The Gatekeeper

Masaki Matsuda was on cloud nine. Her parents, teachers and classmates had warned her that her chances of getting into U.A. High School were slim, but she not only had gotten in, but passed at the top of her class. In addition to her outstanding grades, her quirk, Magnetism, which enabled her to manipulate any metal she touched, enabled her to make short work of the enemy robots in the entrance exam, giving her the time to save people from the Zero Pointer. With a good amount of points in both categories, she passed the exam with the highest score.

It was now the first day of class, and she, standing in front of the school, wearing the uniform (which cost a hefty sum for her family), realized her dream had come true. She was now a student at the nation's best hero school.

At that point, Reiko Amane, a friend of Masaki's from her old school, walked up. Reiko had placed eighteenth on the exam, just barely passing. Her Quirk, Adhere, allowed her to stick her hands or feet to any surface (but only if they were not covered), and was of limited use in the exam. Despite that, she'd managed to maneuver her way around the arena, switching off the robots' switches and saving some people.

"Good morning, Masaki-chan," Reiko said.

"Good morning, Reiko-chan," Masaki said, "and congratulations on getting in."

"Thank you," Reiko said, "but for me, it was just by the skin of my teeth. I've never been anywhere near a match for you when it comes to studies or hero work."

Masaki shook her head. There was no point in denying what Reiko had said, since doing so would only come off as hollow pity, but that didn't mean that she had to agree with it, either.

"You don't have to be," Masaki said. "We're no longer rivals competing for admission, but are once again classmates aiming for the same dream, so feel free to rely on me if you need help."

"I'll do just that," Reiko said. "Let's do our best and become heroes together!"

While neither of the girls were naïve enough to believe that the hard part was behind them, they had to admit that they were feeling confident. They'd earned a chance that was granted to few people, and had taken their first step on their journey toward becoming heroes. There would be many challenges ahead, but they felt ready to meet them.

Once in homeroom, Masaki and Reiko sat down with eighteen other students- sixteen of their fellow examinees and two who came in on recommendations- when their homeroom teacher came in.

Masaki wasn't sure what to say about the man, who had a scruffy, disheveled appearance and looked as though he'd barely slept. Her previous school wasn't the strictest when it came to the dress code, but her teachers generallly were expected to wear business casual and practice good grooming and hygiene. As such, her first impression of the man was that he didn't take his job seriously.

"Good morning, class," the man said. "My name is Shota Aizawa, and I'll be your homeroom teacher- assuming you stay around long enough, that is."

"What does that mean?" one boy, who'd placed seventeenth on the exam, said. "We passed the exam, didn't we?"

"Be quiet and listen," Aizawa said. "Yes, you passed the exam, but I have decided to impose an additional test on you, to test how well you can use your Quirks and see which of you are worthy of staying here. If you pass, the hardest part is yet to come, and if you don't, you'll be expelled and sent home. Before you ask, no, I'm not kidding- do I look like the type?"

The class shook their heads. broke out in a collective cold sweat. They'd all known that getting into U.A. was a highly competitive process, but thought they had proven themselves worthy of the privilege. Tests were a part of school life, even if they were hardly anyone's favorite, but no one was expecting a test on the first day that would have such high stakes.

"I didn't think so," Aizawa said. "Get changed into your sports uniforms, and meet me on the practice field."

"What about the entrance exam?" Masaki said.

"A waste of time," Aizawa said. "Not only is the time the principal spends blathering on better used for training students, you haven't even fully earned your spots in this school. Now save your questions for later, lest I decide you've already failed."

The rest of the class fell silent and accompanied Aizawa. It was clear that he held all the cards, and would be the sole judge of whether they would remain at U.A. High School, but was he a fair one? They had little reason to think so, and no reason to doubt what he was saying, so all they could do was comply and hope for the best.

Class 1A changed into their gym uniforms and headed out to the practice field for the test, which consisted of several exercises designed to measure strength, speed, stamina and other physical abilities. Using one's Quirk to facilitate the process was fair game, since it showed how well one could use said Quirk, as well as how useful that Quirk was.

By most people's standards, Masaki performed well in the tests, since she was in excellent physical condition. She even set the class record for the ball throwing exercise, by manipulating the metal inside the ball's recording device, sending it high into the air. But was that enough? With no idea of Aizawa's standards- whether he expected students to achieve a certain score, or whether he intended to cull a certain portion of the class- she had no way of knowing what her chances were. She was worried about Reiko, whose Quirk was not suited to these kinds of exercises, but also knew that she also had to worry about herself.

Masaki also couldn't help but worry about the eighteen other boys and girls who were taking the test. More cynical people would consider them to be rivals for spots in the class, who only cared about their own (and possibly their friends') results and wouldn't spare a second thought if Masaki, Reiko or any of the others they'd just met, washed out. While Masaki saw a grain of truth in this, she also saw her fellow classmates as people who shared a goal with her. Only a select few could become heroes, but Masaki hoped that no one would be expelled on this day.

The Quirk Apprehension Test soon ended, and the rest of the class stood around Aizawa, nervously awaiting the results. Aizawa, however, was as expressionless as when he'd first arrived. Depending on which student you asked, it was out of stoic professionalism or outright callousness.

"Very well, you're done," Aizawa said. "Here are the rankings, so you can see how you did."

Aizawa called up a screen that showed all twenty students, along with their rank in the class. Masaki looked over the rankings and let out a sigh of relief. She was third in her class, even if she had stiff competition from the two students who had been recommended. Meanwhile, Reiko, who'd struggled for the entire test, gasped upon seeing her name in last place. Masaki knew how hard Reiko had worked, so she was prepared to argue in her friend's favor, but she never anticipated what Aizawa would say next.

"But this is just a formality," Aizawa said, "because all of you are expelled."

The class gasped and shouted complaints, such as "What?!" or "That's not fair!", too shocked to form a coherent rebuttal.

"Be quiet," Aizawa said firmly, without raising his voice. "My decision is final, so you can't go crying to the principal."

"You can't be serious, Aizawa-sensei," Reiko said. "I know I placed last, and probably deserve to be expelled the most, but Matsuda-san got third place. Are you going to expel everyone here, including her and the top two?"

"Weren't you listening?" Aizawa said. "It's not about how high you place, but how much potential you have, and I don't see any in you lot- not in you, not in Matsuda, and not in anyone else here. So go on- get out of here and stop wasting our valuable time."

Aizawa walked off, leaving the students standing there, in stunned silence. For a short time, they'd thought they'd earned the right to study at the nation's most prestigious hero school, but now, they'd have to find another high school. None of them knew what the future held for them, but they knew that if they didn't leave in a timely manner, security would show them out.

The students quickly left campus and headed on home by themselves. Once outside the school grounds, Masaki, who was accompanied by Reiko, got out her cell phone.

"So what now?" Reiko said.

"First, I'll have to tell my parents why I'm coming home early," Masaki said. "After that... I don't know."

Masaki dialed her home phone number. Within moments, her mother picked up the phone.

"Matsuda residence," Masaki's mother said.

"Mom?" Masaki said. "It's me, Masaki."

"Masaki?" Masaki's mother said. "Why are you calling? Isn't it the middle of the day?'

"It is.," Masaki said. "But my entire class got expelled."

"Your entire class was expelled on the very first day?!" Masaki's mother said. "You can't be serious."

"I can't believe it either," Masaki said, "but I swear I'm telling you the truth. I can put Reiko-chan on now, and she can confirm it."

Masaki handed the phone to Reiko, who, having heard both halves of the conversation, accepted it without a word.

"Ma'am?" Reiko said. "This is Amane. Masaki-san is telling the truth. Aizawa-sensei gave us a Quirk test to determine our potential. At the end, he decided we all weren't good enough and expelled us, right then and there."

"I... I see," Masaki's mother said. "I can hardly believe this is happening. Do your parents know about this?"

"Not yet," Reiko said.

"You should probably get in touch with them," Masaki's mother said. "I won't keep you any longer, but I'd like to say that I'm terribly sorry this happened to both of you."

"Thank you, ma'am," Reiko said before handing Masaki the phone.

"So this really is happening," Masaki's mother said. "Please come home as soon as you can, and we'll work things out together."

"I will," Masaki said. "I'll see you back home, Mom."

Masaki hung up.

"I'll be heading home now," Masaki said. "I don't know how things will turn out from here on out, but I hope wherever we end up, it's the same place."

"I hope so, too," Reiko said. "But really, Masaki-chan, you should aim as high as you can. I'll... be fine"

Masaki nodded and parted ways with Reiko, who waved goodbye then dialed her home phone number. Masaki had always had two goals for high school- get into U.A. and get into the same high school as Reiko. While the former was quite an audacious one for her (and even more so for the less gifted Reiko), the idea that she might not even have the latter was crushing. She and Reiko had faced the U.A. entrance exam with hope in their hearts, but now, they were consumed by fear and despair.

As soon as Masaki got home, she changed out of her uniform, since she couldn't bear to wear or even look at it anymore. She changed into casual clothing, then flung herself onto her bed and cried for almost an hour, still not fully able to believe, let alone accept, what had happened. After calming down, she had a quick lunch, and felt slightly better after getting something to eat.

Some time later, Masaki's mother, who'd been on the phone ever since Masaki had gotten home, walked into her daughter's room.

"I just finished talking with U.A.'s principal," Masaki's mother said, "trying to get your expulsion rescinded."

"Thanks, Mom, but you didn't need to bother," Masaki said. "Aizawa-sensei said it was pointless."

"It seems he was right," Masaki's mother said. "The principal said that they will not allow us to appeal to reverse your expulsion, since we signed away that right when we agreed to enroll. I'm sorry; I should have read the document more closely."

"So should I, Mom," Masaki said, "but neither of us ever foresaw this happening."

Masaki's mother nodded. Since Masaki had always gotten good grades, and never been in any significant trouble with her elementary or middle school, they never dreamed that she'd do anything that would warrant expulsion.

"But there is some good news," Masaki's mother said. "We can arrange for you to transfer to a nearby hero school, Saikawa High School. It's not nearly as prestigious as U.A. High School, but they're willing to accept U.A. dropouts who performed well on the entrance exam and haven't violated any rules."

"That's a relief," Masaki said, "but what about Reiko-chan?"

Masaki's mother sighed. While a part of her cared more for her daughter than her daughter's friend, there was no way to sugarcoat the depressing prognosis for Reiko.

"She... may not be as fortunate," Masaki's mother said. "The good news is that your friend hasn't committed any crimes, so there are no additional black marks on her record. The bad news is that if she showed relatively little potential as a hero, there may be fewer places that are willing to take her on."

Masaki nodded solemnly.

"Reiko-chan said as much," Masaki said. "She told me that I should see to myself, and make the most of the opportunities at my disposal... so I'll do just that."

"Splendid," Masaki's mother said. "I'll let the school know that you're willing to transfer."

Masaki nodded, then set out to make the call. Being shunted off to a lower quality school was undoubtedly disappointing, but at least she had somewhere she could continue her education. Perhaps that was more than some of her peers could say.

Within days, Masaki's transfer was finalized, and she purchased a new uniform- a navy blue blazer, plaid skirt, white button-down shirt and red and blue striped necktie- with her mother wincing at the price for every article of clothing. Once the process was finished, she arrived at Saikawa High School.

Outside her classroom, she met with her teacher, a woman in her thirties. Her hair was neatly combed and cut, and she wore a smart-looking navy blue skirt suit with a white blouse. While other teachers dressed in their costumes, Narasaki preferred to dress professionally while in class, saying that while costumes were meant to be easily recognizable, comfortable and complement one's Quirk, looking respectable went a long way toward earning her students' respect.

"You must be Matsuda-san," the woman said. "I am Minamo Narasaki, and I will be your homeroom teacher. I understand that you came from U.A. High School, correct?"

"I did, Narasaki-sensei," Masaki said. "I'm very grateful that you would have me."

The two exchanged bows and said "Nice to meet you" in almost perfect unison.

"The pleasure is ours," Narasaki said. "The principal informed me of the circumstances behind your departure."

Masaki nodded, gulping faintly.

"As I'm sure you're aware, hero work is a very demanding and competitive field," Narasaki said, "so the opportunity to study it, much less pursue a career in it, is a privilege that must be earned. However, our school sees potential in you, someone who passed U.A.'s entrance exam, and will help you work to realize that potential. If you are not meeting our standards, we will let you know where you are falling short. If you ever need help with anything, please feel free to ask. Do you understand?"

Masaki nodded. While Narasaki seemed more personable and professional than Aizawa was, she was not soft by any measure of the imagination. Hero work was a demanding profession, and the teachers had to be equally demanding of their students. Perhaps Aizawa was not wrong to have high standards, even if his standards were not exactly fair in the eyes of people like Masaki.

"Yes, ma'am," Masaki said. "I will do my best to become a hero and make full use of my second chance."

"Good," Narasaki said. "It's time for you to meet your classmates."

Narasaki led Masaki into the classroom.

"Good morning class," Narasaki said. "Today, we have a new transfer student. Please introduce yourself."

"My name is Masaki Matsuda," Masaki said. "Due to... various circumstances, I was forced to transfer out of my old school. I'm looking forward to studying with you all."

After writing her name on the blackboard in chalk, Masaki looked around at her new classmates, wondering what they were thinking of her. Perhaps some of them were in awe of her for having made it into U.A., while others looked down on her for being kicked out of it so quickly., and still others pitied her for her misfortune. Whatever they thought of it, she was here now, and hoped to prove that she deserved to be.

At lunch, Masaki was invited to eat with a few of her classmates. One of them, Yuuki Yagami, was a frog-like girl, while the other, Akiko Hattori, had distinctly reptilian features and looked like a chameleon.

"Nice to meet you, Matsuda-san," one of the girls said. "I'm Yagami and she's Hattori-san."

"Nice to meet you all," Masaki said. "Have you known each other long?"

"Not really," Hattori said, "since it hasn't even been a week since we started talking outside of class. I have to admit I'm a bit fuzzy on Yagami-san's first name- is it Yuu? Yuuko?"

"Yuuki," Yagami said. "Likewise, I'm fairly sure your first name starts with 'Aki', but I'm not 100 percent sure. Heck, I wouldn't even remember your last name if everyone didn't use it. After all, it hasn't even been a week since we've met."

"True," Hattori said. "I sometimes joke that even my parents call me Hattori-san."

Masaki chuckled. It was a bit premature to call these girls her friends, since they were only acquaintances with each other, but she felt as though she could trust them.

"By the way, Matsuda-san, I'm curious about something," Yagami said. "You don't have to answer this if you don't want to, but was Aizawa the one who kicked you out of U.A.?"

"Good guess, Yagami-san," Matsuda said. "Do you have a Quirk that lets you read people's minds?"

Yagami laughed out loud. Her Quirk, Venom, let her secrete a neurotoxin that was completely useless against the robots in U.A.'s entrance exam.

"No, but I do have an older brother," Yagami said, "one who also applied to U.A. and got Aizawa as his homeroom teacher. Aizawa was just starting out back then, so no one knew much about him, nor were they expecting him to expel the entire class."

"So we weren't the only ones," Masaki said.

"Nope," Yagami said. "Meanwhile, my brother's friend, who's about as good as him, got Vlad King instead. He graduated and got into a good hero agency."

Hattori winced. Her Quirk, Chameleon, enabled her to change the color of her skin to camouflage herself, but was of little use when it came to tests of physical ability. If she had passed the U.A. entrance exam, she would have been out of luck upon reaching Aizawa's class.

"In other words," Hattori said, "what homeroom teacher you get determines whether or not you get screwed over?"

"It looks like it," Yagami said. "My brother's actually doing fairly well as a hero, but it was a bit awkward trying to explain why he got kicked out of U.A. on his first day. Some of his classmates weren't so lucky, though- a few of them ended up switching to general studies, some dropped out of school altogether and one was arrested trying to break into U.A., evidently to dig up dirt on the school."

"I guess I'm one of the lucky ones, then," Masaki said.

"You could say that," Yagami said, "but it's only natural to wonder how things might have gone differently, or blame Aizawa for that."

Masaki smiled as the other girls changed the subject. A part of her worried about whether her expulsion would leave a stigma on her, as well as her former classmates from U.A., but she, at least, was starting to find her place in her new school. That didn't mean that a part of her didn't consider the entire debacle with the Quirk Apprehension Test to be completely unfair, but nevertheless, she was grateful for her second chance.

After Masaki got home, and sat down in her bedroom, she got a call from Reiko on her cell phone.

"Hi, it's me," Masaki said.

"Hello, Masaki-chan, this is Reiko," Reiko said. "How are you holding up?"

"Fairly well, all things considered," Masaki said. "I just started at Saikawa High School today."

"Good for you," Reiko said. "I'm calling because my parents just got me into Igarashi High School today- not in the Hero Course, mind you, since I had to take what I could get."

"I see," Masaki said. "I'm sorry to hear that."

"Well, such is life," Reiko said. "I'm glad I have a high school that's willing to accept me."

Masaki recalled one incident of a Igarashi student who'd been expelled, ended up homeless a few year slater and eventually committed suicide. Masaki had always found the story tragic, but a part of her had believed it would never happen to her, since unlike her, the student in question had poor(albeit not failing) grades and had been involved in a few incidents of varying severity.

Now that she remembered the story, it was obviously in a different light, with new questions. She now wondered whether the student was really as bad as the rumors implied, and why Aizawa thought it appropriate to inflict such a severe punishment on an entire class, even in the name of high standards.

"Anyway, I'm glad you called," Reiko said, "because I wanted to show you something. There's a site I found that's popular among ex-U.A. students, and some of the users vented about Aizawa-sensei. I don't know their names, but a couple of them were the ones who'd taken the Quirk Apprehension Test with us."

Masaki had to agree. She considered herself fairly good with names, but a day was too soon to memorize people's names. She didn't know anyone besides Reiko in her class at U.A., or Hattori and Yagami at Saikawa.

"Could you please send me the link?" Masaki said. "I'll check it out some time."

"Great," Reiko said. "You're probably still busy with school and such, so I'll let you go, but why not hang out together next Sunday?"

"I'd love that," Masaki said. "I'll talk to you later, Reiko-chan."

Seconds after Masaki hung up, she got a text from Reiko containing the link to the website- "Fallen Heroes." She created an account, which required a username ("Girlofsteel"), coming up with a password and reading the terms of use. The latter was mostly common sense, but one rule that stood out in her mind was a rule forbidding threatening harm toward fellow users or U.A. Faculty. As they put it, discussing legitimate grievances toward U.A. was one thing, and acting like a villain was another.

Masaki headed to the forums, one of which was dedicated to U.A. High School. The most recently posted in thread (apart from a few that were stuck to the top), as well as the one with the most messages was "Should Aizawa Be Fired?". Scrolling through the thread, Masaki saw a broad variety of opinions on Aizawa and his test. A few excerpts stood out in her mind.

At my old middle school, a teacher expelled a student for no good reason. The teacher was gone by the end of the year, and the decision was rescinded. I don't care how much of a hotshot Aizawa is; there's no reason for U.A. to keep someone like him around.

Huh. Aizawa-sensei didn't expel anyone when my class took his test. Maybe your class just sucks?

As soon as I got expelled, the hero who'd recommended me, a colleague of Eraser Head's, dropped me like a hot rock. I ended up getting into a crappy high school, and I'm really worried about how I'll do when it comes to getting into college.

I'm one of the "lucky" ones who got through the test, put up with Aizawa for a year and graduated, but let me tell you; Aizawa's not that good of a teacher. Sure, he sets his standards high, and I can respect that, but the people who pass are the ones who'd make it almost anywhere else. The only thing I learned from him was that I would have been better off in the other class.

Aizawa-sensei's tough, but as long as you work hard and behave yourself, you'll do just fine. He's definitely not a nice guy, but having a teacher as strict as him actually inspired me to push myself harder, and prepared me for the challenges heroes face. I think Aizawa-sensei became a hero because he was just as hard on himself as he is on his students.

When I had an interview at a hero office, they asked about whether I'd been expelled from U.A., and I said yes, because I'd failed Aizawa's personal test. Even though the rest of the interview went well, I didn't get the job, and I guess I've got Aizawa to thank for that.

At my old school, a guy who cheated on a test got suspended for a week. At U.A., I tried my best and got into the top five of my class, fair and square, only for Aizawa to decide that I wasn't any good and kick me out, along with almost everyone else. There's no justice in this world.

Seriously, people. I flunked out of U.A. midway through my first year, and I never blamed anyone but myself. I wish Aizawa had kicked me out on my first day, so I didn't end up wasting everyone's time.

I'm not against teachers like Aizawa having the power to expel people who aren't making the cut. What I am worried about is that Aizawa gets to make the decision unilaterally. What's stopping him from expelling someone just because he doesn't like them?

I'm a graduate of U.A., and none of my teachers in my second or third years were as tough as Aizawa-sensei. Of course, while they didn't agree with him, they didn't act like he was breaking the rules, either. I guess the whole school's complicit, isn't it?

The responses were overwhelmingly negative, although a significant and vocal minority argued that Aizawa's decisions were correct, or didn't justify firing him. One of the posts from the latter group read, "So our way of dealing with a teacher who expels students at a drop of a hat is to fire him at the drop of a hat? Brilliant", punctuated by an appropriately sarcastic emoji.

Masaki looked at a few other threads, from a thread about students' new schools to an ex-U.A. student offering to sell her uniform for a starting price of 50,000 yen. There were also links to help U.A. dropouts, from links to sites that would help students get into other schools to sites with information to help people who were suicidal. The main takeaway Masaki had from this site was that she was not alone, since she was neither the first nor the last student that Aizawa had expelled.

Still, Masaki became curious about some of the posts she'd read. Since this had happened before, why hadn't U.A. done anything about it? Perhaps someday, Aizawa would be held accountable for his actions, but Masaki had no idea when or if that day would ever come.

A few days after the mass expulsion of Class 1-A, Principal Nezu called Aizawa into his office for a meeting, once he was sure that no phone calls would interrupt it. It was not a conversation he was looking forward to having, even after dealing with two heroes who were highly disappointed that the students they had recommended had been thrown out along with everyone else, but he hoped that speaking with Aizawa would help prevent any incidents like this from happening again.

"You wanted to see me, Principal?" Aizawa said.

"Yes, Aizawa-sensei," Nezu said. "Please have a seat."

Aizawa sat down.

"I had meant to arrange this meeting earlier," Nezu said, "but to be honest, I've been overwhelmed with twenty students' parents and guardians calling to complain about you expelling their children on the very first day, not to mention the heroes who recommended the top two students in your class."

"I'm honestly surprised," Aizawa said. "They should have understood that I don't kid around, and I was telling the truth about my decision being final."

"Yes, I did have to explain this to them," Nezu said. "Of course, while I stood by your decision, as a matter of principle I would like you to explain yourself."

Aizawa winced. While U.A. gave its teachers carte blanche when it came to expelling students, he was fully aware that Nezu's stance was not an endorsement of his decision. If he caved in and reinstated some students just because their parents complained enough, then practically every parent whose child was expelled from U.A. would follow suit.

"Would you rather I expel them later?" Aizawa said. "They showed that they didn't have any potential, and then I showed them the door. I think that's a rational conclusion, not to mention one that saves everyone involved some valuable time."

"Your reasoning is sound," Nezu said, "but no one comes to U.A. as a full-fledged hero. As with any educational institutions, students cannot succeed unless they are willing and able to learn, and their instructors are also willing and able to teach them."

"Maybe not," Aizawa said, "but we do have standards, don't we?"

"We do," Nezu said, "which is why we hold an entrance exam, to test students' abilities and see which of them are most deserving of the opportunity to learn at our school."

Aizawa rolled his eyes. He had long been critical of the exam, since it favored those with combat-related quirks.

"Their abilities to fight large heaps of metal with the intelligence of a cockroach," Aizawa said. "Not only is that of limited use in judging students' readiness for the various aspects of hero work, but some students with potential get turned away because their Quirks aren't any good in a battle like that."

"Duly noted," Nezu said. "But ask yourself this, Aizawa-sensei; might some of the students you turned away also have potential that you failed to see?"

As tempted as Aizawa was to respond with a quick, blunt "no," he knew better than to be flippant about this. Nezu, knowing what Aizawa's answer was, continued.

"We cannot accept every aspiring hero into our Hero Course, nor should we," Nezu said. "Students who fail our entrance exams can apply to other schools, or perhaps try again next year. There are many paths students can walk in life, and many schools besides U.A. for them to attend, so the chance to attend U.A. should only be given to those who deserve it most. As for everyone else, there are other paths they can walk."

"Fair enough," Aizawa said, "but what's wrong with expelling those who can't make the cut?"

"The problem is twofold," Nezu said. "In the short term, students who were expelled from the school they chose to enroll in are left in limbo, and may struggle to get into another high school. Even if they do, they will have a permanent blemish on their academic records as a result of being expelled from our school, one that some students cannot live with."

Aizawa glared. He didn't think himself heartless enough to not care about students committing suicide, but he considered Nezu's account to be little more than a sob story.

"If they were hoping to coast through the next three years, we never needed them," Aizawa said, "nor do any hero agencies, except for those too desperate to be rational about hiring."

"That's a fair assertion," Nezu said, "but that brings me to my next point. The twenty students in your class were not necessarily lazy or untalented. They had proved they had potential, which they could realize through our guidance and their own hard work over the next three years. Now they will study at competing hero schools, if they study anywhere at all."

Aizawa shook his head. U.A. High School had a surprisingly good graduation rate, apart from the students that teachers like him had purged, but not all students graduated from the Hero Course.

"Like I said earlier, Principal, the problem was that they weren't good enough," Aizawa said. "At the rate they were going, I doubt that they would have been able to pass the provisional exams, much less become actual heroes. There's nothing I could have done to change that."

"That may be so," Nezu said, "but do you have so little faith in your own abilities as a teacher that you do not believe you can prepare them for that?"

Aizawa sighed and shrugged. He was self-aware enough to realize that he probably came off as a cruel and judgmental man in the eyes of the students he'd shown the door, but he resented any suggestion that he was arrogant. While it was true that he'd become a pro hero, he didn't think of himself as anywhere near the best- just someone who had a strong work ethic, talent and high standards for himself. All that had helped him become a hero, but he wasn't sure that was good enough for a teacher.

"I... can't say that I do," Aizawa said. "I'm only a teacher because Midnight talked me into it, after all. I just think it'd be irresponsible to let students continue if they have no hope of succeeding."

"I agree with the principle," Nezu said, "but such a point will almost certainly be lost on the students you expelled. Any student who applies to U.A. has great confidence that they can succeed, and if they manage to get in, that isn't entirely baseless. If you bluntly tell them they're no good and turn them away, they will likely come to resent you, and if they realize that they could have stayed if they'd gotten a more merciful teacher, they will feel cheated."

"I wasn't aware this was a popularity contest," Aizawa said sarcastically.

"It isn't," Nezu said, "but it is important that your students respect you enough to believe that your decisions are fair, even if they do not agree with you. Because of that, while it may be too late to rescind the expulsions, I would rather not see this happen again, so I have a proposal for you."

Aizawa nodded attentively.

"For your class next year, you may only expel one student," Nezu said, holding up one finger, "namely, the lowest ranked in the Quirk Apprehension Test, should you think that person has no potential. Please inform the students about this so that they are aware of what is at stake."

"I can do that," Aizawa said, "but what if I need to expel other students?"

"If you need to do so, please discuss it with me first," Nezu said. "I would rather not expel students except for those who have flunked out or are guilty of severe offenses."

"That's fairly demanding," Aizawa said.

"It's as it should be," Nezu said. "Expulsion is meant to be a last resort used to remove students who clearly do not wish to learn or have become dangerous to the rest of the school, not a means of separating the wheat from the chaff. Students whose grades slip should have a chance to improve them, and those who commit minor offenses should be punished appropriately in hopes of correcting their behavior."

Aizawa paused, waiting to hear if Nezu had anything more to say.

"So, Aizawa-sensei," Nezu said, "do we have a deal?"

"I suppose we do, Principal," Aizawa said. "I can use the threat of expulsion to force the students to give the Quirk Apprehension Test their all, even if the lowest-ranked person isn't necessarily deserving of expulsion. If I do that, then people won't think I've gone soft, which is the last thing I want."

"Thank you for understanding," Nezu said. "You may go now."

Aizawa got up and excused himself. While a part of him was frustrated that the principal didn't fully agree with him, he was at least somewhat grateful that the principal had compromised, rather than putting his foot down or punishing him for his decision. Above all else, he mainly hoped that he'd get a better class next year.

One year and several months passed. Aizawa's next class met his standards, and eventually took the Provisional Hero License Exam together despite only being in their first year of high school. Mere weeks ago, Aizawa had contemplated expelling nearly the entire class for participating in an unauthorized mission to rescue a classmate, or for knowing about it and doing nothing to stop it, but the circumstances had stayed his hand. The principal had warned Aizawa that the circumstances made it unwise to expel so many promising young heroes. Aizawa agreed, but said the students needed to understand that most of them had, by their actions or inaction, betrayed his trust, and would need to regain it. Since most of the class, except Todoroki and Bakugo, ended up earning their provisional licenses on their first attempt, most would say that the decision was the correct one.

Meanwhile, Masaki was on cloud nine once again. Her new school had fared poorly in the exam year after year; while people ganged up on U.A. to eliminate their greatest rivals, people saw Masaki's school as an easy target. Masaki, however, succeeded where many of her schoolmates failed, defeating enough students to allow herself and some of her friends to advance on to the next stage. In the second stage, her training under the pro hero Dig Doug helped her retain enough of her points to pass.

As Masaki left the exam, she happened to spot Aizawa. Not knowing when or if she would ever see him again, she decided to walk up to him and see if he remembered her.

"It's been a while, Aizawa-sensei," Masaki said.

Aizawa stopped and looked Masaki over. While she still recognized his unkempt appearance and hero costume from over a year ago, she doubted that he remembered all the faces of his students. It didn't help that Masaki was wearing another school's uniform.

"Sorry, do I know you?" Aizawa said.

"You might," Masaki said. "My name is Masaki Matsuda, and my hero name is Iron Maiden. I was in your class last year... for one day."

"Ah, Matsuda," Aizawa said. "If you're looking for an apology for expelling you and your classmates, you've come to the wrong person. I will say, though, that I didn't expect you to still be a hero in training."

"Neither did many people," Masaki said. "As far as I know, I'm the only one from your class who took the exam, much less passed it- or at least the only one who took it here. Some of my other classmates, including Rei-er, Amane-san, transferred to normal high schools, since they had nowhere else to go. I don't know what happened to the rest of our class."

Even though Masaki made a point of using last names and honorifics on her friends when speaking to teachers, both out of politeness and because teachers only knew their students by their surnames, Aizawa didn't react to the mention of Reiko's name.

"Me neither," Aizawa said, "not that I know them all that well. I'm not the type to make friends with my students, much less the ones I've had to expel."

Masaki sighed. What she was about to say next would probably be the most difficult part of her reunion with her former teacher, but it had to be said.

"To be blunt, sensei," Masaki said, "from what I've heard, most of your former class has still not forgiven you for casting them aside, and I don't blame them. Expelling our entire class was a harsh decision that had significant consequences for them, so it's only natural we'd be upset. Since you decided upon it by yourself, based on a single test without any apparent remorse, of course we'd think that it's unfair."

"I don't expect you or the others to understand," Aizawa said. "If I'd let you continue, and some of you ended up being unable to cut it, then those people should have hated me for coddling them."

Masaki shook her head. If anything, the people who washed out should have taken responsibility for their own failings, like that one poster on the thread had, but that was beside the point.

"And what about those who still are training to become heroes?" Masaki said. "Do they deserve a second chance at a school other than U.A.?"

"They deserve whatever they can earn," Aizawa said. "If they do succeed, then maybe I was wrong about them."

Masaki could have sworn she'd seen a hint of a smile on her one-time teacher's face.

"Anyway, I've got to get back to my class," Aizawa said. "See you around, Iron Maiden."

"You too, Aizawa-sensei," Masaki said. "Thank you very much."

As Aizawa started to leave, Masaki bowed deeply.

"Hey, Masaki, we're leaving!" Yagami said, coming up from behind Masaki.

"Coming, Yuuki-chan," Masaki said

Masaki turned around and walked in the direction opposite the one in which Aizawa had departed, reuniting with her classmates and taking the bus back to her high school. Her days at U.A. (or perhaps better said, day) were behind her, and she'd embraced her new life at Saikawa, hoping to one day become a great hero who would do her alma mater proud. Reiko and the rest of her erstwhile classmates, at least those she knew about, were still working toward their dreams, and that was a comforting thought.

Had Aizawa done Masaki and her classmates a disservice or a favor by expelling them? Had he fairly evaluated their talent and potential? What would the future have in store for those who had once aspired to study together at U.A. High School? Those involved had strong opinions on each of those questions, but none of them actually knew the answers. For good or for ill, Aizawa's decision would continue to have repercussions for the rest of his students' lives and careers, and perhaps the debate will be reignited the next time he expels an entire class.

Author's Notes

Thank you for reading this fic.

This fic's purpose is to deconstruct Aizawa's teaching style. He has an understandable purpose behind his harsh goals- to weed out those who have no hope of succeeding- but his harsh and unapologetic approach is likely to lead many students to resent him. The idea of an additional test after the entrance exams (not to mention after the students had officially enrolled and bought uniforms) simply because the students got Aizawa would come off as highly unfair, as would the idea that Aizawa alone would decide his class's futures. Of course, I did also strive to show Aizawa's perspective, even if it's one that's lost on the students.

I also can't help but wonder whether Mirio, who'd started out as a poor student without much control over his Quirk and eventually became Sir Nighteye's pick for All Might's successor, would have gotten through Aizawa's class.