Mordred entered the workshop in a bit of a haze. While she had been fine in the moment, the bus ride and walk home had given the young woman time to think and react. Pride in her dad, but also anger at him. Relief, sadness. Resignation and understanding.
The scene was a familiar. Aunt Rin was bent low over her table. A jewelry loupe was strapped over her right eye, a pliers in each hand. There was a silver ring in the clamp on the table, and a green gem was held in one of the pliers.
And Dad and Father were around the anvil. Dad was holding the glowing red metal bar, and they were alternating between striking the bar, Dad with a one handed hammer and Father with a slightly larger hammer held in two hands. Dad was directing them, where he struck was where Father would hit, too. Shirou the sword smith teaching Saber, the swordswoman and general sword lover, his craft.
No, that was wrong. That was memory, not sight. Mordred rubbed the back of her hand across her blurry eyes. And the scene resolved; Aunt Rin was unmoved, but the shadow thrown by her work light had looked like a second person standing over the anvil. Father was alone, working the new dagger for the rescue Hero Air Bag.
"How did your training go, Modura?" Saber asked, hearing the door close.
"Fine, Father," the student answered, "Better than that. It was interesting, and I had a chance to... to overcome a handicap, I guess."
"Mo... Mordred, what's wrong?" Aunt Rin had looked up, hearing the hitch in the girl's tone. Seeing her surrogate daughter's face, she switched to her preferred name.
"I... Uhh... There was a student at school," Mordred begin unsteadily, "He was able to show me Dad... At the end, when he rescued that family."
Saber and Rin both looked at their daughter, worried and uncertain.
"I... I don't know what you know, because we never talked about it," Mordred continued, "I know why, especially now. But would... would you like to know what happened? From Dad's perspective."
"Only if you want to tell us," Rin said softly. Saber nodded.
"The building was burning, and he heard a baby crying inside," the younger woman began.
"... do you understand now?" Thirteen-sensei finished, leaning forward on their hands.
It was Friday. Most of the students who had internships were released at noon. Some had to stay for last minute, supplementary lessons. But not any of the Knights. Instead, Ami had dragged Mordred, Cassandra, Mikoto, Momo, Toru, and me to Thirteen-sensei's office. The hydrokinetic had been very upset after hearing about Mo-chan's Dungeon. Though she had framed it as something we did in a game, Ami told sensei about us drenching ourselves before going into a burning building.
Thirteen proceeded to lecture us about why that was a terrible idea. They said we would have learned that, if the attack on the USJ hadn't interrupted our lessons. THey also told us repairs on the USJ were nearly complete, so we would be resuming rescue training after the internships.
"What about Ami-chan, then?" Mo-chan asked, genuinely confused, "She's completely covered in water in her costume. Does that mean she can never do fire rescues?"
"Or does she have to empty her water, first?" Toru guessed.
"No," Ami explained, "I control the water so it doesn't make me heavier, it makes me lighter and faster."
She inclined her head to me there.
"And the backpack contains a high-powered cooler," the bluette continued, "because my powers work better on cold water. And my suit's outer layer is insulated. So in a hot environment, the cold water from my pack and the water layer in my suit circulate. It keeps the water and my body cool. Admittedly, if the fire is too hot it can be overwhelmed, but the suit has sensors for that and will tell me when to get out."
I nodded my understanding, as did Momo.
"I think we are done here?" Thirteen prompted us, "I trust none of you will be foolish enough to try that in class, or spread that false trope around?"
"No," Mikoto said.
"Then you can go. I hope your internships go well."
We all left their office.
"I'm sorry to do that to you," Ami said to us, "But I didn't want to risk you doing something like that again."
"Do you think my Dungeon made an allowance for our mistake?" Mordred asked me.
"I don't know," I told her, "Maybe Nezu-sensei will have some idea."
"You are going to meet with him now, right?" Ami asked.
"Yes," I said, "He has some special training in mind before tomorrow. Will you all be coming to the party tonight?"
\I will,/ Cassandra signed. The others also indicated they would.
"Then I'll see you tonight," I smiled at them happily.
I jogged away. Nezu-sensei's office was one floor up and just down the fall from Thirteen-sensei's office. So it took me less than a minute to arrive.
"Nezu-sensei," I called out gently, knocking on the door, "It is Midoriya. I'm here."
With a mechanical click, the door opened. I stepped inside and closed it.
The principal's office had changed in the few days since I had been there. There were two small bowls by the door, one filled with water and the had small amounts of dry cat food. There was a large cat tower in the corner. A second water bowl on the window ledge. And two high tech litter boxes, ones the immediately scooped the litter and sealed the soiled parts in vacuum bags.
"Good afternoon, Midoriya-kun," Nezu-sensei waved from his desk, "You are a little late."
"I'm sorry," I told him, "Ami dragged us to see Thirteen-sensei. She was very insistent."
"Oh, why would she do that?" he asked, sliding out of his chair.
"Mo-chan's Dungeon was a recreation of a block of the Fuyuki Fire," I started.
"Ah," he said sadly.
"And there was a mission to rescue people. So, we did what we thought was right, and were soaked with water before going in."
"Ah," he repeated, but this time with a combination of dismay and annoyance, "And did Thirteen properly lecture you?"
"Yes," I said, cringing, "I feel like I should have known better."
"You are young," he relaxed, "And your training was interrupted. And many games include that mistake in their attempts to simplify things."
"Well, it won't happen again," I said firmly.
"Very good. Then are you ready to go?"
"I am, sensei. Party Disband. Party Add: Nezu-sensei."
Then I reached out and he took my hand.
"Skill Jockey: Clairvoyance and Psychic Surgery."
Then I paused and tilted my head back, trying to remember.
"You didn't say what Dungeon we would be using," I told him, "Or at least I don't remember."
"I did not," he confirmed. Then he called out, "Skits."
The kitten poked her head out of one of the cubbies in the cat tower.
"Here," he patted the table. She stretched and casually stepped out of the hole. She jumped down one level. Then she stopped. She gave Nezu-sensei a slow look, and then began cleaning her paw. The bear-dog smiled. He reached into his pocket. I heard the unzipping of a plastic bag. His paw emerged a moment later, holding a small cube of ham. Skits apparently laziness and disinterest vanished. With incredible speed and grace, she went down one more level and then leaped the meter and a half from the tower to the conference table. She darted over, and started to grab for the treat.
"Hup," Nezu declared, and she slid to a stop. He placed his paws together, then separated them, closing his fists.
"Which one?" he asked. She looked back and forth between the two. Then she placed her left paw on his right. Nezu-sensei smiled again, and opened his hand, revealing the treat. She took it immediately. And then deigned to let him pet her.
"People think it is hard to train cats," he explained at my obvious awe, "And while it is harder than training certain other animals, it is not hard. The issue is that most people try to train cats like they are dogs."
"Please scan her," he instructed.
Race: Felis catus (Quirk metagene positive)
Age: 7 months
Active Title: Tentative UA Mascot
Quirk: Titan's Jaw
Her teeth and jaw bones are stronger than hardened titanium without being brittle, and are perfectly sized and aligned. Does not confer increased bite strength.]
"She has a Quirk?" I was surprised.
"It is not as uncommon as you might think," he said, "It is uncommon, but like with Humans, each year more animals are born with Quirks. They just go unnoticed. Especially those like Skits, her Quirk doesn't change her appearance or give her any obvious special abilities. Without a power like yours, or performing a Quirk Factor test, it would be effectively undetectable."
"Did you know?" I asked him.
"Based on the pattern of her injuries, I suspected," Nezu-sensei answered, "But I was not certain. What is the matter?"
He noticed my look of consternation.
"I was only level 2 when I gained The Gamer," I was almost pouting.
"She was a street cat," he reminded me, "And while your life may have had difficulties, you were not spending every day struggling to find food and shelter."
"That is true," I felt guilty. Skits had almost certainly earned her level.
"So we are going to go into her Dungeon?" I asked for confirmation.
"You are level 24, I believe."
"And I remain level 47. However, unless there is a serious deviation from previous Dungeons, the enemies in Skits' Dungeon should not pose a major threat to us. Still, you should be prepared to take us out, just in case."
I reached out and gently scratched the kitten's ear. She leaned into it appreciatively.
"Dungeon Create: Skits."
Nants ingonyama bagithi baba, Sithi uhm ingonyama.
I looked down at Nezu-sensei in confusion.
"I apologize," he grinned widely, "I could not resist."
The sudden song from his phone was unexpected, but it fit. It appeared we were somewhere in the African savanna. Brownish grasses came just up to my knees. I saw a pond, with a few slender trees beside it.
[Dungeon Entry - Skits
Mooks: 78/78 (68 unspawned)
Mid-boss: 1/1 (unspawned)
Bosses: 1/1 (unspawned)]
"I see something coming," Nezu-sensei reported, "And I believe that tree will suit our purpose."
I switched my uniform for my Bronze Age All Might track suit, as we walked. Then I took off the jacket and my sneakers, and stored them. When we reached the tree, I boosted sensei up. Then I snapped off some of the lower branches to make it harder for any enemies to climb up after him.
I walked about five meters from the tree. I sat down with my legs crossed. And I waited.
Less than a minute later, two, full size lionesses prowled out of the grass. Still low to the ground, they stalked towards me. One circled around. They seemed slightly suspicious that I was not trying to run. But their instincts and role as Dungeon mooks overwhelm that, and they pounced.
I limited my TK Armor to the danger points. My neck, my stomach, and my arm joints. And then I began to mediate. I focused on my Energy. trying to circulate it through my body. To draw it in from the land and air around me.
I barely felt it as the lioness's jaws clamped down on my face. Maybe because she was a Dungeon monster, not a real animal, there was no stink to her breath. Or maybe I was just ignoring it. She backed off, uncertain. Her hunting partner swiped her claws against my back.
She didn't break my skin but did do some chip damage. That was why I had removed my top, I didn't want it getting destroyed.
"Ki Regeneration," I breathed out calmly. I kept the healing to its lowest level. I tried to tie it to my breathing. To my meditation.
The first cat tried to drag me down. Except her leg collapsed out from under her. It looked like one of her Achilles tendons, or whatever the equivalent on a lion was, had been severed. Then the other. I closed my eyes. Ignored them. Energy in. Air out. Another unimportant hit. Automatically healed. Feel the breeze. Focus. Trust. Trust myself. Trust sensei.
Don't fall asleep.
I had turned the damage notices back on, so sensei could see them and alert me if there was any danger. Otherwise, I would just sit, and grind a handful of skills. While he ground the two I had lent him. We were trying a lower level Dungeon, to be safe. Hopefully it would not be so low, that my grinding growth was hindered.
It turned out that principal Nezu could do a remarkable impersonation of a wounded gazelle. And that despite the apparent setting, Skits' Dungeon was not just lions. I had been attacked by tigers, both orange and white, cheetahs, leopards, panthers, a puma, and even a sabertooth. The mooks had still dropped items, which partly interfered with my meditation, since I had to open my eyes to see them, then reach out and touch them to store them. Thankfully, sensei was smart enough to finish the mooks when they were less than an arm's length from me, so I didn't have to stand. After the first twenty, no more showed up, so I helped Nezu-sensei down, and we looking for a new hunting ground. But first I resorted my inventory.
This time I had assumed the Heron Pose, and sensei was up on a large rock, again about five meters from me. Currently a lion, this time a large male, was gnawing fruitlessly on my shoulder. Which inspired a shift in the direction of my meditation.
What are mooks? Or the Dungeon enemies, whatever they might be called. A real loin would have given up long ago. Especially given the theoretical pain of Nezu cutting apart and regrowing its organs, even as it tried to attack me. Of course, we wouldn't be doing this to a real lion in the first place. But outside of a handful of specific exceptions, like the origami martial artists, all of the Dungeon enemies attacked. Some might use teamwork and tactics. Others blindly charged in. It seemed, mostly, to be based on the enemy type. Natural animals, like lions or wolves, or even comparatively normal Humans, like All Might's Dungeon's villains as opposed to Mom's zombies, they were all aggressive and none that I could think of had run away. They did not seem to have any survival instincts.
And killing them enhanced the source of the Dungeon. How, and to a lesser degree why? Did they represent minor flaws in us, and destroying them removed the flaws? Like maybe bad memories and fears that kept us from acting, or distracted us. Or they could be the incarnations of scars, germs, or toxins; or minor manufacturing flaws in the case of items like the Pencil of Solitude. And getting rid of them fixed us.
Or could they be curses? Psionics, ki, and magic were all real, even if I couldn't use the latter yet. Maybe curses were too. Like anger, sadness, and resentment were captured by supernatural energies. And then attached themselves to people and objects. Destroying the enemies in the Dungeon removed the curses. It might even let us absorb the purified energy, and that was how we became better. Turning curses into blessings.
Of course, in the end it didn't matter too much. They tried to kill us, we fought back and we got stronger. Just so long as we didn't forget the difference between Dungeons and the real world, the rest of it was just navel gazing. Though I suppose, that was what I was doing at the moment.
"As fascinating as all that is," Nezu-sensei said loudly enough to rouse me. And I realized I had been mumbling again. I cracked my neck, stretched, and stood. Then I gathered the handful of drops.
"Time to move again?" I asked him.
"Yes and no," he said, "That was the thirty-ninth enemy. Which means it should be time for..."
He stopped abruptly as a deep roar shook the ground. He scrambled down, and took out his pistol.
"Time for the mid-boss," I agreed.
It was sort of a cat. Sure it had four, red eyes. Two, whip-like tails. A section of porcupine like spines on the back of its neck and shoulder. And a much wider mouth. But it was basically feline, other than that.
Oh, and it was over two meters tall at the shoulder, and at least twelve from nose to tail.
"I do not recognize that," Nezu-sensei sounded put out.
"I don't either," I said. Then I dropped into a fighting stance. We both waited for the monster to make the first move.
It charged me, snarling, front claws extended. I hit it with a light ki blast. The creature shrugged it off. I sidestepped it. I grabbed its left paw, and pushed it away from sensei. The creature flew further than I expected. Sensei's eyes unfocused, and I felt a draw on my energy again.
"Its skin is thick and had an odd crystalline lattice. But its bones are very light. I recommend pure physical attacks."
"Okay," I nodded, "Got it."
The alien tiger thing pounced again. This time I stepped in. I met it with a straight right cross to the nose. It stopped, lighter than it looked and having no purchase. I heard a crack in its neck or upper back. One of its fangs dropped to the ground.
I continued forward, spinning into a back kick to its chest. It fell back, and struggled to stand again. I took a quick peek, and saw it was only level 10 with 280 HP. And my two attacks had taken 112 of them.
I held out my hand, and it bit me.
"Perhaps I should have just let you keep meditating," Nezu-sensei said, "I didn't think the level difference would mean this much."
"My Physical Resistance is level 80, no now 82," I told him, "That means any physical attack does 41% less damage."
I punched the beast in its two left eyes. It couldn't break my skin until my HP was much lower, but somehow it gnawing on me was much more unpleasant than the realistic big cats doing the same. Though part of that may have just been that I wasn't pointing my thoughts inward.
It released me and tumbled back. I didn't waste any more time. An elbow, backfist, and front kick combo was enough to finish it.
"Shall we continue?" he asked.
"Just a minute," I said. Despite my meditation, his use of Clairvoyance and Psychic Surgery, and my use of TK Armor and Ki Healing had pulled my Energy down to forty percent. So I bought a mana potion and drink it.
"Hmm, two of us drawing on your power does seem to be draining it," he mused, pulling up the Party tab.
"Perhaps we should switch to something else," he suggested.
"Like what?" I asked, excited to hear his idea.
"Autonomous Ultra Instinct," he grinned.
He was both joking and serious. All things considered, my Physical Resistance was barely growing. I just wasn't taking enough damage. Rather than assuming a Yoga pose, meditating, and taking their attacks, instead I meditated on my feet. And Dodged the lions, and tigers, and cheetahs. I still kept Ki Healing up, for when they did clip me, and so I could get familiar with using it continuously. Since my Dodge level was lower, and the amount of damage mattered less, it should grow faster.
But thinking on it, me standing there, eyes closed, subtly swaying out of the way... I can imagine it looked like Ultra Instinct. I wonder if I could find a Talent that would let me stand my hair up and turn it silver.
Of course it only worked so well because the enemies here were lower level and had lower stats. Though I hadn't tried, from the few I had scanned, I could take out most of them in one or two hits, without using any special abilities.
Nezu-sensei also had me assign him Ki Diagnosis for the second half of the Dungeon, in place of Clairvoyance. He was still using Psychic Surgery.
We worked our way through another twenty of the normal enemies.
"Midoriya-kun," Nezu-sensei called out to me, "How are you doing?"
"My energy is at about 25 percent," I told him, "So it might be time for another potion."
"That was not what I meant," he shook his head, "I believe I have exhausted the operations I can perform. So, if your own skill gains are proceeding well, we can continue. Otherwise it may be best to just hurry through the remaining mooks and the boss."
I checked, and told him, "I've gain three levels in Dodge verus this set of twenty enemies. Versus two level in Physical Resistance against the first thirty nine. So better, but not huge. But I will probably need a shower to wipe off the lion slobber, so I guess finishing early would be better."
"Excellent. Then let us become the hunters."
After taking out the mooks, the boss was a sort of big cat version of Cerberus. It had one lion head, one tiger head, one cheetah head, and a giant body with properties of all three. It was also level 16, which was a surprise and much tougher than anything else. But it only took a handful of hits from me, and two shots from sensei's gun, to take it out. I managed to squeak one more point in Dodge out of the boss.
[Skits Dungeon Progress!
Defeated 20 enemies: +1 Affinity
Defeated 40 enemies: +1 Affinity
Defeated 60 enemies: +1 Affinity
Defeated 80 enemies: +1 Affinity
Defeated mid-boss: Attribute Balancing
Defeated boss: Bonus Random Talent
Level I cleared: Bonus Random Talent]
Both of the bonus Talent screens disappeared before I could read them.
"What happened?" Nezu-sensei looked from where the windows had been, up at me.
"The manual said people without access to The Gamer, directly or by proxy, spend their Skill and Talent points automatically and subconsciously," I explained, "My guess is that is what happened here."
"Can you see her stats?" he asked.
"I think so," I mused, "Between Analyze's level, and the difference in levels between the two of us... Analyze."
Then I focused on Skits name on the screen, and repeated, "Analyze."
"She had four Talents," I said, "They should be listed in order, so she was born with 'Quirk: Titan's Jaw I', and at fifth level she got 'Skill Focus: Scavenger'. And her new ones are 'Mouser' and 'Free Runner'. And it looks like she took three Affinity Ranks in 'Cat' and one in 'Cute Little Kitty'."
"And what do those do?" he asked. Then quickly qualified, "I understand her Quirk Talent is her Quirk, and Skill Focus Limit Breaks and gives a ten point bonus to a specific Skill. But what are Mouser and Free Runner? And what skills do her Affinities cover?"
"Mouser gives a bonus to Tracking skill and to any combat skills, but only for small rodents or insects," I read, "And I have Free Runner. When you take it, you get a one time bonus of 3 points to Agility and Quickness. Then, after that, your Agility and Quickness both grow 25% faster, as do any Skills based on either or both of them. 'Cat' Affinity covers the Skills Stealth, Tracking, Pounce, Claw Attack, and Positional Hearing. And 'Cute Little Kitty' also covers Stealth and Pounce, and has Parkour, Yoga, and Contact Therapy, too."
"Interesting," he nodded, "Then I know where to focus her training. Am I correct that Contact Therapy has to do with the benefits of petting an animal and of cats' purring?"
"Just a second," I said, "Umm... Yes."
"Excellent. Well, then, I suppose I should let you go. Thank you for this, I believe we are set for tomorrow. Enjoy your time with Eri."
"Thank you, sensei. I will see you at the party."
"Good afternoon, Tensei-kun," Nezu said, after entering the younger man's hospital room.
"Hello, Nezu-sensei." Ida Tensei was sitting up in bed. Most of the bandages on his face had been removed. He was looking at the mouse-dog suspiciously.
"I'm surprised to see you," Tensei admitted, "It is after visitors' hours."
"This is not a social call," Nezu admitted. He wheeled a chair over to the side of the bed. Hopped into it. Sat down, looking firmly at Tensei.
"You will never run again," Nezu said evenly, "Even with the top of the line cyber-neural bridge, it will take years of physical therapy before you will even be able to walk again. And even then, you will require a cane."
"I'm sorry," Nezu said, "I am not intending to torment you. However, I fear your doctors may have misled you, for fear of your psychological state. I want you to be fully aware of your situation."
"Ha," Tensei laughed harshly. Then paused, wracked in pain from the action.
"Actually," the younger man continued, "They told me I would never walk again. That the implant would only restore feeling and minimal motor control in my legs."
"Ah," Nezu rubbed his chin thoughtfully, "Well, I suspect they underestimated your determination. And certain, recent advancements in cybernetics in Europe."
"And what does this have to do with your visit, Nezu-sensei?"
"Please, I am no longer your teacher," the white-haired creature waved it off.
"Nezu-san, then. Why are you here?"
"What would you say if I told you that I knew of a way to heal you?" Nezu again kept his voice steady and neutral, "To completely restore you. You might still need a few weeks of recovery and therapy, but when that was done, it would be like you were never injured in the first place."
"I would have to temper my excitement," Tensei answered, "In favor of wondering the specifics and the risks. The buts."
"The risks are minimal," Nezu said, "It is a new treatment, but has undergone dozens of successful tests on other vertebrates. You would be the first Human subject. Still, I would give it a 94% chance of working. That is versus the 89% known success rate of spinal cybernetic operations."
Nezu trailed off, tapping his fingers, "The other issue is that this must remain a secret. The hospital is aware and has agreed, but all monitoring of the room will be shut off. There will be no record of the procedure. When it works, it will be treated as a miracle, or perhaps an unknown facet of your Quirk. You must similarly swear to keep this completely secret."
"Why... Is this a UA student? A new Quirk you have found?"
"You are a fine detective, Tensei-kun," Nezu smiled mischievously, "Let us say, strictly hypothetically, that UA had a new first year student, and that she had a two part Quirk. The first part is regeneration. Nowhere near the level of say, Captain Korea. But if your injuries had been inflicted on her, it would have taken her only seven to nine days to be fully healed. The other part of her Quirk is that she can take the injuries of another creature onto herself."
"Now, in that hypothetical case, I would demand extensive testing, to make sure that there were no side effects, for my student or those she helped. And even if there were not, it would still be important that her abilities not be known."
"If it got out," Tensei mused, "There would be huge demand for her. But if she is taking injuries, and she took too much at once, it would still kill her."
"Potentially," Nezu's eyes twinkled, "Hypothetically."
"But then why me?" Tensei asked, "Shouldn't you start smaller?"
"Again, that was all hypothetical," Nezu insisted, "It could just as easily be a machine that requires a rare material that is expensive and slow to fabricate. But as I said, whatever the treatment is, it has been applied to injuries as or arguably more substantial than yours. Only not on a Human."
Then the principal's expression darkened, "As for you, and now... There are two reasons. The first is that Stain's actions have had a growing, negative impact. His defeat of the skilled and popular Hero Ingenium has increased distrust of Heroes. And has also given credence to Stain's rhetoric, and emboldened his followers. If you were to appear in the next few days, walking up to a podium under your own power, it would be a huge counterstrike against the Hero Killer. He would appear inept and overconfident."
Tensei nodded his understanding. He did not like the game, but he accepted the need to play it.
"The second reason is more personal for both of us. It is your brother."
"Tenya?" Ida interrupted, worried.
"Yes. The teachers and a few of his classmates at UA have perceived a change in him. And Tenya-kun took an internship in Hosu. I believe he intends to go after Stain."
"He can't," Tenya started to try to stand. But he realized the futility, and fell back against the bed, staring up.
"I agree," Nezu consoled him, "Tenya-kun is not ready. And even if he were, he is not going into this with a level head. The best scenario is that he fails to find Stain and wastes his internship. And if he finds the Hero Killer..."
"But you think if you can heal me, he'll give it up?" Tensei looked sideways at Nezu.
"Maybe, maybe not," Nezu admitted, "I hope it would. Or that he will come here to visit you, rather than seeking the Hero Killer. At the very least, it should lower Stain in Tenya's eyes from 'the man who crippled my older brother and hero' to 'the man who hurt my older brother and hero'. At least Stain's impact on you will no longer be permanent."
"I'm in," Tensei said, "I swear to keep it secret, I'll sign contracts if you want. When will we do this?"
"Tomorrow morning," Nezu said.
"Are you ready, Eri?" I asked. I had showered in the locker room, changed back into my uniform, and returned home. Then I changed into one of my nicer casual outfits. Mom helped Eri get ready, including making her put on sandals. My sister generally preferred to be barefoot, but it was a warm enough day that we struck a compromise in letting her wear something that didn't require socks.
"Yes, onii-chan," she said. I reached out, and she took my hand.
We left campus, and walked down towards the center of Musutafu. As the streets grew more crowded, Eri's face grew frightened, and she pressed closer to me. So I picked her up. I let her sit on my left arm, while she continued to hold my right hand. I also kept a light grip on her with my Tactile TK. She nestled in closer to me, and appeared to relax. More than a few people gave us kind smiles, or gave me looks that said 'been there, good luck big brother'. After a few blocks, we reached our destination. Toho Cinema Musutafu.
"A movie theater?" Eri asked tentatively.
"It's okay," I told her gently, "Trust me."
I had to set her down to fish out my ID. I showed it to the ticket taker.
"Ah. Right. Theater 14."
I lead Eri into the theater, and she pressed close to me again, as there were a lot of people arriving and leaving. We slipped through, and I able to make sure no-one bumped into her. We reached one of the smallest theaters, and Eri looked at the scrolling, digital sign.
"Closed for private viewing?" she read uncertainly, and looked up at me.
"It means we have the whole theater, just for us," I explained. I had considered inviting the Knights, and had talked to Mom and Tsu about it. But they both agreed, it would be easier for Eri with just me. And this was supposed to be our special time, before my internship.
Her face brightened at that, and I led her inside.
"Where are we sitting, onii-chan?" she asked, "Up front?"
I shook my head. This was a tiered, stadium style arena. I guided her up to the second row from the top.
"See, here we can look straight at the screen," I told her, "We don't have to craning our heads back, and hurt our necks."
She nodded, committing that to memory.
"And what movie are we seeing?" she queried.
"That is a secret, imouto. But first..."
A uniformed worker came in, and Eri cringed. I put my hand on hers again. The woman (as per my special request), came up. She handed me two small beverages, cola for me and apple juice for Eri. And then a small bag of popcorn.
"Enjoy your show," she told Eri, and then gave me a wink before leaving.
We munched on the snack, and a few minutes later, the lights lowered.
A familiar river and castle title card played, and Eri's grip on my hand tightened, but in anticipation rather than fear. Then it shifted to an animated scene of sea gulls flying through a cloudy sky, before panning down to dolphins jumping out of the sea. Then an Western-style wooden sailing ship burst out of the clouds to a musical fanfare, before the singing kicked in.
"I'll tell you a tale of the bottomless blue, and it's hey to the starboard, heave-ho..."
I knew Eri had a firm grasp of English, better than I did at her age. So I hoped she could get most of the dialogue, and enjoy the film even when she didn't. A glance down showed her eyes sparkling, though she still was not smiling.
After the film finished, the lights came back up.
"Did you like it?" I asked. I knew Eri enjoyed the Frozen, Raya, and Aladdin series. We had kept her away from Tangled and Beauty and the Beast due to the kidnapping aspect.
"Yes, it was good," she told me earnestly. Then she started to get up.
"Do you need to use the restroom?" I asked her.
"No," she looked at me in confusion.
"Well, I'll want to go after dinner," I told her, "Because I don't want to miss the second show."
"Another one?" she pressed with a hint of excitement.
I pointed. The same employee came in again. She had two trays, that slotted into the cup holders built into the armrests. Eri quickly settled back down. Our server set them into place.
"Just put them in the chairs next to you, when you are done," she told us, "The second feature will start in thirty minutes."
We each had a cheeseburger and some fries, a bottle of milk, and bag of apple slices. It was doubling up the fruit for Eri, but it was still fruit and the theater only had so many options.
Still, Eri didn't seem to mind. She tucked in much more openly and quickly than she usually ate. I hoped it was because she was feeling more comfortable, but I could also think of a worse reason. One that I didn't bring up, because I didn't want to remind or upset her, especially if I was wrong.
"Well, we should get back," I told her, after Ponyo ended.
"Do we have to?" she asked carefully.
"I couldn't get a third showing," I explained regretfully. We were into prime hours, so I couldn't rent the theater any further.
"Could we go someplace else first?" she asked, "Like the park or the bookstore?"
She wanted to spend more time with me. That made me happy. And I wanted to spend time with her. But I also knew she would be up later than normal tonight, so I didn't want her to get too tired out.
"I'll tell you what," I decided, "We can stop by a bookstore. But not the regular bookstore, a special secret bookstore. Then we need to get home. We don't want Mom to get worried, do we?"
She nodded seriously. I took her hand again. We left the theater, and I led her in a left turn. We headed toward the older section of town. Where the smaller businesses were. To a clothing boutique.
"I thought we were going to the bookstore," Eri looked confused.
"It is a upstairs," I said, then reiterated, "It's a secret bookstore. It is the place where I got the magic book."
Her eyes widened in amazement.
"Yes, really," I confirmed. I took her around to the stairs, and up to the second floor. When we reached the second floor, I knocked on the unlabeled door on instinct. Then I just opened the door and let Eri go in first. She looked around, still full of wonder.
The same woman was behind the desk, though she was wearing a different, fancy and expensive kimono.
"Good afternoon, Midoriya-kun," she greeted me, then gently added, "Hello, little one."
Oddly, Eri did not cringe or hide. She just studied the woman openly.
"Good afternoon, sensei," I inclined my head towards her, "This is my sister Eri."
"There is no need to call me that," she smirked slightly, "Unlike Mizuno-chan, I have not taught you anything. At least not yet."
"What should I call you then?" I asked. I was curious about what she had taught Ami.
"You may call me Bookkeeper," she said the word in English, "I like the pattern of the word."
"Are you a witch?" Eri asked innocently. I started to apologize, but the Bookkeeper chuckled happily.
"Why do you ask?" she asked back.
"Because oni-chan got the magic book from you," Eri said earnestly.
"Yes, he did," the woman agreed, "And I have been called a witch before, but usually at Halloween."
Then, from inside her desk, she produced a stereotypical witch's pointed hat, and slipped it onto her head.
"Oh," Eri said.
"There is no-one else here right now," she told Eri, "you can feel free to look around."
Eri looked up at me expectantly.
"Go ahead," I told her. I waited until she was down one aisle, and activated Ki Detection to keep a metaphysical eye on her.
"She is safe here," the Bookkeeper assured me.
"I believe that," I said, "but I have my responsibility as her brother."
"Good of you," she said. Then a bit more firmly said, "She has been through much."
I didn't say anything.
"Would you grant her wish?" she pressed. I started to answer on instinct. But there was weight to her words. I took a moment to consider her question.
"I don't know," I said, "I want what is best for Eri, even if it is not what she thinks she wants. I want her to find her place in the world, though I suspect she would rather keep it at bay. I understand that desire, but I... I have come to realize that being alone has more drawbacks than advantages."
"Particularly when it comes to the companionship of certain individuals," she prompted in a slightly sardonic tone.
"Yes," I answered simply.
She sat back with a satisfied smile. Then her eyes narrowed again.
"And how are to books you purchased treating you?" she asked.
"The grimoire is interesting if somewhat dry. I have learned some things but I would say not what I hoped."
"And the rogue's journal," her smirk returned, somewhat broader, "Is it still long for this world?"
"Oni-chan?" Eri called out softly from the stacks, like she wanted me to see something, but also didn't want to interrupt me.
"It would be a shame if it was lost," I admitted. Then I inclined my head, "I should go.
"Oni-chan, what is this horse book?" Eri asked as I walked over to her, "Pony something magic... I don't know this word."
"Ah," I recognized one of the characters on the cover, "That is the strongest force there is..."
We returned home small stack of new books for Eri. And a manual on Massage which was a skill book.
Mom asked Eri if she had fun, and Eri told us she did. I thought so, but it was hard to tell.
We had all eaten, so we just spent a quiet evening reading. Eri didn't even notice when the clock hit nine PM, which would have been the normal time for her to get ready for bed. At the bottom of the hour, Mom and I both closed our books. My sister looked up, and then at the wall clock.
"Bed time?" she asked.
"Not today," Mom told her, "Come, put your shoes on. We have another surprise for you."
Mom brought out Eri's coat, as the evenings were still cool. We each took one of her hands. Walked out of the teachers' apartment. Crossed the campus, and entered the main school building.
"Do I need another check-up?" Eri asked. I guess since most of her time here had been in the nurse's office.
"No, we are going somewhere else," I told her.
We retraced my steps from earlier, heading to the end of the building with all the offices. Then up to the third floor. I knocked on the door to Nezu-sensei's office, and it opened. As planned, we were the last ones there.
All of the Knights were present, now that Mom and I were there. And naturally Nezu-sensei was there. But EraserHead and Recovery Girl were also there. Plus one more person.
"You were at the park," Eri noted, looking at the teal-haired girl. My sister also moved in closer behind me.
"That's right. I'm Hadou Nejire. It is nice to officially meet you." Hadou-senpai's greeting was much calmer than I would have expected, based on both her appearances at this year's and last year's Sports Festivals, plus the comments the other Knights had made. I could tell she was holding back a lot, probably having been warned by Nezu or Recovery Girl.
"Nice to meet you," Eri said.
"Thank you for coming to rescue us, Hadou-senpai," I told her with a moderate bow. Eri copied me.
"Oh, it's no trouble," she said brightly, "And call me Nejire. Hadou-senpai is my mom."
"That doesn't quite work, kero," Tsu commented.
Then Eri spotted Ochako, sitting at the table. Except I realized it wasn't Ochako that my sister was looking at. Ochako was gently petting Skits. Mikoto was glaring at the other brunette. And Eri was staring at the kitten. She walked over to the table, looking at Skits with interest.
"Do you want to pet her?" Ochako asked. Eri nodded. And Ochako looked over at Nezu-sensei. He crossed the room and stood next to Eri.
"You can pet her," he told my sister, "but there are some rules. I will teach you how to call Skits, and give you a t-r-e-a-t. She may come when you call her, but if she doesn't, count to five, and then show it to her. When she comes over, give it to her. Okay?"
"Okay," she agreed.
"Now the rules," he instructed, "The first rule is no people food. The second rule is that if she wants to leave, you must let her. We don't want her to feel trapped. And the third rule is you must not pick her up. If she crawls into your lap, and you need to move, call me and I will get her down. Otherwise, there is no reason to pick her up that would not violate the second rule. Skits is still getting used to people. So we need to give her space and make her comfortable. But also give her boundaries. If you, or anyone, does not follow these rules, Skits will have to go into the other room. Okay?"
Eri bobbed her head again, wearing her most serious expression.
"Good, then sit down here," he pointed to an empty chair. Eri did as instructed, and I helped her scoot the chair up to the table.
"Say 'Skits, here.' and then pat the table," he whispered to her, "And if she doesn't come, count to five and then offer her this."
He handed Eri one of the cubes he had used that afternoon.
"Ham?" Eri whispered.
"Not exactly," he said, "It is a nutritionally balanced cat treat. I wouldn't recommend that you eat it. But to be fair, the main ingredient is unsalted ham."
"Skits, here," Eri said, as instructed. Ochako had stopped petting her, so the kitten stood, and looked carefully at her potential new servant. She appeared to be deciding if Eri was worth gracing with her presence. So my sister held out her other hand, and opened it. Skits quickly crossed the table, and carefully took the morsel out of Eri's palm. Then she licked said palm, to make sure nothing was wasted.
"Tickles," Eri said, not quite laughing. Then she began to gently run her had down Skits' back. The kitten decided this was acceptable, and settled down just at the edge of Eri's reach.
"Alright," Nezu-sensei returned to his desk, stood on his chair and addressed all of us, "Most of you, except for our guest of honor, know at least part of why we are here. So now it is time for the explanation."
He leaned over and pressed on his desk. A section lit up, revealing that, rather than wood like the rest of the surface, it was an inset touch panel. He typed something. The picture on the wall behind him also changed. What had seemed to be a giant painting was instead four large screens, each one bigger than the TV in our apartment. But the number and size of the screens was only part of the reason the party was here. The main reason was what they were showing.
The upper right panel showed a room full of computers and people, with an bank of dozens of screens on the front wall. The upper left panel was a satellite view of the Earth, with the United States' eastern coast just visible in the bottom left corner of the image. The bottom left screen was a close up of some sort of machine, which depending on how much you knew about what we were watching, may or may not have been identifiable.
But the most important image was the bottom right monitor. It was a picture of rocket, or more accurately a launch vehicle. The cylindrical main body was about 150 meters tall. It had four, fifty meter boosters around the sides. It stood in the midst of three towers. Each had a wide base, and then a narrow extension the towered out of view. I knew the towers, the arms of the magnetic launch platform, extended two point two kilometers into the air. When activated, they would propel the rocket about 20 km straight up, where the boosters would kick in and carry it into orbit. The boosters were reusable, having a combination of parachutes and maneuvering thrusters to take them to a sand pit on the edge of the compound.
"These are live images from Cape Canaveral, Florida, in the United States. Specifically, the New Kennedy Space center," Nezu explained, "This is the Cupid probe. At 8 AM, Eastern Standard Time, or in about 12 minutes, it will take off. After it launches, it will spend the next five months flying to Venus. The main body of the probe will enter orbit around Venus, and perform various scans. It will also fire off a dozen landers, at various points of interest on Venus's surface. The plan is that it will remain in orbit around Venus indefinitely. NASA plans it will collect data for seven years. Though many are hoping Cupid can outlast the old Opportunity lander on Mars. Even once its mission is done, Cupid will likely orbit Venus for the next three to four hundred years. Unless something knocks it out of orbit after its orbital thrusters run out of fuel."
"But the real reason you are all here it this," he took out a laser pointer, and indicated a section of the probe, hidden behind the boosters.
"What you cannot make out here, is the Robinson crew module," he told us, "It was designed mostly by myself, in conjunction with NASA. It is a... room, I suppose..."
I knew he was simplifying it for Eri. And maybe some of us, too.
"for astronauts, either on future space stations or on ex... on missions to other planets. And that is relevant to us, because of the tester for the module."
"Tester, right," Aizawa-sensei interjected sarcastically. Eri looked at him in confusion.
"As punishment for his crimes, and to put him someplace where he can never hurt anyone again, our tester is Chiseki Kai, also known as Overhaul," Nezu explained. Eri flinched, and looked at the rocket frightfully.
"He is currently contained in a device that will both keep him from using his powers on the rocket," the dog-mouse continued gently, "and protect him from the sudden acceleration from launch. At some point, once he is far enough away from Earth, he will be freed. At that point he will live the rest of his life in the capsule. If he uses his Quirk to tamper with it, all that awaits him is the vacuum of space, or the even more dangerous atmosphere of Venus."
Eri looked up at me at that.
"Venus is as hot as an oven, and very poisonous and acidic," I simplified it for her. She nodded.
Nezu came over again, and told Eri with his most kind and reassuring tone, "After today, Overhaul will never be within a million miles of you again. I promise."
"One million miles?" the young judge looked at the legal paperwork incredulously, "You want a judicial restraining order, with a distance of one. Million. Miles?"
He was a graduate of UA's General Studies course, so he had some familiarity with Nezu's quirks and sense of humor. But that didn't keep him from boggling at this.
"Diana's apogee is 405,696 km," Nezu explained, "Earth's diameter is 12,742 km and Diana's is 3,475 km. Of course those are rounded to the nearest kilometer. That means the furthest a person on Diana can ever be from a person on Earth is roughly 421,643 km. Round that up to an even five hundred thousand. But given Chisaki's Quirk and fixation on Eri, we want him further than that. Somewhere that he can't just aim a rocket at Earth and reasonably expect to hit it. So double that to one million kilometers. And then, because we are working with Americans, even if NASA uses metric, we make it miles. That also makes it further. And also place him outside Lagrange points one and two."
"Are you worried about him making a rocket?" The judge pressed.
"Not particularly," Nezu said, "His focus was more biology, genetics, and the organic side of chemistry. But I can't rule out the possibility he could make a simple rocket, so I'd rather make it harder to navigate. Nor do I think he will be able to tamper with the cell I have created for him. But given how powerful his Quirk is, and his general personality, better safe than sorry on both counts. I want to be able to... arrest... Overhaul if he ever even tries to return to Earth. And the distance gives the Americans a secondary reason to support this special imprisonment in the first places."
"And that's the only reasons?" the judge looked at the principal.
"It also amuses me," Nezu admitted.
"Fine," the young man signed the paper, "A restraining order, ordering Chisaki 'Overhaul' Kai to maintain a minimum distance of one million miles from Eri, current family name unknown, tentatively Midoriya. I'll have this notarized and send a copy to both you and the Americans."
"No, thank you," the judge said, "I reviewed the charges. That... criminal was a real piece of work. And being related, even tangentially, to a proper execution of the Napier doctrine is a feather in my legal cap."
"Really?" Eri asked him.
"Yes," he said. My sister nodded, and then her eyes locked onto the rocket on the screen. And she continued to pet Skits.
Ami met Mom's eyes.
\Can she have a snack?/ she signed, glancing from Eri to the mini buffet at the back of Nezu-sensei's office.
\A small one,/ Mom agreed, \but no candy./
All of the Knights noticed the exchange, and Tsu, Ochako, and Toru swarmed Ami and the snacks, descending into a frenzy of trying to pick out what to bring my little sister.
Aizawa-sensei also noticed. I was not sure if he signed, he hadn't signed to Cass that I remembered. But he seemed to find the fact the we all could interesting. Or possibly annoying. Even after about two months, I found him hard to read.
The ladies brought a plate with a sampling of the buffet to Eri.
"Would you like a snack?" Ami asked her. Eri looked up at her, and then nodded. The bluette set the plate down. Skits' head perked up, her nose twitching. The kitten turned to the plate and reached out a paw towards it. Eri put her free hand between Skits and the food.
"No people food," Eri told Skits gently. Then she looked at Nezu-sensei and asked, "Is fruit people food?"
"In this case yes," he responded, "I don't want Skits getting food off of people's plates, thinking she can or starting to beg or steal."
Eri nodded her understanding. Then she took a carrot stick, and bit into it. With her hand out of the way, the kitten tried to snag a piece of cheese.
"Skits, no," Nezu-sensei said. Skits pulled back her paw, acting as though she had just been stretching. Then she stood up, walked to the end of the table, and jumped to the cat tower. Eri watched the kitten go reluctantly, but quickly returned her attention to the screens.
The action in the control room picked up, as launch time approached. Then a dark skinned woman in her mid twenties with purple hair stepped up to the center of the control room.
"Begin final checks," she instructed, and people at various workstations bent low and began typing or mousing furiously.
"Weather?" she asked.
"No cloud cover or precipitation, air speed is south southwest at five knots," an older man reported.
"Kessler check?" she looked to her left, asking if there were any satellites or orbital debris in the path of the launch.
"We are clear," a woman with four eyes, each a different color, responded.
"Launch accelerators?" the director continued.
"Fully charged and reporting all green," a deep voice answered from off screen.
"Boosters are fueled and also reporting all green."
"Okay," she nodded, "Remove umbilical clamps and prepare for final countdown."
The monitor showing the whole rocket pulled back, and shuddered as it position unlocked. Two mechanical arms from the base of each launch tower retracted from the rocket. And a circle of light began to spin up in the towers' bases.
"Last chance," she called out to the staff. No-one said anything.
"Begin countdown. Ten... nine... eight..."
We all started to count with her. Except Aizawa-sensei, who smiled ever so slightly.
"Seven... six... five..."
I realized, despite her being literally from England, I hadn't heard Mordred speak English before. Outside of the few loan words. Her accent was not like the more American English I was more used to hearing, especially from All Might-sensei. It was nice.
"Four... three... two... one!"
The rocket vanished. Even with my high speed vision, I only saw a flash of the tail at the top of the screen before it was gone. Then the camera swiveled up to track the rocket. After a few moments of unsteadiness, it was able to keep track of Cupid. Just before the probe reached the apex of the linear acceleration, the boosters kicked on. As the flames pushed it higher, I pointed to the satellite screen for Eri. We both watched as the probe came into view from below. Then the boosters fell away, and the probe's ion drive kicked in. After a minute it was out of the satellite's view, and accelerating away from Earth.
Cheers went up in the NASA control room. But we didn't yell. There were looks of grim happiness and satisfaction around the room. But no-one wanted to scare Eri. Or Skits.
"And with that, Overhaul is gone," Nezu told us, "Thank goodness. Of course, NASA and I will both be monitoring Cupid. Just in case."
"Now that we have seen that," Mom said, "I think it is time for bed. It is late, and I know some of us have plans tomorrow."
'I can't believe you rented a whole theater,' Ochako sounded both disturbed and awed.
My family returned home. We put Eri to bed. She looked more relaxed than I had ever seen her. I also went to bed, but I wasn't going to sleep quite yet. There was one more thing to do, but before that...
'It's not as expensive as you might think,' I told her and by extension the rest of the Knights, 'During off peak hours, they might be lucky to get three or four people into a showing. So if they can get the price of twelve tickets in advance and guaranteed, it's worth it for the company, whether there are forty people in the theater, or only two. And given how Eri is with crowds, it was definitely worth it for me.'
'You could have invited all of us,' Kyoka suggested.
'I considered it,' I told her, 'But Mom and Tsu and I decided this was a special time with her big brother for Eri, before I go out of town for a week. Besides, the rental is just for the theater and the movie. Paying for everyone's dinner and snacks would have been separate, and outside my price range.'
I was mostly joking at the end. But only mostly.
'Enough distractions, Uravity, Earphone,' Mikoto scolded them, 'We've all been waiting since yesterday to see what we get from that Quest. Do it, Decade.'
I opened the Quest tab, and the one they were hyped for was waiting for me.
[Quest 'Ready to Roll' complete. Claim the rewards?
I hit accept.
[Bonus Talents received.
'Guild Master II' unlocked.
'Party Leader III' unlocked.
Bonus Skill received.
'Kunai Fighting' unlocked (level 5).
25,000,000 Yen added to gift account]
'Okay,' Mikoto said in a resigned tone, 'Did someone else at least get a cool skill?'
'Why? What did you get?' Toru asked.
'I got Sketch Artist,' the electrokinetic said.
'Really?' the invisible girl sounded confused, 'What's wrong with that?'
'Who needs to draw suspects anymore?' Mikoto asked sharply, 'We have software for that. And even if we didn't, Decade can just pull a criminal's face from the victim's mind and project it to anyone who needs it.'
'That is assuming Izuku is available,' Mom said, 'And can do so in a way that doesn't reveal The Gamer.'
'And there could be times when you don't have access to a computer, kero,' Tsu pointed out, 'Especially if someone fries them all.'
'True,' Mikoto said roughly, catching the implication.
'The Flash,' I remembered.
'What?' Mikoto said.
'The Flash was a CSI, before she was a Hero,' I explained, 'Well, while she was a Hero, too. But she also draws. Both for her job, and for fun. About half of the sketches in her book, of the Rhode Island 7, of their allies, and of the villain they fought, she drew them. The rest were Manhunter's work, but she was the one who inspired him to start drawing.'
'If it helps, I received the skill Polka,' All Might sounded amused but also chagrined.
'What is polka?' Ochako asked.
'The music? The dance?' Kyoka prompted.
'Those, and also the history,' he answered her, 'And might I suggest, young Misaka, that you could get a metallic pencil, and practice both your sketches and fine control of your power at the same time.'
'Okay, okay,' Mikoto sounded mollified.
'Well, I got a cool skill,' Mordred said.
'What is it?' Toru asked excitedly.
'Motorcycling Riding,' Mo-chan answered proudly.
'Yeah, that's pretty cool,' Mikoto agreed begrudgingly.
'Except you can't drive until you are eighteen,' All Might reminded her, 'Even though UA starts teaching driving in second year.'
'But UA just teaches cars, not bikes, right?' Mordred countered, 'And I might not be allowed to ride a bike now, but I know how. And who knows, maybe I'll get a chance in a Dungeon or something.'
'So are you saving up for a moped?' Ochako asked.
'Or maybe a Harley or other big bike?' Kyoka added with a vocal grin.
'No, I want a superbike, like Father has,' Mordred said, 'Except better. And I've been saving since I was nine.'
'Well, did anyone get a combat skill?' Mikoto asked.
'I got a Kunai use skill,' I said, 'I'm not sure how I would use it. Maybe as a backup.'
'I can now fight with Whips,' Kyoka's previous confidence had faded.
'That should combine well with your Quirk,' All Might declared.
'I hadn't thought of that,' Earphone Jack admitted.
'And I received a skill called 'Battle Axe',' Ami sounded confused and little embarrassed about that.
'I suppose you could make ice axes, ribbit,' Tsu suggested.
'I did not,' Cassandra sounded slightly unhappy, 'My new skill is SCUBA.'
'And my new skill is Knot Tying,' Momo said, 'which might be good if I need to restrain a Villain.'
'Or for climbing,' I added.
'I can speak French now,' Tsu told us.
'And I have a skill in Baseball,' Ochako mused, 'maybe because I swing girders or logs like a bat with my power, and think of it as a home run swing?'
'I believe I have learned the Astronomy skill so I can help Eri track Cupid,' Mom said, 'Though I also just enjoy looking at the stars.'
'That just leaves Toru,' Mordred pointed out. And even though we were in our separate homes, it felt like they were all staring at the invisible girl.
'I'm kind of embarrassed to say,' she admitted.
'Why, is it something perverted?' Kyoka teased.
'Not really,' Toru said, 'Though I guess it could...'
'Stop stalling,' Mikoto said, 'what did you get?'
'Cold Resistance,' Toru admitted. And I could tell she felt bad, because she knew we had been trying to figure out how to unlock that skill for Tsu, to cover her Quirk's weakness.
'That makes sense, given your uniform,' Momo said.
'But hey,' InvisaGal talked over Momo, 'What about those mystery talents Izuku got from the quest? What are those?'
'They are Guild Master II and Party Leader III,' I told her.
'Oh, so you can now have six other people in your party?' she prompted almost before I was done.
'No,' I explained, 'It increases the XP bonus my party members get from combat. And gives me the ability to set member of the guild into a secondary party for raids.'
'Raids?' Mikoto asked, 'As in, big group fights?'
'What's a raid?' Momo added a moment later.
'I don't know,' I admitted, 'In online games, raids are where multiple parties, or just large groups of players, team up to take on really strong dungeons or bosses. I'm not sure what it means for The Gamer. Party Leader III tells me about the sub party, but it doesn't tell me anything about the raids themselves. I think I need a higher level of Reflective Dungeon, first.'
'Just what does this sub party do?' All Might questioned.
'Well, the Guild Lieutenant has to be in the party as the party leader, but they can't add people, just kick them out,' I started.
'Guild Louis-tent?' Ochako tripped over the unusual English word.
'It means my second in command,' I explained, 'I'll get to that in a minute. Anyway, the Guild Lieutenant is the raid sub party leader, and the other five members have to be from the Guild. Unlike my regular party, where I can invite anyone. Anyone I can see or who is already in the guild, that is. And unlike the normal party, the sub party doesn't gain any benefits outside of a raid. They can't use Party Chat, tell each other's direction and distance, and don't gain the XP bonus; again, except during a raid. They can see each other on the Party Tab, all the time. Which is useful. But that's all.'
'And Guild Master III,' I let out a breath of awe, 'It has a lot of benefits. First, it increased the size of the guild by four. Second, I can now "Appoint Inko Midoriya Guild Lieutenant".'
Sure enough, a badge appeared next to Mom's name in the Guild Tab.
'Third, both the Guild Lieutenant and I can offer trial memberships in the Guild to people. A trial membership lasts for one week, and if I don't switch the person to a permanent member by then, they are removed. Only I can do the permanent member thing, Mom can't. And while the trial is active, that person is effectively a full member of the Knights. That said, we can only offer two trial memberships per open slot, so eight trial members right now. And if all the slots get filled, all the trial memberships immediately end. I don't see this getting used very much, considering the need to keep The Gamer secret, but it is an interesting ability.'
'Fourth, both the Guild Lieutenant and I can put guild members on suspension. While on suspension, all the guild benefits are lost. And if one of us doesn't revoke the suspension within a week, that person will be removed from the guild. Another nice to have that probably won't see much use.'
'The fifth one, and maybe the biggest one, is the Guild Bank.'
[Izuku Midoriya has deposited 182,013,542 Yen into メタ ノ キシダン Bank.]
Judging by their mental gasps, they all saw the same message.
'We can all deposit money directly into the Guild Bank,' I told them, 'I am the only one who can take money out, but you will all receive a notice when I do...'
[Izuku Midoruya has withdrawn 542 Yen from メタ ノ キシダン Bank.]
'So you don't have to worry about that,' I said, 'Beyond that, Mom and I, or rather the Guild Lieutenant and I can use that money to buy Guild Perks. And if you look at the Guild Tab.'
Said screen was reconfigured to show the total in the bank. Next to it was the transaction ledger. And underneath that there were six images. Red (Health) potion, blue (Mana) potion, green (Stamina) potion, purple (Psion) potion, yellow (Ki) potion, and a fruit symbol that was an apple in front of a banana.
'Any member of the guild can use the money in the bank to buy potions. Or a random fruit as a snack. Well, random, but the manual assures me it will not be anything that person is allergic to. So you don't have to ask me for potions.'
'But we would still need to ask you for the repairing tape,' Cassandra noted.
'That is true, kero,' Tsu agreed.
[Momo Yaoyorozu has purchased an orange for 250 yen.]
[Momo Yaoyorozu has deposited 10,000 yen into メタ ノ キシダン Bank.]
'Sorry, I just wanted to test it,' Momo told us, 'And this is a good orange.'
'So this should make us a bit safer' I said, 'And also let you all track how close we are to the Guild Hall.'
'Is that all?' Ami asked.
'What, you want more?' Mikoto countered incredulously.
'Yes, that is all I... all we get from Guild Master III,' I confirmed.
'So if we can add four more members,' Tsu mused, 'Who are you going to invite?'
'Principal Nezu?" All Might suggested.
'I may ask him,' I said, 'But I told him I was not going to invite him when I first told him about The Gamer, and he was fine with it.'
To be honest, I was nervous about what giving the brilliant but unstable mouse-dog full time access to even a subset of The Gamer might result in.
'What about Todoroki-san?' Kyoka requested. Then quickly added, 'Or Tokoyami-san? They are the two heaviest hitters in our class, not already in the Knights.'
'From that standpoint, I would almost rather invite Sero-san and Kirishima-san,' I said, 'Since I feel they are more earnest, and have a lot of untapped potential. Also...'
I told them about Todoroki-kun approaching me during the Sports Festival. That he thought I was the son of All Might and grandson of Superman, and he declared himself my rival.
'That old rumor again,' All Might grumbled, 'And now young Midoriya has been dragged into it.'
'Yeah, we probably don't want to invite him,' Mordred said, trying not to laugh, 'He might not react well.'
'Is that why you have been calling Endeavor by his surname, Izuku?" Ami asked.
'No, that is because I ran into that person, and he insulted Todoroki-kun and asked me to beat him up,' I bristled at the memory, 'So I can't acknowledge anyone who would treat their son like that, as a hero.'
'We could invite Ashido,' Cassandra said, 'I am guessing you are hesitant because she acts like a flibbertigibbet, but she is more serious and sincere than she lets on.'
'What about those girls from 1-B you mentioned,' Mom said, 'Shimooka-san and Kendo-san?'
'I didn't get to spend much time with Kendo-san, but she seems nice,' I considered, 'And Hikari is a good person.'
'Hikari?' Kyoka teased, 'Another one?'
'No,' I said, 'I'm not her type.'
'Oh?' Earphone's tone changed to one of curiosity and maybe hope.
'Actually, I was thinking of Hatsume Mei,' I told them, not wanting to talk about Hikari behind her back.
'Why her?' Cassandra said sharply. I guess she still wasn't over Mei using her to advertise in the finals.
'Because of her support items,' I said simply, 'She might be lacking in social skills, but she is quite the inventor. If we can get her to join the Knights and make support items for us, it would be a win-win. We get tools, and she gets access to her Skills and Talents, as well as cleared Dungeons for a safe space to experiment with the benefit of time dilation.'
We still didn't know what all of the weird drop items were, the ones that vanished when I touched them. Or the two disabled tabs on my full status screen. But I was willing to bet at this point that both the items and one of the tabs was related to some sort of crafting system. And that we just needed to right person to unlock them. Maybe. Hopefully.
'Are you sure she won't spill the beans?' Ochako countered, 'Even just by accident?'
'I don't know,' I admitted, 'Maybe, maybe not. It was just a thought.'
'It is worth considering,' Tsu said, 'We can try to get to know her a bit, first.'
'That is true,' Mom said firmly, 'it is not like this is something that needs to be decided today.'
'Hey, Izuku,' Ochako said suddenly, 'Maybe after the internships are done, we could get together? You know, just hang out?'
'That's a good idea,' I said, 'We have the training camp at the end of July, so we could all get together and do some shopping for that.'
'All?' Ochako said softly.
'Wait, training camp?' Toru prompted suddenly, and nervously.
'Yeah, what's that?' Mordred added. Mikoto, Cassandra, Kyoka, and Tsu all voiced similar statements at roughly the same time.
'Does anyone read the student handbook?' Momo sighed, 'Summer break is July and August like in other schools. But the last two weeks of July, each of the curriculums at UA has their own unique training camp. The business course generally helps organize and run a summer festival. General course and support course vary from year to year. And the Hero course goes somewhere, usually camping, to work on our Quirks, and general physical conditioning and survival skills.'
'They should announce more about it soon,' I added, 'But we could all go and look for summer workout gear and general camping supplies. Maybe we could invite all of 1-A, instead of just the Knights. Or even 1-B, too, since we'll all be together and it would be a nice olive branch to extend. But, yeah, we shouldn't always just study and go into Dungeons. we should hang out like normal friends, too.'
'Exactly,' Ochako's agreed, a hitch in her voice.
Froppy: You know that was not what #Zero G was suggesting, right?
Decade: I wasn't 100% sure. I thought she might have been asking me out. But it was in Guild Chat, in front of everyone. I didn't want to flat out reject her. But I also didn't feel right saying yes in that situation.
Froppy: Because of me? And #Mercury?
Decade: That was part of it. Also, #Earphone would have teased both of us. And it felt weird with Mom and All Might listening.
Decade: I didn't call her out in front of everyone, either. But I also didn't want to say yes. I'm not sure I'm interested in her in that way. But I'm also not not interested. It would be nice to go out with her, but I'd also want to warn her up front that it would be more of a getting to know you date. Not like with you, or even with Ami. This is all really confusing.
Fropy: I get that. It wasn't really the right time or way to ask you out. Even if a couple of us are trying to share you. But it also wasn't exactly fair to #Zero G.
Dacade: I know. I'll text her tomorrow, after the thing with principal Nezu. Try to clear things up, for both of us.
Froppy: Good. Oh, and good luck with the surgery.
Decade: Thanks. I'm not doing much this time, but it's still making me nervous. Good night, Froppy.
Froppy: Good night, Decade.
Status Changes for Midoriya Izuku:
Health: 977 → 978
Energy: 1674 → 1675
(E)ndurance: 63 → 64
Analyze (W) – Battle Scan: 63 → 64
Dodge (A/Q) LB – Catch: 47 → 51
Yoga (A/E): 13 → 15
Physical Resistance (E/D): 80 → 82
Telekinetic Armor (I/E): 43 → 49
Meditation (W/I): 17 → 37
Ki Diagnosis (D/W): 15 → 26
Clairvoyance (I/W) LB: 45 → 51
Heat Resistance (E/D) 13 → 14
Psychic Surgery (I/D) 29 → 36
Skill Jockey (I/C): 34 → 39
Massage (A/C) 4 → 5
Kunai Fighting → 5
Guild Master II
Party Leader III
メタ ノ キシダン Bank Balance: 182.013.750 Yen (950,000,000 for Guild Hall)