Chapter 16: Unexpected Obstacle
As one, UA's entire first year rushed for the narrow opening. Within seconds the corridor was a choked mess of bodies crushing against each other, the mass of humanity bottlenecked as they all tried to get through at the same time. Izuku watched as Katsuki threw himself directly into the pile, shoving and elbowing his way through the crowd with stunning ferocity. Ochako disappeared along with him, her slight frame vanishing into the sea of blue uniforms. And he…
Izuku ran with the crowd right up to the exit of the stadium, then stopped, right where the grass of the field ended at the corridor's concrete floor. He watched as he was left alone as the last man on the field, the pack of the rushing students a good fifteen feet ahead of him. He could hear Present Mic on the PA overhead, narrating the chaos taking place.
"AND WHAT'S THIS? IS ONE OF OUR FUTURE ALUMNI HAVING COLD FEET ALREADY?"
Izuku tried and failed to ignore the new eyes he could feel turn his way. His gaze locked onto the doorway at the end of the corridor. Specifically, the ten-foot gap above the heads of the rushing crowd. Already he could see trailing frost and bright explosions going off just outside.
Make an impact, he repeated in his head as he knelt down, placing his fingertips to the concrete.
A flash of blinding green light filled the corridor, backlighting the students filling it. A few at the back of the pack shot panicked looks behind them, surprised that the fading light revealed a human statue kneeling at the hall's opposite end, a two-foot deep divot in the ground right in front of it.
Izuku grit his stone teeth, pushed One for All into his legs…
A cloud of dirt and debris shot back out into the stadium as Izuku soared over the heads of the crowd, crossing the length of the corridor in a single bound. There was a flash of movement below him, a white stretch of tape shooting by him as Sero lept out of the crowd, Tsuyu right beside him. The two came level with him as they reached the light at the end of the tunnel.
Izuku flew through the exit at the top of his arc, emerging into chaos. Immediately out of the building, dozens of students were brought to a standstill, their feet frozen to a giant patch of ice that stretched down most of the path. Up ahead, he could see Todoroki at the front of the leaders, Katsuki just behind him as he propelled forward with explosions, Momo, Kirishima, and Aayoma right at their heels.
As Izuku neared the ground, he preemptively winced as he saw where he was going to come down: right in the middle of a bunch of students who had gotten their feet free of the ice and were struggling to slide forward without falling, Ochako among them.
"Sorry, 'Chako!" He yelled out as he brought his feet forward, bracing for impact.
Ochako looked up at his shout, panic clear on her face. Then…
Why is she smiling?
Izuku landed with a thunderous impact, cracking the ice and sending the students around him into an uncontrollable slide away from his landing zone. Not wanting to waste time, Izuku tensed his legs again and took another super-powered leap further down the path.
Izuku blinked, looking down at the voice that sounded far too close. "Wha- Ochako! What are you doing!?"
The brunette smiled up at him, half-panicked and half-sheepish as she held onto his stone pants leg with both hands. He hadn't even felt her grab on. "Seizing an opportunity! Like we planned!"
"Wha- I didn't mean to use me!"
His confusion didn't last too long. When he reached the apex of his jump, Ochako let go of his leg and slapped a hand to her thigh.
"Thanks for the lift, Deku!"
Izuku's mouth fell open as gravity started to pull him down, while Ochako kept moving forward, waving at him with a smile that was only slightly guilty.
"WOW!" Present Mic's voice boomed throughout the grounds. "WHAT AN UPSET! USING A FELLOW STUDENT'S ABILITY TO GET AHEAD OF EVERYONE ELSE!"
"It's a viable strategy," Eraserhead said in a calmer tone. "Taking advantage of an opponent's strength to add to your own can be invaluable. Quick thinking like that can mean the difference between life and death."
After the shock wore off, Izuku tore his eyes away from Ochako soaring above him, letting out a bemused huff of a laugh. "She's spending too much time with Kacchan." He turned back to the path ahead, readying to land… and having to shift his foot so-as to not land on one of Mineta's sticky balls that now littered the path.
Izuku's head shot up just as he went to take another leap. He yelped as he watched Mineta get swatted down by a massive robotic limb. From seemingly nowhere, multiples of the Entrance Exam's Zero-pointer appeared in the middle of the course.
Despite the innate fear the sight ignited in him, Izuku couldn't help but feel encouraged at the appearance of the massive machines. If I can swap the concrete I absorbed for steel, I could use almost double the strength I have!
His thoughts came to a sudden halt when the closest Zero-pointer was suddenly encased in a sheet of ice, its plated armor buckling outward as they filled with frozen water. Looking between the robot's legs, Izuku could see Todoroki darting further ahead. As if feeling his gaze, Todoroki glanced back briefly, giving Izuku a glimpse of his narrowed blue eye.
Izuku was about to rush forward after them when he heard the groan of protesting metal. He looked up to see the ice already dissolving, leaving the wrecked machine to fall to pieces.
Right on top of two students.
Izuku let out a panicked gasp. "Kirishima!" Barely aware of Eraserhead's commentary on Todoroki's tactics, he took a mighty leap, he landed on the back of the fallen mech, right over where he thought Kirishima had gotten crushed. He was about to plunge his arms into the metal and start digging when the frozen steel exploded outwards.
Izuku flailed back in surprise as Kirishima leapt out of the Zero-pointer's carcass. He chuckled sheepishly "You certainly do."
Kirishima faltered at seeing Izuku right in front of him. He gave a quick chuckle, then turned to glare further up the field. "No thanks to Todoroki. What the hell's he thinking? If I was anyone else, he'd have killed 'em pulling a move like that!"
Izuku grimaced, calling back Todoroki's words from earlier. "Maybe he's trying to prove a point?"
Kirishima barked out a harsh laugh. But before he could say his mind, the steel behind them buckled up and exploded, revealing a new teen covered in metal.
"Gah! What the hell, 1A?! If that had been anyone else but me, I'd be dead!" Tetsutetsu yelled out in anger. But before he could rush forward, he froze at the sight of Kirishima and Izuku standing in his way, staring at him in surprise. He looked between the two of them, blinking rapidly, before letting out a roar of frustration. "Are you kidding me!? 1A's got two hard guys!?"
Cringing at the teen's anger, Izuku rubbed the back of his head nervously. "I mean… I guess, technically?"
Kirishima let out a groan. "Man, like it wasn't hard enough to stand out already!" He let out a sigh, then shrugged and flashed Izuku a grin. "Guess I just gotta prove I'm the hardest of the three of us!" With a determined chuckle, the red-head turned and ran off after Todoroki.
Izuku blinked after him, perplexed, only to be shoved out of the way by Tetsutetsu.
"What'd you just say, copycat!?"
Izuku shook his head as the two took off, bickering all the way. He looked down at the frozen mech, his mind shifting back to the task at hand as the horde of competitors started thundering past. "Perfect," he said despondently. With a sigh, he bent down and placed his hands flat against the fallen robot. There was a flash of green, and a slab of rock went rolling down the side of the mech as Izuku stood, now clad in green-steel skin. Taking a deep breath, leaped off after the pack.
Todoroki and Katsuki were far ahead, heading towards some kind of giant chasm. Thin wires were leading to sporadic platforms jutting out of the darkness, likely meant as some sort of tightrope obstacle. He could already see Tsu and Tenya at the head of the group carefully balancing their way across. Izuku briefly considered the merits of doing the same… then quickly reconsidered when he saw Katsuki start blasting himself from platform to platform. Still aways from the chasm, he pushed all his strength into his legs on his next landing, launching himself out into the empty air with all his might, aiming towards the nearest platform. He went right over Kirishima and Tetsutetsu's heads, reaching the apex of his jump and aiming his feet down. He landed and lept again, nearly reaching the middle of the valley-
When a wall of ice erupted in front of him.
"Gah!" Izuku threw his arms up in a panic, only able to cover his head as he slammed into the glacier. The ice cracked around his crater, but he didn't break through. He scrambled for a handhold, his legs slipping uselessly against the ice. He managed to grip a chunk of ice, dangling precariously by one hand.
"OHHH! AND IT SEEMS TODOROKI FOUND THE FALL TO BE A BIT TOO EASY FOR THE REST OF THE COMPETITION!"
Izuku's head snapped up. The ice was a bit blurry to see through, but he could just make out a small form high above the pit, sailing away from the tapered top of the iceberg. He watched as ice suddenly burst from Todoroki's feet, forming a slide down to the other end of the chasm. Izuku hoped he was imagining that backward glance.
From below, Izuku could hear cries of anger and dismay as competitors started to reach the ice wall. He looked left and right, seeing the wall stretching the whole width of the chasm.
Okay, going around would take too long. So… up.
Izuku swung his free arm forward, driving his fingers into the ice. He started pulling himself up, gaining more confidence when his self-made handhold didn't break away. He swung his foot forward in the same way, making a foothold.
I can do this. I can do this!
He quickly fell into a pattern, driving his hands and feet into the ice in a steady rhythm that picked up pace as his confidence grew. The world fell away as he focused on the task at hand, just one hand after another.
Izuku's blinked, his focus broken as a purple blur popped up beside him. It came to a fast stop, revealing Mineta hanging from one of his orbs with both hands. The smaller boy blinked back at him as he dangled. "Um… hi?"
Izuku stared back in surprise. "Hey…?"
Mineta looked awkward for a moment, before glancing back down at the ground. He flinched in panic, then frantically pulled himself up and stood on the orb as a tiny platform. He yanked another orb off his head. "You might want to get moving, Deku!" Before Izuku could respond, Mineta jumped, bouncing on the orb once, twice, then launching up eight feet and slamming the orb into the ice, stopping his fall and starting to climb.
Before Izuku could look at what had worried Mineta so bad, a yelp was startled out of him as a strip of tape and a wigging vine shot up on either side of him. He watched Sero and the vine-headed girl from 1B propel themselves up, Sero flashing him a grin as he neared the top.
Panicked understanding flashed through Izuku, his head snapping down. A horde of students were making their way up the side of the iceberg, Kirishima and Tetsutetsu at the head as they climbed in the same way he was… only much faster.
One for All kicking on in his panic, Izuku started climbing in earnest, his hands and feet carving through the ice with little effort.
He reached the top before he knew it, just in time to watch Sero and the vine-girl disappear over the other side for the long climb down. Fighting down vertigo from the iceberg's insane hight, Izuku tried to figure out if he could jump from there to the other side of the chasm. He could see Todoroki and Katsuki nearing the end of the valley, Tsu and Tenya distantly behind them with the others who'd gotten through before the ice appeared.
Hearing the smashing sounds of Kirishima and Tetsutetsu behind him, Izuku decided not to risk leaping over the entire chasm, aiming instead for a platform at the wall's base. He took a steadying breath and leapt down, grinning slightly at Kirashima's shocked yelp as he vanished over the edge.
"WELL, IT SEEMS NOTHING SLOWS THESE KIDS DOWN FOR LONG! MORE AND MORE ARE MAKING THEIR WAY OVER… THE ICEFALL!"
Todoroki glanced back at Present Mic's announcement. His eyes narrowed at Izuku leaping down from the top of the iceberg. Aware of Katsuki nipping at his heels, having tuned out his enraged taunts a while ago, Todoroki tensed his legs as he reached the end of the chasm, forming a slide of ice in front of him.
And letting loose a wave of heat behind him.
Izuku was halfway down the iceberg, zipping past a repelling Sero when something felt… wrong. It was hard to feel most things when his skin was fused with something, but for a moment he could have sworn the air wavered. He tensed for the landing, slamming into the pillar below hard enough to leave a crater. He looked around in confusion but saw nothing else odd. Hoping that his eyes were just playing tricks, he prepared to leap away-
Izuku flinched hard. His stomach dropped. No…
He whipped around, his mouth falling open in horror. A gigantic crack had appeared through the middle of the iceberg. Before his eyes, the crack widened and splintered, a sound like constant shattering glass echoing as chunks of ice started to rain down.
"Gah!" Mineta screamed as he bounced away from the base of the glacier as fast as he could. "Deku, why are you just standing there!?" He yelled as he passed Izuku for a second time. "The sky's freaking falling!"
Izuku's instincts agreed, the sight of the virtual avalanche about to crash down on him nearly making him turn tail and run.
A sudden yell made him look up further. Sero was falling rapidly from the collapsing wall, his arm around the waist of the vine-girl. Gritting his teeth, Sero aimed his open elbow at the ground by Izuku's feet, tape shooting out and connecting. Izuku yelped as Sero and the girl vanished into the chasm, only for the tapeline to go taunt. Using the momentum of the fall, Sero swung around the pillar and leapt back up, crashing down beside Izuku in a heap as the two rolled.
"Sero!" Izuku rushed over, helping him to his feet. "Are you okay?"
Sero groaned, rubbing the back of his head. "I'm good." Then he tilted his head up, his expression grim and panicked. "But they ain't!"
Izuku's paused in kneeling by the vine-girl, his head snapping up. At the top of the crumbling ice wall, Kirishima and Tetsutetsu flailed as they tried to keep their balance. Through the ice, he could see the blurry forms of other students partway up the wall, including the bright pink of Mina clinging desperately as her melted handholds cracked apart, chunks of ice starting to break off and fall. At the rate it was deteriorating, Izuku expected the entire structure to shatter at any moment.
Part of Izuku wanted to run. They were in the middle of a competition, at the best Hero school in the world. They wouldn't let their students get badly hurt like this, right? And if he started moving now, with less than a tenth of the competitors past the second obstacle, he was practically guaranteed to pass to the next round.
But the rest of him was begging him to do something, anything, to keep people from getting hurt. His body was already tense for action, but his mind was racing for options. It had taken so long for him to climb the structure himself, and he doubted he was strong enough to jump to the top of it in a single bound. But then what could he-
His thoughts came to a halt as something white and thin fluttered past his vision. A chunk of ice fell past him into the void, a strip of Sero's tape trailing behind it, still secured solidly to the ice.
He had an idea.
"Sero!" Izuku's head shot to the side towards Sero, seeing him still looking up at the ice wall in terrified awe. With a shudder, Sero looked down at him in surprise. "I have an idea, but-"
He was cut off by Sero's hand being thrust into his face. Izuku blinked, startled, then looked back up, open-mouthed and wide-eyed at Sero's panicked yet determined face.
"Well?" Sero said impatiently after a second. "What are you waiting for? Fusion, right?"
Izuku was frozen, stunned. "I-I… y-yeah, but…"
Sero flashed him a strained grin."Dude, I saw how awesome you and Uraraka's fusion was during the entrance exam. If you think we could pull off something like that right now, then do it!"
A moment passed as Izuku processed. Then a wide grin spread across his face. "Right!" He yelled out as he quickly lunged and grasped Sero's forearm.
Ibara Shiozaki had thought she'd been doing fairly well through the obstacle course thus far. She'd managed to avoid the robotic horde unscathed and had little problem swinging across the chasm with her vines. The ice wall had been a surprise, but she'd adapted quickly, her vines finding cracks and crevices to latch onto throughout the imperfect structure to pull her up. The tape boy, Sero, had surprisingly kept pace with her, though that might have been due to how her vines did not like the cold.
The problem started as soon as they had barreled over the other side and started repelling down the wall. The cold had started to make her vines sluggish, and truthfully the height was doing her resolve no favors. It was almost a relief when just after a metal-skinned form that was not Tetsutetsu blurred passed, a wave of heat washed over her, briefly eliminating the cold seeping into her hair.
Then the ice under her feet and vines splintered, and she was in freefall.
Before she could even let out a yell or process what had happened, she found herself in Sero's grasp, falling through the air and then swinging much faster and harder than they safely should be, if Sero's yelp and gritted teeth were any indication.
The metal-skinned boy had rushed to their side as soon as they landed, which was both kind and rather confusing. These 1A boys did know they were competing against each other, right?
Perhaps they didn't, given how, after they looked up at the other competitors in peril, the two turned to each other and shared an odd moment of camaraderie, their words making little sense to her.
Though the word 'fusion' quickly made more sense as the two grasped hands.
Shiozaki shielded her eyes as a bright green and dark yellow light twisted and merged, soon forming a single lanky humanoid shape. As the light died down, her squinted eyes went wide at the sight before her.
The boy's hair started straight and green, only to shift to wild black curls at his bangs and just below his ears. His pinprick irises were deep forest green, freckles dotting his sharp cheekbones. Most peculiar, the round discs that had been on Sero's elbows we're now under the wrists of the boy, which he blinked at curiously.
"Huh," He said to himself, brow raising as the opening at each disc alternated between two different sizes depending on how far back he bent his wrists. "Well, that's different."
Shiozaki stared, baffled at the boy's appearance. "Who… what are you?" She finally forced out.
The boy looked over in surprise at her voice. A wide angular smile broke out over his face. "What I am is a bit complicated. As for who…" The boy thought for a moment, looking up at the sky… then snapping his head around towards the wall as he heard Kirishima yell, his footing started to crumble.
The boy's eyes sharpened, his arm coming up as he aimed the disc's opening at the top of the wall. He hesitated briefly, then bent his wrist back as far as it could go, twisting his arm palm up. Then he glanced back at Shiozaki, flashing her a grin.
"Call me Hanzu."
Facing forward, Hanzu fired. A length of grey tape fired from the dispenser up at the top of the crumbling ice wall. At the end of it was an odd ball, like several lengths of tape wrapped around each other and packed tight. When the tape ball hit the wall, it exploded into a mess of tape strands, unraveling and latching onto the ice in a rough six-foot circle, coaxing a startled yelp from Kirishima. Hanzu's eyes widened, then he beamed. "I was hoping for somethin' like that." Looking curiously at the length of tape leading back to his wrist, Hanzu aimed his arm at a spot further down the ice wall. A second ball of tape flew through the air, forming the end of the long strand. When the second tape bomb exploded, the strand between the two went taut as it was drawn into the mess of the second mass. "Sweet!"
Izuku's Fusion Files!
Fusion Component: Hanta Sero
Quirk Mutation: Tape Tether
In addition to wrist-mounted dispensers that fire a tape that holds with near AFO strength, Hanzu can fire a pair of tape balls that explode into a securing anchorage, both enveloping the points of contact and forming a nigh-unbreakable tether between them.
"Time to go to work!"
Before Shiozaki could say anything, Hanzu bent his legs and leapt into the air with enough force to crack the stone beneath him. She watched as the height of his jump nearly brought him to the top of the ice wall, startling Kirishima and Tetsutetsu. He brought both arms up, firing four tape bombs at the upper edges of the wall, smothering the cracking ice before it could fall further apart. Firing a normal tape strand, Hanzu swung towards the left of the wall one-handed, using his free arm to fire more tape bombs. As he swung away, Kirishima's yell could be heard even from the ground. "Dudes, how are you this manly?!"
Shiozaki watched in stunned awe as Hanzu taped up the largest cracks threatening to break the structure apart, doing rather unnecessary flips as he did so, voicing equally unnecessary yells of exhilaration. It wasn't until he swung fully down the wall's opposite length, then continued to swing around to its other side, that she registered the boy... the Fusion, was technically going the wrong way down the obstacle course. When she noticed that Kirishima and Tetsutetsu were halfway down the wall, she realized how long she'd been sitting there, and spurred into action.
His… their altruism is commendable, she thought as her vines lashed out and swung her between the pillars and balance beams across the chasm. But they should show at least a little care that they're currently in a competition.
Back at the stadium, Toshainori didn't know whether to laugh or groan. On one hand, Izuku was doing exactly what he wanted: show the world exactly what kind of hero he was going to be, one who would help anyone in need, no matter the cost or situation. One willing to not just assist, but elevate the heroes around him. Toshi felt his heart swell with pride for his successor as he watched the new fusion swing and flip through the air, his every movement exuding confidence.
On the other hand, however...
"OHHH, NOW WHAT IS THIS!? IT SEEMS TWO OF OUR COMPETITORS HAVE JOINED FORCES AND ARE NOW… umm…" There was a rustling movement as Present Mic failed to cover his microphone, given how his whispering voice came through loud and clear, much to the crowd's amusement. "Shouta, what exactly am I looking at here?"
Eraserhead let out a beleaguered sigh. "You're seeing the Quirk of Izuku Midoriya at work. His quirk, Fusion, allows him to both fuse with inanimate objects to strengthen himself, or, if the situation is too much for him and another hero on their own, to fuse with that person to create a hero with an enhanced version of his partner's quirk, as we seeing with Hanta Sero's."
Toshi frowned lightly. A deep murmur arose from the crowd, mixing with the cheers from the more excitable heroes eating up the action. He tried to listen from his perch in the faculty box, catching only a few snippets.
"Well, that's a new one."
"I wonder what the extent of the power-ups are…"
"That is so freaking cool!"
"That quirk's a bit... invasive."
"Kid won't have much luck as a solo hero with a quirk like that."
"Huh… got to admit, I'm a bit curious.."
Toshi let out a sigh as he sat back in his chair. It wasn't necessarily a bad reaction, but it was certainly going to cause a stir. He hoped his protege was ready to deal with the fallout.
"YEE-OOOWWWW! NOW THAT'S TAKING TEAMWORK TO THE NEXT LEVEL! AND IT LOOKS LIKE SOME OF THEIR PEERS ARE JUST AS PUMPED!"
Toshinori looked back up at the screen and smiled as wide as his angled face allowed. The camera panned as it tracked the Fusion through the air, stopping to focus on two figures standing at the top of the taped ice wall. Yaoyorozu flashed the Fusion a smile as she stowed her created ice climbing gear, while Ashido pumped her soaking hands in the air as she cheered him on. The two smiled at each other, before racing to the other side of the wall and starting back down, the camera panning back to the swinging Fusion.
Well, the number one hero thought. At least he's got support where it counts.
Man, I might be worse than Katzuku! Hanzu thought as he covered the last of the major cracks, panting hard. His throat felt raw, and his dry skin itched like mad. The feeling was familiar through Sero's memories, but he couldn't recall it being this intense. As he swung away from the wall, he skimmed his hand over the ice, snagging an icicle jutting out. He bit down on the sharp end, relishing as the crushed ice soothed his dry throat.
A sharp crack signaled yet another breakaway. Twisting in mid-air, Hanzu saw a car-sized chunk of ice break away and fall towards the crowd below. He aimed and fired a tape bomb. It exploded on impact, engulfing the ice in a web of tape. He gripped the end of the tape strand with both hands, then pulled with all his might, grunting from the effort. The ice chunk arc through the air, Hanzu releasing it to fly off harmlessly into the trees around the course. Firing another set of bombs where the ice has broken away, Hanzu swung wide and high over the wall to take in his handiwork.
'Haphazard' was the word that came to mind. The wall was a patchwork mess of crushed ice and wadded tape, with no rhyme or reason to the reinforcements placements. It was no permanent solution, but it seemed to be holding for the moment. Hopefully long enough for the race to end without anyone getting crushed by falling ice.
Hanzu smiled to himself. Not too bad for a rush job!
"C'mon! We're almost through!"
Hanzu's grin faded, his eyes drawn to a commotion at the foot of the ice wall. What had to be a hundred students crowded at the platforms around it. Some were trying to climb the ice barehanded, but most were anxiously watching the dozen or so hero students slowly carving their way through the ice.
Sato and Shoji we're at the front of the group, along with a small girl with large horns and a large boy covered in shaggy hair. The four were using their sheer strength to chip away at the ice, punching and clawing at it to make a rough tunnel through. Others, like Kaminiri and a girl with gigantic hands, darted between the bruisers to clear out the ice, keeping the makeshift tunnel clear.
Hanzu frowned. Sato was right, they were very nearly through. Another two or three feet and they'd be on the other side. But with how long they were taking, Hanzu doubted anyone on this side of the wall would make it to the finish line with enough time to place.
A twinge of annoyance and guilt shot through him at the thought, remembering that backward glance Izuku thought he'd seen Todoroki give him. Hanzu didn't know what the half-and-half boy's deal was, but this was a step too far, at least in Sero's book. His screwed-up vendetta had pretty much just screwed most of the Year One class.
The Sero part of him was getting more ticked off by the second.
The Izuku part was feeling guilty for how many students might not get to the next round because of Todoroki's ire towards him.
Hanzu himself thought he saw a great way to alleviate both of these feelings.
Nearing the apex of his jump, Hanzu readied himself for his largest swing. If he aimed his next tape strand just right and gave One for All all the strength he could muster, he could swing himself at full power right into the other students' tunnel, going right over their heads to break feet first through what stood in their way. He started calculating how many tape bombs it was going to take to not damage the ice wall further. He brought his arm up to fire his tether-
"We don't have time for this! Move!"
Hanzu blinked. His head shot down at the sudden yell. Jiro was shouldering her way through the crowd at a brisk pace. She ran into the makeshift tunnel once she broke from the crowd, sliding right between Sero's legs when he was mid-punch, making the muscle man freeze. Jiro didn't say anything, just coming to a stop and then jamming her phone jacks into the ice itself.
For a moment, Hanzuthought he saw a ripple go through the entire ice wall. There was an explosion of ice and mist from inside the tunnel, making those at the front of the pack shield their eyes. When it cleared, Jiro was already moving through the open tunnel, glancing over her shoulder as she raced across the next balance beam. "Hey! Ain't this supposed to be a race? Move it!"
A cheer rose from the horde of students, their path now clear. The remaining hero of students thundered after her before the rest of the student body could bottleneck the tunnel.
Hanzu barked out a laugh. He looked over the ice wall one last time, seeing no more signs of deterioration. "Well, guess my job's done!" With that, now past the height of his jump and starting to fall, he fired two tape strands at the top of the wall, each striking a large distance away from the other. Hanzu gripped the tape tightly, folded his knees up to his chest, and pulled.
In an instant, his makeshift slingshot fired him over the ice wall and across the chasm, soaring right over Mina and Momo's heads. To his surprise and joy, he'd given just the right amount of force to land on the opposite side. As he neared the ground, he grinned.
"Okay, guys, that's all the help I'm given'! You're on your own now!"
Hanzu slammed into the ground, rolling to help soften the impact. He gave a small hop out of the roll, and his body broke into a mass of light, green and yellow quickly separating and reforming. When it faded, Sero's eyes went wide, flailing briefly before he managed to slow himself down by anchoring some tape strands. Izuku kept going, bending his green-skinned legs so they'd dig in when he hit the ground again.
Once the two had stopped moving, Izuku looked back, meeting Sero's eyes. The two stared at each other for a moment, Izuku apprehensive, Sero stunned. Then Sero blinked, looked Izuku up and down, then looked back at the taped ice wall and the student horde pouring out of it. His head snapped back to Izuku. He flashed the boy his trademark angular smile, giving a thumbs up. Izuku beamed back.
Without another word, the two took off. Without anything tall to swing from, Sero quickly fell behind as Izuku started to leap and jump again to make up for lost time. He had just started to wonder how far ahead everyone else had gotten when he heard an explosion go off up ahead, and saw bodies fly through the air.
The next obstacle was a literal minefield.
Izuku's heart dropped when he saw Katsuki and Todoroki nearly out of the minefield, Ida and Tsu close behind. It was too great a distance for him to jump in a single bound, but he didn't want to risk landing on any of the mines. The couple dozen students who had made it this far were slowly picking their way through the field, trying not to set any mines off. Dread pooled in Izuku's stomach as he resigned himself to having to do the same-
When the smoke from the earlier explosion started to clear.
Mineta was quickly picking himself off the ground, grumbling to himself in frustration. He glared at a blonde boy further up the field, laughing smugly at his misfortune. Eyes narrowing, Mineta plucked an orb off his head and chucked it at the boy's feet as hard as he could. It missed by a foot, and the blonde boy scoffed loudly. "Is that the best you can do? I would have thought the great 1A-"
The blonde boy shrieked as the mine under the orb went off, sending him flying off to the side. Mineta cheered, tossing an orb at his feet and bouncing to the now cleared space, laughing as the blonde boy started yelling at him, accidentally triggering another mine.
They're harmless, Izuku realized, looking closer over the field. No one sported any injuries saved for bruises, the mines merely blasting them off their feet and costing them progress. Their clothes weren't even torn. He'd probably be okay if he just jumped like normal through the field, but the smoke and concussive force could interfere with his trajectory. But then how else could he…?
An idea sprung to mind. Probably not the brightest, but it was simple and likely to work. If it didn't, it would only cost them a few more seconds. The only thing holding him back was the thought it might cause problems for the other students carefully making their way through the minefield. The hesitation made him look further up the field, seeing Katsuki fire a blast at Todoroki, the two trying to slow each other down.
Izuku's eyes lingered on Todoroki. For a moment, he could have sworn he heard Katsuki's laughter and Ochako's cheers in the back of his mind as he considered. Somehow, that made his decision easier.
He grinned sharply.
Katsuki was going to kill Todoroki.
His blood burned as he leaped through the minefield, his eyes not on the finish line, but the freezer-burnt brat just in front of him. He'd already hated Todoroki for the crap he'd spewed at the start of the day, but now he wanted to set off a fireball in his face. He'd seen that wall the boy threw up, cutting the whole race in half. He'd seen the glare Todoroki had thrown back at it. He'd seen the green-skinned figure that glare had been aimed at, that familiar poofy hairdo smashing face-first of the ice wall.
That his surprise at the whole event made him hesitate, letting Todoroki blast ahead of him, only added fuel to the fire.
He fired off another explosion, aiming just ahead of Todoroki. He grinned sharply as it triggered the mines in front of them, forcing Todoroki to pause. His satisfaction didn't last long as the dual-haired boy spun around, lashing out and grabbing Katsuki's wrist. Katsuki snarled as his hand was engulfed in ice, firing with his other hand to force the boy back. A wave of ice was Todoroki's retort, forcing Katsuki to blast up to avoid it. Before his feet hit the ground, Todoroki took off at a full-tilt run, freezing the ground under his feet as he went.
Oh, no you don't! Katsuki fired off after him. One more good jump and the icy-hot bastard would be in range-
The sound of successive explosions broke his concentration, the steady rhythm quickly gaining intensity. He looked over his shoulder, Todoroki doing the same. Their eyes widened.
What looked like a trail of explosions was fast approaching, smoke billowing off the minefield in a straight line. At its head was a familiar form, its skin green and metallic. Izuku had an almost manic smile on his face as he ran carelessly across the minefield, his heavy body setting off a mines with every step, the explosions having no effect on him. He approached unnaturally fast, catching up within seconds to...
Katsuki's eyes bugged out. "Deku, don't you dare!"
Izuku ran right between them without slowing down, leaving the telltale click of an activated mine in his wake.
Katsuki immediately fired both hands directly behind him, not even caring if he had any height, just wanted to get away from ground zero. He only partially succeeded, the shockwave of the mine going off nearly throwing him to the ground, forcing him to fire again directly under himself so as not to headbutt another mine. Airborne again, he glanced over his shoulder. He didn't even try to hold in his bark of laughter.
While he'd managed to get himself thrown forward, Todoroki had been too slow and had gone flying sideways. The half-and-half-boy was quickly scrambling to his feet, the look in his mismatched eyes murderous.
Katsuki didn't give a damn, blasting himself up the path Izuku was inadvertently creating. He pushed himself as hard as he could, both ignoring and relishing the pain in his arms as he drew closer to Izuku. He was catching up, but he knew that could easily change the moment they left the minefield. Once they were side by side, he yelled over the explosions. "Y'know Freezerburn's gonna actually try to kill you now, right?"
Izuku glanced at him, beaming as he ran. "Is it bad that I don't really care at the moment?"
That startled another bark out of Katsuki. "I'll make a badass outta you yet, Deku. Now eat my dust!"
Another blast pushed Katsuki into the lead, leaving Izuku to keep running. This didn't last long, as the ground beneath them quickly changed back to normal dirt as they left the minefield behind. His feet back on stable ground, Izuku leapt up, nearly flying over Katsuki's head, forcing the boy to duck. The two were leaping side by side, sporting matching grins as each tried to pull ahead of the other, the stadium coming into sight.
"LOOKS LIKE THIS IS IT, FOLKS!" Present Mic's voice boomed as they drew closer. "IN JUST A FEW MOMENTS, ONE OF THESE TWO YOUNG MEN WILL BE THE WINNER OF THE SPORTS FESTIVAL'S FIRST ROUND. WILL IT BE THE EXPLOSIVE KATSUKI BAKUGOU? OR WILL OUR FUSIONIST IZUKU MIDORIYA BE ABLE TO-"
At the hight of their jump, Katsuki and Izuku's heads snapped up at the sudden shout. A small figure was hurtling out of the sky, aiming right for the two of them.
Or, more specifically, for Katsuki's neck.
Ochako slapped her thigh with one hand at the same moment she wrapped her arm around Katsuki's neck. Without any weight, Katsuki barely felt anything as he was suddenly yanking her along like a humanoid cape.
"WHOA, WHERE'D SHE COME FROM!?"
"Ever since first colliding with Midoriya at the start of the race, Uraraka never stopped floating over the course." Eraserhead sounded bored as he explained. "Staying weightless, it didn't take much effort to keep above the course and fly over the obstacles."
"IS SHE ALLOWED TO DO THAT!?"
"The objective was to get from point A to point B while avoiding the obstacles. Frankly, it's the smartest strategy I've seen all day."
"YOU HEARD IT HERE FIRST, FOLKS!"
Izuku watched in shock as Ochako scrambled over Katsuki's head, mechanically preparing for his next jump. Katsuki flailed as he felt himself falling, quickly throwing his hands back to keep himself airborne. As he fired back, Ochako tucked her legs against his chest and pushed off, adding his momentum to her own and flying ahead of them both.
"Dammit, Round Face!" Katsuki yelled. "That's cheating!"
Ochako grinned over her shoulder. "You boys should have worked smarter, not harder!" She shouted back. "See you at the finish line!"
"Oh, like hell!"
Katsuki blasted as hard as he could, Izuku leaping with all his might. The two managed to sidle up beside Ochako, the girl between them with her arms flush against her sides and her head held high. The three soared side by side through the stadium entrance, just a long dark hallway between them and the finish line, a doorway of light just large enough for the three to pass through.
"FOLKS, LOOKS LIKE WE'RE GOING TO HAVE A PHOTO FINISH!"
Ochako grit her teeth.
The world exploded into light and cheers as the three spilled onto the field, the crowd on their feet and screaming. The race over, they barely attempted a proper landing, crashing to the ground and rolling in a pile of tangled limbs, Izuku's body flashing and leaving behind a chunk of scrap metal in their wake. Izuku and Katsuki immediately popped up to their hands and knees, Ochako draped across their shoulders as the three zeroed in on the jumbotron at the end of the stadium.
A side view of the three of them flying into the stadium, each with an arm outreached, quickly reversed and started going frame by frame. They waited with bated breath for who's fingertips would appear first.
"LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, YOUR WINNER OF THE SPORTS FESTIVAL'S FIRST ROUND IS…!"
A set of fingertips poked out three frames before the others.
Scared, soot-covered fingertips.
A/n: So, when I made that Elmer Fudd joke last time, I apparently didn't get the memo that he never actually gets the damn rabbit. Sorry about that.
I promise I am actually trying to get these out faster. My writing just has to take a backseat to real-life crap every now and then.
See you at the next one!