Chapter Nine - A Girl's Hero

"Ouch!"

"Hey, move!"

It was tight and suffocating in the passageway. Himiko was jostled by the bodies, but maintained her heft. Her fellow students were right where she needed them. This was her chance. She knew she needed to curate a variety of quirks because she couldn't foresee the obstacles ahead. Remembering her meditation, she calmed the giddy and carnal anticipation in her belly.

She focused on those whose quirks she experienced prior to the festival. Then, she considered the proximity of said participants. In a sordid succession, she broke through skin, sucked, and consumed the source of her quirk's stimuli. Asui was her first target. Then Ashido. Then Uraraka. Then Iida. Each time she made the harsh attack, she gave her unwilling donors the creation-made bandages. She wasn't evil, after all.

Satisfied and flourishing, Himiko wiped the luscious blood specks off her face. Her quirk activated. This was going to be a walk in the park.

In her new form, Himiko reached the unofficial starting line and appreciated the cool, fresh air. Searching amid the bustling and competitive crowd, her interest found the General Studies student. If she were honest, she wanted to know more about him. The boy spoke to an random participant. His victim replied politely, then their conscious mind surrendered. The user smirked.

'Oh wow... His quirk is...'

...

"Eraserhead, your class is amazing! What're you teaching them?" Present Mic cheered.

"I didn't do anything," Aizawa answered, "They got each other fired up on their own."

"U.A. Sports Festival, first-year stage!"

Seventh place.

If she had to describe her success, she'd say it was an ethereal, out-of-body experience. Of that group of students, each with their own potentialities, Himiko managed to score favorably. This time, instead of feeling disbelieved, she was almost proud of herself.

Present Mic announced the remaining players, "And now, they're finishing one after another! We'll make a list of the results later, but for now, good work!"

After seeing her fellow classmates reach the finish line, Himiko noticed a few semi-recognizable faces. They had to have been Class B. Her breathing staggered.

"That was sneaky, Miko-chan! But you were so amazing! But I'm also so frustrated, darn it!" Uraraka was winded.

"Oh! Ochako-chan. I don't know what came over me," Toga rubbed her arm. She stole a glance at the involuntary donors. Compared to Uraraka, they weren't as neutral about her blood-sucking finesse. She felt shameful and impure.

A strange aura emitted from Iida and Himiko noticed. She pointed and asked Uraraka, "Um, Ochako-chan, is Iida-kun okay?"

"Yep. He told me not to bother him because he wanted to - ahem: 'rationalize the bioengineering vacillations that caused Toga-kun to outperform me.' Or something like that. Then, he started going off about torque and cylinders. I tried to tell him it was only because you were in the lead from the tightrope phase, but I can't snap him out of it," Uraraka ran in place.

Himiko came down from her high as Uraraka rambled. The rendered quirks took a degenerative toll on her body. While she'd practiced framework migration in the past, implementing the technique in a perilous scenario was an entirely different story. In addition to her accolade, she was rewarded with ugly bruises and a tattered gym uniform.

She pushed aside her need for recovery and approached Midoriya. He was the crowned champion. In a pleasant show of sportsmanship, she waved and offered her congratulations, "Midoriya-kun! Great job on first place! You were really cool. That special move you made was super duper smart."

"Oh, um, oh, uh, um! Y- y- you saw that?" He panicked and hid himself.

"How could I miss it? I'm happy for you," She beamed and swayed. When did she become so dizzy?

"I- I was just lucky," He finally looked at her, "I- I'm hoping from our training we did that I can use my quirk soon, but I still have a long way to g-g-g-g- ... Wh- wh- wh- whoa! Wh- what happened to you?"

"Ugh," The muscles in her legs gave out and Midoriya caught her. She was surprised she hadn't blacked out. Midoriya's arms were comforting, welcoming, and he smelled remarkably pleasant. Almost as decadent as blood. She flushed at her comparison and became dizzier.

Midoriya cried out for assistance. Several of her concerned classmates approached her. In her daze, she made eye contact with Todoroki. He automatically approached her and seemed surprised by the natural response from his body.

"Toga-"

The half-and-half boy was interrupted by nearby medical aid. The mechanical personnel swiftly collected the injured blonde and transferred her to an on-site infirmary for tending. It was a full house. Thanks to Recovery Girl's fast-paced and restorative ability, Toga advanced to the next round.

...

"The top forty-two made it through to the next game. It's unfortunate, but don't worry even if you didn't make it! We've prepared other chances for you to shine," Midnight licked her lips seductively, "The real competition begins next! The press cavalry'll be all over it! Give it your all!

"Now then," The comparable gambling machine appeared behind her, "here is the second game. I already know what it is, but what could it be? What could it be? I just said it, and now here it is ..."

The flashy kanji appeared on screen.

"A Calvary battle?" Kaminari fretted, "I'm bad at those..."

"It's not an individual event, kero, so I wonder how it'll work," Asui brought her finger up to her mouth.

"Let me explain..."

As Midnight described the point-based battle of teamwork and tussle, the participants conjectured. Himiko searched the crowd on her tip-toes. It only made sense. From the moment she saw his quirk in action, she knew it was remarkably special. He'd be the perfect component to her ploy. She just hoped she'd be able to convince him.

"You guys don't hold back even though I'm talking huh?" Midnight chastised, "And you- pay attention!"

Himiko squeaked at the umpire's scolding and tensed. Her attention went back to the stage.

Izuku Midoriya, the first place winner, was assigned to ten million points. Himiko grinned. She was hoping for this.

"That's right. It's survival of the fittest, with a chance for those at the bottom to overthrow the top!" Midnight teased.

The turbulence of the arena changed instantaneously. The competitors became hostile as they produced an onslaught to achieve first place. In their adolescent hurry, Himiko's mindful strategy was coming to fruition.

...

"Now, you have fifteen minutes to build your teams. Start!"

'Find him!' Himiko made haste and swam through the rough sea of bodies. Her prospective teammate had to be close by. After a few beats, she finally found the purple spikes and went straight for them. She was thankful he was tall. Getting closer, she noticed he'd already placed her classmate, Aoyama, under his spell. She'd have to be straightforward in explaining her case or he'd do the same to her.

"You! General Studies student! Team up with me please."

The boy's shoulders tensed. He paused, then turned to face her. His sloth reaction nearly compelled her to back off. He blinked introspectively, "Oh? And why would I do that, Class A student?"

"You told me to watch you, so I did. Your quirk is hypnotism. It's powerful and I have a plan," Himiko insisted.

'Please don't use your quirk on me,' She begged internally, 'Please.'

"Is that all you have to say about it?" He engaged.

"Huh?"

"My quirk."

Himiko shifted, unsure, "I'm not sure what you're trying to ask me. ... Yes? I think it's a pretty cool quirk if you ask me. I'm not sure why you're not in the Hero Course, but ... let's impress the audience. Lend me your power," She sealed her eyes and bowed deeply, "Please!"

After a few beats, Himiko straightened. The boy's mouth opened and closed slowly. That recognizable sensation from his days ago declaration made her falter. This wasn't going to work...

Then, he exhaled his hesitancy, "Why am I not surprised?" He deactivated his quirk on Aoyama. The vain boy looked around in disarray until running away. The student massaged the crook of his neck. His expression softened as he gazed upon her, "I'll team up with you. An eye for an eye ... as they say."

Himiko, puzzled and relieved by his words, sighed, "Thank goodness. What's your name?"

"... Shinsou Hitoshi."

"I'm Toga Himiko."

He mumbled something Himiko couldn't translate, but she swore it was along the lines of: "life is strange."

"Hey, Heyyy! Stealth Sister! Let's team up! Look, I brought Jirou-chan with me!" Hagakure approached the duo and dragged Jirou via her invisible grip.

"I'm starting to see a pattern here..." Jirou sighed as she was, once again, pulled along unwillingly.

"Hagakure-chan! Jirou-san!" Himiko welcomed them. The feeling of being wanted felt nice.

"Who's this?" Jirou gestured to the tired-looking boy.

"His name's Shinsou Hitoshi-san," Himiko introduced. He nodded curtly and she grinned maliciously, "And he's our Ace."

...

Shinsou, Jirou, Hagakure, and Toga deliberated in their tiny, edgy circle. With a few minutes left to their strategizing, Jirou asked, "All right. Now that we formulated a few combination moves, how do you suggest we get the ten million points?"

"We don't," Himiko answered.

"Ehhhh?" Hagakure gasped.

Shinsou blinked.

"Um, 'we don't?' I think you're missing the point of the Calvary Battle, Toga," The earphone jack user critiqued.

Himiko shook her head in disagreement, "Our quirks are too limited. Look, everybody wants to get that ten-million. That's gonna be their downfall. Nobody will think about coming after us from the start."

"But what about showing our worth to the pro heroes? They're in the audience," Jirou argued, "That's the whole premise to the Sports Festival. Shouldn't our goal be first place?"

Shinsou finally added, "Toga has a point. The competitions are different every year, but ultimately, the U.A. Sports festival hosts one-on-one battles. Last year it was a sports chanbara match. They're downscaling our numbers with every challenge; a process of elimination. We don't need to go for the gold this round. As long as we succeed in the Calvary, we'll advance and produce our results in the finals."

"I hadn't thought about it that way."

"Thanks, Shinsou-kun," Himiko smiled and continued, "What's important here are our quirks. Our only form of tactical offense is you and me, Jirou-san, and that's only if I copy your quirk. Our best course of action is to evade, maintain our points, and covertly use Shinsou-san to steal headbands when the opportunities arise - and they will. If that opportunity happens to be taking the ten-million, we'll do it, but for now, we should focus on keeping ourselves hidden and accumulating lesser points exclusively. If we stay in the spotlight, we won't make it to the next round."

"Fine. I'll trust you both on that. Who do you want to assign as the rider? I'm guessing Hagakure?" Jirou asked.

"W- what? Me?" Hagakure panicked.

"Hagakure-chan is invisible, and that seems obvious, but the headband's gonna be visible on her. It'll leave us exposed. I'll do it," Himiko nodded, leaving out Hagakure's heedless tendencies on purpose, "I've honed my reflexes and reaction timing. They're my strong suits - um, not to brag or anything."

"I'll take the front and assist," Jirou added, "Leave it to me."

"Great. Jirou-san, let me borrow your quirk," Toga opened her mouth and pointed to her canines.

"U- uh, yeah," Jirou detached and leaned back, blushing, "About that. Uh, I- I'm not so great with blood."

"What?"

"I- I mean, I'm fine with the sight of it, but I faint when my blood's drawn," Jirou twirled her earlobe.

Hagakure snorted, then broke out into a laughing spell.

"Don't laugh!" Jirou blushed deeper.

"S- sorry! I- I didn't mean to. You just don't look like that type at all!" The invisible girl slowed her giggles and sighed once she got it out of her system. Her laughter was contagious and Himiko stifled her own.

Himiko assured, "It's fine, Jirou-san. I'll make it work."

...

Present Mic's booming voice consumed the stadium as he set the atmosphere, "All right! You made your teams, right? I'm not gonna ask if you're ready or not!"

"Are you sure about this?" Jirou asked, in position.

Himiko steadied herself above the bodies. She wrapped the red lettered, three-hundred-and-ninety-five-point headband around her forehead and secured the velcro. She was getting fired up, "Oh yeah, baby."

"Now, let's go! Counting down to the brutal battle royale! Three, two, one-"

"Start!" Midnight declared.

The deafening alarm sounded.

The metaphoric horses beneath Himiko slowly passed the margins, surveying the area. Luckily, the proclaimed powerhouse teams, which consisted of Team Bakugou and Team Todoroki, were on the opposite end of the field. The ample distance was relieving, but she and her team needed to hold their guard. A fair majority of these opponents had mystery quirks and she couldn't forget that.

As she deduced, the desperate units of troops raced for Izuku and his teammates, barely giving anyone else the time of day. She suddenly caught eyes with a neighboring team. The soldiery, too, barely moved from their starting position. Their rider's interest was especially piqued.

"Well, well. Isn't this an interesting turn of events. Looks like some of the Class A students aren't as pretentious as I thought," The blonde boy smirked. His mood shifted into condescension, "You sure are the school's main topic of conversation. Toga Something, right? With that creepy look on your face, I can see why you stay in the spotlight. A lot of people claim you're a villain, right?"

Himiko scowled. The boy's persona cracked under her intensity. This boy, like Mineta, was all talk and no walk.

The boy continued his taunting, "... We have a lot in common, you know, but I have to say I'm much more able with my quirk. Must be hard, having to drink someone's blood to execute a proper copy. I'm surprised anyone teamed up with you. They mustn't be that bright."

"Hey, what's all that goading about, you big meanie!" Hagakure fumed, "Come closer and say that to my face!"

'Don't let him get to you. He didn't go after Team Midoriya. It's obvious this team has the same plan as us,' Himiko surmised. She breathed into the present moment. It was best to refrain from an altercation. She didn't know the quirks of these individuals nor did she want to take the chance. Their quirks must be close range since they hadn't initiated any attacks, "Everyone, forw-"

"Hey, you!"

The gruff voice called to her and a thin white line announced itself in Himiko's peripheral. An accompanying blast shook the vicinity and rocked her stance. Himiko shifted to find Team Bakugou barreling straight towards she and her teammates.

"Bakugou-kun?" Hagakure panicked.

"Team Bakugou? What the hell?" Jirou panicked.

Himiko cursed. Team Bakugou was pursuing her camaraderie? This wasn't part of the plan - at all. What the hell were they thinking? After Bakugou's earlier declaration, this didn't make a lick of sense. They were supposed to be going after Team Midoriya!

Using Ashido's weaker dissolving solutions to coat the ground, the opposing team slid; thrusted by Bakugou's explosions and steadied by Sero's mutated tape.

"I'm gonna fuckin' take you out first before I take the ten-million for myself! Have at you!" Bakugou declared.

"We're not supposed to knock them out, Bakubro!" Kirishima added.

"Fuck off!"

Himiko calmed her nerves. It was going to be okay. This wasn't anticipated and it was early into the game, but they were prepared.

"Jirou-san, the ground!" Himiko directed.

"I'm on it!" Jirou acknowledged. As far as she could reach, Jirou extended and connected the tips of her earlobes to the soon-to-be-traveled ground. The mutated quirk activated and made its transfer. The acoustic vibrational energy of her beating heart loosened and shifted the localized stone. It wasn't much, but it would do. With the diversion set in place, Himiko's team retreated in reverse, focusing their vision on the unpredictable rider.

The slight disturbance to the path's surface area would make Ashido's makeshift slide useless. The opposing trio of horses grasped the obstacle ahead and slowed.

"Create more distance, everyone!" Himiko cried out desperately. The vanguard picked up the pace.

"Like I'll let you!" Hellbent, Bakugou abandoned his team. He took for the sky with his volatile palms on his own accord. Pleased with the airborne height, he asserted at a streamlined decline, reveling in a success that hadn't occurred yet. With a sinister grin, he aimed directly for Himiko and her headband, "... Die!"

"Now!"

Himiko gave the signal. Her entire group pivoted. Shinsou, originally on the flank, figuratively took the reins. He parried, "Explodo-boy, remember me?"

"Hah? Who the f-"

The brainwashing quirk activated. The compact explosions ceased. Bakugou's body shut down instantly and the hypnotist assumed control. His solid and dead weight moved involuntarily with his retiring velocity. Team Himiko moved out of their opponent's bullseye.

Himiko sighed in relief. The technique worked. By having a stranger on their side, she and her teammates had a gracious upper hand. Since no one knew of Shinsou's quirk, they'd unknowingly place themselves into their trap. It was smart, but it wasn't over just yet.

"Bakugou!" Kirishima cried out.

"I got him!" Sero reached with his tape. Mid-air, he gracefully snatched Bakugou by the waist. Like a respected fisherman, he reeled their team leader in.

"Who's that guy on Toga-chan's team? What did he do to him?" Ashido panicked as she assisted with the catch.

"Snap out of it, dude!" Sero begged.

Himiko noticed the cocky boy's team initiate a calculated pursuit on her distracted foes. They were going for Bakugou's headband in their chaos. With Bakugou out of commission, the remaining members were fickle and disorganized.

They had to move. She knew her team needed to flee before their enemies reverted Shinsou's control. Fortunately, their interception didn't produce a strong enough jolt. Shinsou's quirk wasn't impenetrable, after all.

"Retreat!" Himiko ordered.

"We didn't take Bakugou's headband!" Jirou rationalized.

"We can't risk it. Their quirks are too invasive. That team with the jerk is going for his headband! We'll use them as a scapegoat and find weaker opponents. Hurry!"

As instructed, Himiko and her teammates welcomed their headway and fled in the opposite direction. Once she felt they were in the clear from Team Bakugou's vigor, she scoured nearby participants.

"Ten minutes on the clock!" Present Mic instructed.

With the announced countdown and two-thirds of the battle remaining, Himiko noticed a few students branch off from the ten-million pursuit. Now was their chance to collect points. A nearby team made their move.

"Friends! Can you hear me? Please offer your assistance! Quickly, now. Take their headbands!" A youthful voice requested at the top of his lungs. The air around the stadium shifted.

The beckoned wildlife abided to his request. Himiko followed the aviary sounds upward. Her jaw dropped. It was unlike anything she had seen before. A substantial flock of birds of various species descended in a circular pattern. They aimed for the participants below. The transformation user soon realized someone's quirk provoked them.

"They're being controlled?" Jirou described in amazement.

"Holy- ... wow!" Hagakure gasped.

"What's this? Looks like we have some unexpected guests joining the fray!" Present Mic spectated.

"Toga! Your headband," Shinsou directed.

"Right!" Himiko almost forgot.

As she went to protect her points, a sparkling beam emitted in her direction. She maneuvered around it in a shriek. It fired again and Himiko barely avoided. A nearby hawk instinctively free-fell. It secured her headband with its predatory beak. In her distraction, the animal pulled. The specific sound of detaching velcro made Himiko react.

"No!" Toga gasped. At the last millisecond, she remedied the end of the fabric. She continued the motion from her desperate outreach and nearly fell from her rider position. Shinsou locked his arm around her waist and set her back in place. Working on stabilizing, the medium sent forth a third amplified beam. Himiko grasped the severity of the predicament and cried out, "Jirou-san - help!"

Her comrade responded right away, shooing the aviary via her flexible appendages. The feathered animals seemed to retreat while everyone utilized their quirks in angered retort. The tactic was well-executed, as it appeared to retrieve one headband in the process. Himiko followed the headband-carrying sparrow.

No more than ten meters away, she found Aoyama, Satou, Ojiro, and an unknown boy with a rock-like cranium. The mystery boy was their rider. Said boy retrieved the stolen two-hundred point headband, offering his kind thanks to the sparrow. It was official: he was the one with the animal-controlling quirk. Himiko rationalized the team had a similar idea to recruit a stranger.

"Seven minutes left!" Present Mic cried out.

"We're less than half-way through!" Jirou panicked.

"We'll need to get reckless!" Himiko yelled and gestured to initiate an altercation.

"I used my quirk on the laser kid. Our maneuver won't work," Shinsou countered.

"Don't worry, ladies and Shinsou-kun. Get closer! I know I'll never get married, so I got this!" Hagakure removed and discarded her gym shirt. She took a step towards the opposing team and the remaining company favored her request. In warrior mode, she cried, "Ojiro-kun, Aoyama-kun, Satou-kun! We're coming for you!"

"Hagakure-san? W- what happened to your shirt?" Ojiro blushed.

Satou, the hormonal-ridden teenager he was, reacted to Ojiro's embarrassing words. Aoyama was bent over in a consequential stomach ache. In position, Himiko and company took the moment of lowered guard to get closer to their rider. She entered his personal space. Face-to-face, she displayed her scariest face.

"Hello, there. Gimmie your points, or suffer my wrath. ... Pretty please?"

The rock-head halted in a terrified freeze. Himiko clenched her jaw and pursued. In a forward-back motion, Himiko grasped both headbands simultaneously. Her swift action caused Satou and Ojiro to snap out of their stupor.

"Kouda-kun, what are you doing? Fight back and get our points!" Satou ordered.

"I got them!" Ojiro attempted, then halted, "Wh- Aoyama?"

Due to Aoyama's inability to proceed, Himiko's team were plentiful steps ahead. They retreated successfully.

"Nice job, everyone!" Himiko wrapped the added points around her neck. With all three headbands on her person, they were at nine hundred and forty points.

"Now, let's take a look at each team's points..." Present Mic announced, "Here are the current rankings up on the screen! ... What? Wait a minute. Other than Team Midoriya and Team Toga, Class A isn't doing so great ... Oh well. Anyway, less than half the time is left now! Who will wear the ten million points in the end?"

They were in fourth place. They were in fourth place!

"Are we all feeling okay?" Himiko conducted a wellness check. Her endorphins were running rampant and she smiled dramatically.

"Yep, yep! I'm pumped. Let's get more points, and maybe the ten-million!" Hagakure replied.

"I'd say I'm doing just fine," Shinsou reared for more.

"Let's go for the ten-million. What do you think?" Jirou asked.

Her team appeared to be on the same level as her. Himiko modestly giggled and humbled herself, "Only when the time is right. Remain focused. We're ahead now, but if we get carried away, it could change in an inst-"

Bzzzt!

It changed in an instant. An indiscriminate discharge of energy electrified Himiko's and surrounding groups. The tremors and prickly sensations inside of her were nerve-wracking. She couldn't move. It hurt. God damn it, it hurt.

"Ouchie!" Himiko managed to cry out.

"Kaminari!" Jirou replied in sync with the waves of shock.

A bone-chilling ice floor followed, crippling Himiko's team and nearby fleets.

"Sorry, but you'll just have to bear it," Todoroki called out in the distance.

"What? What did he do? Todoroki took care of that crowd of teams in an instant!" The flamboyant commentator announced.

"He froze them after Kaminari's shock stopped them ... I guess it should be expected, but he took into account a lot of people avoided it in the obstacle course," Aizawa added in a muffle.

"Nice commentary!"

In a well-coordinated semi-circle, Team Todoroki elegantly sought and stole the headbands of his trapped opponents. He was quickly approaching Himiko and her teammates in an uncomfortably focused gaze. Addle-brained, she tried to regain her senses.

"Jirou-san, b- break the ice!" Himiko instructed. She sounded weak and unstable.

"I- I need a few seconds. I'm- I'm st- still shook up from th- the voltage of Kaminari's attack!" Jirou answered in a pained quiver.

Todoroki was getting too close for comfort. Himiko bit her lip, 'No! No, no, no! After all we did to get to fourth place!'

Creating a false sense of safety, Himiko sealed her eyes, leaned back, and urgently shot her hands forward. She knew it was useless, but she didn't know what else to do. She shouldered defeat and begged, "No, Todo-"

"... I take back what I said."

When she found her bearings, Team Todoroki were retreating in the opposite direction. Her headbands remained intact.


Not unlike his quirk, Shouto Todoroki lived on the far-ends of a hot and cold spectrum. He had a seething and fiery disdain for his father. He had a blazing devotion to become a professional hero. He maintained a cold, impassive attitude towards the people around him.

He was content with that life - if content was the right word. Maybe the correct way to describe it was "just there," like him. Shouto Todoroki simply existed without solid identity. At first, he thought he was the ideal contrivance to amend his father's failure. Then, he became a lamentation for his mother's plight. When he grew up and learned the concept of independence, he wasn't sure what he became. He knew he wanted to be his own hero and would reject his father's eugenics while doing so. Nothing else mattered, even if that feeling felt cold.

Then, it changed.

Looking at nothing, he idly stood by the train station, waiting for Toga's arrival and remembering his combat training the previous day. How she portrayed his thematic hatred, how he'd lost control of his one-sided duality, how she foolishly fought against him, and how her words didn't tell him to cease, but "why?"

'Someone like you shouldn't be that way. I don't even know my place in this world. But you do, Todoroki-kun. Your quirk is amazing and you're so... so lucky.'

She didn't realize how much she'd revealed in such few sentences. It appeared she also struggled with her sense of self, and that made her seem relatable and human.

After he used his left side and before he draped his shirt over her uncouth body, he had quietly corrected her.

'I'm not lucky...'

In the moment, he perished that thought. Once in Himiko Toga's company, he'd seek the opportunity to push her aside and set things straight. He'd tell her to cast away that miscalculated standoff. His marginal error was simply due to a moment of rebellious emotion. He pushed himself too hard too quickly. That was all it was and she nor anybody else would witness his vulnerability again. He would defeat her and surpass her and show his true power: an emotionless, frozen ability that wasn't fueled and consumed by intimate rage.

"The U.A. Sports Festival's coming up. Didja hear? Endeavor's son's apparently a first year," A passerby gossiped close enough for Shouto to catch.

"Makes sense to me. Endeavor's the number two hero. That's some fine pedigree," The second one added.

"Pedigree? They're not show dogs!" The prior jested.

The duo laughed and walked away. Shouto frowned.

Who was he? What was he?

...

This was getting ridiculous. What the hell was he doing? He'd been following her around all day like some kind of famished, lost puppy. He even took a seat next to her in class as an extra measure. He couldn't find the right moment to confront her.

Shouto waited in line at Lunch Rush. The boy knew time was ticking. He collected his meal and made his way to Toga. She was sitting alone, finally by herself. Finally...

Before he had the chance to speak, her small group of friends gathered with their own trays of scrumptious food. He sat down and grumbled.

He noticed Toga brought a homemade lunch. For some reason, the boy recollected the day after school when she interacted with her mother. He thought her mother must cherish her deeply. He felt a pang in his chest. Everyone at the table pleasantly permitted his attendance.

"Todoroki-kun, you're going to eat with us from now on?" Uraraka questioned.

"Yeah."

"That's great! The more the merrier," She cheered.

Toga's lunch was cold soba; his favorite dish. It was another indicator of his place on his invented spectrum. The group questioned the odd food choice. He stared at her meal, finding it more tempting and appetizing than his own.

Suddenly, she set a cluster of noodles atop his white rice, "Here you go."

He blinked.

"They're for you. You've kinda been staring at my food for a while. It was getting a little uncomfortable," His rival smiled.

In his world laden with calamity, it might've been the most normal thing anyone had ever said to him.

With a small, "Thanks," he ate them quickly.

The noodles were warm.

...

This unforeseen give-and-take continued, and he started to forget why he followed Toga in the first place. He also started to question his identity, and started to wonder about his father's flames.

Something established between them as the days progressed. The two shared little things and little moments, but they had substance. Things between them were commonplace, human, and far from opposition. Strangely enough, Toga didn't seem to mind; if anything, she happily accepted him into her life. Her lack of reservation almost unnerved him. He wondered if she was the type to choose character over pride.

He wasn't sure how to describe Toga, so he assigned it as "different." Toga was different, and not in a bad way.

Marking the wrap up of Modern Literature class, the students were assigned to compile & write a summarized report on the present-day top ten heroes. Todoroki almost scoffed at how bittersweet it felt to research & write both his favorite and least favorite hero simultaneously. To him, they didn't belong on the same sheet of paper. The chiming of the school bell snapped him out of his chagrin. When he looked up he noticed Asui.

Wide eyed and emotionless, she touched her index finger to her bottom lip and asked, "Todoroki-chan, your father is Endeavor, right?"

"Whoa! Tsu-chan being straight to the point, as usual!" Kirishima laughed lightheartedly.

"Oh yeah. Help us out with the project, dude. I need to pass this one or I'm in trouble. What's your old man like?" Kaminari stood from his desk and walked over. An assembly of classmates followed.

Shouto stole a glance at Toga. She seemed lost in her own world and engrossed in her textbook. In the spotlight, he wasn't sure what to say without his feelings getting the best of him. He looked at the surface of his desk and nonchalantly replied, "Fine."

The classmates continued their chattering and he tried to cancel them out. He was getting uncomfortable and annoyed at their exuberance.

A voice directed at Toga asked, "Toga, how does it feel knowing you went face-to-face with Endeavor's son?"

Toga jumped and blinked rapidly. Shouto learned that was one of her mannerisms. She was always startled when someone called to her. It was almost like she couldn't believe somebody gave her the time of day. He was attentive in listening to her Heroic Basics speech and wondered if her past played a role in that reaction.

"Um, er, 'Endeavor?' Who?" Himiko's mouth pursed.

Todoroki froze as she said his father's heroic alias aloud. He thought that was also bittersweet.

"What?" The class gasped.

"You don't know who Endeavor is? You know, the Number Two Pro Hero?"

"Oh, right. I kinda know of him. Um," Himiko sputtered.

"Well, now that ya know, what do ya think about him?"

The blonde finally faced Shouto. He looked away and frustratingly lowered his head. He knew what she would say, and it wasn't about him, but his lineage. That's always what it'd been about. He knew his truth. His hollow identity existed in the bloodline of another. She would say how amazing he was, how great it was to have a father as the Number Two Hero, and how it made sense that his quirk was so strong and brilliant. How-

"Well," Himiko conversed, "I think Todoroki-kun is Todoroki-kun."

Shouto exhaled. He finally found the word to describe her, and it was a degree he remembered from the depths of his foggy childhood.

Himiko Toga was warmth.

...

Shouto couldn't sleep, so he trained.

He was dissatisfied with his preparations for the U.A. Sports Festival, and he knew the culprit behind this mess. He and Toga were beyond acquaintances. A internal line was crossed and his focus was lacking. Things blended together and were left uninhibited. That gray area brought forth questions and he couldn't find answer. It kept him up at night and he lost a balance he had long perfected.

It was a mistake. Getting close to Toga was a monumental mistake. Wanting to open up to someone was a mistake. He continued his training and ignored Fuyumi when she'd asked him to turn down for the evening.

He had a standing to uphold. Real heroes couldn't waste their time on petty "establishments" and simple pleasures. He would surpass and prevail. Toga might be warmth, but he couldn't indulge in that uncharted temperature. The road to becoming a pro hero took precedence and Toga was a roadblock to that achievement.

From the stark air-jabs and kicks, his silhouette felt hot. His muscles were tearing, burning, building. Determined beads of sweat trickled down the nape of his neck. This was a temperature he could understand and sustain. He didn't have room for friendships. He didn't have room for warmth.

Affirming his standards and pledging his fraudulent hierarchy, Shouto rejected Toga. It was easy to reject. He had done so in the past and he'd do the same with her. Yes, he'd reject Toga, even if that feeling felt cold. But at least it was familiar.

...

'You can call it what you like, but I wouldn't say anything between us is 'petty.' You better take that back.'

With a few simple words, he pushed away that opportunistic pleasure that made him humanly sound. Was he human in the first place? He knew he made his decision, and he knew it would hurt, but he didn't think it'd hurt this much. Still, he wouldn't take it back.

Then, Toga expressed herself in her Player Pledge. Her words spoke to him. Her words reached for him. He had lived so high up in isolation, and she had managed to meet him up there. Once she reached him, she desperately tried to drag him down. On stage, she told him that he was human. He could rationalize that their relationship was a mistake, but it wasn't petty. It wasn't something to be scorned. It was growth, warmth, and learning. She said that because she cared for him. She fought for him - no, she fought for them.

Then, she collapsed after the obstacle course. Todoroki moved before he could think. That movement told him he cared for her well-being.

Finally, Shouto sought her during the Calvary Battle. It was the first time she seemed crestfallen and defeated by him. He thought defeat looked terrible on her. She shot out her hands and acquiesced her failure.

"No, Todo-"

And, in that moment, time slowed and Shouto forgot about the sport involved. He thought those hands should be grabbing him. Those hands should be bringing him down to reality. Those hands should be showing him a life he could live. Himiko saw him and only him. She saw something so miraculously important that he couldn't see within himself. He wanted to learn more about her. He wanted to learn more about himself.

Himiko Toga wasn't a rival. Himiko Toga wasn't an enemy. Himiko Toga wasn't a mistake.

Himiko Toga was a friend.

"... I take back what I said."

He withdrew without her headbands and disregarded the objections from his teammates. To make up for it, he and his team succeeded in their efforts for the ten-million. After the theft, his left ignited to counter Midoriya's surprise attack, which projected a power uncannily similar to a certain living legend. Regardless, it seemed, whenever he activated his flames, there was solidity behind it. That meant Izuku Midoriya also had an effect on him. But that wasn't a mistake; it was simply an instance that led to inner reflection, acceptance, and growth.

Perhaps learning more about people wasn't so bad, after all.

Maybe, if he learned about others, he'd discover a few things about himself.

...

"Now, let's take a look at the top four teams right away! In first place, Team Todoroki!"

"Even though we won, it felt like we were skating on thin ice," Yaoyorozu unknowingly punned.

"Sorry... I caused everyone trouble..." Iida apologized.

"That's not true. Without you, we would not have won."

"In second place, Team Toga! In third place, Team Bakugou! In fourth place, Team Midoriya! These four teams will advance to the final round!"

Todoroki watched Midoriya sob dramatically. He studied his left palm. Things were changing inside of him and he fought his bias, "If I continue doing this, I'll be appeasing my old man's will. That's what I'd be doing ... right?"

"Todoroki-kun!" Toga cried out, seeking him in a dedicated run. She seemed distressed and bowed in saikeirei as she met him. Puffing, she apologized, "I was selfish. My pledge ... that was wrong of me. It made you lose sight in the Calvary battle. I made it personal when this is just a game of sport. I want you to-"

Todoroki outstretched his hand, placing it on Himiko's head. Her hair was soft. She flinched, blinked rapidly, and looked up at him in surprise.

Ever so slightly, the far ends of his lips curled upward.

"Toga, thank you."


"Now, we'll take an hour break for lunch before we start the afternoon festivities! See ya!" Present Mic relaxed, "Hey, Eraserhead, let's go grab food."

"I'm going to sleep," Aizawa responded.

The erasure hero was equally hungry and tired. Naps on a full stomach were better than on an empty one, so he snuck away from Yamada to grab a quick bite. Twenty minute power naps were his forte and the timing was sinfully perfect.

He avoided any and all confrontations during his trek. He had to be especially cautious since Ms. Joke was an attendee. In the hallway, he heard a new intruder cry out for him.

"Aizawa-kun!"

'Just my luck,' Aizawa groaned. He acknowledged All Might in monotone, "What is it?"

"As the Americans say: 'a penny for your thoughts?' I'd like to ask you something," All Might grinned as expected and went straight to the chase, "Young Toga... what is your opinion on her?"

He tiredly replied, "I don't have opinions when it comes to my students; only expectations."

"Then, what are your expectations of her?"

That was odd. From what Aizawa knew, All Might wasn't the pushy type when it came to casual conversation. He usually took simplistic matters as they were. In All Might's own way, this was serious and Aizawa's words were important. He tested the waters and jested, "Are you choosing favorites again?"

All Might didn't humor him. This was more serious than Aizawa initially thought.

The silence became too much for even Aizawa to handle. He answered in a roundabout, "I'll say this: we're living in the Stone Age of quirks. There are heroes we need and there are heroes we want. I'm sure someone like you recognizes that."

To coax his elder out of their conversation, Aizawa yawned. This was getting personal and he wanted to avoid that.

When All Might didn't respond, the erasure hero turned to walk away.

"... I do," All Might whispered.

Aizawa pretended not to notice.


"Midoriya-kun, you made it in time for lunch!" Himiko grinned and handed him a tray of her hand-selected food.

"Wh- what's this?" Midoriya accepted the meal, startled and famished.

"Oh, I got you a plate. You told me you like katsudon the other day, so when I saw it, I went ahead and got it for you!"

"Wow, y- you remembered something like that?"

"I remember a lot about you," Toga slipped out, then cringed, "Um, oops. That sounds kinda creepy, doesn't it?"

Midoriya fevered. After fiddling for a few beats, he returned to his dejected state.

Himiko tilted her head, "Is something wrong? I saw you went off with Todoroki-kun after the Calvary. He seemed like he really wanted to talk to you."

"Oh," Midoriya frowned deeper, "I'm all right. I was surprised about his father."

"His dad?" Himiko pressed, "What about him?"

The deep-fried cutlet nearly came back to life and sprung out of the bowl as he realized he misspoke, "Oh, um! N- nothing! I thought you knew because you t- two are so close. I slipped it out without thinking. Oh man. Um, uh! Fo- forget what I said!"

"Mhm, okay, I will."

She didn't.

"I'm sorry for interrupting," Yaoyorozu made herself known. She turned to her friend with a pleasant smile, "Toga-san, lunch time is almost finished. Are you ready to change?"

"Oh, right."

...

"Now that lunch is over, it's finally time to reveal the last game!" Present Mic declared, "But before that, there's good news for all you who didn't make it to the finals! It is just a sports festival, so we've prepared recreational games that everyone can participate in, too! We've even brought real cheerleaders from America to liven things up!"

Himiko's blood ran cold.

"... Huh? What are they doing?"

What...? What the...?

"What's the matter, Class A? What kind of fan service is that?" Present Mic guffawed.

"Mineta-san, Kaminari-san! You tricked us, didn't you?" Yaoyorozu exasperated, garbed in a custom U.A. cheerleading uniform.

"And why is mine so different?" Toga cringed at the black details that contrasted the white on the other girls.

"Mineta-san told me yours needed to stand out since you're representing our year! I'm so sorry, Toga-san, I'm sorry, everyone. I keep falling for his antics," Yaoyorozu apologized and collapsed. Uraraka came over to comfort her, "I even used Creation to make the outfits..."

Mineta, the perpetrator himself, approached Toga in starry-eyed awe. The two shared a moment's silence. He collapsed onto the ground and sprawled like a starfish.

"Mistress, step on me!" Mineta pleaded at the top of his lungs.

Himiko gawked, then turned to Jirou and asked, "I really think I should. What do you think?"

"If you feed a wild animal, it'll just come back," She scorned.

Kaminari suavely approached the earphone jack user, "I guess the 'M' in Mineta stands for 'masochist,' huh, Jirou? Looking fresh, by the way."

"... You're dumb. All the boys are dumb. I'm changing back into my gym uniform," Jirou threw her pom-poms onto the ground and started to leave.

"Toga, whoa! You're ripped!" Kirishima announced and ran over, "Where have you been hiding those muscles?"

Himiko jumped, startled by his entrance, "Kirishima-kun! I guess since I wear baggy clothes, it's not as noticeable? Sorry."

"Don't be sorry! You must've trained hard!" Kirishima pulled up his shirt inconsiderately, showcasing his six-pack, "I mean, I have mine, but I know it's difficult for girls to retain muscle mass, so I totally respect that!"

"Oh yeah!" Himiko chose a random protrusion of muscle and poked it. Kirishima reached out and squeezed her bicep in return. Her female classmates shrieked, but Himiko didn't notice. She continued, "When I transform into guys, it's so obvious how defined they are! Boys are stronger, less flexible, but much more apt in terms of their natural strength. I get so jealous!"

"W- what're you two doing?" Jirou dropped her jaw.

"Huh?" They asked simultaneously.

"Yo- Well, um, Miko-chan," Uraraka panicked.

"Himiko-chan is a girl, Ejirou-chan. You shouldn't touch her so casually," Asui pointed.

The two blushed and pulled away as if the other were on fire.

"Wah- I'm sorry!" Kirishima gasped.

"No, it's my fault! I touched you first!" Toga protested.

"Well, there's still time before the finals," Hagakure changed the subject and gyrated her yellow pom-poms, "And it'll be a pain if things got tense. Come on, let's rally them up!"

"Eh?" Jirou flushed.

"Tooru-chan, you like this type of thing, huh?" Asui commented.

"All right, everyone! Let's have fun competing the recreational games!" Present Mic announced as an empty roster appeared on screen, "When that's over, the sixteen from the four teams that made it to the final round will duke it out tournament-style, one-on-one!"

"Now, let's draw lots to determine the bracket!" Midnight pulled out the box from seemingly nowhere, "Once the bracket is determined, we'll have recreational games and then start! The sixteen finalists can choose whether or not they want to participate in the recreation. I'm sure some of you want to rest to save your strength. Now, from the first-to-fourth place team, this is the bracket based on the results of the drawing!"

The bracket appeared on screen. Himiko looked up.

Midoriya versus Shinsou

Todoroki versus Sero

Kirishima versus Uraraka

Yaoyorozu versus Ashido

Kaminari versus Jirou

Iida versus Hatsume

Hagakure versus Tokoyami

Toga versus Bakugou

Himiko moved and searched for her competitor. When she found Bakugou, he was already giving her his own stare down. The blonde couldn't pinpoint the sensation she felt. How long had he been watching her? And why did it seem so familiar? With bated breath, she wiggled, self-conscious and compelled to hide herself under his scrutiny. Her immodesty was not helping.

As the screen changed, Present Mic directed, "All right! Let's set the tournament aside for a momentary interlude!"

The recreational games began and Himiko chose to opt out. The female classmates of Class 1-A led their hurrahs in a lighthearted reprieve. Since the Class A girls - save for Asui - were in the finals, tension and stakes were high. Himiko participated in their energy and did her utmost to appease her classmates. Ashido, Uraraka, and Hagakure were skillful in their stunts and Himiko tried to mirror them. While she felt awkward, she honestly appreciated the break. Nevertheless, she knew she had to think and she had to think hard. Once she got the hang of cheerleading, her mind wandered.

Bakugou was her selected adversary. She wondered if an outside force caused this preordained match up. Bakugou despised her, after all. She wasn't as scared as she'd anticipated, but she knew he wasn't an opponent to take lightly. Bakugou's battle capability was in tune with the physics of his quirk. He was fast, ferocious, and the strongest in the class when it came to combat conclusively. In terms of comparing impetus, Bakugou and Toga couldn't be more juxtaposed. It was almost like the unpredictable and confident boy didn't possess a weakness-

Suddenly, something hit her with an abruptness that made her pause mid-cheer. In the realm of humanity, quirks were a physical attribution; but, what would happen if she challenged that notion?

Himiko and Midoriya had a brief conversation at the tail-end of lunch time. Her freckled friend mentioned Todoroki and his father. Himiko remembered the Modern Literature report and how she'd wrote about Endeavor, the Number Two Hero. Endeavor's quirk involved flames. Todoroki was Endeavor's son. Quirks are generally passed on by Mendelian inheritance. Todoroki rejected the use of his left in most conditions. Midoriya looked distraught after his confrontation with Todoroki.

"Miko-chan? You stopped all of the sudden. Come on, pick up the pace!" Uraraka urged.

"Ochako-chan, everyone kept saying I nearly defeated Todoroki-kun, right?" Himiko engaged, staring at nothing in particular as her ingenuity took control.

"Are you talking about the combat training? Mm, we did! We were so surprised!" The zero-gravity user replied.

"I don't think it was me who did it."

"Oh, is this some kind of a play with words? Okay, give me a second... Hmm... Okay! I guess if you're on the outside looking in, since you used your quirk, Todoroki almost lost to himself?" Uraraka hummed and strained, "Well, don't worry about something silly like that! That's in the past. It's the Sports Festival now. You should worry about the next round."

It was clear to Himiko in that moment. She had a strategy to fight Bakugou.

Seconds later, Himiko witnessed Midnight approach her in a predatory prowl. Goosebumps appeared on the blonde's skin as her mentor stood just outside her personal space. The 18+ hero paused.

"Um, Sensei? What's the matter?" Himiko asked uncomfortably.

Midnight pulled out her phone and started taking pictures of her.

"What the- ...? W- what are you doing?" Himiko covered the unclad parts of her body with her pom-poms.

"Miko-chan, these youthful images have become my precious treasures. I shall protect them with my life if I must," Midnight answered seriously. She continued her spontaneous photography session.

"That's not funny! Cut it out!" Himiko cried, protesting in a vain reach for Midnight's phone. Then, realizing her mentor's arbitrative position in the Sports Festival, she stepped back and rubbed her arm, "Sensei ... Actually, I know this is a little random, but ... can I ask you something?"


With a quirk that matched his aptronym, Cementoss prepared the arena for the head-to-head battles. Those who weren't in the first and second match, which included Himiko, were advised to make way towards their assigned placement in the stands. She was thankful to be out of that obnoxious outfit and back in her gym uniform.

Once in their tier, Iida went off on a tangent about the importance of filling the front two rows accordingly. The only people who listened were Asui, Uraraka, Yaoyorozu, Ashido, Tokoyami, Kirishima, and Toga.

"Hey guys, are you ready?" Present Mic announced in English. Solely for show, torched flames ignited at each respective corner on center stage. The stadium cheered with ebullience louder than ever before. Himiko had watched the U.A. Sports Festivals in the past. Due to her disinterest, she hadn't remembered much. Clearly the finals were the most anticipated part of the flashy event.

"A lot's happened but it's now come to this. A serious battle! You can only depend on yourself! Even if you're not a hero, you'll face lots of situations like that! You get it, right? Heart, skill, body, wisdom, and knowledge! Use all of that to rush up!"

Himiko gulped. She felt guilty, but she knew she made the right choice. The blonde didn't reveal Shinsou's quirk to Midoriya. She felt that, if she'd done such a thing, it'd be relative to cheating.

"Audience! The finals that you've all been waiting for are finally starting!"

Present Mic rambled while a nervous Izuku Midoriya and a focused Hitoshi Shinsou met face-to-face at their appointed boundary edges. While Present Mic romanticized his words, the rules were simple: to surpass, either force your opponent out of bounds, immobilize them, or make them say "I concede."

"Ready?"

"Are you worried?" Uraraka asked Himiko.

"Yeah. Super worried," Himiko answered. She sat on the edge of her seat.

"Me too."

"Shinsou-kun was on your team, Himiko-chan. His quirk must be powerful," Asui added.

"It is," Himiko answered, "It- it's too powerful."

Present Mic screeched, "Start!"

The match started off slow. It didn't take long for Midoriya to fall under Shinsou's spell. Himiko was surprised at how much coaxing Shinsou needed to get a verbal reaction. Oddly enough, she repeatedly asked herself why Shinsou wasn't enrolled in the department of heroics. During the Calvary battle, he practically led her team to success. His tact and ability was worthy of such placement.

"Deku-kun?" Uraraka questioned.

"What in the world is going on?" Iida asked, standing from his seat. Uraraka copied his reaction.

'I'm sorry, Midoriya-kun.'

"Hey, what's the matter? It's the important first match! Liven things up! Midoriya, the match just started... and he's completely frozen? He's got a blank look on his face and isn't moving a muscle! Is this Shinou's quirk? Shinsou Hitoshi from General Studies has gotten the better of Midoriya Izuku from the Hero Course! Who would've imagined this?"

The sound of the audience amplified, trying to come up with their own speculations under Present Mic's dramatic commentary. Shinsou's mouth moved, but Himiko couldn't hear. In the end, she knew her spectating was useless. In a tranced mission, Midoriya succumbed and abided the hypnotist's requests. Step by step, he worked his way out of bounds.

It was over. Shinsou won. There was no way Midoriya was getting out of this.

"Eh? Huh? Midoriya's being so obedient!"

"Deku-kun! Stop!" Uraraka nearly cried, her stubby eyebrows taunt and desperate.

"If you go out of bounds, then you'll lose the match!" Iida gesticulated.

Himiko tried to relax her friends. They finally sat down. She turned five o'clock to find Bakugou's jaw clenched and brow furrowed. He almost seemed disappointed behind his casual irate.

Just before his utter defeat, something changed. Midoriya discharged the individuality inside of him and overcame the brainwashing. Milliseconds later, a powerful stir and dust-filled whirlwind appeared, blinding the audience and blowing everyone's hair into a frenzy.

"Th- this is ... Midoriya stopped!" Present Mic announced.

'What? What?' Himiko inhaled. The arena went berserk.

"Midoriya-kun!" Iida jumped out of his seat once more.

"I'm- I'm so glad!" Uraraka clasped her hands in relief.

Himiko went pale, "Shinsou-kun told me it's impossible for someone to remove his quirk without outside forces."

"Maybe Deku-kun has amazing willpower!" Uraraka beamed, "Mind over matter!"

The blonde shook her head. Who was Izuku Midoriya? What was this quirk inside of him? It might've been a stretch, but could this quirk of his be sentient?

"What did you do?" Shinsou screamed. The stadium stilled from his outcry. During Midoriya's silent hunt and the audience's calm, Himiko strained her ears to listen. She finally caught Shinsou's words as his voice rose, "Thanks to my quirk, I've been behind from the start. Someone who's been so blessed like you can't understand, can you? Someone like you who was born with the ideal quirk! Someone who can reach your goal!"

'Someone born with an ideal ... quirk.'

Himiko felt Shinsou's words as she put two and two together. It finally made sense. She hadn't seen it before, but Shinsou's quirk was perceivably villainous. That's why he teamed up with her in the Calvary battle. She didn't insinuate his quirk as criminal and he connected with her. He had a villain-type quirk, just like her.

'Just like me...'

With an initiation of hands on shoulders, Midoriya and Shinsou entered their quirkless skirmish. The Class A student was in the clear advantage. Shinsou verbally fought back. His resolution was evident and Himiko held her breath. He pulled her in and she leaned closer, practically falling out of her seat.

"But, I'm going to show them!" Shinsou cried out, reciprocating Midoriya's approach with inexperienced punches to his face and injured hand. Their novice hits were solely driven by their instinctive forces. It commanded the two as they sought victory. He continued, "You've got to be kidding! Quirks like hers... quirks like mine..."

Midoriya found his outlet and achievement first. He pulled Shinsou towards him and into an over shoulder throw.

Shinsou didn't skip a beat, "Quirks like ours... they're only evil if we want them to be!"

'It's only evil if you want it to be.'

'You really think that?'

'I don't think it. I know it.'

There's no way.

Shinsou lost, but it wasn't the reason why Himiko started to cry.

There was absolutely no way.

Hitoshi Shinsou was...

"Toga-kun?" Iida inquired, "Are you feeling unwell?"

"Shinsou is out of bounds! Midoriya advances to round two!" Present Mic cheered, his robust voice suddenly sounding miles away.

Spellbound, Himiko stood from her seat. She gripped her gym shirt, unsure how her heart could stop yet pound so rapidly at the same time.

"In the finals, the first person to advance to the second round is Midoriya Izuku from Class A!"

"I was so nerv-" Uraraka noticed her friend, "Why do you look like that, Miko-chan?"

"Ochako-chan, it's- it's him ... it's him! Shinsou-kun is the boy who ... who saved me!" Himiko cried.

"Ehhh? He's the guy you mentioned before? How do you know that?" Hagakure, one seat behind her, questioned.

"I know it's him! I never thought I'd- but he was ... I mean he- and we teamed up- ... I- I'm overwhelmed. I- I don't know what to do!" Himiko yelled. Shaking hands reached for the handrail. She bent at an angle and closed her eyes, trying to calm herself by deleting one of her senses.

"Go to him!" Ashido suggested merrily, "He's important to you, right? Hurry! Go and tell him what you're feeling, right now!"

Himiko stood straight. Yes, that's right. Ashido was right! She had to go. She had to run. She had to see him.

She had to tell him.

"I- I'm going," Himiko breathed, "I'm going! I'm going!"

Disregarding all other knowledge, Himiko made her dash up the stands to her threshold. She tripped on nothing. It was embarrassing, but that didn't matter. Nothing mattered. She just had to go to him. She just had to see him. Her hysterical, inexperienced, and jumbled mind told her nothing else mattered.

She had to tell him.


Tsuyu Asui became interested in the throes of love.

Tsuyu expected this. It was no one's fault but the existential growing pains of a teenage girl. From prepubescence, she grasped that textbook prose. Life was black and white for the girl, and she knew when the stars were aligned, her trysts would be the same. But love, nonetheless, fascinated her fifteen-year-old mind & body. She wondered about the human momentum that could bewitch such a "doki doki" palpitation. In her adolescence, when she asked her mother what love felt like, the parent replied, "It feels like butterflies." Unfortunately, all Tsuyu could think of was a nice snack on a turgid summer.

Himiko was intense - frighteningly so - but never like this. The blonde messily neglected her dignity, solely wanting to be close to the boy that changed her. Tsuyu thought how she longed for that. She wanted her own heart to race. She wanted to feel an emotion so intense it left her breathless and unethical.

"Isn't that great, Tsu-chan? Miko-chan finally found the- the person who saved her."

When Tsuyu faced her friend, she noticed how her words contrasted her expression. It was a fact that Uraraka wore her heart on her sleeve. But, why did she look so sad?

"I- I don't know why I'm being like this. I should be happy, right?" Uraraka asked, "That's what any friend would feel, right? I should support her. I- I don't know what's happening. My chest hurts."

"Bakubro, where are you going?" Kirishima interrupted loudly.

Asui caught the explosive boy leaving as he mumbled, "Toilet."

"Oi, you didn't make a snarky remark," Kirishima stood up, "You okay?"

"I didn't realize you're my old hag, shitty hair. Piss off! You're not my fucking mother fucking mother. Always asking me dumb shit- why don't you fuck off and leave me the fuck alone? I don't need to tell you where I'm fucking going or how I'm fucking going! Fucking leave me alone!" Bakugou outraged at the top of his lungs. He puffed and Tsuyu couldn't believe he managed to reserve air in his lungs. Semi-calmed down, he left soundless.

Kirishima gasped, "Don't tell me..."

"Ah, I see Bakugou is a man of culture as well," Mineta crossed his arms, closed his eyes, and nodded in affirmation.

"I'm going to make sure he's okay. Bakugou's really sensitive, y'know," Kirishima added as he departed.

"... Sensitive?" The remaining class doubted.

"When did Kirishima learn how to read Bakugou?" Jirou questioned.

"Dunno. Wait. I thought Toga was, like, a one-point-six on the Bakugou tolerance scale," Kaminari added.

"What, what? What is this development? Oh my gosh, I'm positively living right now!" Ashido squealed with tears in her eyes.

"You're taking this pretty well, Mineta," Sero added.

"Toga is a part of everyone and everyone belongs to Toga," Mineta answered as if he were an esteemed philosopher.

Tsuyu honestly didn't know which was worse: obsessive pervert Mineta or obsessive servant Mineta.

As the class dwelled on the drama, Midoriya, the champion of the first round's matchup, entered.

"Oh..." The zero-gravity user collected herself. She delightfully called the freckled boy over, "Deku-kun!"

"Midoriya-kun, we reserved a seat for you!" Iida pointed.

"U- Uraraka-san, Iida-kun," Midoriya waved then looked around, "Wh- what happened to Toga-san? I saw her running in the halls, but she didn't see me."

When Ochako explained and Midoriya changed, Tsuyu thought her interest in the throes of love could wait.


The stadium was as large as it appeared and the money-hungry concessions were distracting. Himiko thought she completed an entire lap until she found Shinsou on the ground level. He was exiting and making his way back to his General Studies class. In her rush, she slowed, taking a moment to appreciate his retreating side and broad shoulders. His walk of shame was tortoiselike and his hunched frame revealed his disheartening. She closed the distance between them and skidded to a halt.

"Shinsou-kun!" Himiko outcried. Giving into her state, she leaned against the wall for leverage. She panted.

Apathetic, he paused and half-regarded her, "Toga? What are you doing here? What, did you come to gloat?"

"I wanted to see you," Himiko straightened. "It ... it was you, wasn't it? Three years ago. That night at the park. A boy told me my quirk was cool and he gave directions to Shizuoka station. That boy was you, wasn't it?"

Shinsou put up a front, "And what if it was?"

"You didn't say 'no!' Answer me!"

The air felt dense and tacit. Shinsou exhaled. He massaged the deep tissue in his neck, lowered his head, and refrained. He answered, "Yeah. It was," and resumed walking.

"You're my hero!"

With those three words, he fully faced her in disbelief. Eyebrows furrowed, he asked, "What did you just say...?"

"I don't know where I'd be if I hadn't met you that night. You saved me. You believed in me. You changed me for the better. You're my hero, Shinsou-kun! You really, truly are!"

It was so surreal. A tightness in her chest disentangled, creating a ripple effect that washed over her petite frame without forewarning. She could no longer hold herself back, and unreservedly, she broke down. She cried in front of him like a toddler.

Shortly following her confession, Shinsou chuckled, "W- what kind of proclamation is that? A 'hero,' you say? Is that your favorite word or something?"

A serene smile crossed his lips. Himiko took him in and her heart swelled.

"It's good to see you again."

"Mm," Himiko sniffled, "Good to see you again."


"The eighth and last match of the first round! He was kind of famous in middle school! This isn't the face of a regular person! From the Hero Course, it's Bakugou Katsuki! Versus another famous contender-"

Himiko began her footed trek onto the arena's wide open space. Bakugou's near-comical fighting face shifted as she came closer. He put the pieces together. Unhinged, he grit his teeth, adamantly prepared for battle.

"Huh? Midoriya Izuku, what are you doing here? Hold on! Wait a second! Has she used her quirk already? Is that even allowed? From the Hero Course, it's Toga Himiko!"

"Hiding yourself behind someone else, are ya? Fuckin' coward. Come. It'll be a pleasure to finally murder that stupid look on your face."

With Izuku's mask, she riposted, "Whose face, Kacchan? Mine, or Deku's?"

Bakugou growled.

"Eighth match, start!"


Minutes prior to the unfolding of Toga's duel, Iida, Uraraka, and Midoriya accompanied her to provide support in the player waiting room. Toga sat in her seat and lackadaisically swung her legs.

"I'm so, so nervous, Miko-chan!" Uraraka cried, squeezing her eyes tightly and shaking in her pants.

"Why?" Himiko asked.

"... Why?" The remaining group retaliated.

"Forgive me for being so rash, but Bakugou-kun is a rather striking individual," Iida notated.

"I know."

"I think what Uraraka-san and Iida-kun are trying to say ... I mean, I know you've done really well and all, but Kacchan will be going all out. He's- ... He won't hold back. Everyone's trying to become number one to make their dreams come true. Even if it's not Kacchan, no one would think about holding back," Midoriya explained and presented his Hero Analysis notebook, "You've helped me so much, Toga-san. That's why, I thought maybe I could help you a little."

"That's so considerate of you, Deku-kun!" Uraraka beamed, "You're so amazing, so I'm sure you'll have great ideas for Miko-chan's fight! When you think about it, Bakugou-kun doesn't seem to have a weakness."

"You're wrong," Himiko interrupted.

The trio blinked.

"Bakugou-kun has a weakness."

Himiko pointed at her freckled friend.

"You."

A Girl's Hero - End


Before I get into ships, it's HERO NAME TIME! It'll be revealed in the next chapter or so. I already know the name, but please send me your ideas :) I really want to see what you guys come up with.

Also, do you guys want to see the matches for the new 1v1? It'll slow down Himiko's story, but if you're interested let me know!

I've put the ships I'd like to see in order from most likely to least likely:

TogaxMidoriya - it's so funny that this has become my top contender, because I seriously suffer from second character syndrome. But they're so adorable together and really fun to write! I guess my only qualm is that there are so many awesome fics with this pairing and it'd be fun to try something different. Right now, it makes the most sense to me.

TogaxShinsou - because, well, duh! Their similar backstories and the fact that he's the boy who saved her would make for a wonderful love story. It'd be fun to show a "soft" side to him, too. I really like Shinsou's character (I know... he's overrated blah blah blah) and would like to explore him more. My qualm with this ship is that it'd be more of a side story and less integrated into the plot I have in mind.

TogaxBakugou - oh boy here comes the hate. This was my original top. I found some fan art of the two of them and thought it was the most aesthetic and sweetest thing. And, I think that's exactly why he's going down on my list lol. It's purely physical. I'm actually stewing on a grown up AU fic with the two of them instead (for reasons, heh).

TogaxUraraka - I've never written fem!slash/yuri before and I'm really considering it. I might do a short story/spin-off instead. I really like them as friends in this and I think Uraraka's approach to "pushing aside my feelings" to focus on her goals is very natural to her in the anime.

TogaxTodoroki - I'm leaving this on here just in case, but it's doubtful. I think they're better as a platonic relationship. Plus, a "Big Brother Todoroki" has always charmed me lol.

TogaxMineta - lol just kidding ;)