A/N: The reaction to the last chapter was absolutely nuts. Seriously. I am so glad so many of you enjoyed it as much as you did.
It was probably a pretty big reveal to make, about Tenko, and it was a gamble when I first imagined it. Back when I started planning my road ahead, I loved the concept of the dark mirror, the ability to create a twisted reflection of canon in this AU, and the reveal was the pinnacle of what I hoped to achieve by a dark mirror. If Izuku had All For One… then the reversal had to be completed. And to those who picked up the hints, well done. The inability of Monoma to copy Tenko's Quirk was where I thought more of you would get it, I'll be honest.
For those of you who want answers, you're about to get some. The biggest question that some of you should have asked, if I may, was this. All Might used a United States of Smash to achieve a fatal victory over All For One in Chapter One of this story. The Smash which, in canon, burned through the last embers of One For All in order to defeat All For One, the last embers of a Quirk that had already been transferred to its next holder.
So when All Might used a United States of Smash at Incident Zero… where had One For All gone, before then?
The room in UA's medical bay was quiet, save for a couple of sounds. The beep of a heart monitor, simultaneously reassuring and ominous in equal measure, was the loudest by far. It provided the certainty that the person it was attached to remained alive, yes, but it served as a stark reminder of exactly what he had been through. How close things had been. How drastically wrong they could have gone.
The other noise, as he slept, was the breathing of the person curled up on the bed beside him, the one who had refused to leave the second she lay eyes on him. Setsuna Tokage had a bandage tied around her midriff where one part of her body had been unable to reform, Lizard Tail Splitter leaving her slightly incomplete, but she was otherwise unscarred. She had taken one look at him, broken and bloody and bruised on the bed UA had set out for him, and vowed to remain. Her teacher was in no fit state to argue, and not even the Principal could have separated her from him.
So she had remained, so careful in how she had placed herself; close enough to nearly be touching, but just far enough to not put too much pressure on him or aggravate his injuries. Setsuna's tiredness had overcome her minutes after settling down, and one arm had made its way across his stomach as she slept; if he had been awake, he would have probably taken pictures, or laughed at her for snoring. There was no way she was going to leave him, though. Not after what they had been through.
Tenko Shimura lay still, oblivious to the concerned adults outside the room waiting for him to wake up, oblivious to the distress of his classmates who had heard about the condition their group had been left in. But most of all, Tenko was oblivious to the fire inside, the embers that had simmered undetected under the surface for so long, the fire that was starting to ignite once more…
The fire that had been lit, so many years ago, on the day of Incident Zero.
Many years ago…
Just about everyone could tell you exactly where they were that day. The exact time, what they were doing, how they felt. It was the nature of national disaster that it was impossible to forget. It left scars on everyone, no matter how oblivious they were to the oncoming storm, no matter how close to ground zero they were. Incident Zero changed Japan, and the world around it, in ways nobody could have ever expected.
But for one frail little boy, crouched alone in the corner of the garden of the soulless and imposing house built by his father, his memories of the day started with a different kind of sadness. Isolation, crushing loneliness, a feeling of utter despair at the way he was being treated by those who supposedly loved him. His father… he had upset his father, and now he was alone, cast outside as punishment by the man whose iron rule dominated the house.
Tenko Shimura cried, as his skin itched for reasons he couldn't understand, and wished that one day his father might be kinder. That one day, he may be able to tip the relationship meter towards the positive end of the scale. Anything would be better than what he had, right now.
Kotaro Shimura had one rule. A rule which Tenko had never understood, a rule which seemed so at odds with the way the world worked. No talking about Heroes had been the decree, from the first moments Tenko remembered, and no matter how much he asked his father had never explained. Tenko had never understood why, and it had never been explained why; his father's default reaction to any questions, any suggestion of defiance of the rule, had been to raise his voice or worse, raise his hand. No matter what dialogue choice he picked, it always ended badly for him.
It had gotten worse, recently, because all the other kids at school had developed or were developing their Quirks. Tenko had never seen his father or his mother use a Quirk, growing up, but the way his father disparagingly talked about how Tenko hadn't manifested his Quirk 'yet', it seemed to the little boy as if they did both have Quirks; it was just that they chose not to use them. That was the only explanation Tenko could find for why his father was so irritated by the idea that Tenko had not developed one. It hadn't made sense, when his father would have forbidden him from becoming a Hero, whatever his Quirk could have been.
Tenko had made that point, once. His father had raised his hand, and Tenko had regretted it for days afterwards.
The rule was inflexible, unwavering, and it was why he found himself in the garden on his own. He had been playing with Mikkun and Tomo, because the other children had left them out, and Tenko hated that; they were good kids, and Tenko was happy to form a party with them. They had been the ones to suggest that they played Heroes, because it was all they ever wanted to be, and he had followed, because having new friends to hang out with was so cool. Tomo… Tomo had said that he should be All Might. The best character selection of all was apparently available to him, just because he had been kind to the girl. He had completely failed to hold back his tears when she said that.
But playing outside had aggravated his skin, it seemed; Tenko had itched for some time, and it had just gotten worse after they played. Out of a sheer sense of guilt, he had come clean to his mother as she tended to him with the new cream, because Mother was kind and didn't raise her hand to him. He had been so ashamed to break the rule, and had asked why his father got so mad about it, because all he wanted to do was make friends and help people. That had gotten through to Mother, as she had promised to talk to his father about it, because she didn't want him to feel ashamed of wanting to play with the other kids… she had gone straight to him. And whatever she had said, it had failed. Tenko was outside, alone. The price of disobedience.
The air was slightly humid, even as the sky was clear, and Tenko couldn't see inside the prison that he called home. His father had closed the curtains without a second look backwards, shutting Tenko out from the rest of his family. Normally he would be able to rely on Hana, his partner in crime and co-op partner when Father shut him in his room with just his games for company; she would always sneak in to play with him and comfort him, would hold his hand while they were out in public so he didn't feel so alone. Even she had been shut away in her bedroom, one brief peek through the curtains the only sight he had seen of her. Father was angrier than he had been in a while.
Even Mon-chan was kept away. Mon spent more time with Tenko than anyone else in the family, so being deprived of him like this? It cut right through Tenko.
As he stared at the back fence and sniffled, hunched over and feeling sorry for himself, he became aware of a number of raised voices inside the house. That wasn't uncommon, with Father being the way he was. 'Angry' was probably fifty percent of his character profile. But there were other voices in there too, voices that sounded… different. Tenko was used to people sounding upset and others shouting, and it sounded like his mother was pleading indoors (the voice of reason, as ever), but there was… someone else. Someone strangely familiar, and yet not one of his family…
Tenko stiffened at the sound of the back door opening, fearing that further reprisal would be coming his way. Instead, he heard another voice, the stranger who he couldn't quite recognise, stepping outside into the garden. "I… understand that what I have said has agitated you all. But I wouldn't be here if it weren't crucial. I just want you all to be safe-"
Tenko's eyes, glistening with tears, widened. It couldn't be. Surely that wasn't who he thought it was? Here? In this place, with his family? That was-
"We wouldn't be in any danger if it weren't for her!" That was his father, shouting from inside, and even from a distance Tenko could hear him clear as day. "We never asked for any of this! I suffered enough because of her choices before, and now you say we're in danger because of them yet again-"
"We… we need to talk about things. Sensibly." He could hear his mother, still inside the house and faint, but all the same cutting through. Her voice was wobbling… why did she sound afraid? "Perhaps it's best if we have that discussion without you, as much as I'm grateful you came."
"O-Oh! Of course!" The stranger sounded like he was forcing some peppiness into his voice. "I'll wait right out here, for as long as you need!"
The sound of the back door clicking shut was unmistakable- Tenko had heard it more than enough times as the sound of his father shutting him outside, the last sound before he was once again thrust into isolation as punishment for breaking the sacred rule. But this time was different. This time, it was somebody else who had shut the door, who had joined Tenko outside as the subject of his father's anger. This was a man Tenko had never expected to meet, and if anyone had told him that the man would one day spawn at their family home, he would have simply laughed at them for how ridiculous it would have sounded. "I-It's you…"
Who else could it have been? Such an incredible sight to behold, so unlike anything the world had ever known. Tall and buff and imposing, without ever seeming intimidating, a pillar of a man who inspired awe and hope in whoever he met. Tenko's eyes were drawn to the costume he wore, so distinctive and resplendent in red and gold, a cape flowing behind him in the slight breeze that had picked up in the garden, and to his hair. Those signature golden locks, standing tall atop the man's head… a symbol in their own right. But then, that's who he was, wasn't it? A Symbol? "... All Might?"
The Symbol of Peace himself stood up at the sound of Tenko's voice, and Tenko found it strange. His family never really watched the news, not because of his father's rule and how much Heroes dominated the headlines, so what Tenko heard was courtesy of the myth and legend passed to him by classmates. But what struck him as strange was how they had always described him as smiling, a look which could reassure anyone, and yet here he did not do so; this was All Might, no doubt about it, but the man had a strange look on his face that couldn't have been further from a smile. It was almost… sadness. "O-Oh! Young man! I didn't see you there-"
Tenko paused, sniffing, and realising that he needed to be more presentable to somebody so iconic, wiped his sleeve across his face to clear some of the tears off his face. "It really is you… I never thought I'd meet you."
"I'm glad I could defy your expectations." All Might moved over towards him, and crouched down, his cape crumpling in a heap on the ground behind him. "I never caught your name, young man."
"T-Tenko… Tenko Shimura." Tenko sniffed, and stared at him. "I'm… the youngest."
"I can see that." All Might's blue eyes fixed themselves on Tenko, and Tenko tried not to flinch. In the few images he had seen of the Symbol of Peace, the Hero's eyes were so bright and so full of life as he smiled, but there was… none of that. There was such depth and intensity, and Tenko nearly took a step back as he realised that All Might had noticed his tears. "What are you doing out here, Tenko? You're crying… and you were out here before I got here."
"I…" Tenko looked at the older man, and for a second a shiver went down his spine as he recalled his father's raised voice, how angry he had been to send him outside. If he was in trouble before… he would be even more so, if he told All Might exactly what had happened. "I shouldn't say…"
"You…" Tenko nearly froze at how the Hero's voice cracked. This was the Symbol of Peace, the most unflappable man in the world, and some emotion Tenko didn't understand made his voice crack. "This is… no. Why on earth would they do this to a child?"
"I broke his rule…" Tenko had opened his mouth without thinking, before it snapped shut, and he stared at All Might with eyes wide. "I-I-I shouldn't have said that, I'm sorry-"
"You have nothing to apologise for, young Tenko." All Might's voice was so soft and so reassuring, but Tenko saw something blaze in the depths of those blue eyes, unlike anything he had ever seen. "Others, on the other hand, do. Please excuse me, while I-"
"No!" Tenko reached out and grabbed at the sleeve of his costume as All Might rose, and it clearly startled the Hero as he did so. "Y-You can't! Please! It won't… it won't make anything better!"
For a very long second, All Might appeared to stare down at him, and Tenko realised just how useless his gesture was. This was the strongest Hero of all, and he was just a skinny little boy clinging on; All Might could have strode off and left him behind without a thought. But as several different things seemed to flicker in All Might's eyes, his uncertainty played out in his gaze, finally he relented, and crouched back down to Tenko's level. "I… I'm sorry, young man. I only want to help. But my reaction was perhaps too rash, and I would hate to make things worse for you by confronting your father. I just… this isn't right."
"I…" Tenko finally let go of All Might's sleeve. "It's okay. You just wanted to help right?"
"Right. I always say that the best Heroes are the ones who move without thinking, who jump in to save people because it's their instinct." All Might's response was to fold himself down until he was sat beside Tenko, also staring at the back fence, and Tenko tried not to lose his cool. He was sitting next to All Might! In his own home! "My sidekick reminds me quite often that sometimes me jumping in without a plan is not a wise move."
"It's okay…" Tenko sniffed, and somehow cracked a weak smile despite how lonely he had been feeling up until then. "Sometimes zerg rush tactics are the best kind."
"I'll… pretend I understood what that meant." A small and gentle smile crossed All Might's face. "So, if I can, young man… how about you tell me why you're out here, and I'll tell you why I am here?"
"Why I am here?" Tenko repeated the Hero's catchphrase back at him, hoping it would break the ice. Even if All Might laughed briefly, however, the look of concern didn't leave his eyes. "I… I broke the rule. It's like I said-"
"And what rule is that?"
"I…" Tenko's voice dropped to a murmur. "No talking… about Heroes. He… doesn't like it."
All Might took a deep breath, and it came out like a sigh. "So that's what this is about. I'm sorry, Tenko."
"You… you come across that often?"
"More or less. But as to why your father feels that way… I think I know why." All Might reached over, and one giant hand squeezed Tenko's shoulder. "For whatever it may be worth, young man, I am sorry. I feel I, and those before me, have had a hand in him feeling that way. However he may feel, though… it does not justify how he behaves towards you. And I am sorry that until now, nobody knew."
The words Tenko had wanted to hear for some time, coming from another adult, made him start crying again. "Th… thank you." What else could he say? It had been so long since he had hoped that somebody might see the injustice in it, so long since he gave up hoping that somebody would come to see it for themselves. Maybe now, whatever else All Might had come to their home for, something would be done in future. "Is… is he gonna be in trouble?"
"I… I don't know." All Might pulled a face that Tenko couldn't quite read. "Only time will tell that, I'm afraid."
"You… said something just then that I don't get." Tenko felt his face scrunch up in confusion. "About how you had a hand in him feeling that way… hating Heroes. What… what did you mean?"
All Might sighed, and the way his chest heaved as he did so was impressive to see in the flesh. "I… Look, I don't want to say anything that gets you further in trouble-"
"Right now, I don't care about that." Tenko's voice was a lot firmer than he meant, and when he saw All Might briefly stunned, he waved his hands in front of him to apologise. "I-I didn't mean it like that! I just mean… well, y'know, sometimes whatever choice we make there's a bad ending waiting, right? I can cope with that."
All Might looked for a moment like he was unsure, before he looked over at his hand on Tenko's shoulder and nodded, squeezing him a little to reassure him. "... Alright. I'm assuming that given how strongly your father feels… he's never told you about your grandmother?"
"Grandmother?" Tenko paused, uncertain for a second. "... Nah. He's not said anything. Who… who was she?"
"Who was she?" All Might smiled, but it was the look in his eyes that really struck Tenko; sad and wistful and proud all in the blink of an eye. "Your grandmother was… Nana Shimura. She was a Hero, once."
"A Hero?" Now Tenko leaned forward, completely interested. "M-My grandma? You knew her?"
"Knew her? My boy… she trained me." As Tenko gasped, All Might's smile grew a little wider, even if the look in his eyes remained. "She was a great Hero, truly. One of the bravest and strongest we ever knew. And she taught me everything about what it meant to look after people."
"She's the reason I smile as much as I do, you know?" All Might sat up a little straighter, his shining white teeth showing in his smile. "The best lesson of all. That no matter how hard things are, or how scary, the best thing you can do for someone in need is smile for them. The people in this world who can smile… they're the strongest Heroes of all, Tenko."
"So… she sounds awesome. But Father… Father never mentioned her." Tenko didn't understand. "She's… why he hates Heroes?"
"Partly. I'll be honest with you, young man…" All Might's voice dropped slightly, more serious than it had been. "She… she died as a Hero. And before she died, she had left your father somewhere else, to try to keep him safe. He, well… I'm not sure he ever forgave her for leaving him behind."
"She… died a Hero." Tenko was uncertain, as he asked the next question, but he was learning so much that he wanted to know. "Did she… was it a villain?"
"... Yes. Yes, Tenko." All Might seemed to sag slightly. "The villain… survived. And unfortunately, that same villain is why I'm here today."
"Huh?" Tenko scratched at his arm, the itch seeming to intensify slightly. "You… said earlier. I heard you. I heard Father say about being in danger-"
"Unfortunately, yes. The villain… he killed your grandmother. He hates me, almost as much as he hated her. There's been rumours that he's been planning something for a while, but we couldn't work out what he was planning until we tracked his movements enough. And now… now it seems he's coming here. To Musutafu." All Might took a deep breath. "I think he wants to get back at me and Nana by hurting you all."
"U-Us?" Tenko squeaked, hating what he was hearing. "The final boss… is coming here?"
"I think so, young man. I'm sorry. And that's why I came here now, to try to prevent that from happening." All Might turned himself, so that now he was sat between Tenko and the fence, so that Tenko's full attention was on him. "I made a promise to Nana, all those years ago… a promise that I would keep her family safe. That I would do whatever I could to protect you from him. I just want you all to be safe and out of harm's way."
"Father… doesn't trust you." It was less of a question, and more of a realisation from Tenko. "He doesn't want to be reminded of all that."
"It seems that way." All Might patted Tenko on the shoulder, and brought his hand back to his own lap. "I just… I will fight this villain with everything I have. Until my last breath, I will fight to keep you all safe. I just wanted to come here if I could make absolutely sure that you'd all be safe-"
"I guess that makes two of us that won't convince him to change his mind, huh?"
All Might sputtered at the blunt reply from Tenko, and very awkwardly tried to disguise a laugh as a cough. "Ahem. I don't think either of us should give up on that any time soon-"
"I know, I know... but thank you, All Might." Tenko looked down at his own hands, and digested what he had just been told. His grandmother sounded like the best kind of Hero going, the sort of person he wished they had more of these days; the other kids at school seemed to complain about alignment issues for Heroes like Endeavor. "I wish… I had met her."
"Hm… she was something else, let me tell you." All Might smiled, wistfully. "I couldn't have asked for a better mentor."
"If she was good enough to teach you… then she sounds awesome." Tenko clenched a fist. "I know Father doesn't want me to play Heroes, but… if I could be like her one day-"
"You… want to be a Hero, young man?" All Might pulled himself up to a standing position, stretching his back out; Tenko tried not to let his jaw drop at how many muscles seemed to move as he did so. He had heard All Might had maxed his physical stats, but seeing it in person was something else. "I admire that!"
"Absolutely I do! And while I don't want to get you in trouble… the world could always use more Heroes!" All Might spun away from him, sounding enthused. "If that's what you want to be… then don't ever hold back! It would be an honour to see you become one in a future, a Shimura as a Hero once again-"
"You really think so?!" Tenko's itchy skin nagged at him, and the optimism that had threatened to creep into his voice broke. That was a reminder of how brittle he was, how much of an uphill battle he faced. And there was one obstacle bigger than any other. "Even… even if I'm Quirkless?"
Whatever reaction he had been expecting from the Symbol of Peace, it hadn't been for the man to stiffen like a board, freezing in front of him. When All Might's voice next came, it was as serious as he had sounded since he arrived. "You… you're Quirkless, you say."
"I… yeah." Tenko slumped slightly, at how hopeless it sounded. "E-Everyone else has such OP movesets at school, but… yeah. I never developed mine."
"No Quirk… and you're Nana Shimura's grandson."
"I, yeah, that's me." Tenko kicked at the dirt. "Forget it. I realise it sounded stupid to even imagine-"
"No. That's… that's not what I meant." All Might took a step forward, and for a second it looked to Tenko like he was unsteady. "Could it really be... Mirai. You were right, after all."
"A-All Might?" As All Might stepped forward, one hand reaching down to his belt, Tenko was confused. "What… what do you mean?"
"Tenko Shimura… my sidekick always talks about something I've never fully believed in." All Might appeared to grab something from his belt, and reach up in front of his chest. "Do you… know what I mean if I say about destiny?"
"Destiny?" Tenko frowned. "I'm guessing you don't mean the really, really old game-"
"No, I mean… fate. Destiny. A future set for us." All Might's head dipped, and Tenko could have sworn he made a strange noise as he did so. "Ahem… I never really believed in it, myself. The future is whatever we make of it, I told him. But here I came to make sure your family were safe, and I met you… and I think destiny had some ideas of its own."
"You really think so?" Tenko could feel tears forming in his eyes, as he stared at the man's back, the flowing cape which looked so impressive. "About me?"
"Absolutely. What do you want to be, Tenko?" All Might's head rose up, staring intently across the fence and into the distance. "Because I think it was destiny we met, after all. I will make sure your family is safe… and I will make sure you can become a Hero, as good as Nana ever was. I'll make sure... that you are safe."
"You w-will?!" Tenko stood up himself, All Might's words imbuing him with a belief he had never felt before. "Really?!"
"Yes! And there's one easy way you can start!" All Might spun, triumphantly, and thrust one arm out in front of Tenko, so fast that the boy nearly stumbled backwards and fell over. "Drink this!"
"Huh?!" Tenko took a second to realise what All Might was holding, the brightly-coloured label being a complete surprise to him. "What… is that your energy drink? You actually drink that stuff?"
"Wh-what do you mean?" All Might glanced down at the bottle of Summer Fruit Smash clutched in his meaty palm, and a bead of sweat ran down his forehead. "Don't you like it?"
"No, I do, I just…" Tenko tried not to laugh at the look on his face. "Father never lets us have it, but I see it around with all the other Hero junk. I didn't think anyone actually liked their own products-"
"I actually quite like it! Just the right amount of electrolytes to act as a pick-me-up when you're feeling low!"
"... Is that why you gave it to me? I need to take on more electro-"
"No! We're getting away from the point here, young man!" All Might's composure briefly broke, before he thrust the drink back at Tenko valiantly. "The point is… look at this drink more as a symbol! An offering, from one generation to the next! You might not be able to be a Hero right now, right away, but by drinking this it's your commitment to starting along the journey! To become the Hero you want to be!"
"So I start now… and it's my way of saying I'm gonna do whatever it takes?" Tenko took the bottle from All Might, ignoring the itching feeling on the back of his hand. "Me drinking this… is me choosing to activate the quest?"
"In a sense, yes. It's the first step on your path, young Shimura! The path towards becoming a Hero!" All Might clenched a fist, and Tenko saw the look in All Might's eyes, so much hope and so much more he didn't understand. The old guy was getting way into this. "Your future… starts here. Do your best, Tenko."
"You know… if you weren't the Symbol of Peace, so much about this situation would scream stranger danger. I mean, drinking unknown potions which an NPC I've never met before just gave me?" Tenko lifted the bottle to his lips, unscrewed the already slightly loose lid, and took a long swig of the drink, smacking his lips. "Still… I'll accept the quest. You really think I can be a Hero?"
"Young man…" All Might's eyes appeared to be shimmering slightly, as if there was the slightest hint of a tear threatening to break through the surface. "I know you can be a Hero."
Crzt. "Toshi? Toshi?"
There was a brief moment where Tenko felt as if he was about to cry, feelings of pride and happiness swelling inside him unlike anything he had ever felt before. Those were interrupted by the crackle of what sounded like an old-fashioned radio, and All Might appeared to jerk at the sound of the voice coming through the speakers; it sounded old and gruff, and yet somewhat concerned. Tenko was about to open his mouth and make a comment about All Might carrying such old-gen technology on his utility belt, but the look on the man's face made him think otherwise, as he pulled his radio to his lips. "Torino. Is it… is it him?"
"It's him." The voice of the one called Torino sounded grave as he confirmed. "He… he just surfaced an hour north of Musutafu. You were right. He didn't go right to them-"
"It's because he knows I am here." All Might's voice trembled with apprehension, something which made Tenko blink and stare at him. What sort of villain… made the Symbol of Peace scared? "He knows I came to confront him. So he'll draw it out, hurt as many people as possible before I can stop him. Knowing I'm right here-"
"You haven't been able to convince them to leave, then." The voice on the other end sounded heavy. "Toshi… you know what he's capable of, if you leave him unchecked. You know you can't hold on there any longer. You have to go, now-"
"I... I know. And this has to end here."
"If anyone can make it end today, it's you. Be smarter than him, and you can end what none of the others could."
"I… I know." All Might took a deep breath, and steeled his face; Tenko saw his eyes blaze with fury. "For Nana."
"... For Nana." There was a long pause. "See you on the other side, son."
"So long… old timer." All Might clicked the radio off, and stared down at Tenko, storing the device away. "I… I have to go, young man."
"It's him, right? The villain?" Tenko took a step back, his voice wobbling slightly. "... The boss fight?"
"The boss fight. And I promise you, I'll do whatever it takes to keep you all safe. But there's no time for me to wait to change your father's mind." All Might grimaced, fiddling with his belt. "You… tell them to stay inside, and take shelter, okay? That's all you can do, now. You stay safe. For me."
"For me. If you're safe… then the future is safe, too." To Tenko's great surprise, the Hero crouched down, and Tenko found himself pulled into a hug by the world's greatest Hero. If anyone had told him this would happen at the beginning of the day, Tenko would have called them crazy, but it was all he could do in the warmth of All Might's embrace to not start crying; this really was goodbye. "You're… going to do amazing things, Tenko. More than you could possibly imagine."
"You… you'd better come back! I don't care how many respawns you need…" Tenko squeezed back, ignoring the itching in his arms as he did. "I… this won't be the last time I see you, right?"
"That… I don't know." All Might pulled back, out of the hug, and stood tall. Under the intensity of his gaze, Tenko felt so small, overwhelmed by so many different emotions which crossed across the Hero's face as All Might looked down that he couldn't keep up. If there was one feeling that Tenko couldn't shake... it was that All Might had a look of acceptance in his eyes. Like he knew this was his final level. "But I know one thing, for sure, young man."
"That no matter what happens today… no matter how far away I am…" One huge finger reached out to poke Tenko in the chest, right where his heart was, and a single tear ran down All Might's cheek to Tenko's great surprise. "... I will always be here."
As All Might turned away, and took great strides towards the fence at the end of the garden, Tenko felt powerless for just a second, at a loss of what to do. All Might's simple gesture had been just that, simple, and yet it had meant so much to hear, coming from the greatest Hero of all. He felt he had to say something… and there was only one thing he could say. "A-All Might?"
His new friend crouched down, cape flowing behind him magnificently as he prepared to jump over the back fence and leave the Shimura household behind to jump into battle. In that moment, Tenko Shimura knew that whatever was about to happen would be a battle for the ages. "..."
Tenko did the only thing that he could do. The only thing that felt right, and didn't feel cheap as a battle cry. The thing that meant the most to him, of all the things he'd heard and been told. Ignoring the itch in his fist as he clenched it, or the strange feeling in his elbow, he raised one fist above his head, the way all the other kids posed when they played Hero and got to play All Might, and hoped he'd got it right. "... F-For Nana?"
Despite the gravity of the situation, the Atlantean weight of the fight he was about to face not lost on the young boy, All Might paused, and even though he couldn't properly see the Hero's face, Tenko caught a glimpse of a smile. One meaty fist raised itself high above All Might's head in response, before with a gust of wind and a noise like a gun going off, he leaped forward, cape billowing behind him with righteous fury…
As the greatest Hero to ever live left him behind in the shadow of his home, Tenko Shimura took another swig of the drink, a fire lighting in his stomach at the thought of the questline ahead.
Something was terribly wrong, and it wasn't due to the warning sirens outside, or the sounds of explosions in the distance. It was because of how Tenko felt like every inch of his skin was on fire, curled in a ball on the kitchen floor.
Father had not taken kindly to the way in which Tenko had rushed in, yelling that they all needed to take cover and keep their heads down. The more Tenko had spoken, the more agitated his mother and Hana had gotten, the more they too had raised their voices to disagree with Father's assertion that they were staying put right where they were. Father had raised his hand, and raised it again, until his mother had caught his hand, more anger spilling over. She had caught it too, this time.
Tenko's face had been red raw, but that hadn't been what had caused the pain. That had come later, spreading inside him like a rash; he was used to his skin hurting, but this was eating him up inside, sending his head soaring into feverish temperatures. Father had dragged him into the kitchen with them, but he was lost to the argument going on around him, curled up in a ball, unresponsive to the calls of his mother or Hana.
It hadn't been long before something had bubbled up from the surface. At first he felt warm in his core, like a fire had lit itself inside him, but soon it grew, the flicker of flame becoming a raging inferno. His eyes and nose were streaming, and his blood felt like it was boiling in his veins. Tenko had cried out as the pain grew, but nobody came, and now in the pits of agony, it hurt even to whimper.
Then the first explosion had happened, car alarms going off in the distance, and the disaster sirens followed.
Tenko had panicked about what it had to mean. After everything All Might had said… the villain was here, in Musutafu. The villain really had come for them, like All Might said, and Tenko found himself deafened by the blasts of shockwaves from their attacks, blasts which had blown out the windows and left him lying amongst shards of glass on the floor. His skin was scratchier than ever, so the small cut he had obtained on the back of one of his hands was nothing to him, not compared to what he was already going through.
His family had screamed, cowering for cover underneath the kitchen table as best as they could, and all he could do was push himself further into the corner and hope the walls would hold. There had been a horrible crash earlier with a car alarm going off, which Tenko later realise was the sound of a car coming through the front window, and that was met by barking off into the distance. Mon-chan, Tenko's best friend, the one who would curl up in a ball under his bed and sleep the whole night when Tenko had been crying… gone forever, running off into the unknown and completely spooked by the whole situation.
In this hellish world, as the house shook from the aftershocks of every explosive attack, Tenko wondered if he'd have anything left by the end.
There was a really loud sound in the distance, like a building collapsing, and Father raised his voice. But something wasn't right about his voice this time, the voice that was so readily raised in his direction… Father sounded scared, for the first time Tenko could remember. "No! Hana! What are you doing-"
"We can't leave him out there alone! He needs to be safe with us!" His sister's voice came from the stairs, as he heard the sound of scrambling on the other side of the room; Hana was always so heavy-footed, taking the stairs two at a time whenever she came to see him with a force that made him wonder how she hadn't ever gone through them before. Her scrabbling now was no different. "Tenko! Ten-"
"H-Hana…" As his sister ran across the room to his safe corner of the kitchen, the light from his blown-out window seemed to light up her face, and Tenko was just about able to forget the agony that was brewing inside him. She was there, the one who always did her best to put a smile back on his face, the one who would pull him along and tell him everything was going to be okay. But even as she approached, Tenko's arms screamed at him, needle-like pain running across his skin and through his bones at the same time, making him yell as he tried to stand up. "A-Ah!"
"It's okay, Ten!" She took a step forward, kicking All Might's bottle that he had been drinking from aside; she stretched out one hand towards him and smiled. He swore her smile was the brightest thing he'd ever seen, right there. "I'll keep you safe, okay?"
"Okayyy... " He steadied himself, gritted his teeth as his knees felt like they were on fire. This status effect… where had it come from? "I'm… with you."
"I know." Hana smiled, as he raised his hand towards her. "I've got you, Ten-"
Several things happened in an instant, several terrible and horrible things. Outside, the sound of explosions had been near-constant since the start of what had to be the fight between All Might and the villain, but this one… this one was larger, more intense, more bone-shaking than any of the ones that had come before. It was enough to shatter whatever glass remained intact in the house, to set off car alarms outside that had somehow lasted until this point. It was a miracle that Tenko and Hana managed to stay on their feet, the whole house shuddering like it had been hit with a bomb, but it was what followed next that was most concerning.
Pain. Indescribable pain, coursing through every part of Tenko's body and making him scream as if someone had torn the skin from every part of him at once; if the itching had been bad before, it was crippling now. Blinding white and hideous black spots filled his vision at the same time, and it almost felt like something had punched him in the ribs, in the stomach, in the head all at the same time. The air felt hot and heavy around him, and it felt like there was blood or vomit or something foul threatening to erupt from his mouth. And that wasn't the worst part.
The worst, amid all of that, was the noise, like ghosts screaming inside his skull.
As Tenko's legs gave out from underneath him and he fell forward, Hana's face completely changed, a look of fear in her eyes suddenly as his unknown affliction got the better of him. "Ten! Ten, what's happening-"
Her hand reached out, trying to make sure she could keep him up and protect him, always looking out for him...
… And as his hand caught onto hers, the white heat from the contact made him shriek, his blood boiling inside him. But that wasn't what made him scream. What made him scream was the way Hana's skin instantly blistered and crackled, a frantic cry coming out of her mouth as she appeared to crumble before his eyes. It was like watching her turn to stone and suffer the ravages of time in fast-forward, right there in his home, and before Tenko could even rip his hand away the light in her eyes faded, the face of his sister crumbling to dust before him. "AAGH!"
As the last ashes of what remained of Hana Shimura dispersed in the air in front of him, Tenko screamed and fell to the floor, clutching the carpet and watching how the rest of the kitchen around him appeared to be fragmenting, disappearing into nothingness…
Hana Shimura had been the first. Then Mother, tears in her eyes until the very end, refusing to abandon her son and dying as she tried to pull him into a hug. Then Father had wrapped his hands around Tenko's throat, blaming him for what had happened as if he wasn't terrified enough, full of rage and violence even in his last breath. Even Father, the nightmare of his youth, couldn't survive.
Then the house collapsed around him, as the flame inside him ran out of control, and Tenko Shimura had succumbed to oblivion, overwhelmed by the power he had unleashed. The downfall of his family, the last of the Shimuras…
The start of something new.
It could not have been foreseen.
The heartbeat monitor beeped, and Tenko Shimura's lips appeared to twitch slightly, lying in that hospital bed. Why would have been anyone's guess, if they were present and awake to witness it, but none of them could have imagined what flickered beneath the surface of his subconscious while he recovered.
He buried it deep.
Memories, locked away by the weight of trauma and and loss, only now emerging to the surface once again as the fire began to catch hold once more. It was a day Tenko Shimura's own mind had suppressed, to protect himself from what had happened, tricked into only remembering a part to spare himself the agony of truth.
No wonder… after such a reaction to his own Quirk.
But the memories weren't the only thing that had been forced into darkness until now. And they weren't the only thing breaking free.
He called on it. Before the end… to defeat that creature.
The tip of one of Tenko's fingers twitched, of its own volition. But it wasn't Decay that ran through it this time, no; it was something else entirely. Grief had all but extinguished the fire that had ignited on Incident Zero, blazing out of control and taking everything from Tenko, submerging it to prevent such a catastrophe from happening again. But now…
The kid feels it once more. It lives in him.
The embers had never gone away, lingering just out of sight. Waiting for the moment, for the day it was needed again, for the day it could be used once more.
Now he will know what he holds. What he must master.
A power that had not been seen for years. A power thought lost to the rest of the world, by the few who knew of its existence. A naked flame, a raging inferno…
He is older now. He is strong enough… Tenko can handle it. It's time.
A sacred torch.
Find Torino, young man. Find Torino… and beware what lies ahead.
Unheard, unseen and unknown, the past was reborn as Tenko Shimura lay unconscious, bearing the scars of his brush with death. He couldn't hear, but he would feel it when he woke up, the energy beginning to filter through his bloodstream, and he would be one step closer to the truth, one step closer to finding out what had really happened to him all those years ago.
The room was silent, but for the sound of the heartbeat monitor… the proof that the ninth holder of One For All had survived, after all.
When Izuku opened his eyes, nothing was as he expected it to be.
The last thing he had seen, before the pain became too much and he slid into unconsciousness, was the great black fist of Nomu coming down once again. He had been defenceless, unable to do a thing as the creature landed blow after blow onto him. Impact Recoil had activated once, subconsciously, quicker than he could react, but even with that his defences had been completely overwhelmed by Doctor Garaki's creation. He didn't even know which of the multiple Quirks he had taken from the beast, before Tenko…
Tenko had been completely taken out by it as he attempted to keep Izuku safe, and Izuku couldn't even return the favour. Izuku bit his lip in frustration, hating the feeling of uselessness that bubbled up inside him at that thought.
But Tenko was nowhere to be seen around him. Nor was Nomu, or the Doctor, or anything else he recognised. Izuku had feared the worst when he eventually woke up, feared he would be in some horrifying laboratory surrounded by more like Nomu, or some desperate secret base belonging to the villain whose power he now wielded. He had lost against the acolytes of All For One, and so Izuku had expected that he would not be greeted by the sight of the USJ above his head. But the world around him…
"Where…" Izuku pushed himself up to a sitting position, and he winced at how his voice seemed to echo, as if in some dark cave underground. "Wh-where is this?"
The world around him was unlike anything Izuku had ever seen. The ground beneath his feet was dusty and cracked, like the floor of the Ruins Zone had been before his fight with Nomu, but it only seemed to extend for a certain distance before his eyes. Izuku couldn't guess how many metres were visible to him, but it appeared as if he was surrounded on all sides by a sea of black fog. It was darker than Kurogiri's portals had been; while Kurogiri's smoke was rich and tinged purple, this was the murky blackness of the deepest pit, seeming to stir idly and fluctuate like the tide. Even peering as intently as he could into its depths, Izuku could see nothing.
And he could feel very little, too.
He gasped, as that realisation hit him, and looked down at his body. Nomu had landed some devastating hits onto him, even before he lost consciousness, and there was no telling what damage it could have done beyond that. His shoulder had been put out, for one, and he had expected to wake up with broken ribs and the agony of a nearly-destroyed foot. Izuku… felt none of that. Looking down, he couldn't see any blood, any signs of bones being broken, or any tears to his skin. It was… strange.
"How…" Izuku gingerly moved his foot, face scrunching as he expected ripples of stabbing pain up his leg when he applied pressure. There was none of that, but it still wasn't right. While he wasn't in agony from any injury which Nomu had caused, it didn't fully feel like he was putting his foot down either. He scrunched his toes, and while they made a mark in the sand, the feeling didn't fully travel up his leg as he did so. "I'm… I'm not hurt."
Izuku would be the first to admit that his mind tended to race when presented with new and unknown things. Quirks were his passion, true, but situations like this brought it out in him as well, the desire to analyse and understand. It was that desire which led him to pull himself upright into a sitting position, and stare down at his bare arms as he did so. "I… this is my costume."
It was. Izuku was still wearing his costume, although it was in a sorry state. Even if he appeared to be unscathed after Nomu took him down, his costume had clearly been through hell and back in that fight. Izuku flinched as he saw the jumpsuit which had been so lovingly made by Tenko and his mother, torn to shreds and hanging off in several places; there were several tears down the front which looked like a wild animal had clawed through it, and the arms had been completely ripped at the elbows, so Izuku could see his own forearms.
"Crap…" Izuku picked at the fabric around his elbow, but it was the sight of his own arm that confused him the most. He didn't know what the source of light was in this place, whatever it was, but when he held his arm up to his face and turned it a certain way, it was almost as if it became a little more transparent. "Is this… someone's Quirk, doing this?"
It felt… ghostly. "It's like… I'm not really here."
A fairly astute observation of your current state.
Izuku stiffened slightly, but the dark thought that had somehow escaped felt strange. It took him just a second to work out why, but when he did, he spoke up, his voice slightly hoarse. "I… I heard that."
Just for a second, Izuku could have sworn he heard his thoughts outside of his head, like a whisper on the wind, something stirring amidst the darkness around him. The darkness felt a little more claustrophobic around him, suspicion clouding his thoughts and nagging at him. "I… definitely heard that. That was my voice, in my head… but it wasn't."
As Izuku spoke aloud, the echo of his own voice died down. The silence was deafening, but Izuku carried on, determined to plough on. "Something… wasn't right at the USJ. When I… w-when I told the Doctor to stop. It… it wasn't my voice."
Silence met him, and Izuku swallowed, his mouth feeling dry. "And now here, wherever here is… I just heard my own thoughts. But they weren't in my head. They were outside, in whatever this place is. And they… they referred to me as 'you'. Not 'me'. Like I'm… something else."
"At the USJ… it was like there was another voice, urging me on. I thought it was just me, the adrenaline rush, trying to push myself along. But… looking back, it's not just been the USJ, has it?" Izuku's memories raced back, briefly, to some of the moments which made him stop, uncomfortable at where his mind had taken him. "Sometimes, I would think things, things that never sounded… right to me. But if there was another voice, at the USJ... "
Izuku trailed off, the weight of what he was about to suggest not lost on him. But the evidence was there. The Doctor had even said it himself, when he talked about Nomu and Setsuna… about how part of something could remain with a Quirk. So even if he had a sinking feeling that he knew the answer already, Izuku had to know. "Then maybe those thoughts… weren't mine. And after everything the Doctor said, and what I know now about my Quirk… I'm not alone, am I?"
The black fog, swaying gently around Izuku, stilled after the longest second of agonising silence. … Long have I waited.
Izuku took a deep breath, as much to steady himself as anything. The use of the first person confirmed all his worst fears, as did how ethereal and empty it sounded. "I'm… really not alone."
The dark mist appeared to twist slightly, and Izuku could swear that he saw something now, moving amongst it. The sound that he could hear, in the void… those were footsteps. Finally. I thought you would never realise.
"I… don't understand." Izuku didn't know how his voice wasn't trembling, because inside it felt like his heart was pounding out of his chest, and his stomach was turning itself into knots. "How?"
How? The footsteps sounded like they were approaching closer. I thought you might ask who.
"I… I think I know who you are. It's… well." Izuku turned his head in the direction of the footsteps, and felt every hair on the back of his neck rise up, some overwhelming aura making him weak at the knees. "With this power I hold… who else could you be?"
Clever boy. There was a sound, rather like the noise made by someone smirking. But then, you always have had an eye for detail, haven't you?
"A-Always?" Izuku stuttered, very briefly thrown off by the choice of words. "... How long?"
My boy… The footsteps grew louder in the abyss, and the voice distorted; it sounded exactly like Izuku did, only fainter, more echoing. Like Izuku's own thoughts in the darkest corner of his own mind. I am every voice…
The tone changed, and now Izuku flinched slightly. As a dark shadow begun to emerge from his surroundings, the voice was deeper, more distorted. Izuku recognised it as the way he spoke at USJ, the voice that caught the Doctor's attention, his voice and yet... not his own. You have ever heard…
Once more it changed, and now it felt like someone had poured freezing ice down Izuku's back. All the memories came crawling back, one dreadful day in the country's history, with Izuku caught right at its epicenter. The death of All Might, falling in battle, and the villain who brought him down. The taste of blood, clogging Izuku's throat, changing his life forever. All because of one man… "... Inside your head."
Izuku stared at the man who emerged from the shadows around him, the man who appeared so faint and flickering and yet so very real. There was no mistaking those red eyes, twinkling with malevolence unlike anything Izuku had seen. That white hair, the distinctive and strong face; even the suit he wore, spotless and well-tailored, was the same he had worn that day. All of it combined created an aura about the man of unstoppable cruelty, and yet somehow Izuku wasn't floored, to his own surprise. "You… it really is you. But you died..."
"No one's ever really gone." The spectre of All For One smiled, a dreadful Cheshire Cat smirk on his handsome face. "Hello, Izuku. I am All For One. And we have so much to discuss."
A/N: The past... is dead. Or is it?
The duality of reversing One For All and All For One's holders, and their successors, is not something I'd ever really seen before in a fic. It was something that clung to me from the second I picked this up, and it's been hell for me holding on to this reveal and teasing that there was more to Chapter One's fight, I tell you. Hopefully the reveal was fun, and hopefully we aren't all too annoyed at All Might… he meant well, right?
And, Izuku finally gets to meet All For One. And before anybody comes after me saying "Guzma! My man! Stop teasing me with a cliffhanger, I wanted to hear the conversation", I know. It's probably quite cruel, after the last few chapters at USJ, but by now you're used to me dangling cliffhangers, right? And anyway, this means two things. Firstly, that I am not rushing the conversation and get to do it justice, and secondly that I get to release it on the night of October 30, into October 31 UK time. Which means you all get to read Izuku speaking to the Quirk equivalent of a Force ghost, on Halloween. It's like I timed it this way or something when I was planning the chapters for this arc…
Anyway, I hope you all enjoyed this chapter. If you want to come and talk about it, please feel free to join the Ignite To The Call Discord, where Incident Zero has its own channel and I run around as a mod; the Discord link is xw9wK6BT this week. Please review (all I ever ask is don't send me flames. Constructive criticism is not hard and takes no time, rather than just being toxic or insulting me), and favourite and follow if you have not already- we are approaching 2,000 followers and I really want to get there!
Until next time, ya boy, out.