to try to bolt. In fact, by the look on his face he fully intended on scurrying all the way to Africa that very minute.
Instead he found his forehead slamming the table.
"Where the fuck do you think you're going, asshole?" Wraith literally growled, her eyes blazing with absolute delight. She twisted the white coat's arm harshly, clearly intent on breaking it. "The fun part's just about to start!"
"AH! PLEASE! STOP!" The man screamed for all he was worth, completely unused to being manhandled, and absolutely terrified of being in the hands of international agents rather than local authorities. "I WILL TALK!"
"Of course you'll talk," Bloodborne agreed smoothly, reaching for a large syringe that Ghoul extended to him. "You'll be answering all of our questions, and we'll believe every word you say…"
For a split second, Gardener though he saw a hint of approbation from the Fox. The flicker of emotion disappeared the moment Bloodborne worked his magic.
It only took a single syringe of blood, and one minute for that to settle, and then there was no more struggling from the white coat. The man's eyes became a glowing, bright red from one blink to the next, and his tongue became loose immediately after.
The interrogation that followed barely lasted ten minutes. They were the worst ten minutes of Izuku and Shinso's lives, not because the questioning was violent, but because of how much information 'Cursed Blood' made the white coat reveal.
Izuku Midoriya, code name: Bloodborne, and Hitoshi Shinso, code name: Gardener, were learning.
They were learning that the darkness of their world that crept in from the shadows was vast and deep, and that to ensure the peace their loved ones deserved, there would come times they'd need to get their hands dirty…
Thankfully, today was not one of those times.
"Hosu?" Gardener asked, no small amount of trepidation heightening his modulated voice. That was one of the only places they weren't supposed to touch during this mission, "Why Hosu?!"
It wasn't the possibility of facing off against the Hero Killer that worried the violette. Such an encounter would be… paltry… considering his present company. All things considered, he didn't think that Stain could possibly pose much of a threat against a single Jaeger, let alone three. It was the mess the limelight heroes would make when—not if—they crossed paths.
Jaegers didn't follow the official 'Hero Standards' set by the HPSC, after all, and anyone involved with them immediately went on the Commission's shit list.
"I don't know," the white coat answered truthfully, unable to say anything else while his soul was the grip of the necromancer's Quirk. "But all signs point towards the Big Boss wanting to perform a test of the refined product there for some reason. He's already ordered the Source to be sent there for the very same reason."
"Hmm, it's been weaponized then?" The Fox asked suddenly, quickly being seconded by a guttural growl from the Bear. The big man looked far passed ready to tear the white coat apart with his bare hands after hearing him spill his guts for the last ten minutes.
"I don't know." The disgraced scientist shook his head, portraying a calm that he most definitely didn't actually feel, if he could feel anything at all at the moment. "It's always just been a lucrative drug to me and my crew. We never thought to weaponize it."
While neither he nor Gardener had been fully briefed on the details of their mission, kept on a need-to-know only, Bloodborne had been able to piece together a fraction of the greater picture since they'd started from overheard conversations and his inherent heightened intelligence. At this point, he believed he'd puzzled out what the actual job of INTERPOL's Spooks and Jaegers were, and why the weaponization of a new drug had his instructors so reactive.
You see, as everyone knew, Quirks changed the world in many ways when they'd mysteriously appeared. In many cases, those changes were for the worse.
Before the Age of Quirks, terrorism had been a known quantity of great evil, a cancer to the global society as a whole. Religious fanatics, unfathomably greedy politicians, the affluent who were apathetic to the struggles of those with less fortune than themselves; whatever the precipitating details, certain people jeopardized the peace of the world on a regular basis. They would either try to start new armed conflicts, or continue to worsen already unfolding conflicts occurring by spreading death and misery through ballistic bombardment, crooked treaties and deals, bioweapons, and worse.
The only saving grace of that era was that those terrorists, conventional and otherwise, were relatively few in number.
In the new age, in their Quirked world, no one could afford to risk terrorism at any scale. With eighty percent of the global population born with some sort of superhuman power, the risk of an individual being Quirked with an ability that had the potential to be wielded as a bioweapon or other sort of weapon of mass destruction was a daily concern. Human rights, however, demanded that everyone be given the benefit of the doubt, and even then humane treatment whenever found guilty of such crimes.
Advocates for such rights also tended to forget the rights of the victims who suffered under power-mad lunatics.
Thus, once the first signs of global stability were realized, the UN had used its new authority to set the rules of the Quirked world with an iron hand. Terrorism, in any form, would not be tolerated. At all. Convicted terrorists would be punished, without question, in accordance with their threat level. Any countries found to be infected with nascent or realized terrorists would be subjected to a swift but total blockade and economic embargo until they solved their problem themselves. If a country was found to be unable to comply under its own power, the sovereignty of said country would be withheld and its administration would be temporarily placed under BSAA jurisdiction until the issue was solved.
"You created a new brand of Trigger that comes with the side effect of warping Emitter and Transformation Quirks into Mutant ones," Bloodborne snapped, steadily growing louder with each word. He couldn't believe the idiocy of this self-proclaimed scientist. "And you never considered it could be used as a weapon?! Do you even realize what could happen to Japan if fringe elements got a hold of such a resource?!"
Historically, countries placed under blockade and embargo inevitably suffered from the exclusion, as did their citizens. Almost no one in contemporary society believed it was a good thing to be cut off from the world. Even less people wanted the BSAA knocking on their door.
While the martial branch of the UN put forth nothing less than a heroic effort to prevent global disasters, they were also well known for their… overzealousness. Case and point, a decade ago they had been deployed to pacify a cabal of villains in The People's Democratic Commune of Tanzan, a country that had risen from the ashes of the Quirk Wars in Africa. The villains had gotten their hands on some sort of super-virus and, when reports from the country's government had abruptly cut off, the BSAA had been mobilized. Tanzan had been razed, and was still in shambles even now. Such utter destruction was difficult to criticize, as the alternative would have seen a quarter of the global population dead and half of what remained nothing but shambling corpses.
From all of that and what he'd previously deduced, Izuku had come to realize that Spooks and Jaegers were preemptive tools used by the UN before the BSAA was called upon. If his hypothesis was correct, a Spook's job was to locate and analyze possible global-sized threats and, if possible, remove them quietly. Such a role certainly explained why they had so much authority; most countries would most likely rather allow the shadowy agents to do as they please and brush a few bodies under the proverbial rug than have to deal with Jaegers or, Glowing Baby forbid, the BSAA.
"My intention was to design a type of Trigger that was easy to produce while inherently addictive and therefore profitable," the white coat repeated himself, sounding weak. Even under 'Cursed Blood's Control, it seemed he was realizing how deep in the shit he was. "I was never in this to design a weapon."
"That is not any better," the Fox replied, reaching for his serrated blade. His emotionless face was visibly straining to remain so. "And neither does it serve as a defense."
Speaking of the Jaegers, Izuku could see now that they were the agents deployed when things had escalated too far for a Spook to handle, but not too out of proportion that the BSAA's response wouldn't be overkill. Suffering collateral damages such as a few buildings being demolished and a number of vehicles being totaled, on top of needing to cover up probably dozens of bodies, was still a much better option than having a country invaded by a rather overenthusiastically aggressive army.
"You said that the Source was being sent to Hosu," Bloodborne said abruptly, surely interrupting an impending murder. Seeing the Fox and the Bear so close to killing had sent his mind scrambling to find a reason to keep the prisoners alive so they could be properly judged instead of flat out murdered. "Where is YOUR crew's component?"
For the first time since meeting their instructors, both Izuku and Shinso could've sworn that they saw surprise flash across the features of the three Jaegers… even through their facial accessories.
Unfortunately, the reaction of the white coat instantly dulled the surprise and satisfaction of thinking of something the professional agents hadn't thought to ask. The so-called scientist, who until then had been passively sitting under the effects of 'Cursed Blood,' now looked an ugly mix of horrified and disgusted. And rebellious.
The white coat nearly strangled himself, his jaw flexing to the point his teeth might've cracked as he suddenly gave every bit of his willpower to resist speaking further. Ultimately though, it was a pointless endeavor.
"It's a… it's a… a… mons…ster…"
In another world, in many alternate timelines, Izuku Midoriya might've failed to understand the true meaning behind such words. As the hero-in-training Bloodborne, however, who had lived the life of THIS Izuku Midoriya…
The word was not said with the voice of Bloodborne as the Jaegers and Gardener had been expecting. That single word was spoken with the weight of something far from human.
Izuku couldn't have cared less.
For the everyday person, the word 'monster' was once associated with anything non-human, whether that be in appearance or action. In the Age of Quirks, that definition had been forced to change to mostly indicate mutated animals, as the idea of a 'normal' person was no longer easy to describe, or the worst of the worst villains. However, for those unfortunate souls like Bloodborne and Gardener, that word took on a much darker meaning, one laden with prejudice, bigotry, and pain.
"Th-there is a hidden ch-chamber behind the second shelf in the next room, th-that's where we keep it." The white coat was sweating bullets, his teeth chattering as he tried fruitlessly to fight against Bloodborne's Control. His eyes watered as he realized what was going to happen, and the fate he would face after the truth was revealed.
As he'd been speaking, the other detained members of his crew had begged for him to stop, for him to think of what he was doing. It was only once they realized he couldn't that they turned to begging for mercy instead.
Marching over to the now revealed secret room took barely a minute, but overcoming what they would discover inside would take Izuku and Shinso years…
Hitoshi Shinso, code name: Gardener, was well acquainted with the darker aspects of the world. For as long as he could remember, he and his family had always dealt with, and fought against, the dirtier shadows of society that the great limelight heroes never seemed to bother shedding light on. All told, as far as he could calculate, Shinso and his family had managed to rescue more lost and broken souls from the depths of darkness and despair than many Pros could boast throughout their entire careers. Only All Might and the next seven Pro Heroes after him in Japan had comparable records.
As the saying goes, the brighter the light, the darker the shadow, and in the wake of the overwhelming beacon that was All Might, the shadows did become smaller, but those that remained grew exponentially darker.
"M-Mother mercy…" Gardener choked out, his voice strangled as he and his classmate laid eyes upon the illicit lab's 'component.'
The chamber was revealed to be set up in such a way that it resembled a hospital room, but one from a nightmarish mirrorworld. Chained upon the singular bed in the room laid a heavily mutated—and naked—woman, though it was impossible to tell if her state of being was the result of Trigger or if how she appeared was her natural form.
Immediately noticeable due to her nakedness was the woman's pale bluish skin, which stood out against patches of bright green scales. The woman's serpentine tail, instead of legs, also stood out as it was long enough it trailed over the edge of the bed and coiled half-heartedly upon the ground. With her arms chained to the wall as they were, the badly cut feathers that grew from their underside were clear to see as well, along with the mint green tentacles that fell from her head instead of hair. If she'd been healthier, both heroes-in-training separately admitted to themselves that the woman would have been a gorgeous sight to see.
She was far from healthy. The unknown woman kept prisoner by the lab was covered in scars, lacerations, and tubes. Even her naked frame, which might have evoked some sort of hormonal or psychological response from the two teenagers, couldn't rouse anything but heart-aching levels of horror and pity.
And then Bloodborne and Gardener could no longer look at the victim they had just found, and turned their gazes to the rest of the room.
Immediately, they wished they hadn't. Worse than even the state of the woman was what lined the table next to her.
Glass jars. Test tubes. Beakers. These and more each contained a menagerie of grotesque horrors. The beakers empty at that moment, but the dried residue that could be seen even from a distance was enough to turn stomachs. The test tubes were nearest though and, with each filled by a far too familiar crimson substance, were instantly suspect. However, they were unlabeled so their true contents could be innocuous. If one hoped hard enough. No, it was the glass jars that grabbed and held the attention of the heroes-in-training and their Jaeger instructors with an iron grip.
Fetuses. In various stages of development, some so small they looked no different than a mass of cells, each glass jar contained its own nightmarish load. Some also held large, egg-like fleshy bags, but based on their neighbors' contents the true nature of those 'bags' could be guessed easily enough.
Lastly, and almost completely overlooked, was a machine that appeared to be a cross between a centrifuge and some sort of… mixer.
"Animals…" Bloodborne growled, his mind quickly affixing all of the pieces together. He felt nauseous just at the mere implications.
Trigger, such as it was known, had always been described as a drug that altered the Quirk Factor of the user by artificially stimulating their Plus Alpha genes, leading to increased Quirk potency or temporary Awakenings. It had also always been known to be incredibly addictive and come with a high risk of causing mental instability. As time went on, strains of the drug had been concocted that were even mutagenic in nature, if no less addictive and destabilizing.
However, this widely held understanding of the drug was half-assed at best. Exactly HOW did Trigger affect the user's Quirk Factor, a fundamental part of their being? Chemical compounds alone could disrupt and or alter DNA, sure, but such effects would be minor in the short term and far from dramatic as Trigger use was known to be. It would take significant use over time, or doses high enough to induce instant death, to get something like a finger-blade Quirk to the point it appeared more like a sword-hand Quirk.
Stem cells, however, could solve such a mystery. Capable of doing any task by becoming anything, stem cells, especially those from a mutant-type individual that were even more transmutative by nature, would theoretically be able to override a person's original genetic code by matching it, but with Trigger's signature boost coded in. And if those stem cells came from a mutant-type who by all appearances could stand in for Echidna, Mother of Monsters…
Bloodborne flinched, ripped from his thoughts as the woman chained to the bed tried to speak. Her voice, whispery and weak, sounded as if it were fighting through immense pain and grief just to be heard.
"P-P-Please…" the woman said again, "K-Kill me…"
Bloodborne felt his rage spike at the plea. He made to take a step into the room, but Gardener moved first, throwing a hand against his chest and keeping him back. Almost snarling, the necromancer whipped his head around to the hypocritical bastard who would dare hold him back from saving someone in need… only to freeze as he saw the grit teeth and tear tracks trailing down the violette's masked face. Swallowing, Bloodborne focused on his classmate, only then realizing the teen was stiffly, and frantically, eyeballing the rest of the room.
He'd been scanning for traps. Damnit.
Realizing he could've just gotten them all killed by letting his emotions drive his actions and activating some sort of security measure, Bloodborne swallowed his fury and revulsion down and kept still. Needing to be able to move, to help, he quickly decided to add his own eyes to the search.
The room was small, smaller than either room in the basement they'd already been in. The walls were bare as well, even the ceiling failing to show signs of hidden defenses such as paneling or misplaced dust. Unfortunately, his careful scanning became a double-edged sword, and Bloodborne realized something else horrific about the room. There were no signs of the laboratory equipment being moved away from the woman, not even a single scuff mark on the floor. These monsters, more deserving of the name than Izuku had ever been, had conducted their 'work' right in front of their victim, which meant she'd not only been forced to carry nascent life against her will, but then had been forced to see and feel that life be ripped out of her and… processed… like it was nothing more than an ingredient in a recipe.
Bloodborne's grip on his threaded cane tightened until the knuckles beneath his gloves turned white as bone.
"Room's clear! Hang in there ma'am, we're getting you out of there!" Gardener declared, instantly lowering the arm against Bloodborne and all but rushing to the captive woman. "Everything will be—"
"Kill… me…" The woman said again, her broken voice matching the emptiness in her tone. It was the voice of someone who didn't want to continue anymore, "Please…"
Gardener was experiencing his worst nightmare.
He'd arrived late to a rescue before, and had even failed completely once, but never in all his time at The Garden had he ever faced an individual who'd just… given up. He'd heard his aunties speak about it before, late at night when he should've been in bed and asleep, and their descriptions of victims being so destroyed they'd lost the will to live, to even be rescued and work towards healing had been unbelievable.
Staring the truth in the face… It made his blood boil.
And yet, the room was entirely silence, bar the weak pleading of the drug-makers' victim.
"B-Boss?" Wraith finally called out weakly. Her link to her master was flooding her with a rage unlike anything she'd ever felt before. It was all consuming, all encompassing, and yet… surprisingly cold.
"The victim has made their intention clear," The Crow cut in, interrupting the scene. She stepped forward into the room with a deathlike stillness, brandishing a heavy and wicked looking dagger. "She has no desire to continue suffering in this world."
Both heroes-in-training and the two undead present turned to look at the Jaeger in shock and horror… well, Ghoul just turned and glared. Seeing a victim of a heinous crime die in front of them hadn't been on the mission's dossier, much less for their murder to be carried out at the hands of their own instructor!
"W-what?!" Bloodborne stammered out, his own sensibilities abruptly crashing and burning at the unexpected path this entire operation had taken. Gardener would have seconded his notion if he hadn't been too busy choking on his own emotions.
"Death is a part of Life, and as Hunters, it is our duty to administer it swiftly and efficiently whenever needed," the Crow said, holding her dagger with both hands before, with a swift motion, splitting it in two thinner blades. "That applies both as just punishment for the deserving wicked, or as sweet release for the pleading afflicted."
In a moment that further shattered the two teens' expectations, they suddenly found themselves holding one of the Crows' daggers each.
The divided blades were wicked, jagged things on their outer sides, and even a bit rusted near their hilts. Their combined form was an unpractical weapon, one whose design was crafted to dispense a most painful death upon the prey. When split, however, the internal edges of the new blades were revealed, clean, sharp and smooth. From that side, the blades could've passed as surgical tools designed to cut deep and fast, preventing any undue pain while being employed.
"It seems that Mercy will be another lesson that you two will learn today," the Crow continued, solemn yet uncompromising. "The Jaegers are not heroes, our hands are not clean. We do not save people, we save the world. And we do that through the Hunt. We seek out our prey and let nothing, not even civilians, get in our way. But that does not mean we are without Mercy. When we find injured souls, those who have suffered to the point they can no longer seek out life, we recognize that it is our duty to offer those unfortunates one last Mercy. Eternal rest."
The dogma held no emotion, only logic. A gloved hand on each teens' shoulder pointing them towards the chained woman, still appearing to have gone through a living nightmare. Worse still, the poor woman, seeming to realize that release was finally at hand, shakily raised her head and nodded weakly… looking grateful.
Bloodborne and Gardener stared at the knives in their hands, at the daggers they held to end a life. How where they supposed to react to this? This couldn't be the right answer? There HAD to be a way out of this!
Nearly forgotten to the side, Wraith jerked out of the blue-screen she'd been stuck in and grit her teeth. Taking a deep breath, even though she knew she didn't technically need to, she stepped forward. She knew what needed to be done here… what she needed to do. As one of her Boss's enforcers, it only made sense.
She would delivery the old bitch's Mercy
The Boss wasn't ready for something like this, it was clear to see and even resonated as low, panicky pinpricks across the bond she had with him. She, however, was already dead, and hadn't been a stranger to Death before her end anyway. She'd save her Boss from the trauma, and the stigma, of taking his first life before he'd even made it as a Pro.
Before she could take another step, Ghoul reached out and gripped the blonde's shoulder, holding her in place rather fiercely. Before she could turn to shout at her sister for interfering, Wraith noticed the grave look the ravenette held in her dull eyes.
What was that?
WhAt. Is. THy. DeSIrE?
Bloodborne clenched his teeth hard. He hated this. Why did it always seem like the world was hell bent on making things exceedingly shitty? Why was he being put in this situation? Couldn't he just save the woman now and get her to a psychiatrist? Why was The Crow adamant that he and Gardner had to kill her? Taking a life was the easy way. It was infuriating, really.
"M-Midoriya…" Gardener choked out, actually breaking protocol and speaking the verdanette's civilian name. Without turning his head, Bloodborne looked over to his classmate. The violette did not look like he was dealing with their new task well. If his heart were any more on his sleeve it would've been coated in blood. "C-Can't you do something? Your quirk heals everything right? Can it heal souls?"
A brief flare of misdirected anger sparked in Bloodborne at hearing yet another person see his damned Quirk as a be-all-end-all.
"And what about you?" He growled, "Just tell her to not be suicidal. Hell, demand she go to a hospital and get help. That would solve everything wouldn't it?"
The flash of anger was immediately snuffed out entirely when Bloodborne heard Gardener's breath catch in his throat before he tried to swallow it down. A stifled sob followed, and the verdenette felt like a complete bastard for taking his frustration out on his helpless classmate. The sheer despair in the insomniac's voice, even through his voice modulator, should've clued him.
Gardener couldn't do much of anything in this situation, at least with his quirk.
'Brainwashing' required speech and response to activate. It then hijacked the brain's frontal lobe and took over the motor function of anyone under its influence. However, as he'd seen in the Sports Festival and had been reminded of several times since the internship, was that Gardener's quirk was nowhere near perfect.
A simple jostling could break someone from its hold. Any commands over the basics were nearly impossible for those under it to complete, as the cerebellum wasn't affected by its control and thus fine-tuning of motor functions was out of the question. Those under the quirk also couldn't speak for the same reason due to the temporal lobe.
And worst of all, for a situation like this, those under 'Brainwashing's' spell would come to without any change in their original behavior. Gardener couldn't hypnotize people and give them directives to be or think differently when they woke up. That wasn't how his quirk worked.
So using 'Brainwashing' on the woman chained to the bed in front of them would ultimately do nothing, except probably make Gardener feel horrible for using his quirk on a woman who'd already lost so much control over her own life.
Almost cracking his teeth from gnashing them at how stupid and thoughtless he'd been, Bloodborne reached out and laid an understanding hand on his classmate's arm.
"Sorry. I… Just, sorry."
Seeing neither of the students appeared to be willing or able to take the necessary step, Crow shook her head. The first gift of Mercy was always the hardest. How long had it been since she'd been in their place? Had she ever? She made to take the daggers back to do the deed herself, but right before she could, Bloodborne stepped forward.
"Yes," The verdanette said, grimly approaching the chained woman. Besides his feet taking him closer to her, the teen was still as stone as he moved. Then, he raised the dagger in his hand… to his other wrist, which had somehow gotten uncovered. "I will save her. Even from despair. Even from herself."
Had the Crow not been a consummate Hunter, one with years under her belt, she would've flinched back at the aura she suddenly felt boiling up from the teen in front of her. She made to stop him out of instinct, every one of her senses was screaming at her that whatever was about to happen would be completely out of her capabilities to undo. She felt in her bones that—the one called Wraith blocked her way?
"Didn't you tell him to deliver Mercy?" The undead delinquent asked, a grin full of false bravado snarling back at the Jaeger. "Let the Boss do his work, will ya?"
More concerned that her intern's zombie was acting on its own than trying to stop her, since any attempt to actually do so would've met with the undead's immediate—and final—demise, the Crow nonetheless paused. She narrowed her eyes behind her mask.
It seemed she'd be getting front row seats to the mission's secondary objective after all.
"Do not, poor soul, seek Death's embrace," Bloodborne intoned as he reached the woman. "While you've so much of Life to face."
The woman, still chained, began to shiver as the strangely dressed man with the knife no longer appeared to be deciding on whether to kill her or not, but something else entirely. She would've struggled, but after being held captive so long, and the horrors she'd endured in this room, her broken body could hardly muster the energy to lean her head back so she could keep an eye on the new possible tormentor.
"For though your wounds are grave and deep," the necromancer continued, eyes bleeding from green to red, "Hope still remains as yours to keep."
Bloodborne raised his wrist, sliding the Crow's half-dagger against his skin just right to make a bleeding cut without nicking an artery. The woman chained to the bed didn't even have time, or the energy, to yelp before he pressed the bleeding appendage against her lips. The first gulp was entirely out of reflex, more to wet a dry mouth than to accept the dubious gift. But, it was enough.
"This is my Mercy, freely given," Bloodborne spoke, feeling as 'Cursed Blood' activated. "Your grief, your pain and sorrow riven!"
Between one long moment and the next, the woman's eyes snapped open. Slitted citrines pulsed before transitioning to glowing rubies. The Crow tensed, seeing what she'd been briefed about in person. They'd been told their charges both had quirks that had the potential to upend the world, but nothing had prepared her for actually experiencing the more dangerous one in action.
"I demand, here and now, that Mnemosyne release your brow," Bloodborne still went on. As far as commands to 'Cursed Blood' went, this had to be one of his longest. But it had to be. He couldn't risk messing this one up. "And free you from your burdens hence, your just and rightful recompense."
The Crow had expected a great many things from seeing a supposedly 'extremely dark' quirk in action; the list of sinister applications had almost been longer than the profile on the teen himself. Right then, she'd thought this had all been some elaborate way of giving the victim a peaceful death through some theatre. Not how she'd thought he'd use his quirk, but thankfully not the worse. But then…
Then the woman began to visibly gain a healthier coloration, her blue skin and scales no longer dull and lackluster. The open wounds that had run up and down her body, the scars that had marked their predecessors… they all began to fade.
"One death there'll be, and that is true," Bloodborne finally declared, taking his wrist away from the woman. By that point she was able to sit up straight, her long tentacle-like hair the only cover to her modesty. "To memories that torment you! Now sleep, now slumber, the dark is past; when you awake, your new life will last!"
Bloodborne pulled his wrist back, the cut already healing shut. In contrast to the words spoken, the rescued woman didn't actually fall sleep right then. Or at least, she didn't appear to be asleep.
Once Bloodborne had stepped back, the woman straightened in her bed, pulling the chains that held her to the point they snapped. Her limbs, while still appearing to be emaciated, now held more than enough strength to break the restraints, her physical abilities now augmented to the point she could blitz her way out of the room if needed.
And yet, it was obvious that the woman wasn't about to move any further. Her breaking free of the chains hadn't been intentional action, merely a consequence of sitting up.
From under a fringe of shorter tentacle-hair, red glowing eyes marked the woman as a thrall of 'Cursed Blood.' She was a prisoner of the Sinister Hero's will, yet that meant she was still alive and in the process of recovering from her ordeal. When taking that into consideration and measuring it against the action he'd taken to get there the Crow didn't feel as if the teen had committed any crime. True, his ability was terrifying to witness, even for one such as her, but saving a life was saving a life, and could hardly be thought of as villainous.
Smith had warned them about how powerful his quirk was, but even as seriously as the agent had delivered her debrief then, now seemed criminally understated in light of what she'd just witnessed, and was witnessing, now.
"Will she be able to walk on her own?" The Crow finally asked, earning a wince from Gardener, who, absorbed as he had been in Bloodborne's actions, had forgotten that they were still on a mission. "We cannot delay further, no matter what."
Bloodborne muttered a curse under his breath. Of course he'd be rushed after just using Control and having 'Cursed Blood' set in. He would've liked to have been able to personally take this abused woman to a safe place but… well, Jaegers weren't rescue heroes.
"Yes, she can move on her own. But—"
"On it!" Gardener interrupted, pulling down his voice modulator. Hastily, he pulled out his standard issue tactical phone, the one all heroes and heroes-in-training used in the field. "Calling for a pick up now. They might be able to get here before we even leave."
There had rarely been a time that Hitoshi Shinso was more grateful for his family, and their protocols regarding rescuing those in need, than just then. He just needed to use the proper code words with whoever answered the phone and Mama-Yu and Nao-oji would do the rest. No questions asked… until later.
The call took less than a minute, a quick exchange of words far too fast for Bloodborne to follow. He barely had time to give the woman orders to await further rescue somewhere safe before Gardner had hung up and they were returning to the room where the other Jaegers and captives still where.
Sting operations such as theirs had a time limit, and once time ran out even Jaegers had to clear the scene before the risks became too great for the Powers That Be grew too unhappy. Since they'd completed the interrogation, and even managed to find and 'confiscate' the means of this branch of the Trigger ring's production, that meant they were running out of time.
They'd have to leave soon, and knowing that, both heroes-in-training wondered how the Jaegers were going to handle the monsters they'd discovered there. The so-called scientists didn't deserve much mercy, but they were prisoners and had surrendered. By law they had to be handed over to the authorities for due processing and sentencing. The question was, how were they going to both keep them in place for police pick up while also leaving post haste to their next destination?
Opening the door back to the room gave them their answer…
"HNN!" The Bear heaved as he brought his axe downward in a giant cleaving swing.
A rather wet and fleshy sound followed the motion.
The head 'scientist' was leaning over the table, his neck bent horribly after suffering the impact of what anyone could tell was a blunted edge.
The blunted axe still cut his flesh open, even if it only did so after crushing the man's trachea and maybe a vertebra or two.
"HN!" The Bear heaved again, striking the white coat for a second time.
This time the man's head was ripped off, unable to remain connected under the strength and pressure of the Jaeger's blows. Immediately a grotesque spluttering geyser of blood and gore spewed from the mauled stump that had been the 'scientist's neck.
The two teen's felt their hearts freeze in their chests as they witnessed a murder right before their eyes. A scream died in Izuku's throat. Hitoshi's stomach tried to rebel. The two silently looked at each other in wide-eyed disbelief.
"There are beasts all over the shop…" The Bear spoke for the first time, his words clearly directed at the teens even if he still hadn't turned to face them. "You'll deal with them, sooner or later."
The sight was so poignant that both heroes-in-training nearly missed when the Fox stepped through the remaining captives, his serrated blade drawn and carving through their throats as if they were wheat in the field.
That day, as those men and women died around them, Izuku and Hitoshi, students of the prestigious UA academy, learned that against the darkness of their world, those in power saw unleashing dark monsters of their own as their most efficient method of combat.
Jaegers were neither rescue heroes, nor capture heroes. They weren't combat heroes or stealth heroes, or even underground heroes. They weren't heroes at all. Jaegers were monsters, dogs of war unleashed to put an end to horrible things by any means necessary.
Neither teen would later argue that the inhuman 'scientists' didn't deserve their fates, but even so, their hearts would still yearn for a more… legitimate approach.
Magnus: For those of you who are unaware, there is a poll active to decide which story will follow after the completion of "Blessed With a Hero's Heart". The poll will remain open until the second to last chapter of that story is published.
Omake – Karma
Inside of a much too small office, a certain elderly lady kept to her task of organizing paperwork as she mentally went over the history of the company she'd been working for.
Herogear was the name of the business; short, easy to understand, and a name made of two words with weight enough to catch the eye all by themselves. Those were important aspects for a company focused on making the costumes and support gear for pro heroes. Unfortunately, its name was the only great thing about the company.
'What was she thinking?' The woman thought as she placed the latest batch of files in a corresponding cabinet, 'There was no need nor reason to do such a thing!'
Situated in a smaller-sized warehouse, the entirety of the Herogear company, from its offices to its workshops to even its storage area, was all in one place. In fact, calling it a small business was almost too generous for the company. Which was unfortunate.
When it had been founded, Herogear had been filled with those who dreamed of producing only the best gear for promising hero students, and one day, proper pro heroes. Years later, the fledgling support gear company could only eek out mediocre gear at best, and was only contracted by those who felt like showing a little pity for a might-have-been business.
'This is just so unfair…' The elderly woman continued thinking as she grabbed up the next batch of papers to process. Seeing the lengthy print, she steeled herself for a thorough read. 'It was by far the best contract we'd ever had! She should've spared no expense to make sure it worked out…'
The sad truth was that Herogear had fallen prey to the same hard reality that most up-and-coming support companies did; big name clients almost always stayed with big name companies.
Small-time companies like hers, in contrast, had to fight tooth and nail for contracts with even the bigger rural hero schools, the fifth or sixth options on hero-hopefuls' lists. Anything bigger would be nothing but a pipe dream. Their CEO, however, had refused to give up. She'd continued to send brochures to all the better-known hero schools like UA, Shiketsu, Ketsubustu, and even Seiai and Isamu, year after year. The pamphlets had promised their potential clients that they'd use 'the best materials available,' and that they'd 'keep the prices cheaper.'
All lies and embellishments.
By 'best materials available,' the CEO had meant 'best we can afford.' And 'keeping the prices cheaper,' had only been relative to their bigger, larger rivals; she'd still overpriced their gear by a wide margin.
Imagine their surprise then, when one day their dear CEO had burst into the office with a new contract in hand, one from not only a big name hero school, but the biggest and best. In retrospect, the moment she'd seen the official seal of UA on that paperwork, she should've quit.
Anyone with half a brain knew that UA didn't just expect their contracted support gear companies to perform their best, they expected them to apply the school's own motto of 'Plus Ultra' to everything they did. For Herogear, as pitiful as they were, such an opportunity wasn't a chance to catch their big break but an outright assurance of corporate suicide.
'We'll just make a cute little suit for the mutie, she said,' the old woman groused, remembering the CEO's words as she stamped the document in front of her before reaching for another notice of resignation. 'It's not like we'll have to give more than a token effort for a regenerator who's not even going to last past the Sports Festival, she said.'
After obviously accepting the contract, the student's notes and specifications had then arrived at the office. The schematics included had been nothing short of a marvel. Not only had the suit been designed to a T, almost as if the student knew what they were doing, but assimilating the various techniques proposed would've been invaluable to Herogear's future as a support company. The ideas had been endless; imaginative ways to weave ballistic fibers, sewing techniques that increased a fabric's durability tenfold, proposals for alternative materials that reduced costs but minimized loss of quality.
It had been brilliant!
It had been exactly what Herogear had needed!
And it had all been dismissed by the CEO because it had all come from… just a lowly mutant.
Said lowly mutant, one Izuku Midoriya, had not been what he seemed at a simple glance, however. His prowess had proven to be monstrous, his powers sinister. But more important than either of those, his deeds had been truly heroic. It seemed like overnight the eyes of the entire country had turned to him, and not a few people had loudly begun asking for the details of his gear…
And that had been what kicked off their little company's journey to hell.
'She should've known,' The woman lamented, authorizing the final resignation notice, leaving her as the last soul remaining at Herogear besides the CEO. 'A mutant he might've been, but Midoriya was still a UA student! By the Glowing Baby's Light, there was no way he wasn't destined for some sort of greatness. It should've been a logical conclusion that he would've needed gear of the highest quality.'
When the company had shipped out their pitiful suit, which hadn't integrated even half of the specifications requested, the CEO had openly proclaimed two things would happen. First, she'd assured everyone that the mutant freak would drop out before he could be seen wearing their gear for too long. Secondly, she'd declared that as soon as that inevitability occurred, they would be able to glorify Herogear to all and sundry as a support company that had made gear for a student of UA. No one needed to know whether or not said student was adequately served by their product or if they were still enrolled at the prestigious academy.
Instead, what had happened was their gear predictably failed miserably upon its first deployment, and Izuku Midoriya had been forced to completely replace it with the work of a student from UA's Support Course.
When video clips and photos of the reworked suit made their way to the public, it lacked any and all insignias of Herogear. Their very name had been brushed aside in the redesign, swept beneath the proverbial carpet like so much dirt.
Of course, all credit for the suit was then placed upon the shoulders of that Support Course student, a young girl named Mei Hatsume. Worse, the chit had then soon become a roar amongst heroes and support companies alike. She hadn't just hit it big, hadn't just struck gold… the damned runt was now known throughout the entire country as one of only a select few high school students who held contracts with the JSDF and the Ministry of Justice!
The old woman sighed as she stamped and filed the last of her paperwork. Desk now clear, she pulled out her own notice of resignation. The situation might've been unfair, but in no way, shape, or form was so through the fault of one Izuku Midoriya.
In fact, the first and only document they'd received from UA after they'd sent out the subpar gear had been a notice of dismissal. The paperwork had described every fault that could be found in their work, as well as clarified that until Herogear paid reparations for its obviously false advertising, UA would make sure that the company would receive no other contracts. Period.
It had been a low blow to their morale, not to mention their credibility, but it had stopped there. A simple apology and return of funds and they could've at least started over at square one.
The CEO just couldn't accept such a slap to the face with grace and honor.
Far from it, Nabiki Tendo, founder and CEO of Herogear, had gathered the all female staff of the company and announced that Midoriya's fame and glory deserved to be hers—theirs, surely she'd meant theirs—and that his use of someone else's gear, even if theirs had completely failed him, was a clear violation of contract. Immediately after the rousing declaration, Tendo had found the cheapest lawyer she could and demanded a lawsuit be filed against the mutant boy.
The boy. Not UA, and not Mei Hatsume. Tendo had fixated on Midoriya like a woman possessed. She'd might've always been greedy, but that had never dulled her senses. Attacking a hero academy or a girl under the wing of the JSDF slash Ministry of Justice would've been suicide. But then, attacking a boy who'd never held a contract with them, as the terms had been set with UA and not an individual student, had turned out to be just as stupid. Even if the case had made it to some court, they would've been laughed out of the courtroom before they could finish stating the facts of the case.
The lawsuit never reached Izuku Midoriya though. Tendo had failed to understand that the actual recipient of the Summons of Complaint would've been UA's lawyers, as again, their contract was actually with the school, not its student.
And this was the reason for the tsunami of resignations as well. UA had counter-sued them. In a cruelly kind brief, the academy's lawyers had plainly stated each and every piece of hard evidence they had that would absolutely destroy Herogear in court. Everyone had instantly seen that the flagging ship was speeding straight for an iceberg too large to avoid.
'Good bye… sis.' With that final thought, Kasumi Tendo signed and stamped her own resignation. It might've been a dick move, she acknowledged, but she didn't want to sink any lower than she already had for the pettiness of her sister. While she knew her, and everyone else's, severance pay might default in the end, it was at least a relief to know that they wouldn't have to be involved in the legal nightmare that was about to kick off.
"Kasumi! Get me in touch with all the lawyers you know! That bastard just quit on us!" The roar came from the CEO's office, a high pitched scream that betrayed the growing panic of someone who was slowly realizing that they were utterly and completely screwed. "Kasumi?! KASUMI!"
Omake – Good intentions…
In the comfort of his bedroom, away from the stresses and responsibilities of his everyday life, a certain middle-aged man watched a selection of videos taken from the most recent UA Sports Festival. There were a lot of things to take note of this year, particularly regarding the young boy who'd been labeled 'the Monster of UA.'
"Monster?" The bespectacled man with a honey-colored mane muttered to himself as he scratched at his bearded chin, "Of all the epithets, they chose Monster?"
The man might not have been Japanese, but he held a lot of interest in the island country, especially in its Number One Hero; his oldest, dearest friend.
It tugged at David Shield's heart to know that Toshi's might was diminishing, and that his retirement was imminent. That being said, he did feel that his friend had done more than enough to merit a proper rest. On the other hand, the idea of the world losing such a beacon of peace filled him with dread. Such an eventuality would be a devastating blow to society, even if his successor arose to take All Might's place.
David didn't know who the young man or woman was, but he doubted the kid would be able to fill the shoes of the Symbol of Peace quickly enough to avoid at least one catastrophe. The transition was definitely going to be a painful one.
"It's times like this that I have to wonder why Japan insists on keeping that outdated Quirk Hierarchy of theirs alive," David lamented, clicking through different clips as his eyes sparkled with far too much intensity. "Can't they see the limitless potential of this kid? Even if they were dead set on him not becoming a limelight hero, they could at least give him credit where credit is due, right? Enough to convince him to join an agency in a combat-support role at least!"
Being honest with himself, the more time passed, the more David realized he didn't want Toshi's reign as All Might to end just yet. Finding and training a successor wasn't a bad thing, it was noble even, but the world would still need a Symbol until the kid was ready and the transition could be completed.
Therefore, All Might needed to stay the Number One for as long as possible.
In order to achieve this, David's brilliant mind had come up with some ideas. Some had been less sane than others, admittedly, but many of those had still been deemed viable enough in the end. One such plan, which straddled the line between acceptable and mad, had been centered on aiding the world's greatest hero with an outside quirk to augment his ailing body.
A quirk like the one wielded by the so-called 'Monster of UA.'
Izuku Midoriya was an interesting boy. There was no doubt about that. His participation during the first two events of the Sports Festival had been clear indicators of a bright mind and a resolute heart. The tournament though, that had been the eye opener to a world of possibilities. While the boy was clearly not invulnerable, his ability to survive ungodly amounts of otherwise lethal damage was almost totally unheard of. There'd been rumors of a quirk or two that amounted to hyper regeneration, but those had all disappeared a number of years ago. Doubtlessly they'd just been gossip. But Midoriya? He'd been the real deal.
Unfortunately, the ignorance of mob mentality had latched on to the kid's abilities and labeled them as something unholy. But… what if All Might were to be gifted with such amazing regenerative power? Would that be enough to rekindle his flagging Quirk Factor? Enhance it even?
The mere idea of seeing his friend, the greatest hero to ever live, return to full power was—
Before David could even attempt to respond to the sudden call breaking him from his thoughts, a young woman with large glasses and long, cascading hair matching his own entered the room.
"Are you watching that Festival footage again?" She asked, "How many times has it been now?"
The girl placed a tray with food on it on a table to the side and promptly turned the bevy of monitors off with a flick of her wrist. David held back his disappointment at losing sight of his current muse and instead raised his hands up as if in surrender.
"Sorry, Melissa." David apologized as he got up to sit at the table, "It's just… you know… if we could analyze that Midoriya boy and his quirk…"
"Forget it Papa. You know the guys downstairs confirmed that INTERPOL got its claws in him already," Melissa cut in quickly, earning a sigh from her father. "Besides, according to his file he's a mutant-type. There's an astronomically small chance that he has some central organ that controls his entire quirk. And that means that there's probably no way to perform a Surgical Quirk Transference, or even use it to advance your Quirk Rejuvenation idea."
David looked up at his daughter with a pained stare. He really hated it when he had to hear that his brilliant ideas were really just impossibilities. He especially hated to hear it when some breakthroughs had been made. Early test samples of the original drug the Reunited States had designed to boost its solders' quirks, the true progenitor of Trigger, had shown promise in the Rejuvenation program. If he could just get a few samples of the newer strains, then maybe a stabilized prototype could be synthesized in time to show on the next I-Expo. And if it went over well there…
"Take it easy Papa," Melissa continued, ruffling her father's hair. "Your ideas are great! Don't fall prey to shortcuts or solutions that appear too easy for their own good. Remember what they say about good intentions!"
There were chuckles at that, a string of ideas and findings shared, and then the head scientist and inventor of I-Island was left alone again. As the door closed behind Melissa, a sad smile came across his face.
David loved his daughter. He loved her enough to give her the world. That was why it pained him so much to see that his otherwise brilliant little girl was unable to understand the importance of bringing All Might back to full strength.
"Maybe I can send the boy some tickets to come to the Expo?" David muttered to himself as he returned to the videos. "I'm sure he'd be glad to cooperate if he knew why this research was so important. I'm sure of it."
Saving All Might was greater than just having good intentions, he was sure of that too. The world would forgive him if he was forced to make a few tough decisions… right?